In ESPN’s Insider Notebook, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is under pressure once more following Man United’s bad week. PLUS: Virgil van Dijk’s injury is bad news for Spurs.
Jump to: Van Dijk injury is bad news for Spurs | FA find COVID-19 irregularities at Lazio | No luxury in La Liga thanks to COVID-19 | U.S. Soccer faces nationality battle | Analyse match data, while booking restaurants in La Liga app
Man United consider Solskjaer replacements
Manchester United are adamant Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s position as manager is not yet under threat despite back-to-back defeats to Arsenal and Istanbul Basaksehir. But even if the Norwegian coach cannot turn things around, sources have told ESPN that Mauricio Pochettino would not be the only option to replace him.
Pressure is increasing on Solskjaer’s job after a start to the season that has seen United slip to 15th in the Premier League table ahead of a tough trip to Everton on Saturday.
The defeat in Turkey on Wednesday has taken the shine off a positive start to the Champions League campaign, and while sources have told ESPN that Solskjaer retains the faith of the board for now, there is an acceptance that the past two results, in particular, have not been good enough.
– Paul Pogba: Good in the Champions League, bad in the Prem
– Solskjaer progresses after 100 games, but there’s no plan forward
– Dawson: United fans expect the worst after transfer window
– Nagelsmann tops list of best young coaches
Pochettino, who has been out of work since leaving Tottenham a year ago, is the obvious choice should United decide to make a change, but sources have told ESPN that RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann would also come under consideration alongside the Argentinian coach.
Solskjaer got the better of Nagelsmann when United faced RB Leipzig in the Champions League, but the German coach, only 33, has admirers at Old Trafford who would push his case if the club become involved in a search for a new manager.
Nagelsmann, who led RB Leipzig to the Champions League semifinals last season, has caught the attention of United chiefs with his development of young players and style of football — two things central to United’s blueprint.
However, should a vacancy come up, appointing Pochettino would not be as complicated as approaching Nagelsmann because of his contract with RB Leipzig, particularly midway through a season. — Rob Dawson
Steve Nicol says Liverpool were back to their best in their Champions League victory over Atalanta.
Van Dijk injury is bad news for Spurs
The 28-year-old is expected to be ruled out for the vast majority of the 2020-21 campaign after undergoing knee surgery following a tackle from goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in last month’s Merseyside derby at Everton.
Earlier in the summer, Reds boss Jurgen Klopp decided against entering the market despite the £10.9 million sale of Dejan Lovren to Zenit St Petersburg, but the club is expected to strengthen in January given the length of Van Dijk’s probable absence and relative lack of cover.
Among their list of centre-back targets is Inter Milan’s Milan Skriniar, who almost moved to Spurs in October.
Tottenham held lengthy negotiations — as ESPN reported on Sept. 24 — but failed to find an agreement, with Inter refusing to budge from their €60m asking price and instead opting to sign Joe Rodon from Swansea.
Sources have told ESPN that Jose Mourinho retains an interest in Skriniar and would be open to moving for the 25-year-old either in January or, more likely, next summer. But Liverpool’s presence in the market could complicate the picture given the urgency with which they need to find reinforcements.
Spurs had a net spend of more than £60m in the summer, and it is unlikely they would have the funds to launch a fresh move without first trimming their existing squad. — James Olley
Italian FA find COVID-19 irregularities at Lazio
Lazio have said they will cooperate fully with an investigation into irregularities with regard to their testing for COVID-19.
Ciro Immobile, Lucas Leiva and Thomas Strakosha were prohibited from entering Russia for the Champions League clash with Zenit St. Petersburg on Wednesday despite Lazio’s protest that the results were false positives, with the trio having played in the dramatic 4-3 victory over Torino on Saturday.
The Italian FA (FIGC) announced on Tuesday they had decided to investigate the Biancocelesti.
“The Federal Prosecutor has opened an investigation into Lazio to ascertain whether or not there have been any violations regarding the health protocols aimed at containing the COVID-19 pandemic,” a FIGC statement read. “We have ordered an inspection of Lazio’s training centre, Formello, to verify compliance with the health protocols and to speak with President Claudio Lotito and Doctor Ivo Pulcini. We will also acquire the reports of the COVID tests carried out before the matches between Brugge-Lazio and Torino-Lazio.”
Lazio director Igli Tare said the club will cooperate fully with the authorities.
“When it’s Lazio, we always have to explain what’s going on,” Tare told Sky Sport Italia. “We performed the usual swabs last week; we hosted a visit from the Prosecutors’ Office twice and handed over all the tests.”
“We did the tests again, on Friday and Saturday; they came back negative, so they played on Sunday,” he continued. “Then it was exactly the same thing that happened last week with Andreas Pereira and before that Wesley Hoedt, which there are some figures in the tests that are judged in a different way. We are at the absolute disposal of the authorities; our conscience is clear, and we can only wait for the final results.”
