The Champions League is back, and the matches are heating up. Chelsea has no problem with Arsenal, Ronaldo’s drama at Juventus continues, Marseille-Nice was a brawl, and more.
The Chelsea and Lukaku too good for Arsenal is a headline from the Daily Mail. The article talks about how Chelsea beat Arsenal 3-1. In other news, Ronaldo drama at Juventus, Nice-Marseille brawl, and more are all covered in this week’s roundup of football headlines.
What a fantastic weekend we had all across Europe! Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester City all won big in the Premier League, there was a huge battle in Ligue 1 that will be remembered for a long time, and there was some off-field drama regarding Cristiano Ronaldo’s position at Juventus. Barcelona, Man United, and Real Madrid all battled to disappointing draws, with Atletico Madrid enjoying a little of luck and Bundesliga front-runners Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund experiencing some minor fear (maybe).
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Gab Marcotti responds to the greatest events in football from the previous weekend in Europe on Monday.
Jump to: Lukaku stuns Arsenal | Ronaldo drama? | Nice-Marseille brawl | Man United’s poor habits | “New” Inter roll | Elliott shines for Liverpool | Real Madrid’s crazy night | Abraham a hit for Roma | Barcelona slip | Gnabry saves Bayern | Man City OK without Kane?
As Arsenal’s form deteriorated, Lukaku seemed to be an immediate fit for Chelsea.
Thomas Tuchel could hardly have wished for a more impressive start from Romelu Lukaku, his high-priced new attacking weapon.
It’s not only that the Belgian international rag-dolled and road-graded Pablo Mari and Rob Holding apparently at whim, or that he held up play and provided service as promised. It’s the fact that Chelsea switched from Timo Werner and Christian Pulisic to Lukaku and Kai Havertz in the front three without missing a beat. A “W” for any coach is being able to effortlessly switch in two players with completely different qualities while maintaining your tactical structure and pressing patterns.
– Chelsea beat Arsenal thanks to Lukaku’s goal – Olley: After Arsenal’s offseason splurge, Arteta is under pressure.
Chelsea were generally untroubled defensively, with the exception of a few times after the interval, and Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho looked in command as usual in midfield. Chelsea looked equally at ease with or without the ball, and they seemed to be able to crank it up several levels on command. Tuchel’s ability to teach massive quantities of tactical information in a short period of time (as he did at Paris Saint-Germain) is remarkable, whatever else you think of him. For the remainder of the campaign, the task will be to make the correct choices in terms of personnel management and game management.
Of course, some would argue that it’s difficult to discern where Chelsea’s abilities stop and Arsenal’s shortcomings begin.
Lukaku was outstanding on his second Chelsea debut, but what struck out the most was Arsenal’s failure to adapt their defense to him. Getty Images/Mark Leech/Offside/Offside
I was most concerned by how unprepared they seemed to be in dealing with two fundamental Chelsea dangers. You must account for the fact that Marcos Alonso and Reece James are offensive wing-backs, whether by dropping a central midfielder into the backline and having your full-back come across, or by having a winger track back or, in certain instances, your holding midfielder move wide. Arsenal did none of those things much too frequently, especially on Kieran Tierney’s side, and he was far too open against James, who scored and assisted.
– Weekend round-up: Lukaku, Depay, and Kane return
The ball into Lukaku was the other. The amount of times Chelsea tracked him down on the ground, rather than via the air, was alarming. Yes, he’s large and powerful, and if your center defender attempts to cut in front of him, you’re in serious danger of being turned. But that’s why you have a backup plan, whether it’s dropping a central midfielder to assist up front or increasing ball pressure higher up the pitch, like Mikel Arteta was attempting to do. But none of it came to pass.
There were a lot of absentees in Arteta’s defense, ranging from Thomas Partey to Gabriel, Ben White to Martin Odegaard (who was registered too late for kickoff after his move from Real Madrid). However, they were tactical faults rather than individual quality issues (though there was plenty of that too).
Arteta remains upbeat, talking of a spirit that “can’t be shattered.” He has every right to be sad; being melancholy does no one any good, and there are clearly fundamental problems with how this team was assembled, which is why he can’t be the sole scapegoat. But what Arsenal now needs is a step up in performance in their next game — improving outcomes will be difficult given that they’ll be facing Manchester City — as well as a reduction in some of the fundamental mistakes that have cost them dearly so far. Then it’s Burnley and Norwich, and if things don’t improve by then, things are going to become nasty very fast.
Juventus lose ground, Ronaldo is benched, but is there ‘nothing to see here’?
