Monday, November 29, 2021

Premier League Results Match Week 13 : Chelsea Bedeviled at Home; Manchester City and Liverpool Close Gap; Arsenal Outgun Winless Newcastle; Everton Spiral Continues; Canaries Survive Wolves Attack

The title chase tightened over the weekend as league leading Chelsea was held to a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge by Manchester United. Chelsea was uncharacteristically sloppy with a giveaway by Jorginho providing the breakaway opportunity for Manchester United’s goal. United’s Jadon Sancho scored his first Premier League goal just days after scoring his first goal for the club in United’s Champions League win over Villareal. Jorginho would later find some solace with a match tying penalty kick for Chelsea. Michael Carrick potentially ended his temporary stint as manager undefeated for Manchester United, pending whether newly named interim manager Ralf Rangnick takes the reins for the next match. Rangnick will helm the club, once satisfying work permit requirements, for the balance of the season before assuming a front office consulting role at season’s end.

Manchester City moved within a point of Chelsea by defeating West Ham 2-1 in blizzard conditions at the Etihad. The victory was a ninth in ten meetings with West Ham for Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. West Ham remained fourth on goal differential over Arsenal despite the Hammers falling for a second consecutive match.

Sunday’s snowy weather conditions in the northwest were so daunting that Burnley’s home match versus Tottenham Hotspur was postponed for a later date.

Things were sunnier in Liverpool Saturday where the Reds dispatched Southampton 4-0. Diogo Jota scored a brace while Mohamed Salah was held uncharacteristically to just an assist. Third place Liverpool trail Chelsea by two points in the table after a second consecutive win. The unsaintly performance by Southampton saw the club fall to 15th in the table, five points removed from the drop zone.

Arsenal, rebounding from its own 4-0 annihilation at Liverpool last week, resumed its surprising top four challenge by defeating Newcastle 2-0.

The Gunners, winners of four out of five matches, moved level on points with fourth place West Ham. Eddie Howe, managing his first match for Newcastle, gained an appreciation for the task ahead for the still winless Magpies if they are to avoid relegation under their new ownership.

Wolves sit three points behind Arsenal in sixth after a goalless draw with Norwich. Dean Smith is unbeaten after two outings as Canary manager, with seven of Norwich’s nine points this season having come in their last three matches.

Leeds remained three points ahead of the Canaries for the final position of safety after Marcelo Bielsa’s side unsurprisingly engaged in a goalless draw with the struggling Seagulls of Brighton and Hove Albion. Only Crystal Palace has drawn more games this season than Brighton and Leeds. Brighton remained ninth in the table after failing to win for an eighth consecutive outing.

Leicester trails the Seagulls on goal differential after the Foxes’ 4-2 win over Watford. Jamie Vardy scored a brace in the Leicester victory, moving within two goals of the league’s top scorer Mohamed Salah. Vardy also tied former Arsenal player Ian Wright for the most Premier League goals scored by a player after the age of thirty. Watford, meanwhile, is four points removed from the relegation zone after a third loss in their last four matches.

The league’s longest unbeaten streak entering the weekend ended when Crystal Palace fell to Aston Villa. Villa’s opening goal came on a set piece, the tenth such goal the Eagles have conceded this season. The Villans moved to a two-goal advantage, before a meaningless stoppage time goal by the Eagles, to give Aston Villa Manager Steven Gerrard his second win in as many games in charge. Aston Villa moved level on points with the 11th place Eagles.

Also climbing level with Crystal Palace on points was Brentford after the Bees defeated spiraling Everton 1-0. The Toffees have now lost five of six matches to drop to 14th in the table. 


The Week Ahead

Annual holiday fixture congestion begins this week with Match Week 14 being played Tuesday through Thursday to be quickly followed by Match Week 15 contests next weekend. The Manchester United drama continues when the Red Devils host surging Arsenal on Thursday. Who will be managing on the touchline for the hosts is an open question depending on Rangnick’s status. Curiously, the Red Devils have been unable to score in their last three league meetings with the Gunners.

A Wednesday Merseyside derby at Goodison Park between Everton and Liverpool carries heavy meaning for former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez as he tries to turn around his failing tenure at Everton in front of the home Toffee fans against their most hated rival.

Chelsea makes a short trip to Watford to face the Hornets, Manchester City faces Aston Villa and undefeated manager Steven Gerard, and West Ham hosts anemic Brighton to complete the mid-week schedule for the top four squads.

At the bottom of the table, a key relegation scrap plays out Tuesday when Norwich visits winless Newcastle. A loss to the Canaries at St. James Park would already begin to cast a shadow on the barely started tenure of Magpie Manager Eddie Howe. Counterpart Dean Smith will look to remain undefeated in his third match in charge for Norwich. Leeds will try to stay out of the relegation battle for another week when it welcomes Crystal Palace to Elland Road. Southampton will look to end a two-match swoon when they host Leicester. Spurs and Burnley will hope to benefit from the extended rest provided by their cancelled weekend match when the two clubs face Brentford and Wolves, respectively.


Friday, November 26, 2021

Premier League Preview Match Week 13: Chelsea Home To Manchester United; West Ham Visits Etihad; Saints Unlikely To Be Praised at Anfield; Playing Legends Gerrard and Vieira Meet in New Roles; Wolves Attack Canaries

Fresh from a Champions League victory over Villareal, Manchester United interim manager Michael Carrick faces an even tougher challenge when the Red Devils head to defending European champion and current Premier League leader Chelsea this weekend.

