The NFC East is the NFC Least. It’s not just bad — it’s worse than last season.
The Dallas Cowboys can’t stop a nosebleed, the New York Giants can’t reach the end zone, the Philadelphia Eagles barely have a recognizable offensive lineman or wide receiver and the Washington Football Team doesn’t even have a real nickname. Their combined records: 3-12-1.
No wonder the leader of the division — Philadelphia — has one win through four weeks. The last time after Week 4 a first-place team in any division had one or fewer wins was the 2005 NFC North.
But the Eagles do have a tie. Only in the NFC East is a tie as good as a win.
NFC East reporters Todd Archer (Cowboys), Tim McManus (Eagles), Jordan Raanan (Giants) and John Keim (Washington) break down the biggest issue facing each team and how it can be fixed.
Stephen A. Smith blames Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys’ defense for their Week 4 loss to the Browns and sees Dallas’ collapse starting.
The biggest concern for the Cowboys is an easy answer: It’s the defense. When you have allowed 146 points in four games, the most in franchise history to start a season, how could it not be the answer? The Cowboys do not get consistent pressure. They struggle to get off blocks. They have difficulty covering in the secondary. They have not tackled well. That adds up to what looks like the worst defense in team history statistically. Cowboys defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has brought a multifaceted scheme to a unit that played mostly one coverage in 2019. It is not working, but simplifying things is not the answer for coach Mike McCarthy, either.
How the Cowboys can fix their issue: Play complementary football. The offense cannot turn the ball over; it must protect the defense. — Archer
The biggest concern for the Giants is they can’t score points. The Giants are averaging 11.8 points a game. Is that even possible in today’s NFL? It starts with their inability to make big plays. Without running back Saquon Barkley, they don’t seem to have any playmakers who truly scare the opposition. That makes life difficult for quarterback Daniel Jones & Co., who have gone consecutive games without scoring a touchdown and are last in the league in red zone production (20%). Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett better come up with something — fast! — before this gets really ugly.
How Giants can fix their issue: Get the ball to tight end Evan Engram. He’s the most explosive weapon they’ve got. — Raanan
The biggest concern for the Eagles is they’re decimated by injuries on offense — again. Quarterback Carson Wentz is operating without four of his top five receivers and tight end Dallas Goedert. Only two members of the original offensive line are playing now and one of them, right tackle Lane Johnson, is hobbled by a lingering ankle issue that required surgery before the start of the season. Unsurprisingly, the Eagles rank 26th in points per game (21.0). Every drive feels like a gigantic test of will. The good news is Wentz showed signs he’s coming out of his funk Sunday night against the San Francisco 49ers.
How Eagles can fix their issue: Keep rolling Wentz out, allowing him to create. (Or, alternately, hire Mr. Miyagi as a medical consultant.) — McManus
The biggest concern for Washington is Dwayne Haskins‘ inexperience and overall youth on offense: Haskins ranks last in the NFL in Total QBR at 30.7 and next to last in completion percentage for throws 6 air yards or longer, so there isn’t much attacking down the field. He’s enduring the growing pains that come with youth: Haskins has started 11 games with a 2-9 record. Washington wants him to handle situations better. The team knew his development would take time. The rest of the offense lacks a lot of pop, aside from receiver Terry McLaurin and developing running back Antonio Gibson. They need more, including a consistent ground game.
How Washington can fix its issue: Patience or, if Haskins doesn’t improve, a quarterback change. — Keim
Cloud9 to promote Fudge to starting lineup, Reignover to head coach
Cloud9 will make changes to its League of Legends Championship Series roster, promoting Academy top laner Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami to the main lineup and coach Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin to the head coach position, league sources told ESPN.
Fudge will replace Eric “Licorice” Ritchie, who will become available for buyout ahead of the 2020-21 League of Legends free agency period, which begins Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. ET. One of the best top laners in North America, Licorice should have high demand in the buyout market depending on how Cloud9 prices his contract amid financial concerns from some esports teams due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on the American economy.
The move comes after Riot Games closed the Oceanic Pro League — Fudge’s home region — meaning that players from that region will no longer count as interregional movement policy import players. Cloud9’s two import slots are currently filled by mid laner Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer and Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen.
