NBC's lead soccer announcer Arlo White

Everton and Arsenal battle for fourth, Liverpool surge – 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 Everton vs. Arsenal, Liverpool’s title challenge and Man City and Chelsea both facing tricky games, plus plenty more.

(MORE: VIEW FROM THE BOOTH ARCHIVE)

You can hear Arlo calling live games every 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.

Liverpool are ripping top teams apart, but they face a tricky game away at West Ham this weekend, and have trips to Norwich and Palace to negotiate. How do you think they’ll fare?

I think they will do well against those that are fighting relegation, they have proven themselves in teams against all levels from recent months. It doesn’t matter the opposition, they go about their game in the same way. I was at the Spurs game last Sunday and a number of things struck me, most noticeable was the noise from the Kop, which was extraordinary.

On occasions earlier in the season I felt the nerves form the terraces worked its way down onto the field and affected the whole occasion. But last Sunday was all about noise, passion and the belief that Liverpool can break this 24-year famine without a Premier League title. With S.A.S. playing the way they are, Jordan Henderson marauding around midfield, with Coutinho and Raheem Sterling, plus Daniel Agger in central defense and Jon Flanagan and Glen Johnson playing in their correct full back positions. At the moment they look very good to last the whole way, they should get a result against West Ham, then it is the big one against Manchester City.

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Can City keep their charge going against Saints or will they slip up?

Man City and Chelsea have home games they should really win. Did you see either of them slipping up?

Southampton are a very dangerous side. It is all about whether they can put 90 minutes together at this stage of the season when it doesn’t mean anything for them. They have been stuck well clear of the relegation zone but just out of the European places all season, if they take the fact that they’re playing against a title challenge then they could make life very difficult for City. Stoke City are in fine form, they’ve won three in a row, are unbeaten in five and they’ve only lost one in nine which was against Man City. They are fighting to finish in the top half of the Premier League for the first time, so they have their own challenge now that they are safe.

Chelsea are in a very interesting situation, they are three days removed from a massive salvage operation against Paris Saint-Germain. They have got injuries, Samuel Eto’o could come back but Ramires is suspended. The striker role has been an issue recently, Jose Mourinho has been criticizing his sides defending against PSG and the bottle against Crystal Palace. It is a big moment for Chelsea, and the beginning of a season defining four games. Both of those sides face very stiff challenges over the weekend.

The big game of the weekend comes on Sunday at Goodison Park, as Everton and Arsenal do battle for fourth place. How do you see this match panning out?

Can’t wait to get to Goodison Park, I circled it in the diary when Arsenal started to falter a few weeks back. Everton have got Lukaku and Deulofeu back on the paddock and they looked unstoppable in recent times. All of a sudden, Everton have a game in hand and are only four points behind Arsenal. What a huge six-pointer this is for them. They can make life difficult for Arsenal. As we’ve seen against the top four teams, they  have been abysmal away from home. Everton will look to make it a miserable record against the top five for Arsenal. It is a huge, huge game in a season when you think you know the script and what will happen, suddenly this season of all seasons hands us another gift. The race for the top four is not over. The neutrals have been handed another gift, Everton vs. Arsenal, it should be terrific.

 

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Everton have been hugely impressive, and fourth place is on the line vs. Arsenal.

If Everton do beat the Gunners, are they the favorites to seal a Champions League spot? How big of an achievement would that be?

It would be incredible. Arsenal always managed to reach the top four, but this season would be the polar opposite to last year. If they don’t make it and Everton pip them, Arsenal will have been top for a lot of days, 128 to be exact, and slipped gradually out of the top four. Last season they needed a win right on the final day to secure that top spot ahead of Spurs. They showed encouraging signs against Manchester City, but their fans and Arsene Wenger must be frustrated that this slide has taken place as they should be excited about being in the FA Cup semifinal and being favorites to win a trophy for the first time in nine years. Everton are well managed by Roberto Martinez, have their top players back and have two tremendous full backs, plus Kevin Mirallas and the emergence of Ross Barkley. If Everton do it, it would be a remarkable achievement but they have a long way to go yet. But they can put a marker down with three points against Arsenal on Sunday.

Finally, what else are you looking forward to?

Cardiff vs. Crystal Palace. Under Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, Cardiff have shown signs of life, especially in that 3-3 draw with West Brom, but it is getting to the point where they need to win games. If you look at the fixture list, you may have thought a few weeks ago that Cardiff would fancy their chances against Crystal Palace. But the Eagles have been superb after a little wobble. That win over Chelsea last Saturday was one of the top five results of the entire season. They aren’t scoring goals, but they are so well organized and up for the fight that you wouldn’t put anything past Palace. Massive game for both teams but more so for Cardiff who are absolutely desperate for three points.

