FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-MAN UTD

Quick Six: City rebukes United, Sunderland sacks Di Canio, and the other storylines from the Premier League weekend

1 Comment

1. COULDN’T HAVE BEEN WORSE FOR MOYES, MANCHESTER UNITED

It’s not just that they were blown out. Or allowed four goals. Or did both of those things against a club that is among their biggest rivals. It’s that all those goals came in 50 minutes, and at the points where his side needed to be strongest — right before halftime, in the opening minutes of the second — David Moyes’s team capitulated. If he didn’t have 15 years of successful coaching experience, we’d swear Moyes was out of his depth today. And maybe he was.

The impact of Sunday’s 4-1 loss at Manchester City will build on Deadline Day, when a disastrous close to the summer transfer window cracked faith in the Moyes-Ed Woodward tandem. Poor performances against Chelsea and Liverpool had already shaken the foundation, but with the club embarrassed on Sept. 3, fans started seeing implications that transcended the field. This was not the United they’ve known.

Now the embarrassment creeps onto the pitch, though having suffered through a 6-1 loss in this derby two years ago, United fans know how to deal with that. What they don’t know how to deal with is the doubts. What experience does a Red Devil fan have with the uncertainties of an unproven, under-performing boss?

Part of the today’s story should really be able Manchester City: about Kun Agüero’s greatness; about Yaya Touré’s persistent influence; about Vincent Kompany’s influence. But we’re in uncharted waters with United, meaning their troubles are going to dominate headlines.

Until Moyes can prove he’s the right man for the job, that’s where the story will stay: In the headlines.

[MORE: Manchester City’s star attackers steal the show in rampant Derby win]

[MORE: Vincent Kompany vs. Wayne Rooney: Both players excel in heavyweight clash]

[MORE: Manuel Pellegrini hails Manchester City, after resounding victory against old foes United]

2. PAOLO DI CANIO WINS PREMIER LEAGUE SACK RACE

Sunderland looked to be in bad shape while Di Canio was putting his squad together, but we all gave him an evil genius benefit of the doubt. After the first game of the year, where Sunderland lost at home despite giving up only one shot on goal, we gave home some more time. And the draw at Southampton? That was okay, too. But multi-goal losses at Crystal Palace and at home to Arsenal produced a momentum that made Saturday’s 3-0 loss at West Brom untenable. Di Canio is not the guy you want bossing a fledgling operation.

This was the time to make a move. It’s been a disappointing start, but they’re only three points from 17th place. There’s still time to salvage the season, especially if your plan hinges on giving a new boss three months to evaluate talent ahead of a winter overhaul. But you can’t let Di Canio stick around and berate the team into the ground and expect a winter turnaround.

So that’s what’s next for the Black Cats: A new boss. What’s next for Di Canio? Having started his managerial career at Swindon Town, he’s shown he’s not afraid of more humble surroundings. Somebody, somewhere in the Football League will give him another chance. And having managed only 12 games at the top level (2-7-3 record), it’s unlikely Di Canio’s been made to believe he can’t be a good Premier League boss.

3. ARSENAL, TOTTENHAM TAKE DIFFERENT ROUTES TO THE TOP

North London occupies the top of the table after five rounds, Arsenal’s superior goal difference giving them first place ahead of Spurs, but both teams are off to identical 4-1-0 starts. That, however, is where the similarities end.

With 11 goals in five games, Arsenal’s ridden the league’s second-best attack to the top, their 3-1, Sunday win over visiting Stoke showing an added dimension to their game. A team that normally lacks a set piece threat has become dangerous thanks to Mesut Özil, whose dead ball service led to goals from Aaron Ramsey, Per Mertesacker, and Bacary Sagna. Geoff Cameron’s first Premier League goal prevented a clean sheet, but Arsenal still won comfortably.

Those three goals are more than half of Spurs’ haul through five games, yet André Villas-Boas’s team still posted their fourth win in five with a 1-0 result Sunday at Cardiff. It took a full 90 minutes to break through, but a game dominated by Spurs to the tune of 64 percent possession, 29-6 edge on shots, 12-0 advantage in shots on goal was decided by a piece of at-the-death brilliance finished by Paulinho.

It was only Spurs’ fifth goal of the year, something we’ve talked about before. They’re not converting control into chances, giving them huge room for improvement. That’s both scary (they can be so much better) and a cause for concern.

4. FOUR CENTRAL DEFENDER GAMBIT SEES LIVERPOOL FALL TO SAINTS

Brendan Rodgers was left longing for Luis Suárez’s return after Liverpool was shutout at home by Southampton, but had the Reds started their normal back line, perhaps Suárez’s absence wouldn’t have been as noticeable. Instead of picking José Enrique and Andre Wisdom at fullback, Liverpool’s manager went with central defenders in those roles: Mamadou Sakho on the left; Kolo Touré on the right. As Southampton retreated into their own end to play on the counter, Liverpool missed the option of throwing more attacking players forward, providing width that could have loosened Southampton’s defense.

