ANDRE VILLAS-BOAS

Premier League Playback: AVB’s snappy attitude, ‘Le Toon’ flying, are Chelsea back?

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AVB’S BEEN THREATENING THIS FOR A WHILE

After Andre Villas-Boas heated rant at journalists following Spurs’ 2-2 draw with Manchester United on Sunday — for apparently hounding him and calling into question his professional following Tottenham’s 6-0 drubbing at Manchester City last weekend — I have to say, I wasn’t surprised.

At the start of the season, following Spurs’ 1-0 North London derby loss on Sept. 1, I was on the end of a sharp snap back from AVB after questioning his sides lack of creativity. Not a rant, but his reply did take me and some other writers by surprise.

I dug out the article I wrote that day, as the extract below proves that Villas-Boas has been threatening to blow a gasket for a while. Sunday’s outburst against the Daily Mail has been brewing.

In the post-game press conference I specifically asked AVB about the lack of cutting edge in the first few games of the season, as Tottenham have scored just twice in three games, with both goals coming from the penalty spot. Is there a lack of creativity?

“I think that is a false question,” Villas-Boas replied. “I don’t think there is a good argument. We came to Arsenal and created lots of chances, obviously there are players that are different from others. There are players that are box-to-box, players that are more creative and have that ability to link up with others.”

There was a shortness and arrogance in the way he uttered the sentiment above. He’s been on guard from the start of this season.

So, the million dollar question: was AVB right to publicly call out journalists who questioned his professionalism and managerial abilities?

The video evidence of him losing the plot is below. This has been building up all season, especially with the pressures of a monumental rebuild after selling Gareth Bale resting heavy on his shoulders and word on the street is AVB must deliver a top four spot this season, otherwise he’s out of White Hart Lane. With his side stalling and spluttering to gather momentum, the Portuguese manager will be pleased to see his team respond well on the pitch as arguably they should’ve beaten United at the weekend.

AVB is a wounded animal right now, hence the attack on journalists. As yours truly knows all too well, it’s not unusual for Villas-Boas to act like this. With ‘sacking season’ in full swing and seven managers in eight days losing their job in English soccer, no wonder the young boss is on red alert and standing up for his name. After all, what is a manager without a glowing reputation? With what some would call an immature snap back at journalists, Villas-Boas may have damaged his beyond repair.

Premier League Schedule – Week 13

Result Recap & Highlights
Aston Villa 0-0 Sunderland Recap and watch here
Cardiff 0-3 Arsenal Recap and watch here
Chelsea 3-1 Southampton Recap and watch here
Everton 4-0 Stoke City Recap and watch here
Hull 3-1 Liverpool Recap and watch here
Man City 3-0 Swansea Recap and watch here
Newcastle Utd 2-1 West Brom Recap and watch here
Norwich 1-0 Crystal Palace Recap and watch here
Tottenham 2-2 Man Utd Recap and watch here
West Ham 3-0 Fulham Recap and watch here

ALLEZ LE TOON!

Following their impressive 2-1 win over West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, 18 of Newcastle’s 19 goals this season have been scored by Frenchman, only Ligue 1 side Lyon have had more French scorers!

“Value for money” in Ligue 1 has been the buzzwords around Newcastle for many months and Alan Pardew has certainly picked up a few gems who are now settled, fit and showing exactly why the Magpies hopped across the English Channel to go shopping in the January window last year. Will he do the same this season?

Moussa Sissoko, Yoan Gouffran and Loic Remy are dazzling week in, week out and with a decent run of fitness and form, all of a sudden Newcastle are in the hunt for a top four spot. Pardew, rightly so, has quelled any talk of Champions League qualification but is keen to keep the good run going as his side have now won fourth straight and look to be bouncing back from last seasons dismal Europa League affected campaign. Can the Magpies keep it up? We shall wait and see. But don’t be surprised if you hear La Marseillaise belted out from the Gallowgate End before the end of this season….

CHELSEA OF OLD SHINES THROUGH

Trailing Southampton 1-0 at half time on Sunday, Mourinho masterminded yet another Chelsea win at Stamford Bridge in the league. Shrewd, succinct but not at all subtle, the answer came from Demba Ba’s introduction as the Senegalese striker aided Fernando Torres’ constant hounding of Southampton’s two central defenders after the break.

