Aaron Ramsey dazzling, tough start for Jozy Altidore – View from the Booth, with Arlo White

1 Comment

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 the situations at Chelsea and Manchester United, lauds Arsenal’s main man, assesses Jozy Altidore’s situation and touches on plenty more Premier League news.

(MORE: View from the Booth Archive)

You can hear Arlo calling live games this weekend on NBC and NBC Sports Network, and watch every single game available live online via NBC Sports Live Extra,

Let’s get to it.

Jose Mourinho seems to be back to his marauding best, on the training ground and with the media. Do you think he’s now really starting to sink his teeth into the task second-time around at Chelsea?

He’s been sinking his teeth into the role since the moment he arrived back. His side showed tremendous spirit to roar back against Spurs on Sunday and grab a vital point, before dismissing Steaua Bucharest on the road in Romania during the week.

A lot was said about Mourinho abruptly leaving a pre-match press conference this week, but I have sympathy with his situation. He’d just spent the best part of three weeks dealing with constant questions about Juan Mata and why he wasn’t playing regularly in the Chelsea starting XI. Mata was on the trip to Romania, so one journalist started digging into why Kevin De Bruyne wasn’t on the plane. I thought Mourinho gave a very honest answer.

source: Getty Images
Jose Mourinho may have treated the Mata situation perfectly.

I understand why he left the press conference at that point, and also his general exasperation with questions about who is not playing in his side rather than who is.

As the uninitiated in the United States may have noticed, the media build-up to big games in the Premier League is dominated by a cycle of personality clashes amongst managers, perceived slights and apparently disgruntled players. Those clashes fill endless column inches in the sports sections of the national newspapers in England.

It’s all part of the Premier League’s appeal to some, but who can blame Mourinho for giving a straight answer then deciding not to stick around and field endless questions on the same subject?

As we enter October, Juan Mata is playing well, working hard, smiling and being praised by his manager. So maybe Jose knows best on this one.

Have Manchester United reached crisis point already? And what is the answer for David Moyes to turn things around at Old Trafford? Many believe a splurge in the January transfer window is the answer. Surely they will beat Sunderland on Saturday…

I think ‘crisis’ is a word too often used in Football, but there is certainly concern about Manchester United’s start to the season.

I was fascinated watching the former United defender Gary Neville analyse the United v West Brom game on English TV earlier this week. He couldn’t believe how passive and deep United’s players were once Wayne Rooney had equalised at 1-1. He expected United to then “get after” West Brom, “chase the ball down”, “create loads of chances”, and that they would “inevitably” run out winners. But they didn’t. The stats revealed that in the 10 minutes between Rooney’s equaliser and Berahino’s winner, West Brom enjoyed 69% possession and had five attempts at goal to United’s none. Those are incredible numbers for a game played at Old Trafford against a side not expected to challenge for the top 4 positions.

Now, Sir Alex Ferguson lost Football matches when he was in charge at Manchester United, but his sides rarely turned in meek performances. Steve Clarke quite rightly demanded that people talk about how good West Brom were rather than how bad United were, but what Neville pointed out is clearly an area that David Moyes has to address.

source: Reuters
What next for Moyes and United? More new faces in January according to Arlo.

Are we seeing good players take their foot off the gas because the great man is no longer around to inspire and/or strike fear into them? Or are we seeing something far more worrying, an ageing side that needs to be re-built?

Moyes will be handed cash in January, and I’m sure he and Ed Woodward will perform better in the transfer market than they did in the summer. The club can handle not winning the Championship in the short term as there was always going to be a period of transition. But if United’s current form continues and they’re presence in the Champions League is threatened, then the current media pressure will become a feeding frenzy.

And after Paolo Di Canio’s departure and all the unrest at Sunderland, do you fear for Jozy Altidore’s success in the Premier League?

