Quick Six: Top stories from the Premier League weekend

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2. LIVERPOOL SHREDS TOTTENHAM: BALANCING CREDIT AND BLAME

Let’s revisit last week’s thoughts on Spurs and Liverpool. Before Liverpool’s 5-0 rout today at White Hart Lane, the general feeling was Tottenham were back on track. Where they that convincing? No, but they appeared to have moved on from their embarrassment at the Etihad. In as much as they were headed in the right direction, they were technically back on track (as much as you can be technical about an idiom).

[MORE: Tottenham 0-5 Liverpool: Reds pummel erratic Tottenham defense to go second.]

As for Liverpool? They were still putting up huge wins, but they were doing so in the same way they’ve always done under Brendan Rodgers. The manager’s approach leaves the Reds winning by three, foul-goal margins where other (sometimes, better) teams either let up or don’t have the attacking prowess to pile on. That same style, however, might lead the Reds to be out-gunned against better teams.

That was all before Sunday, when Luis Suárez’s two goals, two assists lifted Liverpool that five-goal in in North London. Not only did the attack persist against a higher-ranked opponent, but the defense held up, conceding no shots on goal. This clearly dispels both of last week’s notions, right?

To a certain extent yes, but against a Spurs team that looked every bit as bad as the one that lost at Manchester City, it may be too assumptive to separate them from the Norwich and West Hams of the world. On talent, yes, Spurs are in a different class. In performance? They’re still better, but not so much that we should throw out every assumption we made about Liverpool.

But that imperfect, still-building Liverpool team, one that was without Daniel Sturridge and Steve Gerrard today at White Hart Lane? They’re clearly a Champions League threat, one whose greatest credential is their ability to get three points against the league’s weaker teams. Where other teams night be lured into a draw (or, as we say with Chelsea last week at Stoke, a loss), Liverpool’s more likely to take care of business. Their performance at Arsenal hinted they may not be title contenders, but they’re certainly a team whose strengths can carry them into the top four. They are, after all, in second place.

3. LOSS TO CARDIFF COSTS STEVE CLARKE HIS JOB

Steve Clarke is a very good coach, one who was crucial on staffs for José Mourinho and Kenny Dalglish. Yet this season, his second at West Brom, we saw a coach undone by his higher ups.

Last year, with a team mostly assembled by his superiors, Clarke pushed the Baggies to eighth, their best finish in 22 years. This year, forced into the transfer market to strengthen his squad and replace Romelu Lukaku (17 goals in 2012-13), Clarke’s support failed. The likes of Nicolas Anelka, Stephane Sességnon, Scott Sinclair, Markus Rosenberg, Victor Anichebe and Diego Lugano – all acquired since Clarke took over – have been busts. For a team like West Brom, these were significant investments, yet none of them are paying off on the field.

Yet when you watched West Brom play, you saw the coach’s virtues. Well organized, willing, almost always executing a clear plan in attack, the Baggies carried all the indicators of a well-run team. Unfortunately, after Saturday’s 1-0 loss at Cardiff City, that team will be run by somebody else.

[MORE: Cardiff City 1-0 West Bromwich Albion: Whittingham’s header the difference (video)]

After four losses in a row, West Brom had dropped to 16th, only two points above the drop. Their last win was a 2-0 victory on Nov. 2 over visiting Palace. Their last win over a team out of the league’s relegation spots? Their Sept. 28 win at Old Trafford.

Although West Brom had only lost twice by more than one goal, they had all the hallmarks of a team ready to change course. They were plummeting, there was no obvious, transient cause for the slide, and there was no indication it would turn around. Management could justify thinking another man would do more.

They would have also been justified sticking it out. They could have tried to address the problem (Clarke’s transfers) in the January window while keeping a clearly good coach. They could have built on their manager’s strengths while providing him help with his weaknesses. Or course, while doing so, they may have flirted with relegation. For a team that finished eighth last year, that’s unacceptable.

Perhaps in his next job, Clarke will build on these lessons. And hopefully, he will get another job. For now, West Brom are moving on.

4, VILLA THE PERFECT TONIC FOR UNITED

United were coming off a mid-week win in Champions League, so the Red Devils had already began moving beyond last week’s disappointments to Everton and Newcastle, but after today’s visit to Villa Park, David Moyes’s team can actually try to consolidate some momentum. Whereas their Champions League match with Shakhtar Donetsk could have gone either way, Villa were never going to beat Manchester United, permitting the Red Devils their most-lopsided league win since August.

