The curious case of Roberto Soldado; What’s gone wrong?

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Following the five-nil home shellacking by Liverpool on December 15th, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy promptly told Andre Villas-Boas to pack his bags.

The players were mentally depleted and out of ideas, no doubt the result of Villas-Boas’ penchant for deep cerebral probing.

Cue Tim Sherwood and suddenly White Hart Lane was overflowing with adventurous, uninhibited football. Spurs went on to win seven of their next 10 Premier League matches, losing only once. Cloud lifted.

From all accounts, Spurs are once again a happy group. Except maybe for one man: Roberto Soldado.

After starting, scoring and playing the full 90 against Stoke on December 22nd, Soldado was substituted in his next two matches, the 2-0 win over Manchester United and the 2-0 win over Crystal Palace. Since then the striker has been relegated to the roll of unused substitute in three of the last five matches.

This doesn’t bode well for Bobby Soldier. So what exactly has gone wrong?

The simple answer, he doesn’t score goals. No striker can expect to maintain his place in a side when he’s only scored five goals in 21 Premier League matches. Especially when four of those strikes were penalties. Shite return for the £26m Spurs reportedly dropped to acquire his services.

Emmanuel Adebayor is another major factor. The Togolese striker has been on fire since being called back into the team. A Sherwood special, Ade has hit eight goals in 11 contests. Impressive stuff from the guy who was a dead man walking under Villas-Boas. Barring an injury, Ade’s the top striker at Spurs.

Finally, the club’s formation hurts Soldado. Despite deploying a 4-4-2 in his first five league matches, Sherwood has since wised up and changed to a 4-2-3-1, leaving Soldado the odd man out. In the future Sherwood could return to the 4-4-2 but as the season winds down and Spurs inch closer to a Top 4 finish doing so feels like an unnecessary risk.

Anyone who watched Soldado at Valencia, Getafe and/or Real Madrid knows he’s a lethal poacher. But it’s feeling less and less likely that we’ll see him doing that in a Spain shirt come this June.

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.