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Monday Musings

Jurgen Klopp needs to rule with his head and focus on the Premier League, not Bayern

Mon, 18 Feb 2019 06:44:00 GMT

The trick is getting head and heart to coexist in the right proportion, at the right time, and a great manager knows when to turn the dial toward the "heart" end. It's how Liverpool came back from 3-0 down in a Champions League final, remember? You loosen the reins, go for it and believe in the improbable. To paraphrase "Risky Business," it gives you freedom, freedom brings opportunity, opportunity makes your future... But there are times when you need it turned back toward the "head" end....

Beyond Mbappe, Rashford and Icardi, are we heading for a generation without elite center-forwards?

Thu, 14 Feb 2019 12:36:00 GMT

Where is the next generation of center-forwards going to come from? You may notice it in the Champions League knockout rounds. Of the 16 teams left, how many have a proper, first-choice central striker under the age of 25? I know definitions may vary, but bear with me. If you want to include Marcus Rashford and Kylian Mbappe, who are 21 and 20, respectively, and both played center-forward for their respective teams on Tuesday night, go ahead. But bear in mind that Mbappe is a freak of nature...

Why Ramsey's a big risk -- or even reckless -- for Juventus at £250,000 or £400,000 a week

Tue, 12 Feb 2019 11:27:00 GMT

On Monday, Juventus officially confirmed the signing of Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey as a free agent from July 1, 2019. Ramsey issued his own, understandably emotional, statement via Twitter. (Arsenal were somewhat less effusive.) Everybody knew it was coming, but what most did not expect was the number reported by the BBC on Monday evening. They put out that Ramsey would be making £400,000 a week in basic wages, which is roughly £20.8 million a season, or $26.8m. If that number was accurate,...

Has Neymar fulfilled his potential as heir apparent to Ronaldo and Messi?

Tue, 5 Feb 2019 06:40:00 GMT

If one human year is worth seven in dog years, what is the equation comparing a civilian career to that of a professional footballer? Neymar turned 27 on Tuesday, and next month it will be 10 years since he made his professional debut. If he were a working stiff like the rest of us, he'd be well past the halfway point, maybe somewhere in his late 40s. Nowhere near the end, but at the stage when the time you have left is less than the time you had. Neymar was the next big thing in Brazilian football,...

Chelsea should give Sarri time despite Man City thrashing. PLUS: Real's best game of the year

Mon, 4 Feb 2019 08:45:00 GMT

Less than a year ago, Antonio Conte famously said "I am not so stupid to play against Manchester City open and lose 3-0 or 4-0." After the 6-0 beatdown that Pep Guardiola's crew inflicted on Chelsea Sunday, you wonder if it makes Maurizio Sarri "stupid" -- at least on the Conte-meter. And because too many people like simple, ready-made storylines, they jumped on that, as well as the always reliable tropes about N'Golo Kante not playing defensive midfield and Sarri's like-for-like substitutions. Indeed,...

Guardiola's gamble pays off, Barca's Messi dependency, Juve's implosion, more

Mon, 4 Feb 2019 08:45:00 GMT

Part of the luxury of being Pep Guardiola is, evidently, confidence of the sort that lets you take risks that others might not. On Tuesday, his Manchester City side lost at St. James' Park against a Newcastle team that had previously won just three of 12 home Premier League games. In those circumstances, page 17 of the "Proper Football Man's Coaching Manual" tells you to play it safe and get back to basics in your next game which, incidentally, was by no means a gimme. Arsenal may be rebuilding,...

Pochettino's right: top four, Champions League do matter more than FA Cup

Mon, 28 Jan 2019 09:00:00 GMT

Some folks are annoyed that after being eliminated from the FA Cup at the hands of Crystal Palace, Mauricio Pochettino was brutally honest about his Tottenham side. "We are going to create a debate that to win a trophy is going to help the club ... I don't agree with that," he said. "That only builds your ego. In reality, the most important thing is being consistently in the top four and playing in the Champions League." Let's get this part out of the way first. Yes, he fielded an under-strength...

Arsenal defeat exposes issues for Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea. PLUS: Real get revenge, Spurs' injury crisis

Mon, 21 Jan 2019 08:23:00 GMT

We gravitate towards simple explanations, so the reason Chelsea lost 2-0 away to Arsenal at the Emirates is simple: Maurizio Sarri played his two best players (N'Golo Kante and Eden Hazard) out of position. Easy, right? Wrong. For a start, Chelsea had no divine right to win at the Emirates, not when they were one place ahead of them in the table. Not when they'd actually beaten them just once in their seven previous encounters, and not when they hadn't played particularly well since long before...

