Friday, November 27, 2020

Week 10 Preview: Return of Jose; Saints Duel with Devils; Villa Hopes to Avoid Hammering


Top of the Table

Jose Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge as his Spurs take on Chelsea in the weekend’s most anticipated match. League leading Spurs have combined the deadly counterattacking of Son Heung-min and Harry Kane to devastating effect in combination with Mourinho’s pragmatic defensive discipline.  Chelsea are the only club to have has scored more goals than Spurs this season.  The Blues have also solved their early season defensive problems to post clean sheets against opponents in four of their last six league matches.  Christian Pulisic, who has missed all but three of Chelsea’s matches this year due to injury, should be available for the match with Spurs.  

Liverpool, trailing top club Spurs only on goal differential, travel to Brighton hoping to build on the Reds’ impressive victory against Leicester last weekend.  A midweek loss to Atalanta in the Champions League will likely put Liverpool in an aggressive mindset against the Seagulls.  Naby Keita and Thiago are expected to be missing for a Liverpool midfield which could see Jordan Henderson available for duty.  Forward Mohamed Salah should also be healthy for the match.  

Leicester host Fulham this weekend looking to bounce back from an underwhelming performance versus Liverpool.  Striker Jamie Vardy will look to add to his eight goals so far this season for the Foxes.  Vardy was held scoreless against Liverpool after scoring in his previous four league matches.  

Southampton welcome Manchester United to St. Mary’s as the Saints look to extend a current seven match league unbeaten streak. Only Spurs and Manchester City have accumulated more points than Southampton since the June restart of last campaign.  Theo Walcott and Che Adams will need continue their good form in the absence of injured striker Danny Ings.  

Everton will meet Leeds this weekend in what could be a goal fest with the Blues having already conceded sixteen goals this season, one less than attack minded Leeds.  Everton returned to winning form last week following three consecutive losses. The return of Richarlison from suspension was key to the win over Fulham.  The Toffees seemed to tire in the second half versus the Cottagers which could be ominous against the high-octane Whites of Marco Bielsa. 

Mid Table

Aston Villa, playing at West Ham hopes to continue a perfect away record this season. The Villans, losers now of three of their last four matches, come off a disappointing home loss to Brighton last week in which they lost midfielder Russ Barkley to injury. West Ham has lost only once in its last eight Premier League meeting with Villa. The Hammers are riding a two-match winning streak and could possibly see striker Michail Antonio return from injury for Monday's match.


Wolves, losers just once in their six matches, travel to Arsenal this weekend. Nuno Espirito Santo's team has been achieving results with a defense that has conceded fewer league goals than any team but Spurs this season. The Wolves' defense will be further strengthened this weekend with the return of center back and captain Conor Coady.

Manchester United will look to extend a current seven match road winning streak when they visit Southampton this weekend. The Red Devils are unbeaten in their last ten matches away from home. Midfielders Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay are injury doubts for United.

Crystal Palace will be without the services of Wilfried Zaha when they host Newcastle on Friday. Now would be a good time for forward Michy Batshuayi to step up and deliver his first goal of the season for Palace. The inconsistent Eagles have alternated wins and losses in their last four games.

Arsenal will be hard pressed to solve its scoring problems against a defensively superb Wolves team this weekend.  There is mounting pressure on Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta as the Gunners have scored only one goal in winning just one of their last five games.  

Manchester City are just four places in the table above weekend opponent Burnley. The Citizen attack continues to sputter but fortunately may not need much more than a goal to defeat the Clarets.  City may see the return of oft injured striker Sergio Aguero who has scored the last nine times he has faced Burnley across all competitions.  

Leeds face Everton this weekend at Goodison Park, a ground where they have not won since 1990.  Patrick Bamford has scored in each of Leeds first four away matches this season.  

Newcastle hopes to end a two-match losing streak during which they have not scored a goal when they visit Crystal Palace Friday.  Magpie Striker Callum Wilson should be back against the Eagles. Newcastle managed just one shot on target with Wilson out of the line-up last week.

Bottom of the Table

Brighton will be without suspended defender Tariq Lamptey when they host Liverpool at the Amex. The Seagulls are winless in eight consecutive home matches and have never beaten Liverpool home or away. Forward Danny Welbeck has proved a welcome addition to the Seagull attack in recent weeks. 

Burnley, facing Manchester City this week, combine a solid defense with the joint worst attack in the league. The Clarets 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace last week marked a third clean sheet in their last five matches.

Fulham goes fox hunting at Leicester this weekend. The Cottagers will hopefully have practiced their penalty kicks this past week as missed penalties cost the Cottagers a point in each of their last two games. Amendola Lookman and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have been providing more threat in recent games for Fulham.

West Brom plays host to Sheffield United as both teams seek their first win of the season. The Baggies, two points ahead of the bottom dwelling Blades in the table, have conceded more goals this season than any Premier League club. Sheffield Unnited has scored the joint fewest goals in the league and thus the Blade attack presents a very resistible force versus the movable object of the West Brom defense.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Week 9 Review: A Master Class from Jose; Liverpool Makes A Statement; Toffees Win

 Top of the Table

Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs defeated Man City 2-0 and moved to the top of the Premier League table as Jose Mourinho got the better of rival Pep Guardiola.  The Spurs Son Heung-min notched his ninth goal of the season five minutes into the match and the Spurs proceeded to lock down the game with trademark Mourinho defense.  The opportunistic Spurs scored on both of their two shots on target.  Harry Kane’ assist on a second half Geovani Lo Celso goal was his ninth of the season, one more than Kane accumulated over the prior three seasons combined.  Spurs have now won four in a row in their ascent to the top.

Liverpool Liverpool once again asserted the quality and depth of their roster with a decisive 3-0 victory over Leicester which extended their home unbeaten streak to sixty-four games.  The Reds are level with Spurs on points, trailing only on goal differential.  Diego Jota became the first Red to score a goal in each of his first four home appearances.  Nineteen-year-old Midfielder Curtis Jones and Right Back James Milner provided solid performances in place of the injured Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, respectively.

