Thursday, December 31, 2020

Match Week 16: Devils Remain Hot; Liverpool Struggles; Stand Off at The Bridge; Gunners Strike Again; More COVID Cancellations

Top of the Table

Liverpool - Liverpool dropped points in a second consecutive match, drawing 0-0 at Newcastle. Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah seem to have temporarily geared down, making the absence of Diogo Jota all that much more striking. Liverpool has won just two of eight away matches.

Manchester United -Manchester United defeated Wolves 1-0 on a late Marcus Rashford goal to continue the team’s developing title challenge.  The Red Devils are now just three points behind Liverpool with a match in hand.  United is unbeaten in nine matches, winning seven while moving from fifteenth in the table to just a hair’s breadth from the top.  Bruno Fernandes assisted on the Rashford goal and has now been involved in more goals than any other Premier League player since his February 2020 debut.

Leicester – Leicester needed an 83rd minute goal from Harvey Barnes to escape with a point in a 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace.  The Foxes were continually frustrated by Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita who saved a first half penalty kick attempt by Kelechi Iheanacho.  A second consecutive draw was another missed opportunity for Leicester to make up ground on Liverpool.

Everton – Everton’s Monday game with Manchester City was postponed due to COVID. The Toffees finish 2020 as a top four club as the Carlo Ancelotti project is delivering results.

Aston Villa – Aston Villa extended its unbeaten run to five matches in the 1-1 draw with Chelsea.  Anwar El Ghazi scored in a third consecutive league appearance.  With ten shots at Chelsea, the aggressive Villa side is the only Premier League club to have double digit shots in each of its games this season.  Fifth place Villa has lost only one of nine away matches to date.

Chelsea – Chelsea continued to pick up points at home with a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa.  The Blues have lost just once at Stamford Bridge this season.  Olivier Giroud scored for a third time in his last four league starts.  Despite the point, Chelsea failed to win for a fourth time in five matches.  Out of form attackers Timo Werner and Kai Havertz were spectators for Chelsea.   

Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs’ match versus Fulham was a COVID casualty.  A break could be beneficial for a Spurs club which is winless in four matches.  Two losses in their past three matches has seen Spurs fall from the top of the table all the way to seventh

Manchester City – Manchester City’s match with Everton was postponed due to COVID.  City remains unbeaten in six matches.  The Citizens now hold two games in hand while trailing league leader Liverpool by seven points.

Southampton – Southampton is the fifth of five clubs level on twenty-six points, seven behind first place Liverpool.  While Striker Danny Ings is back, Southampton continued to struggle in attack while drawing 0-0 with West Ham.  The Saints have failed to score in their last three matches and have fallen from third to ninth in the table entering the new year.

Mid Table

West Ham – West Ham’s 0-0 result with Southampton was a third draw in four matches for the Hammers.  The tenth place Hammers have so far nailed a top half position with a seven-point improvement over their sixteen-match performance in 2019/20. 

Leeds – Leeds destroyed a hapless West Brom side 5-0 for a third victory in their last five matches.  It was the second time in four weeks that Leeds scored as many as five times.  The volatile Whites also conceded six goals to Manchester United during that stretch.  The never boring Leeds squad has both scored and conceded thirty goals this season. The team is third in the league in goals scored while second in the league in goals conceded.

Wolves – Wolves’ deficiencies in attack were again highlighted as a strong defensive effort was wasted with the injury time concession of the winner in a 1-0 loss to Manchester United.  Wolves have lost four of six while failing to score in half of those six matches.

Arsenal – Alexandre Lacazette scored for a second consecutive game and Arsenal won back-to-back matches for the first time since the season’s opening two games.  Lacazette’s goal came just twenty-nine seconds after his second half substitution.  Thirteenth place Arsenal has moved nine points safe of relegation with its two victories.

Newcastle – Furious defending and strong play form goalkeeper Karl Darlow enabled Newcastle to frustrate Liverpool in a goalless draw at St. James Park.  A string of second half saves and a key goal line clearance from defender Fabian Schar preserved the point for the Magpies.  

Crystal Palace – A Wilfried Zaha goal, his eighth of the season, enabled Crystal Palace to salvage a point in a 1-1 draw with Leicester.  A late Leicester goal deprived the Eagles of their first clean sheet since the opening weekend.  Crystal Palace benefited from a first half penalty save by goalkeeper Vicente Guaita who has played well in backstopping a suspect defense this year.


Bottom of the Table

Burnley – Burnley put further distance between itself and the relegation places with a 1-0 victory over Sheffield United.  The improving Clarets lost five of their six opening matches this season but have lost just once in their past six, winning three times in that run.

Brighton & Hove Albion – Brighton’s 1-0 loss to Arsenal extended the winless streak for the Seagulls to seven matches as they now reside only two points from the relegation zone with 18th place Fulham also having a game in hand.  Brighton has won just once in its past fourteen league matches.  The Seagulls were scoreless for a third time in five matches.

Fulham – Fulham’s match with Everton was a COVID postponement.  The Cottagers enter 2021 two points from safety with a game in hand.

West Bromwich Albion – Any positive thoughts from a 1-1 draw with Liverpool were eradicated in a 5-0 loss to Leeds.  The Baggies gifted an opening own goal to their opponent leading to four first half goals conceded in the rout.  Manager Sam Allardyce lost a second consecutive home match by more than three goals.  The own goal was West Brom’s seventh of the season, a measure of ineptitude matched by only one other side in all tiers of English football this season.  

Sheffield United – The Blades 1-0 loss to Burnley marked sixteen matches without a win to start the season, matching a Premier League record.  Ten of the Blades’ fourteen losses this season have been by a single goal.


Monday, December 28, 2020

Match Week 15: Baggies Take Point at Anfield; Gunners Find the Target; Everton Go Second; Villa Latest to Embarrass Eagles; Spurs Slide Continues

Top of the Table

Liverpool - League leader Liverpool was fortunate to extend its unbeaten Anfield run with a 1-1 draw with surprisingly competitive West Brom.  A twelfth minute goal by Sadio Mane was the only scoring until West Brom tied the game in the eighty second minute.  The Reds managed just one additional shot on target against the deep defending Baggies following the Mane goal.  Liverpool’s lead in the table entering Monday was three points over second place Everton. 