It’s a shame that Jozy’s re-introduction to the Premier League has come in such turbulent circumstances. I thought he gave the Liverpool center backs a decent test on Sunday, and was unlucky not to win more free kicks for his side. This is definitely a period of uncertainty for him. He was signed under the Paolo Di Canio regime. Director of Football Roberto Di Fanti will have been a prominent figure in the move, and he remains at the club. Steven Fletcher is currently out injured, so Jozy may get a run of games under interim manager Kevin Ball, but it’s his relationship with the next permanent manager that will define his future at Sunderland. It’s a tough situation for him, particularly in a World Cup season, but he’s a good player who has the confidence to back himself.

There’s a big London Derby on Sunday between Tottenham and West Ham, have you been impressed with Spurs’ start to the season?

Absolutely. I think they left two points on the table against Chelsea after a very good first half performance. That would have been a real statement victory for Spurs, who have now failed to win either of their ‘big’ games against Arsenal and the Blues. But the general trend at White Hart Lane is upwards. AVB has built a very powerful side capable of playing excellent Football. My fear for them is their participation in the Europa League. I’m just not a fan of the competition’s format. I think the sheer volume of travel and games hampers teams ability to make an impact in their domestic leagues. Spurs will have to travel to Dagestan in Russia during the week. It’s just north of Iran! How AVB rotates his squad will be crucial, so I’m sure he’ll draw on last year’s experience for that.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Chelsea and Arsenal both face tricky away trips to Norwich and West Brom respectively. Can the two capital clubs keep up their good form following big midweek wins in the Champions League?

I was at the Liberty Stadium last Saturday and at the Emirates on Tuesday night, and I thought Arsenal were magnificent in both games. The Gunners first goal against Napoli was sensational. The ball from Giroud to Ramsey down the right hand side. Ramsey’s assertiveness to get to the byline and then his vision to pull the ball back for Ozil.  But the finish by Ozil, with the side of his left foot with the ball rising, was other-worldly.

They are playing with such confidence at the moment and there was a genuine belief around the Emirates that this team is for real and that they can do something special this season. West Brom will be brimming with confidence after their exploits at Old Trafford, but they have a very difficult game against Arsenal, who are chasing a 9th consecutive road win in the Premier League, which would be a new club record.

source: Getty Images
Arlo hails Aaron Ramsey as the player of the season, so far…

Finally, heading into the second international break, who has been your player of the season so far?

Aaron Ramsey. Considering the horrific injury he suffered just over three years ago, and the criticism he faced last season, his early season form has been wonderful. In addition to scoring goals, he is demanding the ball all the time and is putting in some great challenges all over the field. His energy, desire and conviction are impressive. There have been major doubts about his ability to raise his game to a level demanded at a club like Arsenal, but not only does he look comfortable in the that company, he is actually excelling.

Enjoy the Premier League weekend everyone.

Off to slow start, Morris, Seattle know “things can change quickly”

Leave a comment

Both Jordan Morris and the Seattle Sounders are off to a rough start in defense of their MLS Cup title last Fall, and the USMNT’s star striker admits to recalling last season’s wild turnaround as an inspiration.

“After the game last week we mentioned that we have a lot of the nucleus from last year and we all know that things can change quickly,” Morris said to ProSoccerTalk this week.

Seattle won just seven games before Matchday 22 last season, rebounding with a burst after coach Sigi Schmid was replaced by assistant Brian Schmetzer. The Sounders went 8-2-2 down the stretch en route to an MLS Cup win over Toronto FC.

While he hasn’t scored in five matches and only has two markers in 12 games, he feels success is coming for the 3W-5L-4T Sounders. Morris said the club knows the results aren’t there, but also that they are producing chances.

[ MORE: Monaco star’s Man City medical ]

“It’s been okay,” Morris said. “Definitely not the start I would’ve wanted. It’s not an excuse but we’ve hit a lot of posts and had other near misses.”

Seattle has a huge opportunity to flip the script on its season when Cascadia Cup rivals Portland visit on Saturday. The free-scoring Timbers are dangerous in attack, but have been opened up 20 times this season. Only two teams have conceded more goals than Portland (which has played the most matches in the league, it must be said).

And it may or may not surprise fans that Morris’ focus has been one of his strengths: the final product.

“I’m working on the final third, whether it’s shooting or finding the open guy,” Morris said. “It’s a big deal for us to finish our chances. Scoring or the final pass in that final third.”

