Monday Musings

Another day, another mess for Milan as Donnarumma nears the exit again

Wed, 13 Dec 2017 09:14:00 PST

Gab Marcotti recaps the timeline of events that led up to Milan fans making a sign saying their 'patience is done' with Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. Milan needed this like they needed a hole in the head. The club are currently seventh in Serie A, albeit 11 points (14, if Roma win their game in hand) away from the Champions League spots. UEFA have yet to rule on whether the club will be granted a "voluntary agreement" enabling them to play in European competition next year without sanction and if they don't get it -- the prospects aren't good -- they will be hit with a settlement agreement, limiting further spending and possibly incurring...

Man City and Man United are a gulf apart, Juve poor, Dortmund fire Bosz

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 09:16:00 PST

It was, perhaps, the last realistic chance to begin to derail the Pep Guardiola Express. But Manchester City's 2-1 win at Old Trafford means their lead is up to 11 points, more than the league leaders in any of Europe's top leagues. The fact that the chasing pack, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal, all dropped points is significant too. The big question was how Jose Mourinho would approach Sunday's match. Truth be told, with his best defender (Eric Bailly) and best player (Paul Pogba) unavailable,...

FC 100 ranking tries to put the team ahead of the individuals

Tue, 5 Dec 2017 09:58:00 PST

The FC 100 is here! Take a look at who ranks at the top of each position. The FC 100 is here! Take a look at who ranks at the top of each position. ESPN's Gab Marcotti delves into the managers that cracked the ESPN FC 100 Top 10. ESPN's Shaka Hislop talks about the goalkeepers on the ESPN FC 100 list and also gives us his top 10. The genesis of the ESPN FC 100 lies in recognizing specialists and trying to compare apples and apples in a way others do not. The fact of the matter is football skews towards those who attack, who score and who exist in the final third. Football awards and rankings follow suit. We can't help ourselves. We are obsessed with the guys who score the goals and the guys who make the passes that lead to goals. It's some primal thing and we live in a world of highlights geared towards that end. A center-back's...

Arsenal, Man United defensive issues; PSG stunned, Barca and Madrid held

Mon, 4 Dec 2017 08:52:00 PST

The ESPN FC crew identify the catalysts of Manchester United's free-flowing play in their 3-1 victory against Arsenal. Alejandro Moreno explains how Unai Emery can use PSG's shock defeat at Strasbourg to get the attention of his players. As Cristiano Ronaldo continues to struggle, Alejandro Moreno pinpoints the other areas of concern for Real Madrid. Alejandro Moreno explains how Samuel Umtiti's absence could impact a Barcelona side that failed to see off Celta Vigo at home. Stewart Robson offers a solution for Manchester City to be more dominant against teams that want to play deep in their own half. As games go, Arsenal vs. Manchester United was classic glass half-full, glass half-empty stuff. Jose Mourinho can walk away from a 3-1 away win and rattle off the numbers: United have the stingiest defence and the second-most prolific attack in the Premier League, and while they remain eight points behind Manchester City -- roll on Sunday's derby -- 35 points from 15 games is the best start of any Old Trafford manager since Sir Alex Ferguson. And it's a whopping 11 more than at this stage last season. United...

World Cup favorites get generous draws but upsets will happen

Fri, 1 Dec 2017 01:09:00 PST

The ESPN FC crew had a lot to say as the 2018 FIFA World Cup participants finally discovered their fates in the Moscow draw. ESPN FC's Gab Marcotti predicts who will emerge from each group at the 2018 World Cup. Dan Thomas and the FC crew believe the top-seeded countries will all be delighted with their matchups at the World Cup. The seedings did their job. Amid the slew of negativity surrounding Russia 2018 -- from struggles to find sponsors to a Russian FA president having to spend the day before the draw denying allegations of systematic doping -- this was perhaps the biggest takeaway: We will see a World Cup like no other with balanced groups and, more than ever before, clear favorites to advance. FiveThirtyEight's Soccer Power Index (SPI) has 10 teams with at least a 70 percent chance of advancing into the Round...

No Groups of Death; rankings rule -- What to expect at the World Cup draw

Wed, 29 Nov 2017 12:51:00 PST

The FC panel reveal their toughest and easiest potential World Cup groups ahead of the draw on Dec. 1. FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura insisted Russian football didn't have a doping problem and defended Gary Lineker ahead of the World Cup draw. FIFA president Gianni Infantino believes the 2018 World Cup in Russia will be a peaceful tournament and enjoyable for all football fans. For many, qualifying for the 2018 World Cup has been a procession -- going through the motions toward the inevitable. For others, there has been suffering and insecurity right down to the final whistle of the final playoff game. And for others still, whether because they've been absent for decades or because it's their first time, it's been a magical journey, a flight into possibility. Then there are those who took for granted that they'd be a part of the World Cup and stumbled along the way: We...

