It was a giant weekend for soccer once more. Erling Haaland‘s heroics gave Borussia Dortmund a major win over RB Leipzig to maintain the Bundesliga race fascinating, Barcelona and Juventus saved their profitable streaks going (although each groups nonetheless have some obtrusive points), and Milan’s type in Serie A continued at the same time as Zlatan Ibrahimovic works his means again to full match health.
Elsewhere, there have been speaking factors galore for Manchester Metropolis, Man United, Chelsea and Arsenal following their FA Cup wins, Bayern Munich look susceptible, and Schalke averted setting a brand new low.
It is Monday, and Gab Marcotti reacts to the most important moments on this planet of soccer from the previous week.
Soar to: Tremendous Haaland | Barca revival | Ref admits error | Juve nonetheless a multitude | Bernardo key for Man Metropolis? | Leao leads Milan | Hazard, Actual stumble | Chelsea classes | Work forward for Inter | Arsenal’s VAR vindication | Bayern’s weak protection | Man United reserves | Atalanta, Papu issues | Schalke keep away from document | And at last…
Haaland’s second-half magic retains Dortmund in Bundesliga race
With Bayern dropping 3-2 on Friday evening to Borussia Monchengladbach, Leipzig’s conflict with Borussia Dortmund on Saturday was a possibility for Julian Nagelsmann’s crew to grab prime spot. It was additionally a possibility for the impartial fan to look at two of essentially the most thrilling sides in Europe (on paper), although the primary 45 minutes have been an uncharacteristically drab affair. Dortmund had their massive weapons on the market albeit enjoying conservatively, as in the event that they have been petrified of what one other defeat would possibly do to them. Leipzig, for all their operating, regarded sloppy and disjointed.
Then got here the break and a special Dortmund and, above all, a special Erling Haaland. The Norwegian wunderkind helped arrange Jadon Sancho‘s aim, scored a uncommon header, rattled the crossbar after which notched the third within the 3-1 win. He now has 19 targets in 16 appearances this season general and, sure people, he does not flip 21 till July. You wrestle to discover a weak point: tempo, technical capacity, energy, ending, consciousness, decision-making … he has all of it. You may throw in character, too.
For a lot of the primary half, Dayot Upamecano dealt with him with relative consolation, however that did nothing to dent Haaland’s confidence. And the one mini-knock on him — that for a man-child so massive and so sturdy, he ought to rating extra headed targets — could be passé actual quickly if the header that noticed him outmuscle Marcel Halstenberg is an indication of issues to return.
Haaland will get the headlines, however Sancho and Marco Reus have been vibrant too and, along with Gio Reyna, type a extra rational trio than something involving Julian Brandt. Edin Terzic in all probability bought the method improper — you presume his plan wasn’t to stink for 45 minutes, lull Leipzig into a way of safety after which strike after half-time — however the truth that he remedied it after the break is essential. Nonetheless, within the longer-term, the harm to Axel Witsel (torn Achilles tendon) is a blow. Emre Can, after all, can plug the opening in the midst of the park, however you are going to be quite skinny after that.
As for Leipzig? Let’s remind ourselves that it is a crew that took the pitch with out Konrad Laimer, Ibrahima Konate, Christopher Nkunku, Kevin Kampl and their brand-new signing, Dominik Szoboszlai. Sure, they’re deep and gifted and Nagelsmann likes to combine issues up anyway, however it nonetheless robs him of choices. Do not depend them out for the title; not but, anyway.
And heck, do not ignore Dortmund both. The hole is 5 factors with 19 video games to play, however given Bayern’s ups and downs and the variety of head-to-heads left, this race is much from over.
Barca’s revival right down to expertise, not plan, however it nonetheless issues
Ale Moreno asks the query after Barcelona’s distinctive win: Why does not this occur extra typically for Barca?
