Sacha Kljestan can play soccer at an international level. He can hold his own, at very least.
The question then about Kljestan, a sure bubble player where the U.S. roster for next year’s World Cup goes, becomes this: can he make a difference in international soccer?
Or, can he provide adequate cover at a position or two, a la Geoff Cameron? (Cameron isn’t a starter on Jurgen Klinsmann’s overall depth chart, but he’s probably a second or third backup at three spots, and that makes him almost as valuable as some of the starters in the larger roster picture.)
U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann has talked about how Kljestan had to patrol a less familiar precinct last week in that uneventful night in Scotland. The manager offered a candid, balanced assessment, one summed up quite nicely when Klinsmann said the Anderlecht man “did OK.”
So … might it not be prudent to actually assign Kljestan a role in which he is more familiar?
Would it be worthwhile to tweak the midfield just a little, if only to see how Kljestan might work when asked to do a bit more screening and tackling, just a little less playmaking and linking with a striker? Perhaps play Michael Bradley deeper, thus allowing Kljestan to perform in the two-way, linking role the Roma man has made his own. Clearly, that’s Bradley’s spot in a U.S. shirt; No one comes close in terms of what Bradley does in terms of passing, possession, cover, midfield orchestration, playmaking from deep areas, etc.
But what if Bradley gets hurt? When last forced to perform without its midfield general, Jermaine Jones moved forward into the linking role of the 4-3-3, with Kyle Beckerman sitting behind him.
Next time out, still without Bradley, Jones and Mix Diskerud played centrally in a slightly different configuration, a pretty straight-forward 4-4-2.
Or, assign the screening role to Kljestan, with Bradley doing the usual two-way work (and covering if Kljestan gets drawn out of position, the way he covers so faithfully when Jones gets stretched, which happens a few times a night.)
Klinsmann’s choice here is really a bigger one. It’s about priorities at this point. Is he more concerned with picking those last four or five roster spots? In that case, he should assign Kljestan a role he knows well from Belgium and Champions Leagues matches.
Or is it about continuing to polish up the shape and individual combinations, using as many players in possible in their optimum positions?
After taking charge earlier this week, Dyche’s side were excellent as James Tarkowski headed home Dwight McNeil’s cross as the former Burnley duo combined to get the former Burnley manager off to a winning start as Everton boss.
Arsenal were sluggish throughout and Mikel Arteta’s side just couldn’t make the energy and tempo of Everton’s play.
The win moves Everton on to 18 points for the season, while this defeat is just Arsenal’s second of the campaign as they remain five points clear atop the table.
Everton do their best Burnley impression to bully Arsenal
From the very first whistle Everton looked well organized, had a clear plan and their players believed in what they are doing. The new manager bounce from Dyche was incredible but it isn’t just a bounce. It’s because he’s a very good manager who did a phenomenal job at Burnley. Calvert-Lewin was the focal point and McNeil and Iwobi delivered energy and quality from out wide. Doucoure, Onana and Gueye will excellent in midfield and the solid back four never looked out of position. This was exactly what we would expect from a Dyche side and if Everton changed their kit colors to claret it was like watching his peak Burnley teams. Arsenal were bullied throughout, couldn’t find their rhythm and had no answer for the energy Everton showed. Now, can Dyche get that effort and organization week in, week out? It is clear the Toffees have the players to drag themselves away from a relegation scrap and it is now clear they have a manager who is able to lead them up the table. Dyche to Everton felt like a perfect fit about five years ago and now it has finally happened, it has started exactly how he would have hoped.
Stars of the show
Dwight McNeil: Superb display as he whipped in crosses, worked so hard defensively and did his best to support Calvert-Lewin.
James Tarkowski: Got the goal, defended resolutely and delivered a big moment for his former Burnley boss.
Arsenal host Brentford on Saturday, Feb. 11, while Everton have a huge Merseyside derby at Liverpool on Monday, Feb. 13.
Everton vs Arsenal live! Score, updates, how to watch stream
Kick off: 7:30am ET, Saturday TV Channel: USA Network Online:Stream via NBCSports.com
Zinchenko blasts a shot from the edge of the box over the bar. Lovely corner from Saka to pick him out but the shot was a tough one to keep down.
Saka has a shot deflected over. Arsenal running out of time.
Pickford with a good stop. Arsenal pushing hard for the equalizer.
GOALLL! James Tarkowski puts Everton ahead. Wow. 1-0 to the Toffees. Can Arsenal respond?
GOODISON PARK ERUPTS AS EVERTON TAKES THE LEAD OVER ARSENAL!
Second half is underway! Arsenal pushing hard for the opener.
OFF THE LINE! A high cross to the back post finds Bukayo Saka and he brilliantly volleys the ball towards the bottom corner but Conor Coady gets back on the line to clear. Superb play by all involved.
CLOSE! Another massive chance goes begging as Dwight McNeil whips in a cross and Doucoure heads wide when he should do better. Sean Dyche applauds from the sidelines. Goodison roars.
CHANCE! Incredible play by Amadou Onana to surge down the left and he crosses for Dominic Calvert-Lewin who is sliding in and two yards out. He can’t get enough on the ball and a huge chance goes begging for Everton.
Eddie Nketiah lashes wide after being played in and that sort of sums up Arsenal so far. They haven’t been able to get in-behind Everton and everything seems a bit rushed from the Gunners.
Excellent so far from Everton. They are defensively sound but have a purpose when they go forward. The home fans are loving the start of the Sean Dyche era.
CLOSE! After a lengthy delay as Bukayo Saka went down after getting a knock in the face, Everton have plenty of corners and Arsenal are digging deep to head crosses away at the back post.
