How do you stop Mbappe? England wrestle with World Cup conundrum

How do you stop Mbappe? England wrestle with World Cup conundrum
France's forward Olivier Giroud celebrates with France's forward Kylian Mbappe (top) after scoring in Qatar 2022 World Cup. AFP
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Updated 07 December 2022

How do you stop Mbappe? England wrestle with World Cup conundrum

How do you stop Mbappe? England wrestle with World Cup conundrum
  • Four years after playing a key role in France’s World Cup triumph in Russia, Mbappe is the tournament’s most feared player.
  • “He’s a different level. Speed, movement, look at his finishing. He’s got everything," said Poland defender Matty Cash.

DOHA: England manager Gareth Southgate is wrestling with the biggest dilemma of his reign as he tries to plot a way to stop the “sensational” Kylian Mbappe in Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final.
Southgate’s hopes of leading England to a third successive semifinal at major tournaments hinge on finding a solution to a problem that has proved impossible for any team to solve in Qatar.
Just how do you subdue a player with Mbappe’s lethal combination of electric pace, balletic skill and clinical finishing?
Australia, Denmark and Poland failed to come up with an appropriate answer as Mbappe scored in his three starts on route to the quarter-finals.
Poland defender Matty Cash summed up the conundrum posed by Mbappe after the Paris Saint-Germain forward’s brilliant two goals in France’s 3-1 last-16 victory on Sunday.
“I didn’t know whether to drop off or go tight,” Cash said. “When I went tight he just spun in behind. When he gets the ball, stops and moves, he’s the quickest thing I’ve ever seen.
“He’s a different level. Speed, movement, look at his finishing. He’s got everything.”
Four years after playing a key role in France’s World Cup triumph in Russia, Mbappe is the tournament’s most feared player.
The 23-year-old already has five goals in four games in Qatar, while his haul of nine career World Cup goals puts him level with Argentina’s Lionel Messi and one ahead of Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo.
Now it is Southgate’s turn to sit the daunting Mbappe exam.
“Look, he is a world-class player who is always producing the moments when they are needed. That is what those top players do. That is the challenge we face,” Southgate said.
So what will Southgate do to combat Mbappe’s threat?
One answer would be to switch England’s 4-3-3 formation to a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 system, which would allow Kyle Walker to move from right back to supplement the central defense.
Southgate’s concern is to avoid a situation in which the pacy Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele can run at defender Harry Maguire and exploit his lack of speed.

- ‘Burning my legs’ -

Moving Walker would give Maguire help but it would also leave Southgate open to fresh claims he is a negative coach more concerned with stifling the opposition than letting his own stars express themselves.
Southgate was heavily criticized after his return to a 3-4-3 formation in the Euro 2020 final against Italy produced a tepid display that ended in a penalty shoot-out defeat.
Instead of changing his formation, Southgate may take inspiration from Walker’s role in Manchester City’s Champions League semifinal first-leg win over Mbappe’s PSG last year.
City boss Pep Guardiola asked Walker to muzzle Mbappe from right-back and he responded with a disciplined display that kept the star from scoring.
“I can’t think of another right-back in the world that I’d want to put up against him,” former England defender Gary Neville said of Walker’s chances of subduing Mbappe.
“Kyle will go closer to him, he has more pace than the Polish defenders. That’s not to say Kyle will mark him out of the game. This is a sensational player, the new best player in the world.”
As well as Walker winning his one-on-one duels with Mbappe, Neville believes it is essential to reduce his service from Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann.
“If they can stop the service to Giroud and Griezmann in that central area, it means Mbappe’s receiving far less dangerous passes,” Neville said.
But no matter how much England plan for Mbappe, Cash knows from painful experience that nothing can truly prepare them to face such a unique talent.
“I spent the afternoon watching his clips, but I’m watching the videos while lying in bed. In real life, he’s burning my legs, that’s the difference, he said.


