Friday, October 29, 2021

Premier League Preview Match Week 10: Managers Under Fire As Red Devils Face Spurs; Liverpool Awaits Seagulls; Gunners On Fox Hunt; Wolves Out for Benitez; Villa Hope To Avoid Hammering; Hornets Head South

Two endangered managers face each other when Manchester United visits Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer likely can’t survive a defeat after last week’s Liverpool embarrassment. Manchester United’s play, capable of providing moments of individual brilliance, is unfortunately more often marked by disorganization and dispirited play in a clear indictment of the manager. A superior roster, however, versus a Spurs club with its own problems, may well extend Solskjaer’s run. Counterpart manager Nuno Espirito Santo, in his first season in charge for Spurs, is also under criticism, not just for table results and a derby loss to rival Arsenal but, for a style of play which elicits little excitement from fans. Harry Kane, however, has done his new manager no favors with his single goal contribution this season.

Unlucky Brighton heads to Liverpool just a week after the Seagulls were manhandled by Manchester City. Liverpool, meanwhile, was scintillating against Manchester United last week. Mohamed Salah is on fire for the Reds, leading the Premier League with 10 goals in just nine matches. Brighton has not scored more than a goal in its last five league matches against Liverpool.

Two in-form teams collide when Arsenal heads to Leicester this weekend. Arsenal is undefeated in six matches with only league leading Chelsea having taken more points over that six-match stretch. Leicester has won two consecutive league matches with a Europa League win as well during that same recent stretch. The Foxes’ Jamie Vardy has scored more goals against Arsenal than any other club.

Wolves look to extend their unbeaten run to five matches when they host Everton at Molineux Stadium. The Wolves will be hungry after a frustrating draw with Leeds ended a three-match winning run by the Black Country club. Everton, meanwhile,  stumbled badly against Watford, conceding four late goals in a 5-2 home loss. Preseason reservations about manager Rafa Benitez are resurfacing, at least some of the criticism being unjustified due to key injuries the Toffees have needed to overcome. The Toffees will need a strong performance at Molineux from Brazilian national forward Richarlison who returned from injury last weekend. Wolves have relied on the scoring prowess of RB Leipzig loanee Hwang Hee-chan who has four goals in his last six league appearances.

Struggling Aston Villa, losers of three straight league matches, face a West Ham squad that is rolling in league, domestic cup, and European competition this season. The Hammers and manager David Moyes have won three of their last four Premier League matches to sit fourth in the table, are undefeated in Europe and have advanced to the quarterfinals of the Carabao Cup. Aston Villa, despite retooling their squad, have been unable to find the magic this season after the departure of club captain Jack Grealish.

Newcastle hosts league leading Chelsea and the Magpies’ leaky defense will be tested from all directions by a Chelsea side which has seen 14 different players score goals this season. Defensively, Chelsea has allowed only three goals by its league opponents while only Norwich has conceded more goals than Newcastle. One bright spot for the Magpies is striker Callum Wilson who has scored in each of his last six league appearances.

Crystal Palace supporters will rue the points dropped with late concessions in a recent run of draws as the Eagles take a step up in class when they travel to powerful Manchester City this weekend. The Citizens have allowed only three goals over the course of an eight-match unbeaten run which has them third in the table. The Eagles have conceded second half leads against Brighton, Arsenal and Newcastle in recent weeks.

Watford host Southampton for what could be a telling match. It’s difficult to gauge the quality of a Watford club which shocked Everton last week, a week after being shellacked by Liverpool under new coach Claudio Ranieri. Southampton is more a known commodity. The Saints’ defense has largely played well but they have been unable to replace the departed Danny Ings’s scoring punch. This is an important matchup between two clubs trying not to get pulled into the relegation fight.

Brentford, facing winless Burnley, looks to rebound after suffering back-to-back losses for a first time this season. Unfortunately, Brentford face their first match without goalkeeper David Raya who will miss an extended run of games due to a knee injury. Raya has been a key factor in the Bees’ surprising success, displaying not just Premier League quality shot stopping but also a capacity for ball distribution which has helped fuel the club’s attack. Burnley is mired in the relegation zone despite some encouraging performances from striker signing Maxwell Cornet. 

Norwich hope for better things when they host Leeds at Carrow Road this weekend following last week’s 7-0 trouncing by Chelsea. The bottom dwelling Canaries have conceded 23 goals and scored but two as they remain in search of their first win. Leeds is hoping to have Rafinha back to help secure the three points and keep 17th place Leeds clear of the relegation zone. 

Carabao Cup

West Ham defeated Manchester City on penalties in the Carabao Cup’s Round of 16, eliminating the Citizens from a tournament they have won in each of the past four years. The victory further burnishes the growing perception of Manager David Moyes and the Hammers as a Premier League force to be reckoned with. The Hammers are currently fourth in the Premier League table and undefeated to date in Europa League competition. The Hammers now await Saturday’s Carabao Cup quarterfinal draw. Chelsea also won on penalties versus Southampton and Thomas Tuchel’s men will continue among the favorites, along with Liverpool, to grab the cup so long held by Manchester City. Sunderland is the only competitor not from the Premier League to advance following the Black Cats’ defeat of QPR in penalties.


Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Premier League Review Match Week 9: Ole Moly! Liverpool Humiliates Manchester United; Canaries Sing Blues; Seagulls Swoon; Hammers’ Derby Win; Mad Hornets Sting Everton; Gunners Crack Top Half

In a stinging indictment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s project at Manchester United, Liverpool humiliated their longtime rival with an easy 5-0 victory before a stunned crowd at Old Trafford. Cracks which had already been appearing for Manchester United in recent weeks were fully exposed in embarrassing fashion as Liverpool’s sharpshooters and full field effort overwhelmed the Red Devils. Mohamed Salah scored a hat trick for the victors as he pulled away in the league scoring race.

The speed and grit of the Liverpool side frustrated a disorganized Manchester United which could only respond with unsportsmanlike swipes at the opposition, several dangerous plays being tolerated by referee Anthony Taylor before Paul Pogba, a second half substitute, was dismissed in the 60th minute. Liverpool showed mercy in the second half by not pressing for further scores and  merely exerting superior technical skill to manage ball possession. Discussion of Solskjaer’s job security now dominates the British press after one of the club’s all- time defeats.

League leading Chelsea maintained their one-point advantage over Liverpool with a 7-0 destruction of Norwich at Stamford Bridge. Mason Mount scored a hat trick in the massacre of defenseless Norwich. Chelsea’s defense, meanwhile, has conceded a league best three goals all season and swallowed the Canaries who failed to score for a fourth consecutive match and seventh time in their nine league matches.

Manchester City stayed third, two points behind Chelsea, with a 4-1 defeat of upstart Brighton. Starting the weekend in the table’s top four, Brighton was done in by a Phil Foden brace and individual goals by Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez for Manchester City.

West Ham moved to fourth in the table with a 1-0 London derby victory over Tottenham Hotspur. Michail Antonio scored his sixth goal of the season as the Hammers won for a third time in their last four league matches. Harry Kane’s frustration continued as he failed to add to his solitary league goal and was defensively culpable on Antonio’s winner.

Watford responded to its prior week spanking by Liverpool and a poor start to its game at Goodison Park by exploding for four late goals to sweep by Everton 5-2. The Hornets’ Joshua King led the swarm with a hat trick against his former club.

Leicester won back-to-back matches for a first time this season as the Foxes defeated Brentford 2-1. James Maddison’s first goal of the season proved the winner for Leicester and inflicted a second consecutive loss for the Bees.

Arsenal extended their unbeaten run in the league to six matches as the Gunners downed Aston Villa, 3-1, at the Emirates. Thomas Partey scored his first league goal for Arsenal in his 30th Premier League appearance with the club. Emile Smith-Rowe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang completed the scoresheet for the Gunners, Aubameyang putting in the rebound of a missed penalty try against former Arsenal keeper Emiliano Maritnez. Aston Villa suffered a third consecutive defeat.

A stoppage time penalty goal by Rodrigo salvaged a point for Leeds in a 1-1 draw with Wolverhampton. Leeds moved three points clear of relegation. The disappointing loss by Wolves snapped a three-match win streak for the Black Country side.

Crystal Palace drew for a fourth consecutive time in a 1-1 home final against Newcastle. A seeming winner by the Eagles’s Christian Benteke, which would have been his second goal of the game, was disallowed by a teammate’s foul uncovered by VAR. The Eagles are five points clear of relegation as victories continue to elude them. Newcastle remained next to bottom, above only Norwich, despite the point gained by Callum Wilson’s goal in Graeme Jones’s first outing as interim manager.

Burnley stayed winless on the season and mired in relegation despite a spirited effort in a 2-2 draw with Southampton. Summer transfer acquisition Maxwell Cornet scored twice for the Clarets. 20-year-old Armando Broja and 18-year-old Tino Livramento delivered the goals for the young Saints who remained four points above Burnley, and relegation, in the table.


Friday, October 22, 2021

Premier League Preview Match Week 9: High Flying Liverpool Visits Old Trafford; Top Meets Bottom; Seagulls Stalk Citizens; Hammers and Spurs in London Derby; Foxes Trot to Brentford; Saints Pray For Win

All eyes will be on the proceedings at Old Trafford this weekend when Liverpool visits Manchester United. Jurgen Klopp’s side is the only unbeaten team in the Premier League this season, 18 matches unbeaten extending to last season, as the club is a point off the pace of league leading Chelsea. The high scoring Reds have 22 goals on the season, six more than any other league club, and are led by Mohamed Salah’s joint league leading seven goals. Salah has scored in each of his last six league matches.

Manchester United has lost two of its last three in the league, sinking to sixth in the table on goal differential, sharing the same point total as West Ham and Everton. The Red Devils have allowed a score in each of their last twelve matches across all competitions at Old Trafford. They have not conceded in 13 consecutive home matches since 1964.

Top meets bottom when league leading Chelsea squares off versus cellar dweller Norwich at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. Winless Norwich has scored only two league goals and has not led a match at any point this season as the Canaries have returned this season to torture Premier League fans yet again before they fly back to the Championship. While the outcome should not be in doubt, a rout may not be in the cards Saturday as Norwich has improved on defense with two recent goalless draws and Chelsea will be missing both Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner, both injured during the week versus Malmo. Chelsea have not lost to Norwich in 17 matches dating to 1974.

Brighton will get the opportunity to show whether they are a Top Four or, more likely, Top Six, contender when they play host to Manchester City on the south shore.

