Arsenal must rebound from Villa loss, Leverkusen’s title joy, more


The European season retains delivering unforgettable moments and this weekend was no totally different, with Bayer Leverkusen clinching their first-ever German Bundesliga title on Sunday and the Premier League race heating up after gorgeous house defeats for Liverpool (vs. Crystal Palace) and Arsenal (vs. Aston Villa) gave the benefit to Manchester City.

We additionally noticed Tottenham showcase their worst qualities vs. Newcastle, Man United drop more factors, Atletico Madrid decide up a morale enhance and Juventus look far from convincing within the Turin derby. Plus Barcelona have a call to make about João Félix.

– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga & more (U.S.)

It’s Monday. Gab Marcotti reacts to the largest moments on the earth of soccer.

Neither nerves nor inexperience are what condemned Arsenal to important defeat vs. Aston Villa

We love our narratives. Like this one: Arsenal are a younger aspect juggling European commitments to which they’re unaccustomed at this stage of the season. So, it stands to motive that after they concede two late objectives to Aston Villa and lose their first league recreation of the marketing campaign, some will chalk it as much as that. I’m not shopping for it, and neither ought to Arsenal’s gamers.

For a begin, you do not take something as a right on this sport, not to mention towards a really disciplined, tactically adept Aston Villa aspect. Unai Emery has his limitations, however on the subject of devising a recreation plan and getting his group to execute, he is among the many greatest within the enterprise. He confirmed it in Sunday’s 2-0 win regardless of Villa having two days’ fewer relaxation than Arsenal.

Still, no matter he designed is simply that: a plan. Plans wanted to be executed by gamers. If properly executed, they’ll skew percentages your manner, however that is all they’ll do. And the very fact is Arsenal had been firmly in management in that first half to the purpose that they might have been a number of objectives to the nice. (And no, the Leandro Trossard miss — a side-foot with your entire purpose to intention for — is a miss, not some Emi Martinez voodoo.)

There was a marked decline from the house aspect early within the second half: the press grew that a lot more lax, Arsenal obtained pushed additional again, Villa saved possession higher and gained territory. Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta may maybe have countered this earlier, probably by sending on Jorginho — he made his first substitution after the hour mark and Jorginho solely got here on with simply over 10 minutes to go. But we’re speaking particulars right here — ones that at all times appear to make sense in hindsight, not a lot within the warmth of the sport.

More primary, I feel, is the defensive error that led to Leon Bailey‘s purpose, whether or not it was Álex Moreno being allowed to cross, the ball not being stopped on the close to submit or Bailey himself not being tracked adequately on the opposite aspect. These aren’t nerves and this is not inexperience: it is merely errors.

What Arteta would not need at this stage are two issues. One is for his gamers to consider they lack the expertise or psychological fortitude to progress, each within the league and the Champions League. That a lot goes with out saying.

The different is for them to not second-guess his choices. Would Gabriel Martinelli have completed off that Trossard likelihood? Should he have reworked his midfield earlier after the break, as soon as it was apparent that Villa had been within the ascendancy? Should his message, particularly as soon as Martin Odegaard got here off, have been that this was more of a “can’t-lose” than a “must-win” recreation, particularly given Liverpool’s defeat earlier within the day?

Asking these questions is the job of the commentariat, not the gamers, actually not at this stage of the marketing campaign. Captain Hindsight is undefeated. Arteta may not have totally performed the odds along with his decisions, however they might simply have paid off, too. At this stage, you may’t harbour doubts; you must go straight forward in no matter course the supervisor is pointing and let the chips fall the place they could.

‘Neverkusen’ no more as win over Werder Bremen seals inevitable Bundesliga title, and why it means a lot



Keller: Bayer Leverkusen have achieved one thing actually outstanding

Kasey Keller reacts to Bayer Leverkusen profitable their first Bundesliga title with 5 video games left to play.

Bayer Leverkusen’s 5-0 win over Werder Bremen on Sunday marked the primary league title of their 119-year historical past. Indeed, in all that point, the one different items of silverware are the 1987-88 UEFA Cup (the precursor to the Europa League) and the 1992-93 German Cup.

Leverkusen followers of a sure age will know the place the “Neverkusen” moniker got here from: between 1997 and 2001-02, they completed runners-up 4 occasions. The hardest to take was in 2001-02, after they misplaced the German Cup closing, misplaced the Champions League closing (to Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid) and frittered away a five-point result in present Bayern the title. That summer time, to make it damage even more, they misplaced arguably their two greatest gamers, Michael Ballack and Ze Roberto, to — who else? — Bayern.

