European soccer didn’t disappoint this weekend, with talking points galore around the Premier League, German Bundesliga and Italian Serie A in particular. Ten-man Liverpool rallied for a huge win at Newcastle, Man United spotted Nottingham Forest a 2-0 lead inside four minutes before winning 3-2, and Arsenal dropped points vs. Fulham in entirely self-inflicted fashion. Oh, and Barcelona led 2-0 and trailed 3-2 at Villarreal only to claw back and take a 4-3 victory.
Elsewhere, Christian Pulisic continued to impress for Milan, Lamine Yamal dazzled for Barca, Erling Haaland missed a penalty (though Manchester City still won) and Kylian Mbappé has been welcomed back by Paris Saint-Germain fans after another summer transfer saga.
– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga & more (U.S.)
It’s Monday, and Gab Marcotti reacts to the biggest moments in the world of football.
More of a Newcastle defeat than a Liverpool win?
Jurgen Klopp was beaming at the final whistle, going so far as to describe this comeback as tougher than the one against Barcelona in the Champions League. Maybe, but Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Newcastle United was just as much about the home team throwing it away as it was the Reds clawing it back. When you’re 1-0 up, play more than an hour against 10 men at home and end up losing, it can’t just be because you’re opponent was good. It has to be some combination of bad luck and bad performance.
They played a part in each of Darwin Núñez‘s late goals. On the first one, Newcastle were unlucky that, after hitting Dan Burn‘s backside, the ball stood up nicely Nunez to take and score. On the second, you simply can’t away the ball the way Bruno Guimarães did or fail to shut Mohamed Salah down in that position.
It’s true that Liverpool made some of their luck by not giving up on pressing (albeit intermittently) when down a man, especially after Harvey Elliott and Diogo Jota came on. But it’s equally true that Alisson had to make some exceptional saves and Miguel Almirón could have had a hat trick.
For Eddie Howe, this is clearly a teachable moment.
As for Klopp? Once the euphoria subsides, he’ll have plenty to work on, especially — once again — at the back. Without the injured Ibrahima Konaté, the back four looks substantially worse. Virgil Van Dijk completely mistimed his tackle on Alexander Isak and was rightly sent off. That can’t happen from your leader. But it’s not just on him: it looks as if he’s late because he’s distracted by the fact that Andy Robertson did not adequately track Sandro Tonali‘s run to his left.
As for Alexander-Arnold, acres of newsprint have been devoted to his defensive deficiencies. He hit the trifecta at St James’ on Sunday: he picked up a silly booking for throwing the ball away, he should have been sent off for needlessly pulling back Anthony Gordon (if you’ve already been booked, that’s only a foul you commit if there’s a legitimate goal threat) and, of course, it was his mistake that sent Gordon through for Newcastle’s goal.
Why Premier League managers can’t complain about Saudi transfer window
Gab Marcotti details why Premier League clubs cannot have any problem with the transfer window in Saudi Arabia staying open until Sept. 20.
Barcelona enjoy roller-coaster comeback at Villarreal as Lamine Yamal shines again
Last season, Xavi had us accustomed to tight games. This year, it’s the opposite.
Against Villarreal, Barcelona raced out to a 2-0 win, found themselves down 3-2 and then bagged two goals in the final half-hour to emerge as victors. It was probably a deserved win, and Xavi made a key substitution when he sent on Ferran Torres for Oriol Romeu, effectively shifting the team’s centre of gravity further forward. Barcelona had enjoyed chances before that too (you usually do against a Quique Setien side), but that changed gave Robert Lewandowski some much needed support and effectively pinned Villarreal back.
But the star of the game was Lamine Yamal, just 16 years and 45 days old (Robert Lewandowski was scoring goal in the Polish third division when he was born). The wunderkind ended up hitting the post twice (one with each foot), became LaLiga’s youngest-ever assist provider and was, along with Gavi, Barca’s main creative outlet. It’s telling that with Raphinha out, Xavi picked him ahead of Torres, Abde and Ansu Fati (three guys who, lest we forget, were good enough to go to the World Cup).
If you’re going to nitpick, well, Yamal still needs to grow defensively — Alfonso Pedraza ran riot on his flank, though that may have had something to do with Sergi Roberto behind him — but at his age, it would be weird if he was already perfect.
