Chelsea’s masterclass, United must-win, South Wales madness – 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” we chat with NBC Sports’ lead soccer announcer Arlo White about Chelsea’s massive win over Manchester City last Monday, the transfer window madness, Manchester United’s must-win game over Fulham and the big South Wales he’ll be at on Saturday.

(VIEW FROM THE BOOTH ARCHIVE)

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

So, let’s get to it.

What impressed you most about Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Manchester City at the Etihad?

The tactical discipline and game-plan put in place by Jose Mourinho was absolutely perfect. The organization of his side without the ball was spot on and the lethal pace of the counter attacks was devastating. If you could label any criticism towards Chelsea, and this has nothing to do with Mourinho’s game-plan, it would be the finishing. They hit the woodwork three times. Chelsea had so many opportunities with players breaking at pace, that to come away with only a 1-0 win will be a source of frustration for Mourinho. They could’ve killed that game off long before the end.

source: Getty Images
Arlo felt Chelsea’s organization and lethal counter-attacks won them the game vs. City.

Nemanja Matic grew into the game and played really well after a tough start, and he’s only had a little bit of Premier League experience so the game early on seemed to be passing him by in a whirl. But Matic managed to get some crucial challenges in on Yaya Toure and lessened the impact of Man City’s driving force from midfield. Hazard was magnificent in possession and Willian was a gem as he worked so hard on both sides of the ball. Then when City mounted the inevitable attacks, I thought Gary Cahill and John Terry were immense in the center of defense and Petr Cech made some big stops when he had to. All in all, just about a perfect performance.

Mourinho was clearly not going to park the bus in this game and I’m sure when he saw the team sheet that was missing Fernandinho and had Demichelis in central midfield he was further encouraged to have a go.

So, what did Man City do wrong?

When I saw the team sheets I figured that Fernandinho’s absence was going to be key. I looked back at the results in the PL when he hasn’t started, and in four games they’ve failed to score in three of them and the other was a 4-2 win over Cardiff City. Football isn’t a one man game and this wasn’t the only reason for the results but Fernandinho is clearly a very important player for City. It wasn’t just his absence, but who replaced him. Demichelis has been a terrific player down the years, you don’t play for Argentina, Bayern Munich and Malaga if you haven’t got something about you, but his main position is center back, he is 33 and he is slowing down. To put him in the holding role for this game was perhaps a mistake by Pellegrini.

(MORE: Three things we learned in Chelsea’s massive win over Man City)

Recently Vincent Kompany said his side are ‘learning to defend with just three players,’ as on most attacks seven players pour forward in attack. Pellegrini says they work on defending in most training sessions and how to defend when they are attacking as much as they are. I am wondering whether Pellegrini adapted his game-plan to the personnel he had available to him. If I was a City fan that would concern me when they come up against top opposition like Chelsea.

Pellegrini now has a dilemma going into big games such as the Champions league tie with Barca, even if Fernandinho is fit. Does he stick with the 4-4-2 that has provided so many goals but proved insufficient against Bayern and Chelsea, or does he adapt and take a more prudent approach to get another body into the middle of the park?

Let’s take a look back at the transfer window, who did the best business?

I thought Fulham had a very good transfer deadline day with the signings of Kostas Mitroglou, Johnny Heitinga and Lewis Holtby. They did very well. Having said that, over the next eight Premier League games they have Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton. They are bottom now, they’re shipping goals and these players are going to have to make a massive impact to get Fulham out of trouble.

source:
Fulham did the best business of the window, but with a tough stretch coming up, the new boys must deliver.

The other transfer day winners, for me, were Crystal Palace. They didn’t go for any flashy signings, they went for solid Champions/Scottish Premiership players Joe Ledley, Thomas Ince, Scott Dann, Jason Puncheon on a permanent deal and Wayne Hennessey as well. It just further strengthened a team that’s heading in the right direction under Tony Pulis.

WATCH EVERY PL GAME LIVE ONLINE VIA LIVE EXTRA

Overall in the transfer window, let’s wait and see how Juan Mata’s deal to Manchester United materializes but I am sure it will work out pretty well for them. Further down the league, Sunderland signed Liam Bridcutt and Marcus Alonso which has bolstered their efforts for survival. Cardiff City brought in Wilfried Zaha and Kenwyne Jones, plus a couple of Norwegian youngsters, and they had an immediate impact in the win over Norwich. I think Cardiff City have given themselves a better chance of staying up after their deals in the transfer window.

Ahead of Manchester United’s home game vs. Fulham on Sunday, how badly do the Red Devils need a morale boosting win after suffering their eighth defeat of the season against Stoke last time out?

