A week that saw the return of Ronaldo to Old Trafford, Liverpool’s capitulation against Chelsea and Barcelona’s continued dominance in Europe.
The messi transfer is when Barcelona star Lionel Messi announced that he was leaving the club to join French giants Paris Saint-Germain.
This weekend saw Lionel Messi join a new club (strange), Manchester United mislead with flattery (not odd), Juventus struggle without the United-bound Cristiano Ronaldo (not his fault), and Arsenal suffer yet another humiliating lesson, this time against Manchester City. (Wasn’t that what we were expecting?) There were huge victories for Barcelona, Real Madrid, and AC Milan, as well as a lot of fun from an unexpected source: Jose Mourinho’s Roma.
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Gab Marcotti responds to the greatest events in football from the previous weekend in Europe on Monday.
Jump to: VAR drama for Liverpool-Chelsea | Messi’s PSG debut | Man United woes | Depay boosts Barca again | Juve look terrible | Musiala magic for Bayern | Arteta humiliated | Real Madrid’s superior defense | Giroud dazzles in Milan | Tottenham are top!
Liverpool are on their way back to the Premier League, but Chelsea have the solutions.
At moments, it reminded me of old Liverpool. Trent Alexander-Arnold is creating, Mohamed Salah is scything, Fabinho is directing, and Virgil van Dijk is commanding Anfield. And when I say ancient, I’m referring to their title-winning season in 2019-20. Last season, Van Dijk was injured, Alexander-Arnold was fading, Fabinho was (mainly) at the back, and Salah, despite his prolific scoring, didn’t always have the backup he need. Oh, and owing to the epidemic, Anfield was devoid of fans.
We didn’t quite reach those heights — Jurgen Klopp said they weren’t as crisp as he’d hoped — but there was enough of intellectual energy. The fact that it wasn’t enough to win despite having a man advantage in the second half has more to do with Chelsea’s talent and Thomas Tuchel’s defensive set-up than it does with Klopp’s belief that playing against ten men is more difficult. (Statistics suggest the contrary, particularly in the first half when you have the man advantage.)
In their 1-1 draw, I felt both sides performed well, but Liverpool might improve on the sharpness Klopp mentioned, and Chelsea will regret some of the opportunities they wasted in the first half. Reece James’ handball, penalty, and red card will undoubtedly become a talking topic.
This is divided into two sections. The first is whether or not it was a handball. The fact that James’ arm goes to the ball and away from his body, making the player’s silhouette larger, appears to indicate that it was. “The hand/arm has grown their body abnormally larger,” the Laws of the Game say (in very clumsy wording).
James, left, was sent off in Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool for a handball on the line, but was it the correct decision? Is it possible that the referee made a hasty decision? PA Images/Mike Egerton via Getty Images
I’m not convinced since, on the other hand, the shot comes in from a close range, ricochets off his leg, and his arm movement occurs after the bounce. All of these factors must be considered by referees when determining what constitutes a “unnaturally larger” physique. Despite this, Anthony Taylor, the match official, made his judgment in only 13 seconds and, according to Thomas Tuchel, did not replay the event at regular speed. This is the kind of stuff that perplexes me. In these circumstances, you’d expect the VAR to take him through the replays.
– Ogden: Liverpool and Chelsea have championship aspirations
The second question is whether he was correct in awarding the penalty as well as the red card. It had a severe tone to it, which Klopp agreed with. After all, this isn’t Luis Suarez in the 2010 World Cup against Ghana. However, under current regulations, you must also send the player off if you prevent a goal-scoring chance through handball (as opposed to, example, an accidental infraction in the penalty area, which was modified a few years ago to remove the so-called “triple punishment”). Taylor had no option in the matter.
The game leaves the impartial spectator with the impression that both teams are championship contenders, and that both will improve. Chelsea are close to completing the signing of Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde, while Liverpool will shake off some ring rust.
Messi makes his PSG debut, and Mbappe scores twice.
After making his first appearance from the bench against Reims, Julien Laurens recalls Lionel Messi’s PSG debut.
