Man United must get creative, City still title favorites, Hammers struggling – View from the booth, with Arlo White

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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” we chat with NBC Sports’ lead soccer announcer Arlo White about Manchester United vs. Swansea, David Moyes’ struggles and what he should do in the transfer window. Plus we speak about Newcastle pulling off a shock against Man City at St. James’ Park and what on earth is going on at West Ham United.

(VIEW FROM THE BOOTH ARCHIVE)

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

So, let’s get to it.

Manchester United have lost three games in a row as their season of struggle continues. How significant is their game vs. Swansea for United?

It’s hugely significant, they’ve not lost four in a row since 1961. Back then Sir Matt Busby’s side were on a 10-game winless run which actually left the club in 21st place in December as they continued to rebuild after the Munich Air Disaster in 1958. The last time United had as few as 34 points from 20 games that actually went on to win the inaugural Premier League title by 10 points. But in 1992-93 it was a 42-game season and their rivals were no where near as well equipped as they are today. For me, it’s forget the title, forget trophies. Period (although one would be nice). It is operation fourth place for Manchester United and qualification for the Champions League. They start the weekend five points behind Liverpool with 18 games to go.

source: Getty Images
More misery for Moyes and Manchester United. Arlo thinks this transfer window is massive for the Red Devils.

I’m not sure if the hierarchy at United expected the torrent of titles and trophies to continued to pour into Old Trafford after the immediate absence of Sir Alex Ferguson. But missing out on the Champions League is another matter entirely. It would be a financial hammer-blow, finishing fifth would compound the issue as it would bring a potentially debilitating campaign in the Europa League next season just as they’re rebuilding and trying to reclaim a top four spot. It is well documented that United have lost three on the spin to start 2014, but David Moyes has been nominated for Manager of the Month for December. Their 1-0 win over Norwich on December 28 wasn’t convincing but it was United’s fourth win in December, they need the spirit of the old Manchester United at Old Trafford to rip into Swansea. They also need the memory of a recent winning streak to grab a vital win in front of their own fans because it ‘s a huge and potentially season-defining task that awaits them the week after at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea.

WATCH MAN UNITED vs. SWANSEA LIVE ONLINE VIA NBC SPORTS LIVE EXTRA, 12:30pm ET ON SATURDAY

Lee Dixon and I cannot wait to get to Old Trafford, we were their together to see Everton defeat United and I was with Graeme Le Saux for the Tottenham defeat. Manchester United’s fans are being very fair and are heeding Sir Alex’s request to give the new man a chance and give him their full support. But they are growing a little more disgruntled. You can hear the first signs of boo’s at the final whistle as the away fans celebrate in the far corner. This is an absolutely vital afternoon for Manchester United, we can’t wait to sample the atmosphere at Old Trafford.

Plenty are expecting David Moyes to be handed a considerable war chest in the January transfer window. Which positions need strengthening the most?

United need to think outside the box here, in a way that perhaps they’ve never had to do in the last two decades. Champions League qualification is an absolute must for them so they need to get creative. Short-term loans, or maybe sign a player that’s ineligible for the Champions League this season but may help them enormously in the Premier League to help them get back into a top four spot. Their needs overall are plenty, long-term they need new full backs, they need at least one center back and they need to restock in the wide midfield areas, plus they need a central attacking midfielder.

source: Getty Images
Only Rooney and RVP are worthy of a starting spot at United these days. Maybe De Gea too.

It’s only Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie who they desperately need to hold onto, who you can say are two definites in a staring XI in the future, with the possible exception of David De Gea who through it all is playing very well indeed.

In the short-term they need some dynamism in central midfield, some energy, aggression and some flair. Whether they’ll find that in January is another matter. But as I say they need to think outside the box, reappraise their approach and get some talent in whether they have to pay more for it at a premium in January and those players are ineligible for the Champions League. They’ve got to improve in the Premier League.

The atmosphere at St. James’ Park is often intimidating for visiting sides, how big a test is this for Manchester City against Newcastle?

It’s very big. Manchester United have a better away record than Manchester City. City have won all ten games at home, they have 30 points out of 30, but away they’ve won four out of 10 and have conceded 17 goals so they’ve accumulated 14 points out of 30. They’ve also scored double the amount of goals at home than they have on the road, the discrepancy between home form and away form for them is still too big although their away record has picked up in the last few games.

WATCH NEWCASTLE VS. MAN CITY LIVE ONLINE VIA NBC SPORTS LIVE EXTRA, 9:05am ET ON SUNDAY

source: AP
Newcastle are a tough nut to crack at home. Can a rampaging Man City side win at St. James’ Park?

