Can Brad Guzan take the heat at Aston Villa?

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Paul Lambert has a commendable plan at Aston Villa, to build around his assemblage of talented young men, never mind the inevitable lumps along the way.

So his switch early in the season away from veteran goalkeeper Shay Given to younger American Brad Guzan makes a lot of sense in so many ways. The defense is young, and Guzan proved last year during an injury to the starting incumbent (Given) that he could surely be the future at Villa Park.

When Given stumbled out of the 2012-13 starting block, there really was no decision to be made; it was absolutely the right time Guzan to take over.

The American has generally repaid his bosses’ faith; the performance has been steady as she goes.

But you do have to begin wondering now after such a troubling defensive run. Villa’s last 10 games have seen the youngsters allow 3, 3, 4, 4, 5 and 8 during the span. There were a couple of shutouts, but one was at home to ultra-defensive minded Stoke City, so that gets an asterisk.

How does Wednesday’s Boxing Day loss by a score of 4-0 (Wednesday’s loss to Tottenham) manage to check the box of “vast improvement?” When it follows that harrowing, historic 8-0 thrashing delivered days before at Stamford Bridge by the suddenly rampaging Blues of Chelsea.

So, yes, the last two outings have been dropped by a combined margin of 12-0. Ug. Ly.

None of this has been Guzan’s fault. Not in terms of shot-stopping, at least. Unless you are on the field, it’s impossible to know of Guzan’s larger contributions to the “stop” efforts.

What kind of information the U.S. international is providing to defenders? Is he getting the boys along Villa’s back line into the right spots? Is he in synch with his center backs and outside backs? Are they functioning as a singular unit and not as haphazard individual units in a “back five?”

Either way, the question could be fairly asked: at some point, would the team be better served with a veteran, steady hand, if only temporarily? And this also must be in question at some point: is Guzan’s confidence now at stake?

These are questions that only Lambert can answer.

This much is sure: Villa has fallen perilously close to the drop zone, into the bottom three. That’s a dangerous place, even for a side committed to rebuilding around youth. Thus, this weekend’s contest at Villa Park against Wigan is a “gotta-have.”

Lambert says there is “no pressure” on his young men, and fair enough. But you have to wonder if he’s just saying so to relieve some of the mounting pressure.

There is no pressure like relegation pressure, by the way. Villa and Guzan need this one on Saturday. Bet on that.

LIVE, League Cup: Man United, Man City in action

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Ten League Cup games take place on Tuesday, with the third round of the competition kicking off.

[ LIVE: Follow League Cup scores ] 

There is one all-Premier League clash as Wolves host Leicester City, while Manchester City, Manchester United, Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, Burnley and Fulham all face lower league opposition.

Jose Mourinho’s United side host Frank Lampard‘s Derby Country at Old Trafford, while reigning League Cup champions Man City head to Oxford United in a real David vs. Goliath battle.

Below is the schedule in full for Tuesday’s games, while we will keep you up to date with the action here at Pro Soccer Talk.


Tuesday’s EFL Cup schedule (all games 2:45 p.m. ET, unless noted)

Manchester United vs. Derby County — 3 p.m. ET
Oxford United vs. Manchester City
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Leicester City
West Bromwich Albion vs. Crystal Palace — 3 p.m. ET
Bournemouth vs. Blackburn Rovers
Burton vs. Burnley
Millwall vs. Fulham
Blackpool vs. Queens Park Rangers
Wycombe vs. Norwich City
Preston North End vs. Middlesbrough

Report: Mourinho tells Pogba he will not captain Man United again

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Reports are circulating that Jose Mourinho has told Paul Pogba he will not captain Manchester United again.

After United’s 1-1 draw against Wolves on Saturday, Pogba approached reporters in the mixed zone at Old Trafford and told them United must “attack, attack, attack” when playing at home.

He set up United’s goal against Wolves but was at fault for the equalizer.

Pogba has worn the captains armband for several games this season (mostly due to Antonio Valencia’s ongoing injury problems) despite his outspoken nature in the media and reports of a rift between himself and Mourinho over the past 12 months.

The BBC claim that Mourinho has told Pogba he will not wear the captains armband again, as the French superstar appeared to undermine his authority when it came to tactics. A separate report from The Times states that Mourinho told his entire squad that Pogba would no longer captain the team on Tuesday ahead of their League Cup clash with Derby County at Old Trafford, as he addressed the team at the training ground and dropped Pogba from the matchdsy squad.

Mourinho is said to have reminded his players that nobody is bigger than the club and was furious with Pogba’s attitude in recent games.

Speaking in his programme notes ahead of their clash with Derby on Tuesday, Mourinho said the following about his players.

“[The game against Wolves was] an important lesson; a lesson that I repeat week after week after week, a lesson that some boys are not learning,” Mourinho said. “Every team that play Manchester United are playing the game of their lives, and we need to match that level of aggression, motivation and desire – 95% isn’t enough when others give 101%.”

Rumors persisted all summer long about Pogba leaving United to move to Barcelona or going back to Juventus.

Those reports will now intensify ahead of the January transfer window as Mourinho seems to have finally lost his patience with the enigmatic midfielder. Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola, has had plenty to say about his client and will no doubt be talking in the coming days.

Since his then world-record transfer of $120 million from Juve in the summer of 2016, Pogba has struggled to find cosistency at United under Mourinho and was dropped last season and his attitude was questioned.

Even though his form for France in their 2018 World Cup win was much improved and he won many plaudits, Mourinho was hardly complimentary of Pogba’s displays, further fuelling the fire of a significant rift between the duo.

It seems that the relationship between Mourinho and Pogba has now hit rock bottom. Where do they go from here? What a mess.

Details for free NBC Sports Gold Premier League pass

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A free preview of the NBC Sports Gold Premier League pass is now available to sign up for.

[ SIGN UP: Get NBC Sports Gold free ]

The deal will begin on Sept. 26 and run until Oct. 1, with access to a huge range of exclusive live Premier League games online, plus plenty of other shows and features from around the PL.

If you can’t get enough from the Premier League, Gold’s Premier League Pass is for you.

Click on the link above to sign up for the deal.

 

Premier League player Power Rankings

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Premier League player Power Rankings are back after Week 6 of the 2018-19 season.

[ MORE: Full Power Rankings archive ]

The cream usually rises to the top but this week we have quite a few surprise inclusions into the upper echelons of our rankings.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League and based on them actually playing in the previous Matchweek. If they didn’t play due to injury or suspension, they aren’t going to make this list. Simple.

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


  1. Ilkay Gundogan (Man City) – New entry
  2. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – New entry
  3. Aaron Lennon (Burnley) – New entry
  4. Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) – New entry
  5. Ruben Neves (Wolves) – Up 7
  6. Bernardo Silva (Man City) – New entry
  7. David De Gea (Man United ) – Up 11
  8. Jorginho (Chelsea) – Even
  9. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – Down 3
  10. Harry Kane (Tottenham) – New entry
  11. N’Golo Kante (Chelsea) – New entry
  12. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – Down 12
  13. Andrew Robertson (Liverpool) – New entry
  14. Joao Moutinho (Wolves) – New entry
  15. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) – New entry
  16. James Madisson (Leicester City) – New entry
  17. Lukasz Fabianski (West Ham) – New entry
  18. Raul Jimenez (Wolves) – Down 2
  19. Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham) – New entry
  20. Joe Hart (Burnley) – New entry