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Chops

Chops

Chops is the executive producer of High Press Soccer. He's an unabashed Liverpool fan who will absolutely let that bias seep into his reporting and analysis.

Zlatan Takes Shot at Carlos Vela, Then Scores Hat Trick, and LA Galaxy vs LAFC is MLS’s First Real Derby (VIDEO)

Chops July 20, 2019

LA Galaxy vs LAFC wasted no time living up to the media fueled hype.

And he’s prone to do, Zlatan Ibrahimovic helped pour some of the gasoline.

This game had MLS’ biggest star shining in the brightest match of the season and took a new rivalry to true derby status.

Zlatan takes shot at Carlos Vela

Leading up to the game, LA Galaxy #9 Zlatan did his customary self-flagellating.

However, this time he did it at the expense of LAFC star and MLS presumptive MVP Carlos Vela.

In an ESPN FC interview, Zlatan claims he’s the best player in MLS (props to Zlatan for not adding the “the” in front of MLS as well). He also points out that, at 29, Vela is in his prime tearing up MLS–and not Europe.

Zlatan was with AC Milan for his age 29 season. He scored 14 goals in 29 domestic games that year. The final months of his year 29 was also with Milan and ended up being one of his better European seasons. He scored 28 goals in 32 domestic games and 5 goals in 8 other European matches.

Vela has 20 goals in 20 games for LAFC in MLS competition this year.

Vela responds by burying one from the spot

Vela must’ve heard Zlatan, because he wasted no time putting LAFC up in this derby.

After driving into the box and getting taken down by Galaxy keeper David Bingham, he cooly converted a penalty in the 4th minute, giving LAFC a 1-0 lead.

Zlatan immediately responds with a stunner and follows with a hat trick

Zlatan saw Vela score on a penalty and said, “hold my öl.”

In the 8th minute, Zlatan responds with a goal that only he is capable of scoring in MLS competition.

From there, Zlatan added to his tally, netting a header in the 56th.

He completed his hat trick with another blast in the 70th, giving Galaxy a 3-1 lead.

Vela scored one in the closing seconds of stoppage time. He appeared to be in an off-sides positions, but the refs let it stand. Galaxy hung on for the 3-2 win. LAFC loses their 3rd game of the season. They looked out-classed by Galaxy. Zlatan looked like the real MVP.

MLS has a real derby

While nobody will confuse LAFC vs Galaxy with Manchester United vs Manchester City, Liverpool vs Everton, or Real Madrid vs Atlético Madrid–make no mistake–this is a real derby.

It was physical. It was feisty. The crowd was loud. This game mattered.

Just like Atlanta United has provided a template for how soccer can work on a large scale in America, LAFC vs Galaxy shows just because you don’t have a 100 year history doesn’t mean you can’t have a derby with some good old fashion hatred.

Daniel Sturridge Betting Ban Update: 9 of 11 Alleged Breaches Dismissed, FA Appealing Decision

Chops July 18, 2019

Former Liverpool forward Daniel Sturridge saw 9 of the 11 alleged betting breaches against him dismissed by an independent regulatory commission today.

Sturridge faces a six week ban and £75,000 fine for the two betting breaches he was ruled to have violated.

The FA is appealing the decision and pushing for a longer punishment.

What betting rules is Sturridge accused of breaking?

As I covered at TheLines last year, Sturridge was accused of violating Rule E8(1)(a)(ii) and Rule E8(1)(b) in January 2018. Those rules are:

  • Rule E8(1)(a) – a participant shall not bet, either directly or indirectly, or instruct, permit, cause or enable any person to bet on – (i) the result, progress, conduct or any other aspect of, or occurrence in or in connection with, a football match or competition; or (ii) any other matter concerning or related to football anywhere in the world, including, for example and without limitation, the transfer of players, employment of managers, team selection or disciplinary matters.
  • Rule E8(1)(b) – where a participant provides to any other person any information relating to football which the participant has obtained by virtue of his or her position within the game and which is not publicly available at that time, the participant shall be in breach of this Rule where any of that information is used by that other person for, or in relation to, betting.

At the time, Sturridge stated he “categorically…gambled on football.” Parsing that quote and the alleged violations, it seemed pretty clear a wager was placed around Sturridge’s loan in January 2018 to West Brom Albion or another rumored team.

What betting rules was Sturridge found guilty of violating?

And that’s basically what happened.

More from what I wrote on TheLines last year:

In January 2018, Sturridge completed a loan to West Brom Albion. Rule E8(1)(a) states that, “a participant shall not bet, either directly or indirectly…or enable any person to bet on…the transfer of players…” Rule E8(1)(b) states that, “where a participant provides to any other person any information relating to football which the participant has obtained by virtue of his or her position within the game…”

It’s reasonable given the timeframe to assume that Sturridge either intentionally or carelessly provided information of his transfer to someone who placed and won a large wager. 

The independent commission confirmed this scenario as the case for his two violations:

Sturridge was accused of passing on inside information about his potential transfer moves away from Liverpool in January 2018 to close friends and relatives that was then used for, or in relation to, betting.

The commission found Sturridge guilty of two of the charges, which alleged he had instructed his brother, Leon, to bet on a possible move by him to La Liga side Sevilla.

Sturridge doesn’t deny he violated rules

Sturridge released a statement on the independent commission’s ruling. To his credit, he doesn’t necessarily deny that some rules might’ve been breached:

“I am pleased that 9 of the 11 charges were dismissed and that the panel found me to be an honest and credible witness, and that my actions on one particularly difficult day were out of character.

“The case was heard over 7 days by a distinguished panel, which resulted in a lengthy and carefully considered decision, and followed an extensive investigation by The FA. It is therefore extremely disappointing to hear that the FA will be appealing this decision.”

– Daniel Sturridge on FA betting rules investigation

Why is the FA appealing the decision?

Most likely, the FA is appealing this because they’re concerned over the integrity of the game as it relates to betting, as they should be. While we don’t view the punishment as particularly lenient, if the FA does, that’s their prerogative. The want to set an example.

It appears as if Sturridge did pass along inside information. It also appears as if Sturridge did not make any wagers himself. Most importantly, it appears as if Sturridge did not make any wagers or pass any information as it relates to an actual game result or his or a teammates performance. That line in the sand — if crossed — is where things would hit the fan.

As much as Sturridge likely wants this to go away, the FA wants to set a precedent with a relatively high-profile figure to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

I don’t disagree with either of their stances.