Gab Marcotti delves into the Cristiano Ronaldo transfer speculations and speculates on how the drama may end.
From the time the lineups were revealed, there was only one question on everyone’s lips in the Juventus camp: why was Cristiano Ronaldo benched?
The club claimed it was a “joined decision,” with Ronaldo and coach Max Allegri agreeing that he should not play since it would be his first game since the Euros and he wasn’t yet match-fit. Meanwhile, Pavel Nedved, a club official, claimed there was no background and that it had no bearing on his future.
– Report: VAR overturns Ronaldo’s game-winning goal, resulting in a Juventus tie
Few people believed his explanation for two reasons. One is that, if you’re going to bench someone like Ronaldo (as many teams do), you usually brief the media the day before or even that morning, simply to take the sting off of the rumors. Then there was Ronaldo’s Instagram post (the one where he referenced Juventus exactly zero times) and the El Chiringuito story.
With 30 minutes remaining, Ronaldo entered the game and demonstrated that he was not only fit, but that any notion that Juve was sparing him in order to prevent sabotaging a potential transfer elsewhere was rubbish. He believed he’d scored the game-winning goal with one of his signature, perfectly timed headers, but it was called back due to a minor (but correct) offside.
Allegri later said that the benching was his decision: “It’s really early, I reasoned. He, like many other athletes, isn’t yet at full strength. We needed fast strikers who could run behind against Udinese, so I told him he could sit out and he was OK with that.”
Is it safe to say that the rumor mill has run its course? Most likely not. It’s doubtful that things would simply go quiet like that, for the reasons I described in my piece last week. Ronaldo is much too large, and the stakes are far too high. But, unless he chooses to leave and can find a team ready to pay a price — maybe not exactly the $30 million Juventus needs to break even on his amortization, but certainly not nothing — he’ll remain a Juve player come September 1.
In terms of the game itself, Wojciech Szczesny’s night was marred by two egregious mistakes that led in two goals allowed. Individual errors, particularly ones as heinous as this, are impossible to legislate for, therefore you go on. Paulo Dybala, who is currently on the lookout for a new deal, looked sharp, and Juve showed their mettle. The midfield is still a problem, but it should get better if Manuel Locatelli starts instead of coming off the bench.
We need answers regarding Nice vs. Marseille after the brutality of Sunday night.
After crowd unrest causes Nice vs. Marseille to be abandoned, Gab and Juls outline the penalties they’d want to see.
We’ll see how the French authorities handle the repercussions from the game between Nice and Olympique Marseille that was called off on Sunday night. The teams have a bitter rivalry, and things to a head when Marseille’s Dimitri Payet was hit by a bottle thrown from the Nice Ultras’ stand. Payet tossed it back into the stands (and then threw another for good measure), sparking a pitch invasion and a full-fledged brawl involving players from both clubs as well as some Nice fans.
– A Ligue 1 match has been called off as supporters rush the field.
You may see the video if you wish, but suffice it to say that no one was hailed as a hero.
Unless fresh evidence surfaces, a number of Marseille players, notably Payet, Matteo Guendouzi, and Alvaro Gonzalez, may face lengthy suspensions, not to mention Jorge Sampaoli, who appeared bent on fighting everyone within reach at one point. (Thank goodness OM great Basile Boli was on hand to keep him in check.) Of course, there must be retaliation against Nice. A point penalty and, unfortunately for its fans, the Allianz Rivera’s closure for a few of matches seems to be the bare least.
So let’s give the investigators a chance to do their job. In the meanwhile, they must explain what occurred when Marseille refused to return to the field. Punishment for failing to return out, unless you can show that circumstances have altered, seems harsh.
French football would undoubtedly want to forget about this night of infamy, but the only way to do so is to conduct a thorough, open inquiry that holds everyone accountable.
Man United’s poor habits are on display against Southampton.
Julien Laurens portrays Paul Pogba’s agent, offering the player his best advise.
Last season, United’s issue was that they were too frequently a team that let the opponent set the tone. It was sometimes acceptable since they had superior players than the majority of their opponents. It was sometimes acceptable since this is a strong counterattacking team with quick strikers and set-piece specialists. However, it became an issue when United failed to capitalize on their advantages, which is exactly what occurred in the 1-1 draw against Southampton.
– Man United drew 0-0 with Southampton – Man United ratings: Greenwood comes to our aid. – Ogden: Pogba is in charge of his own destiny.