Newcastle, as you say are a tough nut to crack at home. I can’t wait to get to St. James’ Park this weekend, we’ve been there once this season. 52,000 fans were there for the West Brom game and it’s a wonderful place to watch football. It’s a true football city with the history you breathe football in the air and you breathe Newcastle United when you walk up the road towards St. James’ Park on the hill. They’ve beaten Chelsea at home this season so far Newcastle, they have top four intentions themselves. They’ve just started to slide into midtable, so it’s a vital game for them. I’m fascinated and so impressed of the emergence of Alvaro Negredo as a striker in the absence of Sergio Aguero. He has got incredible power and has scored eight goals in the league, 18 in total.

I think it’s too soon for Aguero to come back but that’s one of the big decisions Manuel Pellegrini has to make. He often makes different decisions away than he would at home, will he start two up top with Negredo and Dzeko? Or will he go one up top and five in midfield? I think their approach to the game, you will be able to see it through the starting XI Pellegrini selects vs. Newcastle.

Are Man City still your favorites to win the title?

Marginally. This is the season of seasons, in terms of it being wide open. We’re still no closer to a definitive answer and that’s just the way we like it halfway through the season. City are clearly the most explosive, devastating team in the Premier League. When they’re at home their hard work and togetherness shines through, they buzz around in central midfield and work tirelessly to get the ball back. You watch Kolarov at left back and particularly Zabaleta on the right flank and those two tirelessly bomb up and down the flanks to help in attack and defense as well. Fernandinho and Toure at home are unstoppable, they give Manchester City a fantastic platform. If it went on just their home form there would be only one team in it. But it’s this nagging doubt of their away form which prevents me from saying that they’re the outright favorites.

source: Getty Images
City’s supreme offense is still taking time for gel away from the Etihad. But recent signs are good for Pellegrini’s men.

Arsenal have recovered nicely from a little wobble before Christmas, they deserve to be where they are. And we will see what they do in the transfer window in January, it’s a big transfer window for Arsene Wenger. He went against his own policies by going out and spending a lot of money on Mesut Ozil in the summer, perhaps he might do the same seeing that Arsenal are in the box seat going into the second half of the season. But Chelsea are impressing me in a different way. It’s possible that in a season of high-scoring football, wide-open games and attack minded approaches that a team that can grind out results and be consistent in that way might just accumulate enough points that when the music stops at the end of the season, they could be the ones on the throne as Champions. So don’t rule Chelsea out at this stage, and I think out of the top four Liverpool are the outsiders but we will see what happens when they get their main stars back as well.

Finally, what else are you looking forward to?

The trials and tribulations of West Ham United under Sam Allardyce is making a big story in the Premier League. He made so many changes in the FA Cup tie versus Nottingham Forest, as Premier League survival was the priority and the semifinal first leg of the League Cup at Man City, and they got walloped 5-0 by Forest. They are injury ravaged and they then go and get absolutely torn apart by Man City, and they’ve now conceded 11 goals without scoring in their last two games. The Hammers now face a very difficult game away at Cardiff City under Ole Gunnar Solksjaer. They’re going to be rejuvenated I’m sure in the absence of Malky Mackay, they played very well in the game we did on NBC against Sunderland where perhaps they were unfortunate to concede a last minute equalizer. But West Ham have got to turn in a performance, they’ve got horrendous injury problems at the back and one or two of their players are going missing.

source: AP
West Ham are beleaguered and languishing towards the bottom. One more big defeat could spell the end for Big Sam.

Andy Carroll can’t get into that team quick enough just to give them a boost. There will be a lot of pressure on him to score goals immediately in a side that’s struggling. But another heavy defeat at Cardiff, I know the owners at West Ham have backed Sam Allardyce to the hilt, but the fans are starting to turn. They are a little bit embarrassed with what’s going on and they’re fearful for the future.

They’ve seen the short-term short in the arm that a managerial change can provide for them, so a hefty defeat for West Ham at the weekend and things could get extremely interesting.

PL title & FA Cup in sight, Conte says Chelsea still rebuilding

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Antonio Conte might be just seven games away from guiding Chelsea to a Premier League and FA Cup double this season, but the Blues’ first-year Italian manager insists his squad is nowhere near being a finished product.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Speaking after Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal triumph over Tottenham Hotspur, Conte insisted that the team he inherited last summer, after a disastrous 10th-place finish in the PL, is “in a period of transition” and that “[they] need time” as the club moves on from an accomplished, foundational generation — quotes from Sky Sports:

“I think that now at Chelsea we are in a period of transition. In this season, we have lost (Branislav) Ivanovic, (John Obi) Mikel and next season we lose John Terry.