You expected it to feel strange, and it did. Lionel Messi wore a shirt other than Barcelona’s or the Argentine national team’s for the first time in his professional career. The appearance lasted approximately half an hour, including injury time, yet it still seemed strange, like something out of a crazy superhero crossover comic book.
He may not be completely match-fit, but the game’s tempo suited him, and we witnessed the typical variety of feints, dribbles, and unexpected accelerations. It will, without a doubt, grow more familiar with time. The difference in toughness between Ligue 1 and LaLiga has already been shown, with Messi receiving the harsh (not filthy, just rough) treatment on many occasions.
– Weekend Review: Mbappe outperforms Messi in PSG debut
PSG won 2-0 thanks to two Kylian Mbappe goals, and if you just evaluated the French striker’s demeanor and behavior, you’d have no idea he’d been at the center of a possible €180 million transfer to Real Madrid for the previous week. Mbappe seemed unflappable, while Achraf Hakimi, who scored the game’s opening goal, appeared dangerous.
As I write this, the window is still open, and we’ve learned to never say never. You think Real Madrid has been working on this for the whole summer and that the personal details of his contract have been finalized. If that’s the case, then if PSG agrees to a deal — which they haven’t so far — this could be completed very quickly, in time for the deadline on Tuesday night.
PSG wants to watch Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, and Lionel Messi play together before making a decision on Mbappe’s future, according to Craig Burley.
I don’t think it’ll happen, partially because PSG is certain that it won’t, but mainly because it wouldn’t make sense for Real Madrid to sign him to a pre-contract deal for next season on January 1 and then let him go for free. And every cent that goes into Mbappe’s transfer cost is a penny that he won’t receive in salary, as well as a penny that can’t be utilized to improve Real Madrid even more by bringing in additional quality players to surround him.
But, as always, take it with a grain of salt. I didn’t anticipate Messi to leave Barcelona for PSG, and even after seeing him wearing the No. 30 PSG jersey on Sunday night, I’m still not certain it occurred.
Man United earned three points, but Cristiano Ronaldo was unimpressed.
Cristiano Ronaldo was not in attendance for Manchester United’s visit to Molineux on Sunday, but a life-size cardboard cutout of the club’s latest acquisition was seen among the crowd. Cristiano’s two-dimensional cardboard cutout contribution was only slightly lower than that of some of his new colleagues.
– Marcotti: How Cristiano Ronaldo Shocked Soccer – Ronaldo has agreed to rejoin Manchester United.
That was United’s awful performance against Bruno Lage’s Wolves, who forced many excellent saves from David De Gea (one of which was otherworldly) while surrendering virtually little at the other end. Apart from Mason Greenwood’s goal, which eventually sent the three points the opposite way, there was little nothing (and which may have been disallowed if the referee had called a foul on Paul Pogba for his tackle on Ruben Neves in the build-up).
Mark Ogden discusses why Cristiano Ronaldo chose to return to Manchester United rather than join Manchester City.
United played in a 4-2-3-1 formation, which is how you’d expect them to line up on paper, with Ronaldo playing as a center-forward or on the left flank. Bruno Fernandes is expected to start, leaving Marcus Rashford (if fit), Jadon Sancho, Mason Greenwood, Edinson Cavani, and Anthony Martial to compete for the last two spots.
– How social media responded to Ronaldo’s return to Man United – Ogden: Ronaldo buzz dominating United’s victory against Wolves – Man United ratings: Greenwood is the protagonist.
The advantage of this formation is that it enables a front four to accommodate as many of United’s offensive players as possible while also allowing Bruno Fernandes to play in the “hole.” The disadvantage is that it forces Pogba into a deeper position in a two-man midfield, which has worked well for him in France but not so well at United.
You cannibalize one of your front positions and leave out another talented offensive player if you play a 4-3-3 — or, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been doing, if you play a 4-2-3-1 with Pogba wide. Plus, as we’ve seen, finding two dependable central midfielders out of Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay, and Fred (who was awful against Wolves) is a tall order.
