Jurgen Klinsmann hears your talk of formations, and wants none of it

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Much has been made of how the United States is going to line up in Brazil with the players Jurgen Klinsmann has selected.

Will they play a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-2? Will he use a diamond or a flat midfield? How far will the outside backs venture? Will there be cover?

Jurgen hears plenty of this noise in the background, and to him, it’s all just that – noise.

“All these discussions about the systems are actually not up to speed anymore,” Klinsmann told reporters at a press conference at EverBank Field Friday. “The systems are not the key like they were 10 or 15 years ago.”

Parading Spain’s charge to Euro success two years ago as an example, Klinsmann argued that every system on the field now-a-days is meant not only to have strengths and weaknesses, but to cover up said weaknesses by being flexible enough to adapt minute by minute during a match, and the players must now have the ability to play in multiple areas.

“It changed with the best teams in the world, led by Spain,” Klinsmann said. “They made every system look stupid because they came up with a 4-6-0 and everybody said ‘how can you do that? Not even Torres is out there!’ Well, they beat everybody because three or four midfielders became strikers, and then they go back and the other ones became strikers, and it confused everybody.  So I think the trend is definitely going to go away from the system discussion, and you have a whole team that knows how to support each other and how to create going forward.”

Focusing back on the United States, there has been plenty of speculation about which players will start in Brazil, and much of the discussion for or against individuals has been backed by how well they play in certain formations.  But as Klinsmann puts it, the formation isn’t as important as the teamwork the players display.

“There are pro and cons [to the diamond midfield] like with every system.  It doesn’t really matter what shape we have or what system we have, it matters how we connect with each other on the field.”

And in that department, the team has a long way to go, despite how close we’ve come to the start of the World Cup.

“We’re still in the building phase.  We still have 10 days to go [until the US opens with Ghana], so we’re not done now with all the work we have to put into their legs, and into their minds…and it will still go on until after our little Belgium scrimmage in São Paolo.  And the players know that, and they know we still have to work work work until they are ready to go.”

source: AP
Jurgen Klinsmann would rather have his United States squad play well together than fit into a particular formation.

Part of that teamwork Klinsmann wants to see involves defending.  The back line was suspect against Turkey a week ago, and had the Turks taken advantage (which they didn’t), the scoreline could have been a lot worse.

But instead of saying the defensive unit must improve, or the center backs need to communicate more, he pointed the finger at everyone – literally – saying the communication and the coordination must be there, not just on the attacking end.

“We are still in the middle of the process to defend as a whole team. That’s the whole team, starting with Jozy up front, and then the next one in line, and that’s what we’re trying to do tomorrow.”

Midfielder Kyle Beckerman echoed that sentiment without being prompted, saying a formation is more for what happens at the back than working forward.

“When you’re in a formation, it’s mainly a defensive starting point,” Beckerman said. “It’s just a point of reference for when you need to get back into a shape and back on the ball.  But obviously you have to be able to adapt on the field.”

So whether you prefer Beckerman or Jermaine Jones in the midfield, whether you prefer Alejandro Bedoya or Brad Davis on the wing, whether you prefer Fabian Johnson in the midfield or defense…all of these are based on formation. And if you take what the US coach said to heart, throw all that out the window, because he’ll take on-the-field chemistry over a good formation any day.

And while that’s definitely an over-simplification of the journey the US faces in Brazil, there’s certainly something to be made of that. With a mountain ahead of the Stars and Stripes, a mountain fraught with danger in the shape of Ghana, Portugal, and Germany, chemistry is something we’ve seen over the last two weeks as something that without a doubt needs improvement.

Let’s hope all the tinkering Klinsmann has done with the squad just weeks ahead of the big dance won’t prove him a hypocrite.

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

LIVE, UCL – Sevilla vs. Man United, Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Roma

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Jose Mourinho has created a splash this morning by benching Paul Pogba despite utilizing a 3-man central midfield formation as Manchester United heads to Spain to take on Sevilla in their Champions League Round of 16 first leg meeting.

Pogba was left out of Saturday’s win over Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup due to illness, but having made the trip to Sevilla with the matchday squad, it seems his omission is instead due to tactical reasons. 21-year-old academy product Scott McTominay starts in Pogba’s place alongside Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera, with the Frenchman on the bench among the substitutes.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

The decision is surprising given Manchester United’s 16-point deficit in the Premier League table as they trail runaway favorites Manchester City, leaving the Champions League as the best competition remaining that the Red Devils have a shot to win.

Up front for Manchester United, Alexis Sanchez carries the creative load along with Juan Mata, with both supporting Romelu Lukaku at the striker position. Meanwhile, Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof continue to work as the central defensive partnership, while Antonio Valencia captains the side as full-back, mirrored by Ashley Young on the other edge.

In the other matchup, Roma heads to the Ukraine to take on Shakhtar Donetsk, who finished 2nd in Group F three points behind Manchester City. The Ukranian side has only just returned from its winter break, with just a single game played since December 10th.

Roma, meanwhile, has pulled itself out of a rut just in time for the return of Champions League play, with three straight Serie A wins coming on the heels of a five-match winless run. They have scored eight goals over those three wins, with a pair of road clean sheets among the group. 20-year-old Turkish winger Cengiz Under is on fire over the win streak, scoring four goals over that span.