And that certainty – the contrast between Villa’s Sunday performance and the teams that won at Arsenal and Southampton – has become their paradox. When they’re playing well, a strong midfield and swift attack is capable to protecting a subpar defense, taking advantage of their opponent’s possession to generate goals. It’s a method which, when employed correctly, can beat anybody.

When Villa aren’t on top of their game, though? You get results like today’s. Danny Welback had a brace and Tom Cleverley added a third to give United their first league win in over a month. There worst of their duel personalities emerging, Paul Lambert’s team made the Red Devils look good.

Perhaps this was the type of opponent United needed – somebody that would remind them they are, in fact, good. With the win, they jump a spot in the league, passing Sotuhampton for eighth place. Villa, in the meantime, stay where Jekyll balances Hyde: 11th place.

5. RUNNING OUT OF EXCUSES TO DOUBT EVERTON

At the beginning of the year, Everton’s two problems were an inability to convert possession into goals and (related) being left with one point in games where they should have claimed three. It’s why, despite losing only once (every other team’s lost at least three times), the Toffess sit fifth, though as Saturday at Goodison showed, those early season problems may be in the past.

Despite not playing up to the same standards they showed at Old Trafford and the Emirates, three late goals allowed Everton to cruise past Fulham, 4-1. The Cottagers may have made a mistake trying to play with their hosts, but under a new manager, that was understandable. Rene Meulensteen may have been willing to sacrifice one game’s chances to reinforce his team’s new approach.

[MORE: Everton 4-1 Fulham: Coleman and Barry ensure normality at Goodison Park over Fulham (video)]

But that approach led to four goals for Everton, the third time in five games Roberto Martínez’s side has scored at least three times. Those games gave Everton 11 points, including results against Liverpool, Manchester United, and Arsenal.

Along the way, the Toffees are starting to eliminate excuses for excluding them from top-four conversation. They can’t score enough? They can’t win enough? Or they can’t do so against the best teams? None of that is true. And against Fulham, Everton also showed they can avoid a let down. This is a team that will stick around.

6. THE LINE BETWEEN FANDOM AND NUISANCE

At the point where players have to apologize to fans for not clapping their acknowledgments, support becomes a burden. The tedium of protocol and kissing the rings of the entitled become nuisances, and people ostensibly there to embolden their team become weight on an anchor.

You’ll never hear a club say that about their fans, who they do truly value. And as Mesut Özil’s apologies to Arsenal fans showed, players will often do whatever necessary to avoid the issue. But at the point when kowtowing to the extremes becomes part of the job — when just wanting to leave the field becomes cause for strife between teammates — the costs of the charade begin to surface. When applauding traveling fans becomes obligatory instead of spontaneous, what should be earnest gesture becomes farcical and contrived, serving nobody.

[MORE: Per Mertesacker incensed with Mesut Ozil after refusing to clap away fans]

Fans are an integral part of sport, but when the (perhaps only perceived) obligations to them spark divisions between teammates, it’s worthe revisiting their role. Supporters are there to support, not define. They’re compelling, necessary, but also ancillary. They shouldn’t be the issue moments after 6-3 loss.

And it’s unclear Arsenal’s fans never intended to be. Maybe this is Per Mertesacker buying myth more than the reality. Regardless, Mesut Özil was shamed for wanting to get off the field after a three-goal loss. Is that something Arsenal fans really wanted?

USMNT vs El Salvador: How to watch live, team news, updates

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The USMNT host El Salvador in a winner-take-all CONCACAF Nations League Group D finale on Monday (7:30 pm ET), at Exploria Stadium in Orlando.

[ MORE: USMNT player ratings vs Grenada | Recap/highlights ]

The group winner will qualify for the finals (four teams) of the 2022-23 CONCACAF Nations League (June 15-18) as well as the 2023 Gold Cup (June 24-July 16). The group runners-up will also qualify for this summer’s Gold Cup.

Following their 7-1 thumping of Grenada on Friday, the USMNT is in good shape and interim head coach Anthony Hudson will likely rotate his first-choice back four back into the lineup.

[ MORE: Folarin Balogun to USMNT? “It’s something that will come to me”

Christian Pulisic, Brenden Aaronson, Weston McKennie, Gio Reyna and Ricardo Pepi all sparkled in the final third against Grenada and we could see Alex Zendejas and Daryl Dike from the start in Orlando.

Of course, Folarin Balogun is also expected to be watching on from the stands as intrigue grows around his possible switch from England to the USMNT to give the Americans another fine young attacking talent.

Here is everything you need for the USMNT vs El Salvador.


