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

Leave a comment

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.

Benitez happy to stay at Newcastle if he “has the tools to compete”

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Rafa Benitez is approaching something vaguely resembling sainthood in the northeast of England — with the Newcastle United-supporting portion, at least — but his future remains in doubt as the end of the current Premier League season draws nearer and the next one approaches.

[ MORE: Salah beats De Bruyne to win PFA Player of the year award ]

Benitez and Newcastle owner Mike Ashley have endured an unhappy working relationship for much of Benitez’s 25 months at the club. The Spaniard was true to his word, though, when he stuck around another season after being relegated from the PL in 2016, then again after winning promotion on the Magpies’ first attempt, but he’ll be faced with the same dilemma again this summer, even after guiding Newcastle to a mid-table finish (they currently sit 10th with five games left to play).

[ MORE: Man United reach FA Cup final | Chelsea join them ]

If he’s not given assurances that he’ll be handed the necessary funds to properly strengthen his squad during the upcoming summer transfer window, the 58-year-old could very well walk away and leave Ashley to play the part of all-too-familiar villain. Or, as Benitez put it this weekend, Ashley could fork over “the tools to be capable of competing” and make everyone, from the manager to the fans, happy — quotes form the Guardian:

“If they [Ashley’s representatives] want to talk to my people [about a new contract,] they can talk. The main thing is to be sure we share the same ambition.

“I want to win games and I want to win trophies and I want to have the tools to be capable of competing. At the same time, I like to improve players, coach players, follow a business plan, a realistic business plan in modern football. I have no problem with that because I did it in the past.

“We have to be sure to have all the tools to compete and achieve what we want to achieve because Newcastle is a massive football club and we want it to reach its potential.”

Of course, the perfect scenario for everyone involved would have been for any one of the numerous takeover bids to have gone through during the last two years, but as was most recently evidenced earlier this year, Ashley and the Toon can’t seem to quit each other just yet.

MLS: Timbers end NYCFC’s unbeaten start; Seattle get 1st win

Serena Morones/The Oregonian via AP
Leave a comment

Sunday was a very good day for a pair of green-clad Cascadia rivals, the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders, as the former put to end the unbeaten start of the best team in MLS, while the latter picked up their first win of 2018…

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS roundupOther MLS Things — The Archive ]

Portland Timbers 3-0 New York City FC

Through their first seven games, NYCFC were almost inarguably the best team in MLS (aside: how much better is their opening-day walkover of Sporting KC looking these days?), but Patrick Vieira’s side might as well have not even shown up to Providence Park on Sunday. Chalk it up to “it’s only one game,” or “these things happen in MLS,” or “NYC to Portland is a long trip for Russian clubs,” or any other credible rationale you prefer, but they were nothing more than 11 passengers for the whole of 90 minutes.

A quick look at the defending on all three of Portland’s goals…

Vieira was right at halftime, when he said his side was lacking intensity and aggression, and that it’d be nigh impossible to get back into the game in the second half if they continued to play that way. Spoiler: it was, because they did.

Just as I’ll not be rushing to judgment over NYCFC’s no-show performance, I’m not yet buying into the idea that Portland have figured things out defensively on the back of one clean sheet (their first of the season).

Seattle Sounders 3-1 Minnesota United

Speaking of firsts, Seattle are the proud owners of points — as in, more than one point — after putting three past Minnesota but almost fatally failing to kill the game off after going 2-0 up. I’m not sure what any defender in black is doing on this sequence…

Alas, Gustav Svensson, Will Bruin and Jordy Delem were far more clinical with their chances than the Loons…

Still, though, Seattle were completely helpless when it came time to grab control of the game while in a commanding position. Osvaldo Alonso is nowhere near the player he once was, which is a massive problem against teams that set up to counter-attack, as Minnesota did on Sunday. It doesn’t help that Roman Torres and Chad Marshall are the plodding center backs behind him.

The obvious answer to the midfield problem is to play Cristian Roldan deeper, alongside Alonso as they did en route to winning MLS Cup in 2016, but injuries to a number of key attackers have forced him into a de facto no. 10 role for the time being. These things will work themselves out with a bit of time, I suppose.

Full MLS scoreboard

Sporting Kansas City 6-0 Vancouver Whitecaps (Friday) — FULL RECAP
Montreal Impact 3-5 Los Angeles FC — FULL RECAP
Houston Dynamo 5-1 Toronto FC
New York Red Bulls 1-2 Chicago Fire
Columbus Crew SC 2-2 New England Revolution
Orlando City SC 3-2 San Jose Earthquakes
FC Dallas 2-0 Philadelphia Union
Real Salt Lake 3-0 Colorado Rapids
LA Galaxy 0-2 Atlanta United

Salah beats De Bruyne to win PFA Player of the Year award

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Leave a comment

LONDON (AP) Mohamed Salah has been voted Player of the Year by his fellow professionals in English football in recognition of an incredible scoring return to the Premier League with Liverpool.

[ MORE: Man United reach FA Cup final | Chelsea join them ]

The Egypt forward collected the Professional Footballers’ Association award at a ceremony in London on Sunday, two days before Liverpool’s Champions League semifinal first leg against Roma.

It is a reunion with the Italian club he left in the offseason for 42 million euros (then $47 million). The hefty fee appeared to be a gamble for Liverpool but now represents a real bargain.

The former Chelsea player has scored 41 goals in 46 appearances in all competitions for Liverpool – enabling him to beat Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne in second place to the PFA award.

Tottenham striker Harry Kane was third.

[ MORE: Man City thrash Swansea in pursuit of points record ]

“It’s a big honor,” Salah said. “I’ve worked hard and I’m very happy to win it.”

Salah is preparing to lead Egypt into its first World Cup in 28 years and he is the first player from the North African nation to win English football’s top individual prize.

“Hopefully I’m not the last one,” he said. “I’m very proud to win and I’ve worked very hard.”

Salah’s impact has been more remarkable given his underwhelming 2014-15 season at Chelsea before being offloaded by then-manager Jose Mourinho. He went on loan to Fiorentina in early 2015 and Roma in 2016, and then on a permanent basis to Roma in August 2016.

Scoring 15 goals and setting up 11 more for Roma convinced Liverpool to bring Salah back to a second spell in England.

[ MORE: Liverpool draw West Brom in final tune-up before UCL semis ]

His goal at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday was his 31st in the league this season, tying the scoring record in a 38-game campaign held by Cristiano Ronaldo, Alan Shearer and Luis Suarez.

Suarez was the last Liverpool player to be crowned player of the year by the PFA in 2014 before moving to Barcelona.

It’s a sign of his remarkable impact that Salah secured the award with third-place Liverpool and that none of Manchester City’s newly crowned champions won the accolade.

But City winger Leroy Sane was voted PFA Young Player of the Year.

The PFA women’s player award went to Chelsea forward Fran Kirby, while Lauren Hemp of Bristol City secured the young player prize.

CONCACAF cancels women’s U-17 tournament due to violence

CONCACAF
1 Comment

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) CONCACAF has canceled the rest of its 2018 Women’s Under-17 Championship following violence in Managua, Nicaragua, where the tournament began Thursday.

The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football made the announcement Sunday. The tournament was to have determined the region’s qualifiers for the Under-17 World Cup in Uruguay, which starts Nov. 13.

More than two dozen people have been killed since Wednesday according to the independent Nicaraguan Human Rights Center, though the government had acknowledged only nine dead. Dozens of shops in Managua were looted during protests and disturbances sparked by government social security reforms.

The U.S. opened Friday with a 4-0 win over Costa Rica and had been scheduled to play Bermuda on Sunday and Canada on Tuesday.