Everton – Everton won a fourth consecutive match by defeating Sheffield United 1-0 as the resurgent Toffees moved to second in the table behind their cross-town rival Liverpool.  A Gylfi Sigurdsson 80th minute free kick provided the winner for Everton in a taut defensive match.  The Toffees have registered all three of their clean sheets this season in the last four matches.

Leicester – Leicester came back twice to rescue a point in a 2-2 draw with Manchester United.  A Jamie Vardy shot deflected off United’s Axel Tuanzebe for an own goal with but five minutes left to knot things for the Foxes.  Leicester fell to third in the table behind surging Everton.

Manchester United – Manchester United maintained its good road form in  the 2-2 draw at Leicester.  The Red Devils are unbeaten in their last fourteen away games and have scored at least two goals in their past eleven road matches, equaling the league record.  United, fourth following the draw, hold a game in hand on the competitors above them in the table.  

Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs’ increasing aptitude for self-destruction was on full display in a 1-1 draw with Wolves.  Spurs scored one minute into the game and then went into a defensive shell.  An 86th minute equalizer by Wolves saw Jose’s men throw away points from a winning position for a fourth time this season.  With Spurs winless in their last four Premier League matches, Mourinho’s conservative style of play is again under question.

Manchester City – Manchester City extended its current unbeaten run to six matches with a 2-0 victory over Newcastle.  The Citizens scored in a twenty fourth consecutive match against the Magpies, equaling a Premier League record.  City had won four in a six-match unbeaten run, rising to sixth in the table with a game in hand entering Monday’s match with Everton.  

Aston Villa – Aston Villa scored two second half goals while playing with only ten men to secure a 3-0 defeat of Crystal Palace.  The clean sheet was a league leading eighth of the season for the Villans. Aston Villa’s third win in an unbeaten run of four matches moved the club to seventh in the table with two games in hand.  Villa was travelling to eighth place Chelsea Monday.

Chelsea – Chelsea were poor in a 3-1 defeat at Arsenal.  Forward Timo Werner continued his poor run and was removed at half-time.  Jorginho missed his third penalty kick in his last six tries across all competitions.  A third defeat in three matches dropped the Blues all the way to eighth in the table.  Chelsea have lost their last three away Premier League matches.

Southampton – Southampton drew 0-0 at Fulham to extend an unbeaten away run to seven matches. The Saints were well undermanned with striker Danny Ings, midfielder Oriol Romeu and center back Jannick Vestergaard all missing from the line-up.  A James Ward-Prowse free kick which touched the cross bar was the match’s only noteworthy event.  Only four points separated the ninth place Saints from second place Everton in the table entering Monday.

Mid Table

West Ham – West Ham scored an equalizer on a headed goal by Tomas Soucek to salvage a point in a 2-2 draw with visiting Brighton.  No Premier League player has scored more headers than Soucek since his league debut in February of this year.  The Hammers have now drawn their last four league meetings against Brighton.

Wolves – Wolves escaped with a late point at Molineux versus a strangely passive Spurs side.  Struggling to generate quality chances after conceding an early goal, Wolves secured the point in a 1-1 draw with a late header from defender Romain Saiss off a well-placed corner kick from Pedro Neto.   The late goal helped Wolves avert a fourth loss in five matches.

Leeds – Patrick Bamford’s penalty kick, his tenth Premier League goal of the season, was enough for Leeds to take all three points in a 1-0 victory over Burnley.  Leeds will be untroubled by accusations of gifted officiating decisions, winning for a second time in three matches.

Newcastle – Newcastle managed just 24% possession and two shots on target in meekly conceding 2-0 to Manchester City.  The absence of leading scorer Callum Wilson ensured the futility for the Magpies.  Newcastle have lost three of their last four league away matches.

Crystal Palace – Crystal Palace have now allowed ten goals in their last two matches while remaining scoreless themselves.  The 3-0 loss to Aston Villa was incurred despite the Eagles  enjoying a man advantage for the entire second half.  With the Villa loss, Palace failed again to keep a clean sheet since the season’s opening weekend and had lost four of seven matches.

Arsenal – Arsenal scored three goals for the first time since the opening weekend in a 3-1 victory over London rival Chelsea.  Manger Mikel Arteta infused some of his younger players into the line-up and the Gunners played with renewed energy.  It is a tricky thing, though, when your best line-up excludes your purported best player (Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang).  It was the Gunners first win in eight matches and, at least temporarily, ended talk of relegation.


Bottom of the Table

Brighton & Hove Albion – Brighton relinquished two leads in their 2-2 match with West Ham which was the Seagulls’ league leading sixth draw of the season.  While delivering a good effort versus a more talented West Ham side, Brighton continues to risk a relegation fight with fewer victories this year than all but Sheffield and West Brom.

Burnley – Burnley will feel they were treated unjustly in a 1-0 loss to Leeds.  Leeds penalty kick goal came on a questionable call and an equalizing goal by Burnley was also seemingly wrongly disallowed.  The Clarets generate little in attack and thus any bad luck is usually decisive.

Fulham – Fulham earned a point for a fourth consecutive match in the goalless draw with Southampton.  The Cottagers managed just one shot on goal, that coming in the eighth minute.  Manager Scott Parker was in quarantine for the match.

West Bromwich Albion – Manager Sam Allardyce captured his first point at West Brom in dramatic fashion as his Baggies drew 1-1 with first place Liverpool.  Semi Ajayi scored a header from a corner kick to provide the tying goal for the defensively solid Baggies at the eighty second minute mark.  Nineteenth place West Brom needed only 22% ball possession to become the first opponent not to lose in a match at Anfield this season. 