Galtier concedes goalkeeper Keylor Navas could leave PSG

Updated 16 sec ago

Galtier concedes goalkeeper Keylor Navas could leave PSG

Galtier concedes goalkeeper Keylor Navas could leave PSG
PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain coach Christophe Galtier is unsure if he can retain goalkeeper Keylor Navas amid reported interest from Premier League club Nottingham Forest.
With the January transfer window closing soon, the 36-year-old Navas has been linked with a move after losing his starting position to Italy’s European Championship-winning goalie Gianluigi Donnarumma. Navas only plays in the French Cup.
“Keylor is a great competitor. He has been exemplary in terms of his work since the start of the season. I have total faith in him,” Galtier said Friday. “But you have to consider what he’s feeling and the directors and president are attentive to his needs.”
French sports daily L’Equipe’s website reported Friday that the Costa Rica international has agreed to terms with Forest.
Galtier suggested he would not try to block a move.
“Because of the person he is and his career, we must respect him and listen to him,” he said.
Navas joined PSG in 2019 from Real Madrid, where he won the Champions League three times, and has played 108 games for the French champions. He was outstanding during the 2020-21 season, when he stood out with remarkable performances in the Champions League against Bayern Munich and Barcelona.
Navas has played 110 times for Costa Rica.

Sancho could return from Man Utd exile to face Reading

Sancho could return from Man Utd exile to face Reading
Updated 27 January 2023

Sancho could return from Man Utd exile to face Reading

Sancho could return from Man Utd exile to face Reading
  • Sancho has struggled to reach peak form since moving from Borussia Dortmund
  • Sancho last played for United in October's 1-1 draw at Chelsea and was left out of England's World Cup squad

LONDON: Erik ten Hag is set to end Jadon Sancho’s Manchester United exile as the England forward eyes his first appearance in 14 weeks against Reading in the FA Cup fourth round.
Sancho has struggled to reach peak form since moving from Borussia Dortmund and Ten Hag claimed he was not mentally or physically ready to feature for United earlier this season.
The 22-year-old was sent to do an individual fitness program in the Netherlands rather than travel to the squad’s training camp in Spain during the World Cup last year.
But Sancho resumed group training last Tuesday having returned to Carrington earlier in January and could be involved when second tier Reading visit Old Trafford on Saturday.
“He is training with the team and we will see,” Ten Hag told reporters on Friday.
“So, he’s improving, he’s making steps and we will make the decision after training.”
Sancho last played for United in October’s 1-1 draw at Chelsea and was left out of England’s World Cup squad.
He has failed to justify the hype that saw him hailed as one of Europe’s brightest young stars when he moved to United in 2021.
“I said he’s on the way back, he’s making steps. He’s back in team training and now we have to see when he’s ready to go back into the games,” Ten Hag said.
United have flourished in Sancho’s absence, climbing into the Premier League’s top four and advancing in both domestic cup competitions.
Chasing the club’s first major trophy since 2017, United won 3-0 at Nottingham Forest in the League Cup semifinal first leg on Wednesday.
That result means Ten Hag could rest key players in next week’s second leg, but the Dutchman will also be tempted to rotate against a Reading side managed by former United midfielder Paul Ince.
“Football is never decided on paper, we have to be ready for every game, every opponent will be tough and especially in the cup,” Ten Hag said.
“That is, for them, a perfect chance. We have to be aware of that. We have to be on the front foot, fully focused and full of energy.
“I think tomorrow we will have a strong selection for this game.”


Jaguar TCS chief: Formula E is a ‘startup' with unrivaled line-up of teams and manufacturers

Jaguar TCS chief: Formula E is a ‘startup' with unrivaled line-up of teams and manufacturers
Updated 27 January 2023

Jaguar TCS chief: Formula E is a ‘startup' with unrivaled line-up of teams and manufacturers

Jaguar TCS chief: Formula E is a ‘startup' with unrivaled line-up of teams and manufacturers
  • Team Principal James Barclay talks exclusively to Arab News about the early stages of Season 9, strength of the championship and ‘formidable’ Diriyah track

For a “startup,” Formula E is not doing badly at all.

Friday and Saturday will see the second and third rounds of Season 9 at the Diriyah E-Prix night-time double-header, and James Barclay, team principal of Jaguar TCS Racing, believes few other sports can match the pace, metaphorical and literal, the sport has set since its inception.

“I think the first thing to say is Formula E is only 8 years old,” he said. “That’s the amazing thing. It’s still a startup by definition, which is exciting to think about. We’ve come a long way in eight years. It’s one of the fastest forms of motorsport in terms of growth in the world, which is incredibly exciting to see. We have an incredible lineup of teams and manufacturers, which in single-seater racing is unrivaled.”