Despite his relatively cold start, it would be surprising if Bruce Arena didn’t tab Morris in his crop for next month’s World Cup qualifiers. The 22-year-old also seems relatively certain to be a part of the Gold Cup plans.

“I’m excited and hopefully I get called up,” he said. “These World Cup qualifiers are obviously a very big deal and Bruce has done a really good job of getting us on the same page.”

Morris is also participating in a unique promotional activity with Delta Airlines for Sounders fans, as he and Cristian Roldan are among Seattle teams picking fans for “positions” in a Fan XI. Once assembled, they’ll travel to L.A. for a Sounders road match, and Morris was happy to get on board with it.

“It’s for our fans, who are amazing,” he said. “Delta’s idea to make a Fan XI gives the fansa chance to have the behind the scenes experience of being part of a team put together by having different skills. We love rewarding our fans.”

Day Seven: All the action from the U20 World Cup (video)

Kim In-chul/Yonhap via AP
Leave a comment

Mexico has automatically qualified for the knockout rounds of the U-20 World Cup despite falling to Venezuela.

[ MORE: U-20 World Cup latest

Germany dropped below Mexico in goal differential after allowing a 3-0 lead to sink to one, though El Tri still likely would’ve advanced to the next phase despite Germany’s result.

Mexico 0-1 Venezuela

Caracas 19-year-old striker Sergio Cordova scored for the third-straight match in what is sure to make him a hot summer commodity as Venezuela clinched Group B with a perfect 3-0 record.

Germany 3-2 Vanuatu

Vanuatu’s potential name of the tournament Bong Kalo scored twice in the second half to sink Germany below Mexico on goal difference.

Guinea 0-5 Argentina

A brace from Lautaro Martínez gives Argentina hope of the knockout rounds with a third-place finish.

England 1-0 South Korea

Everton’s Kieran Dowell scored the lone goal of the match to give England the Group A crown.

Zabaleta staying in Premier League with West Ham move

@WHUFC
Leave a comment

A week after bidding Manchester City an emotional goodbye, Pablo Zabaleta has announced he’ll be staying in England.

The 32-year-old right back is moving to London, where he’ll join West Ham United on a two-year deal beginning July 1.

[ MORE: Three key battles in FA Cup Final ]

The San Lorenzo youth product went to Espanyol in 2005 to begin his European adventure, joining Man City in 2008. He won two PL titles, two League Cups, and an FA Cup, and was named the club’s player of the season in 2012-13.

From WHUFC.com:

“Manchester City gave me the opportunity to come to this wonderful league, the Premier League, something I’ve been enjoying a lot as a player and of course for me it was probably the right time to move on.

“Also, as a player, I thought I wanted to keep playing in the Premier League. For me, after being in this country for so long, this is a new challenge for me in the Premier League and I’m ready for it and looking forward to it.”

Maybe he just wanted 3G.

Young Sam Byram can learn plenty from Zabaleta, and the signing means that star right-sided man Michail Antonio likely won’t have to be wasted at right back in emergency situations. Good risk by the Hammers.

Valencia extends Man Utd deal to great Mourinho praise

Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jose Mourinho has made no secret of his Antonio Valencia appreciation, and the Manchester United manager has rewarded his fullback with a new deal.

Valencia is nine appearances away from 300 in a Manchester United kit, with 22 goals and 61 assists as a Red Devil.

[ MORE: Monaco star’s Man City medical ]

Valencia said United has “been my life” since arriving from Wigan Athletic in 2009, while Mourinho heaped praise on the Ecuadorian captain’s character with glowing praise.

“It is no secret that I had been an admirer of Antonio’s long before I joined the club. I knew what a fantastic player he was and he has not disappointed me on that front. However, what I could never have imagined was what a great person he is. I know I have said this before but I truly believe it is a real privilege for us to have such a good player and such a good man. I am delighted he has extended his contract.”

Only Ander Herrera and Eric Bailly recorded better tackle rates at Old Trafford last season, and Valencia was credited with a team-best 1.5 crosses per game.