– Hamilton: Scenes from Leverkusen’s historic coronation

The undeniable fact that their turned inevitable a number of weeks in the past (if not more) would not make any much less candy or historic. Breaking the Bavarians’ 12-year stranglehold on the German title is noteworthy in itself. Doing it whereas going undefeated in all competitions — they’re nonetheless on observe for a treble, given they’re within the quarterfinals of the Europa League and have reached the German Cup closing — takes it to a complete totally different stage. Their 43-game unbeaten streak matches Juventus’ mark amongst group from the Big 5 leagues in post-war competitors, and so they have a reliable shot at Benfica’s report of 48, set between 1963 and 1965 with the legendary Eusebio and Mario Coluna. (The total report belongs to Celtic and was set between 1915 and 1917: they will have to attend till subsequent season in the event that they’re to take a shot at that.)

Coach Xabi Alonso will get a ton of credit score, and deservedly so. Just since you’re one of many few folks on Earth on the intersection of the Jose Mourinho/Pep Guardiola Venn diagram is not any assure of success. He backed it up with outcomes, and there is a good motive each Liverpool and Bayern had been after him — and why, as I wrote, saying “nein danke” is an indication of each braveness and loyalty.

Maybe most spectacular in regards to the work that Xabi Alonso and the membership — led by CEO Fernando Carro — have put collectively might be seen in the way in which this squad was constructed.

Take the core of this group — the 13 most-used gamers — and you may word that 9 of them predate Xabi Alonso’s arrival. The 4 who do not? Jonas Hofmann, 30, a winger who arrived courtesy from Borussia Monchengladbach of a €10m launch clause. There’s defender Alex Grimaldo, 29, a free switch from Benfica who spent his profession being missed. Or striker Victor Boniface, 23, who could not crack double figures in objectives in Belgium, and Granit Xhaka, 31, who was going to be surplus to necessities at Arsenal. In different phrases, the membership did it on a finances, with out large spending and largely working with gamers who had been already there, which makes it all of the more spectacular.

Some purists will let you know it is not fairly a fairy story as a result of Leverkusen should not a kind of Bundesliga fan-controlled golf equipment. In reality, earlier than the rise of Leipzig and Hoffenheim, they had been the unique villains who obtained described as “plastic” by the purists, as they were exempted from the 50+1 rule. And certain, having a pharmaceutical big like Bayer behind you makes a distinction, however let’s not child ourselves. Their wage invoice is 1 / 4 that of Bayern and properly behind the likes of Borussia Dortmund or Leipzig. This remains to be an enormous, against-the-odds feat, and nothing will take it away.

Now it is “Neverkusen” as in “they’ll never forget this.” Odds are, no one will.

Liverpool must not conflate their final two defeats, as they had been completely totally different video games

The temptation is apparent whenever you undergo back-to-back defeats at house after 14 months unbeaten at Anfield, however Liverpool’s house losses towards Atalanta (3-0 within the Europa League) and Crystal Palace (1-0 within the Premier League) had been totally distinct affairs. It’s not simply that Jurgen Klopp has to make sure heads do not drop and preserve perception and enthusiasm (a minimum of within the Premier League: overturning a three-goal European deficit is a taller order than making up two factors within the final six video games). It’s that when what went mistaken, he must be clear on what wants fixing.

Against Atalanta, Klopp obtained the method totally mistaken, misreading the place and the way their opponents would press, and paying the value for personnel adjustments that proved to be insufficient on the night time. (It explains the triple substitution at half-time after they had been a purpose down: how usually do you see that?)



Nicol: The Premier League title is gone for Liverpool

Steve Nicol assesses Liverpool’s Premier League title hopes after their 1-0 loss to Crystal Palace.

On Sunday towards Palace, they paid a hefty worth for defensive errors — the build-up to Eberechi Eze‘s purpose, the Virgil van Dijk slip on the counter, the Jean-Philippe Mateta likelihood within the second half — however by and huge, they managed the sport after an early slumber. Liverpool squandered a bucketload of probabilities en path to an xG of two.87 (to Palace’s 1.09, most of it coming off three photographs). Obviously ending is an enormous a part of the sport (and Dean Henderson did make some good saves), however in regular circumstances you count on the likes of Darwin Núñez, Diogo Jota, Curtis Jones and, particularly, Mohamed Salah to do higher. Other than speaking about “rushing” and “being more composed” — which he is already achieved — I’m undecided what Klopp can say to his forwards to get them to transform probabilities into objectives.

The defensive piece, nonetheless, is the place Klopp has to proceed working. These are psychological errors right here from gamers who must be doing higher. Get that proper and so they’ll be on observe to maintain the strain on City the remainder of the way in which and — who is aware of? — perhaps even pip them to the title.