Chelsea dismantled Juventus midweek in the Champions League and have won 9 of their 12 league matches. The Red Devils, however, have been on a run versus the Londoners of late. Manchester United is unbeaten in the last seven league meetings between the clubs, holding Chelsea scoreless in the last four meetings.

Manchester City faces a Top Four opponent when West Ham visits the Etihad. The Citizens are looking for a fifth consecutive win across all competitions while the Hammers look to rebound from a 1-0 loss to Wolves. Last week’s loss ended a four-game win streak for West Ham.

Eddie Howe will be on the touchline as Newcastle Manager when the Magpies face Arsenal at the Emirates. Howe’s debut was delayed by Covid last week.

A pleasant reception should not be expected in London as Arsenal will be angry after being humbled by Liverpool in a non-competitive matchup last weekend. Newcastle, meanwhile, displayed heart in snaring a point in a 3-3 shootout with Brentford.

The Bees will have an opportunity to climb from their current relegation position when Everton visits Brentford Community Stadium. The Toffees have looked poor in losing four of their last five matches as the pressure builds for Everton Manager Rafa Benitez.

Southampton, having handed Norwich its second win of the season last week, now has the dubious pleasure of facing high flying Liverpool at Anfield. The Reds destroyed Arsenal last week and tallied yet another Champions League win earlier this week. The Saints, meanwhile, have struggled in their away pilgrimages, losing away from home more than any other Premier League side in 2021.

Watford manager Claudio Ranieri returns to the site of his greatest managerial achievement when the Hornets visit Leicester. Ranieri led the Foxes to a shocking Premier League title in 2015/16. The Hornets stung Manchester United in their last outing, leading to the sacking of United Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Last week’s win was important for Ranieri who had lost three of four matches with his new club. Leicester enters the match having lost two of its last three matches and sits a disappointing 12th in the table.

Crystal Palace looks to extend its seven-match unbeaten run in the league when it hosts Aston Villa. The surprising Eagles are one of only two clubs, along with Liverpool, to be unbeaten at home this season. Palace has won its last three home matches versus Aston Villa which won its first match under new manager Steven Gerrard last weekend. Gerrard faces former Premier League playing opponent Patrick Vieira as the two legends meet for the first time as managers.

Brighton hopes to end a seven-match winless run when the Seagulls welcome Leeds to the South Coast. Only Burnley and Newcastle have won fewer matches than Leeds this season. Both clubs are sputtering in attack. Only Norwich, Southampton and Spurs have scored fewer than the 12 goals scored by both Brighton and Leeds this season.

Spurs travel to Burnley, hoping to shake off an embarrassing midweek loss in the Europa Conference League. The Clarets, meanwhile, remain relegation bound despite a four-match unbeaten run.

Dean Smith looks to remain undefeated as Norwich manager when the Canaries host Wolverhampton. Wolves will look to ruffle the Canaries’ feathers, though, as the Black Country club is riding high after last week’s defeat of West Ham, a fifth win in its last seven matches.

Premier League in Europe

Champions League

All four Premier League teams are through to the next round of the Champions League after victories midweek. Defending champions Chelsea inflicted Juventus’s worst ever Champions League defeat in a 4-0 mauling at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea’s  depth was again on display as the Blues delivered the quartet of goals despite the absence of offensive threats Romelu Lukaku, Kai Havertz and Mason Mount. Defensively the Blues were again superb in posting the clean sheet. The club has conceded only 24 goals in 50 matches under Manager Thomas Tuchel. Cristiano Ronaldo led the way as Manchester United responded to the sacking of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a 2-0 win over Villareal. Ronaldo has scored in every one of his Champions League appearances this year. Jadon Sancho scored his first Manchester United goal. Liverpool won for a fifth consecutive time in their group, defeating Porto 2-0, as Mohamed Salah scored for a 17th time in as many matches this season. Liverpool scored multiple goals for a 16th consecutive match across all competitions, the longest such streak for an English team since 1939. Manchester City came back from a one goal deficit to defeat PSG 2-1. Second half goals by Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus enabled the Citizens to secure their spot in the Round of 16. All English clubs clinched the top spot in their individual groups but for Chelsea. The Blues need to match or exceed Juventus’ result in the final group match to take the top spot but are already guaranteed no worse than second. Mitigating the flush of success for Chelsea was a reportedly serious knee injury suffered by Ben Chilwell in a match which also saw an injury, believed less serious, to N’Golo Kante. 



Europa and Conference League


Leicester defeated Legia Warsaw 3-1, and West Ham defeated Rapid Wien 2-0 in the Europa League. West Ham will advance to the next round as group winner. Leicester moves to the top of a volatile group with one match remaining to determine the advancement status of the Foxes. In Europa Conference League play, Tottenham Hotspur, reduced to ten men after a 31st minute red card, was embarrassed 2-1 by NS Mura of the Slovenian league.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Premier League Results Match Week 12: Ole Out; Chelsea Foils Foxes; Liverpool Pop Gunners; Citizens Chew Toffees; Wolves Nip West Ham; Gerrard Returns A Winner; Canaries Sing Under New Manager

The Premier League’s league top three clubs all won by three goal margins on a weekend which saw the curtain close on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign as Manchester United manager.

