Where should I start after another big football weekend? Arsenal humiliated Spurs in the north London derby, Real Madrid kept up the pressure on Atletico Madrid in La Liga, Inter Milan took another big step towards a series title in Italy and Bayern Munich got some breathing space (thanks Robert Lewandowski) over their rivals in the Bundesliga. There was also a lot of discussion around Chelsea, Man United, Cristiano Ronaldo‘s future (Juventus or elsewhere?) and PSG’s hopes of defending their Ligue 1 title.
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It’s Monday and Gab Marcotti is reacting to the greatest moments in the world of football of the past week.
Jump to: Arteta’s ‘triple win’ | Real is late, win late | Impress Greenwood, Shaw | Ronaldo should leave Juve? | Tuchel’s work at Chelsea | Between the title of Serie A | Lewandowski leads Bayern | Spin Man City, keep winning | Atletico held 0-0 | PSG’s title grip slips off Bellingham plays for Dortmund | Napoli defeated Milan | Leipzig draw
Three wins in one for Mikel Arteta: great Arsenal performance, great result, Aubameyang
At this stage of the Premier League season, with 9-10 games left, the performance must be more important than the results for Arsenal and Mikel Arteta. They are 10th on the table, 10 points off the top 4. Even a place in the Europa League for fifth place is five points away, plus there are four clubs that would have to skip them. So the goal has to be to grow, get to know your players better, define the chemistry you want, and chase that one trophy that you can still win: the Europa League itself.
Even so, Arteta scored both a result and a performance in the North London Derby against Tottenham. Call it a “double win” that becomes a “triple win” when you consider benching Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang One “disciplinary matter” was later widely reported to be late for a team meeting on match day. That is also important.
– Olley: Arteta’s Arsenal support a strong conversation against Spurs
– Arsenal ratings: Tierney, Lacazette make it big
– Mourinho beats up players for hiding during the derby defeat
It’s not so much the substance of what Arteta did either. It is a good idea to believe that all players will be treated equally. If you break the team rules, you pay the price, but in practice no manager – hell, boss, or leader of men – consistently behaves like that. Stars are treated differently and (often) rightly because such things, to make a point, can hurt the entire team. If you do decide to stick it out – and Arteta obviously thought the time was right – you need to make sure it doesn’t explode in your face. This could have happened if Arsenal hadn’t won, or if Aubameyang had come and hit and maybe tried his manager.
The disciplining of Aubameyang – he’s not only Arsenal’s highest paid player and top scorer last season, but also his captain – has been a huge success at the moment and the way he turned out only strengthens him. This is important because, seen from the outside, you wondered if Arteta was a bit “gentle” not only with some of their players but also with some of the club’s weird transfers. This was a statement.
In terms of performance, Arsenal again shuffled the deck and achieved excellence Kieran Tierney and particularly Emile Smith-Rowe. They dominated Tottenham who, improbable as it sounds, only managed one shot in the first 70 minutes of the game … and that shot it was accidental Erik Lamela‘s “Rabona” goal. That’s partly because of Tottenham’s shortcomings and partly because of the way Arsenal kept recapturing the ball and controlling the center of the park.
Lose Heung-Min son A first-half injury was a blow to Jose Mourinho, but as he himself admitted, that alone cannot justify a first-half stinker. In fact, Spurs didn’t really come alive until they dropped to 10 men (after two quick yellow cards to Lamela) and were watching the game in the end. Too little too late.
Former Tottenham striker Jurgen Klinsmann is disappointed with Spurs’ lackluster performance against Arsenal.
After the game, Mourinho pointed out the big decision that fell against his team when Davinson Sanchez‘s leg collided with Alexandre LacazetteAfter the Frenchman sniffed his shot and awarded referee Michael Oliver a penalty, Lacazette converted him himself. It’s not hard to see why Mourinho was upset: there is a case where Sanchez would block the shot and just make contact because Lacazette completely missed the ball.