Ronaldo was ‘present’ in the shape of a life-size cardboard cut-out, but in Sunday’s close victory against Wolves, United might have utilized the cut-out to show more offensive edge. Getty Images/Michael Regan
A front two would be the alternative possibility. It would fit Ronaldo best — he played 90 percent of his minutes as part of a striking pair last season — and it would provide United with a pacy danger behind the strikers, something Ronaldo clearly won’t provide. However, this would need either switching to a 4-4-2 and removing Bruno Fernandes, or adopting a diamond in midfield, which seems to be tough (and also becomes a problem when you have Aaron Wan-Bissaka at full-back).
Ronaldo makes United a better team without a doubt. Finding the proper lineup and method to utilize him, on the other hand, is a dilemma that Solskjaer will have to solve in the face of scrutiny and second-guessing.
For Barcelona, Memphis is the only option.
If Barcelona wants to be successful this season, Alejandro Moreno addresses the significance of Antoine Griezmann.
When a club like Getafe came to town and Barcelona scored within two minutes, it used to be all downhill from there. They’d retain the ball, make the field large, choose their positions, and either suffocate you via possession or barrage your goal with shots anytime you attempted to narrow the distance. (Or, more often than not, both.)
But now that you know who’s gone, everything seems to be more difficult. So, despite taking an early lead against Getafe (who, under Michel, are much more aggressive than they were under Jose Bordalas), this game became a genuine battle. Getafe equalized before Memphis Depay regained the advantage with a complete array of shimmies and stopovers leading to a dead-eye finish.
– Depay isn’t at his best in Barcelona, but he’s still good enough.
All of that happened in the first half-hour, and Koeman will be hoping that the remainder of the game doesn’t presage the rest of Barcelona’s season. Antoine Griezmann and Martin Braithwaite couldn’t do anything to help Depay, and the midfield was matched by Getafe’s and struggled to retain possession at times.
With the return of Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele, Koeman will be looking for better things. After all, you don’t want to go from Messi-to-Memphis-to-Memphis-to-Memphis-to-Memphis-to-Memphis-
Juventus crumbles when Ronaldo departs, but this is a correlation, not a cause.
Gab Marcotti discusses why Juventus’ poor performance in their 1-0 defeat to Empoli does not surprise him.
With Max Allegri at the helm, Juventus had one of their worst performances in their first game without Cristiano Ronaldo. They were defeated 1-0 at home by newly promoted Empoli, and many will attribute the defeat on the departure of their No. 7 player. But slam on the brakes: Juve were so bad that Ronaldo may have made a difference in terms of the final score, but not in terms of performance.
Allegri observed that they seemed frantic and anxious in the second half, with too many players attempting to do too much. Everyone seemed eager to step into Ronaldo’s huge shoes right away. However, it is just half of the tale.
Juve paid a price for a midfield that has been a thorn in their side for the last few seasons: one that produces little and doesn’t create play. Things only get worse when you add in some startling individual performances from Adrien Rabiot and Rodrigo Bentancur, as well as Weston McKennie acting completely out of his element in the holding position. It added to the strain on the back four, and on a day when both Alvaro Morata and Paulo Dybala were off their form, it meant there was nothing going forward.
Even when Allegri’s teams are terrible, they’re generally coherent and boring, not frantic and chaotic, as the tactical disarray made it seem. We’ll give him a break on that since it was so out of character, and you can expect things to improve once Manuel Locatelli establishes himself in the starting XI (the sooner, the better).
So (hopefully) the low-water mark has been reached. It’s now up to Allegri to go to work on the rebuilding. Moise Kean seems to be on his way back to the club from Everton, and the club may make another signing before the transfer window ends. Those who claimed that Ronaldo’s presence prevented a complete refurbishment now have no such justification.
Lewandowski scores a hat-trick, but Bayern Munich’s Musiala steals the show.
Okay, that’s a little excessive. The hat-trick by Robert Lewandowski in the 5-0 thrashing of Hertha is clearly notable. He now has 300 goals, and his best contribution of the game may not have been a goal, but rather a dummy in the build-up to Thomas Muller’s opening. But when you’ve been averaging a goal a game for the previous five seasons or so, that’s mediocrity.
