Monday Musings

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. Antonio Conte hit back at Jose Mourinho's comment that he won't 'cry' like other managers have about dealing with injuries. 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 dollar bid for MLS rights tells Gab Marcotti the lack of promotion-relegation is holding back the US 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...

Why Argentina are struggling, France's clutch win, England's formation switch

Mon, 9 Oct 2017 08:26:00 PDT

The FC crew debate what kind of impact Argentina missing the World Cup would have on Lionel Messi's legacy. So it all comes down to Tuesday night in Quito, at nearly 10,000 feet above sea level. Argentina need to beat Ecuador, otherwise they won't be going to the 2018 World Cup. (A draw might suffice too, but that would require three other results to go their way, and it's not something you want to count on.) You can blame 101 different factors for why they're in this situation. They've had three different coaches and used 38 different players, suggesting a lack of clear thinking. They've been without...

Premier League foreign rights talks reflect changing times, not just greed

Thu, 5 Oct 2017 06:59:00 PDT

Distribution of the riches associated with TV revenues has led to discussion among Premier League clubs. On Wednesday, representatives from the Premier League's 20 clubs decided not to decide. Not right now, anyway. A proposal to change the way overseas broadcast rights revenue is divided was not voted on and, accordingly, was adjourned "to allow further discussion." Which is league-ese for "kicking the can down the road." The fact that it was up for discussion -- at the behest of Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore -- is significant. For the past two decades, the league has been the...

Man City's defence beats Chelsea, pain in Barcelona, Bayern 'mutiny,' more

Mon, 2 Oct 2017 09:00:00 PDT

Stewart Robson and Alejandro Moreno examine the facets of Man City's game that have propelled them to the top of the table. Pep Guardiola long made the point that he plays the way he does not because he's wedded to some aesthetic conceit of what good football should be, but because he thinks it's the most effective way to win. Inevitably, given the glut of attacking players in his side, we lazily assume he just wants to win by outscoring the opposition but on Saturday, he showed this was not the case. Away to Chelsea, City put on a defensive masterclass above all else. The press was crisp and precise, robbing the opposition...

Did Shakhtar Donetsk show teams how to play against rampant Man City?

Thu, 28 Sep 2017 07:16:00 PDT

Manchester City held off Shakhtar Donetsk 2-0 to win their second straight game to open Group F. Pep Guardiola was full of praise for Fabian Delph and promised to play the midfielder more often this season. Kevin De Bruyne produced something special with this strike to give Manchester City the lead against Shakhtar Donetsk. Kevin De Bruyne and Fabian Delph talk after their nervy 2-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk. You don't need to be well-versed in Pep Guardiola's biographies (there are half a dozen) to know that he probably did not get a good night's sleep on Tuesday. It's far more likely that he stayed up agonizing; that's what he does. None of this "six points out of six, we clobbered them in the second half" lark for him, as that's not how he got to be Pep. He doesn't simply wrap himself up in results. Performance matters more, and he only got that in the second half against Shakhtar Donetsk, when...

Liverpool must execute at the back, man-marking Lionel Messi, more

Mon, 25 Sep 2017 08:59:00 PDT

Steve Nicol says most of the goals Liverpool are conceding come down to an individual error from any given player. Liverpool won 3-2 vs. Leicester City at the King Power Stadium, and what could have been chance to follow a range of other storylines -- their first victory since August, Philippe Coutinho's stunning performance -- instead turns into a discussion of their defending. You sense this will be a theme all season long. There were pretty craven defensive errors for both of Leicester's goals in Saturday's victory (and, no, the fact that Simon Mignolet may or may not have been fouled doesn't change...

Marco Asensio's road to Real wasn't easy but he's now poised for greatness

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 07:29:00 PDT

Relive Asensio's wonder goal during the Super Cup, and delve into the FC crew's thoughts about his future at Real Madrid. The FC crew evaluate Real Madrid's win over Sociedad, including Gareth Bale's goal and the emergence of Borja Mayoral. Zinedine Zidane believes Gareth Bale can use jeers from fans to improve his game, just as Zidane did during his playing days. Watch him play and there's an unadulterated freshness to him, a nothing-is-impossible vibe that gets crowds -- even those used to watching Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Luka Modric on a weekly basis -- on their feet. It's fun. It's innocent. It's a kid playing unbridled football and doing it with joy. Sometimes it feels as if Marco Asensio popped out fully formed, perhaps straight from a Japanese cartoon, as if he'd been playing alongside Captain Tsubasa until last year. But that's not who...