In his debut season in North America Academy, Fudge helped Cloud9 Academy to a first place finish in the league. Before coming to North America, Fudge competed with Australian team MAMMOTH, who took first in the 2019 OPL Summer Split and qualified for the 2019 League of Legends World Championship. While in Europe for the world championship, scrimaging international teams, the MAMMOTH players impressed scouts and coaches alike. Fudge and AD carry Calvin “K1ng” Truong both received contracts to join Cloud9 Academy, while mid laner Stephen “Triple” Li moved to FlyQuest Academy and support Mitchell “Destiny” Shaw became the starter for League European Championship team Origen.
Fudge’s promotion marks the end of Licorice’s time as the starting top laner for Cloud9, a tenure which began in Nov. 2017 after the departure of Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong to Team Liquid. On Cloud9, Licorice competed at the 2018 and 2019 world championships and this season, won the 2020 LCS Spring Split. However, towards the end of the season, Cloud9 failed to make it through the playoffs and for the first time in organization history, they did not qualify for the world championship.
Following the end of their season, the team parted ways with head coach Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu, who served in that role for four and a half seasons. Reignover — who famously played for Fnatic and Immortals as a jungler — joined Cloud9 as a coach in May 2019 after retiring from competing.
Nebraska QB Martinez keeps starting job vs. OSU
Martinez, who had a record-setting freshman season in 2018 for Nebraska but struggled at times in 2019, will take the first snaps after competing with redshirt freshman Luke McCaffrey in the preseason. Frost repeatedly praised McCaffrey on Monday, saying Nebraska feels like it has “two first-string quarterbacks” entering the season. Martinez’s experience, with 21 career starts and 5,817 yards of total offense, made the difference in the decision.
“If Luke had already been playing and we had the same camp, it probably would have been Luke,” Frost said. “We feel we have the luxury of two starters.”
Martinez on Sunday was named a team captain for the second straight year. His passing numbers dropped from 2018 to 2019, when he had 1,956 yards with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions, while his rushing production remained steady from his freshman to sophomore seasons.
Frost also repeatedly praised Ohio State for aligning with Nebraska to get the Big Ten season started after the league initially postponed the fall season Aug. 11 because of concerns surrounding COVID-19. Ohio State, Nebraska and Iowa were the three schools that initially voted to proceed with the season, and Ohio State and Nebraska were most vocal about finding a way to play this fall.
“I’ve got to give most of the credit for this to Ohio State,” Frost said. “We might have been one of the sounding gongs in this, we’re saying we want to play, and I don’t think it would have gone down without their doctor taking the lead, figuring out a way to present it to the presidents to get football back.”
Ohio State team physician Dr. Jim Borchers co-chaired the medical subcommittee of the Big Ten’s return-to-competition task force, which presented plans to the league’s presidents and chancellors in advance of their decision to go forward with the season. Frost also spoke extensively with Buckeyes coach Ryan Day about how to get back on the field.
“It’s strange where you find allies,” he said.
Frost said he didn’t think it was a coincidence that the Big Ten had Nebraska open with Ohio State in the revised fall schedule. Nebraska has division crossover games with both Ohio State and No. 8 Penn State, leading athletic director Bill Moos to express frustration about the difficulty of the Cornhuskers’ schedule.
Examining Pickford’s escape for Van Dijk tackle, Barcelona and Real woe pre-Clasico
A weekend full of big derbies delivered plenty of talking points, from Liverpool‘s costly 2-2 draw at Everton that saw Virgil van Dijk seriously injured (and Jordan Pickford unpunished), to AC Milan‘s win over rivals Inter thanks to a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic. There were also sub-par performances from Barcelona and Real Madrid ahead of the Clasico, woe for Juventus ahead of the Champions League group stage Matchday 1, concern around Man United and a Tottenham collapse that will have Jose Mourinho fuming.
It’s Monday, and Gab Marcotti reacts to the biggest moments in the sport of football from the past week.
Jump to: VAR lets Pickford off | Milan humble Inter | Aguero’s transgression | Griezmann should lead Barca attack | Dortmund need Haaland back-up | Real have many issues | Solskjaer shows guts with Man United | Juve shouldn’t panic about Pirlo | Spurs should focus on positives | Bayern bounce back vs. Bielefeld | Chelsea are not a team yet | Napoli prove doubters wrong vs. Atalanta | Leipzig’s attacking depth
Why didn’t VAR rule on Pickford’s horror tackle?
