Bob Bradley’s debut ends in defeat but plenty of positives

1 Comment

LONDON — All eyes were on Bob Bradley on Saturday as he became the first-ever American to coach in the Premier League.

From an entertainment standpoint, his PL debut didn’t disappoint.

[ MORE: Thriller at the Emirates ]

Dressed all in black and pacing along the edge of his technical area throughout the encounter Bradley, 58, has waited his entire career for his chance in one of Europe’s big league. Within 33 minutes he must have been cursing his luck.

Two sloppy defensive mistakes handed Theo Walcott two gift-wrapped goals but then just before half time Gylfi Sigurdsson curled home a beauty. 2-1. Game on. Bradley punched the air in delight. In the second half Swansea continued to give up easy chances as a moment of magic from Mesut Ozil made it 3-1. Swansea weren’t done. Far from it.

Bradley’s side pulled one back through Borja Baston and when Granit Xhaka was sent off for scything down Barrow, the Swans smelt blood. It was an exhausting encounter and try as they might Swansea couldn’t break through Arsenal and nick an equalizer. In truth it appeared more likely that Arsenal would grab another on the break as Walcott hit the inside of the post and clipped the bar at the end of two lethal counters.

The New Jersey native admitted afterwards that there’s plenty to work on, especially defensively, if the Swans are to drag themselves up the table and away from the relegation zone.

“That was an exciting game but obviously it didn’t finish the way we wanted. I didn’t like our start,” Bradley said. “I thought we were slow to step out, gave them too much space. That’s a team that if you let them pull you around you feel like there’s always big spaces and they play through the lines. That part of the game I didn’t like. That coincided with from our end, two poor goals.”

What about the positives?

“Somewhere in there we started to play with more confidence. The tempo picked up, we started to close down a little bit more. We saw moments when we could press and win the ball higher. You get to 2-1 at half, that’s pretty positive…. We kept at it,” Bradley continued. “At the end we are disappointed but I think the feeling among the players is that we had a very good week of training and now if we can take the starting points we saw today and keep going 30 more times then there’s a chance to become a really good team.”

Speaking to some of Swansea’s fans outside the stadium before the game, there was a real sense of positivity brewing about Bradley’s arrival.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Fans agreed that it was the right time for Francesco Guidolin to be replaced and despite some initial unrest about Bradley’s arrival, most had no real issues with the new majority American owners (Jason Levien and Steve Kaplan) plumping for one of their countrymen to lead the team.

“No matter what, Swansea’s fans will back Bradley.”

That was the main message lifelong Swansea fans Mark Richards wanted to get across as he stood outside in the wonderful autumn sunshine in north London before the game.

“This American guy has probably come in off the back of the new owners and from my understanding he sounds like a disciplinarian,” Richards said. “I expect him to get the players training harder than Guidolin did and I expect a result out of them. At the end of the season, if he’s still got his job, he’s done his job for us.”

ProSoccerTalk asked Bradley about the reaction he received from the fans during the game as they drove their team on late on as they pushed hard for an equalizer.

“In the short time I’ve been at Swansea I know how special the ‘Jack Army’ is and the connection between those fans and the community. To look into that part of the stadium and see those people, I would expect that they’re not satisfied but maybe, like me, they saw a few things today that makes them say ‘alright, we like what we see,'” Bradley said. “That doesn’t mean that you get ahead of yourselves. The work you do to become a good team, no matter the league, is real. It is hard work and you try to convince the players every day that the reason most teams don’t become good is that they are not capable of real work week in and week out to improve in so many areas. I like this group. It has been really nice to come in and see the response.”

The response was positive but what are the expectations for Bradley’s team from the fans? Simple: stay in the Premier League.

“Just to keep us up and push for midtable. We’re a better side than where we are at the moment, by far. We’ve proved that in a few performances under Guidolin but not for a whole 90 minutes,” Richards said.

Swansea fans Alun Jones and his son stood outside the Emirates before the game and he admitted he had been impressed by Bradley’s forthright press conferences in his early days as Swansea boss, plus the snippets of training sessions Swansea’s media team have been streaming live online.

