3 things

Three things learned: Liverpool v. Arsenal

2 Comments

The CliffsNotes of Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat of Arsenal says one team was much better than the other, who didn’t choose its lineup well and couldn’t take advantage of a defense that doesn’t look ready to match wits with the best in the world.

[ MORE: Match recap | Stars and duds ]

Mohamed Salah was amazing, Unai Emery was uninspiring, and Arsenal’s attack joined Norwich City and Southampton in howling, “What if?” in a fun match that never really threatened to go in any direction other than that of the reigning European champions.

Take your few chances versus Liverpool, or die

Over the last two months, Liverpool may have allowed more dynamite scoring chances than they did over the second half of the 2018-19 season.

If you don’t cash in those chips against them, you might as well call it a day.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang couldn’t convert a difficult angle into the goal after Adrian made a massive first half gaffe, and Nicolas Pepe missed a chance to put the Gunners on the board when Adrian saved his low effort off a Jordan Henderson giveaway

Aubameyang took too long to shoot when another giveaway put him through on goal, and Matip caught up to the Gabon star. Still, a prime chance.

We’ve seen time and again this early season that Liverpool opens up at the back, but Arsenal’s stars did like Danny Ings in Week Two and pretty much all of Norwich City’s attack on Opening Day, and got the same result as their PL peers.

Now, perhaps if Unai Emery had started Alexandre Lacazette, too, well… let’s just say Jurgen Klopp was pretty thankful to not have that problem.

That said, Liverpool still foiled in bid for long-sought clean sheet

Preseason is preseason, but the Reds usually imperious defense had dragged its sloppy form from summer into the Premier League.

Liverpool kept a clean sheet in its preseason opener against Tranmere Rovers, and went on to concede 12 in the next six friendlies. Norwich City and Southampton both managed a goal in the Reds’ first two PL outings, but there were plenty of misses (See Danny Ings’ attempted flick equalizer in Week Two).

Throw in 1-1 and 2-2 score lines in the Community Shield and UEFA Super Cup matches, and Liverpool hadn’t kept a clean sheet in 10 outings.

Now we’ve documented how this was still not a luxurious example of the Reds’ defending prowess but, given Arsenal’s attack, a clean sheet would have still loomed larger than any of their other performances this season. Instead, Torreira’s goal a mild red flag as Liverpool’s failure to hang a ‘0’ on the board for the 11th-straight occasion.

Instead, the questions rightly remain. What will happen when the attack isn’t so prolific?

Mo’ Mo, please

When you’ve got a magnificent team like Liverpool, there’s a temptation to magnify ancillary pieces or second stars over the best attacker on the team.

Please don’t make that mistake, Reds fans.

Mohamed Salah is one of the best players in the world, and he’s a touch above any one on the attacking unit in terms of importance. Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane are splendid players who would be the best on any number of teams, but Salah they are not.

He’s stronger than he looks, and will plant his legs into the pitch to hold position. He’s legs whir like the roadrunner, and he’s so clever both will and without the ball. To boot, Salah hasn’t yet had to embellish to win a penalty yet this season, literally the only knock against him (and also an asset for his team, whether you like it or not).

Now whether Salah or Virgil Van Dijk is more important to the team, well, that’s a great debate for your next time watching with friends.

Three things from USMNT’s win v. Guyana

AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King
3 Comments

Injuries, early inefficiency, and a newcomer making a statement were the biggest talking points of the United States men’s national team’s first match of the 2019 Gold Cup.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

Christian Pulisic was back, but not on the score sheet, and was able to be rested over the final half hour or so, and the USMNT scored its 1000th goal in program history.

[ MORE: Player ratings ]

Beyond that, here’s what we’re thinking after the 4-0 win.

Ouch, ouch, stop that, ouch: Injury worries

Weston McKennie started slow but eventually played a series of sensational passes en route to an assist on the night.

His industry moving forward and backward were remarkable on the night, but Schalke’s Swiss army knife had to leave the match with a leg injury with a quarter hour to play.

That’s a problem for a side which also saw Tyler Boyd pull up following his bid for a hat trick and is also without Tyler Adams, Sebastian Lletget, and Duane Holmes in the midfield alone.

John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin are also missing from a U.S. side hoping to make a serious bid for another final at the Gold Cup.

Berhalter said the injury that cost McKennie the final 16 minutes was a cramp. Let’s hope so.

Tyler Boyd shoots his shot

No, he’s not the Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver.

Yes, he’s inspiring a bit of hope for the American Outlaws.

The New Zealand-born 24-year-old likes to shoot, and boy did he in bagging a brace on Wednesday.

Capped five times by New Zealand but now cap-tied to the USMNT by participating in this match, Boyd scored twice and could’ve probably scored two or three more on the day.