The top-of-the-table, 2-2 clash between Merseyside rivals Everton and Liverpool ended up being overshadowed by VAR decisions and, above all, Virgil Van Dijk’s horrendous cruciate injury, which will likely see him out until the Euros at the earliest. The fact that Jordan Pickford remained on the pitch is difficult for many to understand — including Liverpool, which is why they asked the Premier League for an explanation. Let’s hope that those in charge take this opportunity for some transparency here, something that gives us a better understanding of what the rules are and how they are applied.
Liverpool weren’t awarded a penalty because Van Dijk was offside at the time of the collision with Pickford. It wasn’t immediately obvious, but VAR confirmed this and, while it was tight, that part is indisputable.
What’s less easy to understand is why no action was taken against Pickford. Referee Michael Oliver — who, lest we forget, is supposed to be one of the English game’s top two or three officials — evidently felt that while it might have been a foul (but not a punishable foul, since Van Dijk was offside), it did not warrant a yellow or red card. Fine. Or, rather, not fine, because in my opinion he got it badly wrong, but hey: referees make mistakes with the naked eye in real time.
Yet the person in the VAR seat, David Coote, had the benefit of replays. His first job was to determine whether Van Dijk was offside, and that must have taken some time. After that, he was called to decide whether Oliver made a mistake in not awarding a red to Pickford. Sticking strictly to the protocol — and I’m engaging in speculation here, because we’ve have had no explanation — you assume he might have personally felt that it was worthy of a yellow card. But since VARs aren’t allowed to intervene in yellow card situations, he possibly felt there was nothing he could do.
What we don’t know, and may never know, is the conversation between Coote and Oliver. Oliver is a star and Coote a relative no-name, but they’re on the same team. You would hope that Coote would have had the confidence to feel empowered to tell Oliver: “Michael, you’re sure you had a clear view of it? Looks pretty nasty to me. Maybe you should take another look.”
If that’s what happened and Oliver waved him off, then we have to accept it. If Coote simply stuck to the letter of the law and told himself “that’s no worse than a yellow, I can’t make him do an on-field review” well, I’m not sure that’s in the spirit of VAR at all.
Everything is magnified here, of course, by the fact that it was early in the game — the fifth minute — and Pickford is a goalkeeper. A sending-off at that stage radically changes the match. It shouldn’t have come into the reckoning, but referees are human too. However you feel about it, the PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Board, the group that is responsible for referees in English football) could do themselves a favour by releasing the transcripts of the conversation between Coote and Oliver, if only to help people understand. And, perhaps, to ensure situations like these do not arise again.
What we do know, in the meantime, is that Pickford won’t face retrospective action. This was always going to be the case. In these situations, the FA simply doubles down, unless referee have missed the incident entirely.
Regardless of the Pickford decision (or non-decision), I think Liverpool deserved the three points. Not because of the late VAR offside that struck off what would have been Jordan Henderson‘s winner, which was as much down to Pickford’s mistake than anything else. But simply because over the 90 minutes, Liverpool shaded it in terms of chances created and conceded.
Frank Leboeuf considers the impact on Liverpool if Virgil van Dijk is indeed set to miss several months.
That said, credit to Everton. This is not a deep squad, particularly in certain positions, and the fact that they’re still top in the second half of October speaks volumes about the work Carlo Ancelotti and his staff have done.
What next for Liverpool? Obviously you’re not going to find somebody who will fill Van Dijk’s shoes — we’re talking about a guy who started every single league game in the last two seasons. In the short-term, you imagine Klopp will go with some combination of Joe Gomez, Fabinho and Joel Matip at the back, but it seems obvious that they will need to bring in an extra body in January, even it means going out on a limb financially.
This Liverpool side are a team built to win now, not in two or three years. There are a whole bunch of players who are in their late 20s and once you go with the “all-in” approach, you need to stick with it, so it makes sense to seek help in the transfers market. If you can get a long-term asset, go for it. If not, there’s nothing wrong, at this stage, to think short-term: a veteran player to tide you over.
What’s unthinkable is believing you can get through to the end of the season with two central defenders and recycled midfielder.
Milan out-think rivals Inter in big derby win
Gab Marcotti marvels at 39-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s performance in Milan’s 2-1 derby win over Inter.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s performance in the Milan derby powered the Rossoneri to the top of the Serie A table. I wrote about his performance in their 2-1 win on Saturday, so let’s not dwell on him too much here. Rather, it’s worth praising Stefano Pioli for putting the right pieces around Zlatan to help mask his deficiencies and maximise his strengths. Using Rafael Leao to pin back Achraf Hakimi, and setting up the back line to withstand Inter’s second-half onslaught were moves that made all the difference on the night.