Transfer Grade: Sébastien Haller to West Ham for £45 Million ($55.8M USD)

Chops July 17, 2019

Who: Sebastien Haller
From Where: Eintracht Frankfurt
To Where: West Ham
For How Much: £45 million ($55.8M USD)
Grade for West Ham: A
Grade for Eintracht Frankfurt: B

Sebastien Haller to West Ham Overview

As we’ve been writing, if there was a time for someone new to break into the top 6 in the Premier League, it’s this year.

It appears as if West Ham is going for it.

Today, the Hammers officially make their second record signing in consecutive summers, bringing in Sebastien Haller from Eintracht Frankfurt for £45 million ($55.8M USD). Last year, they broke the bank for Felipe Anderson. He turned out to be a wise spend. Anderson played 36 domestic games, tallying 9 goals and 4 assists, and contributed all over the pitch.

Haller fits a similar age profile and production level as Anderson. This is a smart signing by a club making the right kind of moves.

Who is he?

Haller is a 25 year-old Frenchman who is a bit of a late bloomer as far as top level prospects go.

He didn’t really make his mark until landing with FC Utrecht in the Eredivisie four years ago. Joining on loan in early 2015 and then permanently later that year, he scored 51 goals and tallied 17 assists in 91 total appearances.

Even after lighting up the Eredivisie, he didn’t find his footing immediately with Eintracht Frankfurt when coming over in 2017. It took a year to secure regular playing time, and even then he was often overshadowed by teammate and Real Madrid transferee Luka Jovic. This despite being more productive than Jovic (15 goals and 9 assists for Haller vs 17 goals and 5 assists).

However, he was one of the Bundesliga’s best overall statistical performers last year. And he’s just hitting his prime.

Bundesliga’s Best XI of 2018-19 via WhoScored.com

Is the price fair?

All things considered, this is a fantastic price (in this market, especially) for a productive player.

At the beginning of the summer, Transfermarkt priced Haller at
£35.7 million ($45.6M USD). To secure him at £45 million when Real Madrid spent £54 million on the slightly less productive (although younger) Jovic is great value.

What impact should we expect?

Assuming he adapts to the physical demands of the Premier League like his new workhorse running mate Anderson did, expect Haller to have a potentially significant impact.

The Hammers have the makings of a legit squad. They have a world-class manager in Manuel Pellegrini who had the team steadily improving all year, ending with a top 10 finish. They have Lukasz Fabianski, statistically one of the best goalkeepers in the world last year. The Hammers possess young talent just hitting or smack in the middle of their prime. This will be a fun team to watch.

How will Pellegrini use Haller? As his assist tally indicates, Haller is a skillful and creative passer. You can envision some exciting build-up / link-up play / through ball distribution between holding mid Declan Rice, Felipe Anderson and Haller.

At just under 6’3, he should be a threat on set pieces. However, he only scored 3 headers last year–5’9 Sadio Mane had 7. Regardless, consider that a statistical fluke with some regression upwards this year. Haller is a BOSS on aerials.

With the talent around him and a skillful manager who will put him in places to succeed, Haller achieving something like a 17-goal, 8-assist type season is possible.

The Grades

West Ham (A): I really like how West Ham are building their squad.

Keep in mind, the Hammers are no joke financially. They’re the 20th richest club (in terms of revenue) from last year. The key here is they’re not overspending. They have a clear profile and vision of how to spend.

Earlier this summer, West Ham signed Villarreal attacking mid Pablo Fornals (reportedly beating Arsenal for his signature). They got him for
£25m. I’m not that high on the 23 year-old, but he’s another creative distributor and dribbler who–if things click with Rice, Anderson, Haller, etc.–will spark some exciting soccer in East London.

West Ham aren’t overspending. They have a plan. They’re finding players at an age that help them contend today and a style that fits their manager’s vision.

As of today, would you rather have West Ham’s squad or Arsenal’s? That’s a legit question now, right?

Eintracht Frankfurt (B-): Considering that Eintracht bought Haller for £6m in 2017, this is a very nice haul. Eintracht have lost some considerable fire-power from last season’s squad. But they’ve raked in almost €110m for their troubles.

However, it’s tough seeing clubs who identify and develop young talent get picked over so much in one summer. And given the market
(and what they got for Jovic), the price for Haller seems a bit low.

Transfer Grade: Harry Maguire to Mancester United for Record £80 Million ($100M USD) – UPDATE

Chops July 14, 2019

UPDATE: Cool your jets. This deal is now reportedly not done. We’ll update the post as more information comes.

The Deal

Who: Harry Maguire
From Where: Leicester City
To Where: Manchester United
For How Much: £80 million (reportedly £60 up-front with £20 add-ons)
Grade for Leicester City: C+
Grade for Manchester United: B-

Harry Maguire to Manchester United Overview

Is Harry Maguire the best center-back in the world?

Because, according to The Sun, he was just paid like it.

Manchester United continue their off-season rebuild today but nabbing Leicester City center-back Maguire. They out-bid…City? Bueller? Bueller? for his services.

Regardless, assuming he passes his medical on Monday, he’ll be playing at Old Trafford next month.

This is a tough one to grade for many reasons. Let’s just dive into it.

Who is he?

Maguire, 26, is a highly-regarded English national player and anchor in the back for Leicester City.

After coming up through Sheffield United as a youth, Maguire went to Hull City in 2014. Hull did something right in identifying defensive talent that year, as Maguire was signed with the world’s best left-back Andy Robertson (seriously, who was Hull’s lead scout there? 👏👏👏).

Seriously wtf

Maguire came to Leicester in 2017. He was a standout for England in the 2018 World Cup. He’s now the most expensive center-back in the world.

Is the price fair?

Frankly, no.

United (reportedly) paid almost double his transfermarkt value (listed at £45m last month). While it seems like *everyone’s* value is inflated this transfer period, of the notable transactions, Maguire has the biggest disparity.

Yes, there’s the potential caveat around the conditions of those add-ons. Let’s assume they will be paid.

If that’s the case, how does Maguire compare to Virgil van Dijk? VVD is the best center-back in the Premier League at worst, and the top #4 in the world at best. Just 18 months ago, Liverpool paid a then record fee of £75m for him.

He was worth every penny.

Maguire is great. He is not VVD.

WhoScored is not the end-all-be-all but here’s a look at how Maguire compares to VVD:

  • VVD has a significantly higher ’18-19 overall rating than Maguire in the Premier League (7.44 to 7.01).
  • VVD is more durable (38 domestic games to 31).
  • VVD is more prolific using his massive noggin for goals (4 to 3). He also chipped in two assists to Maguire’s 0.
  • VVD is a more accurate passer.

Sure, nobody is actually debating if Maguire is better than VVD. He’s not. But at that price–he should be in the same relative universe. He’s not.

