Premier League Playback: Van Gaal’s time at United almost up

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VAN GAAL’S TIME ALMOST UP

Louis Van Gaal‘s time at Manchester United seems to be coming to an end.

[ MORE: LVG – “Fans right to boo”

The veteran Dutch coach was booed and jeered at half time and following United’s 1-0 defeat at home to Southampton on Saturday, as his side put in a turgid display which reinforced all of their major flaws.

Speaking after the game and after a verbal bashing from his own supporters, Van Gaal looked a beaten man as he finally admitted his fans were right to show their disdain.

“They are right to boo. I cannot deny that, I saw the match,” Van Gaal said. “For better or for worse we have to stick together.”

It’s hard to stick together when fans, players and even the manager do not know where this journey is going. Van Gaal, 64, is contracted to United until the end of the next season but it seems highly unlikely he’ll be in charge to see out his deal. He is a proud man who has endured tough times with Barcelona, Holland and even Bayern Munich before, yet this situation seems impossible to turn around with the widespread boos perhaps spelling the end for LVG.

But what option do they have in the meantime if he is fired or walks?

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Placing Ryan Giggs in temporary charge is papering over the cracks and the Welshman, who was a legendary player at Old Trafford, has no head-coaching experience despite sitting alongside David Moyes and Van Gaal as an assistant. He is not ready to take on this challenge but he may be the only option. As Kyle Martino said in the video above, maybe Giggs gets a chance until the summer to see if he can have an impact and if not then a high profile name can come in. But which high profile manager would take the job at this point with Pep Guardiola almost certain to end up at Man City? United’s directors must have Jose Mourinho’s number on speed-dial at this point.

Back to Van Gaal, the pressure building on him is immense. Following $375 million spent on new players in the last 18 months, an early UEFA Champions League exit at the group stage this season and now sitting five points off the top four with 15 games to go, United have only won two of their last 10 games. Yes, injuries have plagued them but the predictable, slow build-up play which has led to them scoring just 28 goals through 23 games so far this season is unacceptable and they have now failed to score in the first half of their last 11 matches at home. They have also registered their lowest points tally (37) after 23 games of a Premier League season. That’s worse than when Moyes was in charge and many more stats can be pulled out to portray just how bad this situation is.

[ REPORT: Mourinho sends letter to Man United

Van Gaal has admitted he cannot fulfill the expectation levels at Old Trafford and reports claim that executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has reached out to the players to ask if Van Gaal is the right man to carry on leading them. All of this is leading up to an inevitable conclusion. Van Gaal out.

He gave his team two days off on Sunday and Monday, presumably to clear their heads and refocus. While they tried to do that, LVG returned to Holland to celebrate his daughter’s birthday.

The likelihood — much to the dismay of a growing number of United’s fan — is that when he returns Van Gaal will be in charge for their FA Cup fourth round match away at second-tier Derby County. Lose that and surely it’s curtains for one of the most experienced managers in the game. Nothing he has previously experienced will have prepared him for facing this current predicament as fans of one of, if not the biggest, club’s in the world have turned against him and his players. The point of no return has almost arrived. The end game is near.

LIVERPOOL WIN THRILLER, BUT DID KLOPP SEE IT?

Madness. Utter madness.

Premier League Schedule – Week 23

Result Recap & Highlights
Arsenal 0-1 Chelsea Recap, watch here
C. Palace 1-3 Spurs Recap, watch here
Everton 1-2 Swansea Recap, watch here
Leicester 3-0 Stoke Recap, watch here
Man Utd 0-1 Saints Recap, watch here
Norwich 4-5 Liverpool Recap, watch here
S’land 1-1 B’mouth Recap, watch here
Watford 2-1 N’castle Recap, watch here
West Brom 0-0 Villa Recap, watch here
West Ham 2-2 Man City Recap, watch here

Liverpool’s 5-4 win at Norwich City on Saturday will go down as one of the all-time great games in Premier League history as nine of the 10 shots on target went in.

Leading 3-1 with 55 minutes gone, Norwich imploded and trailed 4-3 heading into stoppage time. Then, Sebastien Bassong popped up to score and seemingly grab them a point. Not so fast.

An Adam Lallana strike five minutes into stoppage time sparked wild celebrations from the players and, most memorably, their manager Jurgen Klopp.

Jumping on each other on the sidelines, Christian Benteke‘s hand caught Klopp in the face and knocked the German coach’s famous glasses off his face.

Post-game, Klopp was asked where his glasses had gone. He then delivered a response only he could pull off.

“I usually have a second pair of glasses but I can’t find them because it’s hard to find glasses without glasses!”

