Referee Andre Marriner, in grey, sends off Arsenal's Kieran Gibbs, left, during their English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge stadium in London Saturday, March 22 2014. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Quick Six: Arsenal’s woes, top three’s goals, and the headlines from this weekend’s PL action

6 Comments

On a weekend where Chelsea’s rout of Arsenal stole the headlines, Saturday’s result at Stamford Bridge dominates our Quick Six:

1. The most Arsenal thing they could have done

In hindsight, the strangest part of Chelsea’s barrage was its unpredictability. It’s not that we couldn’t foresee Arsenal collapsing in a big game. Gooners have been here before. It’s that nobody was willing to predict it. And yet, as Chelsea scored twice in seven minutes, three times in 17, the feeling was less shock than de ja vu. It wasn’t unpredictable because we couldn’t foresee it. It was unpredictable because we wouldn’t admit it. Arsenal was going to get blown out.

Samuel Eto’o had Arsenal down after five minutes, a lead André Schürrle doubled moments later. When Eden Hazard converted after Andre Marriner’s own headline (more below), Chelsea was up three and a man, an advantage that helped Oscar (two) and Mohamed Salah finish the job. On a day when Arsenal could have pulled within one point of first, the Gunners title hopes died on the wrong end of a 6-0 embarrassment.

(MORE: Chelsea 6-0 Arsenal: Blues hammer Gunners, as bizarre red card ruins Wenger’s big day (video))

And yet nobody’s talking about how impressive Chelsea was. This is how low our regard for Arsenal has fallen. It’s unfair (the team does have 62 points, after all), but it’s reality. Beating Arsenal by six grabs headlines, but it doesn’t change our view of a club. It only reinforces our view of Arsenal.

2. Andre Marriner shows his ‘perceptual expertise’

Let’s not dance around this one. There’s an established realm of psychology that addresses why Andre Marriner might have sent off the wrong man on Saturday. Marriner is white. Both Kieran Gibbs (the man sent off) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (the man who should have been sent off) are black. And yes, these things are important.

From the American Psychological Association’s Siri Carpenter, in a feature titled “Why do ‘they all look alike’?”:

People are notoriously awful at recognizing faces from other races. It’s a human foible often explained by the notion that we have more experience looking at members of our own race and thus acquire “perceptual expertise” for characteristics of our own kind.

… [Kent State University’s Daniel Levin, PhD] says, people place inordinate emphasis on race categories–whether someone is white, black or Asian–ignoring information that would help them recognize people as individuals. In recent research, Levin has shown that people can, in fact, perceive fine differences among faces of people from other races–as long as they’re using those differences to make race classifications.

For example, Levin explains, “When a white person looks at another white person’s nose, they’re likely to think to themselves, ‘That’s John’s nose.’ When they look at a black person’s nose, they’re likely to think, ‘That’s a black nose.'”

(Note: I am not a trained psychologist, so if there are better references for this phenomenon, fire away in the comments.)

Marriner later apologized for his mistake, one that may not be related to race at all. If it is, it’s both explicable (in the psychological sense) and something that should never happened in an environment where everybody wears huge, distinguishing numbers on their backs.

(MORE: Andre Marriner apologizes for error in Arsenal’s loss to Chelsea)

Now if only there was some kind of way officials could look at video footage to confirm …

source: AP3. Chelsea shines light on Arsenal’s Wenger dilemma

Saturday’s rout highlighted the Wenger conundrum. The man has been a huge asset to the club – somebody that defines their modern era. Once Manchester United finishes outside of Champions League, Arsenal will be the only team in the Premier League with top-four finishes in every season since Wenger’s arrival (in 1996). In the plights of the Red Devils, Liverpool, and Tottenham, you can see why Wenger’s success is so admirable.

But he’s not José Mourinho. He’s not Carlo Ancelotti. And he’s being passed by managers like Brendan Rodgers. Whereas the level of competition in the mid-90s meant Wenger’s ability to evaluate talent, instill a consistent style, and manage a squad could carry the Gunners to the top, now he also needs to be a master game manager to win the titles.

