Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Premier League Results Matchweek 25: Arsenal Sneaks by Foxes; Haaland Sets Manchester City Mark; Changes At The Bottom; Spurs Dismiss Chelsea in Derby Match; Solomon Makes Cottager Point; Liverpool Stymied at Palace

Arsenal maintained its advantage over Manchester City in the Premier League table by defeating Leicester 1-0. The visiting Gunners were untroubled by a lackluster Leicester attack which badly missed injured playmaker James Maddison. Arsenal is seeing good value from Leandro Trossard, acquired from Brighton in the January window. The Belgian was positioned up top by manager Mikel Arteta on Saturday and responded with a first half goal which was controversially disallowed due to a foul called on Arsenal’s Ben White. Trossard would be heard from again, however, when he assisted on the winning goal by Gabriel Martinelli moments into second half play. The versatile Trossard was deputizing for striker Eddie Nketiah who is nursing a minor injury but has also been underwhelming of late. Trossard provides Arteta with another option and the chemistry between he and Martinelli gave a new dimension to the Gunner attack in the win.

Manchester City stayed two points behind Arsenal in the title chase by steamrolling Bournemouth 4-1 on the south coast. Erling Haaland scored his 27th Premier league goal of the season, breaking the former record of club legend Sergio Aguero.

Bournemouth fell back into the relegation places after its weak capitulation to the Citizens and wins on the weekend by West Ham and Leeds.

West Ham Manager David Moyes finally released the hounds. Moyes’s men attacked like never before this season and Danny Ings slammed home two goals in his first start of the season for the Hammers in a 4-0 spanking of Nottingham Forest at London Stadium. Forest had to have been completely caught off guard by the aggression of a West Ham club which had generated little threat in winning just one of its previous 11 Premier League matches. With relegation staring at the Hammers, Moyes loosened the reins on players such as Said Benrahma and Tomas Soucek who generated some life into the Hammer attack. Ings, meanwhile, showed his quality in giving manager Moyes his 250th Premier League win (only the third manager to do so) and lifting the Hammers out of the bottom three.

Javi Gracia had 18 Premier League wins, earned with Watford, entering his first match in charge at Leeds. His 19th league victory lifted the Whites out of the relegation zone in a critical home win over Southampton. Junior Firpo scored the winner for Leeds which threw cold water on the enthusiasm generated by the maiden victory by Southampton manager Ruben Selles the week before. Leeds moved a point clear of the drop.

The Saints remain rooted to the bottom of the table as last week’s win over Chelsea might well have more attributable the problems of the London side than the prowess of the Saints.

Chelsea lost again this weekend and again failed to score a goal in a 2-0 loss at Tottenham Hotspur. Manager Graham Potter has now guided Chelsea to only three goals in its last ten matches across all competitions. His charges struggle to generate any threat as they swing the ball from side to side with seemingly little intent. A lack of cohesion is certainly partly attributable to the number of new players in the squad but Potter also bears responsibility for the fruitless style of play. Tottenham Hotspur tightened its hold on fourth place over Newcastle which was otherwise occupied on the weekend by the Carabao Cup final. Oliver Skipp’s first goal for Spurs combined with Harry Kane’s 268th for the club to give Spurs a four-point advantage over Newcastle. The Magpies have two matches in hand to potentially turn the tables on Spurs.

Fulham, sixth in the table, is two points behind Newcastle after a 1-1 home draw with Wolverhampton. The Cottagers’ Manor Solomon scored for a third time in three appearances, all as a substitute. The former Shakhtar Donetsk player is surprisingly making a bigger splash for Fulham so far than former teammate Mykhailo Mudryk is at Chelsea. Both players joined the league this past window. Solomon’s 64th minute goal leveled the match and deprived Wolverhampton of a much needed two points in its relegation battle. Wolves will travel to Liverpool Wednesday hoping to repeat the success of a 3-0 win over the Reds in early February.

Jurgen Klopp’s side were held to a goalless draw by Crystal Palace on Saturday just days after their embarrassing Champions League loss to Real Madrid. Sloppy play was again on display by the struggling Reds as Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold lost possession no less than 20 times in the first half alone. The Eagles deserve credit, however, for a solid defensive performance, particularly by midfielders Cheick Doucoure and Arsenal loanee Albert Sambi Lokonga. Crystal Palace center backs Marc Guehi and Joachim Andersen are also a formidable pairing. The Eagles problems are in attack where they have no competent strikers on their roster and no goal scoring threat without the injured Wilfried Zaha. Crystal Palace failed to put a single shot on target against Liverpool.

Everton also has problems at striker with Dominic Calvert-Lewin suffering through injuries and former Brighton star Neal Maupay having now scored just once in his last 28 Premier League matches. The Toffees went down to defeat in a 2-0  home loss to Aston Villa which sent Everton spiraling back down to the relegation zone. Aston Villa ended a three-match losing run on a penalty kick by Ollie Watkins and a clinching goal by Emiliano Buendia. Everton  joined Bournemouth in returning to their former residence in the relegation zone while West Ham and Leeds escaped after a brief stay. 

Carabao Cup

Manchester United won its first trophy in six years, defeating Newcastle 2-0 in the Carabao Cup final. The match turned in the 33rd minute when the Red Devils’ Casemiro headed in a free kick off the boot of Luke Shaw. Marcus Rashford then capitalized on a well-placed pass from Wout Weghorst just six minutes later to end the Magpies’ chances. Despite the two first half goals, Newcastle goalkeeper Loris Karius performed capably in his first action in two years. Newcastle, however, struggles mightily to score and this deficiency could well sabotage the club’s ambitious bid for European football next season. Manchester United, meanwhile, remains in contention for a “quadruple” this season. The streaking club is third in the Premier League table, advanced in the Europa League at the expense of Barcelona last week and hosts West Ham in the FA Cup Fifth Round on Wednesday. 