Solskjaer and the Red Devils parted company after a devastating 4-1 loss at Watford which made it five losses in seven league matches for struggling United. The Hornets scored twice in stoppage time to complete the humiliation of the Red Devils who saw captain Harry Maguire ushered off in the second half with a second yellow card. Poor results ultimately forced Manchester United to an unwanted decision as they scramble now to piece together a workable management scenario for the balance of the season. Michael Carrick will be the “temporary interim” manager pending the appointment of someone to complete the rest of the season. A permanent appointment is expected after the season with PSG’s Mauricio Pochettino and Ajax’s Erik ten Hag rumored frontrunners. The uncertainty and perception of abandoning the balance of this season will do nothing to improve supporters’ dim views of club ownership.

Clubs experiencing better times were Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool. The top three clubs in the table look a clear level above the competition and waltzed to easy victories. Chelsea was too much for Leicester, unsurprisingly opening the scoring with an Antonio Rudiger header, the Foxes having been unable to defend against aerial attacks all season. Following a score by former Fox N’Golo Kante, Christian Pulisic closed things out with his first goal since opening weekend.

Leicester’s fifth loss of the season was their second in the last three matches, tarnishing Brendan Rogers’ one-time rumored candidacy for Solskjaer’s former position at Manchester United.

Manchester City, meanwhile, were little troubled by an Everton side which lost for a fourth time in their last five outings. Manchester City dominated with 77% possession and limited the Toffees to only one attempt on goal. The Citizens remain three points behind league leading Chelsea. Everton are 11th in the table.

Liverpool kept pace with the top two clubs in a 4-1 romp over previously surging Arsenal. Mohamed Salah increased his league leading goal tally to 11 while line-mate Sadio Mane scored for a seventh time this season, moving into a tie for second among the league’s goal leaders. Arsenal, which had won three consecutive matches entering the match, witnessed what an elite club is capable of as the Gunners were smoked by the dynamic Reds’ attack. The contest was a mismatch with Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale being the losers’ best performer despite conceding four goals.

Fourth place West Ham lost at Wolves as Raul Jimenz scored the winner for manger Bruno Lage’s sixth place side. The Hammers fell for the first time following four consecutive wins which had put them in the ranks of the Champions League qualifiers.

Steven Gerrard made a triumphant return to the Premier League as Aston Villa provided their new manager with a 2-0 win over Brighton. Ollie Watkins and Tyone Mings scored late goals in the final six minutes to secure the win for the Villans. The Seagulls, meanwhile, continue to lose altitude as they failed to win for a seventh consecutive match, falling from fourth to ninth in the table over that stretch.

Former Villa and current Norwich manager Dean Smith enjoyed a 2-1 victory over Southampton in his first match in charge of the Canaries. Smith avenged a loss he suffered to the Saints while managing Aston Villa two weeks ago.

New Newcastle manager Eddie Howe was sidelined by coronavirus as his Magpies grabbed a point in an entertaining 3-3 draw with Brentford. Allan Saint-Maximin showed Howe with a 75th minute equalizer.

Another 3-3 shootout occurred at Turf Moor where Burnley transfer Maxwell Cornet scored his fifth goal of the season for the final equalizer in a back-and-forth contest. Christian Benteke scored a brace for Crystal Palace which extended their current unbeaten run to seven matches.

Burnley, meanwhile, moved within two points of clearing the relegation line after Leeds fell 2-1 at Tottenham Hotspur as Antonio Conte notched his first league win as Spurs manger. Harry Kane remained on one goal for the season as the Spurs’ scoring was provided by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Sergio Reguilon. Spurs moved to seventh in the table with the win, just four points off West Ham’s fourth place perch.

Premier League in Europe

Champions League

The Champions League resumes Tuesday when Manchester United travels under its new and temporary management to face a difficult challenge at Villareal. Unai Emery’s Spanish club are level on points with United in the group but fell to the Red Devils on a Cristiano Ronaldo stoppage time goal in the clubs’ last meeting. Chelsea hopes to avenge an earlier defeat to Juventus when it hosts the Italians at Stamford Bridge. Christian Pulisic could feature for the Blues who are expected to be without attackers Romelu Lukaku and Kai Havertz. Timo Werner could also return from his October hamstring injury. Manchester City have a high-profile date with a PSG squad which could have Sergio Ramos available to debut with his new club. The Citizens will try to avenge a September loss to the Parisians. Liverpool will try to stay perfect in Champions League group play as Porto visits Anfield.


Europa and Conference League

West Ham looks to remain undefeated in its Europa League group when the Hammers travels to Rapid Wien. Leicester is home to Legia Warsaw, hoping to avenge an earlier defeat to the Polish club and improve the Foxes’ current third place position in their group standings. Tottenham Hotspur travels to Slovenia to face Mura in a Europa Conference League matchup. Mura has lost all four of its group matches to date.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Premier League Preview Match Week 12: New Managers Take Charge; Chelsea Goes Fox Hunting; Gunners Take Aim at Liverpool; Wolves Face Hammer Attack; Burnley Looks To Ruffle Eagles’ Feathers

Three new managers make their debut this weekend as clubs took advantage of the international break to reset and hopefully salvage their seasons under new management. Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard returns to the Premier league at the helm for Aston Villa. The man Gerrard replaced, Dean Smith, has already been re-employed as the new head man at Norwich. Former Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, meanwhile, has accepted the Newcastle job under their new Saudi Arabian management.

