Quick Six: Top stories from the Premier League weekend

1 Comment

1. Manchester United: Making the wrong kind of history

Everton hadn’t won at Old Trafford in 21 years. Newcastle hadn’t won at the Manchester United since 1972. It’s the first time the Red Devils have lost back-to-back games at home in 11 years, and they’ve already dropped as many games this league season as they did in the entire 2012-13 campaign. People who think David Moyes hasn’t accomplished anything at United are kidding themselves, because the former Everton boss has already collected a list of dubious accomplishments few thought possible.

[MORE: Manchester United 0-1 Newcastle: Red Devils slip up once again (video)]

[REVIEW: Manchester United 0-1 Everton: Moyes defeated by former club (video)]

Newcastle certainly deserve credit, their 1-0 win on Saturday seeing Alan Pardew’s team successfully go toe-to-toe with Red Devils, but the way they went about it only highlights Manchester United’s faults. Moving away from the 4-4-2 that produced four November wins, the Magpies bolstered their midfield to play more of a possession game, assuming they could wrestle away some control despite playing at Old Trafford. With Michael Carrick’s absence becoming more important by the game, Pardew was proven right. Handing Manchester United their second home loss of the week, the Toon resumed their winning ways, five wins in six leaving them seventh in the Premier League.

David Moyes says his team can get back in the title race, but consider the assumption behind that statement. Manchester United, by their manager’s own tacit admission, is not in contention right now. Fifteen games into defending a title they won by 11 points, Moyes’s new club are out of this year’s chase, if perhaps temporarily so.

While that might not be enough to justify showing Moyes the door, it’s certainly enough to doubt whether United made the right choice last May. There are other managers who would have the Red Devils in the title hunt.


2. Arsenal slips, but Everton the real story from Sunday in North London

Sunday’s result may have provided reason to worry in North London, but let’s look at this another way. One season after finishing fourth, it’s too much to expect perfection from the Gunners. It’s also too much to expect them to replicate last year’s Red Devils and run away with the title. They are going to have bad games, and if they are going to occasionally stumble against some of the good-but-not-great sides in the Premier League, today’s minor setback could have been worse.

[MORE: Arsenal 1-1 Everton: Late breakthroughs cancel as Deulofeu denies Arsenal all 3 points (Video)]

[MORE: Arsenal could be own worst enemy as title challenge sees tension rise]

Everton played well, had the better of the game through the first half, yet still gave up the opening goal. Keeping Mathieu Flamini on the bench to open the game, Arsène Wenger probably got it wrong. Yet his team held out until he could make an early second half triple substitution, a move that eventually generated a lead. If Wojciech Szczesny does a better job on Gerard Deulofeu’s 84th minute shot, Arsenal’s “meh” day still ends in victory. Even if they couldn’t protect Mesut Özil’s opener, Arsenal still increased their lead atop the table.

source: Getty Images
Roberto Martínez has exceeded early expectations at Everton, his “transition period” seeing the Toffees drop just one of their first 15 league games. (Source: Getty Images.)

The bigger story here is Everton, a team that took four points from a week where they visited Old Trafford and The Emirates. Those are points Roberto Martínez wouldn’t have expected when he initially looked over his new team’s fixtures, and though the Toffees have yet to show they have enough punch to avoid adding to their league-leading seven draws, you can see why they also have a league-low one loss. There’s a resilience to this team that you wouldn’t have expected this early in the Martínez era, something that allowed them to scrounge three points at Old Trafford before coming back for one in North London.

The scariest part about Everton may not be their early success under Martínez. For their Premier League opposition, the Toffees’ future may be even more worrisome. While at Wigan Athletic, Martínez always saw his teams improve as the season went on, their tendency to linger at the bottom of the table before a late charge casting Martínez as a kind of relegation battle master (before Wigan finally went down).

After their undefeated week, the Toffees are only one point out of a Champions League spot, and while clubs like Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham and Manchester United are likely to improve, so is Everton. This may be more than a mere strong start.


