Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Match 5 Week Preview

The young Premier League season sees its first scheduled midweek fixtures with games Tuesday through Thursday. Crystal Palace welcomes Brentford to the Eagles’ Selhurst Park Tuesday.

Rumors early this week indicated Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha could be a target of Chelsea, particularly if the Blues are unable to procure Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Zaha was absent from the Manchester City clash due to a minor injury and remains a question versus Brentford.

Another London derby takes place on Wednesday when Spurs take on West Ham at the Hammers’ London Stadium. West Ham will hope to build on its initial win of the season over the weekend but faces a stiff challenge from third place Spurs and an in-form Harry Kane.

Arsenal will try to maintain its table leadership when the Gunners host struggling Aston Villa on Wednesday. Heat will build further on Villa Manager Steven Gerrard if his squad is outclassed by the streaking Gunners.

Liverpool will try to continue its momentum form the weekend when the Reds host a stubborn Newcastle side at Anfield.

Striker Darwin Nunez remains out on suspension but there was no shortage of attack options as Liverpool humiliated Bournemouth.

Bournemouth limps home to face Wolverhampton Wednesday. Only West Ham has scored fewer goals than Wolves this season, but Bournemouth has allowed a ridiculous 16 balls into its net after four matches. Scott Parker will not be on the touchline for Wednesday’s match after the Bournemouth manager was sacked on Tuesday. Parker’s team was pummeled by nine Liverpool goals and was on a three-match losing run though the schedule was not kind for a newly promoted club with the three losses coming against Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool. Parker likely sealed his fate with post-match remarks after the Liverpool debacle which intimated that the Cherries’ cause was hopeless without further investment by ownership. Parker will be an attractive candidate for jobs at the second level of English football after taking both Fulham and Bournemouth to the topflight in recent years.

Manchester City will be looking to leapfrog or at least stay on the heels of table leading Arsenal when the Citizens host Nottingham Forest Wednesday. The letdown by City in the first half versus Crystal Palace is unlikely to be repeated by Pepp Guardiola’s men against newly promoted Forest.

Fourth place Brighton heads to London Tuesday to face Fulham. Newly promoted Fulham has played well this season, but Brighton is a deeper club and tactically astute under Manager Graham Potter.

Chelsea, meanwhile, will head out of London for a south coast matchup with Southampton Tuesday. The sixth place Blues are a difficult club to gauge until the transfer window closes as new ownership led by Todd Boehly continues to pursue several targets as the window winds down towards its Thursday deadline.

Manchester United seeks a third straight win when the Red Devils visit struggling Leicester in the only Thursday game. Casemiro could play a bigger part for United after his debut as a substitute last weekend. The Red Devils continue to be active in the transfer window with Ajax winger Antony announced on Monday as the club most expensive signing since Paul Pogba. The outlay for Antony raises eyebrows as the Brazilian has yet to score as many as 10 goals in a league season for Ajax and former club Sao Paulo. Bottom of the table Leicester will be trying to avoid a fourth consecutive loss. Leicester Manager Brendan Rodgers could be nearing the end of his reign for the Foxes. A sacking, however, would be expensive for seemingly cash strapped Leicester. Rodgers may thus hit the door of his own accord should other sackings create an opening of interest for the former Liverpool and Celtic manager.

Leeds are home to relegation bound Everton Tuesday. The Whites are looking to register a third consecutive home win in the topflight for the first time since 1973-74 while Everton are off to their worst start in 12 topflight seasons. Leeds have surprised this season in generating the joint third highest point total in the league after four matches. Everton’s attack has been anemic at best with winger Anthony Gordon responsible for 11 of the club’s 23 shots on target to date. Striker Neal Maupay, acquired from Brighton, could be in line for his first appearance with the Toffees.

Match Week 4 Results: Arsenal Stay Perfect; Liverpool Smashes Cherries; Haaland Hat Trick Down Eagles; Sterling Performance for Chelsea; Brighton Defeats Leeds to Stay Top Four; Kane Double Lifts Spurs; Manchester United Slips By Saints; West Ham Exits Basement

Arsenal remained top of the table as the Gunners remained perfect after a 2-1 defeat of Fulham. After dominating its first three opponents, Arsenal was tested at the Emirates where they trailed against the Cottagers in the second half before securing the win with an 86th minute goal from defender Gabriel Magalhaes. The winner proved redemption for Gabriel who had gifted a goal to Fulham when Aleksandar Mitrovic dispossessed the Arsenal center back leading to the match’s opening goal. Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard knotted matters with his third goal of the season. Fulham provided a challenge for the Gunners but relied heavily on Mitrovic who now has four of Fulham’s six goals this season.

Manchester City also mounted a comeback on the weekend after falling behind by two goals in the first half against Crystal Palace. Erling Haaland scored his first Premier League hat trick to trigger the second half barrage of goals by the Citizens.

Crystal Palace, playing without star Wilfried Zaha, were denied a third first half goal which could have changed  the outcome but were called for interference with Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson.

Raheem Sterling posted his first Premier League goals in a Chelsea shirt as the former Manchester City star had a brace in a 2-1 defeat of Leicester. Chelsea played more than an hour with just 10 men after Conor Gallagher received his second yellow card for Chelsea after just 28 minutes. Both Sterling goals occurred after Gallagher’s banishment as Chelsea were able to dominate proceedings despite their manning deficit. A goal by Leicester’s Harvey Barnes reduced Chelsea’s margin to a single goal but the Foxes fell for a third straight league match in their winless season. Young defender Wesley Fofana sat out the match amid hopes for a transfer this week to Chelsea.

Harry Kane scored twice to bring his goal tally to four from his last three league matches as Spurs won 2-0 at Nottingham Forest to remain undefeated and third in the Premier League table. Kane’s 81st minute second goal sealed the win against a Forest club which will only get better as their many transfer players acclimate to the club. Goalkeeper Dean Hendersen impressed in a second half where he came under fire while teammates pressed for a tying score before Kane finalized matters. Nottingham Forest managed 17 shots in the match, only one less than Spurs, but unfortunately were able to put only one shot on target.

Brighton rounds out the top four in the league table behind Arsenal, Manchester City and Spurs. The Seagulls nipped Leeds 1-0 on Pascal Gross’s third goal of the season. The victory extended Brighton’s unbeaten run in the league to nine consecutive matches, a club topflight record. Leeds went down to defeat for the first time this season.

Liverpool tasted victory for the first time this season as the Reds demolished Bournemouth by a 9-0 final. Luis Diaz and Bobby Firmino had braces but ironically Mohamed Salah was scoreless against Bournemouth for the first time in his career. Bournemouth look in deep trouble and have invested little to try to maintain their top-level status.

Manchester United, left for dead just two weeks ago, climbed to eighth in the table after a second straight win. Bruno Fernandes delivered the winner in a 1-0 defeat of Southampton.