Midweek Matches

Some Premier League clubs will see action during the week as the FA Cup plays its Fifth Round and the league catches up on previously postponed matches. Fulham plays host to Leeds Tuesday in the FA Cup before West Ham visits Manchester United on Wednesday in two cup matches featuring league opponents. Five other Premier League sides will be matched against lesser level competition In FA Cup matches this week. Premier League table leader Arsenal hosts Everton in a rescheduled Premier League match Wednesday. The Gunners lost at Goodison Park in Sean Dyche’s fist game as Everton manager and will be keen to take their revenge on the punchless Toffees. Perennially injured Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin is sidelined with a thigh injury. Wednesday’s other league match will see Liverpool home to Wolverhampton. The Reds were ambushed by Wolves 3-0 in the first week of February and there are no easy matches for this season’s Liverpool squad. Wolverhampton is trying to steer clear of the relegation scramble and are currently three points north of the drop. 

Friday, February 24, 2023

Premier League Preview: Matchweek 25

A London derby again heads the Premier League marquee this weekend as Tottenham Hotspur plays host to Chelsea. Spurs, having disposed of West Ham at home last weekend, host another London derby as Chelsea comes to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. It would be the proverbial "Spursy" outcome should the inconsistent hosts fall to what has been a consistently poor Chelsea side this season. Spurs are in fourth position in the table, having supplanted Newcastle with the win over West Ham last week and Newcastle’s loss to Liverpool. Chelsea is languishing in 10th place in the table.

While top four and Champions League qualification is on the table for at least one of the combatants in the London derby, a relegation battle will be fought in Yorkshire as 19th place Leeds plays host to bottom of the table Southampton at Elland Road. Despite being above the Saints in the table, Leeds was much the poorer side last week, falling to Everton while Southampton was upsetting Chelsea. Newly appointed Leeds manager Javi Gracia received his work permit Friday and faces the task of rescuing Leeds from a nosedive which has seen it win just one of its last 10 league matches to fall into the relegation places. Saints Manager Ruben Selles, meanwhile, can bolster his stock for a permanent gig should he be able to knock off a second consecutive “six pointer” against another team enmeshed in the relegation battle royale.

West Ham will try to climb out of its own relegation zone predicament when the Hammers host Nottingham Forest Saturday. The Tricky Trees are no strangers to the drop zone, having spent considerable time there earlier this season. Forest has turned its season around, however, by losing just one of its seven league matches since the start of the new year. West Ham has trended in the opposite direction, winning just once since October.

Everton will try to preserve the safe position in the table it earned with its win last week when the Toffees welcome Aston Villa to Goodison Park. Villa has lost three consecutive matches, conceding 11 goals in the process, and now goes to an always daunting Goodison Park where the Toffees have already won twice since Sean Dyche became Everton manager.

League leading Arsenal visits Leicester Saturday with the Gunners maintaining a two-point edge over Manchester City in the table. The Gunners recaptured their top perch by coming back twice to defeat Aston Villa last week while City was stumbling at Forest. The Foxes, 14th in the table, had shown flashes during a three-match unbeaten run before being dashed by Manchester United last weekend.

Manchester City is at Bournemouth after a lackluster draw with RB Leipzig in Champions League play. The Cherries won for the first time since the November World Cup break in a win at Wolverhampton last week which moved Bournemouth above the drop line in the table.

Liverpool, licking its wounds after a humiliating Champions League loss during the week, will try to regroup versus Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. The Eagles could be accommodating hosts, having not won a match this year and continuing to play without the injured Wilfried Zaha.

The Premier League weekend begins Friday when Fulham hosts Wolverhampton at Craven Cottage. The Cottagers under manager Marco Silva have earned more points since the World Cup break than all clubs but for Manchester United and Manchester City. Wolverhampton has also experienced some success since the appointment of manager Julen Lopetegui but has an often-fatal flaw in that Wolves cannot find the opponent’s net, having scored the joint lowest number of goals in the league this season.  

Carabao Cup

The Carabao Cup final at Wembley this Sunday will pit Manchester United against Newcastle. The Red Devils are on a red hot streak entering the match after defeating Barcelona on Thursday and having won nine of twelve in the Premier League to settle in behind only Arsenal and Manchester City in the table. Newcastle, have been on a different trajectory, winning just of their last seven league matches to fall from the Champions League qualification places. Worse yet, the excitement of a cup final has been somewhat tempered for Magpie supporters by the suspension of starting goalkeeper Nick Pope after an ill advised red card in the club’s last match. Second choice goalkeeper Martin Dubravka is also ineligible, having played on loan for none other than Manchester United earlier in the tournament. It will thus likely be Loris Karius between the sticks for Newcastle on Sunday. The former Liverpool goalkeeper is best known for his poor performance in a Champions League final, replete with two goal concessions of the howler variety, which resulted in a Liverpool loss to Real Madrid. The ignominy of that performance severely damaged the keeper’s career which has since taken meandering and unsuccessful turns though Turkey and Germany. While Karius seems the likely starter Sunday, Manager Eddie Howe does have fourth string goalkeeper Mark Gillespie available as an option as well. A redemptive clean sheet by Karius would be a marvelously redemptive if unlikely story. 

European Results

Manchester United was the only one of five Premier League teams to record a win in this latest round of the European cups. The Red Devils ousted Barcelona from the Europa League Thursday with a 2-1 victory at Old Trafford following a draw between the two sides in last week’s opening leg in Spain. A questionable foul by United’s Bruno Fernandes resulted in a Barca penalty kick converted by Robert Lewandowski to give Barcelona a first half lead. Manchester United attacked with renewed energy in the second half and Fred quickly pulled the Premier League club even in the 47th minute, assisted by Fernandes. Brazilian teammate and second half substitute Antony scored the winner some 25 minutes later to put the Red Devils though to the Round of Sixteen, having ousted one of the tournament favorites. Manchester United will face Real Betis next round while Arsenal has drawn Sporting Lisbon in Friday’s Europa League draw.

Liverpool sprinted to a two-goal lead Tuesday at Anfield versus Real Madrid and then conceded five consecutive goals in a 5-2 Champions League first leg defeat. Elimination in the second leg might be the best option for a Liverpool club which needs to focus on improving its domestic position and qualification for next year’s European competition, Champions League or otherwise. Both Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema had braces as Real Madrid ran roughshod over the exceptionally poor Liverpool defense. Center back Joe Gomez had at least partial culpability in all five of the goals while Virgil van Dijk is just a shadow of his one-time self. An error by goalkeeper Allison led to Real’s tying goal by Vinicius.