Today’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 schedule

Sevilla vs. Manchester United – 2:45 p.m. ET
Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Roma – 2:45 p.m. ET

Reports: Mourinho to leave Paul Pogba out of Champions League lineup

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According to multiple reports across England, including the BBC, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is ready to leave Paul Pogba out of his starting lineup for Wednesday’s Champions League match against Sevilla despite utilizing a 4-3-3 formation with three central midfielders.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

The reports state that Pogba will be left on the bench in favor of youngster Scott McTominay, who will start alongside Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic. Mourinho has spoken highly of McTominay recently, saying three days ago, “I think Scott deserves more than what he is getting.”

“Maybe it’s because he’s this kind of kid profile: a normal haircut, no tattoos, no big cars, no big watches, humble kid, arrive in the club when he was nine or 10,” Mourinho said in what many perceived to be a thinly veiled slap at Pogba.

Mourinho has held back from publicly criticizing his $125 million midfielder in the media, but his actions on the field suggest otherwise. The 24-year-old has failed to record 90 minutes in three straight Premier League matches, seeing his manager yank him before the full-time whistle in two and failing to make the starting lineup in the other, leaving many to speculate a rift between the two.

The decision is especially surprising given Juan Mata‘s comments earlier Wednesday that suggested Manchester United is prioritizing the Champions League, given their 16-point deficit to Manchester City in the Premier League table.

Pogba missed the 2-0 FA Cup win over Huddersfield on Saturday due to illness, but it’s hard to imagine that four days later that keeps the French superstar on the bench, especially given his ability to make the trip to Sevilla with the matchday squad.

Leicester City settles Financial Fair Play dispute with Football League

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Leicester City will owe the Football League a reduced fine after coming to an agreement with the English lower-league governing body over a dispute regarding the 2013/14 season.

The Foxes, who won the Championship that season and were promoted to the Premier League, were handed an official breach of Financial Fair Play rules after accruing a loss exceeding the allowed $11 million amount. However, Leicester City argued that the deficit was due to “allowable” amounts regarding promotion and academy costs.

After talks between the two parties, the EFL announced Leicester City will owe a reduced amount of $4.33 million. They could have owed up to $18 million, the differential between the allowed amount and their actual posted loss of $20.8 million.

In an official release, the EFL announced, “The EFL acknowledges that [Leicester City] did not make any deliberate attempt to infringe the Rules or to deceive and that the dispute arose out of genuine differences of interpretation of the Rules between the parties.”

After initially receiving word of the notice back in 2014, the Foxes had legally challenged the fine, but that had been put on hold after litigation began in 2015 between the EFL and Queens Park Rangers for a similar dispute. Bournemouth was also fined after incurring a significant loss in their 2014/15 promotion season. Teams that breach rules but are not promoted face transfer bans, such as Fulham, Bolton, and Nottingham Forest received through the 2014/15 season.

Who’s to blame? A closer look at Chelsea’s blunder late vs. Barcelona

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As our very own Joe Prince-Wright explained yesterday in the aftermath of Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Barcelona in the Champions League Round of 16, Antonio Conte could not have set his team up better for success at Stamford Bridge.

And yet, they walked away from the first leg with a disappointing result, one that could set up Barcelona with the advantage as they head to the Camp Nou in two weeks time.

So where did it all go wrong? That pass from Andreas Christensen, obviously – the one that gifted Lionel Messi a late goal. But is Christensen to blame? Or were there other culprits?

Clearly, the pass was ill-advised. Christensen sends the ball across his own box parallel to the goal mouth, which Andreas Iniesta easily pilfers and sends to Messi for his first goal against Chelsea. It was a pass they teach 7-year-olds not to make, one that even the youngest of dedicated soccer players knows to avoid.

Christensen makes an easy target, given that he is just 21 years old, has only just recently earned his way into the Blues starting lineup, and was the most obvious culprit having made the fateful pass.

However, upon closer inspection, it may not have even been meant to reach the far side of the field.

Christensen’s exasperated reaction suggests the pass was likely intended for Cesc Fabregas who sat at the top of the box under little pressure. Christensen was closed down on the far touchline with little room to operate, and his outlet to Fabregas in the middle of the field was a good option, even if the general idea of a pass in that direction is usually frowned upon. However, Christensen’s pass was just slightly behind Fabregas, and the Spaniard ultimately decided to let the ball go instead of chasing it down, leaving it for a less populated area of the field.

Unfortunately, with his back turned to the eventual destination of the pass, Fabregas was unaware that Iniesta had anticipated its flight path and was already making a run to steal the ball. When the veteran Barcelona midfielder reached the ball, he was challenged by a sliding Cesar Azpilicueta, who completely whiffed. While Christensen and Fabregas were culpable of putting the team in a dangerous situation, Azpilicueta’s tackle was an abomination. Azpilicueta actually reached the ball first, but inexplicably failed to make contact with the ball, allowing Iniesta to easily evade the slide and still take charge of the ball.

Andreas Christensen is the clear perpetrator, but Fabregas and Azpilicueta both contributed negatively to the situation, leaving Chelsea at a slight disadvantage heading into a hostile environment despite Antonio Conte’s best efforts. Sadly, Conte will be the one to shoulder the accountability at the end of the season if Chelsea goes out of the Champions League, even though he received top marks for the match, and his players let him down.