The soccer news starts with Arsenal following up their 3-0 League Cup final loss to Manchester City on Sunday by preparing to play Manchester City in the Premier League on Thursday. That quirk of overlapping schedules would appear to mean problems for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
“When you lose a game like that everything is questioned – the players, the team, the personalities,” Wenger said. “It is now [like that] of course every time that you don’t win a game. But we played against a good side, you cannot say that we played against an average side. They dominate the Premier League and they have good players. It is difficult to come back.”
Arsenal’s manager was responding to a question about prioritizing the Europa League as the easiest route to next season’s Champions League. Call it the Manchester United scenario, with United’s 2016-17 Europa League run to the title influencing the thinking of clubs all over Europe. The Europa League is now an opportunity rather than a burden for the big clubs still involved and without a strong chance of qualifying through their domestic leagues.
For Arsenal in 6th-place and eight points behind 5th-place Chelsea, it’s a fair question to ask about the Europa League. Then again, Wenger made it clear that the Europa League isn’t exactly an expressway to the Champions League. “If you look at the opponents who are in the Europa League, there are big teams in there,” he said.
There’s also the other part of the United scenario. Plenty were watching and waiting for Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United to botch their Europa League run, especially when United switched focus away from the Premier League. That’s part of the game, but whether or not Arsenal can afford another failure is well worth considering. The League Cup is one thing. Going all in on the Europa League when facing a tough quarterfinal series against Milan doesn’t make a lot of sense, at least not yet.
SI.com’s Jonathan Wilson on the League Cup final. ESPN’s Mark Ogden highlights Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola’s first trophy in English soccer.
Also in Monday’s soccer news, CONCACAF announced that the Gold Cup will expand for 2019 and will consider having multiple host countries. The tournament will have 16 teams with CONCACAF looking at ” matches played outside the United States, including the possibility of matches in Central America and the Caribbean.”
“The expansion of the Gold Cup and the upcoming launch of the CONCACAF Nations League are key steps in delivering on the ONE CONCACAF Vision, to make the region’s most competitive football more accessible to more of our Confederation’s teams, players and fans,” CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani said in a press statement. “By widening access to these important tournaments for more of our Member Associations, we work towards our goal of ensuring that the football produced in the CONCACAF region is of the highest quality in the world.”
The LA Times’ Kevin Baxter talks to LA Galaxy president Chris Klein about the 2018 season.
FourFourTwo’s Greg Lea looks at Premier League managerial rivalries. The Guardian’s Paul Wilson on what losing to Manchester United means for Chelsea when they looked like the stronger team. World Soccer’s Nick Bidwell goes over Hamburg’s issues in the Bundesliga. Inside World Football’s Samindra Kunti explains potential changes for the Belgian Pro League’s extended playoff format.
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