PL Playback: Koeman, Everton under pressure

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PRESSURE BUILDS ON KOEMAN

With four defeats in a row, 12 goals conceded and zero scored, it is safe to say Everton boss Ronald Koeman will have a few sleepless nights coming up.

[ MORE – Lukaku: “Celebration was banter” ]

The pressure is mounting on the Toffees boss as his project at Everton is on the verge of imploding with four points from their first five games of the season.

[ RECAPS: All 10 PL games in Week 5 ]

It is true that Everton were handed a tough start to the campaign with Manchester City, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United all in the opening five games but their 3-0 hammering at the hands of Atalanta in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday was an embarrassment and they followed that up with another inept display in the 4-0 defeat at Manchester United on Sunday.

It is too early to pull a “Crystal Palace panic™” but the pressure is mounting on Everton’s Dutch coach as they have four games on the spin at Goodison Park to turn things around.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Koeman is not a shrinking violent and is not backwards in coming forward. His dream of one day managing Barcelona likely hinges on Everton at least challenging for the top four each season.

Although he admitted the display was better at United on Sunday compared to a hammering at Atalanta, he appeared to pin the blame on his players after previously saying he has to look at himself.

“It’s really difficult, as a manager you try to help and support them – but when the whistle starts it’s all about them. We started too afraid,” Koeman explained. “We have four home games in different competitions and we need to win, otherwise we’ll have problems.”

The pressure is already showing as Koeman also hit out at Jose Mourinho’s programme notes on Sunday where he stated Everton should aim “at least” for a top four finish.

“Is there anybody who sees this as realistic for Everton? Please, come on. Fans, press – we need time,” Koeman said.

Not what Everton’s fans wanted to hear, plus Koeman was asked what was achievable this season: “The same as last season” was his answer.

Koeman has spent close to $200 million on new players this summer but ignored the glaring issue starring at him in the face: replacing Romelu Lukaku and his 25 goals after he left for $96.5 million.

After failing to take a glorious chance in the first half, Lukaku scored the third and celebrated in front of the Everton fans as he cupped his ear to beckon their abuse. Everton’s fans will have given him what he wanted but their insults will feel hollow in the absence of any kind of real replacement for the Belgian striker.

Lukaku also set up Henrikh Mkhitaryan‘s second goal and his overall presence is badly missed at the Toffees as they resemble a rudderless ship.

After piling all his hopes on attacking midfielders Wayne Rooney, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Davy Klaassen delivering the goals, they have two between them, via Rooney, in the opening five games of the season with their new striker Sandro Ramirez seeming out of his depth and not much expected from Croatian youngster Nikola Vlasic.

Youngster Dominic Calvert-Lewin seems like their best hope but what he adds in pace he lacks in hold-up play and nous around the box. Everton have no goalscorer to lead their line and it seems to be impacting their entire team.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

Everton’s issues aren’t just in attack as their defense has looked tired with Phil Jagielka, Ashley Williams and Leighton Baines all the wrong side of 30. Koeman’s inability to have a real playing identity despite being in charge of the Toffees for over 15 months is also worrying.

Last season they flirted with a top four finish but Lukaku’s goals against weaker opponents papered over the cracks.

Coming up they have Bournemouth, Burnley and Brighton in the Premier League and if they take all nine points in those games the poor start against esteemed opponents will be written off. If they fail to win at least two of the next three games then the pressure will be well and truly on Koeman.

How they respond to these horrendous displays, and defeats, to start to the season will define Koeman’s reign.

To top all this off, Everton’s new sleeve sponsorship deal was announced on Sunday and it somewhat sums up the current mood at Goodison.

Everyone from Koeman, to the fans and the players are quite angry. See what I did there…

The fact that Everton’s fierce Merseyside rivals are famous for their “Liver Bird” badge, well, that’s just an ironic double whammy which kicks Everton while they’re down.


STATS OF THE WEEKEND

  • Man United’s late dominance continues with the Red Devils now scoring nine of their 16 PL goals this season in the 80th minute or later in games. Leading Everton 1-0, they scored three times late on Sunday to set up another 4-0 demolition
  • Crystal Palace have set a new all-time top-flight record as they lost 1-0 against Southampton. The Eagles, who now have Roy Hodgson in charge after firing Frank De Boer after four games, have lost all five PL games to open the season and haven’t scored a goal. It’s official. Worst. Start. Ever.
  • After his treble at Watford, Man City’s Sergio Aguero has now scored six hat tricks in the Premier League (10 for Man City in all competitions) and only Alan Shearer (10), Robbie Fowler (9), Thierry Henry and Michael Owen (8) have scored more.

OFFSIDE CALLS OPEN UP VAR DEBATE

A number of Premier League goals were either scored or denied by tight offside calls this weekend.

And that, once again, throws up the question of whether or not Video Assistant Referees (VARs) should be introduced in the Premier League.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

I know, I know “why the heck are you opening up this debate again?” is probably your response, but it is a debate worth having as other leagues around Europe continue to use VAR for key decisions.