Then on Monday, ahead of Liverpool’s League Cup semifinal second leg against Stoke City on Tuesday, Klopp was wearing is second pair of glasses and joked he “looked like a serial killer” wearing them.

Klopp is comical, and the defending on show from both teams teams on Saturday was comical. But the outcome was a truly memorable match which had a remarkable ending that could maybe ignite Liverpool’s injury-hit squad and help them kick on to challenge for a top four spot, just a week after they unjustly suffered a damaging home defeat to bitter rivals Manchester United.

INSPIRATIONAL ALLI

Dele Alli has been spitting straight flames for most of his opening six months as a Spurs player. The wondergoal in the video above sums up his meteoric rise.

The 19-year-old attacking midfielder scored a sensational goal at Crystal Palace on Saturday in Spurs’ 3-1 win which leaves them just five points off top spot.

After already making his Three Lions debut and scoring a stunner against France in their last friendly. Alli is the hope of a nation. He is England’s next great hope and has dealt with the huge step up from excelling at MK Dons in League One to ripping it up for Tottenham in the PL with incredible ease. In his first season in the top-flight Alli has delivered so much more than any expected and plenty of scouts of other PL clubs will now be scratching their heads as to why they didn’t take a chance on him sooner.

Now, expectation levels will continue to rise as Alli’s similarities to the likes of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard have already been whispered about by fans and pundits in England. Alongside Harry Kane and Eric Dier, Alli is part of a strong English core at Spurs who could be the dark-horses for the title as everyone else continues to slip up.

PAYET PURRS, AGUERO RESCUES CITY

“We’ve got Payet, Dimitri Payet, I just don’t think you understand. He’s Super Slavs man, he’s better than Zidane. We’ve got Dimitri Payet.”

Fans of the Hammers have a new hero and that song was reverberating around the rafters of Upton Park before, during and after West Ham United’s 2-2 draw with Manchester City on Saturday. The famous old stadium — home to the Hammers for 104 years but this season is its last as the move to the glistening Olympic Stadium looms — was rocking on Saturday and I was present in the stands to watch a truly stunning individual display.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from West Ham vs. Man City

Payet, 28, was signed from Marseille for $15 million in the summer and looks an absolute bargain. His clever flicks and tricks bamboozled City’s midfield and defense, while Joe Hart produced a marvelous save to keep out his dipping free kick.

The fact that sixth-placed West Ham were disappointed with a draw at home to title-chasing Man City shows how far they’ve come under Slaven Bilic this season and if Payet can stay fit he will be the key to helping them crack the top six. Sergio Aguero twice equalized for City and without the Argentine they would have lost on the road once again. City have only won once away from the Etihad Stadium in the PL since September and they need to address that trend if they’re going to win the title. Without injured skipper Vincent Kompany they looked shaky at the back, once again, and Manuel Pellegrini must be desperate for him to return.

West Ham know all about missing their talisman through injury as Payet was out for six weeks from early November until early January. They only won one of their seven games in that stretch and the man from Reunion is majestic on the ball and glides over the ground, always seeming to have more time than the opponents running around in circles trying to mark him.

His manager, like every West Ham fan, is a massive fan of the French international playmaker who is lighting up the Hammers’ final season at the Boleyn Ground.

“It is very hard to play like he did today on a weekly basis but he’s played like that since the beginning of the season,” Bilic said. “He is a great player. To be fair we see that day in day out in training – we are so glad we have him. When he is on the pitch, it’s not that he is great and confident, but he makes all the other players better. The boys recognize that he is our key player and they are willing to do the dirty work. We missed him so much when he got injured.”

Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here.

Social media wrap: All 20 Premier League clubs, many players stand against racism

Premier League social media
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The protests in the United States have inspired anti-racism statements from around the world, including all gestures from all 20 Premier League clubs and many players and managers.

There have been ongoing protests and horrible violence in the U.S. since the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes even after he stopped moving and pleaded for air in Minnesota.

Newcastle United’s American defender DeAndre Yedlin issued an emotional thread (below) as one of a great deal of players to express hopes for change and solidarity, while Schalke’s Weston McKennie explained his wearing a black armband reading “Justice For George” in the Bundesliga this weekend.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

From Ancelotti to Zaha, Antonio to Yedlin, Arsenal to Wolves, we’ve collected many of their sentiments below in what we hope serves as universal disdain for racial prejudice.

Some players like Leicester City’s Wes Morgan and even entire clubs (Arsenal) changed their online identity photos to reflect these troubled times.

All PL clubs issued messages of solidarity, many using the Black Lives Matter hashtag and making no bones about where they stand.

