Tag Archives: EPL

Manchester United Win. Now What?

Okay, now that the FA Cup enthusiasm has waned, let me analyze it.

Erik Ten Hag had the players he wanted for the first time this season: Raphael Varane partnering in the back with Lautaro Martinez, with Amrabat in front of them, Marcus Rashford on one flank and Alejandro Garnacho on the other. United did not play with an out-and-out striker — Bruno Fernandez was the shadow striker – so clearly Ten Hag was going to rely on his inverted players to score, and he had no choice but to play on the counter against a team that is probably the best in the world at the high press.

It worked. They defended deep, and worked the flanks deftly switching play – that long searching pass from Rashford over the top to Garnacho from left to right flank so Garnacho could find Kobbie Mainoo on the opposite flank with space and nobody marking him was brilliant. Then when United got a 2-0 lead, they brought in Hojlund as a target man to replace Fernandez, keeping City defenders in the back instead of charging forward.

All that said, Ten Hag needs to be replaced. Even though he had the suffocating injury issues they had all season and was not able to play the players he wanted to play, there was tons of depth on United to put together a patchwork team that at least should have finished in the top four. Scoring should not have been the issue it was, not with scoring inverted forwards Rashford, Garnacho, and soon Jadon Sancho available (Sancho is coming back after his loan spell at Dortmund, so here’s hoping the next manager will know what he has).

With a porous defense his high press was not going to work, leaving way too much space in the middle and center. He was way too loyal to players he acquired who played for him before (Antony in particular). Most of all, he sacrificed chemistry and familiarity for ad hoc discipline – Sancho should have never been banished from the locker room, and Rashford should have never been deactivated – so he lost the locker room; the players simply just don’t like playing for him.

This was so obvious the several times they lost to inferior teams and bottom feeders they had no business either drawing or losing to, even at home. Ten Hag never has a set lineup, and he doesn’t clearly define what the players’ roles are. Glad he came up with a game plan to defeat City in this one really important game finally with the players he wanted all along, but it isn’t the cup competitions that a manager is judged by. It’s the league season, and with expectations as they are at United, this was just unacceptable.

EPL In A Nutshell: Aston Villa vs West Ham

At the start of every season West Ham supports, like me, have a sense of optimism about the coming campaign. Sometime it takes several months for it to be beaten out of us. On rare occasions it lasts all season.
This time it lasted about 30 seconds…

Opening the 2010-2011 season against Aston Villa, it looked as though Avram Grant had nipped into the pub across from Villa Park and handed 11 slightly buzzed guys West Ham shirts. He also needs to start drug testing Robert Green, because he played like he was stoned…

From the opening whistle Villa tore into West Ham with verve and energy led by a sublime James Milner, in probably his last game for the club. He was ably assisted by Ashley Young and the superb performance of 20-year old Marc Albrighton.

It could have been 5-0 at half-time but after the break with the addition of Pablo Barrera and Frederic Piquionne, for maybe 15 minutes, the real West Ham showed up and looked to be making a game of it. All thoughts of a comeback were extinguished by Milner’s fine goal to make it 3-0 and the Hammers faded back to playing like the Pig & Whistle Reserves in quick succession.


US Soccer’s Big Chance To Do It Right

Before you say it, this IS a pipe dream…but I have to say it:

Major League Soccer is expanding from the present 14 teams over the next couple of years with new franchises in Seattle (2009) and Philadelphia (2010). At the recent All-Star Game it was announcement that two more teams would be added by 2011.

The key word here is “franchise” since the MLS (like every other major American sport) operates on the franchise system and not the club system used around the rest of the world. This means one critical difference – there is no relegation/promotion process at the end of each season. Until MLS has such a system, it will NEVER be taken seriously by the rest of the world.

It doesn’t even have to be on the scale of the English Premier League where three teams “go down” to the lower Football League Championship. Just have the bottom placed team relegated to the USL First Division, with the USL-1 Champion being promoted to the MLS. It wouldn’t work? Then explain that the 2007 USL-1 Champions were the Seattle Sounders – who will become the 15th MLS franchise in 2009…

The English Premier League operates independently of the Football League, with the clubs being shareholders in the EPL, yet they still have relegation/promotion with the lower tier on the English soccer pyramid. Why can’t the USA be the same? If US Soccer wants to be taken seriously, it has to happen eventually.