Having said all of that…VVD has shown how transformative a world-class center-back can be. He won the PFA Player of the Year last year. Maguire isn’t going to repeat that feat, but he’s going to help. More on that in the next section.

Back to the price, the only other club with reported interest in Maguire was Manchester City. If that’s the case, who was United bidding against? The price is too high given his (albeit solid) output.

In one summer, United made world record transfers for right-back in Aaron Wan-Bissaka and center-back in Harry Maguire. Neither are the best in the Premier League at their respective positions.

And they paid around £130 million for them.

This has to work. If United make the top 4 and qualify for the Champions League, fans of the Red Devils (and United’s board) won’t care. If they miss out…there will be blood.

What impact should we expect?

Manchester United finished sixth last campaign. They gave up 54 goals (and that’s with David de Gea between the sticks!).

Those 54 goals are 10 more than City and Liverpool combined. It’s also more than any of the other Big 6 last year. It’s more than the 7th-9th placed teams: Wolves (46), Everton (46) and Leicester (48).

So yes, along with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, United’s defense will improve. It can’t get much worse.

Maguire will help both defending and attacking set pieces as well.

However, United were already the best at winning aerial duels in the Premier League last season. So that wasn’t necessarily an area of needed improvement.

2018-19 Aerial Duels Won

United also had a reported £100m summer transfer budget. If that is true, then Maguire’s arrival would almost certainly signal Romelu Lukaku’s departure. While Lukaku has been much-maligned, he found the net 12 times last season. United will lose some offensive fire-power as a trade off.

The Grades

This one is tricky to grade. I almost went with two Incompletes until seeing what other moves United and Leicester make before the summer transfer period closes.

But in a vacuum:

Manchester United (B-): Did United get a proven player in his prime? Yes. Will Maguire help stabilize United’s leaky defense? Yes. Was United bidding against anyone else? Not really. Did they pay too much? Yes. Will it matter if they sneak into the top 4? No.

If they don’t end up paying the add-ons, I reserve the right to raise this to a B+.

Leicester City (C+): For Leicester, this is complicated.

There was noise about Maguire wanting out of Leicester. Ok, that’s a fair reason to move him if true. Here’s the thing though: are we so sure that Leicester wouldn’t have been better than United this year if Maguire stayed?

Leicester ended 2019 strong, closing the year right behind Liverpool and Manchester City in form. As we’ll write in our Premier League previews, this is the year someone will displace a Big 6 club for European qualification. Leicester was our most likely candidate to do so. There’s still time to re-invest that money. For fans of the Foxes, I hope they do.

If they don’t, they just handed their likely biggest obstacle to a top 6 finish their best player.

Still, £80 is more than they’d receive in any scenario save making a finals run in the Champions League. They did well to extract maximum value with only one team making a serious bid.

Who Will Win the 2019-20 Premier League?

Chops July 10, 2019

We’re one month away from the first full matchday of the 2019-20 Premier League schedule.

Yesterday, we looked at Premier League matchday 1 odds. Today, we’ll take a quick look at which teams can win the 2019-20 Premier League trophy. We’ll do a deeper dive into this in early August once summer transfers are complete.

Further, in the coming weeks we’ll take a more in-depth look at:

  • All Premier League teams heading into the season
  • What clubs can challenge for a top 6 spot
  • What clubs are top relegation candidates
  • What Championship League teams are most likely to be promoted

Can any team challenge Manchester City or Liverpool for the title?

No.

Not even Tottenham?

Spurs don’t get enough credit for how they develop talent. They have an elite manager in Mauricio Pochettino. Tottenham have elite level players. They’ve added their recent record transfer Tanguy Ndombele. Christian Eriksen hasn’t left yet. Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, and Dele Alli are still there.

Notice I haven’t mentioned a defender yet?

Spurs is a fairly WYSIWYG squad. We know they’ll be well coached. We know they’re a threat to win any game. They’ll make it to the Champions League knockout rounds. They will snugly finish third in the Premier League. This isn’t complicated.

What about Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal?

😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

They seriously have no chance?

None.

Chelsea just shit-canned a coach who guided them to a Europa League title and top 4 finish. They’re under a transfer ban. They lost their best player. Frank Lampard, their new coach, is unproven. Or maybe not even good. He didn’t exactly have his iPhone ringing off the hook this off-season. Chelsea is the model of organizational instability. They’re taking a step back.

Arsenal appears to be adding nobody of note to a squad that didn’t crack the top 4 last year. And they lost their best midfielder.

Manchester United I actually think are making smart moves, acquiring young players with upside and heart like Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. They need another 5 of those moves and a couple of years of growth to start challenging again. As the saying goes, they’re two years away from being two years away.

So, it’s really already down to Manchester City and Liverpool for the 2019-20 Premier League title?

Yes.

The chasm between City and Liverpool and everyone else is enormous.

First, let’s look at what betting markets say.

DraftKings Sportsbook have Manchester City as odds-on favorites at -150. Liverpool follow at +225.

The next closest odds? Tottenham at +1600.

It’s the same general odds over at FanDuel Sportsbook NJ as well.

Further, Liverpool and Manchester City just ended last season as two of the statistically best 8 teams of all time. According to ClubElo, last year’s Liverpool was actually better than City, peaking as the sixth best team ever in the history of freaking soccer.

With apologies to Vincent Kompany, neither squad lost any players of note. Financial fair play rule breaking City added high-priced Rodri to their team. They’ll likely break more rules to buy players they shouldn’t be allowed to buy. That’s how City rolls.

Liverpool get Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez back full time and expect growth from elite youngsters like Rhian Brewster. And they’re going to win 17-18 games at Anfield. They’re good.

One of these two teams is winning the Premier League. It’s a given. Just accept it and move on.

Who will it be? We’ll examine who has the best chance later this month.

The USWNT is a Global Phenomenon and Women’s Soccer Is Forever Changed

Chops July 7, 2019

Earlier this week, I wrote how in 10 years we’d remember Megan Rapinoe as the story of the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

I was wrong.

In 10 years, we’ll remember the summer of 2019 as the year that women’s soccer became a permanent fixture in the collective global sporting consciousness.

And how did that happen? Because the USWNT are the new Dream Team: a global phenomenon with the A-list personalities that match the A-list talent they bring to the pitch.

The sport will never be the same because of them.

Women’s soccer is already changing and the World Cup isn’t even over yet

It’s already happening.

ESPN announced a TV deal this week with the top women’s soccer league in the world: the NWSL.

Noting the record ratings that rival FOX is realizing from the Women’s World Cup, ESPN finally decided that they were ready to cash in. It’s a modest start of just 14 games (including the semifinals and championship), but ESPN can support and grow the league through a digital content reach that’s unmatched from its peers.

