What did we learn from the Premier League?

Leave a comment

What did we learn from the six Premier League games on Saturday?

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Liverpool went top of the PL table, while big wins for Watford, Brighton and Bournemouth continued their fine form early in the season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Below is a look at the key takeaways from a day littered with fine goals and displays.


Liverpool’s offense is clicking through the gears

Here we go. Here they come. After a run of five games where they scored just three goals, Liverpool’s offense is back to its best as they beat Cardiff City 4-1 on Saturday with Mohamed Salah grabbing a goal and two assists, plus Sadio Mane and Xherdan Shaqiri were on the scoresheet. Scoring eight goals in their two games over the past four days, any talk about Liverpool’s defense being their main strength this season will surely dissipate, for now. Yes, they’ve improved drastically in defense since Virgil Van Dijk arrived in January. In fact, the goal they conceded against Cardiff was the first they’ve let in during a home league game since February. But the main concern in the early months of this season was about the attacking prowess of Mane, Salah and Roberto Firmino and if they could repeat their gaudy numbers from 2017-18.

Everything points to them being able to do just that, or at least get very close, with Salah in particular looking back to his best after a slow start to the season. With Shaqiri in the mix and Daniel Sturridge now fit, Liverpool’s attack has a fresh look to it and there will be more options for rotation as the season continues. With 26 points from a possible 30 so far, things have started very well for Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp. The Reds are looking good in the UEFA Champions League once again and seem set to push Manchester City all the way. If they’re going to win one of those big competitions this season, they need Mane, Salah and Firmino on form more than they need a vastly improved defense.


Southampton drifting into another relegation scrap

Mark Hughes and Southampton are in a bad place right now. Saints have won just one of their opening 10 games this season despite not having a particularly tough schedule, and the 0-0 draw with Newcastle at home on Saturday marked the fifth-straight game where they have failed to score. With just one win at home in their last 16 PL games, the warning signs have been there for a while and the regression has been steady and true ever since Ronald Koeman left in the summer of 2016. Saints seem to be sleepwalking into a perilous situation for the second season on the trot.

With reports linking former AS Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim with Saints, it appears Hughes may already be running out of time and the good faith (and long-term contract) he received for keeping them in the PL at the end of last season has already evaporated. The fact Southampton stuck with Mauricio Pellegrino for 30 games last season before bringing in Hughes may also work against the current manager, as it is unlikely Les Reed and Ralph Krueger will wait that long this season to try and address a worrying trend. Southampton were for so long the model club as managers and players only left when they were sought after by huge clubs paying big cash. Now, Saints are stuck with a squad of players who are woefully underperforming and a manager who has resorted to making them hard to beat without solving their attacking issues.

Saints play Man City, Man United, Watford, Fulham and Tottenham in their next five games and anything other than six points from that haul will see them dragged into a severe relegation battle for the second-straight season. With the players they have, that just isn’t good enough. Negativity is rife at St Mary’s and the fact Saints have won just once at home in the last 12 months tells the whole story. Confidence is low and the goals aren’t flowing and there is only so much a manager can do in that situation. Saints are symptomatic of a team who have drifted due to managerial changes and new players not adding the quality they need.


Fulham’s defensive frailties too severe for Slavisa to sort out

Every time Fulham walk out onto the pitch it seems like they’re going to concede at least three goals. In truth, the stats say it’s just a little under that. 2.8. My apologies… Despite conceding 28 goals in their opening 10 games of the season, Slavisa Jokanovic is sticking with his philosophy and is asking his players to push up the pitch and try to pass around their opponents. Bournemouth did that much better than Fulham on Saturday, as the Cherries won 3-0 at Craven Cottage and ruthlessly exposed the Cottagers’ deficiencies.

Will Jokanovic be given the chance to turn things around in west London? He seems unlikely to change his tactics and despite Fulham’s American owner Shahid Khan giving his Serbian coach the dreaded vote of confidence earlier this week, time is not on Jokanovic’s side. Unless he changes his entire coaching philosophy, Fulham aren’t going to stay in the PL this season. They create chances galore but they’re so wasteful in attack and describing their defending as haphazard is incredibly kind.