All three managers face daunting challenges. Aston Villa are but two points removed from relegation while Newcastle and Norwich remain winless and occupy the bottom two places in the table. Smith’s debut as Norwich manager versus Southampton drips with irony. A defeat to the Saints was Smith’s last match at Aston Villa before being sacked. He now faces the same Southampton team, now as manager of Norwich, on the very next match day.

Gerrard makes his debut in front of the Villa Park faithful against Brighton and Hove Albion, with the new manager tasked with ending a five-match loss streak for Villa. The Liverpool legend attempts to salvage a season for Aston Villa which has seen the failure to date of all three touted transfer acquisitions: Danny Ings, Emi Buendia and Leon Bailey. Gerrard will also need to re-energize underperforming holdover stars Ollie Watkins, Tyone Mings and Emi Martinez if Villa is to move up the table.

Brighton, meanwhile, sit seventh in the table but have not won a match since Sept 19th. Eddie Howe faces immediate pressure at Newcastle as the team is at risk of being relegated before the new ownership money can come to bear. A home match versus a Brentford side which has lost four straight league matches gives Howe the opportunity for a good first impression.

League leading Chelsea head to King Power Stadium to meet Leicester for the first time since their consequential matches in May of this year when Leicester beat the Londoners for the FA Cup but lost to Chelsea three days later in the league to help knock the Foxes out of a Top Four finish. The Foxes have struggled this season, sitting 12th in the table, struggling to overcome injuries and poor play on their back line. Injured midfielder Youri Tielemans will be a key miss for manager Brendan Rodgers this weekend. Thomas Tuchel, meanwhile, will be looking for a response from his European champions after a disappointing draw with Burnley before break. The aerial battle between the squads could be interesting as no side has headed in more goals than Chelsea while no side has conceded more headed goals than Leicester.

The best match of the weekend could unfold when Arsenal plays at Liverpool. The Gunners bring an eight-match unbeaten run to Anfield and trail fourth place Liverpool by just two points.

Winner of its last three matches, Arsenal has the longest unbeaten run in the league after Liverpool fell to West Ham before break, the first defeat for the Reds in 21 Premier League matches. Having yet another contender leapfrog them in the table would be anathema to JΓΌrgen Klopp and the men in red. The Liverpool attack, spearheaded by league leading scorer Mohamed Salah, will provide a stern test for the Arsenal center back pairing of Gabriel and Ben White. The two center backs, along with goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, have been integral to Arsenal allowing just two goals in their current five match winning run. The match’s result could turn on the availability of Liverpool’s Andy Robertson, Sadio Mane and Jordan Henderson, all of whom are questionable for the match.

Wolves will play host to a West Ham club which has scored seven goals in its last two matches. A run of four consecutive victories, capped by a win over Liverpool before break, has the Hammers third in the table, just three points behind league leading Chelsea. A fifth consecutive win would equal the club’s Premier League record. An improving Wolves side, meanwhile, had their five-match unbeaten run snapped in a defeat to surprising Crystal Palace in their last outing.

Manchester City will be at less than full strength when the second place Citizens host Everton. Kevin De Bruyne is self-isolating after a positive Covid test. Jack Grealish and Phil Foden, meanwhile, are both nursing minor injuries which could affect their availability. Manager Pep Guardiola’s remaining array of talent should be more than sufficient to put down an Everton squad which is on a five-match winless run marked by three losses. The Toffees have been toothless without inured striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin, scoring more than a goal just once in those five matches, that being in a dreadful 5-2 loss to Watford.

Manchester United begins its hopeful journey to rejoin the Top Four when the Red Devils return to action at Watford. The international break was a welcome respite for a club which has lost three of their last four league matches under embattled manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Watford have also lost three of four matches under Manager Claudio Ranieri. The meeting of the two unhappy sides could get chippy with the angry Hornets leading the league in fouls by a wide margin.

Spurs are home to Leeds as Antonio Conte seeks his first win as Tottenham manager. A second goal of the season by Harry Kane would certainly contribute to that outcome. The underperforming striker was a scoring machine against lesser footballing nations for England over the international break. Leeds have lost just once in their last five matches to pull themselves free of the relegation zone despite the continuing injury absence of striker Patrick Bamford.

Crystal Palace tries to make it three in a row when the Eagles visit Burnley. The rebuilt Palace, under new management, is undefeated in six matches and won impressively against strong opposition in their last two outings. Manager Patrick Vieira’s squad will face a challenge, however, in creating chances against a packed in Burnley defense under old school manager Sean Dyche. Burnley haven’t conceded a goal in winning the last three matches between the clubs but now face a more attack-oriented Eagles side under Vieira. The Clarets have lost but once in their last six matches but remain relegation bound after a poor season start.

American fans watching this weekend’s matches on NBC platforms should be pleased at a new six-year contract between the network and the Premier League. NBC has done an amazing job in building the league’s brand in America. 


Monday, November 15, 2021

Ten Surprises So Far As the Clubs Take A Break

 


As the Premier League takes an international break, we take the opportunity to consider some of the season’s surprises to date; pleasant, unpleasant, and those that really shouldn’t be a surprise at all.