Chelsea – Chelsea defeated Newcastle 2-0 as goalkeeper Edouard Mendy posted his fourth clean sheet in five appearances for the Blues.  Following an early Newcastle own goal, Tammy Abraham delivered the insurance for only Chelsea’s second win in their last eight visits to St. James Park.  Kurt Zouma and N’Golo Kante were dynamic in snuffing out what few attacks were attempted by the Magpies.  Chelsea won its third consecutive match and is unbeaten in seven.

Leicester – Brendan Rogers was clearly outfoxed in Leicester’s 3-0 loss to Liverpool.  Rather than attack an opponent missing six first team players due to injury, Rogers had his Foxes lie deep and allow Liverpool to dominate play.  Passive play by the Foxes led to a third loss to Liverpool in as many games played between the two teams during Rodgers’ Leicester tenure. Leicester fall to fourth in the table, only a point ahead of Southampton.

Southampton – Saints prayers have been answered with other front-line players stepping up to help cover the absence of the injured Danny Ings.  Theo Walcott followed up last game’s assist with a goal in a 1-1 draw with Wolves.  Che Adams assisted Walcott’s goal, returning the favor from the match before.  Walcott teased with yet additional opportunities which could have meant the win. Adams has been involved in six goals in the last seven matches for the Saints.

Everton - Everton rode two first half goals by Dominic Calvert-Lewin and a third from Abdoulaye Doucoure to defeat Fulham 3-2. The win, which saw the return of Richarlison following a three-game suspension, breaks a three-game losing streak for the Toffees and boosts them, at least temporarily, back into the European places in the table. Richarlison and James Rodriguez provided some much-needed energy and flair for the Toffees before both visibly tired in the second half. Calvert-Lewin now leads the Premier League with ten goals.

Mid Table

Aston Villa – Aston Villa will be greatly disappointed with their 2-1 home loss to Brighton, a third loss in Villa’s last four matches.  Unable to convert their own early chances, the Villans allowed Danny Welbeck to get behind their defense for a forty-yard sprint to the match’s opening goal.   A controversial penalty “non-call” deprived Villa of a potential point in the final moments of injury time.  Worse yet, Ross Barkley came up injured in first half action for Villa.

West Ham – A confident strike from the top of the box by much maligned striker Sebastian Haller was the difference in West Ham’s 1-0 win at Sheffield United.  Haller, playing in place of the injured Michail Antonio, missed a later opportunity which would have made things more comfortable for the Hammers.  West Ham recorded its second consecutive win and has lost only once in its last seven matches as it moves to eighth in the table.  A fourth clean sheet by Goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski ties for most by any Premier League goalkeeper this season.

Wolverhampton Wanderers – Wolves’ 1-1 draw with Southampton marked the seventh time in their nine matches that the club have scored no more than a goal.  Pedro Neto salvaged the point with a seventy-fifth-minute goal in a typically taut, low scoring Wolverhampton match.  Wolves have failed to score in the first half more times than any other Premier League team since the start of last season. 

Manchester United – The Red Devils grabbed three points in a 1-0 ugly win over West Brom.  The victory was the first home win this year for Manchester United.  Bruno Fernandes was allowed to retake a missed penalty kick when West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone came off his line in saving the first attempt.  Fernandes, who has scored half of his Premier League goals on penalties, was surer with his second attempt to deliver the win.  A second consecutive win moves the Red Devils to tenth position in the table.

Crystal Palace – Palace surrendered a goal after only seven minutes, allowing Burnley to lock down the game from there, as the Eagles fell 1-0 at Turf Moor.  Wilfried Zaha was a late scratch for the Eagles due to COVID, depriving Palace of its best offensive threat.  Forward Michy Batshuayi rejected a gifted goal opportunity in the second half and remains without a goal this season.  The Eagles have lost twenty of the twenty-eight matches Zaha has missed since his 2014 return to the club following his brief stint with Manchester United.

Arsenal – Arsenal failed to score for the fourth time in its last five games as the Gunners drew 0-0 with Leeds.  Line-up changes which included dropping Alexandre Lacazette and moving Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang more centrally did not pay off for Arsenal.  After launching no shots on target in the first half, the Gunners went down to ten men early in the second half on a red card offense committed by Nicolas Pepe.  Arsenal has received more red cards than any other Premier League team since Mikel Arteta became Arsenal Manager.

Manchester City – Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola took the cautionary step of keeping Forwards Aguero and Sterling, who recently returned to training, on the Citizens bench during a 2-0 loss to Spurs.  Their absence, and a disciplined Spurs defense, contributed to a scoreless effort for the Citizens who have now scored no more than one goal in six consecutive games.  City have failed to score in their last two games against Spurs though a goal was disallowed on Saturday due to a handball.  Pep’s boys sit thirteenth in the table. 

Leeds – Leeds will feel frustrated with a 0-0 draw with Arsenal.  Enjoying a man advantage for much of the second half, the Whites rattled the woodwork on several occasions but failed to score.  The draw does break a two-game losing streak for Leeds and restores some confidence to a defense which had been disastrous in allowing eight goals over those two losses.

Newcastle – Steve Bruce’s defensive approach resulted in only 29% possession in a 2-0 loss to Chelsea, a second consecutive scoreless effort by Newcastle.  While facing much criticism from supporters, Bruce had few options to employ, particularly with Striker Callum Wilson being a late injury scratch for the Magpies. Wilson has six of the nine goals scored by Newcastle this season.  Newcastle has now lost five of the last seven league games played at St James Park.

Bottom of the Table

Brighton & Hove Albion – Brighton secured its first ever win at Villa Park with its 2-1 victory Saturday.  Danny Welbeck outpaced the Villa defense for the match’s first goal while Solly March delivered the second half winner on a strike from the top of the penalty area.  Brighton’s second win of the campaign provides some much-desired distance (five points) from the relegation places.  Welbeck adds an additional dimension up front for the Seagulls and his fitness may be key to any continued success.