Asked whether Immobile will be available for Saturday’s clash with Juventus, Tare added: “Yes, we think he can play, because the tests we did half an hour after the UEFA one was negative. The same was true of Leiva and Strakosha.
“It’s very similar to what happened to Inter with Achraf Hakimi. There has to be some uniformity, otherwise we cannot continue like this.”
Hakimi tested positive for COVID-19 just before Inter’s Champions League clash with Borussia Monchengladbach and returned a negative result just two days later. — Andrew Cesare Richardson
Ronald Koeman defends Lionel Messi following former Barcelona manager Quique Setien’s criticism.
No luxury in La Liga thanks to COVID-19
La Liga’s players must forget about the luxurious dressing rooms of Camp Nou, the Bernabeu or the Wanda Metropolitano after the league hired prefabricated shower blocks for use after games.
The use of stadium changing rooms before, during and after matches is strictly limited due to the high risk of infection.
“It means investing a lot of money, but it’s necessary because dressing rooms can’t be used for more than a few minutes,” La Liga president Javier Tebas said.
Under the league’s coronavirus protocols, players are only allowed into dressing rooms for five minutes after the prematch warm-up, before kickoff and at half-time.
Until now, both the hosts and the visiting team have had to leave the stadium postmatch without showering, returning directly to their homes or the team hotel to freshen up.
That situation has elicited complaints from coaches and players, and it was not viewed as sustainable with winter fast approaching.
Players will now be able to shower — five at a time — in the blocks, which La Liga hope to donate as portable changing rooms in underprivileged areas when the pandemic is over. — Alex Kirkland
Gregg Berhalter details the USMNT’s recruitment of England youth star and Valencia prospect Yunus Musah.
U.S. Soccer faces nationality battle
“Winning the recruiting battle” isn’t a phrase one would normally associate with international soccer.
For most players, there’s only one option and that’s it. But the United States men’s national team has long made use of dual nationals, whether it was the likes of Roy Wegerle, Hugo Perez and current U.S. Soccer Federation sporting director Earnie Stewart in the mid-1990s, to Jermaine Jones and Fabian Johnson at the 2014 World Cup.
More recently, Barcelona’s Sergino Dest spurned his native Netherlands for the U.S., which he represented at youth level.
The reliance on such players has seen various U.S. managers become more aggressive over the years in an attempt to convince U.S.-eligible players to represent the Stars and Stripes, as opposed to whatever other options they might have.
That is proving to be the case yet again with manager Gregg Berhalter’s latest U.S. squad.
Included in the group is former Arsenal academy product and current Valencia winger Yunus Musah. The 17-year-old has represented England at youth level and is eligible to represent Ghana and the U.S. Also on the roster is Telstar forward Sebastian Soto, who is on loan from Norwich City and can represent Mexico and Chile, in addition to the U.S..
Gregg Berhalter explains why he’s so excited for the next crop of U.S. players ahead of the upcoming friendlies.
“I think it’s our obligation as a federation to know these players, to know what they’re doing, what level they’re performing at,” Berhalter said. “If they can help the program, I think it’s also our obligation to be actively engaged with these players.”
One outgrowth of the U.S. “recruitment drive” is an increased competition with longtime rivals Mexico. There are numerous players eligible to represent both countries, and there has been a tug-of-war over the years. The U.S. has persuaded the likes of 2010 World Cup veteran Jose Francisco Torres and Martin Vasquez (who represented both countries) to go with the U.S.
“Mexico’s doing the exact same thing. They’re actively recruiting every single one of our players,” Berhalter said. “So when you when you hear about conversations, when we talk to our guys, Mexico has spoken to all those guys, and they’re actively recruiting. So I think it’s part of international soccer.” — Jeff Carlisle
Sid Lowe breaks down Ronald Koeman’s comments regarding his transfer targets for Barcelona.
Analyse match data, while booking restaurants in La Liga app
An exclusive all-in-one app is being used by footballers in Spain‘s top two flights to monitor match statistics, review game highlights and even make restaurant reservations or book flights.
The Players App, launched by La Liga last month, has already been downloaded by around 600 of the 950 professionals registered in the Primera and Segunda divisions.
The information is tailored depending on the user’s position and includes all sorts of material, from heat maps to running stats and more detailed passing numbers to top speeds.
Players are even supplied with information on upcoming matches, including weather predictions, details on the state of the pitch they will be playing on and information on the refereeing team. They also can view how they have done each time they have played against any given opponent.
The app also tags players in action photos, which they can upload to social media, and gives them the chance to communicate instantly with the league’s player liaison office.
Furthermore, there is an option for players to arrange their private life. Through a link with Club del Deportista, La Liga’s footballers can book concerts, reserve tables at fancy restaurants, buy new cars and even book flights, if they want. — Sam Marsden.