The Seagulls are currently fourth in the table, trailing the Citizens by only two points. Only their Saturday opponent and table leading Chelsea have allowed fewer goals than the Seagulls this season. Unfortunately, Brighton’s own scoring difficulties has led to drawing its last three matches where the club has scored but once. Manchester City is undefeated since their surprising opening match defeat at Spurs, winning five of their last seven matches.

West Ham host a London derby, hoping to overtake fifth place Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs have won their last two matches to lift them one point ahead of their east London rivals. The Hammers want to crash back into the top six and played well in a win at Everton last week and in their mid-week Europa League win. After fielding a makeshift squad in their Europa Conference league this week, Spurs will revert to the strong line-up which has delivered two consecutive league wins. Harry Kane, scoring for a first time this season last week, has scored more Premier League goals against West Ham than any other club but Leicester.

Everton is hopeful of having Richarlison back in its lineup for this weekend’s match versus Watford. The absence of both Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin has muted the firepower of the Toffees in recent weeks. Unfortunately, Abdoulaye Doucoure, with a fractured foot, now joins Calvert-Lewin on the sidelines. Watford manager Claudio Ranieri, in his second match in charge at Watford, is winless in his last 23 away matches as a Premier League manager. Everton are unbeaten in 15 home matches against Watford in all competitions.

Ninth place Brentford are home to Leicester, hoping to increase their current one-point advantage in the table over the Foxes. Brentford Community Stadium has not been a safe haven for the Bees as both their losses this season have come at home and five of the seven goals the team has conceded have been scored in front of their home fans. Leicester is hoping to build on victories over Manchester United in the league last weekend and over Spartak Moscow in Europa League during the week.

Wolves will look to extend their winning streak to four matches with a fifth win in their last six league outings when they travel to Leeds. Manager Bruno Lage should have both Raul Jimenez and Francisco Trincao back to put further teeth in a Wolves attack which has improved greatly after failing to score in the season’s opening three matches. Leeds needs to kick into gear lest it be drawn into a relegation battle just one year after an impressive return to the league. The Whites look to again be without Kalvin Philips and Patrick Bamford but should be bolstered by having Rafinha back in the line-up.

Arsenal has a quick turnaround in league play when they face Aston Villa Friday after this past Monday’s draw with Crystal Palace. Villa will look forward to their London visit as only Manchester City and Chelsea have notched more road victories at the Emirates. A fifth 2021 home defeat by Arsenal would be the highest number of losses in a calendar year by the Gunners in 24 years. 12th place Arsenal, however, is unbeaten in its last five league matches and is currently a point above an Aston Villa side which has lost its last two matches, including a crushing late game collapse against Wolves last weekend.

Crystal Palace hosts Newcastle and interim Magpies’ manager Graeme Jones. Steve Bruce was sacked earlier this week by the northeast club’s new Saudi owners. Winless Newcastle is at dire relegation risk as only Norwich has fewer points in the table. Crystal Palace has been playing well but has squandered opportunities for wins versus Brighton and Arsenal in recent weeks by conceding late goals. The Eagles will be anxious to deliver a second win of the season in front of their home fans and should have Wilfried Zaha back from a recent illness.

Burnley travels to Southampton for a painful matchup between two of the three clubs yet to win in the league this season. Both clubs have struggled for goals with Southampton having difficulty in replacing departed striker Danny Ings and Burnley being Burnley. Separated by just a point in the table, the future would seem more promising for the youthful Saints whose roster reflects the third youngest average age in the league. Next to bottom Burnley has the league’s oldest roster as the sun may be setting on the Clarets’ current six-year Premier League run.

Premier League in Europe

Champions League

It was Ronaldo to the rescue again for Manchester United in a 3-2 comeback win for the Red Devils versus Atalanta. Facing a two-goal deficit and having been booed off the field by the Old Trafford faithful at halftime, United responded second half goals by Marcus Rashford and Harry Maguire before Ronaldo’s header in the 81st minute. Criticism continues of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as his inconsistent club continues to rely on individual moments of brilliance for results. Liverpool, Manchester United’s opponent in the league this weekend, stayed unbeaten in their Champions League group with a 3-2 win at Atletico Madrid. The Reds benefitted from a 52nd minute red card assessed Atletico’s Antoine Griezmann after the French striker’s had scored a first half brace. Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah completed his own brace in the 78th minute by converting a penalty kick for the win. Chelsea and Manchester City, meanwhile, were little troubled in their 4-0 and 5-1 victories over Malmo and Brugge, respectively.

Europa and Conference League

Leicester striker Patson Daka exploded for four goals in a 4-3 Europa League win for the Foxes over Spartak Moscow. Daka has made only two Premier League appearances for Leicester to date but demonstrated the skills on Thursday which led him to score 27 goals for Red Bull Salzburg as the Austrian Bundesliga’s player of the season for 2020/21. West Ham remains undefeated in Europa League group play after their 3-0 defeat of Genk. The victory gives the Hammers a six-point advantage in the group three matches as Manager David Moyes’s London squad has yet to concede a goal in the competition. Tottenham Hotspur Manger Nuno Espirito Santo made eleven changes to the line-up which defeated Newcastle last weekend and Spurs embarrassed themselves in a 1-0 loss to Dutch club Vitesse in Europa League Conference play. A collection of youngsters, including 17-year-old striker Dane Scarlett, and second choice players such as Dele Ali and Harry Winks were overmatched against the currently sixth best team in the Dutch Eredivisie. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Premier League Review Match Week 8: Blues Swat Bees; Foxes Flummox Devils; Liverpool Pummels Watford; Wolves Chase Down Villa; Kane Scores In Spurs Win; Arsenal Leave it Late To Salvage Point

Chelsea remained atop the Premier League table with a 1-0 win at Brentford. A lined volley by Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell was the difference as Thomas Tuchel’s squad posted a fifth clean sheet of the league season. For Chilwell it was a third goal in as many recent matches for club and country.