The Red Devils ground out the victory with their revitalized defense. Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane again teamed well at center back as Harry Maguire was a non-participant for a second consecutive week. Former Real Madrid defensive midfielder Casemiro made his debut for Manchester United in the 80th minute. An exceedingly young Southampton club acquitted itself well in defeat and were warmly applauded by supporters at match end.

Aston Villa supporters, meanwhile, showered their players and especially Manger Steven Gerrard with catcalls after a 1-0 home defeat to previously pointless and goalless West Ham. The Hammers captured their first result of the season when Pablo Fornals scored in the 74th minute. Despite some flashes from Philipe Coutinho in the first half, Villa’s other attacking players failed to create opportunities and criticism is mounting of Manager Gerrards’s narrow formational setup. Coutinho left the match injured and his absence could prove lethal for Gerrard as the Villans enter a difficult part of their schedule. West Ham was buoyed by both its first win of the season but also an indication from Manager David Moyes that Brazilian midfielder Lucas Paqueta from Lyon was close to joining the Hammers from Lyon. The club later confirmed the signing of the Brazilian international on Monday. Paqueta is a coup for the Hammers as Arsenal and Tottenham were also reported to be in hot pursuit of the starter for the Brazilian national team. Sunday’s win moved previously basement bound West Ham out of the relegation zone and up to 16th place in the table.

The relegation zone still claims Everton as an occupant despite the Toffees picking up a point on Saturday at Brentford. Everton got a first half goal from Anthony Gordon and held on against the swarming Bees attack until Vitaly Janelt equalized in the 84th minute. Brentford holds onto 10th in the table despite the dropped home points. Everton faces more difficult times, particularly if a rumored transfer of Gordon to Chelsea comes to fruition.

Wolverhampton share the relegation zone with Everton and Leicester after a 1-1 draw with Newcastle on Sunday. Wolves held a lead for 52 regulation minutes after a goal by Ruben Neves. Manager Bruno Lage’s men were then victimized by a tying goal from the Magpies’ Allan Saint-Maximin goal in the 90th minute.

Unbeaten Newcastle, seventh in the table, drew for a third consecutive match. Saint-Maximin’s first goal of the season ensured Newcastle remained undefeated after four matches for the first time in a decade. 


Friday, August 26, 2022

Week 4 Preview: Red Devils Look To Remain Hot Versus Saints; Manchester City Prepares For Eagles’ Landing; Table Leading Gunners and Undefeated Cottagers In London Derby; Newcastle Visits Tame Wolves; Top Six Clash When Brighton Hosts Leeds; Villa and West Ham Look To Turn Season

Manchester United fans set their eyes on the south coast as they look to determine whether last week’s trouncing of Liverpool by the Red Devils was a mirage. Manchester United looked organized, energetic and aggressive as Eric ten Hag made some key lineup changes to facilitate his desired style of play. Yet just as Manchester United is far too talented to have been so outclassed in its first two matches, it’s unlikely the club has turned on a dime and is now ready to be a force at the top end of the table. The answer is likely somewhere in between, and Saturday’s match versus Southampton may give some hint.

Southampton encouraged their own supporters by beating Leicester last week while fielding the youngest starting lineup by a Premier League club in five years. Newcastle was another club making a statement last week when the Magpies took a point from Manchester City.

Newcastle showed further ambition this week with the signing of Real Sociedad and Swedish international forward Alexander Isak. This week the Magpies travel to Wolverhampton as Wolves try to put an end to their ten-match league winless streak dating to last season. The anemic attack of Wolves has not scored a goal since the sixth minute of this season’s opening match.

Manchester City is home to a Crystal Palace side which looked dangerous in a 3-1 whipping of Aston Villa last week. The Eagles have held the Citizens without a goal over the last two meetings between the clubs which included a 2-0 win for Crystal Palace at the Etihad last October. Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola will not let his club take the Eagles lightly given that history and the dropped points by the Citizens versus Newcastle last week.

Liverpool continues its search for a maiden win this season when the Reds return to Anfield to face Bournemouth. Mohamed Salah’s performances have been fruitful versus the Cherries in the past. The Liverpool star has scored in each of the six Premier League matches he has played against Bournemouth, putting eight goals in total past the Cherries.

Two undefeated sides face off in a London derby as Fulham visits league leading Arsenal this weekend. Fulham registered its first win of the season last week after taking a point in each if its first two matches. Striker Aleksandar Mitrovic has three goals this season for the Cottagers. Arsenal have been the class of the league to date, winning all three of their matches while accumulating the best goal differential in the league. Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard each have scored two goals for the vibrant Gunners attack.

Chelsea, meanwhile, have three goals in total and none by a forward or midfield player but for a lone Jorginho penalty kick. The Blues are at Stamford Bridge on Saturday to face struggling Leicester. Leicester center back Wesley Fofana has been training separately from his teammates amid speculation that he’s headed to Chelsea in a transfer deal. Reports have circulated that Chelsea has already made three failed bids and plans a fourth attempt to secure the young defender. Leicester has a history of driving tough bargains as it fleeced Manchester United for the highest fee ever paid for a defender when the Foxes sold the contract of Harry Maguire some years back. Fofana is said to be anxious to move on from what appears a deteriorating situation at winless Leicester.

Two clubs that have surprised to the good so far are Brighton and Leeds who meet at the the Seagulls Amex Stadium on Saturday. Both Leeds and Brighton are undefeated after winning two of their opening three matches. Leeds has the league’s leading scorer in Rodrigo who has four goals for the club and the Whites have incorporated Red and Blue into their personality under American Manager Jesse Marsch and US Men’s team players Brendan Aaronson and Tyler Adams.

Brighton has shrugged off the loss of players such as Yves Bissouma and Marc Cucurella to burst from the gate this season under Manager Graham Potter.

Struggling clubs collide at Aston Villa Sunday when West Ham comes to town. Villa was able to defeat a bad Everton side but has lost by two goals to both Bournemouth and Crystal Palace as pressure mounts on Manager Steven Gerrard. West Ham occupies the table basement with no goals or points after three matches as the Hammers have hit a wall this season after two impressive seasons of European qualification. The club has added to its attack with transfers Gianluca Scamacca and Maxwel Cornet, but Manager David Moyes is only slowly integrating them into his plans.

Spurs try to maintain their top four position when Manager Antonio Conte takes his squad to Nottingham Forest. Harry Kane accounted for the tying and winning goal in their past two matches which were tougher battles than a season opening laugher over Southampton. Manager Antonio Conte hasn’t yet allotted substantial minutes to his transfer purchases, a situation likely to change as cup competitions ramp up. Nottingham Forest continues to be active in the transfer window. Striker Emmanuel Dennis and midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White were the latest acquisitions to debut for the team in the last week.