Milan's uncertain future: Q&A on ownership, possible FFP sanctions

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 11:01:00 PST

Gab Marcotti explains why the Europa League could prove to be Milan's best hope of Champions League football in 2018. Last week, Marca and The New York Times reported that Milan were staring down the barrel of financial fair play sanctions, if not worse. Here's an attempt to make sense of a complicated situation. Q: I thought Milan had a rich Chinese owner now? Like the guy at Inter Milan? Isn't this part of the whole trend of wealthy Chinese buying up football assets with the blessing of the Chinese government? A: Li Yonghong is certainly Chinese and he may be rich, but he was only able to buy the club after...

Arsenal approach stops Spurs, Madrid derby helps Barcelona, Juventus slump

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 08:26:00 PST

Shaka Hislop says Spurs shouldn't worry after losing at Arsenal, but Steve Nicol questions their confidence away from home. Never mind those Arsenal/Tottenham combined XIs that were all the rage or that Arsene Wenger's sporting obituary has been written many times over; Saturday's North London derby was a reminder that fitness matters and tactics matter and that, while Mesut Ozil may be inconsistent, when he's on a high, he's a difference maker. Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino pointed out that Arsenal's first goal shouldn't have counted, and he's right: It wasn't a free kick to begin with, and scorer Shkodran Mustafi...

The 2018 World Cup field is set; now comes the hard work of getting ready

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 12:33:00 PST

The Exploding Heads break down the recent World Cup playoffs as all 32 teams are now set for Russia. Two-hundred and sixty-four days elapsed between Brazil doing it and Peru doing it. But when it happens is relatively immaterial. It's all about getting in, like getting a table in the roped-off VIP area of the nightclub. Some get there because they're rich, famous, good looking or have ordered up plenty of bottles in the past. (Some, perhaps, wearing orange or blue, realize that just because they had no trouble getting past the bouncers for a very long time doesn't mean they get free access...

Italy's catastrophic playoff failure can give way to a brighter, talented future

Tue, 14 Nov 2017 07:40:00 PST

Relive ESPN FC's Gab Marcotti's passionate response after Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. So this is what it feels like to miss out on a World Cup. I've been asked enough times since the final whistle in Milan that I figure I might as well come up with an answer. Truth be told, it hurts less -- a lot less -- than losing a World Cup semifinal on penalties or a European Championship final on a Golden Goal. At least right now. Maybe it will feel different in the summer, or even just next month at the draw, when the excitement builds and you realize that you are not a part of the biggest...

Italy have only themselves to blame vs. Sweden; Neymar's tears for real

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 02:26:00 PST

Craig Burley and the FC crew explain why Neymar's tears after being defended by Brazil coach Tite were just for show. The last -- and only -- time Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup was back in 1958. Italy went into their final match against Northern Ireland needing a draw. They lost, 2-1. And, note, UEFA had nine slots back then; today, they have 12. That ought to put some context to the precipice on which Gian Piero Ventura's crew are standing. And soon we'll know if they've nose-dived off it. If they do, Ventura will be the uber-scapegoat, and rightly so. Everything about the 1-0 defeat in the away leg...

He's loved in Madrid, but in Croatia? It's complicated for Luka Modric

Wed, 8 Nov 2017 11:33:00 PST

Luka Modric reflects on his time at Real Madrid and relishes the chance to play former club Tottenham in the Champions League. With the World Cup playoffs upon us, Shaka Hislop gives his predictions for who will be in and who will be staying home. When Real Madrid signed Luka Modric from Tottenham in the summer of 2012, they weren't exactly sure what they were getting or where he was going to fit. Jose Mourinho's team had won La Liga the previous season, and the midfield already included Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira, Michael Essien, Mesut Ozil and Kaka. Some Spanish media compared Modric to Johan Cruyff, largely because of the mop of hair. Others imagined him in midfield, while fretting over whether he had the physicality to hold his own in...

Antonio Conte vindicated vs. Man Utd, Bayern seize on Dortmund's flaws

Mon, 6 Nov 2017 07:52:00 PST

Steve Nicol and Shaka Hislop blame Jose Mourinho for Manchester United's recent struggles against the top teams in the Prem. Big coaches make big decisions in big moments. Sometimes they get it wrong, sure, but you don't get to this level without having the guts to make bold moves of the kind that can boomerang badly. Antonio Conte did just that on Saturday when he dropped David Luiz -- and not just from the starting XI, but from the bench as well -- and he didn't hide behind excuses either, inventing "political injuries." "It's a technical decision," he said. His words after the match, about how the Brazilian might...

Q&A: How would the proposed Global Nations League actually work?