Of course, Jamal Musiala’s performance isn’t exactly “man-bites-dog” material — we all know how good he is — yet he appeared not just skilled, but also confident and clever out there, well above his years. (His 19th birthday isn’t until February.) Some view him as Muller’s long-term successor; for the time being, he seems to be far ahead of Leroy Sane and Kingsley Coman in the wide areas.
You don’t want to get carried away since Hertha was terrible and outmatched, falling victim to Bayern’s press time and time again. Bayern, on the other hand, looked considerably superior defensively with their hybrid back-three/back-four. Marcel Sabitzer, who is expected to join from RB Leipzig, will provide much-needed depth (and give Julian Nagelsmann one of “his guys”).
Man City thrashed Arsenal, but Arteta wasn’t put to the test.
Don Hutchison examines Arsenal’s recent problems and casts doubt on the club’s decision-making, which has resulted in their rapid demise.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Arsenal and Mikel Arteta are in serious danger; three consecutive losses to start the season will do that. The test will come in the following two games against Norwich City and Burnley, when you’ll be looking for a performance as well as a result. However, there are many ways to lose a game, and what we witnessed from the Gunners on Saturday was the worst sort.
Individual errors abound, from Rob Holding to Calum Chambers to Granit Xhaka’s unnecessary red card. There was one set-up in particular that seemed so strange that you wondered whether it had been attempted in training. Sure, the game was gone before halftime — this club was never going to come back after being down three goals and a man at the break — but even after that, there was no indication that they were even trying fundamental patterns of play against a City team that was letting up on the gas.
– Olley: Arsenal’s Arteta and Man City’s Pep Guardiola collapse
Arsenal’s performances, as well as their results, must improve after the international break. Unless Arteta’s comments regarding his players’ “unbreakable spirit” last week are taken seriously, this team risks being swept up in a downward cycle.
Ferran Torres has scored seven goals in his past nine Premier League appearances for City, a statistic that looks even better when I frame it as seven goals in 536 minutes on the field. As Pep Guardiola pointed out, his movement is becoming similar to that of a center striker, regardless of what position he has previously played or at Valencia. The young man is twenty-one years old.
This isn’t to argue that Ronaldo wouldn’t have improved City’s performance and, more crucially, enhanced their chances of winning the Champions League (and not only because he won’t be playing against them if he’s a City player). It does, however, serve as a reminder that, despite the pursuit of Harry Kane, this squad is capable of scoring goals. And so, if they kept playing like this, Ronaldo’s primary contribution would have been as an aerial menace (he’s still one of the greatest ball headers in history), rather than the important player he might be at Old Trafford (and certainly was at Juventus).
Real Madrid’s defense is tightened by Ancelotti, and they win all three points.
Gab Marcotti is perplexed as to why Real Madrid would make a bid for Kylian Mbappe now since he is available for free next season.
Carlo Ancelotti isn’t new to the game. He understood that a similar blunder against Betis might have a cascading effect after Real Madrid’s horror show against Levante (3-3) last weekend. So he made a change, starting Miguel Gutierrez at left-back for the first time this season and returning Dani Carvajal to right-back. The issue has been resolved. After a tense first half, Real Madrid took control after the break, with Carvajal scoring the game’s winning goal.
True, it came just after Juanmi fluffed a gilt-edged breakaway, but when you look at the big picture, that second half shows improvement. We got a better idea of what Fede Valverde can do when he’s forced to play more defensively, but we won’t know anything about the midfield until Toni Kroos returns. Vinicius Jr. is still on fire, Eden Hazard is struggling, and Gareth Bale has had his moments (albeit it’s still early in the season, and we’ve seen him fade out before).
– Carvajal (8/10) rescues the day for Real Madrid
For the time being, we’re seeing that this squad can repeat what they achieved in Zinedine Zidane’s last two years in charge, when they didn’t dazzle but won a LaLiga championship and came close to winning another. Ancelotti will be hoping for more.
In the absence of Ibra, Giroud leads a deeper Milan side.
The joke was that Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was watching from the stands, may have been a little concerned when he saw Olivier Giroud lead the line for Milan in their 4-1 victory against Cagliari on Sunday. Giroud scored twice, provided Rafael Leao with a highlight-reel assist with a beautiful back heel, and overall looked like he’d been a member of this Milan team for years. (By the way, Zlatan, it’s a joke.) Just a joke, in case you’re reading. Of course, since you’re Zlatan and he’s not, you’ll return to the starting lineup right away.)