Burnley – A strike by Chris Wood was Burnley’s first home goal of the season and the Clarets made it stand up for a 1-0 victory over Crystal Place.  With their first win of the 2020/21 campaign, the Clarets move out of the relegation zone and provide a major boost to supporters’ spirits.  The defense has gotten progressively better following the return of key players from injury and if they can squeeze out even a minimal amount of goals, the outlook is much brighter for Sean Dyche’s determined group.

Fulham – Fulham missed a penalty for the second consecutive week and third time this season in a 3-2 loss to Everton.  Ivan Cavaleiro lost his footing in sending his penalty kick sailing over the bar.  Second half substitute Ruben Loftus-Cheek drew the penalty and then scored a 70th minute goal for the Cottagers to make the match close.  One might wonder why both Loftus-Cheek and Striker Aleksandar Mitrovic were not introduced until the second half as Fulham will regret yet another lost opportunity.  Fulham now falls back into the relegation places.

West Bromwich Albion – The Baggies kept it close in a 1-0 loss to Manchester United due to a strong performance by goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, a former Red Devil property.  Baggies Manager Slaven Bilic was unhappy to see a West Brom penalty kick opportunity overturned by VAR, only to see Manchester United win on an allowed retake of the Devils’ own penalty kick.  The loss was a third straight for West Brom which has failed to score in those three matches.

Sheffield United – Sheffield United lost a fourth consecutive match, falling 1-0 to West Ham. Desperate for goals, the Blades left expensively acquired Liverpool striker Rhian Brewster on the bench until his second half substitution as a third striker, evidence that the newest Blade is just not cutting it.  Manager Chris Wilder’s club are now winless in twelve matches dating to last season.  The Blades remain the only Premier League team without a clean sheet this season.  

Friday, November 20, 2020

Week 9 Preview: Anfield Streak at Risk; Jose v Pep; If Arsenal can’t score this weekend…

Top of the Table

Leicester sees Liverpool at the perfect time with the Foxes flying of late and injuries plaguing the Reds.  Former Liverpool and current Fox manager Brendan Rodgers would love nothing more than to end Liverpool’s sixty-three game home unbeaten streak in what would be Rodgers’ first win over his former club since his return to the league.  Ironically, it was Leicester who ended Liverpool’s last sixty-three home unbeaten streak in 1981.  The fitness of defenders Wesley Fofana and Tim Castagne could be key for the Foxes.  Liverpool hopes to have Fabinho back to reinforce their beleaguered center back corps.  Full back Trent Alexander Arnold and midfielder Jordan Henderson are also injury scratches.  Forward Mohamed Salah will also miss the game due to COVID.  The Reds will need Diogo Jota, having scored in each of his first three Anfield appearances for Liverpool, to continue his electric run.  

Spurs put their league best seven game unbeaten streak on the line when they host Manchester City.  This weekend’s game marks a year since Jose Mourinho took over Spurs.  During that time only Liverpool and Manchester City have accumulated more points than the north London club.  Harry Kane and Son Heung-min may be joined by a healthy Gareth Bale to harass the Citizens on Saturday.  Defensively, the play of center backs Eric Dier and Toby Alderweireld will be key versus a City team which should see the likely return of Striker Sergio Aguero.  A win by Spurs coupled with a Leicester loss would see Jose and Spurs top of the table.  

Southampton are riding a three-match winning streak as they head to Molineux to face Wolves.  The Saints are without Danny Ings and will need continued production from Che Adams who has three goals in his last four matches.  

A goal by Timo Werner on Saturday versus Newcastle would make him the first Chelsea player to score in five consecutive matches across all competitions since Didier Drogba.  Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech has been involved in four of Chelsea’s seven goals in the two league games he has started.  

Jack Grealish is looking forward to Aston Villa’s match versus Brighton as he has scored more career goals against the Seagulls than any other Premier League opponent.  Only Chelsea and Tottenham have scored more goals than Aston Villa this season while no team has conceded fewer goals than the Villans.

Mid Table

Everton hopes to have Richarlison back versus Fulham after his three-game suspension during which the club lost all three games and fell to seventh in the table.  The Toffees have never won a match with Richarlison out of the starting line-up during his Everton career.  

Crystal Palace travels to Turf Moor to face Burnley on Monday.  The Eagle attack soared in their 4-1 win over Leeds before break.  Goals should prove scarcer against a packed in Burnley defense, particularly if exciting new winger Ebereche Eze is unable to play after an international duty injury. 

Wolves welcome Southampton in Monday’s final game of the weekend.  While lacking bite in attack, Wolves have posted clean sheets against half their opponents this season.  The club’s offensive production has seen reduced contribution from Adama Traore who has not started a game since September while involved in contentious contract discussions with the club.  

Manchester City hopes to have Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling fit for their match against Spurs.  The Citizens have failed to score more than one goal in every game since a 5-2 September loss to Leicester.  Manager Pep Guardiola signed a new two-year contract with City ahead of this week’s match versus long time managerial rival Jose Mourinho.


Arsenal travel to Leeds hoping the Whites’ defensive frailties are just the remedy for the blanks the Gunners have been firing of late.  Arsenal has failed to score in three of their last four games. 

West Ham visits Sheffield United on Sunday.  The Hammers have lost only once since two season opening defeats and could possibly see striker Michail Antonio return from injury.  

Newcastle, facing a high scoring Chelsea team at St. James Park this weekend, have conceded nine home league goals this season, more than any league club but Manchester United.  

Man United hope for their first home win of the season when West Brom visits Old Trafford on Saturday.  The Red Devils had failed to score in two games before their three-goal outburst versus Everton before the international break. 

Bottom of the Table

Leeds will hope to shore up its defense when hosting Arsenal on Sunday.  The Whites have conceded four goals in each of their last two matches.  