Despite the fact that Ralph Hasenhuttl’s squad is significantly depleted after the departures of Ryan Bertrand, Danny Ings, and Jannik Vestergaard, United enabled them to force their frantic pace on the game, particularly in midfield, rather than dictating the tempo. As a result, Fred and Nemanja Matic have found themselves doing things they’re not particularly good at (simply put). With Anthony Martial having a poor game and Harry Maguire making a crucial error late in the game that might have lost them the game, it was a Sunday to forget.
Gabriele Marcotti, a senior writer for ESPN FC, has compiled all of the latest news and reactions.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has to figure out a formula for games like this, when the opponent can’t pull you down to their level. Sure, once Jadon Sancho starts on a regular basis and Marcus Rashford returns, things should improve. Yes, things might have ended out differently if other personnel choices had been made, such as putting Mason Greenwood up front. But the general consensus is that United will struggle to control games like this unless they score first and attack on the counter. It’s a terrible habit they’ve had since Solskjaer took over, and it’s been tough to break.
Are there any advantages? Paul Pogba has again shown his ability to make a difference. But, by that time, most of us had already figured it out…
Who is Antonio? Who is Romelu? Inter Milan make a strong start.
Inter aren’t my pick to defend their Serie A championship this season. It’s not a dig at them; it’s just that, as I said on the FC show, there have been a slew of downgrades across the board. Lukaku, Achraf Hakimi, and Christian Eriksen are unlikely to contribute as much as Edin Dzeko, Denzel Dumfries, and Hakan Calhanoglu. And Simone Inzaghi is unlikely to equal Antonio Conte’s second season, particularly in his first.
However, they were ruthless right away against Genoa, winning 4-0. They are, admittedly, a team that isn’t very excellent to begin with and, on top of that, is mostly unfinished, but, as the old adage goes, you can only defeat what’s in front of you.
– Inter is off to a fast start, scoring four goals against Genoa.
Things get a lot simpler when you score twice in the opening 15 minutes, but give Inzaghi credit for shielding Inter from a lot of the off-the-pitch issues they had this summer. Keep an eye on Stefano Sensi as well. Last season, he was restricted by injuries, but he may be a great asset this season, whether in a more advanced position, such as on Saturday, or in midfield.
Elliott from Liverpool demonstrates that labels are just that.
Janusz Michallik believes Jota should start against Chelsea after scoring in back-to-back Premier League games.
I discussed how Liverpool might replace the hole created by Georginio Wijnaldum last week. Sure, Fabinho is now free to play in midfield, but you still have to deal with Jordan Henderson (who is a year older), James Milner (who will turn 36 in January), Thiago Alcantara (who has started less than half of his club’s league games in the past two seasons), Curtis Jones (who is still young), and the duo of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita, who have contributed little for various reasons.
– Report: Liverpool win thanks to goals from Jota and Mane – Henderson and Alexander-Arnold are outstanding for Liverpool.
Given how demanding (and important) the midfield is in Jurgen Klopp’s setup, how far Liverpool progress this season will be determined by how often he can find a viable trio out of the names mentioned above. However, Saturday’s 2-0 win over Burnley added another candidate to the mix: 18-year-old Harvey Elliott.
Elliott made history when he came on for two minutes for Fulham against Wolves in May 2019, at the age of 16 years and 30 days, becoming the youngest player ever to participate in a Premier League game. He was a slight winger back then, and that’s the position he’s mainly played since, including a loan stint at Blackburn last year. However, he shone in a midfield three alongside Henderson and Keita against Burnley.
I have no clue whether this is where he will make his career, but let it serve as a reminder that, particularly with young players, we are all too quick to label them and forget that they are there to be molded.
In their match against Levante, Real Madrid had a crazy night.
Alejandro Moreno analyzes Vinicius Junior’s play in Real Madrid’s 2-2 tie with Levante.
The 3-3 draw between Real Madrid and Levante on Sunday night was fascinating for the neutral. Not so much for the Madridistas. In the first half, Real Madrid grabbed a 1-0 lead (Karim Benzema setting up Gareth Bale when he probably should have completed it himself), and Isco (despite being out of contract, despite his eccentricities) was in charge of the midfield. It’s proof that Carlo Ancelotti will make do with what he’s got and that no one will be left out.
– Report: Real battle back in a six-goal thriller against Levante – Real ratings: Vinicius Junior, the’super sub,’ shines – ESPN+’s coverage of La Liga: Stream live and on-demand games (U.S. only)
Then followed Levante’s defensive horror show (combined with a general lack of effort on the opposite end), which saw them go ahead 2-1. (the second was a good finish, sure, but note how Lucas Vazquez totally loses Jose Campana). When Vinicius Junior came in and equalized, you expected Madrid to win… but Levante took advantage of another defensive mistake and went ahead again, until another Vinicius goal — this one a beautiful effort — leveled the score at 3-3. Even after Levante was down to ten men and forced to place an outfield man between the posts, the score remained the same.