Brentford is reportedly receiving inquiries from several Premier League clubs regarding striker Ivan Toney. One of those clubs, along with far wealthier Manchester United and Chelsea, is Everton who will be visiting the Bees on Saturday. Everton are desperate for a striker solution to address a lack of threat due to the perpetual injury absence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and the move of Richarlison to Spurs this window. Whether the Toffees could mount a winning bid for Toney versus more deep pocketed rivals is questionable. Losing Toney would be a difficult blow for the Bees after Christian Eriksen’s departure earlier in the window.

Premier League in Europe: Champions League Draw

The groups are set for Champions League group stage play which will commence September 6th. Thursday’s draw presented different storylines for the four Premier League clubs involved in the competition. Manchester City striker Erling Haaland will be facing his former club, Borussia Dortmund, though both clubs should survive a group which includes Sevilla and FC Copenhagen. Sevilla is expected to be weakened from recent seasons but could pose an outside threat. As with Manchester City, Liverpool should be the class of its group but will face tougher competition than the Citizens. Napoli and Ajax could both pose danger while scrappy Scottish side, Rangers, will be participating in the group stage for the first time in twelve years. Multiple title winners Chelsea and AC Milan will face each other in Europe’s top club competition for the first time since 1999 as Milan's 40-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovich could be making his final Champions League appearances. Joining Chelsea and the defending Italian titlists in group play will be FC Salzburg, making a fourth consecutive group stage appearance, and Dinamo Zagreb.

Tottenham Hotspur should have the easiest draw on paper as Manager Antonio Conte’s side have drawn Eintracht Frankfurt, Sporting Lisbon, and Marseilles. Conte, however, has a poor record in the competition, winning just 12 of the 54 Champions League group stage matches his clubs have participated in. This will be Conte’s first foray with Spurs in Champions League after previously helming Chelsea, Juventus and Inter Milan in the competition.

The British clubs managed to avoid this year’s “Group of Death” which will includes European giants Bayern Munich, Barcelona, and Inter Milan with tiny Viktoria Plzen helping to pad the records of the other three. A major storyline in this heavyweight group will be Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowski facing the club he long starred for in Bayern Munich.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Week 3 Results: New Look Manchester United Shocks Liverpool; Arsenal Tops The Table; Manchester City Salvages Point; Leeds Embarrasses Chelsea; Spurs Nick Wolves; Undefeated Fulham Stings Bees; Hammers Fall Into Basement; Zaha and Adams Notch Braces

Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Maguire took a seat as Manchester United Manger Eric ten Hag sent a message regarding his expectations. The team icon and its captain looked on as a pacier and more aggressive United club swept by Liverpool in a 2-1 victory at Old Trafford. Changes were needed after two poor performances and ten Hag made the tough decisions. The attack was much more fluid without Ronaldo as the primary focus and the speed of Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho presented problems for Liverpool’s defense. Sancho’s first half goal was his first since March and provided a seldom seen glimpse of the promise hoped for when he was expensively acquired from Borussia Dortmund. Sancho flashed more than just pace in a composed turn to find the space to launch his opening strike. Rashford scored what proved the winner early in the second half on a through ball from Anthony Martial.

The connection between the two forwards was reminiscent of what former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had envisioned from his forward line some years ago. Manchester United’s defense was equally impressive despite a late Mohamed Salah goal which halved the margin and created some understandable anxiety for the Old Trafford faithful. Raphael Varane partnered well with a hard-working Lisandro Martinez at center back while Harry Maguire observed from the bench. Left back Tyrell Malacia, newly signed from Feyenoord this window, impressed in his first start for the Red Devils. The Netherlands international largely contained Salah despite the Egyptian’s late header from inside the box. Salah had scored eight goals in his last four appearances versus Manchester United but had difficulty with the physical play of Malacia and fellow new signing Martinez. The oft injured Varane, meanwhile, provided an experienced and composed presence on the backline. Only time will tell whether Monday was a turning point for Manchester United Manager ten Hag who now welcomes Real Madrid defensive midfielder Casemiro to the fold.

Liverpool remained winless on the season and are already seven points behind league leading Arsenal. A puzzling lineup decision made by Liverpool Manager Jurgen Klopp on Monday was the omission of defensive midfielder Fabinho who might have provided some protection for an underperforming and injury riddled Liverpool defense. Virgil van Dijk delivered an aloof performance which was particularly evident when he failed to close down Sancho on the game’s first scoring action. Ancient midfielder James Milner was visibly troubled by van Dijk’s lethargic manner and could be seen scolding his captain. Joe Gomez was playing alongside van Dijk due to injuries and failed to make a case to move past the injured Ibrahima Konate and Joel Matip in Klopp’s pecking order.

Table leading Arsenal remained undefeated after three matches with a 3-0 win at Bournemouth. Martin Odegaard scored two goals before 12 minutes had passed in the match as the dynamic Arsenal attack overwhelmed their newly promoted opponent.

Gabriel Jesus continues to be the engine of the Gunner attack with the former Manchester City man slicing past Bournemouth defenders in the buildup to what become Odegaard’s first goal. Jesus was later denied his own score when VAR overturned a pretty goal set up by an Odegaard pass. William Saliba struck in the second half for Arsenal’s third goal and the 21-year-old defender’s first Premier League goal. Bournemouth was a heavy underdog entering the match, but a lack of fight raises concern on how competitive the Cherries can be this campaign for Manager Scott Parker.

Arsenal moved to the top of the table with their victory as Manchester City dropped its first points of the season in a 3-3 draw at Newcastle. The defending champions found themselves behind by two goals before Erling Haaland triggered a second half comeback with his third goal of the season. City had opened the match with an Ilkay Gundogan goal after 5 minutes but quickly relinquished control of the game as Newcastle surged ahead on scores by Miguel Almiron, Callum Wilson and Kieran Trippier. Following Haaland’s tally, Bernardo Silva scored the match’s final goal to salvage a point for the Citizens. Newcastle fans will have mixed thoughts on the contest as the Magpies  went toe to toe with the far more talented Citizens yet let a two-goal margin slip away.

Leeds United (States of America) trails only Arsenal and Manchester City in the table after a dominant 3-0 home win over Chelsea at Elland Road. Brendan Aaronson pickpocketed Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to tap in the match’s first goal which was followed less than five minutes later by a Rodrigo header assisted by Jack Harrison. Rodrigo would return the favor when he assisted on Harrison’s goal at the 69-minute mark which put the game out of reach. Insult was added to injury when Chelsea went down to 10 men when Kalidou Koulibaly received his second yellow card in the 84th minute. Raheem Sterling missed a clear chance for Chelsea in the opening minutes which might have changed the complexion of the match, but his wide shot was all too typical of the inaccuracy of Chelsea’s strike force. The club is rumored to be chasing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as their next forward experiment after multiple past failures on the transfer market. Aaronson’s opening goal for Leeds was the first time an American player has scored a goal while playing for an American manager. Leeds Manger Jesse Marsch also had reason to be proud of the performance of fellow American Tyler Adams who frustrated Chelsea from his position as defensive midfielder. Christian Pulisic, meanwhile, made another late match appearance for Chelsea which produced little. The US international continues to be the subject of speculation that his Chelsea career may be nearing an end.

