PL Playback: Koeman, Everton under pressure

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PRESSURE BUILDS ON KOEMAN

With four defeats in a row, 12 goals conceded and zero scored, it is safe to say Everton boss Ronald Koeman will have a few sleepless nights coming up.

[ MORE – Lukaku: “Celebration was banter” ]

The pressure is mounting on the Toffees boss as his project at Everton is on the verge of imploding with four points from their first five games of the season.

[ RECAPS: All 10 PL games in Week 5 ]

It is true that Everton were handed a tough start to the campaign with Manchester City, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United all in the opening five games but their 3-0 hammering at the hands of Atalanta in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday was an embarrassment and they followed that up with another inept display in the 4-0 defeat at Manchester United on Sunday.

It is too early to pull a “Crystal Palace panic™” but the pressure is mounting on Everton’s Dutch coach as they have four games on the spin at Goodison Park to turn things around.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Koeman is not a shrinking violent and is not backwards in coming forward. His dream of one day managing Barcelona likely hinges on Everton at least challenging for the top four each season.

Although he admitted the display was better at United on Sunday compared to a hammering at Atalanta, he appeared to pin the blame on his players after previously saying he has to look at himself.

“It’s really difficult, as a manager you try to help and support them – but when the whistle starts it’s all about them. We started too afraid,” Koeman explained. “We have four home games in different competitions and we need to win, otherwise we’ll have problems.”

The pressure is already showing as Koeman also hit out at Jose Mourinho’s programme notes on Sunday where he stated Everton should aim “at least” for a top four finish.

“Is there anybody who sees this as realistic for Everton? Please, come on. Fans, press – we need time,” Koeman said.

Not what Everton’s fans wanted to hear, plus Koeman was asked what was achievable this season: “The same as last season” was his answer.

Koeman has spent close to $200 million on new players this summer but ignored the glaring issue starring at him in the face: replacing Romelu Lukaku and his 25 goals after he left for $96.5 million.

After failing to take a glorious chance in the first half, Lukaku scored the third and celebrated in front of the Everton fans as he cupped his ear to beckon their abuse. Everton’s fans will have given him what he wanted but their insults will feel hollow in the absence of any kind of real replacement for the Belgian striker.

Lukaku also set up Henrikh Mkhitaryan‘s second goal and his overall presence is badly missed at the Toffees as they resemble a rudderless ship.

After piling all his hopes on attacking midfielders Wayne Rooney, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Davy Klaassen delivering the goals, they have two between them, via Rooney, in the opening five games of the season with their new striker Sandro Ramirez seeming out of his depth and not much expected from Croatian youngster Nikola Vlasic.

Youngster Dominic Calvert-Lewin seems like their best hope but what he adds in pace he lacks in hold-up play and nous around the box. Everton have no goalscorer to lead their line and it seems to be impacting their entire team.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

Everton’s issues aren’t just in attack as their defense has looked tired with Phil Jagielka, Ashley Williams and Leighton Baines all the wrong side of 30. Koeman’s inability to have a real playing identity despite being in charge of the Toffees for over 15 months is also worrying.

Last season they flirted with a top four finish but Lukaku’s goals against weaker opponents papered over the cracks.

Coming up they have Bournemouth, Burnley and Brighton in the Premier League and if they take all nine points in those games the poor start against esteemed opponents will be written off. If they fail to win at least two of the next three games then the pressure will be well and truly on Koeman.

How they respond to these horrendous displays, and defeats, to start to the season will define Koeman’s reign.

To top all this off, Everton’s new sleeve sponsorship deal was announced on Sunday and it somewhat sums up the current mood at Goodison.

Everyone from Koeman, to the fans and the players are quite angry. See what I did there…

The fact that Everton’s fierce Merseyside rivals are famous for their “Liver Bird” badge, well, that’s just an ironic double whammy which kicks Everton while they’re down.