Sheffield United – The Blades 1-0 loss to Everton was a tenth defeat by a one goal margin in their fifteen matches.  Sheffield United is the first team in Premier League history team to be winless through Boxing Day.  The Blades’ eight goals this season are joint lowest with Burnley.



Thursday, December 24, 2020

Week 15 Preview

Beginning with Friday's Boxing Day slate, the Premier League is in action for nine of the next ten days over the holiday period. Following are the matches being played this weekend.

Saturday Matches 

Boxing Day kicks off with third place Manchester United visiting second place Leicester.   Surging Manchester United have won all six of their away matches this season while Leicester has lost four of its seven home matches. An away win versus the Foxes would mark an eleventh consecutive away win dating back to last season for the Red Devils, equaling the Premier League record.  The four home defeats for the Foxes, meanwhile, is more than that suffered by all but four Premier League clubs this season.  

Chelsea will visit struggling Arsenal in a London Derby which would seem a mismatch.  The Gunners could be facing a home Boxing Day loss for the first time in nineteen years.  

Everton seeks a fourth win in a row when it visits hapless Sheffield United.  The Blades will be looking for history to repeat itself as Everton was the victim the last time a bottom dwelling club was victorious on Boxing Day, a Sunderland win in 1993.  

An improving Fulham side could cause problems for visiting Southampton who will likely be without striker Danny Ings when they visit Craven Cottage.  The Saints, though, have won their last nine league contests versus promoted clubs.  

Manchester City will look to extend its current five match unbeaten run when the Citizens welcome Newcastle to the Etihad. City have been victorious in their last eleven home matches against the Magpies, their longest home winning streak versus any opponent.  

Aston Villa will have a three-match unbeaten run on the line when Crystal Place visits Villa Park.  The Villans will look to add to their league leading seven clean sheets when they face an Eagles side which has been blanked five times this season, most recently in last week’s 7-0 flogging by Liverpool.

Sunday Matches

Spurs visit to Wolves features two clubs that play a similar counterattacking style.  Jose Mourinho’s Spurs team, however, have weapons in Son Heung-min and Harry Kane that the Wolves can only dream about.  Both clubs could sorely use a victory.  Spurs has tumbled down the table with two straight losses while Wolves have lost three of their last four matches and are reeling from the loss of striker Raul Jimenez.  

Strikingly different styles will be on display when Burnley visits Leeds.  Tacticians will enjoy seeing the Leeds attacking open style of play matched against the strictly north/south and battened down Clarets.  

West Ham will need to be on guard against visiting Brighton.  The Seagulls, despite a number of close matches, must recognize a growing relegation threat from their current five match winless run. The Hammers will be looking to respond after their disappointing derby performance versus Chelsea.  

Liverpool is home to West Brom, continuing a rude reception for Big Sam’s return to the Premier League.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Match Week 14: Carnage at Selhurst; Spurs Slide; Foxes Rejoin the Hunt; Devils Should Receive their Due; Seagulls Endangered

Top of the Table

Liverpool - Liverpool put an exclamation point on its top of the table status with a 7-0 demolition of Crystal Palace.  The seven goals were the most Liverpool has scored in a Premier League game and included braces from Bobby Firmino and second half substitute Mohamed Salah.  Firmino’s three goals in a three-day span matches his goal output for his previous twenty-seven matches.  Salah leads the league with thirteen goals.  Midfielder Takumi Minamino had his first Liverpool goal while Henderson and Mane rounded out the onslaught

Leicester – With a 2-0 defeat of Spurs, Leicester has now won three of four matches to climb to second in the table behind Liverpool.  The Foxes are second to Liverpool entering Christmas for a second consecutive year.  Leicester Manager Brendan Rogers recorded his first victory over a Jose Mourinho managed club in the win at Spurs.  Jamie Vardy’s first half penalty score was his nineteenth goal in his past nineteen Premier League away matches.

Manchester United – A startling brace by defensive midfielder Scott McTominay in the first three minutes helped propel Manchester United to a 6-2 victory in their Derby of the Roses with Leeds.  The Red Devils should receive accolades for a run of form that has witnessed six victories and a draw in a seven-match run which has moved United from fifteenth to third in the table.  United also hold a match in hand over those clubs residing above them.

Everton – Everton moved back into the top four after a six-week absence with their 2-1 victory over Arsenal helping to celebrate Manager Carlo Ancelotti’s one-year anniversary with the club. Everton has conceded only a single goal over a three-match winning run which has helped restore optimism for Toffee supporters.  Yerry Mina’s header decided Saturday’s match.


Chelsea – Chelsea’s 3-0 victory in its London Derby versus West Ham snapped a two-match losing streak and has them sitting fifth in a highly congested field behind Liverpool at the top of the table.  Tammy Abraham scored two late goals to help put down the Hammers.  Abraham’s five goals lead a Blues’ attack which has seen thirteen different players score this season.

Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs, league leaders prior to last week’s loss to Liverpool, have fallen all the way to sixth following a 2-0 loss to Leicester.  Jose Mourinho will not be happy with his team having conceded both a penalty and an own goal in a lackluster performance versus the Foxes.  Title hopes have now turned to discussion of top four credentials for Spurs.

Southampton – Southampton lost for only the second time in their past twelve matches when falling 1-0 to visiting Manchester City.  The Saints played well in defeat but must be concerned at yet another Danny Ings injury suffered late in the second half.  The goalless performance was the first time the Saints had failed to score since the season’s opening weekend.

Manchester City – Manchester City posted a fourth clean sheet in their last five matches with the 1-0 victory over Southampton.  Raheem Sterling scored the winner as the Citizens moved to eighth in the table, just three points behind third place Manchester United.  John Stones has played well in tandem with Ruben Dias at center back for the impressive City defense.

Aston Villa – Aston Villa was little troubled by West Brom in cruising to a 3-0 victory over a  Baggies team playing with ten men after thirty-seven minutes.  With the win, Villa equaled their best start of a Premier League season after twelve matches. The Villans have posted a league best seven clean sheets despite playing fewer matches than all but four clubs. 