He’s just not, part of the reason he can’t beat Mourinho. And whereas we see Brendan Rodgers is making subtle tweaks every week to exploit his competition, Wenger has maintained a more consistent approach, one that leaves his players sitting ducks for the league’s best managers. As the likes of Manuel Pellegrini, Guus Hiddink, and Ancelotti cycle in and out of the league, Arsenal’s plight becomes more pronounced.

If Wegner left, Arsenal’s would be one the most sought after jobs in the world. But they can’t let him go. He’s still too good at what he does, even if that means Arsenal seems to have no chance when in games like Saturday’s.

It’s the conundrum of this era of Arsenal soccer: Appreciate the good; swallow the bad; hope things change in the future.

4. Top three’s outburst underscores the divide

Chelsea wasn’t the only team to get its goals out of its system. Liverpool and Manchester City also blew up. Continuing their pursuits of the league’s goal scoring record, the teams posted six and five (respectively) in their Saturday wins. If Arsenal’s loss didn’t highlight the divide between the top three and the rest of the league, 17 goals from that trio did.

It was a combination of coincidence and competition. All three happened to click on the same day. All three happened to play teams playing like relegation battlers. Fulham and Cardiff City are in the drop, while Arsenal plays like it is in very specific situations. Combine those factors with teams hitting their strides as they pursue first place and you get a series of embarrassing results.

(MORE: Liverpool’s six-spot in Wales | City posts five on Fulham)

It was good for the highlight reels, with hat tricks from Luis Suárez and Yaya Touré boosting each stars prodigious totals (Suárez is up to a league-leading 28; Touré leads midfielders with 16). For the losers, however, it was only good for demoralization. Fulham and Cardiff still sit in the league’s bottom two, while Arsenal look destined for another fourth place finish.

5. Wayne Rooney’s First should have been WORTH two

Part of me wants to say “Poor Adrian,” but most of me wants to thank him. Wayne Rooney’s goal from just inside West Ham’s half left the Hammers’ keeper on his back and United up at Upton Park.

source: Getty Images6. Eriksen, Sigurdsson stop Tottenham’s fall

For all the issues Tim Sherwood has managing Spurs, motivating his players isn’t one of them. Even when they’ve looked aimless tactically, the players have put in the work, an effort that paid off in Sunday’s last hour at White Hart Lane. After falling behind two within 30 minutes, Tottenham got two goals and an assist from Christian Eriksen, with the Danish international assisting on Gylfi Sigurdsson’s stoppage time winner.

(MORE: Tottenham 3-2 Southampton: Sigurdsson puts icing on three-goal comeback after Eriksen double)

Mistakes by Nathaniel Clyne and Dejan Lovren helped, but on a weekend where we saw leads snowball, Tottenham’s resolve deserves some credit. While we (read: I) mocked the idea that something would carry over from Spurs’ loss at Benfica, Sherwood was proven correct. The same fight that pulled Tottenham within one goal of extra time in Lisbon brought them all the way back in North London.

If returning to Europa is a goal, the win moved Spurs a step closer, mostly by throwing a major wrench into one of their pursuers’ chase. More readily, it stopped the four-game slide that had begun to send their season into chaos. Instead of trying to manage a sinking ship, the team can get back to seeing who will be part of next year’s crew.

MLS Snapshot: Houston Dynamo 0-2 New York City FC (video)

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 13: David Villa #7 of New York City FC celebrates his first half goal with teamate Andrea Pirlo #21 againd the Toronto FC at Yankee Stadium on March 13, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): With one goal already accomplished for New York City FC this season, Patrick Vieira’s group made positive strides in capturing another on Friday night in Houston. David Villa’s 20th and 21st tallies of the season gave the visitors the lead after halftime and NYCFC managed to hold onto the points from there. With just two matches remaining following the win over the Dynamo, NYCFC currently sits atop the Eastern Conference on 51 points. Meanwhile, the Dynamo remain nine points out of the final spot in the West with four matches to play.

