Joe Posnanski on Premier League fans… and my day with “Poz”

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NBC Sports’ national columnist Joe Posnanski has been doing his homework ahead of the new Premier League season.

Heading over to London for a four day jaunt, Posnanski got his teeth stuck into understanding what makes every Premier League team tick. And did a very good job of it indeed.

Read Posnanski’s third piece from London, as he looks at the Premier League supporters’ and how they share their love and passion for the Beautiful Game.

The first piece of his three-part series previewing the Premier League discussed Manchester United’s dominance, after Posnanski attended the FA Community Shield to soak up the atmosphere of a big game at Wembley. The second piece was about how to pick a Premier League club, as Posnanski made comparisons to American sports franchises’.

And his final piece of his three part series focus on the fans. The people who’ve helped turn the PL into the most-watched league in the world.

So, last weekend I was lucky enough to spend the day with Posnanski in and around London, visiting soccer analysts, covering the FA Community Shield and generally touring around with him.

Here it goes, a behind the scenes look at my first assignment with NBC Sports to cover the Community Shield and meet the national columnist. A good time was had by all, enjoy.

Community Shield, Tottenham, Posnanski, Friedel, Opta and NBC beginnings… What a weekend

LONDON — Two top games in two hectic days. Sadly, it went by in a flash.

Over the past weekend, I watched, analyzed and chatted with some of the most famous teams, managers and players in soccer.

The following account details my first official assignment for NBC Sports: A behind the scenes look from a writer entrenched in the crazy world of the Premier League.

My brief from NBC was to cover the FA Community Shield between Manchester United and Wigan at Wembley Stadium. And oh yeah, meet up with legendary sports writer Joe Posnanski and spend a day with him talking soccer and attending a showpiece final.

I’ve had worse gigs…

All of this comes ahead of the 2013-14 Barclays Premier League season, which BTW you can watch every game live on NBC Sports, in case you’ve been living under a rock or something.

So this past weekend, before the Premier League begins, was a test run. A glorious one at that. Disclaimer: Spurs, Moyes, Posnanski and… taxi’s, feature prominently.

***

I rolled up to Grosvenor Square in London’s swanky Mayfair district. My mission: to meet NBC Sports’ national columnist Joe Posnanski.

We shook hands outside the hotel’s revolving door guarded by immaculately dressed gentlemen in top hats.

Mission accomplished.

But this was only the beginning of our journey. It was 8:30am on Sunday, August 11. The sunshine flickered through the taxi window as we advanced across Westminster Bridge, past Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament towards our first destination.

Conversation flowed easily. Two Joe’s with two completely different stories. Two Joe’s engrossed by the aura of the Premier League.

We got on well.

But I’d like to know who doesn’t get on well with Posnanski. Friendly, inquisitive and always ready to share an anecdote of his rich and illustrious life as a top sports writer, we could have rolled around London all day in the black cab chatting about everything and anything.

***

I spent my Saturday alone at White Hart Lane to check out Tottenham Hotspur. Following Spurs’ final preseason friendly

vs. Espanyol, I was immediately ushered away from the rest of the gathered media and onto the hallowed turf. US national team legend Brad Friedel was waiting for me.

source:
Hanging out with Friedel on the Spurs bench at White Hart Lane.

Tottenham’s press officer had taken a shine to me and as he led me towards Friedel he whispered into my ear. “If you ask him anything about Bale, I’ll kill you.” Lovely.

Friedel shook my hand with a wry grin on his face. “Bloody hell,” I thought. “He’s taller than he looks on TV.”

That shock aside, we chatted Dempsey, USMNT, Klinsmann, Gold Cup, World Cup, and Spurs. Then he sauntered off towards the player’s car park with a spring in his step.

I attended the game at White Hart Lane on a whim. I fancied trying to see what the situation was with Bale and left my hotel room barely an hour before kick off. Spurs treated me extremely well. Nothing was too much bother for them. I’ll be back.

It was a tight match. Tottenham took the lead through new $37.5 million signing Roberto Soldado but Espanyol pinned them back for a 1-1 tie. Nobody cared about the game, afterwards everyone wanted to ask Andre Villas-Boas about Gareth Bale. But plenty of questions were blocked by Spurs’ media team. The guessing game goes on.

***

Fast forward to Sunday morning. Joe and I were off to Opta’s headquarters.