Mid Table

West Ham – A header conceded to Thiago Silva in West Ham’s 3-0 loss to Chelsea was the first set piece goal of the season conceded by the Hammers. Manager David Moyes extended his winless streak at Stamford Bridge to sixteen games as the Hammers failed to score in an away match for the first time this season.  West Ham fall to tenth in the table.

Wolves – Wolves continue to appear defanged, a 2-1 defeat to Burnley marking the third loss in four matches since the loss to injury of star striker Raul Jimenez.  An 89th minute penalty kick by Fabio Silva accounted for the lone Wolves goal versus the Clarets.  Frustration is mounting as Manager Nuno Espirito Santo uncharacteristically lashed out at the referee following the game.

Newcastle - Newcastle were fortunate to grab a point from a 1-1 draw against Fulham when a controversial red card led to Callum Wilson converting from the spot for his eighth goal of the season. The Magpies otherwise showed little sign of life versus a Fulham side playing with ten men after a 62nd minute red card. Newcastle manager Steve Bruce will be grateful for the point, believing his squad to still be feeling the effects of its recent COVID breakout.

Crystal Palace – Crystal Palace conceded seven goals at home in a shocking defeat for the Eagles.  While no shame to lose to Liverpool, the seven goals were embarrassing for a club which survives in the league with a normally dogged defense.

Leeds – Leeds was done in by defensive lapses beginning with the opening minutes of a 6-2 loss to Manchester United.  The Whites’ open style of play is high risk and high reward and the former prevailed against the Red Devils.


Bottom of the Table

Arsenal – Arsenal lost for a fourth time in their last five matches as Manager Mikel Arteta continues to struggle for answers.  It has been ten matches since Arsenal scored more than a goal.  The Gunner have won just once in those ten matches and are just four points from relegation.  An own goal by defender Rob Holding in the 2-1 loss to Everton was a second own goal in three matches for the Gunners, offsetting the two goals of their own during that stretch.

Burnley – Burnley are now three points above the relegation zone after their 2-1 defeat of Wolves.  The center back tandem of James Tarkowski and Ben Mees has formed the foundation for what is now a four-match unbeaten streak for the Clarets.  Ashley Barnes had his first goal in more than a year against Wolves while Chris Wood tallied his third of the season.

Brighton & Hove Albion – Brighton was mired in sixteenth position for ten consecutive weeks before dropping yet another spot this weekend.  Dropping points in their draw with Sheffield United was a worrying sign that the trap door awaits if the Seagulls continue their winless ways.  Brighton has won just twice this season and is only two points removed from relegation.  Improved play from Burnley and Fulham and Big Sam taking over West Brom could make for some stormy seas for the Gulls.

Fulham – Fulham continues to hint at better things to come, determinedly earning a point at Newcastle despite a one-man disadvantage for much of the second half.  The Cottagers have earned a point in each of their last three matches.

West Bromwich Albion – The task of new West Brom Manager Sam Allardyce was made more difficult when the Baggies went down to ten men in the first half of their 3-0 loss to Aston Villa. No team with fewer than eight points after fourteen matches has gone on to survive.  West Brom has seven points.  The Baggies failed to score in a match for the seventh time this season.

Sheffield United - The misery which is Sheffield United's season deepened when an 87th minute goal by Brighton's Danny Welbeck denied a ten-man Blade side of its first victory of the season. Sheffield United now has two points after fourteen matches, a performance unmatched in Premier League history.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Premier League in Europe

Draws for the next rounds of both the Champions League and Europa League were announced earlier this week.  Here is how the European competitions are shaping up for the Premier League clubs.

Champions League Draw

Three of four English teams in the competition qualified from the group stage.  Manchester United, third in its Champions League group behind PSG and RB Leipzig, now becomes part of the Europa League Round of 32.  The draw for the remaining English teams in Champions League home and away competition, resuming in February, was announced this week. 

Liverpool – Group winner Liverpool are matched next with RB Leipzig, the team which eliminated Manchester United from Champions League competition on the final day of group play.  Leipzig, currently battling Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich for the top spot in the Bundesliga, advanced to the semi-finals of last year’s Champions League before falling to PSG.  Jurgen Klopp will match wits with up-and-coming German manager Julian Nagelsmann.  The two clubs have never played before.  Liverpool’s Naby Keita is formerly of RB Leipzig.

Chelsea – Chelsea will renew acquaintance with Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid, a team they faced in the 2014 Champions League semi-final.  Chelsea were undefeated during this year’s group stage, winning four and drawing two matches to finish a point ahead of second place Sevilla.  The “Mattress Makers”, second to Bayern Munich in their group, needed to defeat third place FC Salzburg on the final day of group play to advance.  Atletico is currently battling Real Madrid and surprising Real Sociedad for the La Liga title this season.

Manchester City –  Manchester City will face Borussia Monchengladbach in the Round of 16.  The German squad advanced to the Round of 16 in a tiebreaker with Shakhtar Donetsk for second place group honors behind Real Madrid.  Die Fohlen (“The Colts”), who dropped their final two group stage matches, were eighth in the Bundesliga after twelve matches this year.  Manchester City, undefeated winners of their group, registered 16 points in group competition, joint highest with Bayern Munich.

Europa League Draw

All three English teams topped their individual groups in the six-match group stage of Europa League play.  Manchester United, eliminated from the Champions League, also joins for the round of 32.  The draws for February’s two leg competitions were announced earlier this week.

Arsenal – Arsenal, wretched in the Premier League this season, won all six of its Europa group stage matches.  The Gunners now face Portuguese club Benfica, which finished second to Rangers in its group by registering three wins and three draws.  Benfica was second to Sporting in the Portuguese domestic league after nine matches.  Arsenal defender David Luiz won the 2009/10 Primeira Liga title with Benfica in 2009/10.

Leicester – Leicester draws Slavia Praha.  The Foxes were top in their group, winning four with a loss and a draw in group play.  Slavia Praha was second in its group to Bayer Leverkusen and are  defending champions and current leaders in the Czech domestic league.  West Ham’s Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal are alumni of the Czech club.  Slavia is winless in its past nine matches versus English clubs.

Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs were also winners of their group, winning four (1 loss, 1 draw) and  will face Austrian club Wolfsberger.  Wolfsberger were second in their Europa group to Dinamo Zagreb and finished ahead of better-known clubs Feyenoord and CSKA Moscow.  This is only Wolfsberger’s second Europa league campaign.

Manchester United –  Manchester United lost three of its six Champions League group stage games to drop into the Europa League draw.  The Red Devils now take on Real Sociedad in the Europa round of 32.  Real Sociedad, second to Napoli in its Europa League group, has been impressively battling for the top spot domestically in La Liga this season.  Manchester United will see a familiar face on the pitch when former Manchester City legend David Silva takes the field for Real Sociedad. 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

This Week in The Premier League: Battle of Anfield; Chelsea Stall, Everton Ball; Baggies Say Bye to Bilic; Weekend’s Best

Liverpool v. Spurs

Wednesday's match at Anfield featured managers who both have Premier League and Champions League titles to their name.  The two managerial legends continued jousting after Liverpool’s 2-1 defeat of Spurs.  Mourinho’s post game claim to Klopp that the “better team lost” has sparked debate.  Despite only 24% possession, Spurs perhaps had the better chances with both Steven Bergwijn and Harry Kane missing golden opportunities.  In a game of tight margins, Liverpool’s opening goal from Mohamed Salah, the eleventh for the Egyptian striker, found the net only after a wicked deflection off the foot of Spurs defender Toby Alderweireld.  Son Heung-min’s eleventh goal of the season for Spurs could have been ruled offside.  A late header from forward Bobby Firmino captured the three points for Liverpool.  In the end it was a tactical masterpiece between the pressing style of Liverpool and a defensively solid Spurs side dangerous on the counter.  Liverpool will value the three points over style points.  The defending champions again top the table and create some space between themselves and second place Spurs.


Chelsea's high-flying attack has been grounded in recent matches as the Blues now find themselves sixth in the table.  The Blues suffered a second consecutive defeat when falling to Wolves on Tuesday.  The Hakim Ziyech injury seems to be weighing heavily on the team’s creativity.  Christian Pulisic continues to wrestle with hamstring issues.  Timo Werner has cooled, and Kai Havertz has yet to heat up.  Despite an impressive nine game unbeaten run prior to the two losses, Chelsea is yet to beat a team in the top half of the table this year.  


The Toffees registered a second consecutive win as they defeated Leicester just four days after their victory over Chelsea.  Everton posted clean sheets in both contests, the first clean sheets by their defense since the opening match of the season.  The Toffees, rising to fifth in the table,  are back in the top four discussion as they have proceeded to lose just once in their last five matches following a three-match losing run.

West Brom Managerial Change 

West Brom has replaced Slaven Bilic with Premier League survival specialist Sam Allardyce.  The Baggies will hope for Big Sam to continue his track record of keeping teams up, including rescuing Crystal Palace and Sunderland in recent seasons.  Allardyce becomes the fourth manager (Allardyce, Hodgson, Pardew, Pulis) to manage both Crystal Palace and West Brom in the past decade.  West Brom parted ways with Bilic following a 1-1 draw with Manchester City.    Ironically, the Baggies played perhaps their best match of the season against the Citizens.  Bilic had joined West Brom in June 2019 and guided them to promotion to the Premier League.  The Baggies, however, began to show some cracks towards the end of their promotion season in the Championship and this year have leaked more goals than any Premier League club.    Despite their poor season to date, the Baggies are just two points from safety. 

Top Games Coming This Weekend

Manchester City hopes to continue its march up the table when they visit St. Mary’s to face third place Southampton.  The surprising Saints have lost only one match since two season opening defeats.  Liverpool will need to avoid letdown after their big victory over Spurs when the Reds pay a visit to Crystal Palace this weekend.  While Liverpool has won on its last six visits to Selhurst Park, the Eagles have lost but one of four home matches this season.  Spurs return home to face a  fourth place Leicester side looking to rebound from this week’s loss to Everton.  The Toffees will look for a third straight win when they face struggling Arsenal. Chelsea’s London derby, versus seventh in the table West Ham, provides them opportunity to end a two-match losing run and record their first win this season over a top half club.  Manchester United will be playing on only one day’s rest when they face a Leeds squad which notched five goals versus Newcastle in their last outing.  Sam Allardyce makes his Premier League return as West Brom faces Aston Villa in a West Midlands derby.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Week 12 Review: Leaders Drop Points; Saints Continue Ascension; Scoreless in Manchester; Epic Futility at Bottom

Top of the Table

The top two teams dropped points this weekend, with both Spurs and Liverpool involved in 1-1 draws, as things tightened at the top of the table.  Spurs scored the opener versus Crystal Palace, tried to lock the game down, failed, and then were continually denied by Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.  Harry Kane scored his ninth goal of the season for Spurs, assisted by Son Heung-min.  Liverpool was fortunate to draw with Fulham on a second half penalty called for a handball.  Salah deposited the penalty for his tenth goal of the season.  

Chelsea tumbled out of the top four with their 1-0 loss to Everton.  Chelsea goalie Edouard Mendy took down Everton’s Calvert Lewin leading to a successful penalty kick by Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson.  Chelsea offered little in attack, managing no shots on target after the 28th minute as they  suffered their first away loss of the season.  

Leicester replaced Chelsea in third position with a 3-0 victory over Brighton, all three goals coming in the first half.  James Maddison scored twice Jamie Vardy scored his tenth of the season for the Foxes.  

Saints enjoyed their own 3-0 victory, over beleaguered Sheffield United, as the Saints ascended to fourth in the table with a fourth win in their six home matches.  Che Adams fourth goal of the season matched his total for the entire 2019/20 season.  

West Ham moved to sixth in the table with their 2-1 victory at Leeds.  The Hammers have won four of five matches in rising from fourteenth in the table.  