The fact that coverage starts almost immediately after the World Cup ends will only help ensure ratings success. The world has come to know not just USWNT players, but international stars like Chicago striker Sam Kerr. Diving right into coverage fresh off the World Cup and in the barren wasteland of summer sports is a brilliant strategy to build on an already engaged audience.

Digital media consumption in general, from live streams of games on FIFA to traffic on High Press Soccer itself is proving interest in the women’s game is vast and strong.

We’ve already seen the tipping point. It’s happened. Now it’s time to build on it.

USWNT players are forces on and off the pitch–sit back and enjoy them

None of this would be possible without the success on the field and conviction off the field of the USWNT.

Yes, they may be too talented to fail. But from the first game of their World Cup, the USWNT have captured headlines that their male counterparts never have.

Beat Thailand 13-0 and get criticized for too much celebrating? They make no apologies.

Don’t agree with President Donald Trump? Throw his tweets back in his face by scoring four straight goals en route to becoming an icon.

Come up with some clever tea sipping shade to throw at your opponent after scoring? Call out the double standard when you’re called out for it.

There is something different about this USWNT compared to their legendary predecessors. They great, they know it, and they don’t give a f*ck if you don’t like it.

It’s what makes many a transcendent modern star. For a sport to breakthrough, you need to be more than great. You need stars to be larger than life.

The public is responding to them not just by tuning in with their eyes, but showing up with their wallets too. USWNT jersey kits are Nike.com’s top all-time seller now. Something like that can’t happen without boys buying and wearing them–which they are doing.

There will be peaks, valleys, and plateaus with the game’s popularity from here. But the women’s soccer is now part of the broader global sporting landscape. So have a sip of tea and appreciate who made it happen. Teams and personalities like this are generational. Enjoy them while you can.

Transfer Grade: João Félix to Atlético Madrid for €126 Million ($142.1M USD)

Chops July 3, 2019

The Deal

Who: João Félix
From Where: Benfica
To Where: Atlético Madrid
For How Much: €126 million ($142.1M USD)
Grade for Atlético Madrid: A
Grade for Benfica: B+

João Félix to Atlético Madrid Overview

While Tottenham waited 517 days in between signings, this one just felt like it took 517 days to complete. But alas, it’s finally done.

We’ve been riding with João Félix since the site launched. However, we did not think he’d ultimately end up at Atléti. This is a major coup for the club.

The 19 year-old rising Portuguese star has been labeled “The Next Ronaldo.” However, that doesn’t do much justice to his overall game or moral compass.

As we’ll do for each major signing this summer, below is High Press Soccer’s breakdown of the transaction.

Who is he?

Félix was inarguably the most sought after young talent in Europe this summer.

In 26 domestic games for Primeira Liga champs Benfica last season, Félix tallied 15 goals and 7 assists. He also had that hat trick in the Europa League semis.

While often compared to Cristiano Ronaldo, he’s got a creative flair for facilitating that CR7 never possessed. Félix finds through balls and serves key passes at an elite clip.

And yes, he can score too. Maybe not in the same predatory way Ronaldo does, but who in the history of soccer has?

His 7.5 WhoScored rating was a seasonal best among Primeira Liga forwards. Did we mention he’s just 19?

Is the price fair?

The total cost of €126 million is steep. Regardless, this is becoming a popular refrain here: that’s just the modern market.

If Félix delivers on the majority of his potential for Atleti, this is a bargain. They’re buying him before his prime years even hit. Let’s say Félix gives Atleti a Griezmann-lite 4-5 years of production and gets them consistently in the UCL knockout rounds. Nobody in the Spanish capital will complain about that €126 million.

Building in an absurd €350m buy-out clause indicates they expect him to be around for a few years and the market for marquee talent to escalate. That kind of cash is Mbappe-terrority.

If transfer market values continue to climb and he performs, they’ll be able to sell him and recoup all of that and more–or resign him for what would be his actual prime year. Even if he ends up being just OK but helps keep Atleti competitive in the UCL, the the economics are probably a wash.

This really only becomes a bad investment if Félix bombs. Given the investment and resources that will be put towards his success, the odds of
Félix being a total bust seem low.

What impact should we expect?

Make no mistake, this is a HUGE win for Atlético Madrid.

Félix’s arrival is already prompting discussions around changing Atléti’s style of play. Along with the signing of Marcos Llorente, Atléti are bringing in youth and dynamism that at times seemed lacking in recent campaigns.

Atlético Madrid should–and likely will–build the offense completely around
Félix. He’s a shape-shifter and can give Diego Simeone options on how to best deploy him.

The good news for Simeone is Félix’s best statistical position is center forward. His WhoScored rating as a #9 was 7.68. While La Liga and the
Primeira aren’t apples-to-apples as far as competition, this does out-score Griezmann.

Félix will provide a comparable same set-piece threat as Griezmann, but with better finishing as he doesn’t bomb as many long range shots as the Frenchman. In theory, this should help convert more opportunities for a traditionally offensive-needy team

The Grades

Atlético Madrid: When you consider how dire their outlook was just a few weeks ago, nabbing Félix is a game changer for the club. It resets their expectations for next season and over the long-haul. The A is well deserved. Sure, they paid full price. They didn’t have to loan him back to Benfica for a year though. And not nabbing a premium talent to replace Griezmann would’ve set the club back both to the fans and the organization at large.

Benfica: The Portuguese champs ideal situation would’ve been the Manchester City bid–get the full price, but get Félix back on a one year loan. They had the leverage. Regardless, this is the kind of sale that could reap long-term rewards for the club if the money is properly re-invested. They were always going to be a top table team domestically, but they can build squad depth to make some noise in Europe now too.

Transfer Grade: Tottenham Acquire Tanguy Ndombele for £56.5 Million ($71.1M USD) – A Deal 517 Days in the Making

Chops July 3, 2019

Who: Tanguy Ndombele
From Where: Lyon
To Where: Tottenham
For How Much: £56.5m ($71.1M USD)
Grade for Tottenham: C+
Grade for Lyon: B

Tanguy Ndombele to Tottenham Overview

January 31st 2018. 517 days.

That’s how long it has been since Tottenham Hotspur have bought a player.

That purchase, Lucas Moura, helped propel them to an unlikely Champions League finals run this year.

Can new Tottenham record-breaking transferee Tanguy Ndombele have a similar impact?

Who is he?

Tanguy Ndombele is a 22 year-old midfielder (mostly a 6 but can be attacking) from France.

He played for Lyon last year, tallying one goal and 7 assists in 31 games. He’s excellent with the ball at his feet (seriously, he’s an absurd dribbler), penetrates well and is an accurate passer (nearly 90% passing success rate).