You don’t expect guys like Casemiro, David Alaba, or Nacho to make mistakes like this, and much less so when they all appear in the same game. My assumption is that Ancelotti will be more concerned by the overall decrease in level and energy after the break, when Madrid seemed to stop playing for around 15 minutes. That is the one negative to worry about among the positives (Isco and Vinicius have already equaled their Liga goal totals from last season).
Mourinho and Roma are enthralled with Abraham.
Tammy Abraham did not score in Roma’s 3-1 victory over Fiorentina on Sunday, unlike the man who (in some ways) replaced him at Chelsea. But he accomplished pretty much everything else, including setting up two goals, hitting the post, tying up defenders, and presenting a constant and physical danger behind the defense. In layman’s terms, it’s referred to as a “handful.”
– Roma has started the season with a victory in Serie A.
It’s precisely what Mourinho wanted, and the thought of Abraham partnering with 20-year-old Nicolo Zaniolo (who was brutally dismissed) has Roma supporters thinking big. Since Fiorentina goalkeeper Bartomiej Dragowski was sent off in the 17th minute, the game was shaping up well for Roma. They fared better 11 against. 11 and 10 vs. 10 than they did with a man advantage, as Mourinho pointed out.
As is often the case with Mourinho at this point of his career, you never know what you’re going to get in the long run — it’s no secret that his partnerships tend to fizzle out after a couple of years, if not sooner. But for the time being, he’s hitting all the right chords and connecting with Roma supporters, and Abraham plays a major role in that.
Barcelona falters, and Koeman must deal with a Messi problem.
Alejandro Moreno discusses Barcelona’s 1-1 LaLiga tie against Athletic Bilbao.
Many of us were full of admiration a week ago for Barcelona’s first league effort without Lionel Messi (and a 4-2 victory) against Real Sociedad. On Saturday, they went to San Mames to face Athletic Bilbao, another strong team, and it was a wake-up call.
Barca battled not just to establish themselves, but also to come out from behind against an opponent that, despite a few absentees, was clearly fired up — partly by the return of fans, partly because, well, it’s Athletic Bilbao — Some may argue that Eric Garcia, who learned of his grandfather’s death before the game, should not have participated. He did, and he was impoverished as a result. Things worsened when Gerard Pique was forced to leave the game after half an hour.
Dan Thomas is joined by Craig Burley, Shaka Hislop, and others to discuss the most recent news and debate the most important stories. ESPN+ has a live stream available (U.S. only).
Inaki Williams, who appears to be good at everything but finishing, had a chance to score a hat trick. Barca, it turned out, was still in the game late in the game and might have even escaped with the three points. Memphis Depay scored a fantastic goal (and then missed a far easier opportunity soon after), while Frenkie De Jong hit the crossbar, but a draw was more than fair.
– Barcelona ratings: Depay and De Jong lead the way – Report: Barcelona battles to a 1-1 tie
After the game, Ronald Koeman was questioned whether Barcelona’s opponents are more confidence in confronting them now that Messi is no longer there. “That is correct. I hate to keep repeating myself, but he is the greatest in the world. Rivals are wary of playing a squad led by Messi. You realize he isn’t present. We are aware of this, but we are unable to alter it “he said
For Koeman, questions like these are a lose-lose situation. The only option to respond to them is to lie or to sound like Captain Obvious (he chose the latter). The sooner he can get enough out of his teammates, the less he’ll be questioned about Messi. They also took a step back this weekend in Bilbao.
Bayern Munich are booed for Sane, but Musiala and Gnabry come to the rescue.
Bayern Munich manager Julian Nagelsmann made his home debut in front of fans against Cologne, and things did not go as planned… resulting in boos after a scoreless first half (with Leroy Sane particularly targeted, which he described as “not helpful”). We’ve seen the initial tactical changes — Tanguy Nianzou at right-back, but really creating a de facto back three with Niklas Sule and Dayot Upamecano in the middle — and it’s clear that there’s still a lot of work to be done. On the other end, we saw little little in the first half, with the exception of a counter-attacking Thomas Muller opportunity.
After Jamal Musiala replaced Sane, Bayern’s business stepped up, and with a 2-0 lead, you’d think they’d stroll to victory. Instead, three minutes later, it was 2-2 due to some dreadful defensive mistakes. After that, Gnabry scored the game-winner, but Nagelsmann has a lot on his mind.
