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Monday Musings

Liverpool's win over Man United wasn't a surprise, but their dominance was

Mon, 17 Dec 2018 08:49:00 GMT

What stands out about Liverpool's win over Manchester United isn't that it happened -- they were at home, and there's a reason the sides were separated by 16 points at kickoff -- it's the way it occurred. To put on a display of this intensity just a few days after a massive Champions League clash isn't to be taken lightly. It's not just a physical thing -- it's mental as well. Great teams can win multiple games in a row against big opponents; doing it while also turning in top-notch performances...

Luciano Spalletti carries the can for Inter's Champions League implosion

Wed, 12 Dec 2018 05:12:00 GMT

Gabriele Marcotti breaks down how a distracted Inter side failed to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League. Given Inter's draw with PSV and Barcelona having nothing to play for, Craig Burley says everything lined up for Tottenham to reach the UCL last 16. When things go wrong for managers, especially when the margins are tight, they usually reach into the same grab bag of explanations and excuses. Either the match officials made a mistake or they were "unlucky" -- the "on another day" argument -- or they were lacking something, meaning they panicked, showed a lack of concentration or the classic "opponent wanted it more." Watch enough football for enough years and you come to understand that, in fact, a lot of what happens is down to randomness....

Chelsea's win over Man City says a lot about Sarri. PLUS: Sterling stands up, River claim Copa Lib

Mon, 10 Dec 2018 07:33:00 GMT

Manchester City's first league defeat of the campaign probably says more about their opponents, Chelsea, than it does Guardiola's crew. Without Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and Benjamin Mendy, they marched into Stamford Bridge and dominated the first half, only to be punished by Eden Hazard's quick thinking, N'Golo Kante's finish and Leroy Sane's brief daydream. The goal allowed Chelsea to tighten up further and play on the counter even more; they added a second through a David Luiz header later...

Late goals, controversial calls and bad blood: Why you should watch Juventus vs. Inter

Thu, 6 Dec 2018 01:51:00 GMT

Juventus have won seven straight Serie A titles and appear well-placed for an eighth, but on Friday they welcome rivals Inter Milan to town for what promises to be an intense battle. Inter are back on the right track after years of midtable difficulties and are currently third. The Derby d'Italia is one of Italy's biggest rivalries and Gab Marcotti explains why you should enjoy Friday's edition (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2). 1. These two clubs are Italy's Hatfields and McCoys Juventus are the...

Zlatan Ibrahimovic rumours of Milan reunion won't go away. Why? And would it make sense for Milan?

Wed, 5 Dec 2018 09:46:00 GMT

I get it. Lions don't compare themselves with humans: it says so in his Twitter bio. But lions still need to be fed and paid for, and, crucially, they take up space. The prospect of Zlatan Ibrahimovic returning to Milan has been hailed as both "romantic" and "outside-the-box" thinking. It would obviously be the former, with His Zlatan-ness returning to the city where he spent more years than any other during his professional life, six-and-a-half seasons before his switch to Paris Saint-Germain. It's...

Arsenal, Unai Emery show their progress in beating Spurs. PLUS: Mourinho makes himself the story

Mon, 3 Dec 2018 07:44:00 GMT

If the way to measure a team's progress is their resilience when things go against them, their ability to perform in situations that carry additional weight and their ability to shape-shift into something more effective, then Unai Emery's Arsenal are definitely on an upward arc. They found themselves 2-1 down at half-time in the North London derby despite arguably playing better than Spurs and conceding on a goalkeeping error and a hugely dubious penalty. (Heung Min Son may have been touched;...

Football hot spots: Where are players produced in the countries of Europe's biggest leagues?

Thu, 29 Nov 2018 08:02:00 GMT

Where does talent come from? Are clubs looking in the right places to find it? We took a stab at this huge topic by limiting our search to the countries of Europe's big five -- Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A, La Liga and Ligue 1 -- and using a software tool that pulled in data. After that, we asked our country experts to tell us what the findings meant. While by no means comprehensive or conclusive, there were a few surprises. For example, while usual suspects London and Paris are strong, they cannot compete with the Basque Country and Navarra. And what...