“We are talking about players who wrote the history of this club. They won a lot. Now we have to find the right substitutes for these players and then work to put these players at the same level.

“I think that in the period with Carlo (Ancelotti) — and Carlo is the best Italian coach, I have great respect for him — he arrived at Chelsea when they had a really strong squad. Now we are building. We are building something important. We need time.”

[ MORE: Kante takes home PFA Player of the Year | Dele wins Young Player ]

Conte is doing two things with the above comments: 1) he’s tempering expectations for next season, when Chelsea will be back in the UEFA Champions League and automatically expected to repeat as PL champions — not to mention, taking a bit of pressure off in these final two months of the 2016-17 season; and, 2) pointing out just how impressive his work to date has been, the fact he’s potentially seven games away from lifting two trophies in seven days’ time next month.

Ligue 1: Mbappe, Falcao fire Monaco top again

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PARIS (AP) Strikers Radamel Falcao and Kylian Mbappe continued their fine form with a goal each to help Monaco secure a 2-1 win at Lyon and reclaim top spot in the French league on Sunday.

Monaco moves above defending champion Paris Saint-Germain on goal difference, with Monaco having played a game less. PSG has four games left.

“It wasn’t easy and it was a big win for us tonight,” Monaco center half Andrea Raggi said. “We all play for each other and it’s now or never.”

It has been an astonishing season for Monaco, which has now scored 143 goals in all competitions and remains on course for the treble. Monaco faces PSG in the French Cup semifinals next Wednesday.

Falcao and Mbappe scored in midweek when Monaco beat German side Borussia Dortmund 3-1 in the return leg of their Champions League quarterfinal to reach the last four 6-3 on aggregate.

Lyon also did well in Europe, going through on penalty kicks away to Turkish club Besiktas to reach the last four in the Europa League.

Falcao and the 18-year-old Mbappe have combined for 51 goals.

Falcao put Monaco ahead in the 36th minute with a header from close range – his 28th goal of the season – and Mbappe made it 2-0 just before halftime with a trademark surging run and cool finish for his 23rd.

“I just try and give my best whenever I play,” said Mbappe, who has recently been called into the France team. “I wasn’t playing much at the start of the season, so I’m still quite fresh and I hope I can help us win the remaining games.”

PSG beat Montpellier 2-0 at home on Saturday with Edinson Cavani scoring his 31st league goal of the season and 44th overall.

Nice has already guaranteed third place and a spot in the qualifying round for next season’s Champions League.

But with four games remaining, it is six points behind Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain. Nice hosts PSG next Sunday.

Striker Corentin Jean gave mid-table Toulouse the lead in the 57th minute. Midfielder Valentin Eysseric continued his fine form with the equalizer three minutes later.

The game was briefly halted early in the first half after a group of Saint-Etienne supporters forced themselves into the stadium.

The match was supposed to be played behind closed doors as a punishment for unruly supporters during Saint-Etienne’s local derby against Lyon.

After a brief delay for police to remove the fans, Slovakia striker Robert Beric put the home side ahead in the 39th and center half Edson Mexer leveled just before the break.

Saint-Etienne is in seventh place, while Rennes is ninth.

Serie A: Napoli waste chance to go 2nd; Juve win big (again)

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MILAN (AP) Arkadiusz Milik scored his first goal since his lengthy injury layoff but it wasn’t enough to prevent Napoli from drawing 2-2 at Sassuolo on Sunday and missing the chance to move second in Serie A.

Milik scored two minutes after coming off the bench to rescue a point for Napoli and move it to within one point of second-placed Roma, which visits bottom club Pescara on Monday.

Second spot in Serie A secures automatic entry into the Champions League group stage, while the team that finishes third has to go through a playoff.

“The road to second spot has got more difficult, we have to hope our rivals slip up,” Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri said. “We have a point more than last season, even though we played in the Champions League, even though we lost (Gonzalo) Higuain at the beginning of the season and Milik for four months, so I think the team has had an extraordinary season until now.”

After an even first half, Napoli broke the deadlock seven minutes after the break thanks to a rare header from Dries Mertens. It was the diminutive Belgian’s 22nd league goal of the season – as many as he had scored in total in his three previous seasons at Napoli.

However, Napoli gifted Sassuolo the equalizer seven minutes later as Marek Hamsik’s terrible headed backpass to Pepe Reina was intercepted by Domenico Berardi, who fired home from close range.

Mertens almost immediately restored his side’s lead but saw his free kick come off the crossbar, while Lorenzo Insigne’s effort also hit the inside of the post for Napoli.