Two points that need to be made here. For one, whether or not Lacazette had a chance to parry his shot is completely irrelevant: it’s not that a striker can’t be fouled after a shot.
The other is that the video assistant referee, Paul Tierney, didn’t intervene, presumably because it wasn’t a clear and obvious mistake. There is no question that there was contact, and when the umpire Oliver felt he saw it clearly, it becomes a verdict, not a mistake. What we Not Knowledge is exactly what Oliver saw or what he told Tierney – cite it as another example where clearing the conversations between VAR and referee would add transparency to the game.
If Tierney had asked him to take another look, and Oliver stuck to his decision, few would have had a problem with it. I know I wouldn’t. It’s the classic call that can go either way and comes from an umpire’s interpretation, but is easier to accept when you are sure he has all the facts and all points of view.
Ramos and Hazard are back but Real Madrid are leaving late (again)
Gab Marcotti and Julien Laurens react to Real Madrid’s last-minute win against Elche.
Against the Elche, threatened with relegation, one had the clear impression that Zinedine Zidane was expecting little more than a training game. He played three back to get Sergio Ramos (returned after a two month absence) in a back three and allowed him a run-out without undue effort, he admitted Toni Kroos and Luka Modric take a break and we even see it Eden Hazard for the past 15 minutes (he’s been out since January, although it looks like he’s going back to the doctor after a setback on Monday).
– Benzema the star when Real Madrid wins again
– Zidane can’t explain Hazard’s recent injury setback
The result was somewhat predictable. Real Madrid created little, failed to capitalize, and scored on the hour before Zidane took the cavalry in the form of Modric and Kroos. And just as predictable Karim Benzema saved her, scored the equalizer and then the stoppage time winner. (By the way, Benzema overtook the legendary Alfredo Di Stefano and became the third best goalscorer in the club’s history at 269. Only Raulwith 324 and Cristiano Ronaldo with 450 are ahead of him.)
The dramatic 2-1 win leaves Real Madrid six points behind Atletico, but more importantly, it leaves them where we left them: a team that is heavily dependent on a group of players (Thibaut Courtois, Casemiro, Benzea, Modric and Kroos) and that fights for the goal. Will Sergio Ramos and Hazard change that? Real Madrid’s season depends more on a positive answer.
Greenwood offers a glimpse into the future of Man United
Mark Ogden discusses with Gab and Juls whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can lead Man United back to the top.
If your glass is permanently half empty, there is little to celebrate beyond the result in Manchester United’s 1-0 win over West Ham. It was a boring game Marcus Rashford missed a sitter, West Ham had a late chance and the only score came thanks to a gifted own goal. Yes, Man United stays second, but only through indolence.
– Dawson: Man United starts a big week with a win
Fine-Tuning, Not Revolution: Why Man United Hired a Director of Football
– Solskjaer: Pogba could return to a Europa League draw with Milan
Or you could think of it as United playing without Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavaniand beating a team fifth on the table who won three out of four games before Sunday, their only loss being to Manchester City.
The fact is, United’s season is what it is. Judge it by play style and results, and there is moderate progress overall – evolution, not revolution, as my colleague Mark Ogden calls it.
Judge it by the growth of each player, and there’s a little more to cheer about. Luke Shaw and Mason Greenwood are two examples of this. Shaw is a reclamation process after years of injury and problems with previous managers (one in particular). Unless we forget, Greenwood won’t be 20 years old until October and has already played 90 appearances for the club. (And no, his alleged lack of goals isn’t a huge issue for me as he has played widely for most of the year and scored 17 goals last season.)
These are marginal gains, but I think it’s important not to lose sight of them. At some point, I see the next step is to give Greenwood a run forward, maybe a front two.
Ronaldo’s perfect hat-trick answers critics, but speculation about his future won’t go away
Gab Marcotti fires Cristiano Ronaldo, who is returning to Real Madrid, but says he can help Manchester United.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored a perfect hat trick (left foot, right foot, header) as Juventus sped 3-1 past Cagliari on Sunday. Yes, he had one of his worst games in recent times and Juventus left the Champions League, but then his side was extremely bad for the entire first leg and the first half of the second leg – if that happens it’s not all but one man.