Without seeing the data, my gut is his xG is greater than his actual goal count too. There’s a finisher in there, even if he doesn’t score much / at all.

Ndombele has been on most of the “top young transfer targets in Europe” lists all year (more on this later).

In theory, this is exactly the type of purchase that Spurs need to make.

Is the price fair?

This is the most Tottenham has ever paid for a player.

The initial reports a week ago pegged Spurs paying £65 million ($82m USD) for the 22-year-old. The final reported deal today has the number at £56.5 million with the potential for £8.5m in bonuses (so basically £65 million if fully paid) to Lyon.

While £56.5 upfront is certainly better than £65 — are there more productive midfielders on the market than that? The talent is there, but at that price, is the production?

What impact should we expect?

This is really difficult to say as of today.

First, a lot depends on if Christian Eriksen is staying or going. If Mauricio Pochettino needs to replace some of that offensive productivity, that could mean a more front footed role for Ndomele.

Spurs need some backline support, and a solid #6 isn’t a bad way to help plug a leaky defense. But Ndombele has the skill set of an attacker.

Second, Ligue 1 players can take some time leveling up on their fitness when coming to the Premier League. And adjusting to the physicality. Look at Fabinho’s phasing in at Liverpool last year. How long will it take Ndomele to meet the physical demands of going from a weak domestic league to the best one?

So…who knows? My gut says two things:

  1. Ndomele is going to frustrate the hell out of Spurs fans for awhile, and
  2. If anyone will figure out how to put Ndomele in a position for success before the season ends, it’s Poch.

The Grades

Given how much shit Spurs have gotten for not buying anyone for 517 days, it’s really hard to crap all over this. But here goes!

One one hand, Spurs need depth. Anywhere and everywhere. Remember back in January when pundits thought it was a “three-team race” for the Premier League title? Then injuries hit Tottenham and they dropped, erm, 27 points off the top of the table?

Spurs really needed to solidify their backline. If Tottenham was going to make any real charge at the top 2 in the Premier League (stop laughing), improving their defensive quality would’ve been the best route.

However, if Eriksen is out the door, getting any talent to replace him in the mid helps. Regardless, the price Spurs paid and the likely return they’ll see from Ndomele this season almost feels like they were peer pressured into doing this transfer.

Also, for as much hype as there was about Ndomele as a top young talent–who were Spurs bidding against here? Did you hear any other clubs diving in on Ndomele? Griezmann, de Ligt, Felix…every big club in Europe was after them. But Ndomele? Bueller? Bueller?

As for Lyon, this is easy. Had they gotten the £65 million all up front, they’d have gotten an A. Still, extracting £56.5 million for a guy who tallied 1 goal and 7 assists for you is worth a solid B.

High Press Pod Episode 12: USWNT vs England Preview; USMNT Struggles; and More European Transfers

Chops July 2, 2019

New High Press Pod is up!

Tyler Everett joins again to cover this week’s big topics:

Listen to “High Press Pod Episode 12: USWNT vs England, Is the USMNT Actually Good, and More European Transfers” on Spreaker.

Megan Rapinoe Is the Right Star at the Right Time for Women’s Soccer

Chops July 2, 2019

Ten years from now when we look back at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, the lasting memory and narrative with be centered around USWNT star Megan Rapinoe.

She’s defiantly taken on President Donald Trump. She’s helped lead the US to two knockout round victories by scoring four consecutive goals. In a time when athletes are often skewered for taking a stand on anything, she’s been strong, dignified, and brash.

Most importantly, she’s helped raise the profile of the woman’s game not just to national — but to global– prominence.

Women’s soccer is ready to make “the leap”

Over the past 5-10 years, women’s soccer has steadily gained support from established European clubs and popularity with the viewing public.

This is particularly true in the US, where girls look up to the women’s team no differently than a kid idolizes Steph Curry. Case in point: the USWNT home kit is Nike’s all-time top seller.

The 2019 Women’s World Cup presents a real inflection point for the sport. All of the elements are there to catapult women’s soccer to new heights. As with most sports, a true star is often the projectile on that catapult. Think of the NBA in the early 1980’s with Magic, Bird, and then Jordan. Think of the UFC in the mid 2000’s with Chuck Liddell.

The star for the US and women’s soccer at large is Megan Rapinoe.

Rapinoe defines this World Cup and where women’s soccer is headed

My daughter has mostly played as a center forward in club soccer. She should’ve gravitated towards Alex Morgan. It would’ve made sense. I even pushed her toward Morgan. “Watch her, learn how she plays the position. She’s one of the best in the world.”

However, after watching a lot of USWNT games, she ended up gravitating towards Rapinoe. Got her hair cut the same way. Watched her YouTube videos. Started playing more on the left wing even.

Kids always know. They immediately gravitate towards the most catchy songs. They look up to who they trust and respect. I couldn’t be more proud of her for her choice for a role model.

This is absolutely no knock on anyone else on the team. They’re all badasses. Rapinoe just happens to be the alpha badass among them.

You don’t have to agree with her opinions. That’s fine. You should respect her conviction. You definitely should respect her game.

In a society that is just starting to get comfortable with equal rights and equal pay, Rapinoe is just like, “yeah f*ck going to the White House and inequality…and by the way, my opinions won’t cause a distraction here’s four goals in a row for you.”

I don’t care if you’re the most red-blooded red-stater out there, what’s more American than that?

A permanent place on the sporting landscape

At this year’s World Cup, the world is seeing the quality of women’s soccer on full display. Having a personality big enough to match the product on the field is the last little step needed to not just take the sport to the next level, but keep it there.

Whether she likes it or not, or means to or not, Rapinoe has done that.

Transformational stars seize the moment and shine brightest on the biggest stage. The iconic pose she took after scoring against France is like the new “We can do it.” That’s going to stick.

She took women’s soccer from a sports story to a national story to a global story. And the game is better for it.

USWNT World Cup TV Ratings Better Than MLS, Premier League, Champions League, MLB Playoffs and NBA Playoffs

Chops June 30, 2019

The USWNT victory over France in the 2019 Women’s World Cup quarterfinals set a TV ratings record in America.

According to ESPN:

Fox drew 6.12 million viewers for Friday’s match, and peaked at 8.24 million. The game was the most-watched English-language soccer telecast in the country since last year’s men’s World Cup final.

The game also drew over 211,000 live stream views.

This isn’t a one-time fluke either. The USWNT game vs Chile averaged 5.74M viewers.

While the US squad pulls a huge audience in America, interest in the Women’s World Cup isn’t just a stateside phenomenon. FIFA estimates over 1 Billion people will watch the Women’s World Cup across all platforms.

