Week 5: “View from the Booth” with Arlo White

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This weekend the voice of soccer on NBC Sports is back in action as the Premier League returns following the recent international break.

When watching soccer on TV, have you ever sat there and wondered what the man behind the microphone really thinks? Maybe this will go someway to helping with that.

In the latest edition of “View from the Booth” NBC Sports’ lead soccer announcer Arlo White talks about Everton vs. Chelsea on Saturday as Jose Mourinho squares off with Roberto Martinez. Arlo also discusses the U.S. national team and their chances in Brazil and how Liverpool can keep their fantastic early season run going.

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With four live games on NBC and NBC Sports Network this weekend, and every single games available live online via NBC Sports Live Extra, you have no excuse to not get back into the Premier League spirit.

Okay let’s get to it with this weeks questions, over to Arlo.

Well Arlo, the international break is over. It seems like an age since we had some Premier League games to talk about. You will be at Goodison Park for Everton vs. Chelsea on Saturday, who do you expect from this game?

Firstly, it’ll be great to be calling games again after the International break. This match-up is fascinating on so many levels.

Everton need a win. It’s simple. They weren’t handed a horrible start to the season, but they’ve only managed three consecutive draws against Norwich, West Brom and Cardiff. Now Everton fans, is your glass half full (it’s an unbeaten start, you haven’t conceded a goal in the last two games, no team has had more possession this season than your 64% and you’ve still got Leighton Baines)? Or is it half empty (we haven’t scored for 205 minutes, we haven’t won a game yet and we lost Felliani to Manchester United)?

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Mirallas is one of the stars at Goodison who must rise to the challenge after losing Fellaini.

It’ll be fascinating to see how Everton fans react tomorrow. They’ve enjoyed some big wins against Chelsea in recent years at Goodison Park, earned through good play and ferocious spirit. Will they be patient if all is not going well and their team aren’t getting the ball forward quickly enough for their liking?

I’m sure they will. They know their Football, and they know it’s a process. Everton wasn’t nicknamed the ‘School of Science’ for nothing.

As for Chelsea, who is going to start up front? Will it be Torres? Will it be Eto’o? Will Juan Mata feature? Will there be a debut for Willian? Will Frank Lampard feature? Will my question mark button still be working next week? It’s been a big week for Frank after earning his 100th cap for England, but he’s played 7 matches already this season for club and country. He only played 45 minutes for England v Scotland but then played all 120 minutes for Chelsea v Bayern Munich. He may be due a rest in this one, especially given that Chelsea start their Champions League campaign on Wednesday.

And then on Monday your back in South Wales to see if Liverpool can keep their good run going against Swansea. Do you see another 1-0 win coming up for Brendan Rodgers’ men against his former club?

What are the odds on another Liverpool win, with Daniel Sturridge scoring the only goal? Does lightning strike four times? Rodgers will be desperate for Sturridge to be fit as he’s on an incredible run. It’s hard to believe after Liverpool dug their heals in so doggedly to keep Luis Suarez from the clutches of Arsenal, that a debate has started about whether the Uruguayan will actually get his place straight back when his ban ends.

Liverpool have been superb defensively. Mignolet has been fantastic in goal. Between them, Toure, Agger and Skrtel have been solid at centre back. But the engine room for Liverpool is the axis between Lucas and Gerrard at the base of midfield. They dictate the pace of the game, and have done so to great effect so far. Ahead of them, they have the likes of Sturrdige, Coutinho, Aspas and Henderson, who you’d back to nick a goal. It’s the solidity of the back seven that protect those slender leads. I’m sure Liverpool will be more expansive as the season progresses, but right now, a controlled approach based on possession and pressing is working very nicely.

I’m sure Rodgers will get a decent reception back in Swansea. For the home side, Michu needs a Premier League goal. He’s failed to find the net in the league so far this season, and only has one one in his last 7. I’m sure it’s just a blip, and the Swans will be hoping to build on that cathartic and nerve settling away win at West Brom.

Talking about 1-0 wins, would Manchester United take that scoreline against Crystal Palace at home on Saturday? That opening day win against Swansea must seem like a long time ago for David Moyes’ side.

Of course he would. This is an important game for Manchester United. If they slip up, they will take that disappointment to Manchester City next weekend for the Derby. I’m sure David Moyes and United fans everywhere would love a thumping 6-0 win at Old Trafford, but I bet secretly he’d be delighted with a relatively routine 2-0 victory, and bank the three points.

source: Reuters
Is Shinji Kagawa the set to play in a new-look United midfield alongside Marouane Fellaini?