As for Inter, Antonio Conte is right to say they had chances to equalize or even win, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Inter we saw hasn’t yet found the right balance. Playing two strikers with wing-backs like Ivan Perisic and Hakimi — the former is a recycled winger, the latter is basically an adjunct attacker — isn’t a plug-and-play exercise. It requires a lot of tactical work, on the training pitch — exactly what Conte is known for — except with no real preseason and very little time to train in a congested season, he hasn’t yet had the opportunity to do it.
You wonder, therefore, why Conte doesn’t keep things simpler. Aleksandar Kolarov in a back three isn’t necessarily a bad choice, but when he’s asked to cover for Perisic and recover inside? Yeah, it won’t come natural to him straight away. Christian Eriksen as a No.10 may be unsustainable with this set-up, so why not play him as one of the three-man midfield, a role that isn’t entirely new to him? (Regarding Eriksen, I still can’t shake the feeling that there aren’t some inherent preconceptions about him and his lack of emotion and histrionics, which are so at odds with Conte’s approach.)
Aguero shouldn’t have put his hands on Massey-Ellis
Having worked side-by-side for several years, it was perhaps inevitable that Mikel Arteta and Pep Guardiola would each try to throw curveballs in an effort to catch the other off-guard.
Arteta’s new-look Arsenal included Willian as some sort of “false nine” with Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out wide. Guardiola and Man City countered with Nathan Ake at left-back, Joao Cancelo in some sort of hybrid wing-back role and, late in the game, Raheem Sterling through the middle with Sergio Aguero. It was hard to figure out on TV, but the impression was that City deserved the 1-0 win and, perhaps, Arteta engaged in a bit of overthinking.
The other big talking point was Aguero putting his arm on/around assistant referee Sian Massey-Ellis after disputing a call. It was an awkward, uncomfortable moment that Guardiola tried to minimise after the game, saying “Sergio is the nicest person I ever met in my life. Look for problems in other situations, not in this one.”
Let’s be clear here. Nobody is saying Aguero is an ogre and yes, there is no rule that says you can’t touch a referee or assistant. It’s a case-by-case situation and, perhaps, that didn’t warrant a booking. But, equally, those who say it’s no big deal because it happens a lot and if that had been a male assistant instead of a female assistant, we wouldn’t be talking about it, are missing the point.
Massey-Ellis is not a male assistant. She is a woman with a role in a sport whose conventions and rules were written and defined by men for virtually all of its 150-year history. And there are thousands of years of conventions in male-female power relations that predate this and can’t be ignored.
I am neither a woman nor an assistant referee, and I’m in no position to judge whether and to what degree Massey-Ellis was made uncomfortable here. Nor is it fair for me, or anyone else, to put her in a position where she has to speak for every female match official (let alone every woman) out there.
But what is undeniable is that you can’t pretend gender isn’t part of the story here and part of what made many so uncomfortable. Hopefully Aguero and others have picked up on this and will learn from it.
Griezmann deserves a shot up front for Barcelona
Ale Moreno believes Barcelona players checked out mentally after falling behind Getafe in the 1-0 loss.
Barcelona knew they were going to get a rough ride against Getafe because, well, everybody does. Frenkie de Jong gave up the penalty that Jaime Mata converted for the only game’s only goal. Against sides coached by Javier Bordalas, you either reply with muscle or with skill and speed. Ronald Koeman went for the latter, starting 17-year-old Pedri behind the striker, 19-year-old U.S. international Sergino Dest at left-back in place of the injured Jordi Alba, and giving Ousmane Dembele his umpteenth mulligan down the left.
– Barca ratings: Griezmann 5/10, Dest 7/10 in loss
It didn’t quite work out. Pedri did well, but Messi — possibly because of his intercontinental travels for Argentina‘s World Cup qualifiers — was subdued. Dembele offered little and, yes, the talking point — again — was Antoine Griezmann, given more licence up front, but, again, wasting opportunities.
The pieces don’t fit together like they should, but at this stage, you may as well give Griezmann a clear run up front. It’s not dissimilar to what he did at Atletico Madrid over the past few years (albeit in as one member of a two-person attack). Either that, or bench him entirely. At this stage, the endless chatter — with even France manager Didier Deschamps piping up too — isn’t helping anyone.