“He might make us a bit more solid, maybe some more grit to the team,” Jones said. “I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully he can bring us some success, keep us in the Premier League. That is all that matters. To play good football and stay up, that’s the key thing.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Neil Taylor of Swansea City (C) takes a throw in while Bob Bradley, Manager of Swansea City (R) looks on during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Swansea City at Emirates Stadium on October 15, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

 

Amid all of this talk of playing well and staying up, there were plenty of emotions off the pitch for Bradley on Saturday too.

Starting his coaching career in the NCAA in the 1980s, he’s now worked his way up to the most watched and most competitive league on the planet. As he looked around the Emirates Stadium before kick off, he was drinking the atmosphere in. Bradley admitted it was a proud moment for him to arrive in the PL.

“It’s not like I spend all day thinking about it but it was a proud moment to walk out there today. I don’t get ahead of myself,” Bradley said. “I was also trying to figure out the sections in the stadiums because over the years I’ve been able to look around and find my wife and my daughters but I couldn’t figure out what section was which so I couldn’t find them today.”

Even if he couldn’t find his family, the “Jack Army” in the far corner kept on his side and there’s a steady feeling that they not only respect Bradley’s honesty but were happy with the soccer they saw on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

It seems that despite some initial trepidation from Swansea’s fans towards a manager with no previous Premier League experience being hired, most are warming to Bradley and his methods.

So, what about some Star Spangled Banners being held up by Swansea’s fans soon in honor of Bradley?

“I’m not sure about that. We wouldn’t mind a having a few Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders perhaps coming along to our games,” Richards joked.

Despite plenty of excitement around his first game in charge, Bradley knows there’s still plenty of work to do.

“There is not one of us that walks out today and feels good. No chance,” Bradley told ProSoccerTalk. “But I think we can still look at some of what happened on the field today and say that’s what we need to be about. That’s the kind of football we play, that’s the kind of mentality we can build on. It’s a start. Whenever you go in to work you try and establish your players a starting point.”

The starting point was a ruthless lesson against one of the best teams in the Premier League but Bradley’s Swansea showed enough to suggest they’ll be more than fine this season. Modou Barrow was a constant pest out wide, Sigurdsson dangerous and Leroy Fer broke forward from midfield. Defensively it needs to improve, but it’s a start.

Bradley can now start to shake off the endless questions about becoming the first-ever American to coach in the Premier League and get to work.

After this performance most at Swansea, both on the pitch and in the stands, are on his side.

What we love about Tottenham

Getty Images
Leave a comment

This week at ProSoccerTalk we will be detailing what we love about each Premier League club competing in the 2019-20 season and next up is Tottenham.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Each day we will release details on why who adore each team in particular as we remind ourselves just how awesome the PL is as we await its return following the suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Time to take a closer look at Spurs.


Harry Kane: Since emerging in the first-team scene under Mauricio Pochettino during the 2014-15 campaign, Harry Kane has skyrocketed in Tottenham’s list of greats. The Spurs youth product hit the ground running under the Argentine, finishing as the club’s leading goalscorer of the aforementioned season, and becoming an instant fan favorite.

Kane – who is currently recovering from a left hamstring injury – didn’t stop there; he made sure he was far removed from being a one-hit wonder. As a result, the 26-year-old has lead Spurs in scoring for five straight seasons, placing him third in Tottenham’s all-time goalscoring list. Outside of Jermaine Defoe, no other player in Spurs’ modern day history has had such impact on the offensive side of the game. 

Jose Mourinho: Wherever Jose Mourinho goes, the lights and cameras follow. That reality is no different at Tottenham, as the storied Portuguese manager has brought all of his pros and cons with him to Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium.

After runs with Chelsea and Manchester United, one might have thought that his and Spurs’ paths would never cross, but in November 2019, after Mauricio Pochettino’s sacking, Mourinho became the boss at Tottenham. Life thus far at the helm of the north London side hasn’t been ideal for him, crashing out of Champions League play and sitting eighth on the table. But a manager of Mourinho’s stature is definitely not worth crossing off – whether he’d be at Chelsea, Manchester United ⬇️or Spurs.