Brighton travel to Aston Villa where they have never won a match.  The sixteenth place Seagulls are winless in their last six games. 

Fulham winger Ademola Lookman would love to redeem himself versus Everton after last week’s embarrassing penalty miss.  A good performance against his former Toffee employers would be doubly satisfying.  Fulham also need to see more from Chelsea loanee Ruben Loftus-Cheek.  

West Brom head to Old Trafford with the Baggies only hope being that the mysterious Red Devil home curse this season continues.  The Baggies are not unfamiliar with success at Old Trafford, having won three of their last five league visits there.  

Burnley go into their game with Crystal Place having failed to score a goal in their last four league games.  

Sheffield United will try to climb from the league cellar when they welcome a West Ham team which has interestingly never won a Premier League game at Bramall Lane.  

Friday, November 13, 2020

What Have We Learned After Eight Weeks?

Top of the Table

Leicester – Leicester sits atop the table, winner of six of eight matches including the last three in a row.  Eighteen points is the most ever after eight matches in topflight competition for the Foxes.  Led by Jamie Vardy’s eight goals, Leicester trails only Spurs and Chelsea for the most goals scored in the league this season. Meanwhile a defense bolstered by the additions of right back Tim Castagne and nineteen-year-old center back Wesley Fofana has conceded the fewest goals in the league this season. Loanee midfielder Cengiz Under has been a key contributor off the bench for manager Brendan Rogers.  With Liverpool vulnerable in defense and Manchester City having difficulty scoring goals, the Foxes should remain in the hunt.  

Tottenham Hotspur – A fourth Premier League title would be redemption for Spurs manager Jose Mourinho who was much criticized for his tenure at Manchester United.  Spurs have the league’s second most prolific attack this season, scoring six against Mourinho’s former employers at Old Trafford.  Son Heung-min and Harry Kane have combined for more goals than any other two teammates in the Premier League this season.  Defensively, the team has conceded the joint fewest number of goals in the league.  Fullback Sergio Regulon and midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg have played well. Gareth Bale remains a potential wildcard. 

Liverpool Liverpool so far has overcome the season ending injury sustained by captain Virgil van Dijk and subsequent injury to line-up replacement Fabinho.  Now a potential season ending injury to center back Joe Gomez creates further challenge and potential pressure on youngsters Rhys Williams and Nat Philips.  The only remaining seasoned center back is Joel Matip who is also injury prone.  The Reds are additionally hamstrung by the recent injury of right back Alexander-Arnold.  If the back-line concerns can be managed, the Reds remain contenders for a second consecutive title.  Wolves transfer Diogo Jota, with three goals in six league appearances for Liverpool, has provided further threat to an attack led by eight goals from joint league leader Mohamed Salah and the four goals of line mate Sadio Mane.

Southampton – Southampton is currently occupying a Champions League place.  This time last season they resided in the relegation zone.  The Saints have captured the imagination with four wins and a draw in five matches since two opening losses.  It seems a sin that the Saints march could be interrupted by a knee injury to striker Danny Ings.  Southampton did well to defeat Newcastle in in its first game without Ings and the team is not bereft of other weapons.  Forward Che Adams has been much improved in his second Premier League season.  James Ward-Prowse is deadly with his free kicks.  Defensively, the Saints and goalkeeper Alex McCarthy are joint top of the league with four clean sheets.

Chelsea – Early defensive concerns seem addressed, particularly in goal.  Former Rennes goalkeeper Edouard Mendy has three clean sheets and has allowed but one goal in his four starts between the sticks for the Blues.  Fellow Ligue 1 transfer Thiago Silva seems now acclimated to the more physical Premier League.  If the defense remains solid, Chelsea is a title threat based on a wide array of attack options and now some additional creativity from Ajax product Hakim “the Magician” Ziyech.  Chelsea leads the league with twenty goals scored in their eight matches. Timo Werner leads eight different scorers for the Blues with his four goals.

Aston Villa – The win over Arsenal just before break snapped a two-match losing streak and allows the Villans to take justifiable pride in their current sixth place standing.  The Villans are just three points from the top with a game in hand after just barely surviving a relegation scrap last season. Villa has spent wisely on transfers from front to back who have helped move the club to a new level.  Striker Ollie Watkins has six goals. Midfielder Russ Barkley has teamed well with club stalwart Jack Grealish in an upgraded midfield.  Goalkeeper Emi Martinez is joint leader with four clean sheets in the league.  New right back Matty Cash has featured in all seven games and is joint seventh in the league this season in tackles.  Grealish has been outstanding for the Villans with four goals and five assists in the six matches.

Mid Table

Everton – A dazzling start to the season has been derailed by suspensions and injuries, revealing problems with depth for a team which entered the international break with three consecutive losses. The team scored twelve goals in winning its opening four games and now has scored four in a winless last four games.  The suspension related absence of Richarlison has been particularly damaging.  James Rodriguez has been battling an injury, making for less attack related contributions and highlighting his weaknesses in tracking back to help with defensive responsibilities.  Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been stellar for Everton this year with eight goals in eight matches, though six of those were scored in the opening four wins.

Crystal Palace – The rejuvenated Eagles sit ninth in the table with 13 points from eight games.  Comparatively, they generated only a solitary point in their last eight matches of the 2019/20 campaign.  Wilfried Zaha has more goals (5) than he did the entirety of the 2019/20 season.  Transfer acquisition Ebereche Eze hints of dynamism in attack previously provided only by Zaha for the Eagles.  Forward Michy Batshuayi, on loan from Chelsea, has yet to make an impact but provides manager Roy Hodgson with an additional attack option.  Notably, the team’s positive early performance has been accomplished despite numerous injuries in defense. 

