Friday, December 17, 2021

Premier League Results Match Week 17: Cancellations Abound; Young Guns Crash Top Four; Leeds Destroyed by City; Liverpool Rolls; Chelsea Frustrated by Toffees; Wolves Nip Seagulls; Villa Plucks Canaries; Palace Saves Point

The Premier League is reported to be having a meeting on Monday to decide on a potential temporary stoppage of the Premier League schedule due to rising Coronavirus cases which are wreaking havoc with individual fixture cancellations. The chaos occurs as the league originally had 40 matches scheduled from this Saturday through January 3rd. Several of this upcoming weekend’s games are already postponed while three of the midweek matches were already lost to the virus outbreak.

Despite the cancellations, there were significant on-field developments during midweek play. Arsenal’s 2-0 win over West Ham moves the Gunners into the table’s top four as the club won a second consecutive match without suspended captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Despite the recent controversy surrounding Aubameyang, Arsenal supporters can be encouraged for the future by their club’s rising young talent. Excluding veterans Alexandre Lacazette, Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey, the average age of the other eleven players making an appearance in the win over West Ham was 22 years old. Aubameyang’s presence to date has not been missed since his suspension and his future with the club is cloudy at best. Lacazette wore the captain’s armband versus West Ham and assisted on an opening goal by 20-year-old Gabriel Martinelli. Lacazette would later draw a penalty which reduced West Ham to ten men though the Arsenal captain would miss the penalty kick. 21-year-old Emile Smith Rowe clinched matters for the Gunners with an 87th minute goal assisted by 20-year-old Bukayo Sako.

Arsenal surpassed West Ham to enter the Champions League slots as the Hammers failed to score for a second consecutive match. West Ham has been a hard club to read as Manager David Moyes’s club has followed a four-match winning run by winning just one of its last six. In its last seven matches, the club has taken down Chelsea and Liverpool while losing three contests and drawing the other two. What is clear is that the club is in desperate need of an additional attacking threat. Striker Michail Antoino has been ice cold, failing to score in his last seven matches. Excluding an anomalous three goal explosion in the defeat of Chelsea, the Hammers have scored only twice in their last five matches.

Manchester City, meanwhile, had no trouble scoring on Tuesday, obliterating Leeds by a score of 7-0. The open play philosophy of Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa was exposed to a painful degree in a humiliating defeat for the Whites. Kevin De Bruyne had a brace for the Citizens while five other players joined in the fun leading to a seventh consecutive league victory.

Liverpool stayed on Manchester City’s heels, just a point off the top spot, as the Reds dismissed Newcastle 3-1 at Anfield. Mohamed Salah scored his league leading 15th goal of the season as he tied Jamie Vardy with a league record 15th consecutive match with either a goal or assist.

Teammate Diogo Jota’s goal tied him with Jamie Vardy for second in league scoring, six goals behind the prolific Salah. Newcastle took an early lead in the match with Liverpool, unfortunately playing well to no result as the Magpies lost for a ninth time this season. Only Norwich and Watford have lost more often than Newcastle.

Chelsea lost ground to the table’s top two teams as the Blues were only able to capture a single point in a 1-1 draw with Everton. Chelsea has now conceded a goal in its last six matches across all competitions, dangerous given its deficiencies in goal production. Chelsea produced just the single goal on Thursday despite dominating 80% of the possession and launching 23 shots, 10 on target against a poor Everton side. Everton salvaged a point behind the strong goalkeeping of Jordan Pickford and a 74th minute set piece equalizer marked by poor Chelsea defense. Nineteen year old defender Jarrad Brainthwaite was left unmarked at the back post for a goal in just his second appearance for the Toffees. Chelsea now sits four points adrift of table leading Manchester City with growing defensive questions added to a baseline attacking problem.

Wolverhampton had failed to score in four consecutive matches before eking out a 1-0 win over Brighton Wednesday. Eighth place Wolves owe their success this season to a defense which has conceded fewer goals than all but the top three teams in the table. The Seagulls, meanwhile, failed to emerge victorious for an 11th consecutive match and have scored only one more goal than the toothless Wolves this season as both clubs have bested only cellar dwelling Norwich in finding the net.

Aston Villa won for the fourth time in six matches under Manager Steven Gerrard in a 2-0 defeat of Norwich. Ollie Watkins had a goal and assist for Villa which moved to 10th in the table with the win.

Crystal Palace salvaged a point when Jordan Ayew ended a personal 44 match goal drought to register the final tally in a seesaw 2-2 draw between the Eagles and Southampton a Selhurst Park. Palace had taken an early lead only to fall behind before the rare Ayew strike. Southampton have the dubious distinction of dropping a league leading sixteen points from a winning position this season. Southampton remained three points behind 11th place Crystal Palace, six points clear of relegation danger, with a third draw in its last four matches. 

Match Week 18 Preview

Coronavirus postponements currently leave Match Week 18 with just five of the originally scheduled matches proceeding. Manchester City could find more scoring delight when the Citizens travel to the northeast of England to face a porous Newcastle defense. Newcastle have conceded the joint highest number of goals in the league while Manchester City has scored more goals than any club but Liverpool.

Second place Liverpool is scheduled to visit London to face a Spurs side resuming its schedule after needing to postpone two league matches and a European contest due to the virus. The fitness and match readiness of Spurs is a question as they face the league’s highest scoring team. Liverpool have won six straight league matches as they chase Manchester City in the table.

Fewer goals can be expected when third place Chelsea visits Wolves. Despite some recent lapses, Chelsea has still conceded fewer goals than any league club but Manchester City. Wolves has conceded only two more goals than Chelsea in nursing an anemic attack to a current 8th place standing in the table.

Arsenal travel to reeling Leeds as the Gunners look to continue recent momentum which has seen them crack the top four despite the suspension of unreliable former captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Leeds will try to improve its sieve-like defense which conceded seven goals to Manchester City during the week.

The only blemishes for Aston Villa in six matches under Steven Gerrard have been one goal losses to the league’s top two clubs, Manchester City and Liverpool. The Villans host Burnley on Sunday with the Clarets anxious to seize an opportunity to claw out of the relegation zone. With a win in Brimingham, Burnley would move past idle Watford into the final safe place in the table. 

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