Week 4: “View from the Booth” with Arlo White

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This weekend the voice of soccer on NBC Sports is taking a well deserved rest from calling the Premier League action.

Yet he still has time to speak to ProSoccerTalk.

In the latest edition of “View from the Booth” NBC Sports’ lead soccer announcer Arlo White talks about the biggest transfers in the Premier League after the deadline day drama, David Moyes’ struggles, how England’s national team can improved their fortunes and much more.

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With no PL action on NBC Sports Network this weekend due to the international games, you may miss the dulcet tones of Arlo emanating from your television in the living room.

But don’t worry, here he is to discuss all of this weeks hot topics. That should tide you over until PL action returns next week.

Enjoy. Here’s Arlo.

So after the transfer window slammed shut on Monday night, which Premier League teams fared best in the market?

At this stage, we can only speculate based on our prior knowledge of players and whether certain clubs have satisfied particular needs. It will take a while to really assess the winners and losers of this transfer window.

Clearly, Spurs were very active. The late signing of Christian Eriksen could prove to be a master stroke. Capoue (when he returns), Paulinho and Soldado could be terrific signings. But as we saw at the Emirates on Sunday, it will take time for these 7 new faces to bed into their new surroundings.

Brendan Rodgers should be very happy at Liverpool despite missing out on Willian. Keeping Luis Suarez was a very bold statement. They added some defensive depth as well and Mignolet has enjoyed a terrific start to the season.

Arsenal really stole the show late on with the Ozil coup. But should they have added elsewhere? Most definitely. They will be great to watch though.

Manchester City did their business early and effectively, and Everton played a very canny game on deadline day. They were resigned to losing Fellaini, but they squeezed more money out of United than they wanted to pay, they forced the Belgian to put in a transfer request so they maintained the PR high ground, and they bought/loaned intelligently with the captures of James McCarthy and Romelu Lukaku. Plus they kept Leighton Baines. Hats off to messrs Kenwright and Martinez.

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Arlo Believes Mesut Ozil can be the key to Arsenal achieving big things.

And what about the late, late deals for Mesut Ozil and Marouane Fellaini? Do you think Arsenal should have smashed their transfer record to grab the German international?

Yes. Think back to last week when I wrote this…

Now, if Arsenal land Benzema, Di Maria and Ozil from Real Madrid, it could all change (btw, will Daniel Levy do the Bale deal as late as possible to help scupper Arsenal’s plans of recruiting those potentially surplus Real stars??)

The Gunners had to make a statement to at least appease their frustrated fan base, but I feared they were placing all their eggs into a basket that their arch nemesis Daniel Levy could push off the table. They way it worked out, Arsenal were gifted a clear 24 hours to finalize out the Ozil deal after it was announced that Gareth Bale had sealed his switch to the Bernabeu. It seems that Madrid had simply run out of patience with Levy, so they had no problem at all selling Ozil to Tottenham’s main rivals, to recoup nearly half of the fee they paid to Spurs. I think Spurs have bought well, but the immediate upshot was that they sold their world class player to Real Madrid, who then felt compelled to sell a world class player to Arsenal.

Elsewhere, David Moyes and Manchester United have been widely criticized for their dealings in the window, will the Red Devils regret not buying at least 2/3 more players?

Possibly. But they kept Rooney as well remember. There were always going to be teething problems once the Ferguson/Gill axis was broken up, but United won’t want a repeat of that deadline day farce. It just didn’t reflect well on the club. I admire Moyes’ faith in the players he already has, but I wonder if Shinji Kagawa has to play a larger role going forward. If he starts games and performs well, it will feel like United have got a new signing.

After Liverpool beat United and won their third-straight 1-0 game to open the season, can Brendan Rodgers’ men really break into the top four this season? Is the North London battle between Arsenal and Spurs even closer after the Gunners narrow win?

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Liverpool’s defensive solidity is key to their success.

Anything is possible. We’ve only had 3 games! Brendan Rodgers is very tactically astute. It was a thrill to be at Anfield on Sunday, the atmosphere was electric. Liverpool got what they so desperately craved, an early goal. They continued to push in the first half for a second, but it didn’t come. Then, much like his old boss Jose Mourinho did at Old Trafford last Monday, Rodgers instructed his side to go into a defensive shell. It was about ball retention and shape. A bend but don’t break approach. It wasn’t particularly entertaining, but it worked. People are writing off United, but RVP should have equalized late on, and on the balance of the second half, only the most ardent Red could have argued that it wasn’t deserved on the balance of the game.

Yes, Liverpool can challenge for the top 4. Spurs and Arsenal will duke it out to the last game.

With the huge amount of foreign talent flooding into the Premier League, FA Chairman Greg Dyke has been pretty defiant about the role the PL has in the future of the English national team. Is there an easy solution to getting more young English talent playing regularly in the PL?