Milan took their foot off the pedal in the second half and coasted a bit after scoring four goals before the interval, which is reasonable. However, the atmosphere is positive, and this team seems to be much more diverse than previous season. Rade Krunic and Sandro Tonali (who scored a Pirlo-like free-kick) were in the center of the park, but Ismael Bennacer and Franck Kessie, last year’s regulars, will be ready to start shortly. Davide Calabria has genuine competition in the form of Alessandro Florenzi, who has just joined the team. Matteo Gabbia has shown that he can hold his own at this level. Ante Rebic joined the show as well.
Oh, then there’s that Ibra guy… I suppose he can fill in for Giroud when he needs a break. (Honestly, Zlatan, we’re joking!)
The Spurs, who have a man called Kane up front, are three for three.
Nuno Espirito Santo believes Spurs can still improve after beating Watford 1-0 to go top of the Premier League.
Tottenham Hotspur are top of the Premier League following their third straight 1-0 win, and their defense, which comprises Japhet Tanganga, Eric Dier, Davinson Sanchez, and Oliver Skipp, a few yards up the pitch in midfield, has yet to allow a goal. Oh, and in the 1-0 victory against Watford on Sunday, Harry Kane earned his first start of the season.
(While the win was merited on the balance of play, it was fortunate since Son Heung-free-kick Min’s was really a cross.)
There are two ways to look at this, both of which are potentially correct. One is that regression to the mean is unavoidable; Spurs have been lucky (particularly against Wolves), and gravity will eventually force them down the table. The other is that these nine points, however earned, represent a confidence boost that will help this squad grow over time.
Regardless of how you feel about Kane’s transfer machinations, he’s a valuable addition. Bryan Gil and Cristian Romero, their two most important summer acquisitions, have combined for just four minutes of action. Nuno Espirito Santo has just recently arrived, and like we witnessed at Wolves, players need time to adjust to his style of play.
Atletico Madrid is playing brilliantly, but they will need a gift to escape loss.
That’s all there is to it when it comes to football. Atletico Madrid were awful against Elche a week ago, and only earned the points due to a mistake by the opposing goalkeeper. They performed considerably better against Villarreal, a much stronger opponent, but only managed a draw due to a huge mistake at the end, when goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli went missing just as Aissa Mandi was heading the ball back to his own goal.
It was as bizarre a mistake as you’ll ever see, and it made Unai Emery more more enraged than usual, not least because he has yet to defeat Simeone in 15 tries.
Atletico, on the other hand, performed well. Luis Suarez started and scored his first goal of the season, while Thomas Lemar was extremely successful cutting in from the left; they were also strong defensively.
On the basis of their performance, they may still be (slight) favorites to maintain their championship, at least based on what we’ve seen thus far in the tournament.
Different Mourinho, different Roma: little controversy, lots of fun
Following Roma’s 4-0 victory against Salernitana, Jose Mourinho is all grins as he devours a “special” pizza.
It’s not only the sight of Mourinho’s post-match lunch on the train home, nor the 14 goals scored in four games, but it makes me question if this is a completely different Special One than the one we saw at Manchester United and Spurs lately.
It’s the fact that his Roma team, coming off four straight victories, including (OK, calm yourself) the Conference League, seems to be having a good time, fearless, and full of pleasure. Not quite what we’ve come to identify Mourinho with in recent years.
They thrashed a Salernitana team that lined up in a de facto 9-0-1 shape with everyone behind the ball on Sunday. Jordan Veretout commanded the midfield, Lorenzo Pellegrini scored twice, Henrikh Mkhitaryan worked his magic, while Tammy Abraham bounced about like a pinball. And Roma was doing similar things.
Of all, it’s still August, so Grouchy, Surly, Pedantly, Drama Queen, and whatever other personas may be lurking in his head have plenty of time to emerge. But, for the time being, Mourinho has been on his best behavior, and his players have been playing some of their greatest football in years.
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