3-5-2 system shows life, but plenty of work is needed

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Jurgen Klinsmann said before the match against Chile that if he hadn’t had DeAndre Yedlin at his disposal, he wouldn’t have tried a three-at-the-back system.

Take that as you will, but with the Spurs purchase released for international duty, the German manager decided to try his hand at a new system. There were rumblings that he had been toying with soccer’s current fad during January camp, and today we saw the fruits of his labor.

For as bad as I thought it would turn out, it wasn’t as horrible as originally anticipated. However, there’s still a ton of work that needs to be done if Klinsmann decided he wants to go this route long-term, and a few essential pieces are needed.

The first half against showed the creativity the lineup can provide. Matt Besler pumped the ball forward for Brek Shea, who used his pace to cut inside the right side of Chile’s defense and fire home the opening goal. The width the 3-5-2 formation provides showed its value on multiple occasions.

Yedlin himself played very well, and there’s no question a three-at-the-back system was made for players like him. The 21-year-old has the pace necessary to push forward, but has also developed an uncanny sense of what’s around him (yes, I say this even though he lost Mark Gonzalez on Chile’s 2nd goal), a rare combination for defenders these days.

Unfortunately, there’s still plenty to work on, and a few pieces needed that currently don’t exist.

Jermaine Jones is solid on the ball, a requirement for CB’s in this system, but he is totally unaware of his surroundings on set pieces, a key drawback in a formation with few true defenders. This reared its ugly head on numerous occasions, and Chile should have had a couple of goals in the first half as a result, but failed to punish the United States.

There was acres of space between the central defenders, particularly between Jones in the middle and Matt Besler on the left because Brek Shea flat out can’t defend. Which is a problem in this system. Someone like Fabian Johnson would be much more suited to that side, and that could be something we see when Klinsmann has his full arsenal of players available to him.

The pairing of Mix Diskerud and Michael Bradley is great for a midfield pivot, but not for a system that relies on holding possession and covering the back line. This formation is not built to withstand heavy pressure, and yet the United States allowed Chile to hold the majority of the possession with 55%, and should have been more had they not looked truly awful wasteful at times. Klinsmann recognized this, and knew it wouldn’t last, hence the introduction of both Lee Nguyen and Perry Kitchen, and eventually discarding the 3-5-2 altogether.

And finally, related to that, the elephant in the room is the lack of a true defensive midfielder. The United States has long relied on Jermaine Jones to cover the back line, but with him now in a center-back position to save his 33-year-old legs, there’s nobody truly suited for that spot. It’s a position that the formation desperately needs, especially with Jones still learning how to man-mark and follow runs.

Ultimately, while it performed better than expected for 45 minutes, the 3 CB formation seems to be a serious reach for Jurgen Klinsmann, and had Chile not played its B, we may have seen that come to fruition.

Also, if Jurgen Klinsmann feels the need to build a formation entirely around a wing-back (Yedlin), then he seriously needs to rethink his priorities, because while Yedlin surely fits the system, it’s still an asinine suggestion to structure a serious formational change simply to fit a young, pacey full-back.

If this is truly his plan, he should stick to it. But Jurgen Klinsmann has plenty of work to do if he continues along this path.

New Premier League schedule for April released

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The new schedule for Premier League games in April has been released and plenty of massive games in the title race and relegation battle will take center stage in primetime slots.

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Games selected for TV broadcasts have been moved to the new dates, with multiple matches involving Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham and Man United moved.

Below is the new schedule for April, with plenty of conditions attached if certain teams progress further in the FA Cup and Europe.


Tuesday 2 April
2:45 p.m. ET: Wolves v Man Utd *Because of participation in FA Cup semi-finals

Friday 5 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Southampton v Liverpool

Saturday 6 April 2019
7:30 a.m. ET: Man City v Cardiff City *Subject to FA Cup participation

Sunday 7 April 2019
9:05 a.m. ET: Everton v Arsenal
11:30 a.m. ET: Spurs v Brighton *Subject to Spurs’ UEFA Champions League match date and FA Cup participation

Monday 8 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Chelsea v West Ham

Friday 12 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Leicester v Newcastle

Saturday 13 April 2019
7:30 a.m. ET: Spurs v Huddersfield *May move to 14 April because of PL clubs’ participation in UEFA Champions League the Tuesday after
12:30 p.m. ET: Man Utd v West Ham

Sunday 14 April 2019
9:05 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace v Man City*
11:30 a.m. ET: Liverpool v Chelsea*
*May move to 13 April because of PL clubs’ participation in UEFA Champions League the Tuesday after

Monday 15 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Watford v Arsenal

Saturday 20 April 2019
7:30 a.m. ET: Man City v Spurs
12:30 p.m. ET: Newcastle v Southampton

Sunday 21 April 2019
8:30 a.m. ET: Everton v Man Utd
11 a.m. ET: Cardiff v Liverpool

Monday 22 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Chelsea v Burnley

Wednesday 24 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Man Utd v Man City *Moved due to FA Cup quarter-final participation

Friday 26 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Liverpool v Huddersfield

