Barstool’s Weekend Soccer Preview – The “EPL is BACK (and Klinsmann is GONE – but probably not)” Edition

Sam’s Safe Space For Soccer Stoolies

1-EPL

Hi haters,

Let’s start with the 800-pound German gorilla in the room… Jurgen the fuckin Jenius.

2-JK1

Should he be fired? Yes, and we’ll get to why, but bear with me for a minute. International soccer is a funny game in that it is actually a game within a game – kinda like “Westworld” complete with dicks (FIFA), boobs (Chris Wondolowski) and people who die but are repeatedly brought back to life (managers).

3-westworld1

In much of the world, coaches get killed off at the drop of a hat. You could basically set your watch to the England manager being terminated every two years on the dot. One can argue that the US is in a different position because soccer has not been engrained in our sporting culture in the same way, which was essentially Sunil Gulati’s (head of US Soccer) rationale for bringing Jurgen in and giving him what amounted to a two-World-Cup-cycle contract, meaning an almost unheard of 8-year mandate. This would give JK the freedom and flexibility to avoid making personnel decisions that benefited the team in the short-term at the expense of long-term development. In my opinion, the experiment has worked – to a certain extent anyway. There are many that would argue it has not and support their argument by pointing to nerd stats like the USMNT’s ELO rating (an objective attempt to measure the subjective question of “how good the team is”):

Opinions on this topic are like testicles in that Lance Armstrong probably has one but I don’t give a shit about it – or yours for that matter. My personal belief is that the player pool is stronger now than it ever has been. That is definitely not 100% thanks to our boy Jurgen of course, as the part it is simply a result of organic growth of soccer in the US, but at the same time it’s hard to suggest Klinsmann hasn’t played a role in that and he has shown an eye for talent. Given that, in a perfect world I’d prefer that JK stay on as technical director. But as far as actually coaching the USMNT it is hard to make a case for why he deserves to stick around.

Importantly, this is not a snap judgment made based on the losses to Mexico and Costa Rica over the last week. The losses were bad, especially against CRC, but they are both solid teams and winning on the road in the Hex is never easy. JK deserves das boot due to his consistently inexplicable (and seemingly last minute) lineup decisions and indefensible in-game changes, which were on full display this past week but have been a problem since day one – and in fact were a big reason why he got fired by Bayern Munich just before taking over for Bob Bradley. The final straw for me was removing Pulisic, the only guy looking dangerous against CRC, despite being down a goal, and then subbing on Zusi for absolutely no reason instead of cap-tying Cameron Carter-Vickers once the game was out of hand. [Sidenote: could you really blame CCV if he said “fuck it” and started playing for England instead at this point? Probably not.] Those moves didn’t cost us the game per se but are indicative of his inability to get out of his own way when it comes to important decisions, and are why we have two choices: either re-program Jurgy’s brainbox so that he pinky-swears to stop overthinking things and ultimately outthinking himself or say “thank you for your service, sweet prince” and move on.

4-jk2

Will he be fired? Let me answer that in the form of a question: does Sunil Gulati look like the kind of guy who  has the balls to pull the trigger ?

Cuts the crust off his sandwiches

Cuts the crust off his sandwiches

So now what? Now we sit around with our puds in our hands until March when the next two Hex games will be played – home vs Honduras and away to Panama – followed by Trinidad & Tobago at home in June 7. My guess is we’ll be sitting on 7 points after those games and be in fine shape to advance to World Cup 2018.

6-usmnt

This is what happens when three of six teams qualify automatically and a fourth gets a tough but winnable home-and-home playoff against someone from Asia. You get a lot of leeway. Remember how Mexico qualified for World Cup 2014? They won two – TWO – of the 10 Hex games, finished in fourth place, then beat New Zealand in the playoff.

7-2014

Point being, all is not lost. Far from it.

And that’s all there is to say about that for right now. The good news is we don’t even have to think about this shit for another four months. So do yourself a favor and do what I always do anytime something important like this doesn’t go my way: ignore the fuck out of it until the last possible moment. Trust me, it usually goes away. Unless it’s herpes, then you’re SOL.

Now on to the weekend ahead…

***********************************

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Reminder of what happened way back when the league last played some games:

8-EPLscores

News, notes, observations and highlights:

– Chelsea and Liverpool are FLYING at the moment, and are deservedly 1st and 2nd in the table. Long, longggggggggggggggggggg season but both teams are in must-watch form at the moment.

– Mauricio Pochettino coached the pants off Arsene Wenger in the North London Derby, which is the only explanation for banged up Spurs more than holding their own in that one.

The true King of the North

The true King of the North

– Bournemouth, dear sweet Bournemouth. Getting deservedly beaten by Sunderland – at home no less – is grounds for a timeout.

– In fact, lots of impressive performance by some of the league’s wee folk last matchday, including West Brom, Hull, Burnley, Middlesbrough and even Manchester United.

– Speaking of United, how about the team finally getting their shit together… while Jo-zay watched from the stands.

– Last and kinda least:

10-everton

So after 11 games here is how things look:

11-EPLtable

As for the big biggggggggg weekend ahead – including, it should be noted, some ridiculously good games elsewhere in Europe [see bottom section] – here’s what is on deck (in the EPL):

12-EPLschedule

***

PICKS OF THE WEEK

Only one place to start…

13-arsene

I don’t give Awkward Uncle Arsene credit for much (aside from being a good coach), but this was such a I’m-a-big-strong-man-and-you-are-a-wee-boy move on poor lil Jo-zay that you can’t not respect it. When you get in a tussle with another dude and the manliest thing you did was accidentally flip his tie up, that’s the definition of taking a big fat L.