Manchester City also took a lead into the second half against RB Leipzig on Wednesday. The Germans earned a 1-1 draw, however, when Leipzig defender Josko Gvardiol soared above Manchester City defenders in the 70th minute to head in the equalizing goal. The draw in Leipzig mirrored City’s result at Nottingham Forest last weekend where a dominant first half was wasted by a failure to close out a match. Erling Haaland has been notably silent in recent matches. As is his wont, Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola had nothing but exclamations of how well his side played despite the disappointing outcome. The failures to deliver a Champions League win by Liverpool and Manchester City followed losses by Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea in their Champions League matches the week before.   


Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Premier League Results Matchweek 24: Gunners Roar Back; Rashford Stikes Twice in United Win; Spurs Drop Hammers; Liverpool Casts Newcastle From Top Four; Everton Climbs Over Leeds; Bournemouth Escapes; Saints Bedevil Chelsea

Arsenal responded to its midweek loss to Manchester City by roaring back from two in-game deficits to defeat Aston Villa 4-2 and retake the lead in the Premier League title chase. Bukayo Saka and Oleksandr Zinchenko matched goals from Ollie Watkins and Philippe Coutinho, respectively, before a former Gunner helped provide the final two goals for Arsenal in stoppage time. Current Aston Villa and former Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez is a controversial figure. His taunting of opposition players, on global display during Argentina’s successful World Cup run, makes him a magnet for criticism. Thus many did not shed tears when Martinez was victimized on both of Arsenal’s final two goals. A shot by new Arsenal player Jorginho caromed off the crossbar only to deflect back into the net off Martinez’s head three minutes into stoppage to give Arsenal its first lead of the match. Five minutes later, Martinez was caught up field during an Aston Villa corner, allowing for a breakaway, uncontested insurance goal by Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli. A draw by Manchester City put Arsenal on top of the Premier League standings once again.

Manchester City fell victim to the proverbial trap game. Having defeated Arsenal Wednesday and facing a Champions League match this Tuesday, the Citizens neglected to take care of business at the City Ground versus 13th place Nottingham Forest. The Tricky Trees, much improved since a lengthy stay in the relegation zone earlier this season, had a surprise in store for the visitors. Chris Wood’s 84th minute goal for the Trees created a 1-1 final scoreline which shocked the Citizens and knocked them back to second place after less than three full days at the top of the table.

Nottingham Forest has now lost but once in seven 2023 Premier League matches, winning three and drawing three. Manchester City, meanwhile, has now dropped 15 league points away from the Etihad this season versus 11 away points dropped the entirety of last season.

No player in Europe has scored more goals since the World Cup than Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford. Rashford’s’ two goals in a 3-0 defeat of Leicester brings his total to 16 in 17 games across all competitions since returning from Qatar. No other player in the top five leagues has scored more than 10. Unsurprisingly Manchester United has won seven of its 10 Premier League matches since the break, losing but once. Talk of title contention will continue to increase so long as Rashford sustains anywhere near his current rate of goal scoring. The Red Devils, however, also have other players performing at, or near, championship level as well. Goalkeeper David de Gea had at least two incredible saves against a Leicester squad which had scored four goals in each of its previous two contests. Leicester, meanwhile, suffered a reality check which ended a three-match unbeaten run for the Foxes who are but four points from the drop zone.

Liverpool won for a second consecutive match and completed a double over Newcastle this season in a 2-0 win which ejected Newcastle from the top four. Liverpool started fast with goals by Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo inside the first twenty minutes. Newcastle goalkeeper Nick Pope then handled the ball outside his box to put the Magpies down to 10 men and effectively end the Magpies’ chances. Pope’s red card means he will miss the Carabao Cup final versus Manchester United next weekend. While Newcastle’s only two losses this season have been to Liverpool, their lack of goalscoring bite has been a continuing concern. Only Chelsea has scored fewer goals than the Magpies among teams in the top half the table. Liverpool registered a second consecutive clean sheet as it heads into its Champions League matchup with Real Madrid this week.

While still seven points outside the Champions League places, Liverpool has played two fewer matches than fourth place Spurs. Tottenham Hotspur charged back into the top four by virtue of a 2-0 Sunday victory over West Ham in the clubs’ London derby. Son Heung-min scored in a cameo second half appearance as last year’s joint Golden Boot winner scored for just a fifth time this season.

West Ham manager David Moyes set his club up defensively and left scoring threats Danny Ings and Said Benrahma out of his starting lineup. Moyes’ conservatism is paying no dividends this season as the Hammers are now in the relegation zone after winning just one of their last 11 Premier League matches. West Ham are the only one of the bottom six teams in the table to not have made a manager change this season.

No newly promoted side has accumulated as many points to this stage of the season than manager Marco Silva’s Fulham. The Cottagers won 1-0 at Brighton as their Portuguese manager continues to burnish his manager of the year credentials. Manor Solomon struck for Fulham’s winner in the 88th minute as the Cottagers moved past their Saturday opponent into sixth position in the Premier League table. The Seagulls saw their five-match unbeaten run come to an end as frustrated manager Roberto De Zerbi was shown a post-match red card for contesting some of the match decisions by officials.

A late Brentford equalizer stung Crystal Palace in a 1-1 final which extended the Bees’ unbeaten run to eleven matches and deprived the Eagles of a possible first win of the year. Vitaly Janelt scored the equalizer on the final kick of the match. Brentford now holds the longest  unbeaten run in the league and is level on points with seventh place Brighton and eighth place Liverpool in the battle for a European qualification slot. Crystal Palace, meanwhile, is eight points from relegation with the arrow pointed downward.