Whisper it, however Barcelona have three wins on the trot after the 4-0 away victory in opposition to Granada. Lionel Messi scored his first free-kick after 70-odd makes an attempt (although his different aim was extra spectacular) and moved again to the highest of the Liga scoring charts. Antoine Griezmann additionally scored two for the primary time since 2019 and, extra importantly, regarded vigorous and assured. Pedri was his regular precocious self and Ousmane Dembele confirmed that when he is match, he is one of many higher wingers on the market.
– Barca rankings: Messi, Griezmann 9/10 in win
Disaster over? No, and it will not be over till we now have presidential elections (set for Jan. 24), a transparent sense of the place this membership goes, some monetary sanity and a call on Messi’s future. And it is a crew that may proceed to have enormous query marks defensively. Samuel Umtiti made his first begin of the season — and lasted 90 minutes! — however it is going to be some time earlier than anyone declares him match and productive. Oscar Mingueza has but to indicate he is something aside from a viable stand-in at this degree.
Koeman’s 4-2-chaos formation nonetheless is not convincing as a long-term resolution, however the freedom it affords Messi and Griezmann specifically places them in conditions the place they will make their particular person expertise shine. And if Messi is switched on and having the form of day he had Saturday, every little thing appears to be like brighter.
Make no mistake about it, Koeman remains to be combating fires. It is not at all clear he is the answer on the sidelines, both. However Barca at the moment are third within the desk and Messi is enjoying like Messi. These items matter in a fragile time comparable to this.
Oliver’s refreshing admission: Why can we now have extra of this?
Over the weekend, Premier League referee Michael Oliver admitted he ought to have despatched off Jordan Pickford for his problem on Virgil Van Dijk within the Merseyside derby again in September. He stated the complicated nature of the incident — having to evaluate whether or not Van Dijk was offside, whether or not it was a penalty and, after all, whether or not Pickford deserved additional punishment — merited an extra look.
– Darke: Unsung heroes for all 20 PL groups
“We’ve got all, myself included, not thought concerning the problem as a lot as we should always have executed,” he stated. “We bought sucked an excessive amount of into going step-by-step versus considering of the larger course of, which was contemplating the problem and never simply the truth that it may well’t be a penalty.”
Oliver additionally admitted that the dearth of response from gamers on the pitch may need swayed his resolution. He was being trustworthy, however he did himself no favours with that: it is an open invitation for gamers to attempt to affect the match official.
It is refreshing to listen to a referee come clean with errors in public. They’re human; they do the perfect they will. Some are higher than others, simply as some gamers are higher than others. There’s nothing improper with admitting errors. I assume the explanation we do not see this extra typically is as a result of followers and media cannot be grown-ups about it.
Issues mount for Juve regardless of three-game win streak
Gab Marcotti and Julien Laurens do not get carried away by Juventus’ upturn in type.
The excellent news is that Juventus have received three straight Serie A video games for the primary time since Andrea Pirlo took over. And in the event that they win their sport in hand with Napoli — removed from a foregone conclusion, however nonetheless — they will be as much as third within the desk. However the 3-1 win over Sassuolo highlighted the various points they’re nonetheless grappling with, beginning with a midfield that strikes the ball too slowly and unimaginatively for a possession sport to work. Throw in a horrendous evening from Leo Bonucci (he risked getting despatched off early and was caught out of place too many instances), and accidents to Weston McKennie and Paulo Dybala, and the highway forward continues to look bumpy.
The truth that Juve have been unable to impose themselves regardless of a person benefit within the second half tells you the way far they’re from the place they need to be. Aside from the gilt-edged probability Cristiano Ronaldo missed, they created little. Even the 2 second-half targets — one a long-range “worldie” from Danilo, the opposite a person effort in rubbish time — weren’t the results of enjoying higher, however merely having higher gamers.
Make no mistake about it: that is nonetheless a development website.
Bernardo Silva might be Man Metropolis’s key down the stretch
Bernardo Silva scored twice in Manchester Metropolis’s pedestrian 3-0 FA Cup win over Birmingham Metropolis this weekend. His first was a factor of technical magnificence, twisting and bending his physique to provide as clear a strike as you are more likely to see.
