From Borussia Dortmund and their relationship with Peter Stoger, right down to Mark Hughes and Alan Pardew, we digest what noteworthy points of discussion this weekend of football has thrown at us:
Klassiker defeat might well be final straw for Stoger and Dortmund
Prior to this weekend, Borussia Dortmund were unbeaten under Stoger, and climbed back into the Champions League spots, yet there was little praise for the former Koln manager. The football was dreary, and they were out of the Europa League; so this weekend was perhaps a chance to stake a claim that his Dortmund side were more than good enough for the fans, away at Bayern Munich. But by the end of the game at the Allianz Arena, they were shattered; actually by halftime they were already, 5-0 down at the break, 6-0 out at fulltime, that was not in the brochure to appease the fans.
Stoger stated post-match that he has been happy with his time at the club, but doesn’t consider Dortmund to necessarily be his future; statements that would denote confidence in himself and the ability to manage anywhere else- and let’s face it, some Bundesliga clubs would be lucky to have him- but it also hinted that he’s unlikely to remain in the Dortmund dugout next season. It’s been quite the mutual relationship between both parties: both having substantial benefits, but it’s unlikely to carry on much longer.
Will Sparky have a hand in two demotions?
Before Southampton took to the pitch at West Ham, Mark Hughes, making his league managerial bow, talked on how he wanted to get at West Ham’s toxic atmosphere on their own turf. A reasonable point, hence the 4-4-2 starting formation, but by the end it was made to look a bit bizarre, the Saints had been handed a humbling at the London Stadium, and once again boos from their fans rained down.
That leaves them well in the relegation zone, one place above Stoke, Hughes former club, which brings to the fore the reality that Sparky might just play a part in both sides’ relegation. Perhaps that seems a bit harsh, it’s only his first league game with Southampton, whose decline didn’t just start, and things haven’t gone any better at Stoke without him, but it would be a managerial stain nonetheless.
Sevilla’s inconsistency continues to hamper them
Beat Atletico home and away, concede five to Eibar and Betis. Beat Manchester United at Old Trafford, lose to Leganes. It’s been the story of Sevilla this season, wondering which side will turn up, the one that plays with attacking verve and bosses the midfield, or the one that looks awfully porous and is constantly by-passed. On Saturday, it was both, as Los Rojilblancos dominated Barcelona at the Sanchez Pizjuan, raced into a two-goal lead, and looked for all the world like they toss Barca’s unbeaten record to the woodshed.
Then, Vincenzo Montella’s side contrived to become profligate, and eventually Barcelona found a way back into the game in the dying embers to snatch a point. Admittedly, Barcelona are a top side, and it’s nigh-on impossible to stop Lionel Messi, who came on to brilliant effect, but Sevilla will no doubt rue another day of what might have been, or perhaps, what should have been. It’s that sort of inconsistency that has plagued their league form and ruined their top four chances, and with Bayern to play next, it’s one they have to do away with.
Arsenal primed to benefit from Lacazette ending his drought
It was a penalty, a rather inconsequential penalty at that too, with Arsenal already two up, and time almost up, but it was a goal nonetheless. After Stoke’s Badou N’Diaye performed a regularly daft act, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was primed for his hatrick on Sunday. The forward however displayed selflessness in letting Alexandre Lacazette take it, and the latter bagged his first goal since January. His relief was there to see, and the confidence that’s supposed to bring might just be timely.
Arsenal have an Europa League quarter-final first leg with CSKA Moscow on Thursday, and with Danny Welbeck injured and Aubameyang ineligible, they might have well been planning for it without a fit striker, or one with confidence. Lacazette hasn’t had much chance to shine in Europe this season, but he was crucial to Lyon’s run to the last four last season. He’ll be relishing his opportunity.
Napoli left to rue what might have been
The task was straightforward, its reward compelling. Napoli knew a win against Sassuolo on Saturday would pile the pressure on Juventus, who were facing a Milan side unbeaten in the league in 2018. Juventus, though, wouldn’t be fazed, as they grabbed a 3-1 win and maintained their grip up top. The bigger worry for Napoli, however, was that they failed to beat Sassuolo, courtesy of a certain Matteo Politano. Ordinarily, it would seem nothing more than a player scoring for his team, except that, had all things gone right, Politano’s team would now be Napoli.
A 28-million-euro bid was accepted on deadline day in January, and all seemed set for the forward to move to the San Paolo, but the paperwork was never finalised, and as such, the move fell through. It’s the kind of coincidence that may well have scuppered the Partenopei’s league chances and have them wondering what might have been, but more pressingly, Maurizio Sarri’s side seem to be running out of steam at the wrong moment. What they could do with some fresh legs, like Politano’s, upfront right now.