It worked a charm. As I sat in my seat behind the benches at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, a sense of intrigue filled me as I saw Ba ready to come on at half time.

Mourinho’s switch to 4-4-2 saw Ba and Torres pester Dejan Lovren and Jose Fonte into knocking the ball long and stopped the Saints building from the back. Ba’s arrival was a simple switch but one that perhaps only Mourinho would make so suddenly at half time. He has confidence in his ability to break down a game and has often substituted players in the first half of matches to try and unsettle and break down the game plan of the opposition. He’s called the ‘Special One’ for a reason, he’s a master tactician.

In the second half it was like we’d been transported back to 2005 with Marty McFly and co. as Mourinho reverted to hassling the opposition into giving the ball away and then ramming it back down their throats just like he used to do with Didier Drogba as the chief architect. Southampton couldn’t deal with the direct approach.

We changed to the 4-4-2 and I think we gave Southampton a different game, a game that they didn’t expect. I think it was difficult for them to cope with the situation. We were not producing enough. I tried to give the opponent a new problem, one they were probably not ready for. They like to play it from the back, the fact we played with two strikers pressing Fonte and Lovren, I think they started going long and that allow my team to start creating chances. – Jose Mourinho post game after his shrewd tactical switch

So, as the title of that classic movie I referenced a few lines above states, is it “Back to the Future” for Chelsea if they’re going to win the title this season? It worked on Sunday against a talented Southampton… let’s see if it works again the rest of the campaign.

Premier League Playback comes out every Monday and takes an alternative look at the weekend action from the Premier League.

Seven unheralded stars of this Premier League season

during the Barclays Premier League match between A.F.C. Bournemouth and Tottenham Hotspur at Vitality Stadium on October 25, 2015 in Bournemouth, England.
Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images
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Look, it’s been a crazy year in the Premier League. Leicester City is top by five points, Chelsea is a bottom-half side, and not one of the league’s top three scorers hails from a team in last season’s Top Four.

So it follows that among the league’s other statistical leaders — advanced and traditional — are some surprisingly shining stars.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Or at least they aren’t mentioned a ton. We plan to rectify that here. By no means do we claim these statistical leaders without fault this season, but hats off to the good they’ve done (or, in some cases, the pain they’ve felt).

Most saves in a starring role

You wouldn’t know it from the goal totals these past few weeks, but Stoke City’s Jack Butland has been playing otherworldly between the sticks. His 87 saves lead the Premier League, and the Potters would be in the thick of a relegation battle if he hadn’t shone as brightly.

Ironman

Eleven players have played every minute of their side’s Premier League campaign this season (a 12th, Gareth Barry, has played all but one). Four of those 11 are goalkeepers, and six more are defenders. The only midfielder? Bournemouth’s South African standout Andrew Surman (above).

Top thief, too

Surman is also the league leader in interceptions with 92. The next seven players on the list, headed by Chris Smalling, are all defenders.

The most under-appreciated of the underdogs

Kante (Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

Leicester City has been fantastic, and people are quick to name Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy as big parts of the table-topping effort at King Power Stadium. Then, perhaps they’ll say something about goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel or defender Wes Morgan.

But how about the Premier League’s leader in tackles. Midfielder N'Golo Kante (right) has 115 tackles, 12 more than second-best Yohan Cabaye of Crystal Palace.

An all-expense paid journey to the massage parlor for…

Five players have been fouled more than 50 times this year, and you need to be around the ball a lot for that to happen. The four also-rans are Southampton’s Sadio Mane, Swansea City’s Andre Ayew, Everton’s Ross Barkley and Mahrez, but the man who deserved to skip to the head of the ice bath line is from Crystal Palace: Wilfried Zaha has been fouled 59 times. And that’s the amount of times the foulers were caught in the act.

Let Newcastle United’s captain climb in second, though; Fabricio Coloccini‘s 47 blocked shots are eight more than runners-up Neil Taylor (Swans) and Christian Fuchs (Leicester).

A man possessed

He hasn’t been heralded like a year ago, and most witnesses would tell you the midfielder’s been playing much worse. No, touches don’t equal success, but Cesc Fabregas‘ 2,027 credited touches are 74 more than the next player despite the fact that he’s the only player in the top four to have started less than 25 matches. He’s also completed 83 more passes than the closest competitor (Surman).