– Ogden: Assessment of Ronaldo’s options, including the return of Man United
– Pele welcomes Ronaldo for breaking the official goal record
– Ronaldo’s perfect hat trick gives Juve a big win
Talk of whether Juventus would be better off without him (and his annual salary of more than $ 60 million) may have irritated him, and when he clashed with the Cagliari goalkeeper Alessio Cragno As you walked to the ball, you wondered for a minute if he had lost control. It was the kind of challenge that could easily have been a red card and extremely dangerous. Ronaldo was likely spared a goodbye (he received a caution instead) because he appeared to pull away at the last second, weakening the force of the blow, and immediately apologizing. Cragno himself seemed to be fine after that. In fact, however, he has completed a masterclass where he scored his Serie A 23 goals and was on track to reach 31 last year.
After the game, Juve sporting director Fabio Paratici reiterated that the club had no plans to move him, but those remarks won’t stop speculation. Part of the problem here is people who link the Porto outcome to his season and Juve’s general situation. He’s having a tremendous season (regardless of age) and Juve’s financial situation is poor, which the pandemic is making it worse. Aside from the fact that they will earn a little less because of the Champions League elimination, the latter two factors have nothing to do with his one-off performance against Porto.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t legitimate to ask the question: Would Juventus be better off letting him go in the summer, making some money back and investing the huge savings in younger players? Especially if they don’t want to renew his contract, which expires in 2022, which means they’ll lose it for free anyway.
I feel like it is primarily Cristiano’s decision and any indication that he has no plans to move on. He’s playing his best football under Andrea Pirlo, and free hand in 2022 isn’t necessarily a bad thing (on the contrary). From Juve’s point of view, it makes little sense to lead him out the door. Because of his wages, the market for him is very limited (aside from Manchester United in some sort of Edinson Cavani upgrade role) and he not only produces on the pitch but is also an ideal role model for the youngsters who put them together.
It’s best to wait and do it again in twelve months.
The Tuchel era at Chelsea after 10 games: less in attack, much more in defense
Janusz Michallik says Thomas Tuchel will have to tackle Chelsea’s goal problem in the summer.
One of the notable things about Thomas Tuchel’s stint at Chelsea is that only one opposing player (Southampton) Takumi Minamino, for those who like their trivia) scored against them. The only other goal they admitted was this own goal by Antonio Rudiger. Tuchel has been credited with calming the Paris Saint-Germain defense on arrival, but the fewest goals they conceded with him in front were .58 in the half season before he was sacked in December. And that was at PSG, whose resources dwarf the domestic opposition – certainly more than Chelsea. Previously, his teams had never conceded less than one goal per game on average.
– Ogden: Hope for Pulisic amid worst phase at Chelsea
It’s true that part of it is down to planning: Chelsea didn’t play Manchester City this run, but they did against Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham and Evertonwho are all in the top eight. And he did it while changing wingbacks (we even saw it Christian Pulisic there on Saturday) and midfielders, while guys like Antonio Rüdiger and Marcos Alonsowho played little under his predecessor Frank Lampard.
The downside is that Chelsea are scoring fewer goals – 1.1 goals per game compared to 1.73 at Lampard – and the xG numbers reflect that too, both on attack and defense: the former are down a bit, The latter are a lot down.
Is that a cause for concern? Not now. Setting up a defense is easier than weeding out an attack. In Chelsea’s case, you have so many guns that it would be stupid not to give everyone a shot, but if you do, you lose the chemistry. Kai Havertz was against Leeds that weekend, he could have scored (but not) and when he plays it’s of course very different from when Timo Werner or Olivier Giroud or Tammy Abraham lead the line.
It feels like his mission is twofold: get Chelsea in the top 4 and find out what kind of team you want out there next season. The stingy defense and low-score attack we see are a by-product of this. A temporary one, Chelsea hope.