Overall, Barca remain a work in progress. Defensively, they were wobbly, but that’s understandable without Alejandro Balde and Ronald Araújo. If they’re going to control games, they either need Gavi in a more central position or Pedri (who was absent) on the pitch.
Up front, Lewandowski isn’t at his best right now, by his own admission. But if you can grow while getting three points, that’s the way to do it. And in terms of character and stick-to-itness, there’s a ton to admire.
Pulisic shines on the right as Milan romp past Torino 4-1
Sometimes we get a little too worked up about right and left. Christian Pulisic played mostly out wide on the left for the United States men’s national team (where he was arguably the best player) and in his four years at Chelsea (where he definitely was not). It was classic “inverted wide man” stuff: he’s right-footed, so by playing on the left, he can cut inside onto his better foot.
Milan’s best player (or, at least, the guy with the biggest upside) also happens to be a right-footed guy who plays wide left (Rafael Leão). Would this be a problem for Pulisic? Not thus far.
In Week 1 of the season against Bologna, he cut in from the right, played a one-two and scored a superb goal. (This was after he had cut in from the right and delivered an exquisite left-footed pass to set up Olivier Giroud‘s opener.) On Saturday in the 4-1 win over Torino, he notched the opener after starting a move in his own half on the right, converging centrally and, after a give-and-go with Ruben Loftus-Cheek, side-footed home with his left.
Obviously players have tendencies and, of course, “footed-ness” matters, but it’s a fluid game and what matters more is technical ability and game intelligence. Some players make the same runs over and over again and that’s what makes them great. Pulisic does not. In fact, that versatility — he can obviously switch flanks when Leao is out, or play through the middle at number 10 if Milan switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation — is a big part of why they like him.
Overall, unlike in Week 1, where Milan dropped off after the break, this was a more comprehensive performance — though Torino had a stinker too, it must be said — and the big guns, Rafael Leao and Theo Hernández, look in fine form. The first big test will come on Friday, away to Roma.
Whatever Man United lack (and it’s a long list), they don’t lack fight
Yeah, I know the cliché is that effort and fight are non-negotiable, and you don’t get a pat on the head for trying hard. But there’s coach-speak and then there’s reality.
When you go two goals down at home within four minutes, when you know there’s a fan protest brewing, when your two biggest summer signings are injured, when many observers feel you need two or three newcomers (and the market shuts in less than a week) … when all these things come together, the fightback is by no means a given.
But that’s what United did against Nottingham Forest. They chipped away after conceding twice in the opening four minutes, pulling one back before the break, watched Casemiro miss one of the biggest sitters of his career, and then riding Bruno Fernandes‘ form to a 3-2 win.
Dawson: Man United look vulnerable despite 3-2 win vs. Forest
Rob Dawson analyses Man United’s 3-2 win over Nottingham Forest in the Premier League.
It’s very easy to find flaws right now in this United team, just as it was easy to do last season. They’re creating chances — at least against bad teams (Wolves and Nottingham Forest) and teams that concede chances (Spurs) — and they’re one point off the top without playing particularly well. Kinda like they finished third last year without looking particularly good for any significant amount of time.
I don’t think you can blame Erik ten Hag, or even the players. Some have good games and some have bad games, but there’s never a sense of controversy or lack of effort. It’s more a sense of drift, almost as if the fact that nobody is substantially better than them (other than Manchester City and Arsenal) is prompting the club and the owners to muddle along through yet another transition season.
As I see it, what United lack is pretty evident: another central defender, another central midfielder and another central striker. If you can shift Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire (easier said than done) to help fund it, great. If not, take guys on loan. I’m just not sure the folks who run the club see it as a matter of urgency, maybe because they take it as read that another top-four finish beckons.
If so, that’s a mistake. And it would be letting down Ten Hag and the players, not to mention the fans.
Juventus held at home, and Allegri gets mad for the wrong reasons
After Juventus’ 1-1 home draw with Bologna, Max Allegri was furious to the point that his shouts and rants (many aimed at the referee) were heard through the locked doors of the home dressing room. (He didn’t show up at the post game press conference, supposedly because he was “exhausted.”)
Allegri had reason to be angry. His Juve side looked flat and uninspired, suggesting that the first half against Udinese last week — when they were positive and attacking — was a one-off. However, he has no reason to think the officiating cost them. If anything, his opposite number, Thiago Motta, should be furious.