VIDEO: Premier League Player of the Week – Matchday 6

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This lad is a samba sensation.

Philippe Coutinho is back at the heart of the Liverpool team and he was crowned as the Player of the Week in the Premier League for Matchday 6.

Coutinho, 24, scored a sensational long-range goal, grabbed an assist and created four chances in a dominant performance during Liverpool’s 5-1 win against Hull City on Saturday. 

Watch the video above to relive a Coutinho masterclass as Jurgen Klopp‘s side continue their fine start to the PL season.

No wonder some refer to Coutinho as Liverpool’s Harry Potter.

He’s a wizard.

China aiming for increased influence on FIFA

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - NOVEMBER 26:  CFA General Secretary Zhang Jian poses with the AFC 'Inspiring' Member Association of the Year award during the 2013 AFC Annual Awards at the Mandarin Oriental on November 26, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  (Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images)
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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) The influence of China in world soccer could increase on Tuesday if high-ranking Chinese official Zhang Jian is elected onto the FIFA Council in elections to be held in Goa, India.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is holding an Extraordinary Congress to elect three representatives to FIFA’s new decision-making body which has replaced the scandal-hit Executive Committee.

The chances of Zhang, the vice-president and secretary general of the Chinese Football Association, increased on Sunday when one of the favorites, Saoud A. Aziz Al-Mohannadi of Qatar, was barred from running.

In a statement, the AFC said “FIFA has advised the AFC that, based on the report of the Investigatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee, it has decided Mr Saoud A.Aziz Al-Mohannadi (Qatar) is not eligible to stand in the elections for the FIFA Council.”

Al Mohannadi has been charged by the Ethics Committee with refusing to co-operate with an inquiry. While details of specific accusations have yet to be released, FIFA has said it is not related to Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup.

The ruling leaves Zhang running against Iran’s Ali Kafashian and Zainudin Nordin of Singapore for two of the three seats.

Zhang has played a major role in the development of Chinese soccer and planning extensive reforms that aim to make the country, a traditional underachiever in soccer, a world power by 2050.

This has come at the same time as the recent and massive surge of investment in the Chinese Super League on famous foreign players such as Hulk, Alex Teixeira and Jackson Martinez and coaches Luiz Felipe Scolari and Manuel Pellegrini.

Zhng told South Korean media earlier this month that China also aims to host the World Cup.

“Although it is a case of the sooner the better, we will aim to do so at the right time,” Zhang said. “It seems that around 2030 or 2034 will provide a good opportunity for China.”

The third seat on the FIFA Council has been reserved for female candidates. Moya Dodd, a former Australian international and member of the now-defunct FIFA Executive Committee from 2013 to 2016, is running against Han Un Gyong of North Korea and Bangladesh’s Mafuza Akhter.

“I am doing my best to persuade the 45 voting members of Asia that I can be strong and part of a united AFC team working in FIFA,” Dodd told The Associated Press. “It is important that Asia puts its strongest team forward in FIFA as there will be a lot of issues coming such as discussions about whether to expand to a 40-team World Cup.”

The three successful candidates will take their places on the 37-member FIFA Council alongside existing AFC members from Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia as well as President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain.

Also ahead of the election, the AFC confirmed that South Korea’s Chung Mong-gyu had succeeded Zhang Jilong of China as the East Zone AFC Vice-President.

Zhang, who stepped down for health reasons, was the acting president of the AFC following the suspension of Mohammad Bin Hammam from football activities by the FIFA Ethics Committee in May 2011 as he ran for the post of FIFA President. Shaikh Salman was elected president in May 2013.

Sam Allardyce’s England future hangs in the balance

TRNAVA, SLOVAKIA - SEPTEMBER 04:  Sam Allardyce manager of England looks thoughtful during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Group F qualifying match between Slovakia and England at City Arena on September 4, 2016 in Trnava, Slovakia.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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England manager Sam Allardyce has not only been publicly humiliated but now he could lose his job.

[ MORE: What now for Chelsea? ]

An undercover investigation from the Daily Telegraph, released on Monday, showed Allardyce meating with fictitious businessman and discussing how to get around rules of third-party ownership (TPO) of players and then negotiating a fee of over $518,000 for becoming an ambassador for what he believed to be a company set up in the Far East.

After just one game and two months in charge of England, it could all be over for “Big Sam” as Three Lions boss. The FA is reportedly already close to firing him as they don’t want their image and integrity questioned across the globe.