Martinez is making it big for Inter but you know Conte is not relaxing yet
According to Marcotti, Lautaro Martinez is a player who needs to stay healthy for Inter Milan to win the Scudetto.
Inter’s 2-1 win over Turin on Sunday, coupled with Milan’s defeat in Naples, means the Serie A lead is nine points in eleven games. Still, it’s too early to crown them champion, if only because you can be sure that manager Antonio Conte is not ready to do so.
If I know Conte a little, I can assure you that he’s watching this weekend’s game and realizing that Inter, despite a good start earlier, were headed for a 1-1 draw Lautaro Martinez‘s Magisterial Header. When you are a manager – especially when you are conte – you know that you cannot rely on moments of individual brilliance to win games. When they happen, they are a bonus and one that you are happy to accept, but it is not your game plan. And if anything, you can bet he’ll use this Torino game as a wake-up call.
Lewandowski could have scored five goals behind Werder Bremen as Bayern
Janusz Michallik asks whether Robert Lewandowski will break Gerd Müller’s record of 40 goals in one season.
They don’t keep accurate historical statistics on how many times you’ve hit the woodwork (at least as far as I know). Heck, they don’t even count as target shots for the stat heads. But everyone who has played at every level knows exactly how close they were to scoring five goals for Bayern against Werder Bremen when they scored once and hit the woodwork and unbelievable four times in a 3-1 win.
The shot marked his 268th goal and put him in second place in the Bundesliga table of all time, just like the legendary Klaus Fischer. Of course, it only took him 345 league games to hit that mark, while Fischer did 535.
Gerd Müller still has a lead of 97 goals in first place and with Lewandowski, who will be 33 years old this summer, the all-time record is probably unattainable. What is completely within reach, however, is the single-season mark that (who else?) Müller set in 1971-72. Lewandowski needs eight goals to achieve that and there are nine games left. Without the woodwork, he would have been much closer after this weekend.
Overall, there were many encouraging signs for Bayern to win. Lucas Hernandez nicely slit in the back line, Jerome Boateng looked solid and Thomas Müller served two assists and reminded us why he’s so important to this team.
Man City is now in the “load management” area while Aguero is thinking about the next steps
Frank Leboeuf calls Manchester City the ultimate machine after the dominant second half against Fulham.
Manchester City’s 3-0 win at Fulham wasn’t one of their outstanding performances, but neither did it have to be. They have won every single game they have played in the past three months, except for one. We have entered the realm of “load management” where Pep Guardiola can spin and experiment and his team can experiment and accelerate in pursuit of the Quadruple (Premier League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup and Champions League) which is still very much alive .
So against a Fulham in shape Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden, Riad Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne were left on the bench while Raheem Sterling was left at home. Guardiola undoubtedly has a Best XI on his mind, but he’s trying to make it a Best XV or even a Best XX that he can choose from 11 guys based on fitness, fatigue and the level of opposition. It’s a luxury, but it’s a city that deserves this season.
– Olley: Aguero scores first goal in 14 months, but will City keep it?
City’s third goal was a penalty from Sergio Aguerowho hadn’t scored a goal in the Premier League in almost 14 months. He’s obviously injured, but also with his contract expiring in the summer (and no indication of getting a new one) you wonder how that has affected his playing time. Aguero will be 33 years old in June; If clubs believe he is fit, he shouldn’t be short of offers. After all that, in the first six months of last season he scored 21 goals in 23 games for City in all competitions. It wasn’t that long ago …
Atletico Madrid frustrated with “old-school” Getafe
Alejandro Moreno says results that were just enough for Atletico Madrid are no longer enough after a draw with Getafe.
It’s easy to ridicule Getafe as some kind of “Diego Simeone 1.0” anti-soccer experiment against steroids. Simple, but not entirely imprecise. Atletico Madrid needed a win against the team that everyone loves to hate and hates to play against. They could have revised them and got a result, but they decided to beat them.