The Bees were valiant in defeat, launching 12 shots in the final 11 minutes as they swarmed the Chelsea end in pursuit of a tying goal only to be thwarted by the play of Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and the efforts of defenders such as Trevoh Chalobah who had a late goal saving clearance.

Leicester stunned Manchester United to end the Red Devils’ 29 match away unbeaten run and knock Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men from the Top Four. Jamie Vardy scored the deciding tally with his joint league leading seventh goal of the season just a minute after Marcus Rashford’s second half goal had tied the match for United.

Patson Daka provided insurance in stoppage time with his first Premier League goal for the Foxes. Leicester, which remains outside the top half of the table despite the win, won for a first time in five matches.

Second place Liverpool rudely welcomed Claudio Ranieri back to the Premier League as the Reds stirred up the Hornets’ nest with a 5-0 away romp over Watford and their new manager. Bobby Firmino struck for a hat trick while linemates Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah completed the scoresheet for Liverpool. Salah’s seventh league goal of the season kept him tied with Jamie Vardy for the league lead. Unbeaten Liverpool remained a point behind Chelsea for the league’s top spot while the stinging loss for the Hornets dropped them to 16th.

Brighton and Hove Albion cracked the Top Four, replacing Manchester United, with the point captured by the Seagulls in a goalless draw away at Norwich. Brighton is now residing in the Champions League places despite scoring fewer goals than any club in the top eight. The Canary scoring difficulties, however, are at a whole different level as Norwich, which saw wasted opportunities on Saturday by forwards Josh Sargent and Teemu Pukki, has scored but twice all season. The bottom dwelling Canaries take some solace in posting a second consecutive clean sheet to put them within four points of safety.

West Ham won for a fourth time this season as an Angelo Ogbonna header delivered a hard fought 1-0 victory over Everton at Goodison Park.

West Ham moved past Everton to seventh in the table, on goal differential, as David Moyes found joy at his old Goodison Park stomping grounds. Moyes spent 11 years at Everton, often facing off in Merseyside derbies against current Everton manager Rafa Benitez when the Spaniard managed Liverpool.

Manchester City strolled to a 2-0 victory over Burnley to maintain third position in the table, two points behind league leading Chelsea. The Citizens controlled 71% of the possession in limiting the 18th place Clarets to but two shots on goal as Burnley failed to score for a fourth time this season.

Wolverhampton moved into the top half of the table as a stoppage time goal by Reuben Neves completed a Wolves comeback from a two-goal deficit in a 3-2 defeat of Aston Villa. It was Wolves’ third consecutive victory and fourth win in their last five matches. Aston Villa, meanwhile, fell to 13th in the table with the gut-wrenching loss.

Newcastle’s first match under their new Saudi  ownership highlighted how much work needs to be done as the Magpies were overmatched in a 3-1 loss to Tottenham Hotspur. Harry Kane scored his first goal of the season for Spurs in a match which was paused in the first half by a fan medical emergency at Newcastle’s St. James Park. Spurs players Sergio Reguilon and Eric Dier were instrumental in flagging the difficulty to officials and ensuring a defibrillator was rushed to the fan’s location. Spurs move to fifth in the table with a second consecutive victory while winless Newcastle sit just a point above dreadful Norwich.

Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette scored with just seconds left in stoppage time to break Crystal Palace hearts and spoil the return of former Arsenal playing legend and current Eagles manager Patrick Vieira. The exciting end could not mask another frustrating performance by the Gunners as they struggled against their smaller London rival. Vieira has Crystal Palace playing well but not closing out wins when offered. 

Premier League in Europe

Champions League

The Champions League resumes with the third stage of group play on Tuesday. Liverpool travels to Atletico Madrid to face the club which eliminated the Reds in the knockout stage of the competition two years ago. Manchester City, meanwhile, should theoretically have an easier time of it when the Citizens travel to face Belgian side Brugge. Surprisingly, though, Brugge drew with powerful PSG back in September and remained unbeaten in the group with a victory over RB Leipzig. Manchester United will be tested on Wednesday when they host Italian club Atalanta, unbeaten in Champions League group play and currently sixth in the Serie A table. The Red Devils have been in poor form, losing four of their last seven matches across all competitions. Despite the most recent victory over Villareal, Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has lost seven of his twelve Champions League matches as Manchester United manager, the worst Champions League losing  percentage of any English club manager with at least 10 appearances in the competition. Chelsea is at Stamford Bridge Wednesday to face Swedish side Malmo which has  yet to score in losing their first two group matches. Chelsea looks to rebound after their defeat last time out to Juventus. 

Europa and Conference League

Leicester travels to face Spartak Moscow in a rare Wednesday Europa League match. The Foxes have yet to win after their first two group stage matches. West Ham, meanwhile, is looking for a third consecutive group win when they host Genk on Thursday. Also on Thursday, Tottenham Hotspur goes to Vitesse in Europa Conference League play.