CLOSE! Positive move from Everton as Dwight McNeiil surges towards goal and his low effort is smothered by Aaron Ramsdale with Calvert-Lewin lurking. DLC was just offside but that was good from the hosts.
A plane flies over Goodison Park with a simple message on a banner aimed at Everton's owners: "League's worst run club." #EFC
Bright start from the hosts who look very organized in their 4-5-1 formation and are looking to get it up to Dominic Calvert-Lewin as much as possible.
KICK OFF: The action is underway at Goodison Park! The home fans are right behind their team, and new manager, Sean Dyche. Is he the right man for the job? Can he keep Everton up? Our analysts discuss and are very positive about Dyche’s appointment at Goodison.
Key storylines & star players
Is this what Dwight McNeil has been waiting for after stop-start usage from Frank Lampard? He’s one of the key pieces to monitor when team news arrives Saturday. Everton hasn’t played since Jan. 21, when it rolled out a 5-4-1 in a 2-0 loss to West Ham. Dyche hasn’t used five at the back since 2019, but this Arsenal team, man…
Arsenal enters having navigated the absence of Gabriel Jesus pretty darn nicely, thank you very much. Will Eddie Nketiah keep feasting off the playmaking of Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka?
Let’s just say Everton’s new manager bounce is going to have to include Flubber.
Everton team news, injuries, lineup
OUT: Michael Keane (knee), Nathan Patterson (knee), Andros Townsend (knee), James Garner (back)
Man United’s lost Christian Eriksen through April but acted quick and in impressive fashion with the loan addition of Marcel Sabitzer from Bayern Munich. Desperate for playing time and a more attacking role than what was asked of him by Bayern, the Austrian star may be just what the doctor ordered even before Eriksen went down. This is a hard-edged player with plenty of attcking firepower to boot.
Palace, of course, is still all about their creative players, as Wilfried Zaha, Michael Olise, Eberechi Eze, and Odsonne Edouard can deliver the goods with just a half-chance, but look out for Deadline Day adds Albert Sambi Lokonga, on loan from Patrick Vieira’s former team Arsenal, and Naouirou Ahamada, who they hope will add a needed ball progressor in the heart of the pitch.
Manchester United team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: Christian Eriksen (ankle), Donny van de Beek (knee), Mason Greenwood (suspension – MORE) | QUESTIONABLE: Jadon Sancho (undisclosed), Anthony Martial (undisclosed), Diogo Dalot (thigh), Luke Shaw (illness), Scott McTominay (undisclosed)
Aston Villa can stick its nose into the top seven discussion with a win over Leicester City, who is flying well below its normal radar this season as it heads to Villa Park (watch live, 3pm ET on USA Network and online via NBCSports.com).
Villa’s season has surged forward since it parted ways with Steven Gerrard. Villa won its next match, a 4-0 defeat of Brentford, then hired Unai Emery and since boasts a 5W-1D-2L record.
Thar has the Villans in 11th but just three points off sixth, eight behind fifth-place Tottenham who’s played a further game.
Leicester’s 35 goals allowed are fewer than only one team, Bournemouth, and level with two others as the Foxes have struggled to find ways to keep opponents off the board. Leicester sits 14th with 18 points, but that’s just a point off the bottom three.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Aston Villa vs Leicester.
How to watch Aston Villa vs Leicester live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday TV Channel: USA Network Online:Stream via NBCSports.com
Key storylines & star players
Ollie Watkins has scored or assisted in five of his last eight appearances for Villa in the Premier League and Emiliano Buendia has a pair of goals in his four PL starts since the calendar turned 2023.
Is James Maddison fit to start? The England midfielder missed four-straight games for Leicester, all losses, before returning for the final 21 minutes against Brighton on Jan. 21? He’s so important to the way Brendan Rodgers want to run an attack, and he’s clearly not leaving the club this season.
Aston Villa team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: John McGinn (hamstring), Diego Carlos (achilles), Ludwig Augustinsson (illness), Jed Steer (calf) | QUESTIONABLE: Lucas Digne (shoulder)
Wolves sit 17th with 17 points, only outside of the bottom three due to Bournemouth’s poor goal differential. Last place is just two points away, as there are seven teams within three points between 14th and 20th.
Liverpool, meanwhile, is 10 points off the top four but has played at least one fewer match than all but two of the eight teams ahead of them (Sixth-place Brighton and leaders Arsenal).
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Wolves vs Liverpool.
Winning games is about scoring goals and only two Wolves players have more than one. Daniel Podence has collected five, while Ruben Neves has four. Even more surprising, Wolves are still waiting on a goal from Raul Jimenez, Diego Costa, or injured Pedro Neto. Perhaps Matheus Cunha or Pablo Sarabia will chip in soon.
Liverpool has one win from its last three Premier League outings, but there’s a heaping helping of bad luck to their struggles. The Reds have 24 goals from open play and 20 allowed in that same situation. Their expected goals in those spots is 34.6 – 24. Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez have been especially unlucky despite combining for 12 goals and six assists on the season.
Wolves team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: Pedro Neto (ankle), Sasa Kalajdzic (torn ACL), Boubacar Traore (undisclosed), Chiquinho (knee)
Liverpool team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: Virgil van Dijk (thigh), Roberto Firmino (calf), Ibrahima Konate (hamstring), Luis Diaz (knee), Diogo Jota (thigh), Arthur Melo (thigh) | QUESTIONABLE: Fabio Carvalho (undisclosed), Nathaniel Phillips (illness)