STATS OF THE WEEKEND

  • Man United’s late dominance continues with the Red Devils now scoring nine of their 16 PL goals this season in the 80th minute or later in games. Leading Everton 1-0, they scored three times late on Sunday to set up another 4-0 demolition
  • Crystal Palace have set a new all-time top-flight record as they lost 1-0 against Southampton. The Eagles, who now have Roy Hodgson in charge after firing Frank De Boer after four games, have lost all five PL games to open the season and haven’t scored a goal. It’s official. Worst. Start. Ever.
  • After his treble at Watford, Man City’s Sergio Aguero has now scored six hat tricks in the Premier League (10 for Man City in all competitions) and only Alan Shearer (10), Robbie Fowler (9), Thierry Henry and Michael Owen (8) have scored more.

OFFSIDE CALLS OPEN UP VAR DEBATE

A number of Premier League goals were either scored or denied by tight offside calls this weekend.

And that, once again, throws up the question of whether or not Video Assistant Referees (VARs) should be introduced in the Premier League.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

I know, I know “why the heck are you opening up this debate again?” is probably your response, but it is a debate worth having as other leagues around Europe continue to use VAR for key decisions.

This weekend AC Milan’s Nikola Kalinic was denied a hat trick when his third goal was reviewed by VAR and disallowed in less than a minute. Yet the ugly side of VAR reared its head in Borussia Dortmund’s win against FC Cologne too. The fact that the PL appears to be sitting back and analyzing all of the issues elsewhere surrounding VAR is a good thing.

With the Confederations Cup VAR debacle fresh in our mind, it is easy to forgot its positive impacts and the truth is an offside call leading to a goal being awarded or chalked off can be decided in less than a minute.

Being offside is the most cut and dry rule in the game but remains one of the most complex.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Manchester City should have had two goals chalked off against Watford, both at critical moments, but they didn’t. Watford fans were incessant, despite a 6-0 mauling at the hands of City, that the rules were not enforced correctly.

Huddersfield Town also felt correctly aggrieved as Elias Kachunga‘s goal, which could have been the winner against Leicester City, was disallowed incorrectly for offside. With a quick video replay it would’ve been correctly allowed and Huddersfield’s German-American boss David Wagner was less than pleased with the decision.

“This was obvious and should not happen and was not difficult to see. I am disappointed because I think we deserved the second goal,” Wagner said. “We have to accept that we only have one point but we were able to get more. We accept the point even if it doesn’t feel good because we scored the second goal which unfortunately didn’t count.”

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Skhodran Mustafi’s header was correctly disallowed for offside for Arsenal at Chelsea, with the German international probably still celebrating somewhere after an unfortunate incident saw an Arsenal fan join him on the pitch to celebrate what they thought was a winner late on.

Joking aside it seems like a good time for the VAR debate to be reopened, especially with offside calls much easier to clean up than penalty decisions or red card incidents.


USMNT WATCH: YEDLIN, WILLIAMS STAKE CLAIM

With Stoke City mainstay Geoff Cameron out injured this weekend, it was down to DeAndre Yedlin and Danny Williams to step up and represent the U.S. national team in style.

[ MORE: Premier League stats

The duo did that in style as they both made their first starts of the Premier League season with Yedlin playing the full 90 in Newcastle’s 2-1 win against Stoke and Williams twice going close from midfield as he played the entirety of Huddersfield’s 1-1 draw against Leicester City.

Yedlin is a certainty to be called up by Bruce Arena for next months two key 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Trinidad and Tobago but Williams’ fate appears less clear.

Williams, 28, hasn’t been called up to the U.S. national team since May 2016 but given his impressive displays for Reading as they reached the Championship playoff final last season but lost to Huddersfield at Wembley, then his move to the Terriers where he has impressed David Wagner, surely Williams will be battling for one of the central midfield spots in the next roster.