How to watch USMNT vs El Salvador live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 7:30pm ET
Stadium: Exploria Stadium – Orlando, Florida
TV in English: TNT
TV/streaming en Español: Universo/Peacock

[ LIVE: CONCACAF Nations League scores – USMNT vs El Salvador ]


USMNT squad

Goalkeepers (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town), Zack Steffen (Middlesbrough), Matt Turner (Arsenal)

Defenders (8): Sergino Dest (AC Milan), Mark McKenzie (Genk), Tim Ream (Fulham), Bryan Reynolds (Westerlo), Antonee Robinson (Fulham), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach), Auston Trusty (Birmingham City)

Midfielders (7): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo), Weston McKennie (Leeds United), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Alan Sonora (Juarez), Djordje Mihailovic (AZ Alkmaar)

Forwards (6): Taylor Booth (Utrecht), Daryl Dike (West Bromwich Albion), Ricardo Pepi (Groningen), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Alejandro Zendejas (Club America)


EURO 2024 qualification live! EURO qualifiers schedule, updates, standings

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EURO 2024 qualifying is here, and you’re in the right spot for groups, fixtures, and results.

Italy outlasted England in penalty kicks to win EURO 2020 and is bidding to become the first repeat winner since Spain in 2008 and 2012.

[ MORE: Breaking down Premier League title race ]

England is still seeking its first European Championship and will be favored to emerge from Group C with aforementioned Italy as well as Ukraine, North Macedonia, and Malta.

Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions started off 2024 qualifying well as Harry Kane snapped a tie with Wayne Rooney atop England’s all-time goals list with a 2-1 win in Italy, the nation’s first in the country since 1961, and then Bukayo Saka led the Three Lions to a 2-0 win over Ukraine on Sunday.

Netherlands and France are also in a spicy group that has dark horse Republic of Ireland and former champions Greece, as well as Gibraltar.

[ MORE: Live scores, updates, standings from EURO 2024 qualifying ]

A number of nations have guaranteed themselves no worse than a playoff spot due to their performances in the UEFA Nations League: Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Spain, Scotland, Georgia, Croatia, Turkey, Serbia, Kazakhstan.



EURO 2024 qualifying schedule

Thursday, March 23

Kazakhstan 1-2 Slovenia
Slovakia 0-0 Luxembourg
Italy 1-2 England – Video, player ratings as Kane breaks Rooney record
Denmark 3-1 Finland
Portugal 4-0 Liechtenstein
San Marino 0-2 Northern Ireland
North Macedonia 2-1 Malta
Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-0 Iceland

Friday, March 24

Bulgaria 0-1 Montenegro
Gibraltar 0-3 Greece
Moldova 1-1 Faroe Islands
Serbia 2-0 Lithuania
Austria 4-1 Azerbaijan
Sweden 0-3 Belgium
Czech Republic 3-1 Poland
France 4-0 Netherlands

Saturday, March 25

Scotland 3-0 Cyprus
Israel 1-1 Kosovo
Armenia 1-2 Turkey
Belarus 0-5 Switzerland
Spain 3-0 Norway
Croatia 1-0 Wales
Andorra 0-2 Romania

Sunday, March 26

Kazakhstan 3-2 Denmark
England 2-0 Ukraine — Video, player ratings as Saka leads Three Lions
Liechtenstein 0-7 Iceland
Slovenia 2-0 San Marino
Slovakia 2-0 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Northern Ireland 0-1 Finland
Luxembourg 0-6 Portugal
Malta 0-2 Italy

Monday, March 27

Montenegro vs Serbia — 2:45pm ET
Netherlands vs Gibraltar — 2:45pm ET
Poland vs Albania — 2:45pm ET
Austria vs Estonia — 2:45pm ET
Sweden vs Azerbaijan — 2:45pm ET
Moldova vs Czech Republic — 2:45pm ET
Hungary vs Bulgaria — 2:45pm ET
Republic of Ireland vs France — 2:45pm ET

Tuesday, March 28

Georgia vs Norway — Noon ET
Wales vs Latvia — 2:45pm ET
Romania vs Belarus — 2:45pm ET
Switzerland vs Israel — 2:45pm ET
Kosovo vs Andorra — 2:45pm ET
Turkey vs Croatia — 2:45pm ET
Scotland vs Spain — 2:45pm ET


EURO 2024 qualifying standings

Group A

Spain — 3 pts, +3 GD
Scotland — 3 pts, +3GD
Georgia
Norway — 0 pts, -3 GD
Cyprus — 0 pts, -3 GD

Group B

France — 3pts, +4 GD
Greece — 3 pts, +3 GD
Republic of Ireland
Gibraltar — 0 pts, -3 GD
Netherlands — 0 pts, -4 GD