The refereeing didn’t help. As Liverpool pressed early, seeking to break through Saints’ compact set up, Neil Swarbrick swallowed his whistle was Southampton’s physicality frustrated Daniel Sturridge. The referee’s 15 fouls tied with Mark Clattenburg at Cardiff City-Southampton for the fewest whistles among this weekend’s matches.

Regardless, this is a game that Liverpool would have expected to win, and in failing to do so, they’ve given back the advantage they earned by getting full points against Manchester United. Perhaps Luis Suárez would have made the difference, but on Saturday, he shouldn’t have needed to.

5. MOURINHO CONFESSING HE DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO COACH HIS SQUAD

By now you’ve read the excuse. Chelsea, who were 1-3-2 in their last six before Saturday’s visit from Fulham, don’t have a squad that plays Mourinho’s style, the returning coach has noted. He’s essentially having to break them in, taking the early part of this season identifying who does (and in the case of the omitted Juan Mata, does not) fit into his approach. The implication:  Chelsea are going to be slow out of the gate.

They were slow out of the gate again on Sunday, controlling play but failing to breakthrough during the first 45 minutes of their West London Derby. An early second half goal from Oscar eased the tension before a late tally from John Obi Mikel produced a comfortable 2-0 win. Still, this was an unconvincing performance against a bad team, one that could have gone another way if a Basel-esque squad were visiting Stamford Bridge.

The outcome played into Mourniho’s thesis, but we shouldn’t be so quick to believe the coach’s complaints. If we accept the common premise that great coaches adapt to their talent, then why isn’t Mounrinho better adapting to his? That isn’t to say that a new boss shouldn’t impose his style on a team, but he should be able to see when his style won’t improve a squad. He should have at least one alternative approach.

Perhaps Mourinho sees that but, like last year at Real Madrid, is looking long-term. Perhaps he’s willing to sacrifice September, October, and November with the hopes his team will be more responsive in March, April, and May.

But if that’s the case, the excuse isn’t the players’ limitations. It’s the manager’s inflexibility.

6. EVERTON: UNDEFEATED BUT STILL UNPROVEN

Perhaps the Toffees would found a way to beat Chelsea even if the Blues defense didn’t break down last week. And maybe they beat West Ham on Saturday if Mark Noble doesn’t get sent off. They haven’t lost this season, so maybe we should be giving Roberto Martínez’s team the benefit of the doubt. They are, after all, the only team in the league without a loss.

But to revert back to comparison from point two, Everton’s start is more like Tottenham’s than Arsenal’s. Whereas the Gunner have gone out and made people believe they have reached a certain level, Spurs have survived their shortcomings and remain a bit unproven. We’ll know more about them one they hit their next obstacle.

Everton, recording their second win in a row on Saturday, did what every good team needs to do: Take advantage of the opportunity they were presented. And they did the same thing when Chelsea came to Goodison. Whether they can start generating opportunities of their own and start winning games on more than their opponent’s mistakes has yet to be seen.

How Sevilla hope to destroy the Madrid-Barca duopoly in Spain

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 15: Samir Nasri  (2ndR) of Sevilla FC celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates during the La Liga match between CD Leganes and Sevilla FC at Estadio Municipal de Butarque on October 15, 2016 in Leganes, Spain. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MADRID (AP) Sevilla’s ambitious hopes of becoming a La Liga contender are beginning to materialize.

With an inspired team not afraid of confronting the powerhouses, Sevilla has shown it’s ready to take the next step and seriously challenge Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atletico Madrid.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

One game before the halfway mark in the Spanish league, the squad revitalized by coach Jorge Sampaoli is only a point behind leader Madrid, a team it defeated in impressive fashion on Sunday.

The come-from-behind 2-1 win came thanks to another gritty performance by Sampaoli’s team, which has mixed high-intensity defense and a fast-paced attack to impose its style against opponents, no matter how strong they are.

“A victory in a game like this allows us to remain optimistic and believe that this team can continue this run if we maintain this same determination,” Sampaoli said. “Time will tell if we can succeed.”

Sevilla’s win halted Madrid’s 40-game unbeaten streak in all competitions. Sevilla had already come close to a victory midweek in the Copa del Rey, but it conceded two late goals in a 3-3 draw that led to its elimination. It lost the first leg the week before in Madrid 3-0.

“We had three difficult matches against Real Madrid and we were superior in two of them,” Sampaoli said. “We were able to beat a team that was unbeaten.”