Arsenal make progress vs. Chelsea, Barca win again, Neymar vs. Cavani

Mon, 18 Sep 2017 08:21:00 PDT

Steve Nicol says Arsenal would be opting for mediocrity if Arsene Wenger considers dropping Mesut Ozil. Arsenal went to Stamford Bridge in a fairly binary situation. A poor performance would simply ratchet up the pressure ahead of the club's annual general meeting (with Stan Kroenke on his way across the pond) and cancel the baby steps that were made against Bournemouth. (Given Bournemouth's performance, they really were teeny, tiny baby steps). A result, especially if accompanied by a decent performance, would buy Arsene Wenger time, rekindle a bit of faith in a clearly dejected group and maybe...

If you were Lionel Messi, what would you do next after rescuing Barcelona?

Wed, 13 Sep 2017 08:32:00 PDT

The ESPN FC panel credit Ernesto Valverde for getting Barcelona back to their best following Luis Enrique's exit. Lionel Messi scored two goals and set up another as Barcelona defeated last season's UCL finalists Juventus. Imagine you are Lionel Messi. What's in your head? (You're not really, of course, but this is a journey into imagination and speculation, with a bit of wonder and puzzlement thrown in, an experiment in seeing the world through his eyes. And it will inevitably be based on flawed inputs because there are only two groups of people who can really hope to have any sort of insight and to even have a clue, you really need to be a member of both. One is those close to him: friends, family, teammates....

Liverpool capitulate at Man City after Mane red; Real might rue dropped points

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 07:42:00 PDT

Stewart Robson dissects Liverpool's 5-0 loss to Manchester City, and discusses why the match was so one-sided. Sometimes a single incident overshadows a game. I'm not sure that it should: when Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool take on Pep Guardiola's Manchester City, you'd imagine there would be enough other stuff to talk about. But Sadio Mane's red card seemingly took on a life of its own and became the story. Opinions seem to be viscerally divided on this one. Personally, I feel sorry for Mane but equally, he had to go. I feel sorry for Mane because anybody who has played the game at any level knows that there...

How Spain thrashed Italy, Isco's future, placing blame for Barca's bad summer

Mon, 4 Sep 2017 08:16:00 PDT

The FC crew hail Isco as one of the leaders of a Spanish revival that could make them a 2018 World Cup favourite. Spain defeating Italy 3-0 at the Bernabeu on Saturday was not the surprise. It was the extent of the demolition. Unless you've been living under a rock, you'll know that the old Catenaccio, defend-and-counter stereotype hasn't really applied to the Azzurri for a long time. Still, conceding three goals like that (and it could have been more) while being methodically wiped off the pitch is still jarring. It does not -- and should not -- happen to big teams. Blame it on the coming together of...

For PSG, Mbappe's move leads to questions about FFP, squad strength

Fri, 1 Sep 2017 11:18:00 PDT

Gab Marcotti clarifies the intricacies of UEFA's investigation of PSG for for potential financial fair play violations. With Kylian Mbappe now in the fold, are Paris Saint-Germain now the favourites to win this year's Champions League? Kylian Mbappe expresses his excitement about joining PSG and admits he has a lot to learn at the club. Sid Lowe explains why Kylian Mbappe is on his way to PSG rather than joining up with Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid. Kylian Mbappe was 18 years, eight months and 11 days old when Paris Saint-Germain did a deal to make him the second-most expensive player of all time. He had scored 27 goals in 59 senior club appearances. And he had starred in the Champions League, under the global spotlight. Benchmark that against the two greatest players of our time -- Lionel Messi had eight goals in 29 games and Cristiano Ronaldo eight in 34 at the same age -- and it's pretty obvious we're talking about something special. Special...

Rampant Liverpool thrash Arsenal; Messi, Asensio hit form; Muller left out

Mon, 28 Aug 2017 09:14:00 PDT

The ESPN FC panel rip into Arsenal after their disastrous defeat at Liverpool, keying in on Arsene Wenger. Half of it was Groundhog Day, with Arsenal looking like the worst stereotypically caricatured version of themselves and Arsene Wenger saying he couldn't go into the reasons for the defeat and the "Wenger Out" bandwagon starting up again. And half of it was the ultimate wild ride, jumping on the back of a jet ski driven by a giddy, jumped-up Jurgen Klopp and powered by NOS distilled in hell. There was speed of thought, intensity and relentlessness. Oh, and blistering execution. You can't help but...