Quick hits

TEN — Man City dominate Luton, however objectives — and aid — comes late: That’s the factor about this sport. You can wipe the ground with an opponent for more than an hour as Manchester City — with out Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden and, after all, Rodri within the beginning lineup, all with a view to the midweek Champions League quarterfinal, second leg, conflict with Real Madrid — did to Luton, and actually solely begin wanting ahead to the three factors within the closing minutes. City outshot Luton 37 to 4 (13-2 for photographs heading in the right direction), whereas having 74% possession and racking up an xG of three.68, however it wasn’t till Mateo Kovacic‘s long-range volley made it 2-0 with lower than half an hour to go that you simply turned certain of the three factors. Because this Luton aka The Hatters (as in “Mad”) and so they’ve been doing it with smoke and mirrors — regardless of a teeny-tiny finances and a rash of accidents (12 unavailable for this recreation) all season lengthy. Even City’s opener, with Haaland’s wayward strike smacking off Daiki Hashioka‘s head and into the again of the online, had a Twilight Zone really feel to it. In the top, there was no fairy story: City received 5-1 and, given Sunday’s outcomes, they discover themselves prime of the desk.

NINE — Weekends do not get a lot better than Atletico Madrid’s big step in the direction of a top-four end and a lift forward of Borussia Dortmund rendezvous: Atleti supervisor Diego Simeone had a little bit of a balancing act. On the one hand, his group wanted a outcome towards Girona to maintain Athletic Bilbao at bay within the race for fourth place. On the opposite, he knew this week’s return fixture goes to be a slog in Dortmund, and their 2-1 quarterfinal, first-leg lead within the Champions League is paper-thin. It seemed prefer it was going to explode in his face (alongside along with his resolution to go together with a 4-4-2 formation) when Artem Dovbyk opened the scoring for Girona early, however Atleti — pushed by the magnificent Antoine Griezmann — didn’t let him down, grinding out a 3-1 victory. Were they a bit fortunate? Sure, and the way Sávio did not get a penalty after being felled by Reinildo stays a thriller. But coupled with Athletic Bilbao’s draw the subsequent day, Simeone couldn’t have dreamed up a greater weekend.

EIGHT — Bayern Munich roll previous Koln, and now it is time for second-stringers within the league: With that massive Champions League return leg towards Arsenal developing on Wednesday, it made sense for Bayern to relaxation gamers, which Thomas Tuchel (not directly, since he was suspended) duly did, leaving out 5 starters. The reserves confirmed loads of struggle en path to a 2-0 win, although the regulars who did play had been a blended bag: Harry Kane missed a bunch of probabilities (one purpose in his final 4 from open play, however that is in all probability simply regression to the imply) and Joshua Kimmich seemed sharp at right-back (however it’s anybody’s guess if he’ll play there subsequent season). Mathys Tel, deployed large on the left, in all probability got here out with essentially the most credit score and at this stage, there is not any motive he should not begin the remainder of the way in which within the league, if just for the membership to evaluate what they’ve.

SEVEN — Deja vu over again for Man United as their defensive numbers worsen and worse: It’s odd to assume that after their 2-2 draw with Bournemouth, the group that is joint-sixth within the desk have conceded more photographs than anyone else and have a worse non-penalty Expected Goals conceded than anybody aside from Luton and Sheffield United, each of whom are within the relegation zone. Especially since they are not precisely an attacking juggernaut on the different finish. Last season, when Man United completed third, their defensive numbers in these classes weren’t nice (ninth greatest for photographs conceded, seventh greatest for non-penalty xG), however neither had been they this dangerous. Is all of it all the way down to the huge damage disaster on the again, having been with out half-a-dozen defenders this weekend? Is it one thing Erik Ten Hag can repair? Figuring out the reply to that may play an enormous half in whether or not or not he sticks round subsequent season.



Laurens requires Ten Hag out: ‘He will not repair something!’

Gab & Juls react to a different defensive catastrophe for Manchester United of their 2-2 draw at Bournemouth.

SIX — Real Madrid win with an eye fixed on Man City recreation … whereas sweating on Andriy Lunin and probably Nacho, too: The Ukrainian keeper has crammed in admirably after the season-ending damage to Thibaut Courtois final August, staving off competitors from on-loan Kepa Arrizabalaga. But he wasn’t nice towards Man City (witness the Bernardo Silva purpose) and seemed jittery on this weekend’s 1-0 street win towards Mallorca, courtesy of a deflected Aurélien Tchouaméni purpose: his mistake practically gave Vedat Muriqi an opportunity to equalize. Keepers are a humorous bunch, as a lot of their recreation is psychological. Madrid want Lunin at his greatest in the event that they’re to get previous Pep Guardiola’s crew. We additionally obtained the strongest attainable trace that Nacho — and never Eder MIlitao — will get the beginning towards City. The Brazilian, who solely simply returned from severe damage, certainly would have gotten more than the minute or so he obtained towards Mallorca if he was prepared to begin towards Erling Haaland & Co. within the second leg.