Opta are the leading company analyzing England’s national sport. If you love stats, you’ll love Opta. So we went along to their office outside Waterloo station to check it out.

As inquisitive as ever, my new colleague did most of the talking. We got expert insight from the wonderful staff, and the work they’re doing at Opta is phenomenal.

General soccer chatter followed a brief history lesson on what Joe needed to know about each team. In fact we spent almost three hours with Opta discussing the beautiful game. I could sense Joe was impressed. So was I.

The undying feeling to come out of the meeting: progress. Opta have finally gotten through to all of England’s top clubs about the power of having analytical experts look at every move their players make. The Premier League is about to have its “Moneyball moment.”

Secrets were revealed. A plethora of incredible graphs and tables were shown. Joe and I were blown away. It’s safe to say Opta have two new fans.

***

On the way to Wembley stadium on Sunday afternoon, we discussed Joe’s incredible career so far.

From working at the Kansas City Star to writing books about Joe Paterno, the Cincinnati Reds and Buck O’Neill. Followed by incredible tales from Atlanta ’96 and the Beijing Olympics, his insights would excite any writer. I was soaking it all up.

Joe was a true gentleman. We spoke about my background, my home city of Southampton and about the upcoming NBC coverage of the Premier League amongst many other things.

But conversation never steered too far away from soccer. He picked my brains mercilessly to gain any insight into Premier League history that he could.

I duly obliged… and loved every second of it.

***

Robin van Persie scored twice. Manchester United won the Community Shield. David Moyes wasn’t a happy man. That about sums up the afternoon we spent at the home of soccer, Wembley Stadium.

There was huge interest in the latest news on Wayne Rooney in Moyes’ post-match press conference. And Manchester United’s new manager wasn’t pleased with the latest round of rumors being circulated by the British journalists.

“I’m quite enjoying talking about it [Rooney’s departure],” Moyes jibbed. “Because I’m hearing so many of you get it wrong. I know most of you and I think to myself, ‘I think you’re a bit cleverer than that boys.’ But some of you aren’t acting like it.”

source:
Moyes celebrates in private on the pitch with his family.

Joe was quietly laughing a few seats in front of me.

I flitted between the press room and the mixed zone at Wembley for a while, before I met up with Joe at our seats in the now empty stadium, to write up a few pieces on Moyes’ comments.

Then we headed back into Central London. The soccer grilling from Posnanski continued.

***

On the way back to Joe’s hotel in Mayfair we went through the list of Premier League teams and debated which side would be best equated to an American sports franchise.

“Why should I support Newcastle?” Joe asked me. “Because they’ve got extremely passionate fans and one day, just one day they might be good.” There was a brief pause. “So they’re the Bills,” Joe said.

We went through every team, laughing and joking all the time, we had a blast doing this.

The comedic genius of Coach Ted Lasso came up and we chatted about American sports culture and how it compares to England.

And then, less than 12 hours after it had begun, the journey was over for the two Joe’s.

We said our farewell and plan to stay in touch throughout the Premier League season. Joe stepped out of the cab and I continued onwards to my hotel and then to Heathrow.

When Joe left the conversation in the cab turned to, you guessed it, soccer. The driver was a QPR fan. With a mutual dislike for Harry Redknapp, we got on like a house on fire.

The Premier League consumes Londoners and almost everyone in England can identify themselves through the national sport and the top league.

source:
View from the press box at Wembley during Community Shield.

No matter where you travel throughout this great city there are billboards, historic stadiums popping out of everywhere and 24-hour news stations reminding you that the 2013-14 Premier League season is just ‘round the corner.

Premier League soccer will take over the minds and lives of many citizens of London – and let’s be real, the whole of England – for the next 10 months. Plue the two months after that, too.

Six of the PL’s 20 teams hail from LDN. This town is the soccer mecca of the world.

 ***

In 36 hours I had circled much of London, and had about six hours sleep.

I’d interviewed one of the finest goalkeepers the USA has ever produced on the White Hart Lane turf, watched two elite games at two of soccer’s most famous venues and delved deep into the science of analyzing the beautiful game with Opta.

And, above all that, I got to spend an entire day laughing, brainstorming and gaining wonderful knowledge from one of the best sports columnists in America, Joe Posnanski.