Last season, there were worries about Bayern’s depth. Things haven’t changed much in that regard. It seems that the plan is to put confidence in Nagelsmann’s ability to come up with tactical solutions and push young players. Without a sure, it’s (partly) due to the epidemic, but it just makes his job more difficult, and it’ll need more patience to make it work, which Bayern doesn’t always have.
Man City performed well without Kane… at least against Norwich.
Janusz Michallik evaluates Jack Grealish’s home debut and names his favorite player.
Norwich, as an open “footballing” side, was always going to be fodder for a Manchester City side with a chip on their shoulder after their opening day loss at Tottenham. And so it went, as Pep Guardiola’s side strolled to a 5-0 victory against a team that only mustered one shot on goal.
City’s first goal came from Jack Grealish, although Gabriel Jesus, who was positioned wide right with Ferran Torres in the center, was perhaps the most dangerous attacking player. You asked whether Guardiola was hinting that Jesus is more of a winger and Torres is more of a front man at this point, and he said that “Torres usually goes towards the goal,” while Gabriel Jesus “was better at receiving the ball wide.”
– Dawson: Grealish and Man City get off to a flying start – Report: Man City put five past Norwich
Is this an indication that Torres is keeping Kane’s position warm? Maybe. But, given the absence of talk around a Plan B, I think Guardiola will believe he’s happy with what he has even if Kane doesn’t show up, and that it’s better to signing a center-forward for the sake of signing one.
Atletico Madrid is powered by avenging Angel Correa and a dash of luck.
As Luis Suarez returns to health, Luis Garcia analyzes Angel Correa’s fast start for Atletico Madrid in LaLiga.
Atletico Madrid’s performance against Elche on Sunday was far from spectacular. In truth, it seemed a little like the Atleti of yore — the grind-it-out type — with the exception that their lone goal came from a catastrophic mistake by Elche goalie Kiko Casilla, rather than a set piece or a counter.
– Correa is the hero as Atletico Madrid defeats Elche.
Luck? You create your own, as Simeone would say, but someone has to profit, and in this instance, it was Angel Correa once again. The Argentine has scored all of Atleti’s goals this season, and he also helped them win the championship last year by scoring several key goals late in the game. While they wait for Luis Suarez to recover to full fitness, Joao Felix to return, and the new striker (likely Hertha’s Matheus Cunha) to arrive, he’s carrying them offensively right now.
Tottenham is led by a resurgent Dele Alli.
Don Hutchison examines what Manchester City must do in order to complete a deal for Harry Kane.
Tottenham has won two games in a row in the most understated manner possible. After edging Man City last week, they beat Wolves 1-0 due to a penalty converted by Dele Alli, who now feels more important to the club’s ambitions than he has in previous seasons.
After starring under Mauricio Pochettino in 2016-17 and 2017-18, Alli struggled with injuries and off-the-field issues, and he didn’t seem to be on Jose Mourinho’s Christmas card list either, which is why, after starring under Mauricio Pochettino in 2016-17 and 2017-18, he only made 50 league starts over the next three seasons. However, he has flexibility, enthusiasm, and talent (along with a new haircut), which is exactly what Dr. Nuno was looking for in terms of connecting midfielder and attack.
“Like a new signing” is a tired cliché (repeatedly said by Arsene Wenger, typically in reference to Jack Wilshere or Aaron Ramsey), yet it applies to Alli. Should Harry Kane go, he may even be able to help replace some of the void left by the striker in terms of prestige if not in terms of position.
For the time being, give Dortmund the benefit of the doubt.
I was ready to criticize Dortmund for everything that went wrong in their 2-1 loss to Freiburg on Saturday.
There’s a lot of sterile possession. Off-the-ball, a drop in energy (which shouldn’t happen with this side’s youthful legs). In the center of the park, there isn’t much originality (other than the odd Jude Bellingham moment). And there were the customary defensive stutters at the back (yeah, Felix Passlack again, but not just him).
And then I reminded myself that Marco Rose couldn’t have turned into a terrible coach overnight (OK, maybe not overnight, but certainly not since last January, since he had plenty of duds at Gladbach). It’s not only a fitness problem, it’s a chemistry issue that so many of these players have spent so little time together on the training field. Donyell Malen, the new forward, has just arrived. And that, ideally, Axel Witsel won’t be playing much center-back this season: Mats Hummels and/or Emre Can must be part of the plan at some time.
So, although they receive the benefit of the doubt for the time being, Saturday has to be an exception rather than the trend.
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