This weekend AC Milan’s Nikola Kalinic was denied a hat trick when his third goal was reviewed by VAR and disallowed in less than a minute. Yet the ugly side of VAR reared its head in Borussia Dortmund’s win against FC Cologne too. The fact that the PL appears to be sitting back and analyzing all of the issues elsewhere surrounding VAR is a good thing.

With the Confederations Cup VAR debacle fresh in our mind, it is easy to forgot its positive impacts and the truth is an offside call leading to a goal being awarded or chalked off can be decided in less than a minute.

Being offside is the most cut and dry rule in the game but remains one of the most complex.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Manchester City should have had two goals chalked off against Watford, both at critical moments, but they didn’t. Watford fans were incessant, despite a 6-0 mauling at the hands of City, that the rules were not enforced correctly.

Huddersfield Town also felt correctly aggrieved as Elias Kachunga‘s goal, which could have been the winner against Leicester City, was disallowed incorrectly for offside. With a quick video replay it would’ve been correctly allowed and Huddersfield’s German-American boss David Wagner was less than pleased with the decision.

“This was obvious and should not happen and was not difficult to see. I am disappointed because I think we deserved the second goal,” Wagner said. “We have to accept that we only have one point but we were able to get more. We accept the point even if it doesn’t feel good because we scored the second goal which unfortunately didn’t count.”

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Skhodran Mustafi’s header was correctly disallowed for offside for Arsenal at Chelsea, with the German international probably still celebrating somewhere after an unfortunate incident saw an Arsenal fan join him on the pitch to celebrate what they thought was a winner late on.

Joking aside it seems like a good time for the VAR debate to be reopened, especially with offside calls much easier to clean up than penalty decisions or red card incidents.


USMNT WATCH: YEDLIN, WILLIAMS STAKE CLAIM

With Stoke City mainstay Geoff Cameron out injured this weekend, it was down to DeAndre Yedlin and Danny Williams to step up and represent the U.S. national team in style.

[ MORE: Premier League stats

The duo did that in style as they both made their first starts of the Premier League season with Yedlin playing the full 90 in Newcastle’s 2-1 win against Stoke and Williams twice going close from midfield as he played the entirety of Huddersfield’s 1-1 draw against Leicester City.

Yedlin is a certainty to be called up by Bruce Arena for next months two key 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Trinidad and Tobago but Williams’ fate appears less clear.

Williams, 28, hasn’t been called up to the U.S. national team since May 2016 but given his impressive displays for Reading as they reached the Championship playoff final last season but lost to Huddersfield at Wembley, then his move to the Terriers where he has impressed David Wagner, surely Williams will be battling for one of the central midfield spots in the next roster.

With Michael Bradley a mainstay, the likes of Kellyn Acosta, Dax McCarty and Alejandro Bedoya are the other central midfield options but Williams provides the power, pace and energy that the U.S. missed in their qualifiers last month. For as many critics as Jermaine Jones has, his ability to get around the pitch offers some value to the USMNT midfield and Williams can provide a refined version of Jones’ industrious displays.

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

Castillo, Jackson score 2nd-half goals, Rapids tie Galaxy

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CARSON, Calif. (AP) Edgar Castillo and Niki Jackson scored eight minutes apart in the second half, and the Colorado Rapids tied the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-2 on Tuesday night.

Castillo tied it at 1 for Colorado (6-12-6) in the 74th minute after sending a loose ball in from distance. Jackson knotted it at 2 in the 82th with a deflected shot over the head of David Bingham.

Ashley Cole scored his first goal of the season for Los Angeles (10-8-7). He got a friendly bounce at the edge of the area, split two defenders to get to the corner of the 6-yard box and sent it past Tim Howard in the 59th minute. Sebastian Lletget scored in his second straight game to give Los Angeles a 2-1 lead in the 78th by bending a shot around Howard.

It was the second meeting in the last 10 days, with Colorado winning 2-1 at home.

Serie A 2018-19: Empoli, Parma, Frosinone make return

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MILAN (AP) The Italian league begins this weekend with Parma returning to the top flight only three years after being declared bankrupt.

Empoli and Frosinone are also back in Serie A.

The three promoted clubs replace Crotone, Hellas Verona and Benevento, which were relegated last season.

Spal was the only promoted team not to go back down last season.

[ MORE: Ramos takes shots at Klopp ]

Here’s a look at the new teams in Italy’s top division:

EMPOLI

Empoli, which is in the city of Florence, bounced back up to Serie A after only one season in the second division.

The Tuscan team won Serie B with four matches remaining and went on to finish 13 points ahead of second-place Parma.

Much of the credit goes to former Roma coach Aurelio Andreazzoli, who replaced Vincenzo Vivarini in December, with the team in fourth place.

It was Andreazzoli’s first managerial role since 2013 but, under the 64-year-old coach, Empoli went on a remarkable 23-match unbeaten run to the end of the season.

When it was last in Serie A, Empoli spent three seasons in the top flight before being relegated on the final day of the 2016-17 campaign after it failed to beat Palermo.