The desperately need a win. Liverpool provided something of a reprieve for United with that 1-1 draw against West Brom. The gap to fourth for Man United is now seven points and not nine. It is still a big gap. Against Stoke last week it was an extremely tough environment. The wind was howling, the crowd was hostile, Stoke were up for it. But this is Manchester United we are talking about and it wasn’t liked they didn’t have chances either.

source: AP
Arlo believes the signing of Juan Mata will help United kick on in the second half of the season.

Having Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie on the field is a boost to them and I think they were a little unfortunate to come away from Stoke without at least a draw. Between now and the end of the season it is simple for Manchester United… it’s all about fourth place. Every game of theirs is going to be like a cavalry charge.

(MORE: Moyes tries to put positive spin on Man United loss; eight defeats and counting this season)

They have to open it up and score goals and they have to get three points in virtually every game that they play. For United’s fans it will be nail-biting but for the neutrals it will be spectacular.

In theory that’s the way it will be, but David Moyes still has to get them charged up to play like that. If he can do that, it’s going to be exhilarating.

Swansea have been sucked into a relegation battle and have now lost manager Michael Laudrup, while South Wales neighbors Cardiff are also scrapping to stay up. How will this impact the derby at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday?

It will impact the game massively. Swansea are only three points ahead of Cardiff which is a surprise for me at this stage of the season. The Swans have only won once in their last ten games in the league, they possess the ball to death but they aren’t doing a great deal with it at the moment. Swansea have played 10 games more than everybody else, with their Europa League run, which is something I’ve commented on before. I think the Europa League for teams like Swansea is debilitating.

source: Getty Images
Will Cardiff do the double over Swansea?

Cardiff won against Norwich last week, but they withstood an absolute pummeling late on. It was a plucky effort, rather than a convincing effort. They do have new players on loan, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer is finding his feet in the PL but this is a massive game. From a personal point of view, seeing the Merseyside derby, the Tyne-Wear derby and the South Wales derby in the space of 10 days is absolutely fantastic. This should be a belter.

Finally, what else are you looking forward to this weekend?

If you look at the fixture list Liverpool vs. Arsenal which kicks things off, live on USA at 7:45am ET in the States on Saturday morning, is a massive game for both sides. Arsenal have retained top spot so what an opportunity to go to Anfield, a ground where they have endured mixed fortunes in the past few years, to stretch their lead to five points before everybody else kicks off. What an opportunity to make a statement.

Likewise for Liverpool. They were disappointing against West Brom after a huge derby win over Everton but they are back on home turf and they play very well at home. That is going to be a blockbuster of a game. Then the game we are at on Sunday, Tottenham vs. Everton live on USA at 8:30amm ET, has massive implications for fourth place. I’ve enjoyed watching Spurs recently and Everton got back on track after that derby day demolition. That will be another cracker at White Hart Lane.

Again, another huge weekend in the Barclays Premier League.

Arsenal sends Gabriel Paulista to Valencia

Getty Images
1 Comment

Arsenal has a thin defense, but that hasn’t stopped Arsene Wenger from thinning the squad even further.

Gabriel Paulista is headed back to the Spanish top flight after the completion of his transfer to Valencia. The Brazilian was sold for a reported $12.8 million, just below the $14 million price tag Arsenal coughed up to Villareal back in January, 2015. He will partner with Manchester City loanee Eliaquim Mangala at Valencia.

The 26-year-old made 64 appearances for the Gunners across all competitions, including 46 in the Premier League. His only goal for the club was Arsenal’s first of a 2-0 win over Bournemouth in December, 2015. His high-water mark with the club was a 120-minute performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals where Arsenal came back to win 2-1 on an Alexis Sanchez goal in extra time.

“We would like to thank Gabriel for his contribution to the club and to wish him well for his return to La Liga with Valencia,” Arsenal said in its confirmation of the deal.

Paulista was utilized more than expected last season thanks to an injury crisis at the back, and still the Arsenal squad doesn’t seem fat enough to offload defenders, but Gabriel’s over-aggressive nature and tackling inaccuracy led him to an early exit.

With Arsene Wenger now deploying a back-three, the only natural central defenders currently on the roster are Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Shkodran Mustafi, and Rob Holding. Koscielny is suspended from a red card at the end of last season, and Mertesacker is battling a head injury. Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, and Calum Chambers have played CB for the Gunners in the recent past, but it is not their natural position.

Fabian Johnson misses Gladbach training with injury

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With John Brooks already out long-term due to a thigh injury, the United States may have another key injury to work around.

According to Borussia Monchengladbach manager Dieter Hecking, full-back/winger Fabian Johnson missed training on Friday due to an unspecified injury, and is now a question mark for Gladbach’s home match on Sunday against FC Koln. It could be nothing, but even the scare is cause for concern among U.S. fans.

Johnson has battled a few injuries the past couple of seasons, including a hamstring problem last spring that kept him out for nearly two months, including a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March.

