Without Cabaye, Newcastle full of chances, short on finishing

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As Newcastle struggled to find a scorer to complement Loic Remy, Yohan Cabaye’s importance to the Magpies grew. Coming into today’s game, the Paris Saint-Germain-bound midfielder — the team’s main creative presence — was second on the team in scoring, his seven goals reflecting the team’s increased dependence on his scoring as well as his creativity. How Newcastle played against Norwich on Tuesday would be our first chance to assess whether they can cope with him.

While the 0-0 final was discouraging, the underlying play wasn’t. Newcastle dominated for most of the game, and while they were only able to put three shots on goal, a series of near misses meant finishing chances, not generating them, was the problem. With Moussa Sissoko playing at the tip of a midfield triangle, the Magpies saw Loic Remy hit the post twice while Hatem Ben Arfa skied a cross over the bar from close range in the first half. Add in the other decent chances the team created (like a shot from the middle of the box Remy put at John Ruddy), and Cabaye wasn’t completely missed.

Sissoko deserves much of the credit for those chances, with his movement off Rémy crucial to much of Newcastle’s first half success. Moving right early, Sissoko generated a chance for his striker after he was fed toward the byline. In a similar situation near half time, he opened the goal up for Ben Arfa. With five assists on the year, it wasn’t a complete shock that Sissoko was able to create so many chances. That he did so on the day Cabaye left provided Newcastle fans with some timely encouragement.

The Ben Arfa miss, however, showed Cabaye’s absence isn’t all about chance creation. Ben Arfa, in the team because Cabaye was in Paris, put Sissoko’s cross into the stands after his countryman left him with an open goal. It’s no stretch to imagine Cabaye in that spot instead of Ben Area. Had he been there, Newcastle may be returning home winners.

It’s a bit of a loaded standard, though. To expect a team to lose a $33 million player and not see any effects is something you can only hope of the Chelseas of the world. A team like Newcastle is going to feel the loss of their best player, particularly if you choose to define that loss by one, aberrational moment.

If Tuesday’s performance was any indication, the effects of that loss may not be as drastic as some anticipate. In fact, they may manifest in different areas than predicted. Whereas losing a player with Cabaye’s on-the-ball skill hints creating chances will be a problem, Newcastle came close numerous times against Norwich. Finishing, however, was the problem. Without their second-leading goal scorer, Newcastle may be forced to seek a complement to Rémy.

Of course, as we try to make some quick assessments in the wake of Cabaye’s move, there is another possibility. The way Norwich played, so willing to retreat into their own half, Newcastle may need another opponent before drawing any conclusions about their Cabaye-less squad. That next opponent, however, is rival Sunderland, with the season’s second Tyne-Wear kicking off Saturday at St. James’ Park.

Belgium goes to World Cup without Nainggolan

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BRUSSELS (AP) Belgium left midfielder Radja Nainggolan out of its World Cup squad despite a standout season with Champions League semifinalist Roma.

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez has long had a difficult relationship with the stormy midfielder. But after being called up for a warm-up game in March against Saudi Arabia, expectations had been that he would be on the 28-man roster announced Monday.

[ MORE: No World Cup for Chelsea trio ]

On top of the troubled relationship, Nainggolan was also the victim of the unparalleled wealth of talent the small nation has produced over the past few years.

Thibaut Courtois, Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku were all named in the squad, which will be cut to 23 before the World Cup.

Nashville MLS expansion club snares ex-Liverpool CEO Ayre

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Former Liverpool CEO Ian Ayre is moving from Merseyside to the Music City.

The Tennesseean’s Joe Rexrode says Ayre is set to take the reins of Nashville SC as the first CEO in club history when it makes its debut in the 2020 MLS season.

[ MORE: No World Cup for Chelsea trio ]

Liverpool hired ex-EA Sports executive Peter Moore to replace Ayre in 2017 after the latter, 54, spent six years with the club as managing director and then CEO.

From the Tennessean:

“The MLS has huge ambitions to be one of the biggest and leading leagues in the world, and is on that trajectory,” Ayre said. “Both as a soccer fan and an executive in the industry, it’s something I’ve had my eye on because it’s important. … You talk about MLS and its growth, I think it’s becoming easier and will become easier to attract the right talent to something that’s exciting and developing. And if you have a reputation of being involved in a club like Liverpool, you hope that stands for something when you start to try and attract talent.”

The timing of Ayre’s addition hearkens back to that of former Tottenham executive Darren Eales at Atlanta United. If it has the same success, Nashville will be proud.

Report: Lampard interviews twice with Championship club

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Steven Gerrard‘s longtime England midfield mate Frank Lampard could soon be joining him in a management.

While Gerrard is tasked with rebuilding Rangers’ Scottish title push, Lampard’s reported new gig would entail leading Ipswich Town back to the Premier League for the first time since 2002.

[ MORE: No World Cup for Chelsea trio ]

Sky Sports says Lampard has already interviewed twice with Ipswich Town ownership in a bid to earn his first senior management gig.

Lampard, 39, played for Chelsea, Man City, New York City FC, West Ham United, and Swansea in a sparkling 20-year playing career.

Town finished 12th in the Championship, 15 points back of a playoff spot and 19 clear of relegation.

No World Cup for Chelsea’s Spanish trio

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Spain has left Chelsea trio Alvaro Morata, Marcos Alonso, and Pedro off its World Cup squad.

Also omitted were Napoli’s Jose Callejoin and Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin.

[ MORE: MLS Things — The Archive ]

Manager Julen Lopetegui did include Blues defender Cesar Azpilicueta and ex-Chelsea man Diego Costa, as well as Manchester United’s David De Gea, Arsenal’s Nacho Monreal, and Man City’s David Silva.

Spain is expected to contend for the tournament crown in Russia, led by a stellar midfield which includes Silva, Andres Iniesta, Isco, and Thiago Alcantara.

Spain is in a group with Portugal, Iran, and Morocco.

Spain’s World Cup squad

Goalkeepers: De Gea, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Pepe Reina

Defenders: Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Azpilicueta, Nacho, Alvaro Odriozola, Jordi Alba, Monreal, Dani Carvajal

Midfielders: Sergio Busquets, Asensio, Iniesta, Isco, Saul Niguel, Thiago Alcantara, Koke, Silva.

Forwards: Diego Costa, Rodrigo, Iago Aspas, Lucas Vazquez.