Will lack of Haaland back-up hurt Dortmund’s title hopes?
Jan Aage Fjortoft praises the Borussia Dortmund hierarchy for having so much faith in Gio Reyna.
After an international break and with a Champions League game against Lazio coming up, Lucien Favre did some heavy rotating against Hoffenheim — Marco Reus, Erling Haaland, Raphael Guerreiro and Jude Bellingham all started on the bench — and for a while, Borussia Dortmund looked flat. Things picked up once he sent on the cavalry (the aforementioned quartet) after the hour mark, and it was Haaland who set up Reus’ winner with 15 minutes to go. (It was his first Bundesliga goal in nearly a year.)
Hoffenheim are a tough nut to crack, and some squad rotation given the brutal grind of the 2020-21 campaign makes sense. But while Dortmund are stacked with options in midfield and out wide (and can probably reinvent midfielders as central defenders in a back three), what’s evident is that there is no back-up for Haaland. Julian Brandt gave it a go, and it simply didn’t work. He obviously can’t play up front the way Haaland does it, but readjusting the team to suit his skill-set doesn’t quite work either.
It’s something for Dortmund to address in January.
Madrid’s issues run much deeper than lack of goals
Gab Marcotti and Julien Laurens wonder which El Clasico rival suffered the worse defeat over the weekend.
Not a fan of citing attitude or body language or other intangibles to explain away defeats and poor performances, but Real Madrid‘s game against Cadiz must be an exception. Whatever happened pregame, they clearly weren’t mentally prepared on the pitch and fully deserved the 1-0 loss to their newly promoted opponents.
Real ratings: Isco 4/10, Marcelo 5/10 in defeat
Zinedine Zidane clearly tried to shake them up with four changes at half-time and a shift in formation, but nothing worked. Other than Karim Benzema (who hit the woodwork) and, again, Thibaut Courtois, there was very little to cheer. It’s the worst possible preparation ahead of the return of the Champions League and next weekend’s Clasico. Sergio Ramos going off injured doesn’t help either.
Until now, Real Madrid’s main issue was lack of goals. On Saturday, it went deeper than that.
Solskjaer’s gutsy moves pay off in Man United’s win
Frank Leboeuf believes Manchester United won’t be able to function without Bruno Fernandes on the pitch.
Say this for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: he’s got guts. In the hyper-pressure, instant-reaction world of football, he had two weeks to stew over the 6-1 humiliation at the hands of Tottenham. And he returned to face Newcastle with his captain, Harry Maguire, publicly pilloried for his red card while on England duty.
Man United ratings: Rashford 9/10 in late victory
Solskjaer not only started Maguire, but he also left Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek on the bench alongside new signing Alex Telles, and stuck Daniel James in the front three. When United went a goal down, you feared another humiliation, possibly one Solskjaer might not survive. Instead, the side kept their cool and pressed on, even after Bruno Fernandes missed a penalty, reaping a deserved three points thanks to three late goals.
It doesn’t mean Solskjaer is the right man for this job or that he’ll turn things around at United. It does mean that, for now at least, his self-belief and confidence are unshaken. And that’s important.
Juve shouldn’t panic about Pirlo after Crotone draw
Gab Marcotti feels 10-man Juventus did enough to earn the win against bottom side Crotone.
Juventus drawing 1-1 with Crotone — a team that had lost every game prior to this weekend — will inevitably lead the knee-jerk brigade to question Andrea Pirlo and his decisions and, perhaps, lament the fact that this would have never happened under Max Allegri or Antonio Conte. (It probably wouldn’t have happened under the version of Maurizio Sarri we saw last year, either.)
Stream replay: Juventus vs. Crotone (U.S.)
Leaving aside the obvious — Juventus did more than enough to win the game, hitting the post and having a goal scratched off by a very marginal offside, and playing without at least five starters while also being reduced to 10 men when Federico Chiesa was sent off — folks are missing the point.
Pirlo has been given licence to take this club into an entirely new direction: tactically, philosophically and materially, hence why there were so many youngsters out there (including a debutant in Mattia Portanova). It’s a choice in part dictated by necessity (the balance sheet is what it is, aka not good), and in part by a desire to do things differently and experiment.