How Women’s World Cup stacks up against other sports

While these are not all apples-to-apples comparisons, the numbers do show an impressive level of interest in the women’s game at the World Cup. Consider the following:

Transfer Grade: Manchester United Land Aaron Wan-Bissaka for £50 Million ($63M USD)

Chops June 27, 2019

Who: Aaron Wan-Bissaka
From Where: Crystal Palace
To Where: Manchester United
For How Much: £50m
Grade for Manchester United: A-
Grade for Crystal Palace: B-

Aaron Wan-Bissaka to Manchester United Overview

Manchester United march on with their summer overhaul as they’re set to make their second signing: Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

AWB has been linked to Man U for a couple of months. United’s backline was anywhere from bad to atrocious in 2018-19. Targeting defensive support was a top off-season priority. Man U land one of the more talented and well-regarded defenders on the market.

With AWB and the Daniel James signing, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continues reshapings his squad younger and potentially more dynamic.

Who is he?

Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 21, is regarded as one of the top young right backs in England.

Called up to Crystal Palace’s first team in 2017-18 (7 appearances), he made 35 EPL appearances last campaign. His WhoScore rating places his in Trent Alexander-Arnold territory, although for completely different reasons.

Where TAA is an offensive fulcrum who led Liverpool in assists last year, AWB is a defensive force. He excels at tackling, intercepting, and blocking and rarely makes mistakes. At 6’0, he’s strong on aerials too.

He’s got room though to grow into more a TAA player too. Wan-Bissaka is an excellent dribbler / penetrator, but is a poor at passing / crossing. His 73% pass success rate has room for improvement. If his passing improves (he had just 3 assists last campaign), he can jump-start counters with penetrating dribbles into the attacking third.

Is the price fair?

At first, it felt like a “Manchester United tax” was assessed here. Wan-Bissaka has just over 40 top flight domestic caps to his credit. He’s a right back. That’s a steep price.

However, United didn’t really overpay that much given the current market. Initial reports pegged the deal at £55m. New reports suggest the deal is closer to £50m with only £45m up front. Transfermarkt lists AWB’s value at £35m. It’s an over-pay, yes. But it’s not horrible.

Assuming Wan-Bissaka continues to perform at a high-level defensively and improves his servicing on through-balls and crosses, this is a great price. He’s 21. He’ll improve.

Ultimately, United get a top 4 EPL right-back before he hits his prime. That’s a smart investment.

What impact should we expect?

Without question, AWB is one of the top young players on the transfer market.

Wan-Bissaka is an immediate upgrade defensively over an out-of-position Ashley Young or Matteo Darmian. Yes, United need a capable center-back as well. But Rome wasn’t built in a day.

While United will see immediate defensive improvements on the right side, they’d be wise to invest in AWB’s offensive development. He’s a skilled penetrator, and gradual progress on his servicing will eventually aid the attack. If OGS wants to build more from the back, AWB is a piece that will serve that goal.

If Man U don’t sell Romelu Lukaku or Paul Pogba, this deal means they only have another £35m-ish to spend. So make no mistake, Wan-Bissaka needs to make an immediate impact. He’s nearly half the budget.

The Grades

Still, we give Man U an “A-” for the deal. For the price, it would’ve been wiser to have targeted a center-back who could steady the whole defense. However, they landed one of England’s top transfer targets and didn’t overspend for him. If you’re a United fan, you have to be encouraged with OGS’ purchases so far. He’s going young. He’s going for players who remind him of teammates from Man U’s glory years.

For Crystal Palace, the “B-” is for not leveraging Manchester United’s desperation to land young building blocks for an extra £5-10m. Could they have struck a deal for, say, £35m, but getting a loan back for one more year of his service? United wasn’t coming at this from a position of strength. They could’ve gotten more.

High Press Pod Episode 11: Women’s World Cup and European Summer Transfers

Chops June 26, 2019

The latest High Press Pod is up!

Joining site-runner Chops is Tyler Everett. Topics in this episode include:

  • The 2019 Women’s World Cup and the USWNT’s match-up vs France
  • European summer transfers
  • The USMNT’s Gold Cup performance to date–has it really been that good?
Listen to “High Press Pod Episode 11: Women's World Cup and European Transfers” on Spreaker.

2019 Women’s World Cup Knockout Round Bracket: Toughest and Easiest Paths

Chops June 21, 2019

The 2019 Women’s World Cup knockout round bracket is set.

No major surprises or upsets through group play. The USWNT dominated–winning all three games and setting a record for most goals scored in the group round

Other contenders like France, England, and Germany all advanced undefeated–but at times looked vulnerable along the way.

Here’s a look at the teams with the toughest and smoothest paths to the finals, as well as an underdog who could make noise.

Toughest Bracket

A lot of hand-wringing has been done over the USWNT’s path the finals. And for good reason–their path sucks.

But do you know who really was done no favors? Host nation France!

First, here’s a look at all teams with at least a 1% chance to win the cup this year.

There’s a reason why FiveThirtyEight only has the US at only a 24% chance to win the World Cup despite laying waste to their group. And there’s a bigger reason why France (FIFA #4) is only 19%. Both teams will have to run through a gauntlet of quality ranked FIFA teams just to reach the finals.

If you think the US has it bad, France has it worse:

  • The US plays a solid Spain team (#13 FIFA) in the Round of 16. France? They draw a 10th ranked Brazil team who are battle tested after surviving the most competitive group in the qualifying round.
  • If the US beats Spain, they get a quarterfinals match-up against host nation France. Tough! But if France beats Brazil, do you know who they get? The best team in the world who just set a goal scoring record in the group round–the US! No tiny violins for the US team here. France has it worse.
  • Whoever wins that round then likely draws FIFA #3 England in the semis before (likely) playing FIFA #2 Germany in the finals.

Brutal.

Easiest Bracket

The last time the Germans had such a cake walk through France…

Germany draws Nigeria (#38) in the Round of 16. Of all the top seeds, they have the highest win probability (91%) according to FiveThirtyEight (England actually has the best Round of 16 odds at -850 to Germany’s -600).

While the US and France are slugging it out in the quarters, Germany will play either Sweden or Canada. Formidable? Yes. Title contenders? No.

The semis will most likely pit the Germans against Japan (#7) or the Netherlands (#8).

Again, good teams. But not great teams.

Darkhorse Contender

While there’s no team with a realistic shot to win it all past the US, Germany, England, or France, some countries did receive favorable brackets and could make some noise.

The Netherlands have looked strong and have a clear path to the semis. In a knockout round format, anything can happen. They could certainly upset Germany and find themselves in the finals. It’s why they have the same probability to win it all (9%) as England.