The Graham Potter era at Chelsea reached a new low as the tortured London squad lost 1-0 at home to the bottom most club in the league which, coincidentally, has no permanent manager of its own. The free kick wizardry of James Ward-Prowse provided the winner for the Saints as his free kick goal versus Chelsea now leaves him one short of topflight career leader David Beckham. Chelsea, meanwhile, was again dreadful. Potter started the match with several of his better players on the bench, apparently expecting a walkover versus the Saints. Such was not the case and things didn’t improve after the manager began making substitutions. Raheem Sterling provided some increased excitement but no goals. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang remained rooted to the bench as Chelsea failed to score for a fourth time in its last five matches in all competitions. Chelsea has now won only two of its last 14 matches in all competitions. Potter’s excuses regarding the problem of integrating expensive new players are not impressing supporters but apparently suffice for Chelsea owners who seem committed to the former Brighton manger. Southampton, meanwhile, won its first outing under interim manager Ruben Selles who has declared a desire for the permanent Saints job.

Bournemouth rose from the dead and lifted itself out of the relegation zone with the Cherries’ first victory since November. A Marcus Tavernier 49th minute goal was the only score in the Cherries’ 1-0 defeat of Wolverhampton and was only the third goal Bournemouth has scored since their November victory. Wolves, however, are the joint lowest scoring club in the league along with Everton and showed little bite versus the Cherries. Center forwards Raul Jimenez, Diego Costa and Matheus Cunha have all failed to score a single league goal for Wolverhampton this season. The Cherries moved a point above now relegation bound West Ham with the victory. The loss for Wolves ended a run of three wins in four matches and leaves them a still precarious three-points above the drop zone.

Sean Dyche has won twice in three Premier League contests since taking over Everton. The Toffees defeated Leeds 1-0 at Goodison Park with long time Everton stalwart Seamus Coleman scoring a rare goal. As with Dyche’s maiden victory, disciplined defense and the occasional goal from an unexpected source can provide a winning formula for a goal challenged squad. The victory relocated Everton from the relegation zone while Leeds took up residence in the land of the damned. Leeds clearly had no plan when it fired Manager Jesse Marsch and has been under the charge of their former under-21 team manager. The search for Marsch’s replacement now seems to be turning toward former Watford manager Javi Gracia as the club approaches another massive relegation battle when Southampton visits Leeds this coming weekend. 

European Preview

Manchester United v Barcelona (Champions League)

Liverpool will hope to continue the momentum of two consecutive Premier League victories when the Reds host Real Madrid in Champions League Tuesday. Los Blancos are 14-time winners of the European championship and defeated Liverpool 1-0 in last year’s Champions League final. Real Madrid began slowly in La Liga this season but have slotted in behind first place Barcelona in the La Liga table. Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema has scored 10 goals across all competitions since the World Cup break. Liverpool has had a rocky domestic season, still languishing in eighth position in the Premier League table despite winning its last two domestic contests.  

RB Leipzig v Manchester City (Champions League)

Manchester City travels to Germany to face RB Leipzig on Wednesday. The Citizens will try to shake off a disappointing weekend where they fell from the top of the Premier League table by drawing with Nottingham Forest. R B Leipzig is currently fifth in the Bundesliga. Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku made a substitute appearance last weekend after having missed substantial time with a knee injury. Nkunku, who remains second in Bundesliga scoring with 12 goals this season, is widely expected to sign with Premier League club Chelsea this coming summer.

Manchester United v Barcelona (Europa League)

Manchester United hosts Barcelona on Thursday in the second leg of their Europa League tie. The sides played to a 2-2 draw in Spain last week. Both clubs are enjoying restorative seasons on the field after troubled waters the last few seasons. Manchester United is unbeaten in its last 17 matches at home across all competitions while Barcelona have won their last nine matches away from home. The Red Devils will hope Marcus Rashford, a goal scorer in the opening leg, continues his recent best in Europe form. Barcelona, La Liga leaders this season, will be missing their entire starting midfield due to injury for the Old Trafford match. 

Friday, February 17, 2023

Premier League Preview: Matchweek 24

Arsenal begins weekend play in an unaccustomed position in the table. The Gunners were knocked from their perch atop the Premier League table by Manchester City on Wednesday. The Gunners now head off to Aston Villa this weekend hoping to regain their confidence after losing to Manchester City for an 11th consecutive time in the league. A loss to their former manager Unai Emery on Saturday would add salt to a wound created by dropping eight of their last nine points in league play as the Gunners fumbled away the first-place position they had held since August. Arsenal fell 3-1 to Manchester City as Pep Guardiola’s star-studded lineup proved too much for the young Gunners. Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne and Jack Grealish all scored versus Arsenal. Bukayo Saka’s penalty kick, meanwhile, accounted for the only Arsenal scoring as the Gunners were kept to a goal or less for a third consecutive match. Aston Villa might be just the right club to give the Gunners’ attack a boost as Emery’s men have conceded seven goals across two consecutive defeats.

Manchester City will defend their newly earned top of the table status when the Citizens head to Nottingham Forest. Forest has shown marked improvement in recent weeks to emerge from the relegation zone, Manager Steve Cooper’s side stumbled, however, at Fulham last weekend and now face a markedly greater challenge in facing the new table leaders.

Manchester United, coming off its Thursday draw in the Europa League versus Barcelona, could have a tricky time at Old Trafford on Sunday against Leicester. The Foxes are in their best form of the season after scoring eight goals in winning their last two league outings.

Liverpool will have the chance to prove it is still a top four contender when the Reds head to Newcastle Saturday to face the fourth place Magpies. Newcastle has remained in the Champions League qualification places despite having drawn five of its last six league matches. The Magpies seem to seldom win but almost never lose, their last league loss coming against Liverpool in August. If Liverpool can repeat its August success over the Magpies, it could mark a turning point in what has been a disappointing season for the Reds. A win would move Liverpool to within six points of Newcastle in the table.

Tottenham Hotspur would welcome a Liverpool result as Spurs are currently only two points behind Newcastle, though having played one additional match. Manager Antonio Conte will be absent when his club hosts West Ham Sunday as he takes time away to recover from recent surgery. The Hammers are now on a three-match unbeaten run after they had fallen into the relegation zone with a run of six losses in seven matches. West Ham’s recent improvement has included 1-1 draws with both Newcastle and Chelsea and a win over Everton which sealed the fate of Everton Manager Frank Lampard.