After years of being domestically successful and hugely conservative (on the pitch), Juventus are trying to do things differently. It may or may not be the right choice, and Pirlo may or may not be the right man to deliver change. But at the very least, understand what he’s trying to do, and give him time to do it.
Tottenham, Mourinho should focus on positives
Jurgen Klinsmann explains why this Premier League season will continue to be a “rollercoaster” of surprises.
I can imagine Jose Mourinho views dropping two points when you’re 3-0 up with less than 10 minutes to go as some sort of cardinal sin for any football manager to commit. Managing a lead when your side are playing well and you have a team packed with expert counterattackers who thrive on wide open spaces should be entirely second nature. So while he put on a brave face after Manuel Lanzini‘s screamer held Spurs to a 3-3 draw Sunday, he must have been seething inside.
That’s understandable, but it shouldn’t detract from the way Tottenham played. And having been hard on Mourinho all those times his teams played poorly and won, the least I can do is point out when they played well and were unlucky.
Forget the cliche about “making your own luck.” When a weird own goal and a goal-of-the-season contender are what ultimately cost you points, you can’t really legislate for that. Best to take the positives, because there were plenty, starting with Harry Kane‘s performance and his ability to be at once, creator and finisher.
Bayern back to form vs. Bielefeld
Shaka Hislop praises Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski’s consistency despite their advance age.
Newly-promoted Arminia Bielefeld were designated sacrificial lambs against Bayern and they followed the script. Hansi Flick’s crew won, 4-1, with Thomas Mueller and Robert Lewandowski bagging two goals each. (For those keeping score at home, that’s now 41 goals in his last 35 Bundesliga appearances for Lewandowski. Write your own captions.)
Stream replay: Arminia Bielefeld vs. Bayern Munich (U.S.)
We had written about the lack of depth at the club and — presto! — Bayern addressed it with a late, late shopping spree that yielded a right-back (Bouna Sarr), a central midfielder (Marc Roca), a winger (Douglas Costa) and a striker (Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting). The folks upstairs are listening.
Chelsea have quality but are not a team (yet)
Chelsea were held to a 3-3 draw at home by Southampton in a game that seemed to encapsulate all the cliches about Frank Lampard‘s side. Kepa Arrizabalaga (replacing the injured Edouard Mendy) was poor, and he and Kurt Zouma gifted the opposition a goal. Defensively, the club switched off at key moments. N’Golo Kante looks anything but happy. Kai Havertz is hugely gifted, but still very raw. You could tell it was Christian Pulisic‘s first game back.
Going forward, there’s enough quality to paper over most cracks, but this is still a tactically imbalanced side that is nowhere near as good as the sum of its parts. There’s plenty of work for Frank Lampard to do and Saturday did nothing to dispel the impression that, for all the quality, the pieces don’t fit together as they should.
Napoli show they’re Serie A title contenders vs. Atalanta
Having added depth and quality, Atalanta are legitimate title contenders in Serie A this season. That Napoli demolished them 4-1 is a credit to many, but their coach Rino Gattuso stands out for me. Given their high risk/high reward approach, Atalanta will always concede opportunities, but it’s up to you to identify them and target them and Gattuso did it wonderfully, unleashing Mattia Politano, Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Chucky Lozano down the flanks. So much for those who thought he was just a shouty motivator.
Gattuso also deserves credit for regenerating and relaunching a number of players who struggled last season. Lozano was on his way out and is now the club’s top goalscorer. Kostas Manolas is back to the lustre of his Roma days, and Victor Osimhen looks as if he’s been playing in this side all his life. Gattuso has tons of depth too.
They too are legitimate title contenders, make no mistake about it.
Leipzig show attacking depth vs. Augsburg
Leipzig won away to Augsburg, 2-0, to remain top of the Bundesliga. Julian Nagelsmann approached the game like he did the previous week, with a de facto striker-less front trio made up of Dani Olmo, Christopher Nkunku and Emil Forsberg.
I’m not sure how much more of this we’ll see, and not just because of the investment in Alexander Sorloth and Hee-Chan Hwang over the summer, but because Leipzig’s second goal came thanks to a proper striker (albeit not a prolific one). Yussuf Poulsen came on and nailed a volley reminiscent of Marco Van Basten at Euro 88.
Goals aren’t the problem for this team, and Nagelsmann now has three serviceable center-forwards. Expect one of them to play most weeks.
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