All-around stars

Advanced stats site Squawka uses an algorithm to generate statistics on who just might be the most complete player in the Premier League.

It’s certainly not foolproof, but the best player per-90 minutes would likely surprise you: Mousa Dembele of Spurs (Minimum 15 matches).

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As for who’s produced the most when numbers are averaged out over the entire game, one man rises to the top: Ross Barkley.

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Oft-targeted in the Premier League, Carvalho extends deal at Lisbon

Christian Hofer / Getty Images Sport
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William Carvalho has been running through the rumor mill for ages, and Sporting Lisbon has made sure they’ll get their due if he ever stops somewhere else.

The Angola-born Portuguese defensive midfielder with 15 caps has extended his contract with Sporting through 2020, a date that carries him through his 28th birthday.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Carvalho is 23 now, and has been linked with loads of big name clubs from Manchester United to Chelsea, Arsenal to PSG.

His new buyout clause is said to be as high as $53 million, and Carvalho hopes his commitment calms his supporters.

“Sportinguistas, I say to you that I am very happy with the deal which I signed up to 2020 and that you will have total effort on my part to be champions.”

Sporting is tied with Benfica atop the Portuguese table, second on goal differential. The club leads third-place Porto by six points, and is still alive in the Europa League. Bayer Leverkusen is up next.

Klinsmann hints at Euro-heavy roster for World Cup qualifiers

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 08:  Danny Williams #14 of the United States looks on before an international friendly against Brazil at Gillette Stadium on September 8, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images
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If your favorite Major League Soccer players don’t make the cut for Jurgen Klinsmann’s next roster, don’t think you won’t see them in the red, white and blue this summer.

[ JPW: What’s the best XI for USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers? ]

Perhaps it’ll be different for the players who were a part of January camp — stars Lee Nguyen and Steve Birnbaum chief among them — but Klinsmann says the late start of the MLS season can affect fitness for the critical qualifiers home and away to Guatemala.

That means there’s a better chance to see in-form Championship midfielder Danny Williams (above) or Pachuca’s Omar Gonzalez then, say, Orlando City’s Brek Shea or Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman.

From USSoccer.com:

“We are basically looking all over the place. We monitor all the players in Europe. We monitor all the players in Mexico, and obviously we can’t wait until MLS starts as well. It’s really kind of crucial that we see everybody getting in the best shape possible, everybody getting into a rhythm and making statements.

“Then you say, ‘Is the roster you see at the end of March the same one as Copa America?’ Probably not. The end of March comes early for MLS players. The European players are in the full swing, and also Mexican players because they started already a month ago with Liga MX. So we’ll be monitoring everyone.”

We’ve already covered the obstacle that is the CONCACAF-CONMEBOL Olympic qualifying playoff occurring at the same time as the Guatemala matches, but this is still good news for players in England, Germany and other European locales seeking caps in March.

Klopp on struggling Benteke: “He wants to score and we need him to score”

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09:  Christian Benteke of Liverpool reacts as he foiled by goalkeeper Darren Randolph of West Ham United during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Replay match between West Ham United and Liverpool at Boleyn Ground on February 9, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
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Jurgen Klopp had his appendix removed this weekend, but it’s doubtful he’s feeling as sore as his big Belgian striker.

Christian Benteke had the opportunity to put himself in the good graces of Liverpool fans with a number of decent chances in Tuesday’s FA Cup loss to West Ham, but couldn’t get the job done.

[ MORE: Match recap | Watch Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

In one case, Benteke put himself in a prime spot only to lash his shot wide of the post. Instead, he’s now at 11 appearances without a goal (despite ripping nine shots against the Irons).

From the BBC:

“I don’t believe in the easy goal. He has to carry on like this. It’s not the nicest moment in his career but he has to work hard. He wants to score and we need him to score. We will work on it in the days, weeks and months.”

Klopp maintained that Liverpool was “the better team” on the night — counterpart Slaven Bilic disagreed — despite conceding a pair of very similar looking goals.

The game could’ve avoided extra time through Benteke’s boots and body, but he couldn’t find his finish again.

The 25-year-old has seen his goal production drop by nearly half since joining from Aston Villa in the summer, and it’s sure to return… just maybe not under Klopp.