Johnson’s absence would leave a hole at right-back for the United States. The 29-year-old has been deployed some at right wing for the USMNT, but he has been relatively poor at that position in the national setup, looking better when pushed further back where he is given more defensive duties, roaming forward with less frequency but more intent.

In place of Johnson, another converted winger in Graham Zusi has been seeing more time at right-back, but he offers less in the attack and lacks Johnson’s recovery speed, meaning mistakes by the Sporting KC veteran are punished more often.

Falcao scores again to extend red hot start

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Monaco is hoping to ride out the final two weeks of the transfer window with 18-year-old wonderkid Kylian Mbappe still in tow.

While they wait, they aren’t missing a beat.

With Mbappe out of the squad, Radamel Falcao has begun the 2017/18 Ligue 1 season as Europe’s hottest goalscorer. He bagged a hat-trick last weekend with Mbappe on the bench to give him four goals in the first two league matches. Then, with Mbappe out of the squad entirely, Falcao netted the winner in a 1-0 road win over FC Metz.

Falcao has scored five goals so far this year, and his club has a +5 goal differential. In a way, Falcao has already been worth six points thus far.

Thanks in part to Ligue 1’s early start, Falcao’s five league goals are by far more than anyone else in the major European leagues. Four players have scored a pair of Premier League goals, nobody in La Liga or the Bundesliga have scored more than one, and the Serie A season has yet to start.

The Colombian did the same thing last season. After eventually coming off the shelf from to hamstring and concussion problems to start the season, Falcao scored 10 goals in 10 Ligue 1 matches leading up to the new calendar year.

At 31 years old, Falcao isn’t a long-term solution and the club will clearly look to retain Mbappe despite Falcao’s hot start, but should they lose the young Frenchman, the club will be in good hands while they search for a replacement over the next year.

Arena should give Ream a look in Brooks’ absence

FulhamFC.com
Leave a comment

With John Brooks out three months thanks to a horribly timed thigh injury, the United States yet again has to scramble to fill a void at the back. It’s not the first time an injury to Brooks has left the USMNT scrambling for cover at a thin position.

In the successful Gold Cup this past summer, with a largely domestic squad in place, Omar Gonzalez saw the bulk of the time at central defender, with Matt Besler his partner through the final two matches. However, with European-based players now in contention for spots with the early September international break, those two are unlikely to continue, at least not together.

[ MORE: Liverpool holds all the cards in Coutinho transfer ]

The most obvious choice to start September 1st against Costa Rica and likely shoo-in should he remain healthy for the next two weeks is Geoff Cameron. The 32-year-old has been back and forth between defense and midfield with club and country, and although he has publicly acknowledged his preference for a spot higher up the pitch, he was used in a back-three in Stoke City’s Premier League opener last weekend and is steadiest at the back.

But with a spot next to Cameron up for grabs in Brooks’ absence, a player who should get serious consideration is United States fill-in extraordinaire Tim Ream.

Ream has had to work hard to earn his place with the U.S., and while he’s seen time of late, he’s not been a first-choice pick. The 29-year-old has four caps so far in 2017, with two of those starts, including one in the impressive 1-1 draw against Mexico at the Azteca with the US still clawing its way back up the Hex standings. Even then, Ream would likely not have earned that spot had Arena not chosen to rotate nearly the entire squad between the pair of qualifiers in that window. His other start this year, the 1-1 draw at Panama, only came after Cameron pulled out of the squad the day of the game with a late injury. The last time Ream started back-to-back matches for the U.S. came back in 2015 when he was somewhat of a regular through the second half of the calendar year.

[ MORE: LA Galaxy send Van Damme back to Belgium ]

But now, with Brooks out, Ream looks like the perfect man to fill in again. The 29-year-old defender finished last season in top form as Fulham narrowly missed out on promotion, earning the official website’s Man of the Match award in a May 2nd draw with Brentford, and won it again in the club’s final match of the season.

Without missing a beat, Ream has picked up where he left off last campaign in the first few matches this month. Last weekend against Reading at the Madjeski Stadium, Ream’s center-back partner Tomas Kalas was sent off 36 seconds into the match, forcing Fulham to play a man down for 89 minutes. Ream and company solidified the back, conceding just once in the 61st minute en route to a 1-1 draw.

The club still likely requires reinforcements at the CB position – Ream was forced to partner with right-back Denis Odoi against Reading with Kalas suspended and Michael Madl injured – meaning Ream could see an influx of competition in the coming weeks. However, as it stands, the American is far and away the best (and most improved) central defender on a club favored for promotion.

Gonzalez performed well in the Gold Cup, and Matt Besler was serviceable, but with few other options in the heart of defense to take Brooks’ place, Bruce Arena could yet again look to Ream for an in-form replacement.