With Michael Bradley a mainstay, the likes of Kellyn Acosta, Dax McCarty and Alejandro Bedoya are the other central midfield options but Williams provides the power, pace and energy that the U.S. missed in their qualifiers last month. For as many critics as Jermaine Jones has, his ability to get around the pitch offers some value to the USMNT midfield and Williams can provide a refined version of Jones’ industrious displays.

Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

Report: RBNY midfielder Felipe, NYCFC’s Harrison could play for USMNT

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The U.S. Men’s National Team has seen a rise in duel-nationals representing the Stars and Stripes in recent years, and that trend could continue with two of MLS’ most promising midfielders interested in enhancing their international careers.

[ MORE: PST names Best XI for the 2017 MLS season ]

According to MSG Network’s Kristian Dyer, New York Red Bulls midfielder Felipe Martins is in the midst of a finalizing his American citizenship, while New York City FC attacker Jack Harrison has spoken with U.S. Soccer about potentially representing the U.S..

Martins already has his green card — which opened up an international slot for the Red Bulls this season –but obtaining citizenship in the near future would make him eligible for selection for the USMNT ahead of the 2022 World Cup qualifying cycle.

The 27-year-old had also previously applied for permanent residency in Canada back in 2013 while Martins was with the Montreal Impact, however, his aspirations to represent the nation never transpired.

Meanwhile, Harrison recently represented the England Under-21s in October, but he too could be on track for U.S. citizenship over the next few years if he remains in MLS.

[ MORE: Justin Meram talks Crew’s good form, facing Atlanta and more ]

In Dyer’s report, he notes the rising interest in Harrison from English clubs, though, and a potential move back to the United Kingdom would hurt the former Manchester United academy member’s chances of joining the USMNT.

Harrison is only in his sophomore season with NYCFC, but the young Englishman has garnered plenty of attention after scoring 14 goals and adding 13 assists thus far for the Bronx side.

Pro Soccer Talk’s 2017 MLS awards: Who earned the hardware?

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Decision Day tipped the scales for several players and clubs as Major League Soccer transitions towards the MLS Cup Playoffs.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Now, it’s time to take a look back at the best players/coaches from the 2017 season, including the league’s Most Valuable Player.

Below, PST hands out its awards for the 2017 MLS regular season and gives some insight into the selections.

MLS MVP

Matt Reed Joe Prince-Wright Nick Mendola Andy Edwards Kyle Bonn Dan Karrell
1st place David Villa  Sebastian Giovinco Sebastian Giovinco Diego Valeri Diego Valeri  Sebastian Giovinco
2nd Diego Valeri  Miguel Almiron Diego Valeri David Villa David Villa Nemanja Nikolic
3rd Nemanja Nikolic  Diego Valeri Nemanja Nikolic Nemanja Nikolic Nemanja Nikolic  David Villa

PST thoughts — Reed: “This may be one of the most difficult MVP races to assess in recent seasons simply because of the way that things shaped up towards the end. Nikolic was brilliant, and deservedly won the Golden Boot, but Valeri and Villa each carried their teams to first-round byes with strong efforts throughout the course of 2017. I think Sunday’s effort against the Crew showed just how important Villa is to NYCFC, though, as he nearly picked up his second hat-trick of the season. Without his goals, NYCFC drops to fifth place.”


Manager of the Year

Reed JPW Mendola Edwards Bonn Karell
1st place Tata Martino  Greg Vanney Tata Martino Tata Martino Caleb Porter  Greg Vanney
2nd Greg Vanney  Carl Robinson Chris Leitch Greg Vanney  Greg Vanney Veljko Paunovic
3rd Chris Leitch  Wilmer Cabrera Greg Vanney Patrick Vieira Patrick Vieira  Caleb Porter

PST thoughts — Edwards: “It’s crazy to not put the coach of the all-time points record holders first here, but what Tata did this year — quickly melding together 20 guys over the course of seven months and turning them into legitimate contenders — is a slightly tougher task. TFC rolled over 10 of 11 players from last year’s MLS Cup side (adding only Victor Vazquez, the unquestioned missing piece), which significantly lowers the degree of difficulty of the task as hand.”