Group C

England — 6 pts, +3 GD
Italy — 3 pts, +1 GD
North Macedonia — 3 pts, +1 GD
Ukraine — 0 pts, -2 GD
Malta — 0 pts, -3 GD

Group D

Turkey — 3 pts, +1 GD
Wales — 1 pt, 0 GD
Croatia — 1 pt, 0 GD
Latvia
Armenia — 0 pts, -1 GD

Group E

Czech Republic — 3 pts, +2 GD
Faroe Islands — 1 pt, 0 GD
Moldova — 1 pt, 0 GD
Albania
Poland — 0 pts, -2 GD

Group F

Austria — 3 pts, +3 GD
Belgium — 3 pts, + 3GD
Estonia
Azerbaijan — 0 pts, -3 GD
Sweden — 0 pts, -3 GD

Group G

Serbia — 3 pts, +2 GD
Montenegro — 3 pts, +1 GD
Hungary
Bulgaria — 0 pts, -1 GD
Lithuania — 0 pts, -2 GD

Group H

Slovenia — 6 pts, +3 GD
Northern Ireland — 3 pts, +1 GD
Denmark — 3 pts, +1 GD
Finland — 3 pts, -1 GD
Kazakhstan — 3 pts, 0 GD
San Marino — 0 pts, -4 GD

Group I

Switzerland — 3 pts, +5 GD
Romania — 3 pts, + 2 GD
Israel — 1 pt, 0 GD
Kosovo — 1 pt, 0 GD
Andorra — 0 pts, -2 GD
Belarus — 0 pts, -5 GD

Group J

Portugal — 6 pts, +8 GD
Slovakia — 4 pt, +2 GD
Iceland — 3 pts, +4 GD
Bosnia and Herzegovina — 3 pts, +1 GD
Liechtenstein — 1 pt, -7 GD
Luxembourg — 0 pts, -10 GD

Antonio Conte, Tottenham part ways

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Antonio Conte’s belabored but seemingly inevitable exit from Tottenham Hotspur was just that, as Spurs announced the Italian legend’s exit late Sunday.

Conte went off on everyone at the club following a 3-3 draw with Southampton in Premier League Matchweek 28, and the international break did nothing to calm or rectify the situation.

“I see selfish players, I see players that don’t want to help each other and don’t put their heart [into the game],” Conte said at one point, later criticizing ownership, coaches, and staff. See the full press conference atop this post.

Cristian Stellini will stay on and oversee the season as “Acting Head Coach” with longtime Spurs man Ryan Mason assisting the Italian.

[ MORE: Saka, Kane scored as England cruises past Ukraine ]

Conte, 53, was appointed Spurs boss on Nov. 2, 2021 following the firing of Nuno Espirito Santo, and helped Tottenham to a top-four finish and a return to the UEFA Champions League.

Spurs went unbeaten in their first seven matches to open the 2022-23 season, only losing away to West Ham and Chelsea, but a 3-1 loss at Arsenal in the North London derby started a run of ups and downs not normally associated with Conte teams.

After beating Brighton and Everton, Spurs failed to win consecutive Premier League matches between October 19 and late January, when Spurs beat Fulham and Man City on consecutive match days.

Tottenham was on a 5W-1D-2L Premier League run when Conte launched into his incredible rants following the Southampton draw. That, combined with a lifeless Champions League exit against AC Milan, was far too much to sustain him at the club.

Tottenham Hotspur statement on Antonio Conte

From TottenhamHotspur.com:

“We can announce that Head Coach Antonio Conte has left the Club by mutual agreement. We achieved Champions League qualification in Antonio’s first season at the Club. We thank Antonio for his contribution and wish him well for the future.

“Cristian Stellini will take the team as Acting Head Coach for the remainder of the season, along with Ryan Mason as Assistant Head Coach.

Daniel Levy, Chairman: ‘We have 10 Premier League games remaining and we have a fight on our hands for a Champions League place. We all need to pull together. Everyone has to step up to ensure the highest possible finish for our Club and amazing, loyal supporters.'”

What now?

It’s very strange that Spurs would wait one week into the international break and then announce that Conte was leaving without a new coach in place (Stellini was a long time Tottenham assistant).

Spurs are currently in fourth place on the table with 49 points, one point behind Manchester United, but Newcastle (47 points) and Liverpool 42 points) both have two matches-in-hand on Stellini’s men. Brighton’s also on 42 points and has three matches-in-hand on Spurs.