UEFA report: European football profitable but gap between super-clubs and rest remains

Fri, 18 Jan 2019 12:46:00 GMT

UEFA's latest benchmarking report shows every European top-flight club being profitable, but it doesn't mean the game is in a good place yet. Each year, for the past decade, UEFA have released their "Benchmarking Report," a sort of "State of the Game" across the top flights of every European league. As ever, it's filled with interesting nuggets and takes time to sift through. Here's a Q&A to help make sense of it. Q: So what's the top-line, major takeaway? A: Well, for the first time in the report's history -- and probably the first time ever -- European top-flight clubs were profitable last year, to the tune of some $700 million....

Napoli walking off in face of racial abuse wouldn't be a 'defeat for football' -- it would be a victory

Thu, 17 Jan 2019 11:44:00 GMT

Napoli reiterated last week that they fully support coach Carlo Ancelotti and his threat to order his team off the pitch the next time one of their players is racially abused by supporters without adequate action being taken. This comes after Italian Deputy Prime Minister (and Minister of the Interior, therefore the person technically in charge of policing and security) Matteo Salvini said he was against stopping or abandoning matches in instances of racial abuse, because it would amount to "a...

Marcelo Bielsa upstaged Frank Lampard in "Spy-Gate" and added to his sizable coaching legend

Thu, 17 Jan 2019 02:13:00 GMT

Whatever happens next, Marcelo Bielsa has won the battle for hearts and minds following "Spy-Gate." A story that began with Frank Lampard talking about some "undercover" person hiding in bushes "on... hands and knees" with "pliers and bolt cutters" has since been turned around 180 degrees. The man Bielsa sent to watch Derby County's training sessions was outside a perimeter fence and wasn't trespassing. The fence was undamaged. If he had "pliers and bolt-cutters" with him, he likely swallowed...

Emery says Arsenal can sign only loan players ... and the reason should worry fans

Tue, 15 Jan 2019 09:06:00 GMT

Last week, Arsenal boss Unai Emery said something surprising: "We cannot sign players where we have to make a payment ... we can only make loan signings." That's not what you'd expect to hear from a club that is six points away from fourth place and in danger of finishing outside the Champions League spots for the third successive season after 19 consecutive years of playing in the world's biggest club competition. Nor is that what you'd expect from a club that ranked sixth in the most recent Deloitte...

Solskjaer shows he can be more than Man United's caretaker. PLUS: trouble ahead for Spurs, praise for Messi

Mon, 14 Jan 2019 07:42:00 GMT

So it's now six wins out of six games for Manchester United under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. And while the first five were eminently winnable, Tottenham away was meant to be the Norwegian's first real test. He passed, again, with flying colors. He didn't pass because United won -- although that too is important in the hunt for a top four spot -- but because, frankly, it could have been very different if not for David De Gea's string of saves. (Indeed, the xG shows that Tottenham...

Can Solari fix Real Madrid? PLUS: Why Chelsea signed Pulisic; it's time to fix the FA Cup

Mon, 7 Jan 2019 09:11:00 GMT

The last time Real Madrid lost at home to Real Sociedad was on the final weekend of the 2004 season. Florentino Perez was there -- it was his first stint as president, and the wheels had started coming off -- and so was Santi Solari, albeit on the pitch. It was their fifth consecutive defeat and they finished fourth that season. Sunday's 2-0 home defeat leaves them fifth, 10 points off the pace. It's not a perfect symmetry but there are parallels that go beyond Florentino and Solari. At the...

Soccer wishes for 2019: UEFA and FIFA work together, VAR is improved, fight against racism continues

Thu, 3 Jan 2019 05:57:00 GMT

The New Year brings some new wishes as well as some old ones. We all want better and with the changing of the calendar comes a desire for renewal and a belief that, at least in these first few days of January, even improbable hopes can come true. This is my sixth year doing this -- check the years for 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 editions -- and I wish we didn't have to repeat things, but that's the nature of the struggle for a better footballing world. Things take time. Happy 2019! 1....

Man City shouldn't worry about gap in Premier League title race. PLUS: Inter will regret Nainggolan deal

Mon, 24 Dec 2018 07:31:00 GMT

I'm not sure that Roy Hodgson reinvented the wheel in leading Crystal Palace past Manchester City on Saturday. Rather, the defeat reminds us that there's a fairly basic blueprint you can use when facing Pep Guardiola. If things break your way and you execute well, you can be successful. Stay tight, deep and dense at the back and fill your team with the sort of speedsters who are built for the break, like Jeff Schlupp, Max Meyer, Andros Townsend and, of course, Wilfried Zaha. Then, if Kyle Walker...

Will Jose Mourinho ever get another top gig after his Manchester United debacle?

Wed, 19 Dec 2018 04:47:00 GMT

Jose Mourinho has built his career on three pillars: results, cohesion and brand. He survived moments when one of the above was absent. At times, the structure held when two were missing. But with all three pillars crumbling, the edifice came crashing down. Few managers found a way to drop their achievements into conversation as frequently and casually as Mourinho. They were both a source of pride and a stick with which to beat his rivals. From memorable rants about how his adversaries had won...

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

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...

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