Sassuolo took the lead 10 minutes from time following a superb save from Reina to deny former Napoli hero Paolo Cannavaro, but Antonino Ragusa hooked the ball back in from the byline for Luca Mazzitelli to drive into the bottom right corner.

Milik was brought on in the 82nd and immediately leveled. Jose Callejon’s corner was knocked down by Raul Albiol and the Poland international spun to fire in from close range for his first goal since he was injured on World Cup duty in October.

AC Milan missed a penalty as the new era at the famous Italian club continued without a win.

Milan drew 2-2 at city rival Inter Milan last weekend in the first match since the $800 million takeover of Milan by Chinese-led Rossoneri Sport Luxembourg ended Silvio Berlusconi’s 31-year reign.

Sunday’s defeat saw Milan remain in the last qualifying spot for the Europa League, two points above Inter.

“If we relate everything to the result, it didn’t go well but I shouldn’t do that,” Milan coach Vincenzo Montella said. “We created 15 chances, it’s difficult to create more in Serie A.”

Empoli took a surprise lead five minutes from halftime when Levan Mchedlidze headed in a corner.

Milan should have leveled shortly before the hour, after Lukasz Skorupski pushed over Mario Pasalic, but the Empoli goalkeeper made up for his error by keeping out Suso’s penalty and then parrying a follow-up effort from Gianluca Lapadula.

Empoli doubled its lead in the 67th when Massimo Maccarone nodded on the ball for Mame Thiam to score his first goal in Italian football.

Lapadula reduced the deficit five minutes later, curling into the bottom corner and Milan had a good chance to level when it was awarded an indirect free kick six yards out from goal after Skorupski got the ball, put it down and picked it back up again.

However, with all the Empoli players on the line, Milan couldn’t equalize.

Milan’s teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma kept his side in the match with a fantastic one-handed save to deny Maccarone and it almost proved decisive as Lucas Ocampos volleyed off the crossbar at the other end.

Keita Balde Diao notched a five-minute hat trick as Lazio crushed Palermo to move back into fourth in Serie A.

Ciro Immobile scored two in as many minutes to put Lazio 2-0 up inside 10 minutes, before Keita’s quickfire treble – including a penalty – ensured the match was all but over with less than half an hour played.

Lazio relaxed and Palermo threatened an unexpected comeback with two goals from Andrea Rispoli in five minutes at the start of the second half.

But Luca Crecco extended Lazio’s lead in the final minute with his first ever senior goal.

Juventus continued its march to an unprecedented sixth successive Serie A title by routing Genoa 4-0 to move 11 points clear of Roma.

Ezequiel Munoz scored an own-goal in the 17th and magnificent strikes from Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic put the hosts 3-0 up at the break. Leonardo Bonucci scored another stunning goal in the 64th after sprinting forward from inside his own half. Juventus also hit the woodwork three times.

Crotone kept its faint hopes of survival alive with a surprise 2-1 win at Sampdoria.

The result left it five points behind 17th-placed Empoli and safety with five matches remaining.

Elsewhere, Torino won 3-1 at Chievo Verona, while Udinese beat Cagliari 2-1.

MLS Snapshot: Sounders cruise, 3-0, as Galaxy struggles continue

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The game in 100 words (or less): The LA Galaxy’s midfield remains… nonexistent, to put it very nicely. It was a problem in 2015; it was a major problem in 2016; and it remains a problem early in 2017. On Sunday, Curt Onalfo’s side (as a quick aside, no, his seat isn’t yet getting hot) sat by and watched — almost literally — as the Seattle Sounders found the back of the net three times in the first half at StubHub Center.

Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris scored the goals for Seattle, to go with an own goal from Ashley Cole. It’s LA’s fifth loss in seven games, while Seattle have their second win of the season and put to bed a three-game winless skid.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS roundup — FCD win battle of unbeatens ]

Three moments that mattered

29′ — Dempsey heads into an open net for 1-0 — Nicolas Lodeiro floated the cross toward the back post, and Dempsey made extremely easy work of it with Brian Rowe scrambling through no man’s land.

35′ — Cole applies the finish into his own net — If it happened at the other end of the field, we’d have said it was a cool, calm, composed finish. Alas…

44′ — Morris fires past Rowe for 3-0 — The counter-attack was quick, what with no one stepping to the ball as Seattle covered two-thirds of the field. The finish wasn’t so simple for Morris.

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Man of the match: Clint Dempsey

Goalscorers: Dempsey (29′), Cole (OG – 35′), Morris (44′)