Everton’s win at Goodison Park over Chelsea was huge for a team trying to recapture the magic of its sterling start to the season.  The Toffees moved to seventh in the table while registering their first clean sheet since the opening week.  

Manchester United is the third of three teams sitting on twenty points following its scoreless derby with Manchester City.

Mid Table

A Manchester City attack, which had shown signs of promise in two successive wins entering the match with its crosstown rivals, was shut down again versus the Red Devils. The clean sheet suffered by the Citizens was a seventh time in nine matches scoring a goal or less.  

Aston Villa benefitted from an extra time penalty kick to defeat Wolves.  The Villans are just five points from a top four spot while having two games in hand.  

Crystal Place leads three teams on seventeen accumulated points following the draw with Spurs at Selhurst.  Jeffrey Schlupp had the equalizer enabled by the free kick of Eberechi Eze.  Goalkeeper Vincente Guaita was Man of the Match, and perhaps the entire weekend, with repeated acrobatic saves to deny Spurs chances and preserve the point for Palace.


Newcastle relied on two goals scored more than eighty minutes apart to defeat West Brom 2-1. The Magpies have won three of their last five matches.  

Wolves defended fiercely but an attack which lacks bite doomed them in their 1-0 West Midlands Derby loss versus Aston Villa.  

Leeds squandered leads in both of their past two matches, a header by West Ham in the 80th minute sealing a 2-1 defeat for the Whites this week.  No team has conceded more set piece goals than Leeds this season.  The Whites sit fourteenth in the table after losing four of their last six matches.

Bottom of the Table

Arsenal are just five points from relegation after losing for the seventh time in their last ten Premier League matches.  A 1-0 loss to Burnley was a fourth consecutive home loss, a feat last accomplished sixty-one years ago.  The Gunners are off to their worst topflight start, after twelve matches, in forty-six years.  At least they scored, though the own goal by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang secured victory for Burnley.  

Brighton remains sixteenth in the table for a remarkable eighth consecutive week following a 3-0 loss to Leicester.  Of teams not currently in the relegation zone, only Leeds has conceded more goals than the Seagulls.  

Burnley crawled back to safety with its win over Arsenal, dropping Fulham back into the relegation places. The Cottagers fell in the table despite their fine effort in the 1-1 in draw with Liverpool.  

West Brom’s 2-1 defeat to Newcastle was the Baggies’ fifth loss in the last six matches, the only win in that stretch coming against hapless Sheffield United.  The Blades remain on one point after their 3-0 defeat to Southampton.  It has been fifty years since the last time a team in any tier of English football had as little as one point after twelve matches. 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Week 12 Preview: Manchester Derby; Will Anyone Score at the Emirates?

Top of the Table

Spurs will be looking to extend their stay at the top of the table to a fourth consecutive week when they face Crystal Palace this weekend.  The league leaders are unbeaten in their last ten matches against the Eagles.  

Liverpool, second to Spurs on goal differential, defend their sixty-five-match home unbeaten streak when they host Fulham.  The Reds attack seems in top gear following a four-goal outburst versus Wolves last week.  

Chelsea, unbeaten in their last nine league matches, travel to Goodison Park where they have lost to Everton on their last two visits.  Christian Pulisic is a question mark for the Blues with continuing hamstring concerns. 

Leicester hopes to avoid a fourth home loss this season when Brighton visits.  Four losses would be as many as the Foxes dropped at home over the entirety of last season.  

Danny Ings will be seeking his fiftieth Premier League goal when Southampton plays Sheffield United.  The Saints have been beaten only once in their last nine league matches.  

The Manchester Derby features two teams rapidly climbing the table in recent weeks.  Manchester United have won four straight matches while rising to sixth in the table, one point above Manchester City. The Citizens have emerged victorious in three of their last four visits to Old Trafford.

Mid Table

West Ham looks to recover from last week’s disappointing loss to Manchester United when they visit Leeds.  An opening goal by the Hammers would mark a club record seventh consecutive match scoring first.  Leeds have conceded the joint highest number of first half goals in the league this season.  

An Everton attack which has sputtered in recent weeks will face a stern test against a Chelsea defense which has conceded the league’s joint second lowest goal total.  Everton have lost three of four matches as they try to recapture the form which saw such a bright start to the season.  

Aston Villa’s visit to Wolves features two teams in need of a boost.  After a fine start to the season Aston Villa has now lost four of their last five matches. Wolves are reeling from a 4-0 defeat at Liverpool last week and are without injured striker Raul Jimenez.  Villa’s done well on the road this season winning three of four away matches. Wolves have allowed fewer goals at home than any other Premier League team.  

Crystal Palace hosts league leading Spurs.  Striker Christian Benteke’s brace versus West Brom last week matched his goal total from his previous 31 Premier League matches.  A re-energized Benteke would make the Eagles a much more dangerous team.  

Newcastle returns from a COVID dictated off week to resume play at St. James’ Park against West Brom.  Manager Steve Bruce indicates the Magpies will still be missing several their first team players. Newcastle has lost five of its last seven league home matches.  

Arsenal face Burnley, one of only three teams to have scored fewer goals than the Gunners this season.  Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has hinted at giving playing time to some of his younger players who have contributed to the Gunners success in their undefeated Europa League group play.  An injured Thomas Partey and suspended Nicolas Pepe will unavailable versus Burnley.

Bottom of the Table

Brighton, hosting Leicester this weekend, has never beaten the Foxes in the Premier League and has failed to score in four of the six meetings between the clubs.  

Fulham has conceded more goals than all but one other team as they face the league’s highest scoring team in Liverpool.  

Burnley manager Sean Dyche will be looking for his first victory over Arsenal when his Clarets visit the Emirates.  Burnley have failed to score in six different matches this season while Arsenal have failed to score in five of their eleven matches.  

West Brom, playing at Newcastle, hopes to pick up the pieces from an embarrassing 5-1 defeat to Crystal Palace last week.  Conor Gallagher has scored in two consecutive games for the Baggies, matching Callum Wilson as the Baggies’ leading scorer.  