And we’ll start with a longtime PL club currently in the Championship, who blasted a season ticket holder’s rejection of their unifying Tweet.

Here are some other clubs and players worldwide to have noticed what’s happening in the United States.

 

Season restart preview: Bournemouth

Bournemouth season restart
Photo by Robin Jones - AFC Bournemouth/AFC Bournemouth via Getty Images
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Bournemouth when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: Tough sledding for the Cherries, who face zero of their fellow bottom-six sides (though 13th place Newcastle and 14th place Saints both visit the Vitality Stadium).

There’s been an element of bad luck to Bournemouth’s woes, with its expected goals stats showing Ryan Fraser, Joshua King, and Callum Wilson have deserved better end product and that the Cherries’ 14 goals from open play should be closer to 22. The defense has been bad and xG says it could’ve been worse, too. Injuries had hit Bournemouth’s defense corps in a big way, too. How much better will they be after the break?

[ MORE: Ranking every Cherries player in 2019-20 ]


Tactical analysis: Eddie Howe utilized a 4-4-2 with two defensive midfielders for much of the early season, but has gone between a lone striker with a packed-in midfielder and a 4-3-3 when he thinks an opponent is exploitable.

Howe started a 4-4-2 against almost all of the Cherries’ remaining opponents, choosing a 5-4-1 against Wolves and Man City. There’s no guarantee he’ll continue that, especially when some matches may dictate a draw or limited goal differential damage over wins.


Possible XI (4-3-3) 

—– Ramsdale —–

— Smith — S. Cook — Ake — Rico —

—– Lerma —– Billing — L. Cook —

— Fraser —– C. Wilson —– King —–

Howe prefers to attack when at all possible, but the points will be at a premium against some very challenging opponents. It’s a safe bet that he’ll ask a lot from his forwards while trying to deploy his three relentless midfielders together whenever possible. The question here is whether Aaron Ramsdale returns quickly from his COVID-19 positive test, or if it’ll be Artur Boruc or someone else between the sticks.


[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Remaining schedule
Home: Crystal Palace, Newcastle, Spurs, Leicester City, Southampton
Away: Wolves, Manchester United, Man City, Everton

Predicted finish: The Cherries stay up, just, as King and Callum Wilson deliver the goods in front of a determined and improved midfield.

Premier League clubs will reportedly be allowed preseason friendlies

Premier League return
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Premier League clubs will be allowed to play preseason matches ahead of the 2019-20’s restart season later this month.

There will be strict protocols due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, and the matches will likely be officiated by club coaching staffs (We have so many Jose Mourinho as ref quips to make here, but let’s keep going anyway).

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Sky Sports says clubs will be limited to opponents within 90 minutes of their venue, and that players will have to drive themselves to the stadiums and go directly to the field in uniform.

With the League One and League Two seasons still hanging in the balance, it’s likely PL sides will be limited to each other and Championship sides. Presumably clubs will not want to meet others still on their fixture list.

We assume some players will get dressed in their vehicles outside the ground, but allow yourself some levity in these challenging times and imagine a fully kitted-up Virgil van Dijk driving the roads from Liverpool to Wigan Athletic.

English defender Onuoha speaks out on fear of police in the U.S.

Nedum Onuoha
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Real Salt Lake defender Nedum Onuoha is speaking out on his experience as a black man in the United States in the wake of ongoing protests and violence following the killing of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleaded for air in Minnesota.

Speaking with the BBC, Onuoha says he has loved his time in the United States but admitted a wariness around law enforcement that he does not experience at home in England. The 33-year-old says there are “plenty of good” police in the country but admitted he doesn’t feel “100% safe” around law enforcement officers and that he has a “fear and distrust” of them.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Onuoha says the protests and demands for reform are “emotional” and “overdue,” adding that he feels empowered by the non-black voices joining the calls for justice.

From The BBC:

“I have loved living in this country but there is [another] side of it. In the UK, I am more comfortable because if something happens it probably will not be deadly – but over here because of their rights it is more common that altercations become deadly. I am always very aware of that whenever I go around anywhere.

“I am comfortable but when it comes to any kind of brutality, if it’s from the police, if they read me the wrong way then my life could be taken. I feel that every single day. It is not just me but everybody else as well.”

The Nigeria-born English defender joined RSL in 2018 and has played 36 times for the Utah club. Onuoha previously spent seven years with Queens Park Rangers after beginning his career with City and Sunderland.

MLS released a statement on the Floyd killing earlier this week, expressing unity with the black community and “horror” at the “senseless murder” of the 46-year-old American man.