UCL draw takeaways: Guardiola vs. Sarri, Bartomeu booed, Spurs suffer

Thu, 24 Aug 2017 12:13:00 PDT

Shaka Hislop and Alexis Nunes assess the toughest groups and most scintillating matchups this season in the Champions League. Shaka Hislop dissects the UCL draw for each Premier League club and evaluates their chances of advancing from their groups. Gab Marcotti breaks down Group D in the Champions League, but can Messi finally break his duck against Juve's Buffon? MONACO -- The UEFA Champions League draw is complete and the 32 teams know the opponents standing between them and the knockout rounds (or, for some, the Europa League). Here are five thoughts on Thursday's draw. 1. Pep Guardiola vs. Maurizio Sarri One was a superstar Champions League winner whose first job was at Barcelona. (Well, Barca B, but it still counts.) The other worked in a bank until he was 40 and coached part-time until he decided that maybe he was good enough to make a living...

Early England retirement sets Wayne Rooney's greatness in proper context

Wed, 23 Aug 2017 11:21:00 PDT

ESPN FC's Mark Ogden feels that while Rooney will go down as an England legend, his retirement makes life easier for Southgate. Relive the goal that put Wayne Rooney atop England's record books as he surpassed Sir Bobby Charlton's goal record. When you're anointed at 16 and thrive long enough to live up to the hype so that the world realizes you're for real, a funny thing happens. You still give off your own light but mostly, you reflect that which is cast upon you by others -- others who inevitably see you in the simplest terms and in the most convenient definitions. As long as you're meeting the expectations thrust upon you, it's fine but once you start coming up short, opinion starts to split. Your weaknesses and failures get magnified;...

Chelsea encouraged, Neymar stars, Ramos sees red, Arsenal's bad day

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 09:01:00 PDT

Steve Nicol is full of praise for Chelsea after their win at Wembley, but says Tottenham deserved something from the match. The simple conclusion to draw from Sunday's clash between Tottenham and Chelsea is that, when you strip away the grumblings over transfers, the text messages to unwanted strikers and perhaps the garish blue training kit (in a sport marked by superstition, his return to the suit did not go unnoticed), Antonio Conte is a darn fine tactician and motivator, who can set up with the best of them. After taking it on the chin at home against Burnley on opening day, he traveled to Wembley to face Mauricio...

Cristiano Ronaldo shows he's human; Matic key for Man Utd; Neymar's start

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 08:52:00 PDT

The FC crew talk the length of suspension that would be suitable for Cristiano Ronaldo's actions in the Spanish Super Cup. It was all set up so nicely. Other than an eight-minute cameo against Manchester United in the European Super Cup, Cristiano Ronaldo hadn't played at all since June. Against Barcelona, in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Sunday, he came in just before the hour mark with his team one-nil up. After Lionel Messi converted a dubious penalty, Ronaldo scored an absolutely stunning long-range goal to put Madrid ahead. So far, so good. He then decided to take off his shirt (OK, he has the body...

Neymar's record-breaking move: What it means for Barcelona, PSG and more

Thu, 3 Aug 2017 05:13:00 PDT

Julien Laurens explains why Neymar's move to PSG is one of the biggest events in French football history. There's a veritable kaleidoscope of vantage points from which to consider the transfer of Neymar da Silva Santos Junior, aka you-know-who. We're not just talking the most expensive footballer of all time; we're talking a guy who cost more than a quarter of a billion dollars. That's Paul Pogba plus Cristiano Ronaldo with enough left over to cover their wages until Christmas. This is not, as some have suggested, the end of football as we know it. It's either a bold, game-changing move from Paris Saint-Germain...

As Miami enjoys a thrilling Clasico, the saga of Neymar's future rumbles on

Sun, 30 Jul 2017 03:51:00 PDT

Gab Marcotti and Ale Moreno break down the latest surrounding Neymar's future, but is he worth the reported transfer fee? The FC crew react to Sergio Ramos' quote about Neymar's future and debate the effect his departure would have on Barcelona. MIAMI -- For many, it did not matter: The ICC Miami version of El Clasico was not going to be overshadowed. 65,000 plus, clad in the colors of Barcelona and Real Madrid's eternal rivalry, braved the soupy South Florida night to see the stars they usually only see in HD and in two dimensions and were treated to a show. But for the rest, particularly those whose blood runs Blaugrana or who simply are fascinated by the sport's journey through time, there was a question haunting the heavy air over Miami's...

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