Stellini actually may have a pretty easy task presuming he didn’t follow up Conte’s comments about the players by yelling, “Yeah, I agree!”

There are points to be had along the way as Spurs return from break to meet Everton, Brighton, and Bournemouth, but the relatively soft landing ends with Newcastle, Manchester United, and Liverpool in the following three PL matches.

Palace, Villa, Brentford, and Leeds wind down the fixture list, so it’s reasonable to think Spurs will return to the Champions League if they can get through Liverpool on April 30 with a look at the top four.

Premier League top scorers: Who is leading Golden Boot race?

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Harry Kane scored twice on Saturday to give him 20 goals on the Premier League season, and impressive figure with 10-plus matches left for the teams of the Premier League this season.

Then Erling Haaland converted a penalty at Crystal Palace to give him 28 on the season, reminding the country that the Golden Boot race remains in fait accompli territory.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ] 

There is something somewhat dull about knowing the identity of the 2022 Golden Boot winner, the lone curiosity being the final number of his final tally, we get it, but most of what Haaland is doing this season is simply marvelous and to be admired without much fear.

Haaland’s Premier League-leading 28 goals have him seven goals clear of the next closest challenger: Tottenham’s fantastic and firing Harry Kane.

The Norwegian star piled up 20 goals in a single Premier League season faster than any player in history… by seven games (Kevin Phillips of Sunderland did it in 21). Now he’s within five goals of equalling Kevin Phillips’ record for most goals in a debut Premier League season.

And the later this season goes with him projected so far over the current record, the less chucking is accompanied by marking out the pace (especially considering Haaland was not beaten up by the World Cup, as Norway was not in the tournament). And even though Haaland is currently overperforming his expected goals total, it’s clear that projecting him for the Premier League record is rather realistic.

Which records can Haaland break?

Haaland may not be likely to hit 50 goals given the schedule congestion to come for Man City, but the Premier League record is very well under assault and that figure isn’t entirely absurd. He’s played in 23 of Man City’s 24 games, scoring 26 goals.

Mohamed Salah holds the 38-game season record with his 32 goals scored for Liverpool during the 2017-18 season, while Newcastle’s Andy Cole and Blackburn’s Alan Shearer bagged 34 during 42-game seasons in the 20th century’s final decade.

Haaland also could topple the record for goal involvements (goals plus assists) in a single season, including beating the 42-game record. Alan Shearer put up 47 over 42, while Thierry Henry holds the 38-game record with 44.

Other records that Haaland could legitimately tie or topple:

  • 30 goals in a first Premier League season (Kevin Phillips, Sunderland, 1999-2000)
  • Goals in 24 different Premier League matches (Salah, Liverpool, 2017-18)
  • Most goals in a Premier League match (Five tied with five)
  • 11-straight Premier League games with a goal (Jamie Vardy, Leicester, 2014-15)

Read on to see the latest Premier League goal totals for the 2022-23 season, as Haaland looks to claim a Golden Boot in his first PL season.

Premier League 2022-23 Golden Boot race

    1. Erling Haaland, Man City — 28
    2. Harry Kane, Tottenham — 21
    3. Ivan Toney, Brentford — 16
    4. Marcus Rashford, Manchester United — 14
    5. Gabriel Martinelli, Arsenal — 13
    6. Bukayo Saka, Arsenal — 12
    7. Miguel Almiron, Newcastle — 11
    8. Aleksandar Mitrovic, Fulham — 11
    9. Mohamed Salah, Liverpool — 11
    10. Rodrigo, Leeds United — 11
    11. Martin Odegaard, Arsenal — 10
    12. James Maddison, Leicester City — 9
    13. Phil Foden, Man City — 9
    14. Ollie Watkins, Aston Villa — 9
    15. Harvey Barnes, Leicester City — 9
    16. Leandro Trossard — Brighton/Arsenal — 8
    17. Danny Ings, Aston Villa/West Ham — 8
    18. Darwin Nunez, Liverpool — 8
    19. Roberto Firmino, Liverpool — 8
    20. Callum Wilson, Newcastle — 7
    21. Brennan Johnson, Nottingham Forest — 7
    22. Alexis Mac Allister, Brighton — 7
    23. James Ward-Prowse, Southampton — 7
    24. Kai Havertz, Chelsea — 7
    25. Solly March, Brighton — 7
    26. Wilfried Zaha, Crystal Palace — 6
    27. Pascal Gross, Brighton — 6
    28. Kaoru Mitoma, Brighton — 6
    29. Heung-min Son, Tottenham — 6
    30. Phillip Billing, Bournemouth — 6
    31. Alexander Isak, Newcastle — 6