Wolverhampton Wanderers – After losing two of their first three matches this season, Wolves secured ten of twelve points from October matches to earn Nuno Espirito Santo the league’s Manager of the Month award.  The Wolves have been disciplined defensively, allowing no more than a goal to opponents in each of the last five games.  Unfortunately, they have scored fewer goals this season than all but the bottom four teams.  Half of Wolves’ eight goals on the season have been scored by striker Raul Jimenez.  Wolves may be regretting sending Diogo Jota packing to Liverpool where he has been a key contributor to the Red attack.

Manchester City – Neither the Citizens nor an opponent has scored more than a goal during Manchester City’s current five game unbeaten streak.  Bereft of healthy strikers for most of the season, the club is also missing the playmaking abilities of departed club legend David Silva.  Fortunately, center back Ruben Dias has helped solidify a defense which has allowed the joint lowest number of goals in the league this season.  Despite a game in hand versus much of the field, City’s tenth place position and lukewarm performance to date has given rise to rumors regarding Pep Guardiola’s future following this season.  The necessary goals for a title run this year will need not only healthy strikers but more facilitation by the midfield.

Arsenal – Arsenal’s defense had been solid this season before allowing 3 goals to Aston Villa.  The most serious problems have instead been a lack of creativity and poor finishing.  Forwards Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have only three goals between them.  Manager Mikel Arteta will need to quickly solve his attacking puzzle if the Gunners are to have any chance at a European place.  Options include increased usage of Dani Ceballos and Nicolas Pepe and moving Aubameyang more centrally where he has experienced greater success in the past.

West Ham – West Ham responded well in bouncing back from two opening season losses, losing only one of their next six games.  Manager David Moyes has the team well organized. Rumored Chelsea transfer target Declan Rice is a cornerstone in the midfield. Midfielder Tomas Soucek has been a dynamic presence, leading the team in tackles while also having taken the joint highest amount of shots. They will need Striker Michail Antonio back from injury and potentially transferee Said Benrahma can provide some additional creativity on offense.  

Newcastle – Newcastle fans were admittedly surprised when Owner Mike Ashley loosened the purse strings just a bit this offseason. Callum Wilson, formerly of Bournemouth, has justified every penny of his transfer cost, leading the Magpie attack with six goals so far. Wilson’s contributions have enabled Newcastle to score double the amount of goals they had scored through eight matches during the 2019/20 season.  Still, the Magpies’ have been inconsistent. Their last performance in losing at Southampton was particularly flat. 

Manchester United – The team with the highest player payroll in the league currently sits in fourteenth place with three wins, three losses and one draw.  Midfielder Bruno Fernandes has excelled with five goals and three assists. It is difficult to identify many other bright spots. Paul Pogba is currently reduced to a late game substitute role.  Young striker Mason Greenwood has generated more controversies than goals.  Still the club can generate the odd, good performance while also delivering disasters such as the 6-1 shellacking by Jose Mourinho’s Spurs.  Winless at home, the Red Devils are unbeaten in away games.

Bottom of the Table

Leeds – After some exciting early matches against opponents such as Liverpool and Manchester City, the Whites have been conceding goals at an alarming rate.  With eight goals conceded over the past two games, questions are being asked as to whether Marco Bielsa’s frenetic system can work over the course of a season in England’s topflight.  Striker Patrick Bamford has done his part for Leeds with seven goals.

Brighton & Hove Albion – Questions are also starting to be asked of Brighton Manager Graham Potter.  While pleasing to the eye, the Seagulls possession-based game generates little production.  Internal strife surfaced with the recent suspension of the team’s only multiple goal scorer, Neal Maupay.  Danny Welbeck has been signed to try to inject additional life into the attack.  The energy of right wingback Tariq Lamptey has also helped to brighten things a bit.

Fulham – Fulham seems to have stabilized a defense which allowed ten goals in the first three games of the season.  The Cottagers have allowed opponents more than a goal just once in the last five matches.  Attack remains a work in progress.  There is hope with forward Amendola Lookman playing better (when not taking Panenka-style penalties) and hopefully more contribution going forward from Chelsea loanee Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Lookman’s failed penalty against West Ham may have cost the Cottagers not just a point but much needed confidence.

West Bromwich Albion – West Brom’s season is perhaps notable for one good half of football played against Chelsea, a 3-0 halftime advantage which became a 3-3 final, and a whole lot of bad football which has delivered the league’s worst goal differential.  The leaky Baggie defense has allowed the joint most goals in the league.

Burnley – Burnley has failed to score a goal in its last four games. While the defense has recovered after early season injury concerns, its difficult to envision the Claret attack generating the firepower necessary for Premier League survival. The financially strapped club faces an end to its five-year Premier League run amid rumors of a takeover by new ownership.

Sheffield United – Buoyed by a successful first year in the Premier League, the Blades did little to upgrade and are carrying the league’s lowest payroll. Currently mired in the league basement after eight matches, they have earned just one point while scoring but four goals.  The acquisition of striker Rhian Brewster was a worthwhile throw of the dice, but he would seem far too young and inexperienced to have much impact on the current season. 

Monday, November 9, 2020

Week 8 Review: Foxes First; Jesus Saves Citizens; Spurs Bag Second; Saints March into Top Four; Everton Needs A Break


Top of the Table

Leicester – The Foxes clawed back to the top spot as they defeated a toothless Wolves side 1-0.   A first half Jamie Vardy penalty, his eighth goal of the season, was the difference for a Leicester side which now has three consecutive victories and six wins from its eight matches this season. Eighteen points after eight games is a best top division start for the Foxes.

Tottenham Hotspur – Harry Kane delivered the winner in a 1-0 victory for Spurs against the Baggies of West Brom.  Kane’s goal was his 150th in Premier League competition.  He is third quickest to that mark after Alan Shearer and Sergio Aguero.  Spurs continue a seven-game unbeaten string, winning six of those games, including the last three. 

Liverpool Liverpool drew 1-1 with Manchester City to fall to third in the table.  Despite starting four up front to accommodate the in-form Diogo Jota in the line-up, the Reds managed only a first half penalty by Mohamed Salah.  Salah’s goal was his eighth of the season.  The Reds have now won only three of their last ten away games in league competition.