3. Goals keep coming for Liverpool

Luis Suárez’s name may have only been on the scoresheet once, but he deserves some kind of recognition on Guy Demel and Joey O’Brien’s own goals. Maybe “own goals forced” could be a category? Regardless, his attacking accounted for three of Liverpool’s four goals against West Ham, and while other defenders may have found a way to keep those own goals out, Suárez’s persistence played a part in both.

[MORE: Liverpool 4-1 West Ham: Own Goal stars in Liverpool win (video)]

The performance capped a nine-goal week for Liverpool, now second on goal difference after stumbles from Chelsea and Manchester City. With 17 goals in their last five games, the Reds are also second in the league in scoring, a reassuring rise considering the fears that were summoned by Daniel Sturridge’s injury.

But within that success you can see some of the flat-track bully criticism that’s been linked with Brendan Rodgers’ style. In their last six games, Liverpool is 3-0-1 with a 14 goals and a +9 difference against Fulham, Hull, Norwich, and West Ham. In games against Arsenal and Everton in that same span, the club’s 0-1-1 with three goals and a -2.

It’s no surprise teams play worse against better competition, but Liverpool’s divide is bigger than most, so while our jaws are slacken by a nine-goal week, this may be part of Rodgers’ approach. Where other teams might play out a 2-0 result, Liverpool’s posting 5-1, 4-1 wins.


4. Stoke break through; Chelsea’s “trouble” in perspective

José Mourinho’s right to worry about his Blues. Their annual late-fall swoon is here, a problem set to exasperate a bipolarity they’ve shown throughout the season. While Mourinho unlikely to suffer the same fate as André Villas-Boas or Roberto Di Matteo (as well as Luiz Feliipe Scolari and Mourinho before them), he’s being forced to deal with the same ailments. Despite all the changes it go through each summer, something about this Chelsea team leaves it vulnerable at this time of year, a weakness that was evident in Saturday’s 3-2 loss at Stoke.

[MORE: Stoke City 3-2 Chelsea: Assaidi’s screamer hands Potters massive win (video)]

[MORE: Jose Mourinho: “We’re in trouble” after Chelsea’s defeat to Stoke]

As porous the defending has been (allowing six goals to Stoke and Sunderland this week), Chelsea is still in third place. They’re only five points out of first, and although games like Saturday’s at the Brittania have been too common, the Blues are still capable of performances like last weekend’s versus Southampton (or the match before against West Ham). Chelsea has problems, but they’re not Manchester United problems.

As for Stoke, Saturday’s result was the best of the Mark Hughes era, not only in terms of the result and the opposition but also the goal output. Coming into the day with 12 goals in 14 games, the Potters had only scored multiple goals three times this season. While this weekend’s goals weren’t exactly the prodcut of great buildup or execution, strikes by Stephen Ireland and Oussama Assaidi show there is some talent in the squad. If they can add a productive striker in the winter window, Hughes may be able to ease Stoke away from relegation worries.


5. Have Manchester City’s road woes returned?

It’s already being asked in the wake of City’s 1-1 draw at St. Mary’s on Saturday, but instead of spending all our time worrying about the Citizens, let’s give some love to Southampton. Losers of three straight going into the match, the Saints found a way to keep the league’s best attack to one goal, and while their own score was a kind of shot-in-the-dark from Dani Osvaldo, that’s why you pay the big bucks for a talent like his. Over the course of the second half, Southampton proved they deserved to share points with one of the league’s hottest teams.

[MORE: Southampton 1-1 Manchester City: Osvaldo’s wonder-goal pegs back Citizens (video)]

So why are people harping on City’s road form? It’s natural, given City is now 2-4-2 away from The Etihad, but it also ignores the fact that Saints are a good team (something everybody was more than willing to dwell on a month ago). This is a result that should satisfy any team in the league, so while it’s easy to fall back on City’s home-road narrative, it may be better to note: This week, the Sky Blues took four points from matches at West Brom and Southampton. Which is perfectly fine.