Arsenal (Pleasant Surprise)

Left for dead after failing to score a goal in three season opening losses, Arsenal has not lost since and is now knocking on the door of the Top Four. Bright young players like Emile Smith-Rowe and Bukayo Saka are providing the spark while goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale has been outstanding with both his play and leadership. Manager Mikel Arteta deserves credit for pulling this club back from the brink, burnishing his own managerial star in the process. 


West Ham (Pleasant Surprise)

West Ham shocked the league by crashing the European party with a fifth place finish last season. The expectation was that they would pay a toll in the league this season because of the demands of their Europa league schedule. Surprisingly, that has not been the case as the Hammers moved into third position in the table after a resounding defeat of Liverpool and remain unbeaten in their Europa League contests. David Moyes has his team well drilled, capitalizing on set pieces and counter attacks to exploit their opponents. 


Crystal Palace (Pleasant Surprise) 

Pundits feared too much change portended early season disaster for Crystal Palace which started the season with a new manager, a revamped roster, and a new style of play. Instead, the Eagles have begun to soar with back-to-back victories over defending champion Manchester City and an in-form Wolves team. As rewarding as the two recent victories have been, the hard work has been put in all season as Crystal Palace has lost but two matches under  Manager Patrick Vieira. 


Manchester United (Unpleasant Surprise)

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is under the microscope as Manchester United struggles despite its sparkling array of talent. The club seems disorganized with an unclear style of play as Solskjaer struggles with putting the pieces together. The club was second last year and added transfers Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho, and Raphael Varane. And yet surprisingly the club has taken a step back. 


Harry Kane (Unpleasant Surprise) 

The league’s reigning top scorer and Captain of England has but a single goal to his credit this season. The striker’s lack of production follows tedious offseason demands for a transfer. Kane has done his own reputation harm and contributed mightily to getting a manager (Nuno Espirito Santo) fired with poor on-field performance following the off-field drama. The success of new Spurs manager Antonio Conte could hinge on getting Kane back on track. 


Leicester (Unpleasant Surprise)

After scratching at a Champions League berth the last two season, a lackluster Leicester team is sagging in twelfth position in the table. The Foxes had injury issues in their back line form the season’s onset but poor play from defenders such as Caglar Soyuncu has been the more surprising source of their frailty. Only four clubs have conceded more goals than the Foxes. Even with their defensive issues, more should be expected from this quality roster. The biggest surprise might be that Manager Brendan Rogers continues to be rumored for the bigger Manchester United job. 


Aston Villa (Unpleasant Surprise) 

The thinking was that Aston Villa had reinvested its Jack Grealish proceeds wisely and would continue its positive trajectory in the league. Such has not been the case. Striker Danny Ings has again demonstrated his career long propensity for injury. New singing Emi Buendia has been invisible. Leon Bailley has shown but flashes. Holdover stars like Tyrone Mings and Ollie Watkins have inexplicably taken a step back. It has all come crashing down and resulted in the sacking of Manager Dean Smith.


Brentford (Shouldn’t Be A Surprise)

After starting strongly out of the gate, Brentford has lost four consecutive matches. Many were surprised at how brightly the season began. Others have been shocked at how quickly things have now started to spiral. An adrenaline-fueled Premier League debut under a charismatic manager is as understandable as the newly promoted club now starting to find its level. There will be more good moments for the Bees but survival and not top of the table is the mission. 


Mohamed Salah (Shouldn’t Be A Surprise)

With a league leading 10 goals in 11 matches, Mohamed Salah is solidifying his reputation as one of the world’s top players. Integral to Liverpool’s rise under Klopp, Salah now vies with a select few such as Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski to be considered the world’s best as the sun begins to set on Messi and Ronaldo. 


Managerial Changes (Shouldn’t Be A Surprise)

Five managerial changes to date are more than the league experienced all last season. The lack of patience should not be surprising given the financial stakes of surviving and thriving in the world’s richest league. Tottenham Hotspur needs to leverage its stadium investment with success on the field. Aston Villa’s ambitious management reacted swiftly as relegation beckons just two points away. Newcastle’s new management rightly wanted their own man to rescue the club from what would be a disastrous relegation in their first year of ownership. The only question regarding Norwich’s change should be why it did not happen sooner. Watford is Watford and they may yet make another change this season.


Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Premier League Review Match Week 11: Up The Hammers; Manchester City Dominates Derby; Chelsea Drops Points; Arsenal Defeats Angry Hornets; Eagles Dance Over Wolves; Canaries Win, Fire Manager; Villans Lose, Fire Manager

West Ham inflicted the first defeat of the season on Liverpool and, in so doing, leapfrogged their opponent into third place in the table standings.

The Hammers were clinical in attacking spaces in the Liverpool defense and in expertly executing their set pieces in a 3-2 win over the formerly invincible Reds. Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson had a rare poor outing for a Jurgen Klopp side which tumbled to fourth in the table, just two points ahead of surging Arsenal. 