Friday, October 15, 2021

Premier League Preview Match Week 8: London Derbies; Ranieri Returns; Party For Vardy?; Wolves Pack For Trip To Villa; Hope For Saints?; Déjà vu for Burnley; Bruce Hangs On; Canaries Likely Victims of Seagull Fly By

An uncommon London derby heads the Premier League slate as table leading Chelsea takes the short trip to Brentford Community Stadium to face the Bees in a league match for the first time since 1947. Chelsea is atop the league by a single point over Liverpool, four points above seventh place Brentford, as it looks to establish a record for the top four divisions of English football with a seventh consecutive “road” derby victory. Surprising Brentford is unbeaten in three previous London derbies this season.

Another London derby this weekend features a mid-table clash between Crystal Palace and Arsenal. A remodeled Crystal Palace team has taken seven points from seven matches as manager Patrick Vieira has so far avoided danger in the early stages of remaking the Eagles. Arsenal started the season disastrously before a three-match win streak ended with a draw to Brighton before international break.

Disappointing Leicester attempts to improve its 13th place standing in the table when the Foxes host Cristiano Ronaldo and fourth place Manchester United. Ronaldo will want to close the gap in the league’s scoring race as his three goals are currently half those of league leading goal getters Mohamed Salah and Jamie Vardy. Leicester’s Vardy may have opportunity to add to his total on Saturday as United is expected to be without center backs Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane.

David Moyes returns to the grounds he once patrolled for 11 years when West Ham visits Goodison Park to face fifth place Everton. Moyes’ charges have won only one of their last five league matches as they have struggled after punching their ticket for Europe last season. Everton, under new manager Rafa Benitez, has accumulated as many points as third place Manchester City. The Toffees’ success has come recently without injured forwards Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison, both of whom are expected out again for Sunday’s match.

Manager Claudio Ranieri returns to the Premier League as he takes the helm of Watford when the Hornets face second in the table Liverpool at Vicarage Road. Ranieri is managing his fifth club since winning an improbable Premier League title with Leicester in 2016. Liverpool will be without goalkeeper Alisson and midfielder Fabinho who have gone directly to Madrid for Tuesday’s Champions League match with Atletico Madrid after their international duty for Brazil.

An improving Wolves squad will look for a third consecutive victory and fourth in five matches when manager Bruno Lage brings his club to Aston Villa. Hwang Hee-Chan has three goals in his past four matches for the resurgent Wolves. Tenth place Villa are a point above Wolves in the standings and are looking to rebound from a loss to Spurs before the break. Striker Danny Ings is scoreless in his past five league matches for the Villans.

Saints’ striker Adam Armstong has not scored since opening weekend for Southampton but should have opportunities against a leaky Leeds defense on Saturday. Only relegation bound Norwich and Newcastle have conceded more goals than Leeds this season. Winless Southampton can overtake 16th place Leeds with a victory at St. Mary’s.

Burnley have been a model of consistently in losing by an identical 0-5 margin in each of their last four tries versus Manchester City at Etihad Stadium. Saturday’s match provides another opportunity for Burnley to win its first league match at Manchester City since 1963. City, currently third in the table, will be shorthanded Saturday with goalkeeper Ederson and forward Gabriel Jesus quarantining after international duty for Brazil and forward Ferran Torres having sustained a broken foot for Spain.

Manager Steve Bruce will get the opportunity to manage his 1,000th match when Newcastle hosts Spurs on Sunday. Bruce has been rumored for the sack by the Magpies’ new Saudi owners but remains in place for this weekend’s match. Spurs striker Harry Kane will look to collect his first league goal of the season against a Newcastle side which has conceded the joint highest number of goals in the league this season. The only club to have conceded as many goals as Newcastle is

Norwich which plays host to Brighton on Saturday. The cellar dwelling Canaries are unlikely to take wing in their battle against the Seagulls. Brighton is sixth in the table, having lost just once this season. 


Friday, October 8, 2021

Five Findings After Seven Matches

As the Premier League match schedule pauses during international break, it provides opportunity to reflect on what we have witnessed so far as we look at the Premier League table with seven matches in the books. 

The Top Four Is Who We Thought

The composition of a tightly packed Top Four is no surprise. Chelsea leads Liverpool by a point while the two Manchester sides round out the Champions League places. Liverpool, perhaps the largest preseason question mark in the group, has come roaring back from a difficult 2020/21 season as their high-powered attack, led by star Mohamed Salah, leads all clubs in goals scored. Chelsea and Manchester City, meanwhile, continue to be the league’s finest in defense, both conceding but three goals to this point in the competition. Manchester United has received a big boost from Cristiano Ronaldo’s three goals but fellow transfer Jadon Sancho has so far been a disappointment. A major factor going forward in the title race could be the performance of Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku. Lukaku looked like the answer to Chelsea’s lack of a cutting edge in attack when the Belgian striker opened the season with four goals in his first four appearances across all competitions but has been held scoreless in his last five matches. Meanwhile Manchester City has been successfully answering the question of whether it can succeed without the true number nine they sought in their failed Harry Kane pursuit. 