Others Metropolis gamers have understandably taken many of the headlines in current seasons, from Kevin De Bruyne to Raheem Sterling to Sergio Aguero to the since departed “different” Silva, David. And whereas the Portuguese midfielder began this season slowly, he might change into crucial to Metropolis’s title problem merely due to his versatility. He is not the one participant who can fill in at just about any midfield place (aside from Rodri‘s) or out vast, however he does it with a tactical consciousness and a piece fee that a few of his teammates lack.
Regardless of not being essentially the most athletically gifted on this crew, Silva’s intelligence permits him to interpret the position in numerous methods, successfully permitting Pep Guardiola to tweak his system with out altering formation.
Leao a frontrunner up entrance for Milan
Milan, Inter, Juve or a wild card? Gab Marcotti and Matteo Bonetti break down Serie A’s Scudetto race.
Milan bounced again from their defeat to Juventus with a cushty 2-0 win over Torino that noticed the return, late within the second half, of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. With Inter drawing 2-2 in opposition to Roma on Sunday, the Rossoneri’s lead in Serie A is now three factors.
It additionally noticed a sterling efficiency from Rafael Leao enjoying up entrance. Public opinion amongst Serie A watchers is that whereas Leao performed very properly, he is “not a center-forward.” Me? I hate labels. He is not a center-forward in case your prototype is Ibrahimovic. Effective. Few are. However soccer is soccer, and he has the abilities to play up entrance as successfully as out vast. In reality, for a crew that plans to press excessive as a lot as Milan do, Leao might be a fair higher match than Ibra. (Not a greater participant; a greater match).
Think about defenders bludgeoned by Ibrahimovic for an hour or so abruptly having to cope with Leao’s trickery and quickness. Not enjoyable.
Eden Hazard bought a uncommon begin for Actual Madrid, however Ale Moreno says he is develop into a shadow of himself since his transfer.
There’s not a lot to be taught from Actual Madrid’s scoreless draw away to Osasuna aside from the truth that in case you mix icy circumstances with a skating rink of a pitch, you in all probability will not see nice soccer. Zinedine Zidane stated afterwards that the match ought to by no means have been performed — the heavy snow that hit that a part of Spain meant the crew solely arrived properly after midnight on the day of the match, after a four-hour wait on the runway in Madrid — and in a non-pandemic 12 months, with out fixture congestion, he could be proper.
Because it occurred, circumstances have been identically unhealthy for each groups, so it isn’t a lot of an excuse. Eden Hazard made his first begin since November and, with hindsight, this clearly wasn’t the sport for him. (He additionally should not have stayed on the pitch till quarter-hour from time.) Towards an opponent that understandably sat deep and defended, it was at all times going to be exhausting to create probabilities, however aside from a possibility for Marco Asensio, Madrid created little or no.
The hole on the prime of La Liga is down to at least one level, however with Atletico Madrid‘s sport being referred to as off, Diego Simeone’s crew now have three video games in hand, which means that theoretically, it might be as massive as 10 factors.
Did we be taught a lot about Werner, Havertz, Chelsea in FA Cup?
Janusz Michallik feels Timo Werner’s performances do not warrant a beginning place regardless of him scoring vs. Morecambe.
Chelsea dispatched fourth-tier Morecambe with ease within the FA Cup third spherical, so the 4-0 win was spun as an train in serving to Timo Werner and Kai Havertz regain a few of their mojo. Werner hadn’t scored for Chelsea in any competitors since Nov. 7 — a run of almost 800 minutes — whereas Havertz, the membership’s document signing, had began simply as soon as since mid-December. Neither had performed properly of late.
Each scored on Sunday and positive, it could assist their confidence. However it’s not clear what precisely we discovered from the train, and never simply due to the standard (or lack thereof) of the Blues’ League Two opposition. Werner performed up entrance, and if there’s one factor that ought to be apparent proper now, Chelsea are higher — and extra rational — with an actual center-forward like Tammy Abraham or Olivier Giroud main the road.