Tottenham Hotspur are level with Leeds in the table after a 1-0 defeat of Wolves. Harry Kane continued his unusually strong early season form with his 250th career goal for the north London club. Kane had provided a dramatic equalizer versus Chelsea the week before in an opening month where he has historically struggled. Wolverhampton, meanwhile, failed to win for a tenth consecutive league match dating to last season. Wolves continues to be toothless in attack, scoring just once in its three matches to date.

Brighton and Hove Albion are yet another of four clubs clustered behind Arsenal with seven points after the Seagulls dispatched West Ham by a 2-0 margin on Sunday. Alexis Mac Allister opened scoring in the first half with a successful penalty kick after Danny Welbeck was taken down in the box by a Hammer defender. Leandro Trossard’s 66th minute goal closed out the scoring for the Seagulls’ second win of the young season. Brighton is now unbeaten in eight league matches dating to last season. West Ham, meanwhile, has lost all three of their outings this season and is yet to score a goal this campaign. Hammer Striker Michail Antonio had little influence on the outcome versus Brighton with the fewest touches of any player involved in Sunday’s match, including the two goalkeepers. The Hammers currently reside at the bottom of the table as the only Premier League club not to have captured a point this season.

Undefeated Fulham registered its first win of the season when Aleksandar Mitrovic scored in the 90th minute to defeat Brentford 3-2. The Bees’ Ivan Toney had knotted matters at two goals apiece in the 71st minute before Mitrovic’s dramatic game deciding header delivered Fulham’s first win of the season after two opening draws.

The loss by Brentford to the newly promoted Cottagers was surprising for a club which manhandled Manchester United the week before. Fulham, meanwhile, seems intent on demonstrating it is much improved from previous failed attempts to capitalize on promotion and survive at the top level. Mitrovic will be key to answering whether that is so.

Crystal Palace also won for a first time this season when the Eagles defeated Aston Villa 3-1. Wilfried Zaha had a pair of goals and substitute striker Jean-Philippe Mateta registered his first goal of the season as the Eagles overcame an early Ollie Watkins goal for the Villans. Zaha has scored more Premier League goals this calendar year than all but Spurs stars Harry Kane and Son Heung-min and the Ivorian is tied for the fifth highest league total since the start of the 2020/21 season. Aston Villa has lost two of its three matches, with the only victory coming over a poor Everton side, as pressure mounts on Steven Gerrard to get more out of an expensively constructed roster.

Che Adams scored twice to give Southampton a 2-1 road victory over struggling Leicester. The Saints overcame an early goal by Leicester’s James Maddison to capture the victory while the Foxes’ Wesley Fofana sat in the King Power Stands. The young center back is the focus of transfer activity involving Chelsea and was deemed by his manager to not be in the right mindset to stop the Saints march. Leicester managed just one shot on target as Manager Brendan Rodgers’ sinking ship rests only above West Ham in the relegation zone.

Everton earned its first point of the season when Demarai Gray scored in the 88th minute of a 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest. Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford provided the through ball on Gray’s equalizer. Despite the late disappointment, Nottingham Forest has four points in three matches as the club returns to the Premier League after a 23-year absence.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Week 3 Preview: High Stakes At Old Trafford; Gunners Target Third Straight Win; Hammers Look To Make A Point; Undefeated Fulham and Brentford in London Derby

Manchester United and Liverpool both enter the weekend under pressure. Manchester United limps back to Old Trafford to face their historic rival smarting from two embarrassing performances in their first two matches. Another bad loss could threaten the job security of Manager Eric ten Hag who has failed to make a positive first impression as the clubs sinks further into chaos and dysfunction. Liverpool, fearing Manchester City will pull too far ahead in the title race, cannot afford to drop points for a third consecutive week and will look to ramp up the pressure on the Red Devils. Darwin Nunez is out for the Reds due to his red card against Crystal Palace Monday, but Luis Diaz is in form after a wonder goal to salvage the point versus the Eagles. Signs of life from Mohamed Salah would also help the Reds’ cause. Ronaldo would still seem the only viable attack option for Manchester United but of course he wants to leave, an option that the club now seems amenable to if a buyer can be found.

The Manchester City title train travels to Newcastle after outscoring opponents by an aggregate 6-0 margin in the Citizens’ first two victories. Manager Eddie Howe’s Newcastle will try to absorb pressure and look to counterpunch in front of their home fans. The Magpies, still undefeated after two matches, could use reinforcement in attack before this window closes.

Arsenal hopes to keep firing after two impressive victories when the Gunners visit promoted Bournemouth. Manager Mikel Arteta’s attack is much improved with acquired striker Gabriel Jesus and fellow Brazilian Gabriel Martinelli leading the charge. Bournemouth surprised Aston Villa opening week before being demolished by Manchester City.

West Ham will seek its first points of the season when the Hammers host Brighton at London Stadium. Manager David Moyes has moved to add attack options in transfer additions Maxwel Cornet and Gianluca Scamacca, but now finds himself dangerously thin at center back. Kurt Zouma was the only healthy center back last weekend, forcing fullback Ben Johnson to the center of the back four where he was culpable for Nottingham Forest’s winning goal. Brighton has racked up four points this season despite having sold off several players and doing little to ignite a lethargic attack. Manager Graham Potter continues to work seeming magic with his low budget Seagulls.

Leeds squandered points in surrendering a two-goal lead to Southampton last week and now sees a step up in competition when Chelsea visits Elland Road. Chelsea Manager Thomas Tuchel is likely sidelined due to the red card received for his interaction with Antonio Conte. Chelsea will also have a hole in its midfield this week, and likely many more to come, as Ngolo Kante is out for an extended time with a hamstring injury suffered against Spurs. Despite dropping points at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea looked improved after an ugly opening win over struggling Everton. The Blues, however, have not gotten a goal yet in open play from any forward or midfield player. Leeds will be closely monitoring the fitness of oft-injured striker Patrick Bamford who had to be removed due to a muscle strain in the Whites’ draw last week with Wolves.

Tottenham Hotspur Manager Antonio Conte faces a one match suspension which could idle him for Spurs’ match with Wolverhampton on Saturday. Wolves Manager Bruno Lage could soon come under pressure as the club can play pretty football at times but remains toothless in attack. The multiple attacking options of Spurs is a marked contrast to their opponents. Antonio Conte switched up his formation for the second half versus Chelsea to accommodate Richarlison’s insertion into the fray and the former Everton player could be in line for a start this week. Fellow transfers Ivan Perisic and Yves Bissouma were also second half substitutes in the draw versus Chelsea.