Brighton and Fulham are sixth and seventh in the table, respectively, both on 35 points and separated only by the Seagulls superior goal differential. The two clubs meet at Brighton’s American Express Community Stadium Saturday in a match which could be pivotal to the chase for European qualification.

Brentford, meanwhile, is just one point behind the Seagulls and Cottagers and hasn’t lost since October. The Bees host a Crystal Palace side this weekend that is still seeking a first win of the new year. The Bees’ Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo both present scoring threats which Crystal Palace fans can only dream about. Toney trails only Erling Haaland and Harry Kane in the chase for the Premier League Golden Boot.

There are no Golden Boot contenders on Chelsea’s squad and the 10th place Blues have the lowest goal total of any club in the top half of the table. Manager Graham Potter experienced similar problems finding goals while managing Brighton and that should be a concern for Chelsea supporters. Stamford Bridge will get a visit from bottom of the table Southampton Saturday as Chelsea should have a golden opportunity to win for just the third time in its last 14 league matches played. Southampton is still without a manager after the sacking of Nathan Jones which followed last week’s embarrassing loss to Wolverhampton. A potential Jesse Marsch appointment collapsed during the week as the Saints will now look elsewhere.

Wolves, meanwhile, have won three of their last four matches under manager Julen Lopetegui which included the remarkable 10-man comeback at Southampton last week. Wolves host Bournemouth Saturday as the relegation bound Cherries’ look for their first win since the second week of November.    

European Results 

There was little surprise when both Premier League sides lost their Champions League matches this week. Neither Tottenham Hotspur nor Chelsea would qualify for next year’s Champions League based on their league standing if the season were to end today. Spurs fell 1-0 to defending Serie A champion AC Milan as former Manchester City player Brahim Diaz scored for the Italian side. Chelsea lost by the same 1-0 score to Borussia Dortmund. Disheartening for Chelsea fans was the sight of newly acquired Enzo Fernandez, the most expensive player in Premier League history, being burned for the Borussia Dortmund goal as he couldn’t match the pace of Dortmund goal scorer Karim Adeyemi. Manchester United had a better day on Thursday, taking a point in a 2-2 draw at Barcelona in the clubs’ Europa League match. Marcus Rashford continued his scintillating goal scoring spree, scoring his 22nd goal across all competitions this season and matching his full season personal best. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Matchweek 23 Results: The Race Is On As Man City Heads To Arsenal Wednesday!

Arsenal risks its first place standing in the table for the first time since August when the Gunners host Manchester City on Wednesday. The Gunners dropped points for a second consecutive match in a 1-1 draw with Brentford. It was the first time this season that Arsenal has gone two league matches without a victory. Manchester City, meanwhile, took advantage of the Gunners’ misfire to move within three points of Arsenal after the defending league champions smashed Aston Villa 3-1 at the Etihad. Brentford’s Ivan Toney ruined the day for Arsenal fans in the 74th minute at the Emirates when his 15th goal of the season equalized a match Arsenal hoped to have won with Leandro Trossard’s first goal as a Gunner just eight minutes earlier. A VAR review of a possible offside on Toney’s goal yielded no fruit for the Gunners.


Manchester City capitalized with its romp over suddenly struggling Aston Villa on Sunday. Rodri, Gundogan and Mahrez all tallied in the first half against a Villa side which has now given up seven goals in its last two matches. Ollie Watkins scored the second half consolation goal for Villa. Manchester City has now responded to its own recent slump in form and multiple allegations of financial impropriety by positioning itself to take control of the Premier League title chase once again. The Citizens possess the superior goal differential which would nudge them past Arsenal with a win on Wednesday. 

Manchester United is also creeping closer to the Gunners after a 2-0 win over managerless Leeds on Sunday. Marcus Rashford continued his dream season with his 12th Premier League goal and 24th score across all competitions. Alejandro Garnacho responded to recent criticism of his performances by manager Eric ten Hag by knocking home the Red Devils’ insurance goal. The Red Devils drew to within five points of Arsenal though they have played two more matches than the Gunners. 

Manchester United also put five points between themselves and fourth place Newcastle after a league leading 11th draw by the Magpies in a 1-1 decision at Bournemouth. Miguel Almiron’s goal in first half stoppage time earned the point against Newcastle Manager Eddie Howe’s former club. The draw was a fifth in the last six league matches for Newcastle which has managed to improve its advantage over Tottenham Hotspur for the final Champions League place during that run.


Spurs lost for a third time in six matches in a 4-1 defeat to suddenly dangerous Leicester. The Foxes have scored four goals in each of their last two matches, both victories which have helped to quell potential relegation battle concerns. Each four goal outburst by the Foxes featured four individual scorers for manager Brendan Rodgers’ suddenly robust attack. Spurs, meanwhile, suffered the heavy defeat just a week after a 1-0 triumph over Manchester City, continuing a trend of inconsistent performances which have maddened club supporters. Fifth place Tottenham Hotspur now trails Newcastle by two points and has played one more match than the Magpies. 

Brighton and Hove Albion are four points behind Spurs with two matches in hand after the Seagulls drew 1-1 with rival Crystal Place in the M23 derby. A Pervis Estupinan goal which would have provided all three points for the Seagulls was incorrectly ruled out by VAR. The Premier League’s referee association apologized to both Brighton and Arsenal (for an incorrect ruling on Brentford’s equalizing goal) after a rough weekend for officials. 

Fulham rebounded from a three-match winless run by thumping Nottingham Forest by a 2-0 margin at Craven Cottage. The Cottagers eased back ahead of Brentford into seventh position in the table by inflicting the first defeat of 2023 upon Nottingham Forest. 

Chelsea and West Ham tortured supporters for 90 minutes plus stoppage time in a dreary 1-1 result at London Stadium. Joao Felix scored his first goal for Chelsea in the 16th minute. West Ham’s Emerson equalized in the 28th minute. That was it. Futility for the balance of the match was such that neither side had a shot on target in the second half. 