Manchester City outclassed their cross-town rivals with a 2-0 win in the Manchester Derby. The Citizens controlled 67% of the possession and limited the Red Devils to a single shot on goal. Manchester United defenders, meanwhile, challenged their own goalkeeper with two errant volleys, one of which resulted in an own goal by Eric Bailly for the game’s opening score. Manchester City’s strong response to last week’s loss to Crystal Palace moved the Citizens to second in the table, three points behind Chelsea. Manchester United, meanwhile, lost for a fourth time in their last six league matches under embattled manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. 

Burnley ended Chelsea’s four match win streak in the league as the Clarets took a point at the home of the league leaders. Burnley has lost just once in its past six matches to claw within two points of escaping the relegation zone. Frustrated Chelsea remains top of the table, three points ahead of Manchester City. 

Arsenal extended their unbeaten run in the league to eight matches with a third consecutive victory in a 1-0 win over Watford.

Circumstances of the Gunners goal by Emile Smith-Rowe were contentious as Arsenal violated sportsmanlike practice by not returning the ball to the Hornets who had intentionally put the ball out so an injured player could be attended to. Further maddening the Hornets was a claimed foul in the build up to the Arsenal goal. Last in the table after their first three pointless matches, Arsenal now enjoy the league’s longest unbeaten run. 

Crystal Palace claimed another pelt, defeating Wolves 2-0 at Selhurst Park as long-time star Wilfried Zaha and exciting newcomer Conor Gallagher provided the goals in a second consecutive win for Crystal Palace. The Eagles, who moved to 10th in the table with the win, remained undefeated in front of home fans, Liverpool being the only other club that can make such a claim this season. The defeat of Wolverhampton ended a five-match undefeated run for Wolves. 

Norwich City won for the first time this season in a 2-1 victory at Brentford, but it was already too late for manager Daniel Farke. The Canary manager was ironically sacked after his only taste of success this season. The win for Norwich ended a 20-match winless run which included 18 losses. The winning margin Saturday came down to a penalty kick by Teemu Pukki as the Canaries scored two goals for the first time in 29 Premier League games. A loss to the league’s bottom dweller and a fourth consecutive league defeat ratchets up concern for Brentford and Manager Thomas Frank as they fall to 14th in the table.

A 1-0 loss by Aston Villa to Southampton was a fifth consecutive loss by the Villans and the final match as Villa manager for Dean Smith. Smith, who had overseen Aston Villa’s promotion to the Premier League during his three-year run, was sacked after the club fell within two points of the relegation zone. Southampton, meanwhile, won for a third time in an unbeaten four-match run which has removed them, for the moment, from relegation concerns. 

Brighton’s winless run was extended to six matches in a 1-1 draw with Newcastle. Remarkably, the indecisive Seagulls have now drawn five of six matches. Brighton has scored more than a goal only once since their last win in mid-September. Newcastle remained winless but were grateful for a point in advance of regrouping after break under new manager Eddie Howe. 

Tottenham Hotspur and Everton battled to a scoreless tie in Antonio Conte’s return to the Premier League. There was little to separate the two clubs who are separated by a point in the table. Spurs worked hard but failed to produce a goal in their manager’s debut. Everton were unable to win for a fifth consecutive match. 

Leicester’s lackluster season continued with a 1-1 draw at struggling Leeds. The Foxes under Manager Brendan Rodgers are currently 12th in the table after threatening to crack the Top Four in each of the last two seasons. Leeds, meanwhile, is just three points clear of the relegation zone. As the Premier League now goes on international break, the races for table position have taken some dramatic turns in recent weeks. West Ham’s surge into the Top Four to join Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool has displaced a dysfunctional Manchester United team which has fallen to sixth with six different teams within two points of the Red Devils and a Europa League berth. Arsenal, once left for dead, is but two points removed from the Top Four. Four of the five bottommost teams have already replaced their manager. Including Spurs’ sacking of Nuno Espirito Santo, the total of five managerial changes to date exceeds that of the entirety of last season. And…Crystal Palace is on a six-match unbeaten run which includes inflicting one of defending champion Manchester City’s two losses this season.

 

 


Friday, November 5, 2021

Premier League Preview Match Week 11: Manchester Derby; Liverpool and Hammers in Top Four Battle; Conte Returns; Wolves Enter Eagles’ Nest; Saints and Villans; Gunners Set Sights on Hornets

The Manchester derby is full of storylines this weekend. Cristiano Ronaldo has been almost single handedly trying to save the job of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, leading the win over dysfunctional Spurs last week and salvaging a draw with a late goal versus Atalanta in Champions League mid-week. City failed to score in last week’s loss to Crystal Palace and pundits and supporters are again bemoaning the absence of a true striker in Pep Guardiola’s line-up. Meanwhile, the futures of two highly priced wingers are being questioned as Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho are fringe players this season for City and United, respectively. The Red Devils have won three and drawn one in their last four meetings against the defending league champion Citizens.

Undefeated Liverpool head to West Ham for a Top Four clash. The fourth ranked Hammers have won three in a row and four of five but have lost their last four matchups against the Reds. Liverpool remains unbeaten but have drawn three of their last five league matches to, accounting for their runner up status to Chelsea. Mohamed Salah leads the league with ten goals. Linemate Bobby Firmino is expected to miss up to four weeks for Liverpool after suffering a hamstring injury in Champions League action. West Ham’s Michail Antonio has six Premier League goals and three assists to trail only Salah in goal involvements this season.

Antonio Conte returns to the Premier League when Spurs visit Everton.