Where do footballers come from? A look at Europe's most productive areas

Thu, 29 Nov 2018 07:48:00 GMT

Why are some areas considered hotbeds of talent when it comes to producing players? And where are they? We looked across Europe to see which were the most -- and least -- productive regions in terms of producing professional players. Q: How did you do that? A: First, to give us a base from which to work, we plotted the birthplace of every footballer from 18 European leagues. The data are based on the second half of the 2017-18 season, i.e. once the January transfer window closed. We knew this approach would not be perfect, as not everyone grows up and learns his football in the place he was...

Jose Mourinho's latest history lesson confirms that his Man United side have no future

Wed, 28 Nov 2018 06:17:00 GMT

The stock excuse given for Jose Mourinho's behaviour back when he was actually living up to his price tag -- not just economic, mind you, but mentally and emotionally, because this is one draining guy -- was that he was a human lightning rod. Fans and media focused on him and his players could get on with it. It's one quality that hasn't abandoned him and it was present in spades at Old Trafford on Tuesday night. After making such a big deal of how he wanted to beat Young Boys and seal qualification...

Copa Libertadores blame game; Spurs surge past Chelsea; Man Utd, Madrid, Bayern woe

Mon, 26 Nov 2018 08:10:00 GMT

When CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez compared the Copa Libertadores final to its UEFA Champions League equivalent, referring to the former as "real football" and the latter as "Playstation" football, part of me wanted him to be correct. Don't get me wrong, I love the Champions League. But football needs an alternative to the sanitized, corporate, often rootless feel of the high-end European game, where outcomes are often decided by whose suits are best at chasing global revenue. Moreover,...

UEFA, ECA presidents squash Super League rumours; discuss VAR, Football Leaks

Tue, 20 Nov 2018 02:32:00 GMT

ESPN FC's Gab Marcotti breaks down the new agreement that guarantees a Super League won't be possible until at least 2024. As UEFA considers implementing VAR for the UCL knockout rounds, the FC crew debate whether replay should be added in the middle of a competition. BRUSSELS, BELGIUM -- UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin and European Clubs Association (ECA) President Andrea Agnelli appeared in a joint news conference on Tuesday to say they had signed a letter of intent to extend the memorandum of understanding -- the agreement that governs the relationship between clubs and governing bodies -- through 2024. In a freewheeling, hour-long conversation with journalists, they touched upon a range of issues from Financial Fair Play to the international match calendar...

England's positive vibes pay dividends, Belgium blow big lead, Dutch delight, more

Mon, 19 Nov 2018 07:22:00 GMT

When it comes to England and semifinals, it's a bit like the old London buses cliche: You wait 20 years for one and then two come along at once. OK, so the joke is beyond corny, and yes, a UEFA Nations League semifinal is a wholly different animal. However, there is no denying that the England team are buzzing in a way we have not seen in a long time. There are plenty of holes you can pick in the 2-1 win over Croatia, which opened the doors of the final four to Gareth Southgate's crew. Until Harry...

Man United's late collapse the talking point vs. Man City. PLUS: Dortmund expose Bayern

Mon, 12 Nov 2018 07:14:00 GMT

It was by no means remarkable or unexpected that Manchester City should dominate the derby against United. The gulf in class is evident, and as Paul Scholes pointed out afterwards, his United side never faced a City team that was this good. Still, the fact that nine of United's starting XI predate Jose Mourinho at the club is an eyebrow-raiser and further confirmation of how much water has been treaded at Old Trafford. (The two who weren't, Victor Lindelof and Nemanja Matic, aren't much to write...

Real Madrid's players must get club back on track. PLUS: Man United's midfield woe

Mon, 5 Nov 2018 07:29:00 GMT

Just about everybody who sticks around long enough at some point gets booed at the Bernabeu. Well, maybe Alfredo Di Stefano never got booed by his home support, but then, he's Di Stefano. So the fact that the likes of Gareth Bale and Sergio Ramos got a barracking from their own fans during the 2-0 win over Valladolid isn't surprising, particularly when you consider that until seven minutes from time, it was scoreless, and the visitors had hit the woodwork twice. It's not a function of Real Madrid...