FIVE — Milan endure defensive nightmare, however to not fear because the prize comes on Thursday towards Roma: I do not actually get the doom and gloom following Milan’s 3-3 draw at Sassuolo. Yes, they needed to come from two objectives down twice and at one stage, they might simply have been 4-1 down. But so what? They’ll nonetheless end within the prime three (most certainly second) in Serie A and Thursday’s return leg towards Roma within the Europa League is way more vital: they’re 0-1 down after the primary leg. Defender Simon Kjaer had a horrible day on the again: tremendous, he is 35, he is now not first-choice, massive deal. So perhaps his regulars did not get as a lot relaxation as Stefano Pioli would have needed, as a result of the likes of Tijani Reijnders, Christian Pulisic and Olivier Giroud needed to come on when chasing the sport. OK, you reside with that. This complete ambiance across the group — not helped by Gerry Cardinale’s feedback in February, whereby Pioli has to show himself each recreation — is not serving to anybody proper now.

FOUR — Nothing is ever simple for Borussia Dortmund, and this time it is Karim Adeyemi‘s pink card: The excellent news is that Borussia Dortmund obtained an enormous three factors away to Borussia Monchengladbach to maintain tempo with Leipzig within the battle for fourth spot, which actually issues for the reason that Bundesliga is neck-and-neck with the Premier League within the battle for 5 locations subsequent season. The dangerous information is that, even in a recreation like this, the place Dortmund performed moderately properly and raced out to a 2-0 lead courtesy of Marcel Sabitzer, somebody discovered a strategy to screw issues up. This time, it was Karim Adeyemi, who left his group taking part in 40-plus minutes with 10 males thanks to 2 totally useless bookings.



Can Barcelona proceed to maintain Mbappe quiet within the Champions League?

Craig Burley seems to be forward to the Champions League quarterfinal second leg between Barcelona and PSG.

THREE — Barcelona consolidate second place with Joao Felix strike … however what do you do with him? Once once more, Joao Felix confirmed he is simple on the attention, able to gorgeous objectives (just like the overhead kick that felled Cadiz this weekend to strengthen Barcelona’s grip on second place) and, by a long way, essentially the most gifted Barca participant who took the pitch within the 1-0 victory. (Xavi, understandably, made 9 adjustments from the aspect that confronted Paris Saint-Germain within the Champions League final week.) That’s nice and all, however what this season confirmed — once more — is that Joao Felix (a minimum of underneath Xavi) is a luxurious for Barca. If you will get him to stay round on mortgage at vastly lowered wages — he reportedly took an enormous pay lower for this season — then nice. But if you cannot — and odds are you may’t as a result of he has a contract with Atletico Madrid by way of 2029, which suggests practically €10m a yr in amortisation — you then’re higher off parting methods this low season. Between Gavi, Raphinha, Lamine Yamal and Ferran Torres (plus whoever the subsequent man popping out of La Masia is perhaps), Barca have sufficient cowl and selection in large areas and their monetary woes are properly documented.

TWO — Memo to Juventus that you simply’re taking part in for the long run, not the current: We noticed it towards Fiorentina, to a lesser diploma towards Lazio within the cup, and we noticed it once more within the derby towards Torino. Max Allegri’s crew weren’t dangerous in a primary half that noticed them carve out a number of probabilities, however after the break, they regressed to “defend-and-counter” mode and appeared to look to protect a degree. (And nonetheless, Torino got here near scoring with Antonio Sanabria and Lazaro in damage time.) Yeah, it is a derby and all, however face the fact. Juventus will end third or fourth, qualify for the Champions League and we’ll have the standard debates about Allegri and sources. In a state of affairs like this, why not be a little bit more daring and attempt to supply a glimpse of a greater future?

ONE — Tottenham cannot afford to be the cartoon model of themselves: Spurs boss Ange Postecoglou mentioned he was “concerned by all of it” following a 4-0 mauling by the hands of an injury-riddled Newcastle aspect on Saturday. He means the defending — Micky Van de Ven had a nightmare, although he wasn’t the one one — and it is comprehensible whenever you’re as attacking as “Angeball” sides are. But presumably, he additionally means the attacking finish of the pitch, the place 73% possession yielded Expected Goals of simply 0.48. And, whereas we’re at it, the psychological aspect too, beginning with James Maddison, who in all probability ought to have been despatched off for a pointless sort out. This was all of the “Spursy/Angeball” detrimental stereotypes rolled into one, and so they have to indicate this isn’t who they’re.


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