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.

Tammy Abraham denies switching national teams

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Fans of the England National Team may still have a chance to see Tammy Abraham don the Three Lions crest one day.

Abraham refuted reports from earlier Thursday that he was in the process of switching his national team to Nigeria from England. The 19-year-old Swansea City forward on-loan from Chelsea has played as high as the England Under-21 Men’s National Team but because of his Nigerian father, he’s eligible for the African nation.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Abraham confirmed that he had met with Nigeria Football Federation chief Amaju Pinnick after Swansea’s last game, but denied that he was looking to play for the Super Eagles.

“I have informed The FA that I remain available for selection for England,” Abraham said, via the BBC. “Contrary to reports in the media I would like to clarify that I have not agreed to switch my national team allegiance. I can confirm I met the President of the NFF after our last game against Tottenham at Wembley on Saturday given he is a friend of my father. However, any suggestion that I have made a decision to change my international representation is incorrect and wide of the mark.”

Earlier in the day, reports emerged that Pinnick said the process was underway for Abraham to switch his international allegiance.

Abraham’s apparently decision to remain with the England set-up is good news for his club Swansea City, who will get to keep him closer to Wales on a regular basis, but Abraham may be missing a chance to play senior national team soccer at a young age.

Paulinho has silenced his critics at Barcelona

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MADRID (AP) Brazil midfielder Paulinho wasn’t greeted with the warmest of welcomes when he arrived in Barcelona.

Fans made it clear they were not too thrilled to see the club spend 40 million euros ($48 million) on a defensive midfielder who was playing in the Chinese league.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule ]

They were expecting a blockbuster signing after Neymar’s departure and ended up getting a player they knew very little about.

Paulinho didn’t have any links to the club’s youth academy and his style apparently didn’t suit the team’s traditional ball-possession game.

A video of Paulinho struggling to juggle the ball during his presentation at Camp Nou Stadium didn’t help, going viral and igniting even more criticism against the player and the club.

But things have changed quickly in favor of the low-key, hard-working Brazilian.

After five Spanish league games, Paulinho has done enough to mollify the critics.

He has two goals, including a late winner against Getafe last weekend, and showed some of the prowess that led him to success in Brazil and made him an indisputable starter for his national team.

He thrived after coming off the bench in his first four matches, and eventually earned a start on Tuesday against Eibar.

“I’m happy with how things have gone for me,” Paulinho said. “I’m glad that I’m playing well, it helps me get adapted to the club. I’m playing alongside some great players and they have all been supporting me a lot.”

The 29-year-old Paulinho has added versatility to the midfield. He is solid as a defensive midfielder but also excels with attacking runs that often surprise defenders.

That’s how he scored the decisive goal in the 2-1 win against Getafe, making a run between defenders and entering the area to fire a firm shot into the far corner. His second goal was a header in a 6-1 rout of Eibar.

“He will end up being a cheap signing,” Brazil teammate and former Barcelona player Dani Alves said.

Paulinho has a lot more presence in the area than some of the team’s other midfielders, including Ivan Rakitic and even Andres Iniesta.

It was this that made Paulinho a key player in the Corinthians team that won Club World Cup in 2012. His success with the Brazilian club prompted a move in 2013 to Tottenham, where he disappointed in his two seasons before moving to Guangzhou Evergrande.

Paulinho, who signed a four-year contract with Barcelona, said he had regained his confidence while playing in China. And his good performances with Brazil also helped.

“He gives us a lot of versatility. He can help us in many different ways,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

Barcelona’s next game is on Saturday at Girona. The Catalan club has won its first five Spanish league games and has a two-point lead over second-place Sevilla.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Follow Tales Azzoni on http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Sargent, Carleton headline U.S. Under-17 World Cup squad

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Josh Sargent has decided his professional future lies in Germany. But first, he’ll be going next month to India with 20 other teammates.

Sargent headlines head coach John Hackworth’s 21-man U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team squad for the 2017 U-17 World Cup in India. The World Cup takes place from October 6-28.

Joining Sargent are Atlanta United prospects Andrew Carleton, Chris Goslin and Justin Garces as well as New York City FC Homegrown signing James Sands, who recently made his first team debut.

The squad also features a handful of players based abroad, including Philadelphia, Penn. native Carlos Joaquim Dos Santos of Benfica, Ajax’s Sergino Dest and New York native Timothy Weah, who currently plays with Paris Saint-Germain.

The U.S. was drawn in Group A with host India, Colombia and Ghana. The U.S. U-17s begin the tournament in the opening game on October 6 against India, before facing Ghana on October 9 and Colombia on October 12.

In the press release, U.S. Soccer said that all U.S. U-17 games will be broadcast live on FS2 and UNIVERSO.

Here’s a look at the U.S. U-17 World Cup squad.