Fri, 3 Nov 2017 09:36:00 PDT

The Global Nations League would turn friendlies between the likes of England and France into games with something at stake. It could potentially represent the biggest overhaul in international football since, well, the creation of the World Cup itself nearly a century ago. The proposal by a number of confederations, led by UEFA, to introduce a truly global international football competition along the lines of the UEFA Nations League is bound to have far-reaching implications. Here's an attempt to make sense of it. Q: So, the UEFA Nations League -- what's that? A: Haven't you been paying attention? It's a new UEFA competition...

Real aren't in crisis yet, but Zinedine Zidane needs to halt the slide quickly

Thu, 2 Nov 2017 09:38:00 PDT

The FC crew answer your tweets on Zinedine Zidane's future, Steve Nicol's Bernabeu trip and the best way to stop Man City. The ESPN FC panel break down one of Tottenham's biggest ever wins, as Spurs exposed Real Madrid to having serious issues throughout their squad. Real Madrid have now lost two straight games in all competitions, and while that may prompt some to view it as a cataclysmic event, in fact, it's not entirely unusual. It's happened on 12 different occasions in the past 10 years. Heck, it happened most recently earlier this year with Zinedine Zidane at the helm. Back in January, they lost away to Sevilla in the league (2-1) and then fell at home to Celta Vigo in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinal. It happens. Now, were Madrid to...

Struggling Real Madrid shouldn't panic yet, Mourinho outdoes Spurs, more

Mon, 30 Oct 2017 10:31:00 PDT

Alejandro Moreno assesses what's wrong with Real Madrid following their shock defeat against Girona. So, at what point do you sound the alarm? After Real Madrid's 2-1 setback away to Girona, Zinedine Zidane's men are stuck on 20 points. You have to go all the way back to 2005-06, his final season as a player, to find the last time they were worse off after 10 games. Barcelona are eight points clear (more on this later) and in outright gloating mode. More of a concern, though, was Madrid's performance against a newly promoted opponent who had won just once at home this season. There are no...

After years of flux at Inter Milan, are they finally back on track?

Wed, 25 Oct 2017 06:18:00 PDT

With Inter and Napoli leading the charge in Serie A, Gab Marcotti assesses which team has the best chance of winning the title. Inter fans woke up on Wednesday morning to find themselves sitting atop of Serie A. It may end up being for just 24 hours, but it's still something. And while they were top as recently as two years ago -- January 2016 in fact, with Roberto Mancini at the helm -- this feels different. That side was laden with veterans and the detritus of a club that peaked with Jose Mourinho's Treble and then spent the next five years in a state of perpetual flux with over 50 signings, seven different managers...

Liverpool woe as Spurs march on, PSG pushed, Serie A intrigue, critical Mou

Mon, 23 Oct 2017 08:50:00 PDT

ESPN's Alison Bender and Stewart Robson discuss who City's closest title rivals are ahead of Tottenham's match with Manchester United. I'm a big believer in "score effects." Give up an early goal -- or two -- and the way you and the opposition play changes dramatically; sometimes to the point that there isn't much more to learn from the game. Liverpool made two huge errors in the first 12 minutes of Sunday's clash with Tottenham at Wembley and that was that. It wasn't just that they necessarily played into Spurs' hands because they had to get back into the game, it was the psychological damage done to the players on the pitch. I...

Antonio Conte needs to use his creativity, boldness to fix Chelsea

Thu, 19 Oct 2017 09:02:00 PDT

Craig Burley says Chelsea players should sit down with Antonio Conte to discuss their issues, not go to the press. The FC panel delve into the reports that Chelsea's players may be unhappy with manager Antonio Conte. The experts at the ESPN FC desk talk Chelsea's 3-3 draw with Roma as Antonio Conte's men have let in five goals in all competitions since coming back from the international break. The FC crew answer your tweets on Chelsea's defensive issues, Manchester United's style of play and Atleti's UCL struggles. If you want to see the glass as half-full, Eden Hazard's late equalizer against Roma meant that Chelsea avoided their third consecutive defeat in all competitions. To find the last time that happened, you have to go all the way back to September 2002: Claudio Ranieri was the manager, Chelsea were still owned by Ken Bates and the club was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Rationally, such streaks are meaningless, but psychologically, they matter, as Eden Hazard hinted after the game when he...

Promotion and relegation could unlock U.S. soccer's potential - Riccardo Silva

Sun, 15 Oct 2017 09:05:00 PDT

The man behind the $4 billion bid for MLS rights tells Gab Marcotti that the lack of promotion-relegation is holding back the U.S. national team. In June, international media rights company MP & Silva offered Major League Soccer $4 billion in exchange for 10 years' worth of global media rights from 2023, after its current deals expired. The offer was at least four times higher than the value of the present contracts, but it had some important conditions: It included two lower tiers -- North American Soccer League (NASL) and the United Soccer League (USL) -- and, crucially, MLS would have to commit to a system of promotion and relegation across...

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