Southampton – The Saints were temporarily top of the table for the first time since 1988 following Friday’s 2-0 victory over Newcastle.  By weekend’s end the Saints retained a top four position whereas a year ago they were in the relegation places. Che Adams and Stuart Armstrong provided the goals in the absence of the inured Danny Ings.  The ascendant Saints are unbeaten in six matches, winning five.

Chelsea – Chelsea rolled to a 4-1 victory over Sheffield United after the Blades enjoyed a brief lead on an early penalty kick.  Chelsea enjoyed 70% possession with seven different players contributing either a goal or assist. Chelsea is unbeaten in six games with four victories in that stretch. Timo Werner now has four goals in his last four Premier League games.

Aston Villa Ollie Watkins scored a brace in Aston Villa’s 3-0 win over Arsenal and now has six goals in his seven games as a Villan.  Jack Grealish and Russ Barkley controlled the midfield for Villa, and each had an assist in the victory.  Villa has yet to concede a goal in its three away matches this season.  Manager Dean Smith’s team is now three points from the top of the table with a game in hand after breaking a two-game losing skid.  

Mid Table

Everton – Everton lost its third consecutive game with a 3-1 loss to Manchester United.  Manager Carlo Ancelotti had not lost three consecutive league games since his tenure at AC Milan in 2006. The team continues to sorely miss suspended forward Richarlison, without whom the team has never won a match since his 2018 arrival.  James Rodriguez was ineffective in attack and his defensive shortcomings were on display against the Red Devils.

Crystal Palace – Crystal Palace scored four goals for the first time in 46 Premier League games in defeating Leeds 4-1.  The Eagles have now scored three or more goals twice this season after failing to score that many in any league game last season. Roy Hodson adjusted his starting line-up with the insertion of forward Jordan Ayew and winger Ebereche Eze, and each responded with a goal for the soaring Eagle attack.

Wolverhampton Wanderers – Wolves’ 1-0 loss to Leicester marked the sixth game in eight that the team has scored one or fewer goals. The loss continued a streak in which the Wolves have never scored in four Premier League visits to Leicester.  The Wolves’ packed defense was again effective, conceding only a disputed penalty goal versus the Foxes.  Rue Patricio saved a second penalty opportunity, his third stop of 10 penalties he has faced in the Premier League.   

Manchester City – Gabriel Jesus scored the tying goal for Manchester City in a 1-1 draw with Liverpool.  Kevin De Bruyne missed a penalty for the Citizens.  Manchester City improved to 10th in the table with the draw and are six points behind league leader Leicester with a game in hand.  The draw was City’s third 1-1 score line in their last five games

Arsenal – Arsenal’s 3-0 loss to Aston Villa marked a fourth straight game without a goal from open play.  Alexandre Lacazette was again guilty of misfires for the Gunners while Captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang remains on just two goals for the season.  A defense which had been playing well was exposed against Aston Villa.  

West Ham – An added time strike by Tomas Soucek enabled a 1-0 West Ham victory when Fulham missed an even later penalty try.  West Ham goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski recorded his seventh penalty save since the start of the 2016/17 season, three more than any other goalkeeper during that time.  The Hammers have lost only to Liverpool in their last six games.

Newcastle – Newcastle suffered their first away loss of the season with a 2-0 defeat to Southampton.  The Magpies generated little in attack and suffered defensive lapses in conceding both Saints goals.  Newcastle has failed to post a clean sheet in their last seven league matches.  Striker Callum Wilson suffered a second half hamstring injury for the Magpies.

Manchester United – Manchester United continued its unpredictable season with a 3-1 defeat of Everton, the Red Devils’ third Premier League win of the season against three losses and a draw.  A seventh consecutive Premier League road win equaled a club record.  Bruno Fernandes had two goals for ManU which also saw striker Edinson Cavani score his first Premier League goal.  Fernandes has now been involved in 22 goals in 21 Premier League appearances.

Bottom of the Table

Leeds – Leeds falls to 15th in the table following its 4-1 loss to Crystal Place, a second consecutive defeat by that score for the Whites and their third loss in the last four matches.  Leeds’s 17 goals allowed on the season is now joint highest with fellow promoted side West Brom.  Patrick Bamford scored his seventh goal of the season.

Brighton & Hove Albion – Brighton remained winless at home this season with its goalless draw versus Burnley.  The Seagulls, having taken more shots than all but Liverpool this season, continue to struggle in converting their opportunities.  Brighton’s nineteen shots versus Burnley were the most in the Premier League this season by a team failing to score a goal.

Fulham – Fulham’s Ademola Lookman botched a penalty opportunity in extra time as Fulham fell 1-0 to West Ham.  The forward’s Panenka-style attempt on the penalty chance was widely panned by supporters of a team which will need every possible point in its relegation fight.  Goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, on loan from PSG, had a strong game in net for the Cottagers.  

West Bromwich Albion – West Brom remained relegation bound with its 1-0 loss to Spurs.  The Baggies have now failed to score in four of their last five games. Baggie hopes for valuable point to be earned from a determined defensive effort were dashed by Harry Kane’s 88th minute goal.

Burnley – Burnley’s scoreless draw with Brighton marked a fourth straight Premier League game in which the Clarets have failed to score.  The draw doubled their season point total to two which is the joint lowest for a Burnley team at any level of league competition after seven games.  Burnley did exit the cellar, exchanging places with Sheffield United.

Sheffield United - Sheffield United was no match for Chelsea in a 4-1 loss at Stamford Bridge. An early lead on a David McGoldrick penalty goal quickly evaporated in the face of Chelsea's relentless attack. The Blades had only 30% possession in the game and allowed twenty shots, nine on target. United's one point is joint lowest in history for a Premier League team after eight matches.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Week 8 Preview: Battle of Titans; Foxes & Wolves; Toffees and Devils; Gunners & Villans

Top of the Table

The league’s last two season titlists square off when top of the table Liverpool travels to Manchester City.  Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool squad has won its two Premier League games, and its two Champions League games, since losing captain Virgil van Dijk to injury.  Diogo Jota has been on fire since joining the Reds with seven goals in ten matches across all competitions.