[ MORE: PHOTO — Juventus unveil new logo, identity rebrand ]

Sevilla this season also defeated Atletico 1-0, drew at fifth-place Villarreal 0-0, and routed sixth-place Real Sociedad 4-0. It lost 2-1 to Barcelona in an encouraging display.

It has won six of its last seven league games, including four in a row. In front of its diehard fans at Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium, Sevilla has won eight of its nine games.

It lost the European Super Cup title to Madrid in extra time last year, and this season advanced to the knockout stages of the Champions League, where it will face Leicester City in the Round of 16.

Sevilla has thrived in the lower-tiered Europa League, winning three straight titles, but its last Spanish league trophy was in 1946. The last time it finished second was in 1957.

It hasn’t had this much success in the league since 2007, when a squad that included Dani Alves and Frederic Kanoute fought for the title and eventually finished third behind Barcelona and champion Real Madrid. Sevilla led the competition after 18 matches that season, but with 37 points, two less than it has now.

Sevilla, the Copa del Rey winner in 2007 and 2010, also finished third in the league in 2009.

While Atletico Madrid made its way to the top thanks to the stout defense of coach Diego Simeone, Sampaoli’s Sevilla has been balancing a competitive defense with an effective offense led by players such as Samir Nasri, Victor “Vitolo” Machin, Wissam Ben Yedder, and Luciano Vietto.

[ MORE: PL Playback — One from six; who are the title favorites now? ]

It’s the first time since the winning campaign of 1956-57 that Sevilla has scored 38 goals in its first 18 league matches. Only Barcelona (47) and Madrid (46) have scored more this season.

“This team likes to play, it likes to attack,” said Stevan Jovetic, who scored the injury-time winner against Madrid on Sunday. “There is still a long way to go and we will be fighting against some top teams, but we will keep doing our thing and see where we can end up.”

Sampaoli, the Argentine coach who arrived with high expectations this season, has made a mark by successfully rotating players. Despite not having the same budget as Madrid or Barcelona, he has been able to make the most out of the squad put together by renowned sports director Ramon “Monchi” Rodriguez.

But despite the recent success and all the hype surrounding Sevilla, president Jose Castro is trying to keep the club grounded.

“We are excited, we are one point behind Madrid, and one ahead of Barcelona,” Castro said. “We will try to win it all, but the goal is to secure a spot in the Champions (League). The Spanish league is for other teams with a bigger budget.”

Sevilla’s next game is at last-place Osasuna on Sunday.

Courtois: Chelsea can still win title without Costa

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26:  Thibaut Courtois of Chelsea celebrates his team's second goal during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on November 26, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A week from now, Diego Costa may still be a Chelsea player; he may also very well be off to the Chinese Super League by then.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

The beauty insanity of the transfer market — and a volatile figure like Costa, in particular — is that no one knows which path he’ll take. After being made to train on his own on Monday, the best anyone can tell you is, “It’s 50-50.”

There aren’t many sides in the world that could stand to lose the league’s top goal-scorer (14 goals in 19 appearances this season; Chelsea have played 21 games) and still win the league title, but Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois believes that the current Blues squad is one that could hold onto its seven-point lead with 17 games remaining — quotes from FourFourTwo:

“Of course we have enough quality to replace Diego. Diego is important for us, but if he’s not there for one game, we know we can handle it as well.

“Was this a message to our rivals? Yes, just to see Chelsea won 3-0 and that loss at Spurs didn’t affect us and we can play without Diego if need be. I think everybody hoped for us to drop points and we didn’t so that was very good.”

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

Eden Hazard has chipped in with nine goals of his own this season — his performances have been bordering on brilliance at points — while Pedro and Willian each have five league goals to their name. 19 goals from three secondary-type scorers is what champions are made of, until you consider the only other true striker currently in the squad, 23-year-old Premier League newcomer Michy Batshuayi, has 1) made just 13 PL appearances (all as a substitute); 2) scored just once, all the way back in August.

Louis van Gone: Ex-Man United, Barca boss LvG retires from coaching

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 21:  Louis van Gaal Manager of Manchester United celebrates after winning The Emirates FA Cup Final match between Manchester United and Crystal Palace at Wembley Stadium on May 21, 2016 in London, England. Man Utd won 2-1 after extra time.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images
Leave a comment

It wasn’t supposed to end like this for Louis Van Gaal.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

In his mind, he probably imagine himself manager Manchester United for the duration of his three-year contract before riding off into the sunset after restoring the Red Devils as Premier League champions four months from now. At the very least, he’d agree to stay on one more season to complete a bit of unfinished business after narrowly missing out on the title in his third season in charge at Old Trafford.