Everton and Brighton Replace Leicester and West Ham in The Top Six  

Surprisingly level on points with the two Manchester clubs and below the Top Four on goal differential alone are Everton and Brighton. The Toffees have validated the selection of veteran manager Rafa Benitez who has overcome the doubts of supporters and masterfully orchestrated his squad even in the injury absences of key players. Bargain acquisitions Andros Townsend and Demarai Gray have flourished under Benitez who has raised hopes and morale after a disappointing end to the brief Carlo Ancelotti era. Brighton, in a third year under English manager Graham Potter, has made a large jump from the club’s usual mid to lower table position as Neal Maupay has powered the Seagull attack, scoring half of Brighton’s eight goals. Should the volatile striker lose form or become injured, however, the club could be vulnerable to past failures in the final third. Leicester supporters are beginning to ask questions of manager Brendan Rogers whose Foxes are 13th in the table, winning but once, after Top Six finishes the past two years. While defensive injuries have impacted results, Premier League fans still recall Rogers’ crash and burn scenario after experiencing early success at Liverpool. West Ham is three points off the pace of Everton and Brighton but could be struggling under the unaccustomed weight of added Europa League fixtures to the Hammers schedule. 

Brentford Is A Pleasant Surprise

The most inspiring story of the young season is the performance of newly promoted Brentford which has found success in the topflight after a 74-year absence. The small London club opened with a stunning defeat of Arsenal in front of a raucous Brentford Community Stadium crowd. The Bees have continued to exceed expectations in achieving their current seventh place position in the table. In the past two weeks, the club has drawn in a scintillating back and forth match with mighty Liverpool and then defeated larger London rival West Ham. Remarkably, Brentford has posted better results in its last ten matches in all competitions than either Manchester City or Manchester United. The Bees play a balanced brand of football, swarming in attack and yet conceding fewer goals than all but three Premier League clubs. Only two players on the roster have prior Premier League experience and neither of those spent more than 10 minutes in the league before this season. Expressive Manager Thomas Frank has been crafting a remarkable story and adds yet another colorful figure to the league’s managerial ranks.

Crystal Palace Is Not A Disaster 

Pundits feared for the fate of Crystal Palace which began this season by overhauling its roster and changing its style of play under a new manager with a questionable managerial resume. Many expected disaster and likely relegation as the club fell from the safe  hands of former manager Roy Hodson who headed a group of seasoned, if not inspiring, veteran players. The Eagles, currently 14th in the table on seven points, are yet to soar under Manager Patrick Vieira but disaster seems to have been averted and confidence is growing for the young Eagles with each passing week. The club is much easier on the eye and fresh young players such as Conor Gallagher, Odsonne Edouard, Michael Olise, and Marc Guehi are exciting an already rabid fan base. Vieira has not looked overwhelmed and has been adroit in his substitution moves. As the club’s new roster becomes further acclimatized, the future should be even brighter. With young star Eberechi Eze also reportedly recovering well from his devastating Achilles injury, the Eagles (for now) have reason to be “glad all over.” 

Norwich Is Hopeless

There was a preseason expectation that Norwich would be enjoying a short stay in the Premier League. It is thus all the sadder then that the club has exceeded (or fallen short of?) extremely low expectations. The Canaries picked up right where they left off the last time we saw them, extending their winless streak in the Premier League to 16 matches before last week’s dreary 0-0 draw with struggling Burnley. Norwich has scored but twice, three goals less than any other club, while conceding a joint league worst 16 goals in only seven matches. Manager Daniel Farke seems to have made no tactical adjustments off his painful Premier League learnings of two years ago. American forward Josh Sargent, meanwhile, is making no impact for his goal starved club. 

Newcastle Bought

The acquisition of Newcastle by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund was announced by the Premier League on Thursday. The deal had been previously blocked by the league, purportedly due to broadcasting piracy issues surrounding current Premier League coverage in the Kingdom, now seemingly resolved. Newcastle supporters are ecstatic at the prospect of increased player investment following the parsimonious ownership of Mike Ashley. Geordies will also likely see the back of unpopular Newcastle manager Steve Bruce. There could be added drama this season as the table will determine whether the Saudis will own a Premier League club or one that is relegated to the Championship division.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Premier League Match Week 7 Results: Chelsea Tops Table; Anfield Draw; Everton Grabs Point at Old Trafford; Brighton and Arsenal in South Coast Slog; Hammers Fall To Bees; Eagles Chase Down Foxes; Spurs Stop Slide; Watford Changes Managers

A red card to Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse opened the door to two second half goals by Chelsea as the Blues moved to the top of the Premier League table with a 3-1 win over the Saints. Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel rotated his deep Chelsea squad and was rewarded early on as Trevoh Chalobah scored the opening goal off an assist from the sparingly used Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

Ward-Prowse knotted matters for the Saints with a second half penalty strike before the veteran set piece expert was dismissed in the 77th minute, opening the door to the two late Chelsea goals. Ben Chilwell, making his first league start of the season, scored Chelsea’s second goal seven minutes after the Saints went down a man and Timo Werner removed all doubt of the outcome with his 89th minute goal. Winless Southampton are one place and a slender point outside the relegation places as only Norwich has notched fewer goals.

Liverpool is second in the table after a 2-2 draw with Manchester City at Anfield. The league’s last two champions entertained both groups of supporters, and neutrals worldwide, in a back-and-forth match which saw City come back twice on goals by Phil Foden and Keven De Bruyne to share points with their hosts. Liverpool star Mohamed Salah scored his joint league leading sixth goal of the season and assisted on line-mate Sadio Mane’s opening score of the match as Liverpool remains the sole undefeated club in the league despite a one-point deficit in the table to league leader Chelsea. Manchester City are third in the table after impressively defeating Chelsea last week and grabbing the point Sunday at Anfield.