Conte will be trying to unlock the attack of a Spurs side which has only scored nine goals in ten matches despite possessing some of the league’s best offensive weapons in Harry Kane and Son Heung-min. Everton will be trying to avoid a fourth consecutive league defeat as the absence of injured striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been compounded in recent weeks by defensive lapses. Conte was undefeated versus the Toffees while managing Chelsea in his first turn as a Premier League manager.

Crystal Palace looks to build on its massive win over Manchester City last week when an in-form Wolves side visits Selhurst Park. Crystal Palace fans, long accustomed to uninspiring, albeit moderately successful football, were over the moon with both the result and the style with which the Eagles played in the win over City. Wolves, however, have won four of five matches and sit seventh in the table. Forwards Raul Jimenez and Hwang Hee-chan have developed chemistry up front for the improved Wolves attack.

Aston Villa is the latest squad of players in danger of unseating their manager. The pressure is building on Aston Villa manager Dean Smith after four consecutive defeats as the Villans travel to Southampton this weekend. Monies spent to retool after the loss of Jack Grealish have not shown a return and the manager’s technical decisions, such as playing three in the back, are being questioned. Winless in their first seven matches of the season, Southampton is on a positive run of late, winning two matches in a current undefeated three match run.

High flying Arsenal welcomes Watford to the Emirates as the Gunners look to win a third straight match. Manager Mike Arteta has seen his club go undefeated in its last seven matches as the Gunners have risen to sixth in the table and returned to contention for the European places. Watford, meanwhile, is only three points removed from the relegation zone after losing two of three matches under new manager Claudio Ranieri who has won just once in 18 career tries versus Arsenal, the sole victory coming in a Champions League match while managing Chelsea.

Chelsea are home to a Burnley squad which surprised everyone with a three-goal outburst versus Brentford last week. This London trip should be less joyful for the Clarets as they face a league leading squad that has only allowed three goals the entire season. Chelsea has posted a clean sheet in its last three meetings with Burnley. Burnley’s chances to score this weekend may rest with striker Maxwel Cornet who has found the net four times in his five Premier League appearances. Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner remain out for a Chelsea side which still boasts a plethora of other scoring options.

Brighton seeks a first win in six matches when Newcastle visits the Seagulls. Graham Potter’s side has the joint fourth best league defense based on goals conceded but, despite an attractive offensive approach, always seems to struggle to convert chances. Newcastle is in serious danger of relegation as its four points from ten matches exceed only those of Norwich. Former Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe has been rumored this week for the Magpie manager job.

Leicester travels to Leeds where they have won four of their last five league matches at Elland Road. The Foxes are often a good watch with their attacking players led by Jamie Vardy, but the defense remains suspect as Leicester has failed to keep a clean sheet since opening weekend. Leeds have scored but ten goals on the season as they have sorely missed injured striker Patrick Bamford. Rafinha has been one of the few bright lights for the Whites who have won only versus promoted sides Watford and Norwich.

The trail of tears which is Norwich’s season continues as the Canaries fly next to Brentford for the first topflight meeting between the former Championship division opponents. The two promoted clubs reflect differing levels of success so far in the Premier League table. Brentford is 12th while winless Norwich is bottom. The Bees though have had their own recent problems in losing three consecutive league matches and have dropped three of their four home matches. Brentford should have opportunity to cheer their home fans though against a Canary squad which has not scored in a road match this season.

Premier League in Europe

Champions League

Liverpool dominated Atletico Madrid in a 2-0 win at Anfield. The “mattress makers” went down to ten men in the first half and lost to the Reds for a second time in group stage. Manchester City easily rolled over Club Brugge in a 4-1 final while Chelsea was surprisingly only a 1-0 winner over Swedish side Malmo. Manchester United were staring at defeat versus Atalanta until Cristiano Ronaldo’s stoppage time goal salvaged a 2-2 final. Ronaldo scored in first half stoppage time as well as he carried the Red Devils through an otherwise poor team performance. 


Europa and Conference League

West Ham stayed undefeated and clinched advancement to the tournament’s next round with a 2-2 draw at Gent in Europa League group play. Said Benrahma had a brace for the Hammers who were denied the win on a late own goal by Tomas Soucek. Leicester also drew their Europa League match in a 1-1 contest with Spartak Moscow at King Power Stadium. Jamie Vardy missed a second half penalty which would have given the Foxes the win. An early three goal advantage was nearly squandered by a wobbly defense as Spurs held on for a 3-3 Europa Conference League win against Vitesse in a rocky but ultimately successful debut for new Spurs manger Antonio Conte. A 59th minute red card assessed Cristian Romero made for a nerve racking second half for Spurs.


Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Premier League Review Match Week 10: Manchester United Wins “El Sackico,” Nuno Pays Price; Eagles Soar Over City; Seagulls Snare Point at Anfield; Gunners Pelt Foxes; Chelsea Rolls; Wolves Chew on Toffees; Burnley Swats Bees; Hornets Stung By Saints; Norwich Plays To Form

Manchester United responded for their manager by defeating Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 and, in doing so, created a vacancy in the opposing manager’s seat. Spurs Manger Nuno Espirito Santo was sacked on Monday to be replaced by serial title winner Antonio Conte. Cristiano Ronaldo led the way for his Manchester United teammates with two goals and an assist as the Red Devils responded to last week’s humiliation at the hands of Liverpool.