Second place Leicester hosts sixth place Wolves on Sunday. Leicester striker Jamie Vardy has seven goals for the season, joint second in the league. Midfielders James Maddison and Cengiz Under have been making increasing contribution to the Foxes' lethal counterattack.

Spurs travel to West Brom having won five and drawn one in a six-match unbeaten streak following their season opening loss to Everton. The Spurs lead the league with eighteen goals scored, fourteen combined from Son Heung-min and Harry Kane.

Everton should have both James Rodriguez and Lucas Digne available when they host Manchester United. Richarlison remains suspended for Saturday's match. The Toffees, whose torrid start to the season was followed by a current three match winless streak, have only lost one of their last fifteen matches at Goodison.

Fifth place Southampton have exploded for nine goals in their last three games but will be without the injured Danny Ings when they welcome Newcastle to St. Mary's on Friday. The scorer of five goals this season is expected out 4 to 6 weeks. Che Adams and James Ward-Prowse are two will will need to step up for the Saints.

Wolves head to Leicester boasting their best ever Premier League point total after seven games. Wolves are winners of three in an undefeated four match streak.

Mid Table

Chelsea will be looking to post a fourth clean sheet in five games when they host the anemic Sheffield United attack on Saturday. Kai Havertz will be a COVID-19 related absence for a Blues attack which remains without the injured Christian Pulisic. Chelsea though has seemingly unlimited attacking options. 

Aston Villa visit Arsenal Sunday hoping to snap a two-match losing streak following their opening four victories. A tight contest may loom as Arsenal have scored only three goals in their last five matches while Villa have yet to concede an away goal this season. An Arsenal win would see them leapfrog the Villans in the table. 

Striker Gabriel Jesus should be available for Manchester City's match with Liverpool. The depleted City attack has managed no more than a goal in its last four matches. An improved defense featuring center back Ruben Dias though has helped the Citizens go undefeated during that low production stretch.

Newcastle are undefeated in their last four Premier League away matches as they travel to Southampton Friday. Striker Callum Wilson has been transformative for the Magpie attack, scoring six goals in his first seven games for the club.

Leeds travel to Crystal Palace Saturday following their worst loss of the season versus Leicester last week. The aggressive Leeds attack has somewhat surprisingly failed to score more than one goal in four of their last five games. Crystal Palace will have three defenders unavailable due to injury (Ward, Tompkins, Mitchell). Eagle forward Michy Batshuayi has had goals disallowed in three consecutive games and is yet to have one count this season.

West Ham hosts Fulham in a London derby in Saturday's late game. The Hammers have been impressive in some recent performances against more high-quality competition than they will face this weekend. West Ham striker Michail Antonio remains an injury scratch, likely providing another opportunity for disappointing striker Sebastian Haller.

Bottom of the Table

Manchester United are at Everton for Saturday's early game. Manager Ole Gunnar Solskiaer is winless in four previous trips to Goodison Park as the bedeviled manager is firmly in the hot seat for his fifteenth place club. Anything less than a win this week would leave Man United with its lowest point total after seven games in more than thirty years.

Brighton will have Neal Maupay back for Friday's match with Burnley after the striker was absent for rumored disciplinary reasons last week. The striker's goal production, four on the season, is critical for a team where no other seagull has swooped for more than a goal. Brighton defender Lewis Dunk remains on suspension. 

Fulham travel to London Stadium having lost ten consecutive away matches to West Ham. The Cottagers are winless in their last sixteen Premier League derbies against all London clubs in the Premier League. The Cottagers did earn their first win of the season last week.

West Brom fields a team which has conceded the most goals in the league this season when they face the league's highest scoring team in Spurs this weekend.

Sheffield United bring the joint lowest scoring attack in the league to Stamford Bridge on Saturday. The Blades are currently riding an eleven-game winless streak in all competition.

Burnley striker Chris Wood has eight career goals versus Friday's opponent Brighton, his most versus any Premier League opponent. Captain Ben Mee could be available for the Claret back line after a long injury absence.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Week 7 Review: Liverpool Takes the Lead; Leicester Outfoxes Leeds; Gareth Bales Out Spurs; Toffees Looking Toothless; Bedeviled at Old Trafford; Burnley Hits Bottom


Top of the Table

Liverpool  – Liverpool returned to a familiar league leading position as Klopp’s heroes overcame their injuries on defense and used a Mohamed Salah penalty kick and a late goal from super sub Diogo Jota to craft a 2-1 win over West Ham.  Jota’s goal, assisted by fellow substitute Xherdan Shaqiri, was his third in five appearances for Liverpool.  Nathaniel Philips made his Premier League debut at the revolving center back position in Liverpool’s back line.

Leicester – The Foxes move to second in the table with their decisive 4-1 win at Leeds. Leicester was content to sit deep and use a devastating counterattack to register their fourth straight away win.  Youri Tielemans had a brace for Leicester while Jamie Vardy scored his seventh goal of the season and assisted Harvey Barnes on the game’s opening goal. Cengiz Under, who assisted on Vardy’s goal, and James Maddison impressed as second half midfield substitutions.

Tottenham Hotspur  Gareth Bale scored his first goal for Spurs in seven years to deliver a 2-1 victory over Brighton.  Bale’s well-placed header came off a perfect cross from fellow Real Madrid alumni Sergio Reguilon.  Harry Kane’s first half penalty kick, his sixth goal of the season, moved him into the top ten of all time Premier League scorers.  Spurs’ third victory in four games moves them to within two points of league leader Liverpool. 