The son of an Kiwi father and American mother, Boyd delivered the goods in front of both of them in Minnesota.

“It’s for my family,” Boyd said on Fox after the game. “I’m really proud to be able to represent this country. To do it on this stage is an honor and a blessing. Just a dream come true. It’s been years and years and years of work. It’s been my dream since (I was) a kid. I don’t have the words to describe it.”

Boyd was injured — more on that later — but it looked like it could’ve been minor. His creativity and desire for the ball will be needed moving forward, as he was a fine complement to Paul Arriola in industry and desire.

It still wasn’t good enough

Do not forget that Guyana is the 177th ranked team in the FIFA rankings  — a lofty 166th in EloRatings — and the Yanks simply didn’t have the quality or understanding to pile up the goals.

The Guyanese held the U.S. in check for the first half hour before Weston McKennie and Paul Arriola teamed up for a classy goal, and Bradley’s link up with Tyler Boyd for the second was even better.

But Zardes’ goal was a blocked shot that unknowingly pinged off his pace to the point that the American striker appeared dazed for the duration of the celebration. And Boyd’s good-looking second goal took a turn off a Guyanese defender on the way into the net.

As it stands, this looks like a team that wouldn’t beat Panama and might struggle against anyone should Pulisic go down (and especially if McKennie stays down).

Three things we learned from Spurs defeat of Man City

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
1 Comment

It was always going to be a challenge for Pep Guardiola to outfox and Manchester City to outplay Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham Hotspur three times in just under two weeks.

After Tuesday’s first event, the opening leg of the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal between the Premier League sides, Man City can only be thankful for one thing: That the stinker came first.

[ MORE: Match recap | Kane hurt ]

That’s one of the three things we pulled from Tuesday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Guardiola asleep at the wheel

Starting Riyad Mahrez over Leroy Sane and leaving Kevin De Bruyne on the bench for Ilkay Gundogan was probably designed to make Man City a bit safer, but instead left the side stale.

Even if you approve of the moves, Guardiola stubbornly refused to announce the failure of either — especially stunning given the poor night for Mahrez — by neither introducing KDB nor Sane until putting them both into the fray in the 89th minute.

On a lesser but deadly note, Guardiola had few options at left back due to injuries but Fabian Delph was carved up by Christian Eriksen and Heung-Min Son on the goal.

Now City may need to blank Spurs in the second leg to advance, and if they concede early in the second leg they will need to score at least three goals to advance. Pep is playing a precarious game.

Sissoko terrific on patrol

City had little going for it all night, and Guardiola’s lineup choices betrayed him almost as much as his hesitancy to substitute early in the 1-0 loss to Spurs.

Moussa Sissoko was again a monster for Tottenham Hotspur. The question for the former Newcastle United man may have always been about his desire to perform on a consistent basis, but he’s long been a man for the bright lights.

And Pochettino has gotten the best out of the French midfielder in recent weeks, the big man a force against a Man City midfield expected to thrive in possession.

Narrator voice: It didn’t.

Lloris keeps his head

Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris had a long time to mull on the idea of stopping a penalty, with Video Assistant Referee taking its sweet time to decide whether Danny Rose handled a ball inside the 18.

So did Sergio Aguero, and the Man City man didn’t get the most of his attempt from the spot but better marks go to the French goalkeeper.

Questioned at times this year, Lloris went in the right direction to stymy one of the Premier League’s greatest all-time scorers and he feels the incident gave his side a big boost even if he didn’t personally see the offense.

“I didn’t see it,” Lloris said. “It is part of the game. We have to accept that. We stayed in the game and it gave us even more energy.”

Bonus notes

Fernandinho is fortunate he didn’t throw the whole leg in the garbage with his three-times silly challenge on Harry Kane early which involved two elbows and a push to the back of the head.

— That pass from Eriksen that led to Son’s goal. Wow.

— The wait for the new stadium was worth it; Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was noticeably loud and exploded after the goal.

Three things from USMNT’s 1-1 draw with Peru

AP Photo/Jessica Hill
1 Comment

The USMNT led Peru 1-0 late before a back post marking error allowed the World Cup participants to level the score line in Connecticut.

[ MORE: Recap | Player ratings ]

But that’s not what resounds from Tuesday’s match, as we once against confirmed that the U.S. is producing some fine young attackers.

Teenage trio grows into game, puts U.S. ahead

These friendlies provide good chances for players to express themselves individually, and there’s reason to be excited by three young Americans attackers.

Yes, there were plenty of sloppy moments for Josh Sargent (18) and Jonathan Amon (19), but those came early and both European-based players seemed to relax as the match wore into the second half.