“We made good work and tried to stop conceding so many, we weren’t very successful today but the players are fighting well. We have enough quality to score but we can’t find a way to find a clean sheet. The Premier League is tough not just for us but for many clubs. We are making expensive mistakes,” Jokanovic told the BBC. “I am not thinking about my future. I will be ready for the next challenge. I am living my present and that is today a very hard defeat. I must be brave and keep going and encourage my team.”

So, he will not change his style of play. And that style is a mishmash of being too cautious and throwing caution to the wind, while also changing goalkeepers and defenders on a weekly basis.

Bedding in so many new players was always going to be tough (Fulham brought in 12 players and spent over $130 million after gaining promotion) and quite simply this squad isn’t built to defend in a 4-5-1 formation and scrap for 1-0 wins. And therein lies the problem. Do you stick with Jokanovic at least until January when you can bring in some new players? Or do you cut him loose now and bring in a more solid, stable coach to try and give the team some much needed balance? Fulham haven’t been terrible in most of their games this season but they haven’t been ruthless enough in either box and that is what will end up costing Jokanovic his job.


Watford, Bournemouth will battle for Europe due to attacking talents

Each racking up 3-0 wins on Saturday, Watford and Bournemouth have a clinical edge to thank for their fine starts to the campaign. Promoted together in 2014, these two teams are similar in many ways and have had clear plans for progression in place. The main difference is that the Hornets have had four managers in four years but had a clear recruitment policy in place, while Bournemouth stuck with Eddie Howe throughout and he has added quality youngsters in key positions. The different ways they’ve built these teams is to be admired and both have reliable defensive units but going forward is where they’ve made the biggest improvements. Watford’s attack is about power and pace. Bournemouth is about passing and pressing. The difference for both of these teams this season after they meandered around in midtable in 2017-18 is one thing: finishing.

They both conceded big chances on Saturday as they’re always adventurous in attack, but both were clinical when they got chances themselves and punished their opponents. Roberto Pereyra, Issac Success and Gerard Deulofeu scored for Watford and Bournemouth’s goals came from Callum Wilson (two) and David Brooks with Ryan Fraser playing a pivotal role. With Troy Deeney and Josh King not available, they also have options in reserve and the pace, trickery and sheer hunger their forwards are showing are the reason they’re snapping at the heels of the top four. They have squads to sustain their top eight push and like Burnley did last season, these two teams seem focused on battling for seventh place along with Everton and Wolves. European qualification for either Watford or Bournemouth would be a huge reward for having a clear plan in place.

Saudis, Bahrain, UAE join to bid for FIFA’s U-20 World Cup

Getty Images
Leave a comment

GENEVA (AP) Middle East neighbors Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are jointly bidding to host the Under-20 World Cup in 2021.

FIFA says the Gulf plan is among five to express interest in bidding, including Brazil.

Indonesia, Peru and a Myanmar-Thailand joint bid are the others.

FIFA announced the contenders Thursday, one day after dropping a proposal for Qatar to share hosting duties for the 2022 World Cup with regional neighbors.

The 2021 U20 contenders must submit a formal bid by Aug. 30. FIFA’s ruling Council will pick the winner, likely in October.

The 2019 edition kicks off Thursday in Poland.

Putin awards medal to FIFA president Infantino

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MOSCOW (AP) Vladimir Putin has given FIFA president Gianni Infantino a medal.

The Russian president awarded Infantino the Order of Friendship at the Kremlin on Thursday.

Infantino has often said last year’s World Cup in Russia, where the host nation surprisingly reached the quarterfinals, was the best of the 21 editions of the tournament.

Putin thanked the FIFA leader for “your glowing assessment of our efforts.”

Infantino says of Russia’s “bonds of friendship” with soccer “is not the end, it is only the beginning of our fruitful cooperation and interaction.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Why Derby deserve Premier League promotion

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With the Championship playoff final at Wembley Stadium on May 27, the richest game in soccer will see one of Aston Villa or Derby County promoted to the Premier League.

[ MORE: Latest Championship news ]

Which club deserves a spot in the English top-flight, and the estimated minimum $120 million it will generate, more?

You can use metrics such as fanbase, stadiums, players, historical success and quality of coaches to try and sort this out, but the fact of the matter is, the playoffs are always a complete, and utterly brilliant, lottery.

The path Villa and Derby took to get to the final this season proves that.