Spurs, meanwhile, failed to record a shot on goal and generated little threat against a Manchester United defense recording only its second clean sheet of the season. A lack of energy in front of their home fans, against a big opponent, did little to help save Santo’s job. Harry Kane remained on one goal for the season as Spurs dropped their fifth match in their last seven league outings.

Patrick Vieira’s signature win to date as Crystal Palace manager came over a club he once played for as the Eagles shocked Manchester City 2-0 at the Etihad. Wilfried Zaha scored his 50th Premier League goal for Palace after just five minutes had passed on a beautiful set up from Chelsea loanee Conor Gallagher. After City went down to ten men when Aymeric Laporte took down Zaha on a clear goal scoring opportunity, the Eagles were able to hold their lead until Gallagher clinched matters in the 88th minute.

Brighton came from two goals down against Liverpool to grab a point in a 2-2 draw at Anfield. The Seagulls got a much-needed response after falling behind two goals to the Reds and being manhandled by Manchester City last week. After a fast start to the season, Brighton has been winless for five matches and will hope to pivot off Saturday’s comeback. Despite a disappointing outcome against the Seagulls which revealed some defensive frailties, Liverpool remained the only unbeaten Premier League side.

Arsenal extended their unbeaten run in the league to seven matches in a 2-0 win at Leicester. Winners in five of those contests, the Gunners have now moved up to sixth in the table. A goal by Emile Smith-Rowe was his fourth score in his last seven appearances across all competitions for the Arsenal. The home defeat, meanwhile, blunted the momentum of two consecutive league wins for the Foxes who remain mired midtable.

League leading Chelsea increased its lead to three points over second place Liverpool, and five points over Manchester City, with a 3-0 win away at Newcastle. Chelsea, who have seen 15 different players score this season, again relied on goals from unexpected sources as wingback Reese James scored his team leading third and fourth goals of the season and Jorginho, last season’s surprising scoring leader, rounded out the scoring with a penalty kick for his first goal of this season. All of Chelsea’s goals came in the second half as the Magpies held off the onslaught until the first of James’ goals at the 65-minute mark.

Wolves won for a fifth time in a seven-match unbeaten run as Bruno Lage’s squad defeated struggling Everton 2-1 and moved to seventh in the Premier League table. Raul Jimenez scored the winner in his 50th appearance for Wolves as he continues his inspirational return from last season’s serious head injury. Max Kilman provided an additional “feel good” story as he scored his first goal since playing at the non-league level of English football for Wolves’ opening goal. Everton manager Rafa Benitez and Toffee supporters were not feeling as good as Everton fell for a third consecutive match.

Burnley shocked Brentford with three first half goals in a 3-1 victory in a battle of the “B’s” at Turf Moor. Striker Maxwell Cornet scored his third goal in his last two matches to complete a first half trifecta for Burnley. The victory came on the ninth anniversary of Manager Sean Dyche, the Premier League’s longest tenured manager, taking over at Burnley. The match versus Burnley marked an inauspicious debut for Bees’ goalkeeper Alvaro Fernandez, filling in for the injured David Raya who is expected to miss as many as four months.

Che Adams notched his first league goal of the season to give Southampton a 1-0 victory over Watford. Offensively challenged Southampton grabbed all three points with just a single shot on target. The Saints ascended above the Hornets in the table with their second win of the season and second win in their past 18 league away matches. A second loss in his first three matches is already asking questions of new Watford manager Claudio Ranieri.

The good news for last place Norwich is they scored a goal, increasing their season output by 50%. The bad news for Norwich supporters is that the Canaries lost again in a 2-1 loss to Leeds. Supporters of both struggling squads were treated to an electric five-minute second half flurry in which all three goals were scored. Norwich settled further to the bottom of the league table while Leeds stayed three points clear of relegation with the win. 


Carabao Cup Draw


The Carabao Cup quarterfinal draw is set and features two London derbies between Premier League teams. Brentford Community Stadium will host one of the matches as the Bees play host to current Premier League leader Chelsea. West Ham makes the short trip to Tottenham Hotspur for the other derby. Liverpool will be tested at Anfield by Leicester and Arsenal welcomes the Black Cats of Sunderland to the Emirates to complete the draw. All matches will be played December 21st.


Premier League in Europe

Champions League

Manchester United looks to repeat its previous win over Atalanta when the Red Devils face the Italian side again on Tuesday. Cristiano Ronaldo had the winner in the Red Devil’s 3-2 win when the clubs met in October. Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid will try to respond to their 3-2 loss against Liverpool in Madrid when Diego Simeone brings his squad to Anfield to face the Reds. Chelsea and Manchester City will also see familiar faces when they look to replicate earlier Champions League group stage wins against Malmo and Club Brugge, respectively. 



Europa and Conference League


West Ham travels to Genk Thursday as the Hammers try to remain undefeated in Europa League competition. The Hammers were dominant in an earlier 3-0 win over Genk in London. King Power Stadium will be the site for the Europa League rematch between Leicester and Spartak Moscow. The Foxes defeated the Russian side in a 4-3 goal fest at Moscow last time out. New manager Antonio Conte may or may not have his work permits in place to helm Tottenham Hotspur when the club attempts to avenge an earlier loss to Vitesse in a Europa Conference League clash.