Sheffield United’s visit to Southampton highlights what a difference a year can make.  After eleven matches last season, the Blades were sixth in the table while Southampton was in the relegation zone.  Going into this weekend’s match, the fifth place Saints are nineteen points above the bottom dwelling Blades. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Week 11 Review: Spurs Rule London and the League; Liverpool Slays Toothless Wolves; Leeds Fall Off at Bridge; Eagles Soar

Top of the Table

Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs again combined the league’s stingiest defense with an elite attacking duo to defeat north London rival Arsenal 2-0 on Sunday.  Heung-min Son and Harry Kane each had a goal and an assist in the win and have now combined on eleven league goals this season.  The clean sheet was a joint league leading fifth for a defense which has conceded only 9 goals in 11 league matches, two fewer than any other club. Midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg continued his outstanding play in executing Mourinho’s defensive scheme.

Liverpool - Liverpool were dominant in a 4-0 victory over Wolves, remaining level on points with Spurs.  The win at Anfield extended Liverpool’s home unbeaten streak to sixty-five games.  In their last two home games, versus Leicester and Wolves, the surging Reds have won by an aggregate 7-0 while allowing only seven shots.  Liverpool has allowed only four league goals in six games since the Virgil van Dijk injury.  Mohamed Salah scored his ninth goal of the season while adding an assist versus Wolves.

Chelsea - Chelsea are two points behind the league leaders following a 3-1 defeat of Leeds. Chelsea’s attacking depth was again on display as Olivier Giroud scored in his first Premier League start of the season and Christian Pulisic scored his first goal since October in relief of an injured Hakim Ziyech.  Chelsea are now unbeaten in nine consecutive matches, the league’s longest unbeaten run.  The goal by Leeds was only the second Chelsea has conceded in its last six matches.  Timo Werner and Defender Kurt Zouma each scored a fourth goal of the season.

Leicester - Leicester stayed fourth in the table, defeating Sheffield United 2-1 on a 90th minute goal from Jamie Vardy, his ninth of the season.  Forward Ayoze Perez scored his first goal of the season for Leicester’s opening tally.  With the win over Sheffield United, Leicester now has more away victories during Manager Brendan Rogers time in charge than any clubs but Liverpool and Manchester City.  The win breaks a two-match losing slide for the Foxes.

Southampton - Southampton striker Danny Ings made a triumphant return from injury, burying the winning penalty kick as the Saints defeated Brighton 2-1.  Defender Jannik Vestergaard scored his third goal of the season on a header from a corner kick for Southampton’s opening tally.  The Saints are just one point behind fourth place Leicester. 

Manchester United - The 3-1 win over West Ham was a fourth consecutive victory for a Manchester United team which is now up to sixth in the table, five points from the league leaders with a game in hand.  Bruno Fernandes’ second half substitution seemed to ignite the Red Devils who overcame a 1-0 first half deficit.  Fernandes assisted on Paul Pogba’s first goal of the season for Manchester United’s first score of the match.  Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford also scored in the Red Devil’s ninth consecutive league away win. 

Manchester City - Raheem Sterling scored a goal and drew the penalty leading to Manchester City’s 2-0 victory over Fulham.  Kevin De Bruyne’s assist on the Sterling goal was his sixth of the season, second only to Harry Kane in the league.  De Bruyne’s penalty kick was his second goal of the season.  Manchester City has now beaten Fulham ten consecutive times in all competitions. The Citizens, holding a game in hand, move to seventh in the table with a second consecutive clean sheet victory. 

Mid Table

West Ham - West Ham relinquished a first half lead to surrender all three Manchester United goals in the second half of a 3-1 defeat. West Ham have dropped more points from winning positions than any other league team in 2020.  The loss ended a three-match winning streak for the Hammers who tumble three places in the table to eighth.

Everton - Everton received excellent play from sometimes maligned goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in escaping with a point in a 1-1 draw at Burnley.  Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s league leading eleventh goal provided the Everton score.  Everton were a bit improved on recent weeks in creating chances but were repeatedly foiled by Pickford’s fellow English goalkeeper Nick Pope.  Everton fall yet another spot to ninth in the table.

Wolves - Wolves rarely threatened in a 4-0 loss at Liverpool as the absence of injured striker Raul Jimenez was keenly evident.  Wolves were also among the top four defensive clubs in the league before allowing a quartet against the defending champions. Wolves have now lost eight consecutive league matches to Liverpool.  Though now tenth in the table, Wolves are but three points below fifth place Southampton. 

Crystal Palace - The Eagles soared four places up the table with a 5-1 defeat of West Brom.  Wilfried Zaha scored twice in his return from a two-week absence.  Christian Benteke scored his first two goals of the 2020/21 campaign after not scoring more than three goals in a season since 2016/17.  The Eagles took full advantage of a man advantage from a first half West Brom red card to embarrass the Baggies and end a two-match losing streak.

Aston Villa - Twelfth place Villa have two matches in hand after postponement of its match with Newcastle. 

Newcastle - Newcastle was sidelined by a COVID-19 outbreak.

Leeds - Leeds took an early lead on a Patrick Bamford goal versus his former team only to see Chelsea sail by them in a 3-1 defeat for the Whites at Stamford Bridge.  Only the efforts of Goalkeeper Illan Meslier avoided a heavier defeat.  Chelsea’s twenty-three shots were the joint highest Leeds has faced this year.  Leeds drops two places to fourteenth with the loss.

Arsenal - Arsenal’s scoring drought continued in its 2-0 defeat to rival Spurs.  Heung-min Son’s tenth goal for Spurs put him level with the entire Arsenal goal output this season.  The Gunners have fired blanks in five of their eleven matches this season and their ten goals are less than all clubs but for the three teams in the relegation zone.

Bottom of the Table

Brighton & Hove Albion - Brighton fell to Southampton 2-1 on a late VAR determined penalty.  Brighton had opened the scoring on their own penalty kick before Southampton’s Jannik Vestergaard tied matters with a header from a Saints corner kick. The Seagulls’ six goals allowed from set pieces are more than conceded by any club but Leicester this season.  Brighton remains sixteenth in the table for a seventh consecutive week.  