Saturday 27 April 2019
7:30 a.m. ET: Spurs v West Ham *May move to 28 April because of UEFA Champions League participation the Tuesday after
12:30 p.m. ET: Brighton v Newcastle

Sunday 28 April 2019
9:05 a.m. ET: Burnley v Man City *
11:30 a.m. ET: Man Utd v Chelsea *
*May move to 27 April because of UEFA Champions League participation the Tuesday after

Monday 29 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Leicester v Arsenal *Will move to 12:00 28 April if Arsenal reach UEFA Europa League semi-finals

Martial, Lingard could be fit for Man United v. Liverpool

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Manchester United could be given a huge boost ahead of their battle against bitter rivals Liverpool on Sunday (Watch live, 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ MORE: Rashford to Barcelona?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed that both Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard are much closer to returning from injury than previously thought.

The star wingers, who have shone under Solskjaer since he arrived as caretaker boss in December, were both injured in the first half of United’s 2-0 UEFA Champions League defeat to Paris Saint-Germain on Feb. 12.

Speaking to the media ahead of the massive game against Liverpool, a promising update on the duo arrived from Solskjaer.

“Jesse is looking OK. I hope with Anthony,” Solskjaer said.” Anthony’s was a different muscle, so we think he might be ready and hope that Jesse will. We’ve got two more days so they’ve got to get through these two sessions. They’ve not been part of training yet but they’ve been doing some recovery work.”

Now it is all about one thing: is it worth risking the duo suffering further injury?

Quite likely. The dropoff in United’s display against PSG was stark when Martial and Lingard went off and although the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and Juan Mata have stepped in well in recent weeks, the balance between Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Martial and Lingard just felt right in United’s front four positions.

You get the felling that if Solskjaer has a chance of reuniting that quartet on Sunday, even if it’s only for an hour, he will take it. And when you add in the factor that a win against Liverpool would seriously scupper the title chances of the latter, and it’s safe to say at least one of Lingard or Martial will be in the starting lineup at Old Trafford.

Both Martial and Lingard are essential to the new dynamic Manchester United playing at full throttle.

Report: Barcelona make Marcus Rashford main target

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Marcus Rashford is a local lad who is living his best life by being Manchester United’s main man right now.

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The 21-year-old is yet to sign a new contract with the Red Devils though, and reports suggest some of Europe’s biggest clubs are sniffing around the United academy product.

A report from Mundo Deportivo says that Barcelona have made Rashford their “dream” target, as the Catalan club look to replace the brilliant but ageing Luis Suarez.

Per the report, it is believed it would cost Barca over $135 million to sign Rashford. If he does sign a new long-term contract over the next few weeks (expected to be worth over $250,000 per week), then we expect that transfer fee to push closer to $200 million.

All in all, this move seems unlikely for Rashford and United. Right now.

Selling the crown jewel from your academy and a local hero who is finally getting a run of games as a central striker and has improved his output under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would cause huge uproar among United’s fans. He has scored 42 goals in 155 appearances for United since making his debut under Louis Van Gaal in 2016. Under Jose Mourinho he was often played out wide and used as a sub, but Solskjaer has rejuvenated the English striker in recent months and he’s taken Romelu Lukaku‘s place in the lineup.

That said, if Rashford does stall on signing a new contract then this could turn into a bit of a saga as his current contract runs out next summer but he has the option to extend it for another year.

Rashford’s searing pace and ability to cut inside and finish from wide positions is clear and under Solskjaer he has become more clinical and has added end product to his game with some wonderful crosses for teammates to score.

His ability as a star of the future for Man United and England is undoubted, and although Barcelona would love to pry Rashford away from his hometown club it is unlikely that is going to happen.

File this rumor under “if it happens, I’ll eat my hat.”

Europa League last 16 draw: Chelsea, Arsenal avoid big boys

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Is it too early to start predicting an all-Premier League final in the UEFA Europa League…

Both Chelsea and Arsenal were handed favorable draws in the last 16 draw of the Europa League on Friday.

[ MORE: Europa League schedule

Chelsea will play Dynamo Kiev, while Arsenal will face Stade Rennais for a place in the quarterfinal.

Of course, both Chelsea and Arsenal would prefer to be playing in the UEFA Champions League instead of Europe’s second-tier club competition, but with both teams battling hard to finish in the top four of the Premier League this season, winning the Europa League is becoming a very attractive proposition given the UCL spot for the 2019-20 campaign that the winners receive.

As for the other six games lined up for the quarterfinals, one in particular stands out as Eintracht Frankfurt face Inter Milan. The Bundesliga side have a young, hungry squad full of talent and Inter’s star names speak for themselves.

Below is the full list of fixtures with the games to be played on Mar. 7 and 14.


UEFA Europa League last 16 draw

Arsenal v. Stade Rennais
Chelsea v. Dynamo Kiev
Valencia v. Krasnodar
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Inter Milan
Sevilla v. Slavia Prague
Dinamo Zagreb v. Benfica
Zenit v. Villarreal
Napoli v. Red Bull Salzburg