To be fair, the same could be said for Japan if they got past the Netherlands. Japan doesn’t have the firepower though to defeat Germany in the semis.

On the US’ side of the bracket–forget about it. It would be fun to see Australia and Sam Kerr make some noise, but there are too many obstacles in their path to expect a realistic finals run.

This will most likely come down to a final between Germany and whoever survives between the US, England and France.

2019-20 Premier League Schedule: Six Takeaways for the Big Six, Plus a Seventh for Wolverhampton

Chops June 14, 2019

The 2019-20 Premier League schedule has been released.

While all teams play each other home and away, not all schedules are created equal. Here are six takeaways for the Big 6 clubs, plus a bonus seventh for Wolverhampton.

Also read: 2019-20 Premier League title odds.

1. Are Manchester City paying off the schedule makers too?

Manchester City, who are under FFP investigations by UEFA and the Premier League, have somehow come away with arguably the most favorable schedule of the Big 6.

Of their first 12 fixtures, the only Big 6 team they play away is a November 9th match at Anfield against Liverpool.

While their December has them away at Arsenal and Wolverhampton, their four game January is against relegation candidates (Aston Villa, Norwich) or mid-tablers (Leicester, Everton).

While Liverpool’s final month includes Arsenal and Chelsea, City close out the season against Southampton -> Newcastle -> Brighton -> Bournemouth -> Watford -> Norwich.

FFS.

2. We’ll know if Liverpool will challenge City by November 9th.

Liverpool host City at Anfield on November 9th. They’ll have played all of the other Big 6 teams by then. If they only drop 4-6 points at the end of that initial stretch, they’ll be set up well to challenge City the rest of the campaign.

3. Tottenham’s schedule is well-balanced and they’ll probably finish third even if they don’t buy anyone else again.

I’ve often described Spurs as the “vanilla ice cream” of the EPL. They’re perfectly inoffensive, occasionally you enjoy it, but it’s never finishing first in a taste test.

Spurs schedule is set up in a way where heavy rotation will not be required. No brutal stretches. They’ll grind out a perfectly inoffensive third place finish again.

4. Arsenal catches a break around the holidays.

December in the Premier League is nuts, with each team playing 6 domestic games plus whatever Cups they’re competing in. PLUS they play a seventh game on January 1st.

Arsenal gets its three most challenging December-January games (City, Chelsea, and Manchester United) at home. That may be the break they need to earn a top 4 spot.

5. Chelsea’s first match is actually really important.

I’m not big on Chelsea or Manchester United this campaign.

Chelsea lost the Premier League’s best overall player when Eden Hazard went to Real Madrid.

They’re losing a volatile yet effective coach.

They’re under a transfer ban.

Their organization is unstable af in general.

Chelsea is moving in the wrong direction.

So their opening match at Manchester United matters. They’ll need all of the points they can get–and an away win buys them some Europa League top 6 cushion.

6. Manchester United is going to struggle to stay in the top 6.

United start the season with Chelsea, but get them at home. See above. That game is a big one for them.

Especially because they travel to Wolverhampton the next week. That will likely be a loss, and dropping 6 points your first two weeks is a rough way to start the season (more so when you’re Manchester United).

The good news for United is only City have a more cupcake ending to the season. If United can do the exact opposite of this year and actually end the campaign strong, they could maybe, just maybe, play some more Europa League football in 2020.

7. Wolverhampton is knocking someone out of the top 6 and maybe even top 4.

This year is set up for someone to crash the Big 6 party.

Chelsea is a mess.

United is in transition and also a mess.

Arsenal may improve…but they need to buy some players for Unai Emery.

While Tottenham is likely safe…if they lose Christian Eriksen and still don’t buy anyone, their top 4 spot may not be a given.

Wolves have a tough December, with Arsenal and City at home and an away match at Anfield.

However, their March, April and May is about as forgiving as you could hope if you’re making a run for European football. They end the year away at Chelsea, but before that, their only major challenge is a home match with Arsenal.

If anyone crashes the party, Wolves are set up to do it.

Lionel Messi, Soccer Players Dominate Top of Forbes’ List of Highest Paid Athletes

Chops June 11, 2019

Soccer players get paaaaiiid.

Or at least the best of the best do.

Forbes released its annual list of highest paid athletes, and soccer players dominated the top of the list.

However, the number of players in their prime or at the top of their game represented on the list is much lower than you’d think.

Lionel Messi tops the list, soccer players top 3

The GOAT, Lionel Messi, earned a staggering $127M last year. That comes from $92M in salary and $35M in endorsements.

Messi is followed by two men currently accused of rape: Cristiano Ronaldo ($109M–$65M in salary, $44M in endorsements) and Neymar ($105M–$75M salary, $30M endorsements).

From there, it’s a precipitous drop-off in wages and endorsements.

Top heavy 3 out of 12

After the top three, no soccer players show up until Paul Pogba at #44.

It’s actually an astounding list mostly compromised of players who shouldn’t be there vs those who are more deserving:

  • Paul Pogba #44: $33M total
  • Andres Iniesta #46: $32.5M total
  • Alexis Sanchez #53: $30.8M total
  • Kylian Mbappe #56: $30.6M total
  • Mesut Ozil #57: $30.2M total
  • Oscar #66: $29M total
  • Antoine Griezmann #75: $27.7M total
  • Gareth Bale #79: $27.1M total
  • Mo Salah #98: $25.1M total

Of the 12 players represented, along with the triumvirate Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar, only Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, and Mo Salah are in (or approaching) their prime and producing at elite levels.

Pogba certainly is deserving to be among the top paid soccer players as well, just not #4.

Mbappe is the youngest athlete on the list.

Oscar and Iniesta are outliers in that they play in China where the demand for any level of star inflates the wages. Every other contract on the list (Pogba included) those respective teams are trying to dump.

Soccer represents fourth most athletes

Despite occupying the top 3 spots, soccer players only made up the 4th most positions on the list from all sports. Ahead of soccer were:

  • Basketball (35)
  • American Football (20)
  • Baseball (15)

Transfer Grade: Manchester United Sign Daniel James for £15m

Chops June 7, 2019

Who: Daniel James
From Where: Swansea
To Where: Manchester United
For How Much: £15M
Grade for Manchester United: B
Grade for Swansea: B+

Daniel James to Manchester United Overview

Of all of the moves Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was speculated to make under his first transfer period with Manchester United, this, uh, wasn’t one of them.

That doesn’t mean that this isn’t the type of move OGS should be making.

Getting a talented young winger at a low cost, in fact, is the exact opposite kind of move that Man U has been making in recent years.

If this is a trend on how OGS plans to rebuild Man U, this is a positive first step.

Who is he?