Leicester hopes for a better performance from its defense this weekend when the Foxes host Southampton. Manager Brendan Rodgers’ side fumbled a two-goal lead in an opening draw with Brentford before conceding four goals to Arsenal last week. Only their Saturday opponent, Southampton, and wretched Manchester United have given up as many goals in the young season as Leicester. Southampton showed a spark of life in coming back from a two-goal deficit to draw with Leeds in their last match and relieve pressure on embattled Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl. Both Rodgers and Hasenhuttl, however, could do well with three points this weekend.

An interesting London derby will be played at Craven Cottage Saturday when Fulham host Brentford. Neither club has tasted defeat yet this season. Fulham should have had three points last week but for a missed penalty kick by striker Aleksandar Mitrovic. Brentford come off an annihilation of Manchester United and the Bees should be buzzing after their big victory. Fulham needs a bounce back game from Mitrovic in front of the home fans.

One week after defeating Frank Lampard and Everton, Aston Villa Manager Steven Gerrard faces another former playing legend on the opposite touchline when the Villans travel to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace and Manager Patrick Vieira. Vieira’s Eagles executed his defensive blueprint to perfection in grabbing a point at Anfield and will likely pivot to a more aggressive attack mode at home. Villa’s Emi Buendia gives Manager Gerrard an awkward selection decision after the winger scored and was overall far more effective than the substituted Philippe Coutinho last week.

Everton is home to Nottingham Forest hoping for inspiration from the Goodison faithful. Goals have been scarce for the Toffees after Richarlison left for Spurs and Dominic Calvert-Lewin continues to be perpetually injured. Nottingham Forest, meanwhile, have demonstrated serious intent in the current transfer window as they are approaching 20 new signings to help ensure their survival in the top division. While the mass acquisition strategy is not always successful, Forest already began reaping benefits from new signings in their win over West Ham.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Week 2 Results: Tempers Flare at Stamford Bridge; Arsenal Outguns Leicester; Liverpool Loses More Ground; Red Devils Go Up In Flames; Historic Win for Nottingham Forest

The much-anticipated derby at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur delivered all that was expected and more as Spurs came back twice in a 2-2 draw that saw both managers flagged with red cards at game’s end. Chelsea took a first half lead on a frozen rope strike by Kalidou Koulibaly from a corner by fellow defender and Chelsea newcomer Marc Cucurella. Almost 50 minutes of regulation time would pass before Spurs drew even on a goal from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and the tense tone of the match reached a new level. Tuchel was angered by an uncalled foul he believed occurred in the buildup to the Spurs goal. Conte’s energetic celebration of the goal then unfortunately bought him into the path of the unhappy Tuchel for a brief face to face before the managers were separated by the fourth official. Chelsea would break the tie less than ten minutes later with perhaps the best stretch of play from either team on the day. Koulibaly triggered the attack with his pass to Ngolo Kante who passed to Raheem Sterling who found Reece James for the score. James’s goal so excited Tuchel that he sprinted down the touchline in a manner reminiscent of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea tenure and in a manner that was sure to have further irritated former Chelsea manager Conte. Chelsea looked to have secured the three points, but Spurs were not done. Harry Kane dramatically headed in an equalizer more than five minutes into stoppage time to salvage the away point for Spurs and wind up Tuchel once again. The Chelsea manger objected to yet another perceived oversight by the referee when Cucurella’s hair was pulled by a Spurs player before the fateful corner. The handshake between the managers escalated into their second angry confrontation of the day with Tuchel refusing to release Conte’s hand.

Red cards were assessed as Kane’s dramatic goal was almost overshadowed by the touchline drama that unfolded between the two ambitious and prideful mangers. Kane’s goal tied him for the fourth highest career total in Premier League history with Sergio Aguero.

Another London club is also trying to crash the top four party. Arsenal’s Gabriel Jesus celebrated his home debut at the Emirates with two goals and two assists as a newly dangerous Arsenal attack was too much for Leicester in a 4-2 Gunner victory. Manager Mikel Arteta’s squad displayed grittiness in quickly responding each time Leicester tried to make a comeback. After taking a 2-0 lead on the pair of goals by Jesus, the Gunners restored their margin within two minutes of each of Leicester’s ensuing two goals. Granit Xhaka and Gabriel Martinelli had the second half goals which snuffed out Leicester’s comeback efforts.

Leicester center back Wesley Fofana had a poor game for the Foxes which could cause Chelsea supporters to think twice regarding his rumored transfer to Stamford Bridge.

Crystal Palace lined up against Liverpool with five men in the back, four midfielders lined up tightly in front of the defenders, and only Wilfried Zaha in a forward position. Manager Patrick Vieira’s master plan worked as his Eagles left Anfield with a point after a 1-1 draw. Zaha had Crystal Palace ahead at halftime after his goal on a lightning counterattack was triggered by a finely threaded pass from Eberech Eze which undid the Liverpool defense. Darwin Nunez then incurred a red card in the 57th minute to put the Reds down to 10 men. Luis Diaz gave Liverpool hope with a less than five minutes later, but the Eagles were able to hold on and leave with the point. Liverpool falls four points behind Manchester City and will be without their high-priced striker for a string of games after Nunez’s ill-advised head butt to the face of Crystal Palace defender Joachim Andersen. Crystal Palace Manager Patrick Vieira, meanwhile, burnishes his managerial reputation with his tactical master class.

Manchester United embarrassed themselves again in a 4-0 loss at Brentford. Manager Eric ten Hag became the first Manchester United manager to lose his first two matches in 101 years as his club conceded all four goals in an abysmal first half. Mistakes by goalkeeper David De Gea accounted for the first two goals by the Bees while newly acquired center back Lisandro Martinez was outmuscled on a header by Brentford’s Ben Mee for the third goal. Martinez, Luke Shaw and Fred would all be yanked by their manager at halftime. Bryan Mbeumo’s strike at the 35-minute mark provided the fourth goal in an impressive home win for the Bees who remain undefeated for the season.

Manchester United, meanwhile, are left searching for elusive answers to questions regarding their lack of tactical nous, seeming absence of desire by the players, and a front office which has fared poorly this transfer window in the face of crying need.

No such problems exist across town at Manchester City. The Citizens have yet to concede a goal this season after a 4-0 demolition of newly promoted Bournemouth. Erling Haaland was held without a goal but assisted on the opening score as Ilkay Gundogan, Keven De Bruyne and Phil Foden found the net in the first half against a tightly packed Bournemouth defense. A second half own goal by the Cherries’ Jefferson Lerma completed scoring in the one-sided contest. Bournemouth managed just a single shot on target as they stubbornly and futilely parked the bus for the entire match.