Instead, he was fired last May, two days after lifting the FA Cup at Wembley Stadium, and has been out of a job ever since. Van Gaal’s unemployment will now continue for the rest of his days, as the 65-year-old announced on Monday that he has retired from coaching after 26 years at Ajax, Barcelona (twice), AZ Alkmaar, Netherlands (twice), Bayern Munich and Manchester United — quote from the BBC:

“I thought maybe I would stop, then I thought it would be a sabbatical, but now I do not think I will return to coaching.”

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

After the stress put upon his shoulders while at Man United, the last eight months must have felt like heaven to Van Gaal. Why on earth would anyone ever go back?

AFCON: DR Congo go top of Group C with win; Ivory Coast, Togo draw

Congo's Lomalisa Mutambala, right, with Morocco's Faycal Fajr, left, during their African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match between Congo and Morocco at the Stade de Oyem in Oyem, Gabon, Monday Jan. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
AP Photo/Sunday Alamba
Leave a comment

A roundup of all of Monday’s action in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations…

Ivory Coast 0-0 Togo

OYEM, Gabon (AP) Ivory Coast’s Europe-based stars stumbled in the heat of northern Gabon in their African Cup of Nations opener, with the defending champion held by Togo to 0-0 on Monday in another twist to start the tournament.

Ivory Coast’s title-winning coach fared worse as Congo beat Herve Renard’s Morocco 1-0 in the day’s second game.

Congo, a team that was on strike and refusing to train two days ago, finished with nine men on the field and on top of Group D.

Ivory Coast created few clear chances against Togo, with Wilfried Zaha‘s blocked shot in the second half after a clever run probably its best. Zaha was substituted two minutes later and, although Ivory Coast pressed hard in stages, it never broke open Togo’s well-drilled defense in the first game in Group C in the northern jungle town of Oyem.

Togo was competitive in the first half and had two good openings with around 10 minutes to go, when Kodjo Laba missed with a header from in front of goal and Mathieu Dossevi’s deflected shot dropped onto the roof of the net.

Four of the first six games at the African Cup have been draws, with Ivory Coast’s fellow title challenger, Algeria, held to 2-2 by Zimbabwe, a team that hasn’t qualified for the African Cup in over a decade. Also, host Gabon couldn’t beat outsider and tournament debutant Guinea-Bissau in the opening game.

“After Algeria-Zimbabwe and Gabon-Guinea-Bissau, we were very careful,” Ivory Coast coach Michel Dussuyer said. “But we still have two (group) matches so we are still confident.”

Togo even started better, and Dossevi was clear on goal in the 29th minute only for Ivorian goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo to smother the chance.

Zaha was at the heart of Ivory Coast’s two best attacks, first in the first half when he sped down the right wing and sent across a dangerous low cross that was scrambled away. Then, in the 68th minute, he tricked his marker with a clever turn, cut inside, and hit a low shot that was headed to goal before two Togo defenders managed to get in the way.

Senegal and Congo are the only teams to win at the tournament.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

DR Congo 1-0 Morocco

Junior Kabananga got the winner for Congo in the 55th minute after a mistake from Morocco `keeper Monir el-Kajoui. Congo’s Lomalisa Mutambala was sent off for a wild tackle in the 81st and played the last six minutes of normal time plus six minutes of injury time with nine men when captain Gabriel Zakuani went off injured with all their substitutes used up.

Still, victory was a major mood-changer for Congo, whose players refused to train on Friday and Saturday, claiming they hadn’t been paid tournament bonuses. They also posted a video on social media during their strike, where they complained about their treatment.

On Monday, Morocco was the one frustrated: Midfielder M’Bark Boussoufa hit the crossbar in the second minute. Goalkeeper El-Kajoui tried to block a cross with his feet and managed only to divert the ball to Kabananga to score the winning goal. Then, substitutes Youssef En Nesyri and Youssef el-Arabi missed late chances.

Although Ivory Coast and later Renard failed their first tests at the tournament, the Stade d’Oyem held up despite a desperate race to be ready in time, which saw workers scrambling around the venue finishing all sorts of jobs on the day of the game. Television viewers won’t have seen the construction debris that surrounds the outside of the stadium, which juts out of dense jungle canopy around 15 kilometers outside of Oyem.

Even organizers couldn’t do anything about the heat during the opening match, though, with Togo coach Claude le Roy’s shirt covered in dark sweat patches after urging his team on to a promising draw against the defending champion Ivorians.

“It was very hot. We were sweating so much,” Le Roy said. “We did what it takes. We are satisfied with the draw.”

Tuesday’s AFCON schedule

Ghana vs. Uganda — 11 a.m. ET
Mali vs. Egypt — 2 p.m. ET