My first assignment with NBC Sports was a belter. With the Premier League season beginning in five days time, I can’t wait to see what else unfolds between now and May 11. Bring it on.

Read in full, Joe Posnanski on the Premier League

Part I: Membership has its privileges

Part II: How to pick a Premier League club

Part III: Premier League: Through supporters eyes

Gabriel Jesus eager to lead Arsenal in final push for title

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LONDON — Gabriel Jesus received a standing ovation when he came off the bench in the second half of Arsenal’s win against Crystal Palace and knows he is truly loved.

“So good. They have always been with me,” Gabriel Jesus smiled when ProSoccerTalk asked about the support from the fans. “They help me, push me. The way they did it last Sunday against Fulham it was amazing. I will never forget that. All I want is to give them something back on the pitch. Maybe the next game. I hope a lot.”

Arsenal are running out of ‘next games’ this season and have on hand hovering over the Premier League trophy.

With 10 games to go they sit eight points clear atop the table and the return of their talismanic Brazilian striker from a near four-month injury layoff has given the Gunners a perfect boost ahead of the run-in.

Leading from the front, even on the sidelines

For so long the doubts around Arsenal’s unlikely title bid were all about how they would cope without Gabriel Jesus, a four-time Premier League winner with Manchester City.

He has yet to score in his three appearances in all competitions since returning but (even before the injury) he represents much more than goals.

“It is very good to be back. It is not easy to be out long and have a very, very bad injury. Now I’m back I am fully fit. At the same time I am so happy because the team are doing good to keep the distance to the second,” Jesus said.

“I want to be involved. I was injured but in my mind I was involved. I need to talk, to try to help them with something like talking, or seeing the games. That is why. Always together. Everyone.”

Jesus a total team player

As well as helping the team off the pitch, his play on it helps Arsenal’s other attackers come to life and he has already slotted back in seamlessly.

Jesus admitted he suffered “a lot” while he was out but he’s been helping as much as he can behind-the-scenes and is delighted both Eddie Nketiah and Leandro Trossard have stepped up to boost Arsenal’s attacking options in his absence.

“The team are doing so good. Everybody here is together. When I was getting fit we were sure Eddie can go there and help us and he did it. Trossard came and did it as well. Everyone is together. To be champions of this big, big competition we don’t need only 11 players,” Jesus explained.

He also explained that he has always been watching videos of his games, focusing on the goals he has scored, the chances he has missed and always striving to get better. That dedicated seems to have seeped into his teammates and fans love the extreme dedication of Gabriel Jesus.

Entire squad ready for the run-in

The atmosphere around the Emirates was buzzing throughout their routine win against Crystal Palace as back-up players like Rob Holding, Kieran Tierney, Jakub Kiwior, Emile Smith Rowe and Jorginho all featured as injuries to William Saliba and Takehiro Tomiyasu stretch the squad to its limits but the likes of Reiss Nelson and Fabio Vieira are still in reserve.

The fans, players and staff are together as one and Jesus is happy to be entering the business end of the season with this group as he was asked about Mikel Arteta referring to Arsenal as a ‘family’ unit.

“I believe when you have a good relationship with your teammates everything on the pitch works well. We are top of the league, we are playing good football, we are understanding each other. It is very good to be a family,” Jesus said.

“Now is the best part of the season. End of the season when you have deciding games, big games away and at home. Now is the time we have to play the same, don’t change, still together.”

Jesus is a focused, serious, dedicated individual and the perfect role model for this young Arsenal side. He and Oleksandr Zinchenko have been serial winners at Manchester City in bit-part roles but in their first season at Arsenal they are now thriving as key men in this unlikely title push.

“I think the most important thing is my mind. I keep focused and then come back fully fit,” Jesus said.

Arsenal are glad he’s back fit to further boost their title hopes and the role Jesus has played off the pitch over the last four months could be just as important as his play on it as this young Gunners outfit are still the team to catch.

USMNT upcoming schedule – Nations League, friendlies, Gold Cup

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After reaching the last 16 of the 2022 World Cup, the USMNT have a big 2023 coming up as they aim to build off a successful showing on the world’s biggest stage.

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For the next few months CONCACAF Nations League takes center stage, while the program is very much in transition as Anthony Hudson takes temporary charge and both the GM (Brian McBride) and Sporting Director (Earnie Stewart) left in recent months.