Nottingham Forest began to reap the benefits of an active transfer window as new signing Taiwo Awoniyi delivered the winning goal in a 1-0 victory over West Ham.

The starting line-up for Forest featured eight new signings as Forest notched their first Premier League victory in this century. The Hammers, meanwhile, will rue their missed opportunities at the City Ground venue. West Ham had a goal called back because of a Michail Antonio foul, rattled the crossbar on two other occasions and missed a penalty kick by Declan Rice. Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Dean Hendersen, on loan from Manchester United, made the stop on Rice and was man of the match for Manager Steve Cooper’s promoted side. West Ham lost a second consecutive match as they continue to search for their first goal of the season.

Southampton showed unexpected fight in coming back from a two-goal deficit to earn a point in a 2-2 draw with Leeds. Saints Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has been the subject of sack speculation which seemed likely to continue after his club fell two goals behind at the 60-minute mark. Southampton responded, however, after the manager made some key substitutions. Newly signed Joe Aribo came off the bench to notch the first goal before Kyle Walker-Pieters scored the equalizer on an assist from 20-year-old Sekou Mara, a second half substitute and another summer transfer signing. Leeds will rue the dropped points after two goals by Rodrigo early in the second half had put the Whites in a commanding position.

Steven Gerrard won his managerial duel with Frank Lampard as Aston Villa defeated Everton 2-1 at Villa Park. Ollie Watkins assisted goals by Eric Buendia and Danny Ings for Gerrard’s side while a late own goal by Aston Villa’s Lucas Digne gifted his former club for their score. Everton has yet to score a goal on its own this season and has few options in attack.

Brighton dominated proceedings, but Newcastle held on to earn a point in a goalless draw at Amex Stadium. Newcastle goalkeeper Nick Pope kept the Seagulls at bay while Brighton’s leading scorer for the last three seasons, striker Neal Maupay, was left out of the squad pending a rumored transfer move. Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic missed a second half penalty as the Cottagers settled for a goalless draw at Wolverhampton.

Fulham has now notched a point in each of its first two matches upon returning to the Premier League. Wolves have not won in nine Premier League matches dating to last season and could be drawn into the relegation fight alongside their Saturday opponent.  

Friday, August 12, 2022

Week 2 Preview: London Derby Between Top Four Hopefuls Headlines The Slate

Tottenham Hotspur will look to make an early statement when they visit Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Manager Antonio Conte and his charges have their eyes set not just on another top four finish but scraping closer to the dynamic duo of Manchester City and Liverpool. To do so will mean leapfrogging a Chelsea squad which finished third last season but is undergoing significant change. Spurs were good and Chelsea were barely adequate in their opening matches last week. The north London squad made easy work of Southampton in Week 1 even though Conte hasn’t yet unleashed transfers such as Yves Bissouma, Richarlison and Ivan Perisic and top scorers Harry Kane and Son Heung-min are yet to score their first goals of the campaign. Conte will want to keep building momentum with a win at his former club. Chelsea did just enough to put down a poor Everton side last week and continues to look for attacking answers. The disappointing London run of Timo Werner ended this week with Werner’s transfer to his former club, RB Leipzig. Tuchel’s other German forward, Kai Havertz, has been nearly as much of a disappointment and must quickly learn to work with the Premier League proven Raheem Sterling to generate and convert some opportunities for the Blues.

Arsenal also aims to crack the top four and the Gunners are home to Leicester this weekend. Arsenal improved during this transfer window and looked good in an opening win at Crystal Palace. The Foxes, meanwhile, have supporters worried after a poor offseason and a “come from ahead” draw with Brentford last weekend.

Joint title favorites Manchester City and Liverpool shouldn’t be overly troubled in Week 2. The reigning champion Citizens host newly promoted Bournemouth. While the Cherries triumphed over an underperforming Aston Villa side in their opener, Erling Haaland and friends will pose a far more imposing challenge Saturday at the Etihad.

Liverpool is home Monday to face a Crystal Palace club which will be challenged to mount a threat against the Reds. Liverpool will be motivated after dropping points on opening weekend and have won their last five home meetings against Crystal Palace. The Eagles continue their never-ending search for a goal scorer other than winger Wilfried Zaha.

Manchester United supporters approach the weekend with trepidation as a loss at Brentford would provide yet more validation of the trouble they are in.

The club ended its pursuit of 33-year-old striker Marko Arnautovic this weekend in the face of fan backlash. Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot’s agent mother is demanding premium wages for her son to make a deal with the Devils and a Frenkie de Jong transfer remained in limbo as of Friday morning. Ronaldo still presumably wants out of Manchester and Marcus Rashford is now rumored for possible PSG interest. On the pitch, Christian Eriksen returns to Brentford to face the club he helped to stay up last season. Eriksen began last week in a false nine role where he struggled. The Dane was far more effective when moved to a deeper position where he was able to have more influence on the match. Ronaldo presumably will start at striker as other options are either injured or unappealing.

Brighton and Newcastle both impressed in opening victories and their well-regarded English managers, Graham Potter and Eddie Howe, will engage in a chess match when the sides meet at Brighton’s Amex Stadium.

West Ham will want points after an unsurprising loss to Manchester City last weekend. The Hammers travel to Nottingham Forest this weekend where they will renew acquaintance with Jesse Lingard, the player who performed well for the Hammers on loan two seasons ago. Maxwel Cornet adds options for West Ham Manager David Moyes as the versatile winger should make his debut for the Hammers after his transfer was finalized last week from Burnley. Nottingham Forest have now added fourteen players in the transfer window and question is growing as to whether so much disruption will be justified by the talent which was acquired mostly in inexpensive deals. Lingard, the most interesting of the acquisitions, was a free transfer.

Leeds and Manager Jesse Marsch have a solid chance for back-to-back victories when they visit Southampton this weekend. The Saints looked poor in losing by three goals to Tottenham Hotspur as Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl is gaining ground in the sack race. Leeds emerged with a hard-fought victory over Wolves in Week 1 as American forward Brendan Aaronson impressed supporters at Elland Road in his Premier League debut.

Wolverhampton are home this week to Fulham. Wolves Manager Bruno Lage added yet another Portuguese player to the side with the acquisition of winger Goncalo Guedes. Acquired form Valencia, Guedes is versatile in attack and could help offset the lost production of injured striker Raul Jimenez. Wolves also said goodbye this week to club veteran Conor Coady as the defender signed for Everton. Fulham surprised Liverpool last week when two goals from Aleksandar Mitrovic earned a point for the Cottagers at Craven Cottage. A strange report this week has Fulham close to signing former Premier Leaguer Willian. The Brazilian had a successful seven year run at Chelsea but has flopped miserably in recent stints with Arsenal and Corinthians. Everton travel to Aston Villa this weekend as two former stars on the pitch, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, try to find their footing as Premier League managers. The early results for both are not good. Gerrard, particularly, is being criticized for not getting the best out of a relatively talented roster. Lampard has far less to work with at Everton.


Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Week 1 Results: Liverpool Drops Points; Haaland Flies Out of Gate; Spurs Impress; Manchester United A Mess

Liverpool were the victims of the biggest surprise result on opening weekend as the Reds were held to a 2-2 draw with Fulham. Fulham twice took the lead on goals by striker Aleksandar Mitrovic. Liverpool responded with goals from Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah. Nunez assisted Salah’s goal in a productive Premier League debut. Liverpool’s defensive stars failed them against the newly promoted side. Trent Alexander-Arnold was far too passive on Mitrovic’s opening header at the far post. Virgil van Dijk was later guilty of committing a penalty on Mitrovic, leading to the Serbian’s second goal from the ensuing kick. Liverpool immediately falls two points behind Manchester City which defeated West Ham 2-0. There are still 111 points available to be won this season, but Liverpool supporters can be excused for remembering that only a single point deprived them of the league title last season.

The titlists from last season received a fittingly sensational debut from their pricey offseason acquisition. Erling Haaland scored a brace and was critical of being substituted as he desired and expected to score a hat trick in his Premier League debut. Manchester City will only become more formidable as teammates become accustomed to Haaland’s play and vice versa.

Tottenham Hotspur put down a marker that it may be more than a two-team race as Antonio Conte’s club overwhelmed Southampton in a 4-1 victory in London. Spurs dominated the match despite none of their offseason transfers seeing action and neither Kane nor Son scoring.

Chelsea eked out an ugly win over Everton as a penalty kick by Jorginho delivered the only scoring in a drudge match at Goodison Park. The worries for Everton Manager Frank Lampard became even greater with a fractured leg suffered by center back Ben Godfrey. Chelsea Manager Thomas Tuchel will gladly accept the three points but saw his questionable attack sputter once again against one of the league’s worst teams.

Manchester United delivered a predictably mediocre performance in falling to Brighton 2-1 at Old Trafford. It has been a poor transfer window to date for the Red Devils who badly need more talent infusion to recover from last season’s worst ever Premier League finish. It’s far too early to draw anything from Eric ten Hag’s performance though Graham Potter’s Seagulls were the far more fluid and efficient club. Signs of desperation emerged with Manchester United reportedly bottom fishing for transfer targets such as Adrien Rabiot and Marko Arnautovic. Both players have discipline issues in their past which would present further potential trouble for an already toxic locker room.

Arsenal looks to have smoothy incorporated talent upgrades into the Gunner line-up. Striker Gabriel Jesus was active all match versus Crystal Palace and is working well with fellow Brazilian Gabriel Martinelli. Fellow newcomer Oleksandr Zinchenko’s headed the assist for Martinelli’s first goal of the match in a 2-0 win over the Eagles.

Arsenal defender William Saliba, a candidate for man of the match, looks to have been worth the wait for Arsenal after spending three seasons on loan in Ligue 1. Crystal Palace looks condemned to another season of underwhelming attack. Despite parting ways with miss master Christian Benteke this past week, the Eagles continue to miss the net with Eberechi Eze and Odsonne Edouard the guilty parties for egregious missed chances in their opening defeat.

Bournemouth was one of two promoted clubs to avoid defeat on opening weekend. The Cherries shocked Aston Villa in a 2-0 victory that amplified questions regarding Aston Villa Manager Steven Gerrard. Gerrard’s record at Aston Villa now reflects 13 losses against 10 wins and 5 draws for a club from which much more was expected. Gerrard’s former manager, Brendan Rodgers, could also be on the hot seat this season.

Leicester relinquished a two-goal lead at home to draw 2-2 with Brentford. Things could get even worse for the Foxes in coming weeks if transfer rumors regarding James Maddison and Wesley Fofana come to fruition. Brentford, meanwhile, received a big confidence boost from the comeback after the loss of Christian Eriksen this offseason raised concern for the new campaign.

Leeds grabbed all three points in 2-1 home victory over Wolverhampton which saw fiery Leeds Manager Jesse Marsch engage in a post-game shouting match with Wolves head man Bruno Lage after the hard played match. Four new players were in the lineup for Leeds, three of whom have played for Marsch in the past, as the American manger now has opportunity to imprint his ideas on the squad after last season’s necessarily pragmatic survival fight.

Newcastle rudely welcomed  newcomers Nottingham Forest as the Magpies eased to a 2-0 victory at St. James Park. Eddie Howe signed a new long-term deal with Newcastle entering the weekend, recognizing his excellent work since arriving last season and establishing himself as more than the short-term answer for the ambitious Newcastle project under their Saudi Arabian ownership.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Opening Weekend

Another Premier League season is set to begin today when Crystal Palace hosts Arsenal at Selhurst Park in south London. Former Gunner Patrick Vieira enjoyed a successful first year as Eagle manager but now needs to puzzle how to replace the production and energy of Conor Gallagher who has returned to his Chelsea parent club. The Eagles will need more from a group of other young talents such as Eberechi Eze, Michael Olise, Jean-Philippe Mateta and Odsonne Edouard. Olise is highly skilled and attracted some interest from Chelsea this summer, but the 20-year-old is too often injured and will again be out for the opener. Veteran Wilfried Zaha, of course, remains central to any Crystal Palace success. An intriguing transfer purchase is Cheick Doucoure from Lens of Ligue 1. The  22-year-old midfielder should add defensive solidity while improving the linkage with Eagle attackers with his impressive passing skills.

Arsenal is counting on Gabriel Jesus to improve its own attacking capabilities. The former Manchester City forward has had a positive preseason and should dominate the stage for the Gunners after being often relegated to a spot role at talent heavy Manchester City. Jesus’ City teammate Oleksandr Zinchenko has also moved with him to north London. The versatile Zinchenko is expected to play as an attack-oriented fullback or in midfield for the Gunners. Arsenal missed out on Champions League last season in large part due to a late season power outage and are hoping Jesus and Zinchenko can enliven their scoring prowess. Friday’s opening match will provide a clue as to whether Arsenal has done enough to challenge the top four and whether Crystal Palace is poised to take the Veira project a step forward.

Bookending the weekend Premier League schedule is Erling Haaland’s regular season debut for Manchester City on Sunday as the Citizens embark on their title defense. Julian Alvarez is another forward added to Manager Pep Guardiola’s squad as the club moves on from former players Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus. Manchester City will be at West Ham where Manager David Moyes will happily showcase midfielder Declan Rice after the Hammers successfully fended off interested suitors for the England international this offseason. Striker Gianluca Scamacca, acquired by the Hammers from Italian side Sassuolo, is unfortunately out of the lineup due to injury.