I have a couple of questions re United. If they weren’t interested in Mezut Ozil because they already have Shinji Kagawa, are we going to see the Japan International start a game? And now that he’s signed a new long term deal, is it time that Nani stepped up and fulfilled that attacking potential?

As for Palace, their manager Ian Holloway was in typically great form when the NBC team spoke to him on the telephone the other day. He said, “I’m down here in the gutter but I’m looking up at the stars.” The man is a pure quote machine! I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Selhurst Park for the Sunderland game two weeks ago. It was a golden sunlight evening in South London and Palace played a vibrant brand of Football and got their fans jumping with a 3-1 win. The atmosphere was brilliant. In Midfielder Mile Jedinak, they have a player who may turn a few heads this season. Ollie may face a fight to keep him in January.

An intriguing battle will take place up at the Stadium of Light this weekend, with Sunderland desperate for their first win and Arsenal rolling into town with new superstar Mesut Ozil set to make his debut. Do you think it’s too early for Sunderland fans to be worried?

No. I suspect they are a little concerned already. There is no doubt that Paolo Di Canio is an excellent coach, but his challenge will be to mesh together a disparate group of new signings in spite of his somewhat idiosyncratic methods. It was a tough night at Selhurst Park last time out, but one positive was the return to the field and then the goal scoring charts for Steven Fletcher.

After he ducked out of heading a Stewart Downing cross at Palace, will we see Jo Dong-Won in a Sunderland shirt in the near future?

After all the celebrations in the United States following World Cup qualification, how far can Jurgen Klinsmann’s men go at Brazil 2014? Many are suggesting that qualification is only the start for Klinsmann’s squad.

The USA were so impressive on Tuesday night in Columbus. They completely bossed that game game against Mexico. The players knew the tactical plan and they executed it with authority.

Having watched England labor to string two passes together in Kiev earlier that evening, it was refreshing to see the US possess the ball with such confidence. It gave them a great platform in the game but it also further demoralized Mexico, who stumbled around looking bewildered and thoroughly beaten for most of the 2nd half. It hasn’t been smooth sailing for Jurgen Klinsmann, but he has broken this team in now, like a very good drill sergeant. The personalities that are in his squad now are the ones who have embraced his methods and philosophy, and they are an infinitely stronger team for it.

source: Getty Images
Find out how far Arlo thinks the U.S. national team can go.

The result against Mexico was thoroughly deserved, and was achieved without Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Geoff Cameron, so they will be stronger still. I wonder if Mix Diskerud has a bigger role for the national team in his future? He looks to the manor born in International Football, so maybe a move from Rosenborg is on the cards soon.

The Finals are still a long way away and we are still months away from the draw, but on current evidence, I’d be shocked if the USA didn’t make it out of their group. From then onwards, who knows? (ps – Ghana can still quality, eeek!)

Staying with World Cup qualification, what do you make of England being lambasted for their negative approach in the 0-0 draw with Ukraine?

A point away from home, in a hostile environment like Kiev, when the home side have a massive incentive to win the game, is a very good point, and one that Roy Hodgson would have been satisfied with before the game. However, the method through which that point was achieved was, I’m afraid, deeply concerning and not very surprising.

It’s one thing to gain a point on the road by controlling the game. Keeping the ball for periods frustrates, and extracts the sting from the opposition and quietens a crowd. It’s quite another to completely fail to retain possession, repeatedly hand Ukraine the ball, and hope that you can defend successfully for 90 minutes. There is no doubt that the England team have spirit and tenacity and are difficult to beat (which is something to celebrate), but I just don’t understand why some very good Premier League players struggle to play together in a cohesive manner. Sure, they were missing key attacking players like Rooney, Sturridge and Welbeck, but the likes of Gerrard, Wilshere, Lampard, Milner et al, should be able to keep the ball for periods shouldn’t they?

England got away with it in Kiev because Ukraine are fairly average.

So far, they have only beaten Moldova and San Marino, yet they still lead the group and control their own destiny. I’m confident that with their stars back (fingers crossed) and two big Wembley crowds behind them, they can get the 6 points they need against Montenegro and Poland to qualify for Brazil, but my word it’s been a painful journey.

West Bromwich rejects latest bid from Man City for Evans

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Manchester City’s latest transfer target is a Premier League veteran, but he’s not going without a fight.