Short answer is no. I don’t believe in quotas. The Premier League is, and should remain, a meritocracy. It’s incumbent upon the FA and the Premier League to work together to produce better, more rounded players. It starts with education. A smarter person is a better player. Education, academics and Football shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. They certainly aren’t in the top Football nations in the world. English Football has always feared and been suspicious of, intelligence and academics. Why? There are social reasons, but it needs to change.

Germany took drastic steps after their struggles at Euro 2000, and it’s paid off. England have been under performing for generations now. But it’s difficult to tell the richest league in the world that they shouldn’t go out and spend their money on the best players available wherever they are from. The FA must harness the millions of lads who play Football throughout the country and simply make them better through coaching and education. It’s a tall order, but if the desire is there, it can be done.

Finally, what’s coming up next for you? When the international break is over the PL will be back in full flow. What can we expect from the games your covering?

Looking forward to next weekend already. I have Everton v Chelsea next Saturday and Swansea v Liverpool on Monday. The great games keep coming thick and fast and it’s exhilarating being a part of it.

Panama boss blunt and honest before nation’s World Cup debut

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Panama coach Hernan Dario Gomez isn’t in the business of sugarcoating the truth before his team makes history by playing in its first World Cup.

The Central American team has trouble scoring and his players will need to have a good day to have any chance against Belgium on Monday, he said.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Blunt and honest, Gomez didn’t even hide his starting lineup, the normal way of doing things for coaches these days. And when asked if Panama could repeat Iceland’s upset against Argentina — the teams drew 1-1 on Saturday — the Colombian didn’t bother picking the right words when downplaying the Argentine squad.

“Iceland sent Croatia to the playoffs (in European qualifying), and it did well in the European Championship as well,” Gomez said. “It played against an Argentina squad which isn’t at the same level as Belgium right now. I mean, the distance between Iceland and Argentina isn’t as significant as the distance between Belgium and Panama.”

Gomez didn’t completely dismiss Panama’s chances of a surprise result against the Belgians, saying “anything can happen in football,” but admitted it wouldn’t be normal.

“It’s very clear that they are the favorites,” the 62-year-old coach said. “But each game is different, and if we have a good day, maybe we can achieve something.”

[ MORE: Where to watch Monday’s games, feat. England and Belgium ]

If Panama does find a way to advance past the group stage, Gomez said he already knows how he will be celebrating.

“I’ll drink two bottles of vodka,” he said laughing, before taking it back. “No, no … we are professionals.”

Gomez didn’t bother keeping his lineup a secret for the match in Sochi, naming the 11 starters without hesitating when asked about it. He even frankly talked about the formation his team would be playing Monday.

Gomez said Panama won’t be trying anything but defending against the talented Belgians, and admitted that scoring goals has been a weakness of his team entering the tournament.

“We’ve become strong on defense. It’s Panama’s virtue,” he said. “Panama isn’t a team that will score a lot of goals. We may create good chances in some matches, but we aren’t able to score. We arrive at the World Cup with problems scoring the goals.”

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

The 55th-ranked Panama drew 0-0 with Northern Ireland and lost 1-0 to Norway in its final warm-up matches before traveling to Russia.

It qualified for the tournament by finishing ahead of the United States in CONCACAF thanks to a last-minute victory over Costa Rica in qualifying.

Gomez said the team carries a big responsibility by representing the nation at a World Cup for the first time, and his biggest job is to get the players ready for the pressure they are about to face.

“The whole country is excited about this,” Gomez said. “I have to prepare the players mentally.”

Gomez has been coaching Panama since 2014. He was previously with Ecuador, Guatemala and Colombia.

Panama’s other Group G games will be against England on Sunday and Tunisia on June 28.

Maradona: Argentina drawing Iceland is “a disgrace”

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It’s been a pretty trying and criticism-filled 36 hours for Lionel Messi and Argentina, and that was already true before the World Cup hero that is Diego Maradona weighed in.

[ MORE: Where to watch Monday’s games, feat. England and Belgium ]

No longer are La Albiceleste simply known as the side that drew tiny Iceland — the smallest nation to ever qualify for the World Cup — but now their efforts on Saturday have been dubbed “a disgrace” by Maradona.

It’s not so much the players whom Maradona, manager of the national team for the 2010 World Cup (quarterfinals appearance, beaten 4-0 by Germany), has gone after, but current boss Jorge Sampaoli for his lack of a proper gameplan befitting the opponent. As for Messi, who failed to convert a critical penalty kick, Maradona has absolved the Barcelona superstar of much of the blame — quotes from the BBC:

“It’s a disgrace. Not having prepared for the match knowing that Iceland are all [6-foot-3] tall.”