Sean Dyche, after an exhilarating win over Arsenal, witnessed a more common Toffee performance on Monday when the new Everton manager saw his club fall 2-0 at Liverpool. A dreadful Everton attack, which had defeated Arsenal on a corner headed in by defender James Tarkowski, managed just a single shot on target at Anfield this week. Liverpool had gone three matches without scoring before seeing Mohamed Salah and Cody Pakpo find the net against their crosstown rival. The momentary elation over the derby victory does little to alleviate the gloom of a season which has Liverpool ninth in the league table. Everton, meanwhile, occupies the relegation zone with co-inhabitants Bournemouth and Southampton. 

Southampton is back in the manager search business again after the club mercifully sacked Nathan Jones after a short but odious stint as Saints manager. Jones took over in November after the sacking of Ralph Hasenhuttl. The Welsh manager, having previously succeeded only at Luton, presented an odd choice and soon proved his doubters correct. Jones lost seven of his first eight league matches in charge of the Saints. After throwing his players under the bus and claiming supporters were contributing to his lack of success, Jones was on shaky ground entering the weekend match with Wolves. Redemption teased momentarily as the Saints took a 1-0 lead and Wolves went down to 10 men. Unfortunately for Jones, his club collapsed against an opponent with a more accomplished manager in Julen Lopetegui. Wolverhampton scored twice, despite being a man down, to take all three points in a 2-1 victory. Jones ran quickly down the tunnel after the ignominious defeat, failing to acknowledge players or supporters after the match. He was sacked the next morning, ending the shortest managerial tenure in Southampton’s history. 

Premier League in Europe

Champions League

The Champions League commences Round of Sixteen play this week with two Premier League participants travelling to the continent. Tottenham Hotspur visits defending Serie A champion AC Milan on Tuesday. The Italian side is fifth in recent table standings, the same position Spurs currently holds in the Premier League. Tottenham Hotspur Manager Antonio Conte this week questioned his players ability to play under pressure. It should be telling how his players respond to their poor performance of the weekend and the questioning by the manager. Chelsea is at Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday. Dortmund is third in the Bundesliga, just three points behind table leader Bayern Munich. Chelsea, meanwhile, have been shambolic in dropping all the way to ninth in the Premier League table. New manager Graham Potter has his hands full in trying to assimilate a multitude of expensive new players into a coherent style of play. Critics of Potter will highlight that Chelsea are suffering some of the same goal scoring issues which afflicted Potter’s Brighton teams.

Europa League

Manchester United heads to Barcelona Thursday for a classic match between two of the biggest names in world football. Both sides have had their struggles in recent years but seem on the upswing. Barcelona’s financial problems forced the legendary Lionel Messi to PSG. The Spanish club has retooled, however, and currently leads rival Real Madrid by 11 points at the top of the La Liga table. Manchester United has emerged from the controversial departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to climb to third in the Premier League. Supporters are thinking titles could be in store under Manager Eric ten Hag who has been getting elite goal scoring from star Marcus Rashford since the World Cup break.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Premier League Preview: Matchweek 23

An intriguing Merseyside derby appears fascinating despite the troubled state of both participants. Sean Dyche leads 18th place Everton into Anfield after upsetting league leading Arsenal in his managerial debut for the Toffees last week. Can Dyche keep up the energy that permeated last week’s win? A match against Everton’s historic rival should help in that regard. A win against their hated rival would make Dyche a hero to tortured Toffee fans. Liverpool again looked moribund in a 3-0 defeat to Wolverhampton, the third time in the last four matches that the Reds have conceded three goals to an opponent. Liverpool is still seeking its first win of the new year.

Another derby match between underachieving clubs takes place at London Stadium where West Ham hosts Chelsea. The Hammers are in a relegation fight in the Premier League despite having qualified for Europe last season with the fourth lowest goal total in the league chiefly accounting for the Hammers’ problems. Chelsea has its own scoring problems, having found the net just four more times than the Hammers. The expensively put together Blues have failed to score in three of their last five matches while scoring just one goal in two others. Chelsea are ten points outside the top four. The Hammers are just a point above the drop zone.

A London derby featuring clubs further up the table will take place at the Emirates where league leading Arsenal will try to rebound from consecutive losses in the FA Cup and Premier League, respectively, when it faces a Brentford side which hasn’t lost in nine consecutive matches. Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta needs to figure out how to reignite a Gunner attack which, though trailing only Manchester City in league goals for the season, has suffered back-to-back clean sheets. The Bees are led by striker Ivan Toney whose 13 league goals are third best in the league behind only Erling Haaland and Harry Kane. Brentford’s last and only win away at Arsenal in any competition came in 1938.

Manchester City, reeling from this week’s news that an expanded probe of its financial dealings is in process, will try to pull things together on the pitch when the Citizens host Aston Villa. Manchester City has lost two of its last four league matches and remains five points behind Arsenal while having played an additional league match than the Gunners. Aston Villa, meanwhile, suffered an inexplicable implosion in an error filled defeat to Leicester in its last match. The Villans should be better this week but face a tall task at the Etihad where City has lost just once this season.

Manchester United is two points behind Manchester City in the table after the Red Devils recovered from a two-goal deficit to salvage a point versus Leeds during the week. In a scheduling quirk, United and Leeds will again play this weekend with the action shifting to Elland Road. Jadon Sancho returned from a lengthy and somewhat quizzical absence to join Marcus Rashford on the scoresheet in Wednesday’s draw. Contributions from Sancho would be helpful to complement the career season being experienced by Rashford whose 11 goals are joint fourth in the Premier League. Leeds remains without a permanent manager after Jesse Marsch’s sacking on Monday with Steven Gerrard’s name now being tossed in the candidate hat by some pundits.

Newcastle will take the longest trip in the Premier League when it travels to Bournemouth this weekend. The two cities are the farthest removed geographically of any two league clubs. There is also a great distance between the clubs in the league standings. Newcastle remains in contention to qualify for the Champions League. Bournemouth hopes just to survive this season. The match represents a homecoming for Newcastle manager Eddie Howe who once was a long term fixture at the south coast club. 