Additionally, Havertz performed in a midfield three with Mason Mount. That is wonderful in opposition to Morecambe when Chelsea have many of the ball, is it one thing you need to experiment with when there’s extra defending and positional play? I am not so positive.
Inter keep away from catastrophe, however time for Conte to work
ESPN FC’s Gab & Juls podcast breaks down Inter and Roma’s 2-2 draw from Sunday.
Inter’s 2-2 draw with Roma is not the catastrophe some make it out to be. Positive, it leaves them three factors off the tempo and sure, they conceded a late equalizer. However they have been enjoying Roma, who’re third within the desk, not the Muppet Infants. Paulo Fonseca is, arguably, the perfect sport day supervisor in Serie A and it confirmed. Along with his facet 2-1 down, he saved forcing Inter again, making them defend far deeper than they wished (as Antonio Conte himself acknowledged after the sport).
Most of all, two defeats on the spin at a tinderbox of a membership like Inter — notably in the course of the switch window — are a recipe for catastrophe. Antonio Conte stayed on message, acknowledging that they performed properly (which they did in spurts), underscoring that they need to have defended greater up the pitch in the direction of the top, however fell prey to the standard nervousness and concern of failure.
Ridding Inter of that nervousness, by the best way, is precisely what he is been making an attempt to do for the previous 18 months (and is why he is the very best paid supervisor in Serie A by a ways). That is one factor he must work on. Moreover, this nonetheless appears like a crew that beats you because of people (normally Romelu Lukaku, generally Lautaro Martinez or Achraf Hakimi, who scored an excellent aim) quite than the collective. Now that he has no European “distractions,” Conte ought to have loads of time to work on the latter.
Smith Rowe, Arsenal can thank VAR (and so do you have to)
Craig Burley responds to the critics of the VAR resolution in Arsenal’s FA Cup win over Newcastle.
Arsenal beat Newcastle United 2-0 after further time of their FA Cup third-round conflict, however it would possibly by no means have occurred with out VAR.
Deep into harm time, Emile Smith Rowe was proven a pink card by referee Chris Kavanagh for a lunge at Sean Longstaff. Possibly it was Longstaff shrieking like a child who finds a spider on their pillow, or possibly it was the best way he rolled round clutching his leg that prompted the instant response. Both means, it was incorrect. VAR Andre Marriner urged Kavanagh to have one other look and the referee duly downgraded it to a yellow. Smith Rowe went on to attain the decisive aim in further time earlier than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang added one other on the finish.
Would possibly Arsenal nonetheless have received with 10 males? Positive, however Smith Rowe wouldn’t have scored, and the sport could properly have taken a completely completely different — and wholly unfair — flip.
No matter VAR’s critics — and I can respect those that are philosophically opposed — it is fairly evident that the variety of grossly incorrect selections has declined since its introduction.
Bayern Munich’s protection not what it was
Gab Marcotti factors to Bayern retaining one clear sheet in 15 video games as an indication of actual weak point.
Bayern did not lose on Friday evening in opposition to Gladbach as a result of they performed worse than regular, or as a result of the opponents have been essentially significantly better. In reality, as typically occurs with the Bavarians — even after they’re poor — they carve out loads of probabilities and, as a result of they’ve higher gamers, normally end them.
The important thing phrase there, with out taking something away from Marco Rose’s males, is “normally.” When Bayern play at this degree — which, by their requirements, shouldn’t be a great degree — they’ll generally drop factors. And that, in a nutshell, is why the Bundesliga race stays vast open and why those that assume Bayern have some mystical maintain on the title are mistaken.
One statistic stands out for me. Bayern have saved one clear sheet of their final 15 video games in all competitions. It is partly about people — Manuel Neuer hasn’t been himself, Benjamin Pavard has been poor, Alphonso Davies does not seem absolutely recovered, David Alaba‘s contract deadlock weighs closely — and partly concerning the system: neither the excessive press nor the midfield (accidents have not helped) have been as efficient.