Frank Lampard anxiously begins a second season of survival roulette at Goodison Park where the Toffees will host Chelsea. Everton boasts a worse squad on paper than the rag tag group which barely survived relegation last season. Richarlison has moved on to Tottenham Hotspur without being replaced in Merseyside. Further complicating matters is the loss of striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin to injury for at least the first six weeks of this season. Lampard is thus unsurprisingly on the hot seat according to English bookmakers evaluating the annual sack race among Premier League managers. Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel is probably secure for the moment but is working for a new ownership group and his preseason has been rocky on the pitch. Tuchel has been critical of his team’s effort level while also lamenting misses on several transfer targets. Raheem Sterling, however, is signed from Manchester City to replace the production of Italy bound Romelu Lukaku. Center back Kalidou Koulibaly joins Chelsea from Napoli to help replace Antonio Rudiger after the German departed for Real Madrid. Andreas Christensen moved to Barcelona, so Tuchel probably has legitimate concern regarding his inventory of center backs. Friday’s signing by the Blues of Brighton left back Marc Cucurella was quizzical given the center back need.

The Eric ten Hag era begins at Old Trafford when the Red Devils host Brighton. While Brighton has spent the summer selling its better players such as Cucurella  and Yves Bissouma, the preseason has been a remarkable soap opera for Manchester United. The Red Devils have endlessly chased seemingly reluctant Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong while Cristiano Ronaldo has indicated he would like to leave. An exit by Ronaldo would raise question how Manchester United will replace its leading goal scorer from last season. Anthony Martial has been one of the brighter performers in preseason but has been guilty in the past of flattering to deceive. A hamstring will sideline Martial for at least the opener. Mason Greenwood remains sidelined by legal troubles. Marcus Rashford has disappointed on his early career promise and former Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho is yet to ignite in the Premier League.

Wolverhampton, however, would welcome any of Manchester United’s attacking options. The league’s lowest scoring returning club has lost striker Raul Jimenez once again to injury. Wolves travel to Leeds on Saturday as Leeds Manager Jesse Marsch begins his first full (hopefully?) season in charge at the club and has brought in two fellow Americans, Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams, to assist his project. Aaronson will buffer the loss of the departed Raphinha (Barcelona). Adams will fill the role of the departed Kalvin Phillips after the English international was snatched up by Manchester City this offseason. The real key for Leeds this season, however, could be the health of striker Patrick Bamford who appears fit for the opener after missing much of last year’s campaign to injury.

Liverpool begins its quest to overtake Manchester City when the Reds visit newly promoted Fulham in London. Darwin Nunez is the newest attacker in Manager Jurgen Klopp’s arsenal while Sadio Mane has left to ply his trade in Germany. Diogo Jota is injured for the opener, but Mo Salah and friends will provide more than enough attacking threat this weekend at Craven Cottage. Fulham, meanwhile, will hope for goals from striker Aleksandar Mitrovic who scored a record 43 goals in the English Championship division last season.

Bournemouth marks its return to the Premier League when Manager Scott Parker and his charges play host to Aston Villa. Diego Carlos joins the Villans from Sevilla to provide some competition at center back where Tyrone Mings is coming off an unimpressive season. Boubacar Kamara, a defensive midfielder acquired from Marseilles, can also play center back in the Villa defense. Bournemouth is not expected to enjoy an extended stay in the top division.

More hope presently exists for Nottingham Forest who open at Newcastle on Saturday. Jesse Lingard returns to the field for Forest after having had a good rest on Manchester United’s bench last season. Forest may need time to find their stride, however, as they incorporate 12 new signings into the squad. Newcastle further bolstered a defense which played well at the end of last season with the signing of center back Sven Botman from Lille. Reinforcement at the other end of the pitch, however, is likely necessary for the Magpies to make any appreciable move up the table this season.

Tottenham Hotspur, on the other hand, have a glittering array of attackers now supplemented with transfer signings Richarlison and Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic. Spurs also added Yves Bissouma to provide them with further creativity in midfield. While Bissouma and Perisic will not be available for the opener, Spurs should have more than enough for the Saints who will probably need a miracle to win in London this weekend. The south coast club was busy this summer but invested in largely unrecognizable youngsters with hoped for upside.

Leicester approached the transfer window like no other club in Europe by signing no players. The Foxes host Brentford Saturday at King Power Stadium. Brentford, Everton, Leeds, and Southampton are most mentioned among the returning clubs as candidates for relegation. The Bees had their wings clipped a bit when Christen Eriksen left for Manchester United this summer.

Today marks the earliest start of a Premier League season this century due to the mid-season break which will be required for the Qatar World Cup.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Has The Sun Set on Leicester?

After two consecutive fifth place finishes, Leicester’s descent to eighth in the table and a fall from the European places caught many followers by surprise last season. The Foxes stumble in the league was accompanied by a 4-1 fourth-round loss in the FA Cup to now promoted Nottingham Forest and a group stage elimination from the Europa Conference League. Advancing to the semi-final in the European Conference League before losing to eventual champion Roma provided little solace to supporters and Leicester Manager Brendan Rodgers who claimed he had never heard of the third-tier tournament before his team entered the fray.

There will be no European distraction this year for the Foxes. Unfortunately, that might become a multi-year reality based on the current trajectory of the club. Often considered among the elite of British (World?) managers, Rogers has come under criticism for the fall of the Foxes. In fairness, Leicester was handicapped with injuries, particularly on the back line, from the very beginning of last season. The club’s actions this offseason, however, have ratcheted up concern. The news this week that long time captain Kasper Schmeichel is finalizing a move to Nice raises question as to whether the sun has set on Leicester’s time in in the sun. Young talents such as James Maddison, Youri Tielemans and Wesley Fofana are rumored to be targets of interest by other Premier League teams. Center back Jannik Vestergaard, signed just last year, is already in the shop window. Meanwhile, the Foxes entered this week as the only club in the five major leagues of Europe to not yet make a summer signing. Tielemans, the talented Belgian international, has declined an offered extension to stay with the Foxes beyond this season and is one of ten Leicester players entering the final year of their contract. Even should some of the possible departures not materialize, there is far more talk of players leaving Leicester than seeking it as a career destination.

One player not approaching the door is club legend Jamie Vardy. Remarkably for a player dependent on speed, the 35-year-old Vardy remains an elite player but is missing more time with injury each passing year.

Six seasons have passed since Leicester won its miracle Premier League title. Just two years ago the club captured its first FA Cup title. Those heady days seem to be fading quickly as Rodgers has now managed the Foxes for three more matches than he helmed Liverpool before the manager entered exile in the Scottish league. Rodgers, with the help of striker Luis Suarez in his prime, had lifted Liverpool to great heights before falling short and leaving ultimate success for the Reds to a German named Jurgen Klopp. Rodgers could once again be nearing a disappointing end to a good run.