[ MORE: NYCFC’s Vieira gets big praise from Dynamo counterpart ]

Three moments that mattered

27′ — Harrison tests Willis from distance — Chances were at a minimum in the opening stanza, but Joe Willis had to get down quickly here to deny Jack Harrison on this blast.

52′ — Villa hits his 20th on the season — The Dynamo defense won’t be pleased when they watch this one again, but in his typical fashion, David Villa found his way in on goal.

73′ — Saunders watches as Rodriguez hits post — It can be a game of inches at times and the Dynamo were certainly on the wrong end of this one as Raul Rodriguez’s effort struck the post and stayed out.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: David Villa

Goalscorers: David Villa (52′, 90′)

SKorean soccer club loses points over corruption scandal

JEONJU, SOUTH KOREA - MAY 24:  Besart Berisha action during the AFC Champions League Round Of 16 match between Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Melbourne Victory at Jeonju World Cup Stadium on May 24, 2016 in Jeonju, South Korea.  (Photo by Han Myung-Gu/Getty Images)
Han Myung-Gu/Getty Images
Leave a comment

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) The South Korean soccer league deducted nine points from league leader Jeonbuk Hyundai on Friday after one of the club’s employees was convicted of bribing referees in 2013.

The K-League also fined Jeonbuk 100 million won ($90,600). The club, which saw its 14-point lead over second-place FC Seoul reduced to a five-point margin, issued an apology and vowed to take measures to prevent it from happening again.

A court in Busan on Wednesday sentenced a Jeonbuk scout to a suspended prison term of two years for paying referees in exchange for favorable decisions in several league matches in 2013.

An official from Jeonbuk said the scout has been suspended by the team and it will soon make a decision whether to terminate his employment. He refused to be named, citing office rules.

The K-League had vowed reforms after being rocked by a massive match-fixing scandal in 2011, when 52 players were indicted for taking bribes in return for trying to manipulate the outcome of matches or betting their own money on the games.

Mangala replaces Mathieu in France squad

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 03:  Kolbeinn Sigthorsson of Iceland and Eliaquim Mangala of France compete for the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016 quarter final match between France and Iceland at Stade de France on July 3, 2016 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

PARIS (AP) Barcelona defender Jeremy Mathieu has been removed from the France squad for upcoming World Cup qualifiers for an unspecified reason.

[ MORE: What’s Arsenal’s best XI in the Arsene Wenger era? ]

The French football federation gave no explanation for coach Didier Deschamps’s decision to replace Mathieu with Eliaquim Mangala, only saying he made the move “following a discussion” with the Barcelona player. Mangala is currently on a season-long loan at Valencia from Manchester City.

France takes on Bulgaria on Oct. 7 at the Stade de France before traveling to Amsterdam to play the Netherlands three days later in Group A.

EXCLUSIVE: Michael Bradley on Toronto FC’s long-awaited renaissance

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07:  Michael Bradley #4 of Toronto FC heads over to take a corner kick during the first half of an MLS soccer game against FC Dallas at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Times have changed in Toronto for the local football club. The Reds are no longer, to put it bluntly, the bad club that failed to deliver results to a passionate fan base expecting so much more.

A club that missed the playoffs in each of its first eight seasons has clinched a postseason berth for a second-straight season. And this year, for the first time ever, TFC will finish this season with more wins than losses.

You read that right. For the first time ever. Yes, it was that bad.

[ MORE: JPW talks with USMNT prospect Gooch ]

It would overstate things to say Bradley showed up and fixed things for the Reds, turning them from a bad big club to a big, bad one overnight; For one thing, TFC missed the playoffs during his first season and Bradley only netted twice in a return to MLS which was expected to be dominant (though he was, per 90, one of the best possession players in the league that season).

Yet as time as gone on, in an organization that frankly had not seen much winning at all, Bradley has not just led the way as a battler emerged from BMO Field; The 29-year-old TFC and USMNT captain now leads a winner, one he’s quick to point out comes from an organization, not any single personality.

“I’ve tried every day since I got here to spill my heart and soul into it and to try to help in every way that I can,” Bradley told ProSoccerTalk.