Everton – Everton’s reign at the top ended with a second consecutive loss, the first time manager Carlo Ancelotti has lost consecutive league games since 2014 with Real Madrid.  Ancelotti did not help his injury ravaged team in the 2-1 loss to Newcastle when he fielded an odd line-up of essentially five central midfielders lacking speed and creativity.  Calvert-Lewin’s injury time eighth goal of the season opportunistically came off a deflected cross in the box.  Robin Olson was solid in goal for the Toffees, substituting for the dropped Jordan Pickford.

Southampton – It was an All Saints Day for Southampton at Aston Villa right up until an eighty-fifth-minute injury to Danny Ings.  Up 4-1 at the time, the Saints held on for a 4-3 victory.  James Ward-Prowse contributed two free kick goals for a Southampton team which has now won four of its last five matches.  The Saints prayers were seemingly answered on Monday as initial scans of Ings’ knee appeared to show no major structural damage. 

Wolverhampton Wanderers  Wolves defeated Crystal Palace 2-0, scoring multiple goals for the first time this season.  The two first half goals also marked the first time since their season opening match that the Wolves scored in a first half of play.  Nineteen-year-old wing back Rayan Ait-Nouri scored in his first Premier League start before Daniel Podence doubled the Wolves first half margin.  Wolves move to sixth in the table with their third win in four matches.  

Mid Table

Chelsea – Chelsea had little trouble in dispensing with Burnley 3-0.  Goalkeeper Edouard Mendy’s third Premier League clean sheet was his fifth in all competitions since his October acquisition by the Blues.  Hakim Ziyech, making his first Premier League start, provided yet another gear for the Chelsea offensive engine, delivering a goal and an assist. Christian Pulisic was injured during warm-ups.  His replacement, Timo Werner, scored his third goal of the season.  Defender Kurt Zouma’s goal was also his third to date.

Aston Villa – Aston Villa falls all the way to eighth in the table with their second straight loss, a 4-3 defeat by Southampton.  Two injury time goals to narrow the final margin perhaps provide something to build on for next week as the Villans attempt to regain their early season form.  Jack Grealish was involved in all three of Villa’s scores.  The Villa captain had a goal of his own, assisted on a goal by Tyrone Mings and drew the penalty kick scored by Ollie Watkins.

Arsenal – Arsenal’s 1-0 defeat of Manchester United, featuring a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang second half penalty kick, was the Gunners’ first win at Old Trafford in fourteen years.  Center back Gabriel and midfielders Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny led a dominant defensive effort for an Arsenal team which continues to struggle in attack. 

Manchester City – Manchester City defeated Sheffield United 1-0.  Fullback Kenny Walker, in his 100th Premier League appearance, provided the winner for the Citizens.  Despite the win, City continued recent struggles to convert chances in large part due to the injury absence of their two front line strikers.  City scored but one goal for a fourth consecutive time. They are undefeated during that same stretch.

Newcastle – Callum Wilson scored his fifth and sixth goals of the season to lead Newcastle to a 2-1 victory over Everton.  Manager Steve Bruce’s three center back formation, instituted after the Manchester United loss, worked well for a second consecutive game.  The pace of Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin is helping to facilitate the Magpie counterattack.

Leeds – Leeds was overrun by the Foxes in a 4-1 home defeat which sees them fall all the way to twelfth in the table.  The Whites may see more games like this as teams better acclimate to their frenetic style which leaves space behind for counterattacking opponents.  Then again, they will not be facing Jamie Vardy every week.

Crystal Palace – Crystal Palace is not offensively poised to respond well to a 2-0 deficit.  Once falling behind two goals, the Eagles nest was made.  Right back Nathaniel Clyne struggled to dance with the Wolves left side attackers.  In one of the Premier League’s weirder stats, Crystal Palace has never won a Friday night game in 13 tries.

West Ham - West Ham saw a four-game unbeaten run end with a 2-1 loss to Liverpool. Injured striker Michail Antonio's energy and athleticism were sorely missed as West Ham found it difficult to mount a threat from manager David Moyes' conservatively aligned formation. Moyes remains winless at Anfield. The loss puts the Hammers down to 14th in the table.

Bottom of the Table

Manchester United – A 1-0 home loss to Arsenal means the Red Devils have failed to win any of their first four home games for the first time since the 1972/73 season.  United’s seven points from their first six games equals the performance of the 2013 David Moyes team.  Paul Pogba was victimized on the penalty call which handed the game to the Gunners.  A stagnant attack was in sharp contrast to the 5-0 Champions League win over Leipzig earlier in the week.   

Brighton & Hove Albion – Brighton extended their winless streak to five games with a 2-1 loss to Spurs which leaves the Seagulls just two points from the relegation places.  Defender Tariq Lamptey delivered the goal for Brighton.  Striker Neal Maupay, scorer of four goals in the team’s first six games, was absent versus Spurs for rumored disciplinary reasons.  

Fulham – Fulham’s 2-0 defeat of West Brom was their first win of the season, lifting them from the relegation places.  US National Team player Antonee Robinson delivered the cross which Aleksander Mitrovic nodded to goal scorer Bobby De Cordova-Reid for the Cottagers opening salvo.  Defender Ola Aina provided the insurance goal with Mitrovic earning a second assist.

West Bromwich Albion – West Brom descended into the relegation places with a 2-0 loss to previously winless Fulham.  The still winless Baggies managed just one shot on goal in the game. Manager Slaven Bilic is now firmly planted in the hot seat and is drawing fire for tactical decisions such as playing midfielder Matheus Pereira in an unaccustomed wide position.

Sheffield United – Sheffield United failed to add to its three goal haul this season in a 1-0 loss to Manchester City. The Blades have scored only one goal from open play this season and desperately hope to see some return on their investment in former Liverpool forward Rhian Brewster who made his second start against the Citizens.

Burnley - Burnley was uncompetitive in a 3-0 defeat versus Chelsea, managing no shots on target. The Clarets now occupy the league cellar with but one point and only three goals on the season. While still early in the league season, Burnley must be thinking their five-year run at the top level is slipping away.