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium: In addition to having a proven goalscorer and manager in their ranks, Tottenham have the privilege of playing home games in England’s newest and most technologically advanced football stadium: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The 62,000-capacity state-of-the-art stadium features a retractable field, a microbrewery, an in-house bakery, heated seats with USB ports, the longest bar in the UK among others unimaginable extras for a sports venue. The stadium opened in April 2019, and replaced the legendary White Hart Lane.

What we love about Watford

Getty Images
Leave a comment

This week at ProSoccerTalk we will be detailing what we love about each Premier League club competing in the 2019-20 season and next up is Watford.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Each day we will release details on why who adore each team in particular as we remind ourselves just how awesome the PL is as we await its return following the suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Time to take a closer look at the Hornets.


Troy Deeney: Troy Deeney is – and has been – the face of Watford since his move from Walsall in 2010. A move that came about after Deeney, a Birmingham native and Birmingham City supporter growing up, submitted a written transfer request to exit a then-League One side to make his way to the Championship. His first year at Vicarage, however, was rough. The striker managed to score only two goals in 36 league appearances, raising questions about whether or not Deeney was built survive outside England’s third division.

Since that trying first year with the Hornets, Deeney hasn’t looked back, making his way into the “Watford’s best players ever” conversation with a remarkable 129 goals in 388 appearances. Only club legends Luther Blissett – considered by many as the best Hornet ever – and John Barnes have more top-flight gals than Deeney himself. 

Historical, last-gasp win against Leicester City: May 2013, Vicarage Road. Leicester City’s Anthony Knockaert goes down in the box after minimal contact with a Watford defender. A penalty is called in the visitor’s favor. The aggregate stands at 2-2 as the clocks ticks the final seconds of a two-legged Championship play-off semifinal between the Hornets and the Foxes. Knockaert’s shot from the spot – directed right down the middle, with pace – is blocked. His second chance as well. Watford recover and immediately go back the other way.

 

Only seconds remain before the head official sends the match to penalty kicks, but Watford is looking for the final blow. Fernando Forestieri desperately sends a textbook cross inside the box. Jonathan Hogg meets the ball midair and heads it into an incoming Deeney, who seals a goal – and celebration – for the ages.

The Watford-Elton John connection: While Manchester City may have Oasis brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher rooting them on, Watford count on the support of multi-generational musician Elton John. A lifelong Hornet supporter, the English rock legend has done more than just “support” the club from the stands, though. 

In 1976, Elton John became Watford’s chairman and director. He eventually sold the club in 1987 before re-purchasing it a decade later from Jack Petchey. John no longer owns his childhood team, but he remains a part of the club as the honorary life-president.

Premier League Rivalries: North London derby

Leave a comment

One of England’s longest-running and most competitive encounters, the North London derby between Tottenham and Arsenal makes for one of greatest rivalries in Premier League.

The matchup dates back to the early 20th century and has added tons of thrilling chapters to its book of history. Since the start of the Premier League era, both clubs are constantly competing not only to outdo one another but to make a name for themselves at the top echelons of European football.

The North London derby is much more than two rivals facing off for 90 minutes, it’s the dichotomy between the two ways of living in modern-day north London.

Pro Soccer Talk’s Joe Prince-Wright dives into the derbies origin, its development and its actual reality.

The 2 Robbies Podcast: Adapting to life without football

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Robbie Earle & Robbie Mustoe touch base on how their each adapting to day-to-day life without any professional football action worldwide amid the coronavirus pandemic (0:40), how the game moves forward from here (4:50) and what certain players, coaches and teams have done to help out amid trying times (14:00). Plus, discussion on what they’ve been doing to stay active and healthy while living safely in isolation (23:00).

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

To listen to more lively conversations and passionate debate from Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, subscribe to The 2 Robbies Podcast on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

And you can follow them on Twitter @The2RobbiesNBC here.

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]