“For a lot of people who have been here for the last years to see the way that things have continued to move forward and progress, there’s a big sense of pride. We’re by no means where we want to be. There are big goals around here in terms of continuing to turn this into a team and a club that can compete and win on a regular basis.”

Yep, times have changed for the better. And at the center of it all, whether he admits it or not, is the steely reserve of an American in Canada.


[ MORE: Wisconsin sophomore set to face Mexico, USMNT ]


Michael Bradley is deliberate in his choice of words, and pauses several times to make sure his point is clearly made.

The train powers along once he finds the right track, however.

It’s fitting, because Greg Vanney’s defensive system with Bradley works in a similar way. Patiently wait for the right time to take the ball, then surge forward and take no prisoners. Find Sebastian Giovinco. Find Jozy Altidore. Find Jonathan Osorio, or another attacker… or just fire away.

“On our best days, we have a team that plays in a real good way,” Bradley says. “When we have our best group on the field, our football is good, the ball moves quickly, we’re a team that is able to put the game on our terms with the ball but not do it in a way that’s not just needless possession.

“We circulate the ball, but also do it with an eye toward playing forward and make sure we get it to our dangerous attacking players quickly and in good moments. Defensively we’re able to tighten things up and found a way to make it very hard on other teams to play against us.”

Heading into Saturday night’s home match with DC United, TFC has won seven of its last 12 MLS matches. That stretch has seen Toronto lose just once, and the Reds have weathered an injury to reigning MLS MVP Giovinco with a win and three draws.

TORONTO, ON - MAY 10: Michael Bradley #4 of Toronto FC during an MLS soccer game against the Houston Dynamo at BMO Field on May 10, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Bradley’s deliberate expression of feeling comes into play again when he considers the challenges of TFC’s summer, injuries not withstanding. The captain is thrilled with how the Reds have found contributions from all over the field, but would love to see their best XI for a sustained stretch of action.

Finding chemistry with a team during the MLS season, where a club can lose its best players for weeks at a time thanks to the unorthodox calendar, is a massive challenge. Bradley knows it’s not just Toronto who’s troubled by it, but he also senses how good the team could be with a season’s worth of build-up.

The excitement ratchets higher and higher in his voice as he contemplates the complementary pieces in a healthy, non-international break hampered Greg Vanney lineup. TFC went 1-2 during the Copa America, losing to the Red Bulls and Orlando City. Those points loom with Toronto in a three-way battle for the top of the East.

“We feel like we’re on a very good team, and I mention the other stuff because it’s a shame that over the course of a 34-game season there are so many other things that go into it,” Bradley said. “Which means you are not able to play your best team on as consistent a basis as you’d like.”


[ MORE: LA’s Dos Santos gets Mexico call-up ]


The conversation turns, briefly, to the United States men’s national team.

The leader of the unit, Bradley has been through the highs and lows of wearing the stars and stripes since a very young age.

KANSAS CITY, KS - MAY 28: Michael Bradley #4 of USA directs a header away from the Bolivia forwards in the first half of an international friendly match between Bolivia and the United States on May 28, 2016 at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)

The captain has 121 caps and 15 goals, a journey that began when he was capped at age 18. He’s seen the improbable Confederations Cup comeback run, the thrills of the 2010 World Cup, and several Dos a Ceros. He’s also seen the 2015 Gold Cup failure, the disheartening loss to Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup, and more positional banter than any player in U.S. history.

Given his lofty status within the federation, and his early start, he’s the right person to ask about the USMNT’s teenage sensation Christian Pulisic. And he’s happy to talk about the kid, though not about the big picture, and mentorship. Yeah, he talks to the kid about soccer. No, that’s not for media consumption. So stop asking.

“Christian is a really good kid,” Bradley said. “He’s smart, he’s into it, he’s talented, motivated.

“(But) Everybody needs to stop asking what kind of advice to give him. The most important thing for him is, and I said this to somebody last week, is to continue to find the most joy every day in playing, in training, in improving, in stepping on the field on Saturday and competing and trying to be as good as possible. As long as he never loses the joy of what it means to step on the field and play football, then he’s going to continue to improve and take himself to great places.”