GOALKEEPERS (3): Alex Budnik (Sockers FC; Arlington Heights, Ill.), Carlos Joaquim Dos Santos (S.L. Benfica; Philadelphia, Penn.), Justin Garces (Atlanta United FC; Miami, Fla.)

DEFENDERS (6): Sergiño Dest (Ajax; Almere-stad, Netherlands), Christopher Gloster (New York Red Bulls; Montclair, N.J.), Jaylin Lindsey (Sporting Kansas City; Charlotte, N.C.), James Sands (New York City FC; Rye, N.Y.), Tyler Shaver (New York City FC; Greenwich, Conn.), Akil Watts (Portland Timbers, Fort Wayne, Ind.)

MIDFIELDERS (6): George Acosta (North Carolina FC; Hollywood, Fla.), Taylor Booth (Real Salt Lake; Eden, Utah), Christopher Durkin (D.C. United; Glen Allen, Va.), Blaine Ferri (Solar Soccer Club; Southlake, Texas), Chris Goslin (Atlanta United FC; Locust Grove, Ga.), Indiana Vassilev (Unattached; Savannah, Ga.)

FORWARDS (6): Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC; Brampton Ont.), Andrew Carleton (Atlanta United FC; Powder Springs, Ga.), Jacobo Reyes (C.F. Monterrey; Houston, Texas), Bryan Reynolds (FC Dallas; Little Elm, Texas), Joshua Sargent (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri; O’Fallon, Mo.), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain F.C., Rosedale, N.Y.)

MLS at Week 29: NYCFC looks to clinch vs. Houston, Atlanta hosts Impact

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Five weeks remain in the MLS regular season, and the playoff picture in both conferences are still quite murky despite time running out ahead of the postseason.

[ MORE: Sporting KC claims its fourth U.S. Open Cup title ]

While the playoff situation in the Western Conference likely won’t be settled until the final week or two, another team in the East can lock up a spot in the postseason this weekend with a victory.

New York City FC vs. Houston Dynamo

New York City FC has struggled a bit as of late with injuries and are also winless in their last two matches, but Patrick Vieira’s side has the opportunity to clinch its place in the East playoffs and potentially draw one step closer to locking up the second seed.

Vieira’s boys have scored just two goals in their last three outings (1-1-1 in that span), but the good news for NYCFC is that David Villa is expected to return to the starting XI on Saturday. MLS’ leading goalscorer has racked up an impressive 19 goals this season, and the Spaniard looks on pace to capture another MLS MVP award in 2017.

They’ll face the Dynamo in a “home” match in Hartford, Connecticut after the game was moved from Yankee Stadium due to a stadium conflict with the Yankees. The fixture still bodes well though for NYCFC, as the Dynamo boast one of the worst road records in MLS this season, at 1-9-5.


Atlanta United vs. Montreal Impact

Tata Martino’s side continues to benefit from playing at their new venue, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and Atlanta will have the opportunity to put on another show on Sunday against the Impact.

Atlanta has leapt all the way up to fourth in the Eastern Conference and could potentially go third this weekend with a victory. Over the team’s last four matches, Atlanta has scored an astounding 17 goals, putting the rest of MLS on watch over the club’s potent attack.

For the Impact, they are in desperate need of a victory after picking up three points against Toronto on Wednesday. Mauro Biello’s side is on the outside looking in with five matches remaining, and the Impact are still three points behind the New York Red Bulls for the final playoff spot in the East.


Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle Sounders

Even if the Claret and Cobalt don’t qualify for the playoffs, Mike Petke has done a really special coaching job this season in Salt Lake City. RSL holds the final playoff spot out West for the time being, and it’s no coincidence that they’ve risen in the table given their form.

Since July 4, RSL is unbeaten in nine of its 11 matches, including six victories during that span. Unfortunately for Petke and Co., they have to play the Sounders this weekend — who haven’t lost June 17 at NYCFC.

The Sounders have drawn four in a row, but their unbeaten streak has extended to an MLS-best 13 matches as of late, putting them within a point of the Western Conference lead.


Here’s a look at the full rundown of the weekend’s action around MLS.

Saturday

New York City FC vs. Houston Dynamo — 3 p.m. ET
New England Revolution vs. Toronto FC — 5 p.m. ET
D.C. United vs. San Jose Earthquakes — 7 p.m. ET
Philadelphia Union vs. Chicago Fire — 7 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew vs. New York Red Bulls — 7:30 p.m. ET
Minnesota United vs. FC Dallas — 8 p.m. ET
Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle Sounders — 9:30 p.m. ET
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Colorado Rapids — 10 p.m. ET

Sunday

Sporting KC vs. LA Galaxy — 2 p.m. ET
Atlanta United vs. Montreal Impact — 5 p.m. ET
Portland Timbers vs. Orlando City — 8 p.m. ET