“I get the feeling there’s an anger at the heart of the team.”

“I don’t blame the players. I could blame the lack of work rate. But I can’t blame the players, much less Messi, who gave it all he had,” said Maradona.

“I missed five penalties on the spin and I was still Diego Armando Maradona. I don’t think that they dropped two points because Messi missed a penalty.”

England squad reconnects with fans with image makeover

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VOLGOGRAD, England (AP) — Whatever happens to England at the World Cup, at least the reception facing the squad should be less brutal than it was in 2014 after its exit following the group stage.’

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

For once, the players can’t be accused of hiding away, retreating behind their headphones. The hallmark of England’s preparations for Russia has been shedding the past reticence to engage with the public, a calculated move by the team leadership to reconnect with a public disaffected by years of failure at tournaments and uninspiring performances.

“They appear more relaxed. They appear more normal,” supporter Gavin Hughes said, overlooking the Volgograd Arena where England opens its World Cup campaign against Tunisia on Monday. “They appear human. They are just lads playing football at the end of the day. That’s been the problem in the past. There’s more of a togetherness.”

A defining clip of the 2010 World Cup was Wayne Rooney bellowing down the barrel of a camera after a 0-0 draw with Algeria: “Nice to see your home fans booing you, that’s what loyal support is.”

That disconnect with the public has been bridged by the 23-man squad facing the media in a 45-minute, Super Bowl-style session before leaving for Russia. The English Football Association’s approach is in a marked contrast to club duty where they are largely closeted away, save for appearances with paying broadcasters or often in controlled appearances.

[ MORE: Where to watch Monday’s games, feat. England and Belgium ]

“We’ve done a lot for the fans on social media so they can see what we are up to, which has not always been the case,” captain Harry Kane said Sunday. “It’s important while we have free time is to try to let the fans know what we are up to.”

The public is seeing a new side of the players. Not only are they more relatable but painted in a more sympathetic light, beyond the caricatures of millionaire mercenaries just chasing more money.

“That connection with the supporters is really important,” coach Gareth Southgate said. “There have been perceptions about our players for a long time … so it’s been really good for our public to see how much it means to the players to play, to see a different side of their personality.”

In a move unthinkable in years gone by, when a since-departed FA official blocked Rooney talking about his Christianity, defender Danny Rose recently opened up on his problems dealing with depression. Publicly praised by Prince William for raising awareness of health issues, Rose realizes how players can use their new platform to show their human side and inspire others.

“A lot of people messaged me to say thank you, that they know someone who is going through this or has been through that and that I’ve helped them and given them the confidence to express themselves,” Rose said. “We have a lot of down time and I’m going to think of something to help others when I get back. I’ve got time to think while I’m here and when I get back from the World Cup about how I can go forward and help people.”

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

It’s not just about the players feeding a voracious traveling media pack with material. Kieran Trippier, who is also Rose’s club teammate at Tottenham, told the left back he appeared no longer burdened by a private plight in England’s last World Cup warm-up game.

“I was playing with a bit of freedom,” Rose said of the victory against Costa Rica. “I think he’s got a point.”

Southgate is credited with encouraging the warmer environment, far removed from the controlling regimes under Fabio Capello and Gary Neville, who was Roy Hodgson’s assistant for the dismal 2014 World Cup and 2016 European Championship last-16 humbling to Iceland. A bemusing, running theme in the British papers at Euro 2016 in France was the players’ refusal to divulge any details of a darts tournament. The squad has been overhauled by Southgate and it has even been playing darts with the media at the World Cup base near St. Petersburg.

Southgate has been playing his part, going to fan forums in the buildup to the tournament to recognize the commitment and cost involved watching England abroad.

“Sometimes those really good people who follow us are overlooked at the expense of some who have caused problems in the past,” Southgate said.

Ultimately, results dictate the public mood and England hasn’t won a knockout game at any tournament since 2006.

“It’s about how we perform,” Southgate said, “but there’s a bigger picture.”

WATCH: World Cup, Day 5 — England, Belgium enter the fray

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The weekend might be all but over, but that doesn’t mean that 2018 World Cup action is slowing down anytime soon.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Monday, in fact, will be quite the opposite, as Group G giants — and a pair of popular dark horse picks — Belgium and England make their debut in Russia, taking on Panama and Tunisia, respectively.

Following Germany’s 1-0 loss to Mexico on Sunday, Group F is currently turned upside down on its head. Sweden and South Korea, who’ll face off in the day’s opener, are even more hopeful now than prior to the start of the tournament.

Below is Monday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Monday, June 18

Group F
Sweden vs. South Korea: Nizhny Novgorod, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group G
Belgium vs. Panama: Sochi, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Tunisia vs. England: Volgograd, 2 p.m. ET –LIVE COVERAGE