6. New coaches + new results = New relegation outlook

Since Tony Pulis was hired as manager at Crystal Palace, the Eagles have gone from one win to four, the formerly bottom-dwelling club 2-1-0 with their new boss on the sidelines (they won one with him in the stands). While few are going to fear the Eagles’ new talons, goals by Cameron Jerome and Maraoune Chamakh remind us that they have players who can pull them by other struggling sides, should those teams fail to improve. Saturday’s 2-0 win over visiting Cardiff was a perfect example.

[MORE: Crystal Palace 2-0 Cardiff City: Two on the trot for Palace (video)]

Now 19th with only one loss in five, Crystal Palace is just two points from 15th place, a status that highlights the collection of clubs struggling to pull themselves free of relegation doubts. Sunderland has sunk five points back at the bottom, West Ham is under-performing in 17th, while Cardiff and West Brom persist within reach of the drop. Even though Norwich, Hull, and Stoke are four points clear, nobody would be surprised to see them pulled back into a relegation battle, should a team like Crystal Palace suddenly find a way to win.

Fulham is another candidate to climb, now that they’ve replaced Martin Jol. With their 2-0 win Sunday, the Cottagers snared their first win of the Rene Meulensteen era, though we may want to wait another week before proclaiming Fulham a threat. The up-and-down nature of Aston Villa means there’s only much we can conclude from Sunday’s performance.

[MORE: Fulham 2-0 Aston Villa: Berbatov leads Whites to first win in eight (Video)]

The result, however, means Fulham were back in the win column for the first time since Oct. 21. Whether they’ve completely turned around or not, they’re making progress. How many other teams can say the same?

Transfer news: Kane to Real Madrid, Alexis Sanchez to West Ham

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The latest transfer news continues across the Premier League and here’s a look at some of the juiciest rumors.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

According to Sport, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has his sights set on signing Tottenham striker Harry Kane this summer.

With Luka Jovic failing to impress at the Santiago Bernabeu, Los Blancos are set to make some moves to consolidate the presence up top. Kane, 26, and Wolves striker Raul Jimenez are some of the few names to have been mentioned thus far.

Kane, who has a running contract with Spurs until 2024, recently mentioned that he wouldn’t rule out a move out of north London, if Tottenham were unable to capitalize on winning silverware.

“I’m an ambitious player, I want to improve, I want to get better, I want to become one of the top, top players,” Kane said earlier this month. “It all depends on what happens as a team and how we progress as a team. So it’s not a definite I’m going to stay there forever – but it’s not a no either.”

As far as transfers go, nothing gets bigger and more “ambitious” than a summer blockbuster move to Real Madrid. Kane has a promising project spearheaded by Jose Mourinho himself at his boyhood club, but the opportunity to represent Real Madrid – at such a prime age, with an astronomical amount of hype – may only come around once.


Alexis Sanchez’s time at Inter Milan is coming to a close, and his next destination may be a Premier League team not named Manchester United, according to FC Inter News.

The 31-year-old Chilean’s agent, Fernando Felicevich, has reportedly been inquired by West Ham, who are considering placing a bid to lure the winger out of Old Trafford.

Sanchez arrived at Inter last summer on loan but has failed to impress when healthy, recording a mere goal and three assist in 15 appearances this season. With the possibilities of Sanchez remaining at Manchester United past the summer getting slimmer by the day, the Hammers are hoping to land the South American at a reduced price.

Sanchez, one of United’s highest earners, is reportedly also gathering interest from other unnamed Premier League and Bundesliga sides.

Belarusian Premier League roundup: FC Energetik-BGU edge FC Minsk, moves to top of league

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Belarusian Premier League – the only active European top-flight league at the moment – continued on Sunday despite the coronavirus pandemic.

FC Energetik-BGU 2-0 FC Minsk 

FC Energetik-BGU are the new leaders of the Belarusian Premier League, following a 2-0 victory over FC Minsk, who were atop of the table prior to Sunday’s bout.

Aleksey Nosko broke the deadlock in the 21st minute, while winger Jasurbek Yakhshiboev sealed the victory for the hosts in stoppage time.

With the victory, Energetik-BGU are the only unbeaten team in the league after three matchweeks, winning all three matches. The positive spell began with a 3-1 against Belarus giants BATE Boristov. Since, Energetik-BGU have scored three goals, while managing to concede none.