A 1-1 draw with Everton at Old Trafford means Manchester United have won only one of their last five outings across all competitions, losing three of those matches as manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is feeling increased heat. Overcoming the absence of star forwards Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison, Andres Townsend’s second half goal grabbed the point for the Toffees after a rare score by Anthony Martial had given Solskjaer’s men the early lead. Townsend clumsily attempted to replicate Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal celebration after his tying goal while Ronaldo himself stormed from the field after the frustrating performance left United level on points with fifth place Everton.

Brighton took a point at home in a rain-soaked goalless draw with Arsenal. The Seagulls launched 21 shots in the downpour but were unable to put one past Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale who has conceded but one goal in his four starts between the sticks for the Gunners. The result ended a three-match winning run for Arsenal as the Gunners failed to score for a fourth time in their seven matches this season. The sixth place Seagulls are just two points behind league leading Chelsea in the congested early table as Brighton’s only loss this season has been to Everton in Week 3.

Brentford stunned West Ham deep into stoppage time to score a 2-1 victory over the Hammers at London Stadium. Yoane Wissa scored the winner for the Bees just a week after the forward scored a late equalizer versus Liverpool. Newly promoted Brentford are seventh in the table with two victories and the draw to Liverpool in its last three matches. West Ham fell to ninth in the table after a second loss in three matches as the Hammers may be showing some effect from a demanding schedule which includes Europa League matches this season.

Tottenham Hotspur defeated Aston Villa 2-1 to snap a three-match losing run for Spurs. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, with just two goals in 38 league appearances last year, was the unlikely scorer of the first goal on Sunday to give Spurs a lead which was later negated by a score from Villa’s Ollie Watkins. An own goal by Aston Villa’s Matt Targett then decided the match.

Son Heung-min was influential for Spurs, assisting on the first goal and having his pass deflected by Targett for the own goal winner. The victory lifted Spurs to eighth in the table, two points outside the top four despite the continuing goal drought of striker Harry Kane. Villa enter the international break 10th in the table after the disappointing loss which snapped a two-match winning run.

Hwang Hee-Chan scored twice to deliver a 2-1 victory for Wolves over struggling Newcastle. Both of Hee-Chan’s goals were assisted by Raul Jimenez as the two forward players are developing a chemistry which bodes well for a Wolves side which was sheepish in failing to score in four of its first five matches. Twelfth place Wolves have won three of their last four matches. Newcastle, meanwhile, tumbled into the relegation places at 19th in the table as the Magpies remain searching for their first win.

Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira is enjoying success with his substitution strategies. His Eagles were down two goals to Leicester before the Eagles came screaming back on goals by substitutes Michael Olise and Jeffrey Schlupp to capture a point in a 2-2 final at Selhurst Park. Schlupp’s goal, 48 seconds after his arrival on the pitch, was the second fastest score by a substitute in the Premier League season, bettered only by teammate Odsonne Edouard’s goal 29 seconds into his appearance versus Spurs. Vieira became the first Crystal Palace manager to be unbeaten in his first four home matches in the Premier League while Olise became the first teenager to score a Premier League goal for Crystal Palace this century. Thirteenth place Leicester, a point above Palace in the table, failed to win for a fourth consecutive league match, again exhibiting holes in the Fox defense. Jamie Vardy scored a joint league best sixth goal of the season in the match.

Leeds posted their first victory of the season on defender Diego Llorente’s first half goal in a 1-0 defeat of Watford at Elland Road. Watford manager Xisco Munoz was fired after the match, ending a 10-month run during which he guided the club’s promotion to the Premier League where the Hornets have won two and drawn one of their first seven matches. Watford have replaced their manager each of the last eleven seasons, making multiple replacements in three of those years, and have now asked former Leicester title winner Claudio Ranieri to take the helm. Leeds escaped the relegation zone with the win, ironically still a point below 15th place Watford.

Winless Burnley and Norwich put their futility on display as both clubs failed to score or make a statement in their relegation battle. The silver lining of the goalless draw for Norwich was the end of a 16-match losing run in the league. Unfortunately, the Canaries were unable to add to the paltry two goals they have accumulated this season. Burnley, meanwhile, have failed to win a home match since January 27th after the damning loss at Turf Moor to cellar-dwelling Norwich.


Friday, October 1, 2021

Premier League Preview Match Week 7: Liverpool Looks to Remain Unbeaten; Gunners Take Aim at Seagulls; Bee Stings versus Hammer Blows; Can Kane Spur Tottenham?; Basement Bowl at Burnley

Undefeated Liverpool tries to remain top of the table when Pep Guardiola leads defending league champion, Manchester City, to Anfield on Sunday. Liverpool currently leads Manchester City and four other clubs by a slender point in a congested early season Premier League table.

Mohamed Salah is joint top of the league in goals scored while Liverpool has scored the most goals in the league so far. Salah has scored four goals, adding two assists in his last five home matches against Manchester City in all competitions. While scoring just three fewer goals than Liverpool this season, Manchester City has been widely criticized for not having a focal point for their attack after a failed pursuit of Harry Kane this summer. Liverpool looks to end a three-match winless run versus the Citizens.

Chelsea, a loser at home to Manchester City last week, looks to get back on track after two consecutive losses in all competitions when winless Southampton visits Stamford Bridge. Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante has tested positive for Covid, Reece James has a sprained ankle and Christian Pulisic remains seemingly perpetually injured for the Blues. Chelsea should still have enough to edge by a Southampton side which is sure to try to lock things down much as they did in a goalless draw versus Manchester City two weeks ago. The Saints have failed to notch a goal of their own in three consecutive matches.