Selhurst Park will be the site for the latest iteration of the “M23 Derby” between Crystal Palace and Brighton. The geographically incongruous rivalry currently appears a mismatch on paper. The sixth place Seagulls are in the hunt for European qualification. Crystal Palace has yet to win in 2023, losing four of its sixth matches. The Eagles are also without the injured Wilfried Zaha. This avian matchup, however, has hatched surprises in the past.

Tottenham Hotspur is five points ahead of Brighton in the table but has played two additional matches than the Seagulls. Spurs will be seeking a third consecutive league win when the club visits Leicester Saturday. The Foxes delivered one of their best performances of the season when they ended a five-match winless run with a 4-2 defeat of Aston Villa last weekend.

Fulham has fallen out of the European places after a three-match winless streak for the Cottagers. Visiting Craven Cottage on Saturday will be a Nottingham Forest side which is climbing the table with a five-match unbeaten run which has seen manager Steve Cooper’s club win three of their last four Premier League contests.

Wolverhampton has won two of its last three matches and will try to put more distance between Wolves and the relegation zone when traveling to bottom of the table Southampton Saturday. Saints manager Nathan Jones is under increasing pressure from supporters after losing six of his seven matches as manager and recently placing blame for the lack of success on players and fans. Wolves, meanwhile, are quite pleased with their new manager. Julen Lopetegui has won three matches and drawn twice in his seven Premier League matches to lead his club out of the relegation zone. Lopetegui’s two losses were to Manchester United and Manchester City, respectively.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Premier League Results Matchweek 22: Everton Shocks Arsenal; Spurs Spoil Manchester City Chance To Close Gap; Citizens Face More Financial Allegations; Manchester United Wins Brawl at Selhurst; Newcastle Draws Again; Liverpool Sinks Further; New Players, No New Goals For Chelsea; Marsch Sacked At Leeds

Arsenal fell victim to a new manager bounce as Sean Dyche led a much better organized Everton to the largest upset of the season in defeating the league leaders 1-0. Even with his short time working with the side, the tactical discipline preached by Dyche was already evident in the Toffees’ play. Ironically, the former Burnley manager saw two of his former Burnley players, Dwight McNeil and James Tarkowski, combine for the winning goal. Arsenal was unable to mark the physical Tarkowski in the Everton box as he headed in McNeil’s 60th minute corner kick. Last place Everton thus inflicted only the second Premier League loss of the season on the top of the table Gunners.

The defeat wasn’t a complete anomaly however, as the Gunners also lost by a 1-0 margin to Manchester City in the FA Cup last week. The free-flowing Arsenal attack appears to have hit a wall of late. The victory for the Toffees lifts Everton from the bottom of the table with only goal differential separating the club from safety. The Gunners, meanwhile, suffer the embarrassment of losing to a club that had begun the day in the table’s basement. The last time that happened to Arsenal was versus a Burnley club managed by none other than Sean Dyche.

Everton moved level on points with Leeds in the battle for the final survival place in the Premier League as the Jesse Marsch led Whites failed to win for a seventh consecutive league match in a 1-0 loss to Nottingham Forest. Marsch paid the price on Monday as he became the seventh Premier League manager to be sacked this season. Marsch was hired to replace Marcelo Bielsa last February and succeeded in keeping the club up by the slimmest of margins last season but again had the club sinking into the relegation muck. Conversely, Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cooper has presided over striking improvement in his club’s recent performances. Forest has won three and drawn two during a five-match unbeaten run which has seen the club escape the relegation zone and rise all the way to 13th in the Premier League table. Recently acquired goalkeeper Keylor Navas posted a clean sheet in his Premier League debut. Twenty-one year-old Brennan Johnson scored the winner against Leeds with his fifth Premier League goal of the season. Only Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli among players 21 years old or under have scored more goals this season than Johnson.

Manchester City failed to capitalize on Arsenal’s shocking loss when Tottenham Hotspur rode a Harry Kane goal to a 1-0 home win over the Citizens. Kane’s 267th goal for Spurs moved him past Jimmy Greaves as the club’s all-time goal scoring leader.

The win for Spurs moves them to within a point of fourth place Newcastle. Manchester City, meanwhile, missed a golden opportunity to gain ground on Arsenal as Pep Guardiola’s side lost for a second time in their last four league matches. More bad news followed on Monday for Manchester City as an investigation of the club for over 100 alleged financial improprieties was announced. The Citizens were able to overturn charges of financial fair play breaches in 2020. Failure to beat the current charges could not only result in penalties to the club but also the departure of manager Pep Guardiola who has previously tied his continued employment with the club to assurances received that the club was innocent of improprieties.

Manchester United are now just three points back of their crosstown rivals after a 2-1 win at Crystal Palace. A Bruno Fernandes penalty kick and Marcus Rashford’s 11th goal since returning from Qatar provided the scoring  for the Red Devils The win was costly, however, as Casemiro was given a straight red card for placing his hands around the neck of Crystal Palace midfielder Will Hughes during a 70th minute brawl between the two sides. Casemiro will miss the next three league matches as a result. The win over Crystal Palace moved Manchester United past Newcastle into third place in the table. The Red Devils host Leeds on Wednesday.

Newcastle drew for the fourth time in its last five matches as the Magpies were held to a 1-1 decision at home versus West Ham. Manager Eddie Howe’s side have somehow managed to stay in the top four despite scoring only two goals in those five matches. Meanwhile, every point is critical for a West Ham club which remains in a relegation dogfight.

Chelsea could be the next club after Manchester City to face charges of financial fair play violations after its staggering amount of spending in each of the last two transfer windows. The money spent has failed to buy goals and victories, however, as ninth place Chelsea was again held scoreless in a goalless London derby versus Fulham. Manager Graham Potter’s squad has now scored only seven goals in its last 12 matches as it’s won just twice during that stretch. The club quizzically spent none of its substantial investment dollars on a striker during the January window. The poor performances of striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, meanwhile, has now led to his exclusion from the club’s Champions League roster. Fulham is suffering a current goal drought as well as the Cottagers failed to score for a third consecutive league match.

Liverpool has also failed to score in its last three Premier League contests after a 3-0 defeat to Wolverhampton. Jurgen Klopp’s men are still hunting for their first 2023 win. Wolves, meanwhile, have won two of their last three matches to claw their way out of the relegation zone under new manager Julen Lopetegui.