The first race of the season in Mexico City saw the launch of Formula E’s Gen3 car — the all-electric series’ fastest and most efficient vehicle yet.

“I think the first race has been something we’ve been anticipating for a while, so it’s nice to have done it,” Barclays said.

“It’s fine when you’re developing and testing, but there’s nothing like competition to really start to see where things are at. We’ve had mixed fortunes but also a lot of positives to take out of it. Other than one other manufacturer, Porsche, we had more cars in the top 10,” he added, attributing the achievement to Jaguar’s efficiency.

This season, the Jaguar line-up is made up of Mitch Evans from New Zealand and Sam Bird of Britain. The team performed solidly in Mexico City and are now sixth in the standing with four points.

Barclay says that whether it’s getting to grips with new tires or other emerging factors, teams will need some time to adjust in the coming weeks.

“I think what we’ll see in the first four or five races this year is potentially a real swing of performance and form,” he said. “There are some very competitive teams and drivers, which are out of position, us included. Those teams who got it right last week, do they know the reasons why they got it right? And will they get it right this week?

“We need to let that play out over the first four or five races.”

Teams, including Barclay’s own Jaguar, are keeping their cards close to their chests in the early rounds of the season.

“Because it’s a brand-new car, people are still getting used to overtaking with it,” he said. “You didn’t want to take too many risks in the first race of the season because you want to get a full race under your belt; you want to get the mileage. So, you saw people being a little bit cautious and maybe not having the big moves that we’ve seen in Formula E in the past. That will come.”

Friday night will see the first of the two Diriyah races taking place under the floodlights, and the Jaguar boss is happy to be back in Riyadh.

“It’s fantastic to be back here,” Barclay said. “What we love about this race is, firstly, the location in the historic part of Diriyah. It’s a really challenging circuit. It’s a formidable track. The drivers enjoy it, which is always a positive sign.

“Sector one and sector two are incredibly technical and fast. You have to be very accurate. A small mistake has a big penalty. It’s like threading the eye of the needle, basically. There’s no room for error. And it’s been a roller coaster down that first section.

“Add to that the fact that this is the night race, our only night race to Canada. And I think that adds something really special to it.”

Barclay says the relevance of Formula E continues to rise as the world shifts toward electrical mobility.

“Regulation is driving that,” he said. “If you look at the majority of car manufacturers, they make clear statements, so for us, we made a statement that from 2025, Jaguar would become an all-electric model luxury car company.”

Daimler and Volkswagen have also made similar announcements.

“In summary, most manufacturers here made a clear statement toward becoming all-electric car companies at different points in time. In our case, this will happen very soon, but all within the next 10 years, which is incredibly exciting,” Barclay said.

Barclay calls Formula One “the pinnacle” of internal combustion engine racing and says Formula E plays a similar role in electric racing.

“What starts to happen in the future, beyond 2030, when in many markets, you can’t sell ICE engines, no one knows,” he said. “But the reality is, I think Formula E is incredibly well placed if you look at the main automotive market, and the shift toward electric mobility, or the uptake of electric cars. So we see Formula E being a positive space going forward in terms of what’s at the core of a championship.”

Beyond the environmental aspects, Formula E currently has a structure that other motorsports cannot match.

“We don’t have any driver that brings budget to racing Formula E. Everyone has a full professional employed by the team,” Barclay said. “I can’t think of any other category where that happens. It doesn’t happen in Formula One. It doesn’t happen in IndyCar. It doesn’t happen in NASCAR. Basically, I think it’s the most perfect professional driver lineup in the world and one that has so much strength in depth.”

Add to that an expanding calendar that last year saw a new race in Jakarta and this year has added Sao Paolo, Cape Town and Hyderabad, and the popularity of Formula E could be about to rise even further.

“I come back to that point: We’re a startup sport,” said Barclay. “I think what is incredible is if you look at the short space of time, we just came back from Mexico City where we had just under 60,000 people. The stadium was absolutely full, sold out, all tickets in the grandstand, in hospitality sold. In Jakarta, we had 60,000 people last year.

“So genuinely, wherever we are, we’re sold out.”