Andreazzoli has made astute signings, bringing in defenders Luca Antonelli and Matias Silvestre as well as young forward Antonino La Gumina.

Francesco Caputo was the top scorer in Serie B last season with 27 goals, six more than teammate Alfredo Donnarumma, who has since moved to Brescia.

The 31-year-old Caputo has scored only one Serie A goal, for Bari in the 2010-11 season.

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings ]

PARMA

Parma earned promotion to Serie A only three years after being declared bankrupt, becoming the first Italian club to earn three straight promotions.

Parma beat Spezia on the final day to finish second in Serie B after Frosinone conceded a late goal to draw 2-2 at home against Foggia. They finished level on points but Parma clinched second because of its head-to-head record.

Parma also became embroiled in an attempted match-fixing case after it was revealed forward Emanuele Calaio had sent text messages to Spezia defender Filippo De Col, encouraging him and another former teammate to not try too hard in the game.

Calaio insisted he was joking but Parma risked being demoted back to Serie B. It was deducted five points from the upcoming season but that was reduced to a fine on appeal.

Calaio, who was originally banned for two years, is suspended until Dec. 31.

Parma has signed a number of players, including Portugal defender Bruno Alves and Inter Milan trio Jonathan Biabiany, Federico Dimarco and Alessandro Bastoni.

It could also sign Antonio Cassano, who is looking to make a comeback after two years out of the game.

[ MORE: VAR at World Cup changed our brains ]

FROSINONE

Frosinone recovered from missing out on automatic promotion to win the playoffs and earn a second season back in Serie A.

Frosinone, which is south of Rome, advanced with a controversial 3-2 aggregate victory over Palermo. It had lost the first leg but won the return match 2-0, although players were accused of intimidating the referee, while substitutes threw balls onto the field to delay play.

Palermo complained but the Italian soccer federation ruled that the promotion was not going to be overturned. However, Frosinone will have to play its first two home games on neutral ground.

Frosinone opened its Benito Stirpe Stadium last season, more than 40 years after construction began, including 30 years of inactivity.

In its only previous campaign in Serie A, Frosinone finished 19th out of 20 clubs in 2016.

More AP Serie A coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/SerieA

VAR at the World Cup cemented its place in our soccer brains

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Feel how you will about Video Assistant Referee, but this summer’s World Cup changed how we feel when we watch club soccer.

That’s not a slight or a compliment to the tournament, which was in fact quite amazing, but rather a deep dive into that word: Feel.

V-A-R, you guys.

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings ]

While review wasn’t perfect at the World Cup in Russia — cough, Aleksandar Mitrovic versus Switzerland, cough — it cut down on red cards and was a part of the most exciting tournament in some time (perhaps ever).

And on opening weekend in the Premier League it was hard to not find yourself, for better or worse, thinking that the lack of video review played a role in some clubs earning and losing valuable points (They’re worth the same in August as they are in April, you know?).

Consider:

— Saints forward Danny Ings nearly earned a winning debut on his homecoming, only for the should-be penalty call to not arrive at St. Mary’s.

Mamadou Sakho takes down Fulham’s Andre Schurrle in the box, no PK, with Crystal Palace leading 1-0 en route to a 2-0 win over the Cottagers.

Moussa Sissoko stepping on the leg of Kenedy before halftime of Spurs’ 2-1 win at Newcastle (in front of referee Martin Atkinson for what it’s worth).

This wasn’t an unusual weekend for controversial plays at all, and certainly soccer has survived and thrived for years with plenty of human error.

But after a World Cup with an unusually low number of red cards — presumably because players knew there was an eye in the sky — and high amount of correctly awarded penalties, it’s going to take some time to get used to human error again.

That’s fine. Again, we’ve done it this way for years and can continue to do so for a long, long time. But it’s going to be interesting to see if we ever feel like the genie is back in the bottle.

Sarri relaxing rules around Chelsea to court players

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Several reports out of Arsenal have the Gunners getting accustomed to big changes in coaching style from longtime boss Arsene Wenger to new manager Unai Emery.

Wenger was viewed as a players-first, freedom-giving manager and Emery is a major step up in intensity and rigidity.

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings ]

Chelsea, it seems, is flipping that script. Whereas Jose Mourinho and then Antonio Conte were very strict, Maurizio Sarri is trying to bring the positive vibes to Stamford Bridge.

For one thing, he’s changed the unpopular rule of players staying in a hotel the night before home matches.

And then there’s the food. From The Telegraph:

Sarri has also permitted a wider choice of food in the training ground canteen and also in hotels when they are away from home to try to create a better atmosphere than that which existed in the previous ten months. Conte was very strict on nutrition, with relatively little choice for the players, and while Sarri also feels that there are gains in that area for any coach, his priority is to get the squad in the right frame of mind.

It’s one thing to start it with a positive jam, and it’s another thing to see it all through, but clearly giving players a bit of what they want isn’t a bad thing. And considering this group has already quit on a boss or two, perhaps it’s an especially good idea.