Daniel James, 21, showed promise in the Championship for Swansea this year.

In 38 total appearances across all competitions, James scored five goals and added 10 assists. He particularly shined in the FA Cup against Brentford and Manchester City. He had the fourth highest WhoScored rating for Swansea this year.

The speedy Welsh winger cooled off some later in 2019 (in part due to injury). Regardless, rumored top-flight interest had been bouncing around all year.

James began his youth career at Shrewsbury Town before coming to Swansea. He’s made two national team appearances for Wales, scoring once.

The connection of James to United is also easy to follow. James plays for the Welsh national team under Man U legend, and former OGS teammate, Ryan Giggs. No doubt Giggs’ opinion weighed heavily on OGS’ decision.

Is the price fair?

From a pricing perspective, this is a solid deal for both Swansea and Manchester United.

In February, Transfermarkt pegged James’ value around $3.42M USD. He sold for approximately $19M USD. That’s a good price for Swansea.

Given how clubs are getting smarter on how they’re spending money–and locking players into deals so they benefit from their prime years–
£15M / $19M on a five year deal ensures United see the best to come from James. If he turns out to be a top flight producer, he’ll still be young enough to lock into a second deal that will see him through his prime.

What impact should we expect?

This is harder to figure out, at least in the short-term.

Does this mean United is considering shipping out Romelu Lukaku as has been rumored? Does this mean Man U is considering a full on clearing of the decks and reboot with a youth movement?

It’ll be easier to weigh James’ impact once we know more about the above two questions (particularly the Lukaku one). However, as more of a facilitator then technical finisher, James could provide a boost to the productivity of United gem Marcus Rashford. He just won’t replace the goals Lukaku (in theory should’ve) produced.

The only minor knock I can make on this deal is: if United are looking for more scoring upside, the player with the highest WhoScored rating for Swansea this year was forward Oliver McBurnie. The Scot tallied 22 Championship goals this year to James’ four. His market value of $5.7M isn’t far from James, and McBurnie is just approaching his prime at 23 years of age.

While the move is a great first step by Manchester United of moving away from their bad habits, it just might not have been the right Swansea player. For that reason they get a B instead of an A.

ClubElo Ranks This Year’s Liverpool as One of the Greatest Teams of All-Time

Chops June 6, 2019

Is this year’s Liverpool squad one of the greatest soccer teams of all time?

Well, yes.

According to ClubElo, the 2018-19 Liverpool squad’s peak score ranks as the sixth best ever.

That’s impressive company (and wow, Pep Guardiola). Let’s dive-deeper to see where Liverpool truly stacks up.

What is ClubElo?

First, for those unfamiliar, “Elo estimates the strength of a club based on the results against opponents and their strength.”

The site aims to look past point totals and trophies to zero in on how strong a team is compared to its peers in a given year.

After their Champions League victory on June 1st, Elo moved Liverpool up to the #6 spot, ahead of this year’s Manchester City.

The all-time Elo rating measures the peak strength of a given year’s team. This year’s Liverpool team hit their peak rating after defeating Tottenham for the UCL crown.

A more traditional case for Liverpool as sixth best team ever

Elo’s rankings measure a club’s statistical strengths against the strength of opposing teams. However, a more traditional case can be made for Liverpool’s elite standing as well.

  • En route to their sixth Champions League title, Liverpool defeated the Bundesliga champs (Bayern Munich), Primeira runner-ups (FC Porto), and La Liga champs (Barcelona). All four of the squads rate among the top 17 clubs in FiveThirtyEight’s rankings. Elo rates those teams even stronger, with Barcelona (3), Bayern (4), Tottenham (5) and Porto (15) all in the top 15 at the end of the year.
  • They finished with the third highest point total ever in Premier League history.
  • They are one of only three teams to lose less than two matches in a Premier League season (Chelsea’s ’04-05 and Arsenal’s ’03-04 being the others).
  • Their +67 Premier League point differential ranks 4th all-time.

A case for Liverpool being ranked higher?

Of the teams in the top 10, only two actually ended their season with their peak ranking: this year’s Liverpool and this year’s Manchester City.

Both teams were at their strongest in the midst of a historic Premier League title chase. While City bowed out in the Champions League quarterfinals to Tottenham, they managed to win a domestic treble, capturing the Carabao Cup, FA Cup, and Premier League title.

Liverpool, of course, pushed City to the brink in the Premier League while winning the world’s most difficult soccer event, the Champions League.

So while this year’s peak score might not equal some of the giants ahead of them, is there a case that Liverpool was ultimately a better team? Here’s a look at how the teams ranked ahead of Liverpool finished their seasons:

  • 2012 Barcelona: Fewer domestic points (91), greater goal differential (85, albeit in a less deep league), more domestic losses (3 total), and no La Liga title (they finished second). They did win the Copa del Rey, Supercopa, UEFA Super Cup, and FIFA Club World Cup.
  • 2014 Bayern Munich: They won the Bundesliga along with
    UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup. They bowed out in the UCL semis. While they had a slightly better goal differential than Liverpool domestically (70 to 67), they finished with fewer points (90) and more losses (2).
  • 2014 Real Madrid: Finished third in La Liga with fewer domestic points (87), more losses and a worse goal differential (66, so by 1). Super elite offense with 104 domestic goals. Won the Copa del Rey and the 2014 Champions League.
  • 1961 Real Madrid: Hard to compare but won a 30-game La Liga.
  • 1993 AC Milan: They won Serie A which back then actually meant something. In a 34 game season, only had a +33 gd. They were runners up in the Champions League.

While this is subjective, yes, are any resumes above starkly more impressive than this year’s Liverpool (or Manchester City, for that matter)?

Premier League teams held all four spots in the Champions League and Europa League finals. The EPL was deep. Despite this, City and Liverpool had historically great seasons. On top of that, Liverpool beat Elo teams #3-5 to win the Champions League title.

Best team ever?

Had a ball traveled just 11 millimeters further across a goal line, 2018-19 Liverpool would’ve had a strong case for the best soccer team ever.

Even so, what the squad accomplished against a stacked Premier League and treacherous Champions League path is hard to ignore. Elo and basic common sense put the 2018-19 Liverpool squad as an absolute all-timer.

High Press Pod Episode 9: Champions League Review — Will Premier League Continue to Dominate?

Chops June 4, 2019

The latest High Press Pod is up–this is all (obv) about the Liverpool Champions League victory.

Chops is joined by contributing writer Tyler Everett to review the Champions League final and look ahead to next year. Can Premier League teams continue the dominance they showed this year?

Listen to “High Press Pod Episode 09: Champions League Review and Look Ahead – Can Premier League Build on Its Dominance?” on Spreaker.
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