No smoking gun in latest Football Leaks controversy

Sun, 4 Nov 2018 11:14:00 GMT

As plans for a European super league start to emerge, the FC crew discuss how it would work and how it would impact European and global football ESPN FC's Julien Laurens talks Financial Fair Play and the reported negotiations to keep PSG and Man City in the UEFA Champions League. Gab Marcotti delves into ESPN FC's top 50 most influential people in football, pinpointing No. 16's "John" from Football Leaks. On Friday, a consortium of media organisations led by the German magazine Der Spiegel released a number of stories based on another installment of the so-called Football Leaks data set. This batch includes details of a plan by seven of Europe's biggest clubs -- Manchester United, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Barcelona, Juventus, Bayern Munich and Milan -- to break away from UEFA and FIFA and set up an independent super league. It also details the role of Gianni Infantino (then UEFA secretary general, now...

Santiago Solari has about 3 weeks to fix Real Madrid, or it's goodbye Solari and hello ... Conte or Wenger?

Wed, 31 Oct 2018 06:34:00 GMT

It's time to look forward. A whole two weeks forward, in fact, because that is how long Santiago Solari, who was appointed interim coach of Real Madrid on Tuesday, can hold the title of interim boss according to Spanish Football Association rules. Let's be more precise. It's actually three-and-a-half weeks since there's an international break coming and Real Madrid's next game won't be until Nov. 24, away to Eibar. That's 25 days to either appoint Solari on a permanent basis or find someone else. Those...

Lopetegui's fate at Real Madrid was likely sealed before heavy Clasico defeat

Mon, 29 Oct 2018 10:19:00 GMT

By the time you read this, Julen Lopetegui has been fired as manager of Real Madrid, and the joke will be that he and Florentino Perez managed to screw up both Spain's World Cup and the first half of Real Madrid's campaign, all in less than five months. It's cruel, sure. But also in some ways, it's apt given the clunky way in which his appointment was announced and the way the past few months have unfolded. There's a basic axiom that every club ought to follow but often doesn't, because clubs...

No Messi, no Ronaldo: No problem, as the Clasico is ready for a new hero

Thu, 25 Oct 2018 09:00:00 GMT

The last time we witnessed a Clasico without both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the world was a different place. Donald Trump was about to host the first season of "Celebrity Apprentice," which featured Nadia Comaneci, Lennox Lewis and Gene Simmons, Tesla had yet to sell a single car, and Netflix was primarily a business that posted something called DVDs via something called "snail mail." When it comes to world football, Barcelona and Real Madrid have defined the last decade on and off...

Football at war with itself: Why the upcoming FIFA council could change the game forever

Thu, 25 Oct 2018 07:38:00 GMT

Infantino and Ceferin are seemingly at loggerheads regarding their relationship and the fall-out in Friday's meeting could change soccer forever. The FIFA Council, the 37-member board at the head of football's governing body, meets Friday in Kigali, Rwanda. Among the items on the agenda are a revamped Club World Cup and turning the Nations League into a global, FIFA-led event. But relationships between some of the game's stakeholders are close to a breaking point, with a number of members ready to walk out, potentially threatening the world order of football. We could even end up with annual rival summer tournaments for the world's biggest...

Barcelona have the quality to win without Messi. PLUS: Mourinho becomes the story again

Mon, 22 Oct 2018 08:37:00 GMT

Barcelona have lost their safety blanket, the ace in the hole that sees you through tough times, the guy whose technical ability, creativity and decision-making can make the best-laid tactical schemes redundant. That's what Lionel Messi brings to the table and the broken arm he suffered early in the Sevilla game means Ernesto Valverde will be without his services for a good three weeks. In that time, they'll play matches that matter: Inter home (and possibly away) in the Champions League, Rayo...

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