Allardyce, 61, took charge of the English national team this summer but the footage released of him discussing TPO, plus criticizing former England boss Roy Hodgson and assistant manager Gary Neville, and his employers at the FA among others, will cause the former Sunderland manager huge levels of embarrassment and it is tough to see him rebounding from the widespread criticism already flying his way.

When asked about TPO — which was banned by the English FA in 2008 and by FIFA in 2015 — and ways to get around the current system, Allardyce replied to the businessmen that it was “not a problem” and revealed he knew agents who are “doing it all the time.”

The FA have yet to open a formal investigation but multiple news outlets in the UK claim that English soccer’s governing body have spoken to the Telegraph to try and acquire all of the facts before speaking to Allardyce.

Big Sam has been silly and naive. It is not the first time he’s had allegations flung his way either, as a 2006 BBC documentary also alleged he’d been involved in taking bungs over transfers, something he vehemently denied. A subsequent investigation proved no wrongdoing but the fact that Allardyce names individuals in the footage released (censored for legal reasons) tells us that he knows ways of getting around TPO. He even admitted that Enner Valencia‘s move to West Ham, where he was manager, from Mexican side Pachuca in 2014 was via a TPO.

Now, it must be said, during the undercover footage Allardyce states that he would have to check with the FA (“the powers that be”) before agreeing to any deal to be an ambassador for the made up company. Still, it’s not good and many will view this as Allardyce being greedy and putting his own interests ahead of his main job of managing the English national team between now and the 2018 World Cup in Russia. God knows they need some focus and some inkling of being successful after their recent results in tournaments.

Just 67 days after taking charge of England, something Allardyce has described repeatedly as his “dream job” in football, he was discussing how to make extra cash with complete strangers. Allardyce already earns over $3.3 million a year as England boss and the Telegraph also state that a second meeting was held last week in Manchester to discuss plans on when the Englishman would fly over to Hong Kong and Singapore.

The Telegraph has promised more information will be released in the coming days as they say their 10-month investigation into the murkier side of English soccer has also “unearthed widespread evidence of bribery and corruption in British football.”

Whatever comes out in the following days, it is unlikely the English FA will look upon this episode kindly and they have to judge whether this was just poor judgement from Allardyce or something more sinister.

There’s no doubt about it, the next 24 hours is crucial and Allardyce’s future as England boss hangs in the balance.

NWSL Playoffs set: Portland, Washington, Chicago, Western New York

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The National Women’s Soccer League will crown its fourth champion in mid-October, and for the first time in three years the winner will not be FC Kansas City.

FCKC finished sixth after the 20-game regular season concluded this weekend, six points out of the final slot occupied by the Western New York Flash.

[ MORE: Allardyce on England hot seat? ]

The Flash join Chicago Red Stars and Washington Spirit in attempting to topple NWSL Shield winners Portland, a Thorns side which won the title in 2013 and has only missed the playoffs once.

Washington hosts Chicago on Friday in the first semifinal, while the Flash travel to Oregon for an Oct. 2 semi.

Portland Thorns (1) vs. Western New York Flash (4)

The two best goal differentials in the league meet at Providence Park, where Mark Parsons’ Thorns and their league-best defense will be tasked with stopping the highest-scoring offense in the NWSL. That means stopping Golden Boot winner Lynn Williams and runner-up Jessica McDonald, who’ve accounted for 21 of WNY’s 40 goals.

The Thorns are loaded. Women’s soccer legend Christine Sinclair, who once lifted a trophy for the Flash, is there with a quintet of USWNT mainstays. French star Amandine Henry, too, as well as leading goal scorer and Danish star Nadia Nadim.

USWNT regulars on each side
Portland: Tobin Heath, Meghan Klingenberg, Allie Long, Emily Sonnet, Lindsey Horan

WNY: Samantha Mewis

Washington Spirit (2) vs. Chicago Red Stars (3)

The two sides split the season series, with Chicago hosting a 3-1 victory on Saturday. Sofia Huerta had a goal and an assist, as she and Christen Press combined for nine shots. They’ve combined for 15 goals on the season, though the Red Stars have only found nine goals elsewhere.

No Washington player has scored more than five goals this year, and the Spirit haven’t had a multi-goal game in September, but Argentina national teamer Estefanía Banini’s five goals in 13 matches in an impressive haul.

USWNT regulars on each side
Washington: Ali Krieger, Crystal Dunn

Chicago: Alyssa Naeher, Julie Johnston, Christen Press