Sargent in particular showed flair with one-touch flicks and dynamite touch passes even before he scored his opener. Amon misplaced a looping outside of the foot pass in the first half, but swept a ball over the top of the defense to cue up Sargent in the second half.

And while Tim Weah misfired on that chance, the Paris Saint-Germain man is as exciting as any American teenager on the scene.

Moving forward, it’s all about the attack (and that is exciting)

This isn’t to say that Weston McKennie, Matt Miazga, Tyler Adams, and a few other intriguing young players can’t buoy the hopes of the U.S. heading into the Gold Cup and then World Cup qualifying, but what’s so exciting about this team is a new wealth of attacking options (most of it now growing overseas).

Sargent, Weah, and Amon are 19 or younger. Christian Pulisic is the most important national team talent in a generation, and just turned 20. That’s the same age as Weston McKennie, whose played everywhere from CDM to CB to CAM at his club.

All are playing for clubs whose senior teams are competing for places in Europe. Sargent has yet to play for Werder Bremen’s senior team and Weah sparingly for PSG, but the other three are key pieces for Borussia Dortmund, Schalke, and Nordsjælland.

That’s why it’s key the new U.S. coach knows how to push down on the gas pedal.

Let’s hear it for the long-term caretaker

Sarachan (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Dave Sarachan may’ve just coached the final match of his long-term interim run as USMNT boss, and the Rochester-born 64-year-old deserves a lot of credit for Tuesday’s performance.

While his late substitution of DeAndre Yedlin for a thriving Reggie Cannon led to Peru’s equalizer, no one should blame him for thinking an every week Premier League starter would be able to mark a back post.

Sarachan drew up a short free kick from Kellyn Acosta that led to a Josh Sargent goal, and coaxed a strong performance from first time center back mates Cameron Carter-Vickers and Aaron Long.

The longtime assistant’s record as USMNT boss sits at 3-3-3 despite a very tricky schedule. He’s earned draws against three World Cup nations: Portugal, France, and Peru. He also has the distinction of being 1-0 against Mexico, never a bad thing.

In another climate, Sarachan would have earned something close to a full-time gig. And Bruce Arena’s assistant will surely be involved with the USMNT program in some capacity. But coming off a World Cup qualifying failure, it was always going to be time for fresh blood.

3 Things We Learned from Chelsea 1-1 Liverpool

Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Chelsea nearly topped Liverpool at Stamford Bridge, handing the Reds their first loss of the season and first Premier League loss since…Chelsea beat them at Stamford Bridge on May 6 of last season. Then Daniel Sturridge happened.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 1-1 Liverpool ]

It wasn’t to be for the Blues, as the substitute’s stunning curler brought Liverpool level and saved a point for the Reds.

There was plenty to take from the game, with Mohamed Salah misfiring, Eden Hazard scoring, Kepa Arrizabalaga and Alisson both saving, and Daniel Sturridge celebrating. What were the biggest takeaways from the 90 minutes in London?

Mo Salah was last season’s star, but so far this campaign it’s Eden Hazard

Mohamed Salah is a fantastic player, and was spectacular last season, unbeatable at times. However, to this point in the season and in this match, he was out-dueled by his Belgian opponent Hazard. The Chelsea playmaker was impossible to guard, leaving defenders in his dust constantly.

His off-ball movement is top class, putting not only himself but his teammates in the best position to succeed. At the moment, there’s nobody better and in better form in the Premier League than Hazard.

Liverpool’s full-backs are promising young players that still have lots to learn

NBC commentator Lee Dixon, a former Arsenal full-back, was all over Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson in the first half for their defensive positioning, and he was spot-on. Dixon criticized Robertson first for allowing Willian to get by him for Chelsea’s first big chance that saw Alisson smother the shot, and subsequently faulted Alexander-Arnold on Liverpool’s right for slipping too high up the pitch before Eden Hazard broke.

There’s no doubting the fact that both players are top class and have bright futures ahead of them, but as Dixon said during the broadcast, they still need to be reminded that their attacking responsibilities are secondary to the defensive positioning. He mentioned that getting beat either over your head or to the inside is unacceptable, and that happened to both Liverpool full-backs.

Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool is always good for a sensational moment

No matter the game, no matter how much time left, no matter who the opponent, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool was built for the special moment. His team is molded to perform for a full 90 minutes in a system that would exhaust most teams would by the hour mark. Somehow, some way, he wills his players to perform week in week out, and no moment is too big.

Daniel Sturridge coming off the bench and scoring that outstanding goal is a massive moment in the Premier League title race, and it certainly won’t be the last from Liverpool. They may win the title and they may not, but they will always be in the running. Never count out the Reds this season.