It is one thing Hansi Flick wants to repair. There are solely so many instances you may spot the opposition targets and get away with it.
Man United’s reserves do not take their probability to impress
Craig Burley and Shaka Hislop weigh up whether or not massive golf equipment like Man United ought to be within the FA Cup this early.
Manchester United‘s conflict with Watford at Previous Trafford within the FA Cup was a possibility to check out a number of the second-stringers. It is fairly apparent that this competitors shouldn’t be a precedence for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer simply as it isn’t for Watford boss Xisco, who made eight adjustments of his personal. (Certainly, 4 of his beginning XI hadn’t began a single league sport this season.)
Scott McTominay, captaining United for the primary time, scored early and from that time, the primary curiosity was in seeing who would possibly stake a declare in Solskjaer’s rotation. May Brandon Williams, a pure right-footer so typically deployed on the left, present a sound attacking various to Aaron Wan-Bissaka? May Axel Tuanzebe or Eric Bailly problem Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire? What about Donny Van de Beek? Are Jesse Lingard or Daniel James ever going to return in from the chilly?
Not one of the above actually confirmed that Solskjaer is lacking a beat in treating his reserves as, properly, reserves. It could have been the circumstances of the sport — although given lots of Watford’s gamers have been in the identical boat, you’ll have hoped for a extra aggressive encounter — or it could simply be that the hole with the present 13- or 14-man core is just too nice. Both means, do not count on many of those guys (with the plain exception of McTominay, Mason Greenwood and one or two different regulars) to crack the first-choice XI anytime quickly.
‘Papu’ Gomez hits again as Atalanta take flight with out him
Josip Ilicic stole the present as Atalanta hammered Bevenvento 4-1 to maintain their place in Serie A’s prime 4. They’ve scored 18 targets of their final 5 video games, suggesting they’ve misplaced none of their attacking verve from final 12 months. What they’ve misplaced, nevertheless, is “Papu” Gomez, arguably their excellent participant the final two seasons.
Gomez fell out badly with Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini and hasn’t performed since mid-December. The membership will attempt to shift him on this month’s switch window and Gasperini reiterated that Gomez is not “a match” tactically, to which Gomez replied with a collection of Instagram posts exhibiting his work off the ball.
Both means, it is a unhappy ending after dishing out loads of heroics in his 6½ seasons on the membership. Atalanta say they do not need to let him go to a Serie A membership. At 32, he could not have an extended profession forward of him, however there are many groups round Europe the place he would make an prompt impression.
Schalke keep away from historic document … however the worst is but to return
Jurgen Klinsmann heaps reward on Matthew Hoppe after the American teenager’s heroic hat trick for Schalke.
By now, you have in all probability heard of Schalke’s winless streak and the way they have been threatening the 31-game run set by Tasmania Berlin again in 1966. Nicely, Saturday’s 4-0 win over Hoffenheim means they cease one brief, at 30, and so they can thank each the opposition’s lack of ability to defend the counter and a hat trick from a teenage American Matthew Hoppe, in solely his third top-division begin.
It is a respite for Schalke, who additionally transfer off the underside, one level above Mainz. The relegation playoff spot (presently occupied by Cologne) is 4 factors away, so relegation is not at all a certainty, not least as a result of participant for participant, their squad isn’t any worse than lots of the groups round them. However financially, the membership was in unhealthy form earlier than the pandemic and the previous 10 months have solely made it worse. Relegation — and a restart, with decrease prices — may not be such a horrible factor.
And at last…
Bas Dost scored on his debut for Membership Brugge of their 2-1 away win at Sint-Truiden. He now has one aim in a single Belgian league look and is on tempo to attain 15 within the league. Counting his time at Eintracht Frankfurt, he has six targets in 15 video games general.
This concludes this instalment of #BasDostWatch.