We’ve already focused on why Villa deserve to return to the PL after a three-year absence, so now it is time to see why Derby should return after an 11-year absence…


The Rams are on a roll and Frank Lampard, in his first season as a manager, has led Derby to Wembley to play Aston Villa with the latter the favorites to win.

Like Villa, we are talking about a team which has some magical moments in its history. Derby were Champions of England under Brian Clough twice in the 1970s but since then success has been hard to come by. A five-season spell in the Premier League from 1996-2002 was followed by a miserable season in 2007-08 (the worst in PL history) and the Rams haven’t been back to the top-flight since.

Owner Mel Morris, a local businessman who is behind gaming apps such as Candy Crush, has led their crusade back towards the PL in recent seasons but Derby have come up short in the playoffs time and time again, with the Rams failing in the playoffs in three of their previous five campaigns.

Heading into the final weeks of this season Derby were in the chasing pack after a poor second half of the campaign. For most of the season it seemed like Frank Lampard’s youngsters were nailed on for a top six finish, but then they wobbled and it seemed like they may miss out on the playoffs altogether.

But a run of four wins in their last six to finish the season gave them extra momentum heading into the playoffs.

Then came that incredible night at Leeds.

1-0 down from the first leg, then 1-0 down on the night in the second leg, Derby had a mountain to climb with a 2-0 aggregate deficit at Elland Road as Leeds’ fans started the party… Then Derby scored three unanswered goals in a wild 13-minute spell to turn the game on its head before Jack Marriott added his second and Derby’s fourth of the game late on to stun Leeds and send them to Wembley.

With the backdrop of the spygate scandal — which saw Leeds and Bielsa punished earlier in the season for spying on Derby’s training sessions — and the fact Leeds were heavy favorites to get past Derby, this was a sweet moment for Lampard and his adoring squad and fans.

Derby don’t have a lot of cash to work with. They have relied this season on Lampard’s contacts as some of the best young talents at the Premier League level (Mason Mount and Harry Wilson) wanted to learn from him and that is why they arrived at Pride Park on loan. Lampard has translated his knowledge as a player who had an amazing career to several of his Derby players, and it is exciting to think what he can go on to do.

This Derby squad is made up of youngsters from the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool and veterans like Richard Keogh, Ashley Cole and Bradley Johnson who are desperate for one last chance to play in the Premier League.

Lampard has galvanized the entire club and the Chelsea legend regularly bounces in celebration with the Derby fans after games. Runs in both the FA Cup and League Cup saw them beat Manchester United and Southampton on penalty kicks, while they also pushed Chelsea close to show they are capable of competing with PL clubs regularly.

Derby are full of guts and their young stars Wilson and Mount have the ability to win games with one swipe of their foot.

Lampard is a loveable character and if Derby do beat Villa to clinch promotion, he can work his magic to secure some big names signings and they will be an intriguing squad who, like Villa, will play open, expansive soccer. If Derby don’t get promoted then Lampard is already being lined up for Premier League jobs, even at the club where he became a legend, Chelsea. If the Rams do go up we will get to see Lampard and this exciting attacking side put on a show.

That is why Derby deserve promotion to the Premier League.

Real Betis beat DC, as US U17 star scores (video)

Leave a comment

Remember the name: Griffin Yow.

It shouldn’t be too hard, as the Clifton, Virginia native has a pretty cool name, and it seems like a new star could have well been born at Audi Field on Wednesday.

16-year-old D.C. United forward Griffin Yow scored in their 5-2 friendly defeat to La Liga side Real Betis, as the U.S. national team U-17 star continued his speedy rise at DCU.

His goal came just after half time and halved Betis’ lead after first half goals from Loren and Sergio Leon put the Spanish side in a commanding position.

After Yow’s goal made it 2-1, legendary winger Joaquin made it 3-2 before Quincy Amarikwa made it 3-2 as late goal from Marc Bartra and Robert put some gloss on the scoreline for the visitors.

As for Yow, he made his MLS debut as a late sub in April against New York City FC after some impressive displays for their USL affiliate, Loudoun United FC.

After coming on as a sub in the 32nd minute in this game, Yow certainly made an impact.

He has scored six goals in 11 appearances for the U.S. under 17 side, and it seems like we will be hearing a lot about this guy in the years to come.