Fulham - The Cottagers did well to concede only two goals to Manchester City in a 2-0 defeat at the Etihad.  Fulham has conceded more goals than any team in the league this season and have now lost their last ten matches to City by an aggregate score of 29-3.

Burnley - Burnley’s 1-1 draw with Everton was earned at Turf Moor by the goalkeeping of Nick Pope and a goal from Striker Chris Wood.  Burnley have now suffered just one defeat in their last four matches.  A less encouraging view would be that Burnley have won just once in their last eleven league matches.  The Clarets sit one point below currently safe Fulham in the table. 

West Bromwich Albion - West Brom was unfortunate in being victimized by an own goal and a highly questionable red card in its first half versus Crystal Palace.  The Baggies, however, can only blame themselves for the embarrassing 5-1 final in which they allowed the Eagles four second half goals.  Manager Slaven Bilic’s seat has become much warmer.  

Sheffield United - Sheffield United’s misery continued with a sixth consecutive loss as the Blades fell 2-1 to Leicester on a late Jamie Vardy goal.  The Blades remain on one point yet still are but six points from Fulham. 


Friday, December 4, 2020

Week 11 Preview: North London Derby; Wolves Visit Reds’ House; The Moyesiah Looks to Defeat Devils

Top of the Table

The North London Derby features two teams going in different directions as top-rated Spurs, unbeaten in nine matches, play host to struggling Arsenal. Harry Kane is expected to be available for Spurs and a goal would make him the all-time highest scorer in North London derbies. Manager Jose Mourinho is unbeaten when playing a home match against Arsenal across all competitions.

Liverpool could have both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Naby Keita available for Wolves this weekend. The Reds will be defending their 64 match unbeaten run against an opponent they have defeated in seven consecutive league matches. Liverpool are currently unbeaten in their last six league matches.

Chelsea, unbeaten in their last eight matches, will face Leeds for the first time in topflight competition since 2004. The Blues are the joint highest scoring team in the league this season while their defense has conceded but one goal in Chelsea's last five matches.

Jamie Vardy will look to add to his league leading seven away goals when Leicester travels to Sheffield United. Leicester faces Sheffield United hoping to shake its tendency to perform poorly versus the lesser teams. The Foxes will be looking to break a two-game losing streak against the league's worst team.

West Ham manager David Moyes will face his former club when Manchester United visits London Stadium. The Hammers have risen to fifth in the table following three consecutive league victories. West Ham currently sits four positions above Manchester United and this will be but the fourth time the clubs have met with West Ham in the superior position in the table and have won their last two home matches against the Red Devils.

Southampton hosts Brighton this weekend having never lost in the Premier League to the Seagulls. The Saints had a seven-game unbeaten stretch broken last week and will look to get back on track in the south coast derby. Striker Danny Ings has returned to training for the Saints and possibly could see action versus Brighton.

The serious injury suffered by striker Raul Jimenez last week means Wolves will be without their top two scorers from last season when they face Liverpool this weekend. One of those two offensive threats, Diogo Jota, will be playing for Liverpool. Wolves have relied on a defense which is joint top of the league in clean sheets for their success. Wolves have scored fewer goals for all but four clubs this season.

Mid Table

Everton have not kept a clean sheet in nine matches but face a Burnley squad this weekend which has scored only two goals in the Clarets' last eight matches. The Toffees have earned but four points in their last six matches after capturing all twelve points from their first four matches. James Rodriguez has no goals or assists for the Toffees in his last four League appearances.

Manchester United have won three consecutive three league matches as have their weekend opponents, West Ham. The Red Devils will be looking to extend a club record eight consecutive away victories when they visit London Stadium. With a goal at West Ham Bruno Fernandes would become the first Manchester United player in fifty-six years to score in six consecutive away matches.

Aston Villa's match against Newcastle has been postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak among Newcastle players and staff.

Manchester City will look to extend a thirty-nine game unbeaten streak versus promoted clubs when it faces Fulham this weekend. The Citizens have decisively beaten the Cottagers the last nine times they have played across all competitions. With Aston Villa idle, City is guaranteed to move back into the top half of the table with a win.

Leeds visits Stamford Bridge having posted two consecutive clean sheets against opponents. The Whites will be tested to extend the streak against the powerful attack capabilities of the Blues. Leeds striker Patrick Bamford has scored six of his seven goals this season in away matches and will hope to continue that success against his former employer.

Arsenal, with just one win in their last six matches, will continue their desperate search for goals when they visit Spurs. Arsenal's ten goals scored this season are fewer than all but the relegation bound squads. Striker Pierre-Emerick Aubmeyang has only a penalty kick goal versus Man United since the opening weekend.

Crystal Palace, unable to score in two losses played without forward Wilfried Zaha, will hope to  have the Ivorian back for their match at West Brom. Adding to concerns for the Eagles is a defense which has failed to keep a clean sheet since the opening weekend.

Bottom of the Table

Brighton has drawn four of its past six league matches and will hope for its third victory of the year when visiting Southampton this weekend. Brighton striker Danny Welbeck has scored more goals against the Saints than any other opponent across all competion. 

Fulham have not won in their last fifteen league and cup competitions against this weekend’s opponent, Manchester City.  The Cottagers have looked much improved in winning two of their last four matches but look overmatched against a Manchester City team which put five goals past Burnley last week.  

West Brom will look to win its second consecutive match when they welcome Crystal Palace to The Hawthorns.  West Brom have lost only once in six Premier League home matches versus the Eagles.  

Burnley’s match against Everton will be Sean Dyche’s 200th Premier League match as Burnley manager.  The struggling Clarets have yet to take a point from a team higher than fifteenth in the table this season.  

Sheffield United will hope to end a five-match losing streak when hosting Leicester.  The Blades have but one point this season, the worst performance after ten matches in Premier League history. Despite their futility, Sheffield has been defeated by more than a goal only once this season.