Surprising Brighton play host to resurgent Arsenal. The Seagulls grabbed a dramatic point at Crystal Palace in the dying seconds of their match last week and are one of six clubs to have won four of the opening six matches.

Only Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea have conceded fewer goals than the Seagulls this season. Arsenal, meanwhile, have gunned their engines to streak past their last three opponents as the play of youngsters Martin Odegaard, Emil Smith-Rowe and Bukayo Saka has seemed to energize the moribund club. Recent weeks have also seen the return of previously injured midfielder Thomas Partey and center back Gabriel Magalhaes and the insertion to the starting lineup of newly acquired right back Takehiro Tomiyasu and goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.

Everton manager Rafa Benitez tries to improve his poor record at Old Trafford when his Everton side travel to Manchester United. Benitez has lost seven of the nine matches he has previously managed at the legendary ground. The Spanish manager has the Toffees playing well this season, however, finding success with unheralded players such as Andros Townsend even when playing without currently injured marquee players such as Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison. Everton are surprisingly one of the five clubs just a point off league leading Liverpool. Manchester United odds to post a first clean sheet in ten home appearances are damaged by the injured status of center back Harry Maguire. All world striker Cristiano Ronaldo, meanwhile, will be seeking a sixth goal in as many appearances in his return engagement with the Red Devils.

West Ham host Brentford for the first time in a topflight match in what should be an entertaining London derby. A victory by the Hammers would give them their highest point total after seven topflight matches in 37 years. Newly promoted Brentford, meanwhile, comes off an exciting draw with Liverpool and has trailed for only 25 minutes in its six matches so far this season.

Aston Villa will be seeking a third consecutive victory when they visit a Spurs side which has lost its last three matches. Spurs were embarrassed in losing badly in their derby versus Arsenal last week and can only hope Harry Kane’s mid-week hat trick in the Europa Conference League (against overmatched Mura) bodes of better things to come for the north London side. Aston Villa will be looking to win a third consecutive Premier League match for the first time in over a decade.

Leicester hopes to jump start a disappointing season, which has them currently 13th in the table, when the Foxes visit Crystal Palace. The Eagles’ Selhurst Park venue was the site of a gutting last second tying goal by hated rival Brighton last week and it will be informing to see how Patrick Vieira’s young Eagles respond on Sunday. Leicester has already lost four matches this season as the club has generated little in attack beyond the ageless Jamie Vardy and has been crippled by injuries to its back line.

Leeds and Watford face off at Elland Road in a match which could factor large in the relegation race this season. Leeds has scored only half as many goals as it posted in the first six matches of last season as the paling Whites have won but one of their last ten matches across all competitions. Newly promoted Watford, behind exciting striker Ismaila Sarr, has won twice to remains well clear of relegation so far but remain a betting favorite to enter the scrap.

Newcastle, another oddsmaker favorite for relegation, visits Molineux Stadium to face a Wolves side which has won two of three. The 17th place Magpies are likely to again be without injured striker Callum Wilson as they continue to seek their first win of the season. Wolves were encouraged last week by an opening goal of the season by striker Raul Jimenez who is returning from a fractured skull suffered last season.

The two clubs with the fewest points in the league meet in a relegation bowl when Norwich visits Burnley, hoping to avoid becoming the third Premier League team to lose the opening seven matches of a league season. The six Norwich losses to date this season are dwarfed by the club’s 16 match losing run in the Premier League dating to its relegation season two years ago. Norwich has been outscored 40-3 over those 16 matches. Winless Burnley has drawn twice to stay above the Canaries at the bottom of the table. The Clarets’ poor results have shown flashes of competence as the club has dropped a league leading 10 points from winning positions. 

Premier League in Europe

Champions League

Cristiano Ronaldo was glorious, Manchester City lost to a worthy competitor, Chelsea stumbled, and Liverpool cruised in Champions League matches this week. Ronaldo ‘s goal in the 95th minute versus Villareal handed Manchester United, and particularly manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a much-needed 2-1 victory following an embarrassing opening match loss to Young Boys. Manchester City, meanwhile, faced a huge challenge and failed in Paris when they fell 2-0 to star-studded PSG. Lionel Messi scored his first goal for PSG in the match, adding to the 672 he scored for Barcelona. The Parisians earned a measure of redemption against a City side which won both legs versus PSG in last years’ Champions League semi-finals. Chelsea followed up their league loss to Manchester City with a second consecutive defeat as the Blues were frustrated in a 1-0 loss to Juventus. Romelu Lukaku and Kai Havertz missed golden opportunities to deliver a better result for the Blues. Liverpool smashed Porto 5-1 as Mohamed Salah and Bobby Firmino both had braces for the Reds. Liverpool linemate Sadio Mane completed the barrage of goals by the Reds. 

Europa and Conference League

West Ham won their second consecutive group stage match defeating Rapid Wien 2-0 at London Stadium. The Hammers are now well positioned for advancement in the group ahead of upcoming back-to-back matches with Genk. Leicester’s disappointing season continued with a 1-0 loss to Liege Warsaw which leaves them winless after two Europa League matches. In Europa Conference League play, Spurs Harry Kane emphatically ended his scoring drought with a hat trick in a 5-1 Spurs demolition of hapless Slovenian side NS Mura.