You get the sense that, consciously or not, Michael Bradley has ushered these thoughts from personal experience.


The captain of America loves his adopted hometown north of the border.

And Bradley isn’t exactly measuring Toronto against a one-light city in the sticks. After leaving New Jersey as a teenager in 2005, Bradley has lived amongst the abbey and villages of Monchengladbach, the Dutch windmills of Friesland, and the many wonders of the Eternal City, Rome.

But there’s something in the fourth biggest North American city that works for Bradley.

“It’s a city that is so incredibly diverse,” Bradley begins. “When you get around different parts of the city, the types of people you meet and see who come from all over the world, that part is special. Since the first day that my family and I got here, this has felt like home.

“Our daughter was born here. Our son goes to kindergarten here now and comes home; He’s an American, he was born in Rome, but goes to kindergarten in Toronto and comes home every day singing, “O Canada”, because at the beginning the day that’s what they do. It’s an amazing city, and a place we’re proud to call home.”

Bradley is signed through the end of 2019, and Toronto has turned down several overseas pleas for the midfielder.

Orlando City's Kaka, center, battles with Toronto FC's Michael Bradley, right, as Amando Cooper looks on during the first half of a soccer game, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016 in Toronto. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
(Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)

And TFC should be good for a long time. Only two rostered players are over 30: outstanding back Drew Moor and Benoit Cheyrou. This on a team that has won the joint-most road games in MLS, allowed the second-fewest goals, and ranks third in goal differential (plus-12).

“We’ve in some ways have such a high standard for ourselves that when you get home and you have a few games at home and you’re not able to find the winner, you’re not able to make that final play to win the games and take all three points, when you’re only able to come away with a tie, that people — and we include ourselves in this — are disappointed,” Bradley said.

“The feeling inside our group on certain days, lately even when we’ve tied a few of these games at home has been disappointment and frustration, and feeling like there was more there for us. That’s a positive thing. We’ve gotten ourselves to the point where we expect to step on the field every weekend and compete to win. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing against, and where we’re playing. That’s the mentality that we have.”


[ MORE: MLS Playoff picture — Who can clinch? ]


To sum it all up, a personal angle that might underscore the impressive turnaround in Canada’s largest city.

Living in Buffalo and loving the sport the way I do, my friends and I got in on TFC season tickets in 2008, Toronto’s second season. We’d make the 90-minute or 3-hour drive, depending on the city’s unholy, construction-driven traffic, and revel in the soccer paradise created by the Red Patch Boys.

Visits by River Plate, Pachuca, and Real Madrid sustained interest in the team, but in a way we became numb to names: Amado Guevera, Torsten Frings, and Danny Koevermans were trotted out and left without a playoff run. Taking a dozen or so day trips to watch losses that made the average at-best Maple Leafs look like 1980’s Oilers became too much to justify the cost.

Oddly enough, TFC went from hot new Toronto property to one that started to feel like just another entity. When Jermain Defoe and Julio Cesar didn’t spur a playoff run, morale seemed at an all-time low. As a soccer writer now with no true allegiance, it was more with a sigh of “Wouldn’t it be cool if they were good?” when Altidore, Vanney, and Giovinco joined Bradley. When Clint Irwin, Will Johnson, and Drew Moor joined mainstays Justin Morrow and Jonathan Osorio, there was even more legitimate reason for hope.

But hope is different from getting the job done, and that’s something for which Bradley and Vanney deserve a ton of credit. There are more Toronto demons to overcome — there’s little doubt a sports teams’ playoff stench can linger over a town once the postseason hits (Again, I’m from Buffalo) — but for now it’s worth lauding a club which has found its forward-thinking despite the skeletons in their Ontarian closet.

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07: Michael Bradley #4 and Jozy Altidore #17 of Toronto FC celebrate a goal by teammate Tsubasa Endoh #9 during the first half of an MLS soccer game against FC Dallas at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)