When Samuel Iling took out Dan Ndoye in the second half, referee Marco Di Bello missed it entirely and VAR — for some unknown reason — did not call him to the screen. It should have been a penalty and probably a red card, too, since Ndoye was poised to score, a few steps from the goalmouth.
If you’re Juventus, you’re more concerned at this stage by Allegri’s tantrum than you are about the performance on the pitch (it’s Allegri, after all; his vision of the game is what it is). To get this angry this early in the season is not a good sign.
Haaland misses penalty and Man City score late in one-sided win
Break it down to numbers and Manchester City’s 2-1 win away to Sheffield United was as one-sided as it gets. The visitors recorded an xG of 3.29, while Sheffield United didn’t even attempt a shot until 16 minutes from the final whistle. City had 79% possession and 30 shots on goal, including Erling Haaland‘s missed penalty.
And yet, in the end it came down to Rodri‘s late strike, which itself came down to the fact that Phil Foden‘s miscontrolled ball landed at his feet, but of course, that only happened because Kyle Walker somehow recovered the ball out on the right flank and put it a cross. And — yeah, it’s the butterfly effect — you wonder if Walker had extra motivation given it was his ill-judged back heel (and subsequent frustration) that led to Sheffield United’s equaliser in the first place. Not to mention that all of it would have been in vain if Anel Ahmedhodžić hadn’t conjured up one of the least coordinated finishes you’ll ever see at the final whistle.
Olley: There will be concerns for Arteta after draw vs. Fulham
James Olley reacts to Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Fulham in the Premier League.
The bottom line? Tiny details add up to big results, and actions always have consequences in ways you often can’t imagine. Oh, and City are really good. But we knew that.
Forgive and forget … for now: Mbappe once again the King of PSG
Is it denial? Is it a case of “enjoy it while it lasts”? Is it a belief that — despite conventional wisdom suggesting that Kylian Mbappé will leave Paris Saint-Germain either for a sizeable fee in the next week or (more likely) as a free agent in June — the Qataris will once again persuade him to stay?
Whatever it is, PSG fans are buying it. The enthusiasm over Mbappe’s two goals (the first one was fearsome) in a 3-1 win over a potential contender like Lens, the way he was feted by the Ultras… you’d almost think all the acrimony over the one-year option he didn’t take up and the club’s decision to send him to train on his own were just a fleeting nightmare. And that matters, too, because after going winless in the first two games, Luis Enrique needed a convincing performance and his stars to do their thing.
Without Goncalo Ramos at center-forward, Marco Asensio revived his “false nine” schtick, while Mbappe and Ousmane Dembélé looked convincing out wide. Mbappe’s situation — coupled with the departure of Neymar — sucked all the oxygen out of the room, so it’s easy to forget that PSG have a new manager, nine new signings and are in full-on rebuild mode. With Mbappe, for the time being at least.
Next year? We’ll see. But, as it stands, the love affair continues.
Two points dropped for Arsenal against Fulham was self-inflicted, but fixable
Arsenal choked against Fulham. There’s really no other way to put it when you concede at home within a minute (somehow managing to commit three individual errors in one play via Thomas Partey, Bukayo Saka and Aaron Ramsdale), squander a bunch of clear-cut chances and then finish up by somehow failing to notice João Palhinha‘s 6-foot-3 frame on a corner kick (and again, among the most culpable on that one was the club’s record signing, Declan Rice). It could have been worse, too, had Adama Traoré on the counter not been snuffed out by Ramsdale.
That said, I’m less concerned than some Chicken Little types out there. Arsenal controlled the game and their wounds — including Kai Havertz‘ awful miss — were largely self-inflicted, rather than a function of some general inefficiency.
Laurens: Chelsea would drive Cucurella to Man United themselves
Julien Laurens explains why he doesn’t feel a loan move for Chelsea’s Marc Cucurella makes sense for Manchester United.
I don’t know if this scheme, with Havertz and Martin Odegaard behind a number nine — whether a “real” on (Eddie Nketiah), a “false” one (Leandro Trossard) or a “hybrid” (Gabriel Jesus) — is going to work long-term. And I have even less faith in Partey at right-back, though you hope that’s a temporary measure. But Arteta is working through his imperfections, he’s testing what he has and, still, he’s mostly getting performance.
For now, that’s OK, because you can’t imagine as many individual blunders as we saw on Saturday.