West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis confirmed that the club had rejected a transfer bid for former Manchester United centerback Jonny Evans from Manchester City. It’s reported that the transfer bid was worth $23.2 million and that Man City are willing to up it to around $28.3 million, though Pulis isn’t budging.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

“We have turned down an offer for Jonny,” Pulis said. “We do not want to sell Jonny and we do not need to sell him. It would have to be a very, very good offer.

“Jonny understands the situation and where everything is. Jonny is happy here and wants to get on with his football. He is one of our best players. We all understand where we are.”

Evans has made 61 starts over the past two seasons for West Bromwich but it’s a question as to whether he’d be first choice at Manchester City, with Vincent Kompany, John Stones and even Nicolas Otamendi ahead of Evans in the pecking order.

Meanwhile, it doesn’t make sense for West Bromwich to sign one of its top players at this point in the transfer window, with less than a month to find a replacement in both the dressing room and on the field.

For all the talk about needing to improve defensively over the offseason, Man City manager Pep Guardiola has so far only been able to bring in new fullbacks, but perhaps his 3-5-2 formation displayed in the opening match of the season can provide more defensive stability for the team, even if Kompany misses extensive time with injury like in the past.

Pique: For first time in career, Barca star feels “inferior to Madrid”

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Gerard Pique does not have the sort of personality that makes admitting defeat an easy proposition.

The longtime Barcelona center back is raging after his side was beaten 5-1 over two legs by rivals Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup.

[ MORE: Barca releases statement on terror attacks ]

And for the first time in his life, he thinks Barca is a step behind its El Clasico enemies. From The Telegraph:

“This is a long process and there is room for improvement but in the nine years that I have been here, it is the first time that I feel inferior to Madrid,” Piqué said. “We are not in the best moment, either as a team or as a club. We must stay as close as possible and keep moving forwards.”

Barcelona looked very poor in the second leg of the Super Cup, though the club did hammer the woodwork on multiple occasions. Real is the best team in the world, which makes being its rival a real hassle.

In fact, both clubs have been 1-2 in the world for some time, which has to make it extra perplexing when you’re No. 2 to only the club you despise more than any other.

Bundesliga preview: Schalke, BVB chase Bayern Munich

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The last time Schalke spent a season outside of European football, the celebrated German club finished second in the league en route to a Champions League semifinal the following campaign.

That’s one of the only silver linings from last season’s disappointing 10th place finish, 19 points behind fourth place Hoffenheim.

[ MORE: Schalke’s teen American impact ]

“Naturally, nobody is happy about not playing international this year,” center back Benedikt Howedes told ProSoccerTalk. “During the week we currently have more time to focus on the next opponent. We will battle the European positions with many teams this season. I think, the race is up in the air. The Bundesliga is very balanced.”

World Cup winner Howedes has 334 appearances for Schalke (Getty Images).

Schalke’s tumulutous 2016-17 season started poorly and never really found its footing. The club lost its first five league matches under Markus Weinzierl, who was fired in June, and saw marquee transfers Naldo, Breel Embolo, and Coke miss a lot of time through injuries.

Enter 31-year-old Domenico Tedesco. Don’t let the age fool you, he’s the boss not a player, and youth will be part of the team as well. Schalke still has Embolo, Max Meyer and Leon Goretzka, American teen Weston McKennie has been promoted to the first team, and Amine Harit has arrived from Nantes.

From the outside, that puts an emphasis on veteran leadership. Fortunately for Schalke, it has living club legend Howedes and ex-Man City defender Matija Nastasic amongst others in the fold.

“The spirit, if you could be in the locker room, it’s amazing,” McKennie told PST. “It doesn’t matter how old you are.”

[ MORE: Guide to two promoted Bundesliga teams ]

In the case of Nastasic, who won the Premier League with Manchester City in 2013-14, his 24 years carry a lot of experience. He’s thrived at Fiorentina, become a staple of the Serbian national team, and rebounding from his injury-hit time at City and is a leader at Schalke.

And those young guys can learn from Nastasic, who’s seen it all at 24.

“When I just arrived in Italy I was only 18 and it was the first year out of my country,” Nastasic told PST. “I didn’t expect at the beginning that I would play that much. Then I changed to England, and it was totally different. Italy is more tactical. Football in England is physical with a lot of tempo and running. I was young also without so much experience but when I was fit I think I played good.”

Schalke will need its young attack to find more goals. Its defense was Top Five in goals conceded last season, but its 45 goals was mid-table.

“Everyone knows that last season was not as good as we had expected,” Howedes said. “With our new coach, we want to improve our game and make our fans happy again. We are training hard and I am sure, that we will be more constant and improve our performances this season.”