Rookie of the Year

Reed JPW Mendola Edwards Bonn Karell
1st place Julian Gressel  Julian Gressel Julian Gressel Julian Gressel Julian Gressel  Julian Gressel
2nd Abu Danladi  Abu Danladi Jack Elliott Jackson Yueill Abu Danladi  Ian Harkes
3rd Jack Elliott  Ian Harkes Jonathan Lewis Alex Crognale Jack Elliott  Abu Danladi

PST thoughts — JPW: “A rising star for Atlanta, his ability to create goals in a dynamic attack has not been overlooked. Just edges the award ahead of Danladi, Harkes and Jack Elliott.


Newcomer of the Year

Reed JPW Mendola Edwards Bonn Karell
1st place Nemanja Nikolic  Nemanja Nikolic Nemanja Nikolic Josef Martinez Miguel Almiron  Nemanja Nikolic
2nd Miguel Almiron  Josef Martinez Romain Alessandrini Nemanja Nikolic Nemanja Nikolic  Miguel Almiron
3rd Victor Vasquez Bastian Schweinsteiger Miguel Almiron Romain Alessandrini Victor Vasquez  Victor Vasquez

PST thoughts — Mendola: “Was this the best year of imports in MLS history? It’s hard to say otherwise, with Romain Alessandrini, Miguel Almiron, Josef Martinez, even half-season talents like Vako Qazaishvili and Paul Arriola. Well, wow. Nikolic’s 24 goals give him the distinction of leading three different leagues in scoring across four seasons.”

Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium will host 2018 MLS All-Star Game

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Atlanta United has done just about everything right in its first season in MLS, and the club is already being rewarded.

[ MORE: Justin Meram talks Crew’s good form, facing Atlanta and more ]

On Monday, Major League Soccer announced that Atlanta will host the 2018 MLS All-Star Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The new venue has already been a part of MLS history when Atlanta hosted over 71,000 supporters on Sunday in the club’s regular season finale against Toronto FC.

“We’re proud to bring our 2018 All-Star Game to Atlanta, a city and Club that have taken Major League Soccer by storm,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a league statement. “Atlanta United’s success is one of the most compelling and impressive expansion team launches in the history of pro sports, and a testament to Arthur Blank’s vision and leadership, and the tremendous team that he has built both on and off the field.

“Atlanta and its supporters have earned the opportunity to host MLS All-Star week and showcase their passion for the beautiful game.”

The expansion side has taken MLS by storm in its first season in the league, with its supporters purchasing more than 36,000 season tickets and the club averaging roughly 48,200 fans per home match.

[ MORE: PST names its Best XI for the 2017 MLS season ]

To this point, the date and opponent for next year’s All-Star Game are yet to be determined.

Cristiano Ronaldo captures Best Male Player at FIFA awards

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The yearly debate as to whom the best player in the world is won’t be settled in the minds of fans across the globe, but on Monday, FIFA gave its two cents.

Real Madrid attacker Cristiano Ronaldo took home Best Male Player honors at the FIFA Best awards, beating out Lionel Messi and Neymar for the title.

[ MORE: Mbappe wins Golden Boy award, beats out Pulisic, others ]

Meanwhile, all three superstars were named in the FIFA Best XI for the year, alongside the likes of Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and Andres Iniesta.

Here’s a look at some of the other winners from Monday’s FIFA awards.

Best Male Player: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

FIFA World XI: Gianluigi Buffon; Dani Alves, Sergio Ramos, Leonardo Bonucci, Marcelo; Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Andres Iniesta; Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar.

FIFA Men’s Coach of 2017: Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid)

Puskas Award for Best Goal: Olivier Giroud (Arsenal)

Best Female Player: Lieke Martens (Netherlands)