United [+150]
Arsenal [+175]
Draw [+220]

Let’s give United some credit, it takes some mighty big balls to talk as much shit as the club collectively has been spouting coming into this weekend’s kinda/sorta/remember-not-long-ago-when-it-was-a dærby with Arsenal. It started with the club’s official twitter account…

then came Jo-zay whining about a lack of respect compared to Arsene:

Unfortunately what Mourinho doesn’t get is that he’s confusing “respect” with “leeway”. They are two different things, and a lot of Arsenal fans have complained for years that Wenger is given too much of the latter. But in terms of respect, perhaps Arsene always conducting himself in a dignified manner while Jo-zay acts like he has blood coming out of his you-know-where every other week has something to do with it.

14-hmmm

ANYWAY, as for the game, both teams may be missing key pieces up front with Zlatan suspended and Lexi carrying a thigh injury. United’s midfield showed some early signs of cohesion against Swansea last time out, but that was Swansea, which Big Bad Bald Bob has not yet had a chance to sort out quite yet. Arsenal’s midfield, on the other hand, is a well-oiled machine and is likely to be the difference. Assuming that Sanchez does end up being fit, Arsenal to win 2-1.

15-alexis

**

Southampton [+245]
Liverpool [+105]
Draw [+250]

Adam Lallana and especially Philippe Coutinho have been playing the best soccer of their careers lately, and are a huge reason for Liverpool’s recent success. Unfortunately both are in doubt for the trip to Southampton, which is fresh off a loss to a somewhat inexplicable 1-2 loss to Hull – the only explanation for which being that Hull’s keeper played outside his mind and the Saints were incredibly unfortunate not to have put five away. So apologies to Liverpool fans who know how much it kills me inside to pick say anything negative about their beloveds, but this weekend:

16-lfc

Southampton to win 1-0.

[Note: to be honest, I’m not even sure why Liverpool fans get so bent out of shape when I pick against them, which by the way is not nearly as often as every Scouser seems to think, since I’m never not wrong anyway. In fact, if anything y’all should be thanking me for anti-mushing them – you’re welcome.]

**

Other picks:

• PILLOW FIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT! Sunderland [+110] host Hull [+275] with both teams coming off wins. Since we all know that neither team is likely to win multiple games in a row all season (never mind the Tigers’ anomalous start in August), there really is only one option that makes sense in a game in which neither team can afford to settle for less than three points: 1-1 draw [+225].

• Rough stretch of games to start BBBB’s first month with the United States of Swansea [+475], and while you might think they are catching Everton [-180] at just the right time you would be wrong because the international break came when precisely they needed it, and a road game against a rested and rejuvenated Toffees side is not at all what the doctor ordered to get the Swans back on track. Everton to win 3-1.

TRUST THE PROCESS!

TRUST THE PROCESS!

• Tottenham’s [-215] goal-scoring record has been atrocious this season, perhaps because the club’s #1(a) weapon in Harry Kane has been injured for the past couple months. Good news though (unless you’re a Hammer): HE BACK, and there’s nothing like the soft underbelly of West Ham [+550] to get your offense back on track. Spurs to win 2-0 on a brace from the babyjesus.

17-kane

• Chelsea [-195] visit Middlesbrough [+525] in what could potentially be a bit closer than you might think, especially if Diego Costa and/or Eden Hazard are not back to 100% fit yet. Boro has been a tough club to pin down this season, but they’ve looked great lately pulling out ROAD draws against Arsenal and Chelsea sandwiched around a win over Bournemouth. Tough not to at least contemplate taking the draw [+310], especially if Costa or (not and) Hazard isn’t ready to go, but assuming they both play I’m going Chelsea to win 2-1 on an injury time goal.

• West Brom [-110] versus Burnley [+345] has to be the least swaggiest matchup in EPL history. Nothing against either club, which have actually been playing well in recent weeks, but either you got it or you don’t – and it’s safe to say neither of these teams is winning any sexy competitions. As for the matchup, bahhhhhhhhhhhhh gawwwwwwwwwwwd, could it be? Two wins in row for the Vanillasexuals up in West Brom [-110]? Alas, November 2016 is apparently International Bigots Succeed Month so hard not to like Andre Gray to score at least one, possibly two in this puppy (and truth be told, the combo of Gray plus Vokes should cause problems for WBA’s Evans/McAuley). Upset alert: Burnley to win 2-1.

Too much sexy for one game

Too much sexy for one game

***********************************

MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER

Conference finals are on deck but not until next week so no need to preview just yet. Here’s the schedule though in case you got some dinner plans you need to ditch:

19-MLS

***********************************

REST OF THE WORLD

Day-yum. Big games all over the place this weekend. Fire up the old TV2 and/or DVR cause a couple of these are not to be missed. In fact, none of these matchups really needs much introduction…

Spain: MADRID DÆRBY TIME! Atletico versus Real on Saturday (1:45pm on beIN Sports).

Germany: DER KLASSIKER TIME! Dortmund versus Bayern on Saturday (11:30am on FOX).

Italy: MILAN DÆRBY TIME! Milan versus Inter on Sunday (1:45pm on beIN Sports).

Not THAT, boys and girls, is a helluva weekend of games.

***********************************

So there you have it. Have a nice weekend and I’ll check y’all early next week for:


Holler,
Samuel Army