It worked … up to a point. Luis Suarez Atletico hit the woodwork and created more chances (as is usually the case against teams trained by Javier Bordalas), but mostly afterwards Allan Nyom was sent and David Soria did his Jan Oblak Impression in the Getafe gate, at least two large parades.
On paper this is a match Atletico should have won, but Getafe doesn’t play on paper and for a team like Atletico this has always been an awkward match. The 0-0 draw reduces Atletico’s lead by two points over Real Madrid as we wait for Barcelona to play on Monday night. Hey, if it were easy it wouldn’t be Atletico …
PSG’s night to be forgotten cannot become a habit with big games on the horizon
Julien Laurens sums up a terrible night for Angel Di Maria and Marquinhos who were robbed during PSG Nantes.
With Laco tying a goalless draw in Monille this weekend, the fact that PSG suffered a terrible defeat in their home defeat to Nantes means the damage to Ligue 1 title defense is somewhat limited.
– PSG increases security after players’ homes are broken into
– Sources: Di Maria, Marquinhos’ houses were robbed in the middle of the game
Mauricio Pochettino’s side are now three points down instead of two and the fact that Lyon also drew means they are still second. But that’s where the good news ends. Two big mistakes – one a shocking blind back pass Kylian Mbappe (Yes, you read that right) – sentenced them to a 2-1 loss to Nantes, a team that had only won one game in the past four months. (Ironically, they are managed by former PSG boss Antoine Kombouare).
This is where the margin of error in Ligue 1 becomes wafer-thin, as the next two games compete against each other: Away against Lyon and home to Lille. There are 180 minutes to turn the season around and get the French title race back on track.
Bellingham shines again as Dortmund continue on the hunt for the top 4 finishes
Don’t miss the fact that Borussia Dortmund’s goals against Hertha Berlin consisted of a mega-mistake by the goalkeeper in the second half (after a shot from a different zip code) and a garbage strike by the 16-year-old sensation. Youssoufa Moukoko. Dortmund dominated this game and could have made up several goals earlier.
The guy who made everything click? Jude Bellinghamwho is only 17 years old and had completed a similar championship class against Sevilla a few days earlier in the Champions League. It’s not often that such young players get the grade in a top club, and when it does it is usually up front or outside, albeit rarely in the middle of the park, where personality and tactical nous are as important as skill and athleticism .
The loss in Naples leaves Milan’s hopes for the title hanging by a thread
The guys from ESPN FC explain the impact of AC Milan’s 1-0 loss to Napoli on the title race.
“Next Man Up” is a nice slogan, but it can only work so often. A Milanese team exhausted from a late return from the Europa League and missing three of their four starting players (and the fourth). Theo Hernandez, just come back from an injury), as well as her best midfielder (Ismael Bennacer) and a guy named Zlatan up front would always fight a talented team like Napoli.
When you run out of fumes and chemistry you tend to admit more, which makes up for the fact that Milan tried to play open football and be positive. Badly in need of the points to keep their top 4 hopes alive, Napoli let their superior individual quality count and won 1-0.
Is the “Scudetto“Race over? Not yet, but it has obviously become a lot tougher for Milan. If you knock out Manchester United on Thursday you will be right to prioritize the Europa League, albeit with caution, because if Napoli wins.” In hand, Milan’s lead in fourth place drops to just three points. That is how close the top four Serie A race this year is.
RB Leipzig is four points ahead of Bundesliga leaders Bayern
In a way, the best news of the weekend for Bayern Munich came on Sunday with Leipzig’s 1-1 draw against Eintracht Frankfurt. The gap between first and second place is now four points, which means that Bayern can even afford to lose to Julian Nagelsmann’s men on April 3 and stay ahead.
It wasn’t a bad accomplishment. Emil Forsberg scored the goal and created a lot of chances against opponents who, so we don’t forget, are fourth in the table. Perhaps the difference between them and Bayern is that Bayern rarely lose points when they play well.