Slutsk, who also featured on Sunday, moved up to second on the table following a hard-earned 3-2 victory over Isloch, which saw them play the final minutes of the match with 10 players.

Elsewhere in Belarusian Premier League 

Smolevichi-STI 0-0 Vitebsk

Isloch 2-3 Slutsk

Spanish players criticize league’s call for furloughs

Getty Images
2 Comments

MADRID (AP) Soccer players in Spain on Sunday criticized the Spanish league’s decision to ask clubs to put the footballers on government furloughs during the coronavirus crisis.

The league on Friday said the furloughs were needed because there was no agreement on the size of the salary cuts players must take to reduce the financial impact of the pandemic.

“It is strange that the Liga supports (the furloughs),” Spain’s players’ association said in a statement.

It said the league should have created a financial cushion for this period considering it always boasted about its “economic control measures” and the “well-balanced economy” of the Spanish clubs. The association said it also should be taken into account that the league has been temporarily suspended and not yet canceled.

The league and the players’ association have been in talks to try to find ways to mitigate losses that could reach nearly 1 billion euros ($1.08 billion) if the season cannot be restarted because of the pandemic.

The players said they agree with a salary reduction to help the clubs during the crisis, but not to the extent the league wants, which could amount to nearly half of the total losses if the competition is not resumed.

Players said they want to keep negotiating directly with the clubs instead of being forced into furloughs.

“The clubs and the players have been reaching agreements regarding the salaries,” the players’ association said. “What footballers are not going to do is relinquish labor rights.”

Barcelona and Atlético Madrid are among the Spanish clubs requesting furloughs, but both directly negotiated the amount of the salary reduction with players — 70% in both cases. Both clubs and their players are contributing to guarantee the wages of non-playing employees being furloughed.

The government furloughs help reduce the clubs’ labor costs while also guaranteeing players their jobs once the crisis is over.

Spain has more than 130,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with nearly 12,500 deaths. The nation is expected to remain in a lockdown until April 26.

There is no timetable for the return of the Spanish league.

Players maintained their position to only resume competing when health authorities deem it safe for everyone’s heath, a view also shared by the Spanish league.

The league has suggested it will recommend teams start mini-camp while the lockdown is still in place, if it’s possible to do so within the restrictions imposed by authorities.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Brighton, Cincinnati prepare to discuss Locadia’s future

Jurgen Locadia
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jurgen Locadia’s big MLS transfer has not gone as planned, through no fault of his, FC Cincinnati’s, or parent club Brighton and Hove Albion.

Locadia’s loan to Cincinnati was sealed Feb. 3, giving him just under five months to decide whether he had interesting in staying in the U.S. for the next part of his career.

The 26-year-old got all of two matches to feel it out, scoring once before MLS shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

The extremely small sample size has been kind to Locadia, who says that his agent had spoken to Brighton and that he’s open to making the move permanent. That’s a loaded statement given the money it might take to acquire a player who was Brighton’s transfer record signing just over a year ago.

“I like it here so far in Cincinnati and the league also,” Locadia told The Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati.com: “I talk with my agent also and he said at the end of the day it’s my decision, and I told him I’m happy here, so if we can figure something out with Brighton and Cincinnati, which I understand is going to be difficult, we can try and fix the situation.”

FCC general manager Gerard Nijkamp said he’ll be talking with Brighton in the next few days, but that the situation is a massive challenge. Imagine the questions: What does Brighton want? When can the player move? Has the end of the loan window changed at all? And what reinforcements will Brighton be able to buy given the wildly unusual conclusion to this season (and their possible relegation)?

Locadia was also asked what he likes about MLS.

“I think here in the States, the fans enjoy the game more and in Europe I get the feeling that people are more judge-y about the game,” Locadia said. “Here in the States, they come to enjoy the game and see the players and drink beer. And in Europe it’s more like, we need to win and they’re gonna judge you. They don’t like when you play the ball back to the goalkeeper.”

Well, maybe wait on that one. There might be a bit more patience in Cincinnati given it’s their second year in MLS, but other clubs have plenty of fans amped up for victory.