As for now, here is the USMNT’s upcoming schedule for 2023, with plenty more games to be added based on their potential qualification for the 2023 Gold Cup on home soil.


How to watch USMNT

TV channels in English: HBO Max, TNT
TV channels en Español:
Universo, Telemundo Deportes
Streaming en Español: Peacock


USMNT upcoming schedule

* Friendly | ** CONCACAF Nations League | *** 2022 World Cup

2023

vs. Serbia* — Jan. 25, 10 pm ET — Loss 2-1 | Recap & highlights
vs. Colombia* — Jan. 28, 7:30 pm ET — Draw 0-0 | Recap & highlights
at Grenada** — March 24, 8 pm ET — St. George’s, Grenada
vs El Salvador** — March 27, 7:30pm ET — Orlando, Florida
vs Mexico* — April 19, 10:22pm ET — Glendale, Arizona – More details 

2023 Gold Cup from June 16 to July 19 (USMNT yet to qualify)


USMNT games in 2022

vs. Morocco* — June 1 — Win 3-0
vs. Uruguay* — June 5 — Draw 0-0
vs. Grenada** — June 10 — Win 5-0
at El Salvador** — June 14 — Draw 1-1
vs Japan* — Sept. 23 (in Dusseldorf, Germany) — Loss 2-0
vs Saudi Arabia* — Sept. 27 (in Murcia, Spain) — Draw 0-0


USMNT at 2022 World Cup

Group B
vs. Wales*** — Nov. 21, 2 pm ET — Draw 1-1
vs. England*** — Nov. 25, 2 pm ET — Draw 0-0
vs. Iran*** — Nov. 29, 2 pm ET — Win 1-0

Last 16
vs. Netherlands*** — Dec. 3, 10 am ET — Loss 3-1


USMNT 2022 World Cup qualifying scores, recaps, analysis

at El Salvador — Sept. 2Draw 0-0
vs. Canada — Sept. 5 — Draw 1-1
at Honduras — Sept. 8 — Win 4-1

vs. Jamaica — Oct. 7 — Win 1-0
at Panama — Oct. 10 — Loss 0-1
vs. Costa Rica — Oct. 13 — Win 2-1

vs. Mexico — Nov. 12 — Win 2-0
at Jamaica — Nov. 16 — Draw 1-1

vs. El Salvador — Jan. 27 — Win 1-0
at Canada — Jan. 30 — Loss 0-2
vs. Honduras — Feb. 2 — Win 3-0

at Mexico — March 24 — Draw 0-0 
vs. Panama — March 27 — Win 5-1
at Costa Rica — March 30 — Loss 0-2 


Final CONCACAF World Cup qualifying standings

Canada — 28 points – (QUALIFIED) GD +16 – automatic qualification
Mexico — 28 points (QUALIFIED) GD +9 – automatic qualification
USMNT — 25 points – (QUALIFIED) GD +11 – automatic qualification


Costa Rica — 25 points (PLAYOFF) GD +5


Panama — 21 points (ELIMINATED)
Jamaica — 14 points (ELIMINATED)
El Salvador — 10 points (ELIMINATED)
Honduras — 4 points (ELIMINATED)

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Premier League table, 2022-23 season

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If it’s the 2022-23 Premier League table you’re after, you’ve come to the right place.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

After the break for the 2022 World Cup, the Premier League returned with a bang and the start to 2023 has delivered plenty of fun.

Now we are approaching the final few months of the campaign, it is so tight up and down the Premier League table.


Who’s looking like title contenders and/or favorites?

As we head into the final months of the 2022-23 season, Arsenal and Manchester City are looking head and shoulders above the rest and although Manchester United briefly surged into the picture, they look more likely to cement their spot as the third best team in the Premier League.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The Gunners will have their hands full for the duration of their title challenge, as Erling Haaland continues to take the Premier League by storm with an almost impossible goal-scoring record.


What about the top four and European places?

Uneven Tottenham are hanging in the top four battle and for the moment have hunted down Newcastle, while Liverpool is back in the Champions League picture after their return to form and Chelsea looks like a top six finish is their ceiling. For now.

Surprising Fulham, Brentford, and Brighton are all hanging around on the periphery with fine campaigns. Can one of them surprise and qualify for Europe?


Who are the candidates for relegation?

Southampton, West Ham, and Bournemouth currently occupy the relegation places but that keeps changing all the time and it is so tight at the bottom of the table.