WWE Superstars gear up for colossal Royal Rumble showdown

WWE Superstars gear up for colossal Royal Rumble showdown
Updated 27 January 2023

WWE Superstars gear up for colossal Royal Rumble showdown

WWE Superstars gear up for colossal Royal Rumble showdown

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA: This weekend sees colossal battles inside the WWE ring as Royal Rumble makes its entrance for 2023 with championships on the line and more than 60 WWE superstars set to face off on Sunday, Jan 28 January.

In the main event encounters, this year’s Royal Rumble will raise the stakes higher than ever, with the winner of both the male and female headline matches guaranteed a World Championship match at WrestleMania 39 in Hollywood in April.

In the 30-man Royal Rumble contest, superstars from across eras, including Drew McIntyre, Cody Rhodes, Rey Mysterio, Sheamus, and current United States champion Austin Theory, will battle it out for the ultimate spot as the last wrestler standing.

(WWE)

Meanwhile, the 30-woman Royal Rumble match will see superstars, including Liv Morgan and Rhea Ripley, enter the ring for a chance to earn a title matchup on The Grandest Stage of Them All.

In the championship matches, undisputed WWE Universal Champion, Roman Reigns will face off with Kevin Owens following their high-profile bouts to start off the year, with Reigns aiming to maintain his ongoing dominance over the WWE universe.

Raw Women’s Champion Bianca Belair will also have her eyes set on retaining her title, as she stands toe-to-toe with Alexa Bliss in the title showdown on Saturday evening.

WWE fans in the Middle East can catch the encounters at Royal Rumble from 4 a.m. KSA on Sunday, live on Shahid.


Newcastle’s Howe on January transfers

Newcastle’s Howe on January transfers
Updated 27 January 2023

Newcastle’s Howe on January transfers

Newcastle’s Howe on January transfers
  • United have suffered just one defeat all season under Howe and remain in contention in all three domestic competitions

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe admits improving his Newcastle United starting XI could prove difficult to do in the January transfer window.
Although, that does not mean he will not try to at least steady up his Magpies squad, with the club set to be fighting it out on three fronts heading into 2023.
The last two transfer windows have proved transformative for Newcastle and Howe: From the likes of Bruno Guimaraes dragging the Magpies away from the relegation zone 12 months ago, to the summer rebuild which has seen a shift into the Champions League places.
United have suffered just one defeat all season under Howe and remain in contention in all three domestic competitions, making them one of the country’s form teams. And adjusting and adding to the side with the right level of quality does come with its own pitfalls, of which Howe is only too aware.
“I’m always watching players with the view to signing them,” admitted the head coach ahead of Sunday’s return to league action at Leicester City.
“I’d like to think I’m an honest guy, but I don’t know whether we can get the right player. Improving our starting XI is very difficult without spending vast sums of money that we don’t have. Improving the squad is maybe a different thing, but do we want to improve the squad or do we want to improve the team.
“There are lots of different things, for example, injuries change things, and we always need to be careful with what we can do within Financial Fair Play regulations.”
More than $200 million has been spent by the Magpies’ majority owners, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, in the last two transfer windows. Howe does not expect next month to see anywhere near that level of expenditure.
He said: “We’re in a very different position to where we were last year.
“We knew we needed to act (last January) and we knew we needed some good numbers through the door to try and lift the group. Now, we’re in a different position. And also, we are in a different position with Financial Fair Play than we were last year where we didn’t have a legacy of transfer fees, so we had a gap there we could attack.
“Not avoiding your question, but we’re not sure what we want the window to look like because we’re not sure what is going to happen.”
One player heavily linked with a move to United next year is France international Marcus Thuram, fresh from his defeat in the World Cup final.
The player is a close friend of Newcastle star Allan Saint-Maximin, with the French winger admitting recently that he’d spoken to Thuram about a possible switch.
The Borussia Monchengladbach man is out of contract in the summer and is thought to be available for a knockdown fee in January. Bayern Munich are said to be interested, however.
Recently, Saint-Maximin said: “Yeah, I will be honest, I have chatted with him. For me, he’s a great player. I’ve known this guy a long time. I played football with him when I was very young. I know all his family. He has great parents. He’s an incredible guy.”
And when asked about his player’s words, Howe joked: “Well done, Maxi! He’s a top player. But yeah, no more than that. He’s one that I watched in the World Cup, for sure, but no more than that.”