[ MORE: First female ref to make Bundesliga debut ]

“From the team I expect a much better season than last year,” Nastasic adds. “We are not playing international games so maybe that’s an advantage for us. We can concentrate on the Bundesliga.”

Both Nastasic and Howedes heaped praise on McKennie, as well as American teammate Haji Wright, who will spend the season on loan to Sandhausen, and the game overseas in general.

“Haji Wright started spectacular,” Howedes said. “For young players the most important thing is to play. On loan in Sandhausen the chance is greater than here. I rejoice for him he get this opportunity. The step in the 2.Bundesliga can be a good beginning of his career.

“The American soccer is really developing the last years. It is no coincidence that a lot of great players like Kaka and Gerrard joined Major League Soccer. And who knows, I also can imagine to play there some day in the future.”

Different champs (but probably not different champs): Bayern Munich will neither have Xabi Alonso nor Philipp Lahm this season, but that doesn’t mean they are runaway favorites to claim its 27th title and sixth-straight since Borussia Dortmund’s two-year reign ended with the 2011-12 crown. Carlo Ancelotti has reloaded with James Rodriguez and Corentin Tolisso, and will be favored to hold off BVB for the crown.

Here’s to the new Bosz: USMNT phenom Christian Pulisic is already making an impact in the mind of his new coach, Peter Bosz, and the manager will be pleased to note that reports say Pulisic has no interest in looking into his future until after the 2018 World Cup.

Sleepers? Eintracht Frankfurt dropped into 11th last season, and may benefit from not finishing in a European place. The club has added Mexican national teamer Carlos Saucedo, Dutch star Jetro Willems, and well-traveled Jonathan De Guzman for its new season.

Americans Abroad:
John Brooks (Wolfsburg)
Julian Green (Stuttgart)
Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)
Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach)
McKennie (Schalke)
Timothy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Bobby Wood (Hamburg)
Aron Johannsson (Werder Bremen *expected to be sold)
Caleb Stanko (Freiburg)

Old faces, new places:
Serge Gnabry (Hoffenheim, on loan from Bayern Munich)
Mahmoud Dahoud (Borussia Dortmund, from ‘Gladbach)
Mathew Leckie (Hertha BSC, from Ingolstadt)
Sven Bender (Bayer Leverkusen, from BVB)
Marcel Heller (Augsburg, from Darmstadt)
Kyriakos Papadopoulos (Hamburg, from Bayer)
John Brooks (Wolfsburg, from Hertha)
Paul Verhaegh (Wolfsburg, from Augsburg)
Holger Badstuber (Stuttgart, from Bayern)

New faces, new places:
James Rodriguez (Bayern Munich)
Jonathan Klinsmann (Hertha BSC)
Reece Oxford (Gladbach, on loan from West Ham)
Harit (Schalke)
Jonathan de Guzman (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Jetro Willems (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Carlos Salcedo (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Viktor Fischer (Mainz)

Opening weekend
Bayern Munich vs. Bayer Leverkusen — Friday
Hamburg vs. Augsburg — Saturday
Hertha Berlin vs. Stuttgart — Saturday
Hoffenheim vs. Werder Bremen — Saturday
Wolfsburg vs. Borussia Dortmund — Saturday
Mainz vs. Hannover 96 — Saturday
Schalke vs. RB Leipzig — Saturday
Freiburg vs. Eintracht Frankfurt — Sunday
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Koln — Sunday

FC Barcelona releases statement after terror attack

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FC Barcelona found tragedy at home on Thursday when a terrorist plot unfolded in Las Ramblas, killing 13 and injuring more than 100.

Las Ramblas is just a 20-minute ride from the Camp Nou, and the Catalan club hosts Real Betis on Sunday.

[ MORE: Another American teen making Bundesliga name ]

A terrorist-driven rental van was driven at 50 mph through a crowded plaza. As of post time, two men had been arrested but the driver remained on the loose.

Saying it was sickened by the attack, FCB announced it will fly flags at half-mast, wear black arm bands during the match and hold a minute’s silence.

Here’s the full statement:

FC Barcelona wants to express its profound sorrow and utter disgust at the terrorist attack that has hit the heart of our city, la Rambla de Barcelona. The Club wishes to send our support and thoughts to the victims, their families and friends as well as the people of Barcelona and its visitors.

As a mark of respect, the flags will fly at half-mast at the Club’s facilities and the players from both teams will wear black armbands in all the Club’s matches this weekend.

On Sunday, before the 2017/18 La Liga opener against Betis, the Camp Nou will hold a minutes silence in recognition and memory of the victims.