Nottingham Forest, Leicester City, Wolves, Leeds, Everton and Crystal Palace all find themselves within a few points of the bottom three as the race to stay in the Premier League intensifies. This could be the craziest relegation scrap in Premier League history.

Below you will find the latest Premier League table.


Premier League table – March 19

Premier League standings

NBC Sports’ standings and scoreboard



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Ranking Premier League Player of the Season candidates

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We are entering the final months of the 2022-23 season and now is a good time to start thinking about the candidates for Premier League Player of the Season.

It’s not that easy this season, is it?

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From Erling Haaland banging in goals galore to Arsenal’s youngsters shinning and talisman across the league carrying their teams, this award could be heading to some very different places.

Below is a look at the Premier League Player of the Season contenders heading into the home stretch.


Ranking the Premier League Player of the Season candidates

7. Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City)

KDB leads the Premier League in assists once again and his silky passes and crosses drive this Manchester City side. He has had dips in form this season and has struggled a little with injuries but he still delivers mind-boggling moments consistently and is always hungry to deliver. He is the kind of character you His connection with Erling Haaland has been particularly strong and KDB is ready to lead City to a late-season trophy push.


6. Harry Kane (Tottenham)

He has hit the 20-goal marker in the Premier League for the sixth time in nine full PL seasons in his career. The other three seasons he scored 17, 18 and 17. His consistency is remarkable and Kane is on track to beat his best-ever PL haul of 30. As well as becoming Spurs’ all-time leading goalscorer, his importance to the way they play is clear. With Heung-min Son having a poor season, Spurs will be worried about Kane suffering from a bad back late in the season from all the carrying he’s done this campaign…


5. Ivan Toney (Brentford)

Brentford’s main man is only behind Kane and Haaland in goals and is leading their unlikely charge for Europe. The Bees and Toney were supposed to be a bit of a one-season wonder but that isn’t the case. Toney has developed his game and like Kane, he links up play superbly and if he doesn’t score, he makes sure to help create plenty of chances. Off the pitch the FA charging him with alleged breaches of their betting rules is hanging over him but on it Toney has been incredible. Plus, his penalty kick record, and technique, is amazing.


4. Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)

In red-hot form since the World Cup, this is the Marcus Rashford we know and love. His runs in-behind have caused havoc and Rashford has become United’s talisman. He needs more help to share the goalscoring burden but he is seeing plenty of chances fall his way as United play direct and to his strengths. Rashford is so hard to mark wherever he starts on the pitch and he’s added clinical finishing to his wonderful pace and intelligent runs.


3. Martin Odegaard (Arsenal)

The Arsenal skipper has been majestic and is so calm on the ball but has also brought a steely determination to his game. He has blossomed as a leader under Mikel Arteta and has popped up with important goals and assists throughout the Gunners’ campaign. Odegaard was always seen as a silky playmaker but he’s added extra grit and drive to his play and his connection with Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli is a big reason why Arsenal are challenging for the title.


2. Erling Haaland (Manchester City)

Scoring goals at an incredible rate all season long, Haaland is so tough to stop when Manchester City get going. He has scored all types of goals and has slotted in seamlessly. There are still spells when he goes a few games without a goal but he always bounces back and his hold-up play is improving even as Premier League defenders become more aware of his movements. He is a special talent, a powerhouse and a goal-machine. If City win the title, Haaland’s goals will be a huge reason why.


1. Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)

It’s hard to believe Saka is still just 21 years old. He was a star at the World Cup with England and his early goals and assists in games have been a key feature of Arsenal’s title push. Saka is so hard to stop when he gets going as he can go either way, whip in a delightful cross or score a beauty of his own. He is the complete attacking player and the Arsenal academy graduate is a club legend in the making. What a season he’s had and he never seems to run out of steam.


Honorable mentions: Bruno Guimaraes (Newcastle), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle), Casemiro (Manchester United), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Rodri (Manchester City), Alexis Mac Allister (Brighton), Moises Caicedo (Brighton), William Saliba (Arsenal), Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal), Thomas Partey (Arsenal), Gabriel Jesus (Arsenal), Leandro Trossard (Brighton, Arsenal), James Maddison (Leicester City), Rodrigo Bentancur (Tottenham), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Miguel Almiron (Newcastle), Joao Palhinha (Fulham)