Kane scores twice as Bayern rolls past Augsburg in routine win
Harry Kane is showing through two league games that his goal-scoring skills are an exportable commodity, at least against poor teams. After scoring on opening day, he bagged two (one a penalty, the other a clever strike) in the 3-1 win over Augsburg.
Bayern never really felt in danger of dropping points, but they also never looked dominant. In fact, they looked a little bit like Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea looked at times: tight defensively, deliberate in possession, effective on the counter. That may have had something to do with how Tuchel chose to replace the injured Jamal Musiala: with Leroy Sané, Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman taking turns through the middle rather than Thomas Mueller.
Whether it’s a permanent feature or not remains to be seen. But thus far, it does seem he’s intent on steering them away from what they were under Julian Nagelsmann.
Roma fall at Verona as they wait on Lukaku … but is he the answer?
By the time you read this, Romelu Lukaku might have joined Roma on loan. Or not, as the case may be, since Chelsea and the Giallorossi were still haggling on the loan fee and how the tab for his massive salary is going to be spit between the two (and Lukaku himself, who will likely have to take a pay cut).
Jose Mourinho is a long-standing Lukaku fan — he signed him at Manchester United — and in some quarters, enthusiasm is so high that you’d think Erling Haaland was on his way. It’s worth reminding ourselves that Lukaku is coming off a very difficult season and an even more difficult summer, in which he’s been training on his own for three months. It might therefore take him a while to get match-fit, which means Andrea Belotti (no goals last season, but two on opening day), newcomer Sardar Azmoun and Paulo Dybala (who had to come off injured on Saturday) will have to carry the load.
On the pitch, Roma lost away to Verona 2-1, and the result here is more of a concern than the performance. Rui Patrício‘s blunder gifted the opposition the early lead and the second came on the counterattack. Roma played reasonably well beyond that, with Lorenzo Pellegrini already looking in fine form, but it’s one point from two games with Milan coming up on Friday…
Maddison cues Spurs past Bournemouth as “Ange-ball” rolls on …
You may have seen the traveling Spurs fans singing “We’ve got our Tottenham back!” after Saturday’s 2-0 win at Bournemouth. It’s the enthusiasm of new management, it feeds into the club’s historic “stylish football” narrative (real or imagined) and it comes after having Antonio Conte, Nuno Espirito Santo and Jose Mourinho as your last three permanent managers. But the change under Ange Postecoglou in terms of approach is very evident, and it goes beyond the fact that he’s replaced one of the three central defenders with an attacking midfielder like James Maddison.
Tottenham have seven points from three games, just like last season. The competition has been comparable, if a little tougher this year (Bournemouth and Brentford away, Manchester United at home) relative to last season (Chelsea away, Southampton and Wolves at home), yet the numbers tell their own story. Their goal difference is the same (+4), their xG goal difference is virtually the same (+0.46 this year versus +0.44 last year), their shots conceded are virtually the same (45 this year, 46 last year).
The biggest difference? Their possession is up to 61% compared to 48% last season and they are taking nearly five shots a game more than last year. Spurs were ready for something new and different.
Celta’s Gabri Veiga choosing Al Ahli and the Saudi Pro League was both a surprise (the first up-and-coming A-list player to do so) and a blow to Napoli, but they cheered themselves up with a 2-0 win over Sassuolo. (It would have been three, if Giacomo Raspadori had converted his penalty.) And they’ll be even happier if they succeed in signing Eintracht’s Jesper Lindstrom.
Under Rudy Garcia, Napoli look a little bit less buccaneering than last season under Luciano Spalletti, but they still have plenty of depth and Lindstrom will add to that. The fact that he’s six years younger than the guy he will replace in the long term — Piotr Zieliński — is a bonus.
Dortmund disappoint again, but snatch a draw
Borussia Dortmund‘s sputtering start to the campaign continued this weekend as Edin Terzic’s side had to settle for a 1-1 draw away to Bochum who, lest we forget, got spanked 5-0 on opening day OK, it was a derby and if you want to write off the two goals because Bochum’s was an improbable wonder-strike and Donyell Malen‘s equaliser had a bit of good fortune about it, go right ahead. But if you look at the performance, you won’t like what you see.
Bochum hit the woodwork. Gregor Kobel had to make at least two outstanding saves. And that midfield was the epitome of sterile possession, particularly Marcel Sabitzer and Felix Nmecha, the newcomers (though Emre Can, again, had little impact). There’s work to do here.