Brentford extended its current unbeaten run in the league to nine matches with its 3-0 win over Southampton, the longest such run in the topflight for the Bees in 87 years. Bryan Mbeumo scored his fifth league goal of the season in the Brentford win. The unbeaten streak has put the Bees in the European places at seventh in the table as manager Thomas Frank’s squad moved past Fulham. Southampton manager Nathan Jones, meanwhile, is off to a miserable start with the Saints. A strange appointment at the time, Jones had found previous success only at Luton and has currently won just one match with the Saints since his November hiring. Jones launched into a strange tirade after the loss to Brentford where he tossed his players and even the Southampton fans under the bus while referring to himself as one of the best managers in Europe last season.

Brighton stayed one point ahead of surging Brentford in the table as the Seagulls nipped Bournemouth 1-0. Kaoru Mitoma scored in the 87th minute to claim the points and register his sixth goal in his last nine appearances for Brighton. Moises Caicedo was again kept out of the starting line-up after trying to force his way out of the club during the transfer window. The Ecuadoran midfielder appeared as a substitute and was well received by supporters. Bournemouth lost for the ninth time its last 11 matches as the Cherries are above only the sad Saints in the table.

Leicester won for the first time since November in a 4-2 victory at Aston Villa. Manager Brendan Rogers and Leicester teammates were ebullient in their praise of new loan signing Tete who shone throughout his Premier League debut and nicked one of the Foxes’ four goals. The Brazilian, on loan from Shakhtar Donetsk, took over the right-wing position and allowed James Maddison to play a preferred number ten position and make the overall Fox attack far more dangerous. Longer term Leicester player Kelech Iheanacho was also instrumental in the victory, assisting Tete’s goal five minutes after tying the match with his own strike at 2-2. An error filled performance by Aston Villa was surprising as the club had accumulated more points since the World Cup break than any Premier League side but for Arsenal. Villa Manager Unai Emery will be more than happy to quickly put this one behind him.

Friday, February 3, 2023

Premier League Returns As Transfer Window Closes

The January transfer window closed on Tuesday as Premier League teams prepare to resume league play this weekend. Chelsea was by far the freest spending of the Premier League clubs as it frantically looked for ways to improve on its currently 10th place position in the table. The London club spent more than the combined total spent in January by the Bundesliga, La Liga, Ligue 1 and Serie A. The check writing peaked with Tuesday’s procurement of Benfica’s Enzo Fernandez for the highest fee in Premier League history, surpassing the record signing by Manchester City of Jack Grealish. Fernandez represents a massive gamble as the 22-year-old Argentine World Cup winner was in only his second season at Benfica and provides more potential than proven production. Chelsea earlier in the window splurged on another speculative investment for Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix. Chelsea acquired eight players in total, including promising Ukrainian midfielder Mykhailo Mudryk who was reportedly stolen from the grasp of Arsenal which had been closing in on the former Shakhtar Donetsk player. The Blues face Fulham Friday in a London derby.

Everton has a new manager but no new players as Sean Dyche takes the reins at Goodison Park Saturday when Everton hosts league leading Arsenal. Everton’s failure to acquire even one player despite its desperate position in the league table is just the latest example of ownership and director malpractice at the club. Arsenal, meanwhile, moved to bolster their title hopes with the acquisition of midfielder Jorginho from Chelsea.

Manchester United, relatively quiet during much of the window, moved quickly in the closing stages to address the void created by Christian Eriksen’s injury in last week’s Carabao Cup victory. The Red Devils signed Marcel Sabitzer from Bayern Munich on Monday and will hope to have him cleared to play when they host Crystal Palace on Saturday. The Eagles frustrated their supporters and manager Patrick Vieira by spending little in January as there appears disagreement among a fractured ownership group over the appropriate level of player investment.

Brighton lost midfielder Leandro Trossard to Arsenal earlier in the window but were able to thwart efforts by the Gunners and other clubs to acquire the Eagles’ Moises Caicedo. The Ecuadoran went public with his desire to move on and only time will tell whether that will impact his attitude and performance going forward. The Seagulls are home to Bournemouth Saturday.

Liverpool is hoping to see some near-term return from the January acquisition of Cody Gakpo from PSV. Gakpo, despite his potential, is unlikely to change the script on the Reds disappointing season. Gakpo was the only incoming player for Jurgen Klopp’s squad which visits Wolverhampton on Saturday. Wolves signed six players to help new manager Julen Lopetegui avoid relegation in his first Premier League season. One of those signings, 21 year old Joao Gomes from Flamengo, has had his style of play compared with fellow Brazilian and current Manchester United player Casemiro.

West Ham tried to address its goalscoring problem by acquiring the oft injured Danny Ings from Aston Villa. Unfortunately, the striker went down with yet another injury in his first appearance for the Toffees last week. The Hammers continue what appears to be a cursed season when they travel to Newcastle Saturday. The Magpies are third in the table and this week advanced to the final of the Carabao Cup where the club will face Manchester United. The Magpies’ headline transfer addition was Anthony Gordon from Everton in a transaction many felt was overpriced for the 24-year-old who has not really lived up to billing for the Toffees.

Nottingham Forest raised eyebrows on deadline day by acquiring PSG and former Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas. The Costa Rican goalkeeper is clearly past his prime and had not started in the French league this season. A few critical saves however, could mean all the difference for a Forest club which is scrapping to survive in its first season back in the Premier League after a 23 year absence. Forest is home to Leeds on Sunday. Leeds landed United States international Weston McKinnie on loan from Juventus during the window and fought off a challenge by Leicester to retain winger Jack Harrison. Leicester ultimately had a quiet window and, along with Leeds, faces a relegation fight with or without Jack Harrison.

Leicester, Leeds and West Ham are all just a point above the relegation zone. The Foxes face Aston Villa Saturday. The Villans’ only notable dealing in the window was the sale of Ings to West Ham but Unai Emery’s 11th place club is in a far more comfortable position in the table, a full ten points ahead of Leicester.

Southampton, bottom of the Premier League table, reinforced their roster with six signings to help new manger Nathan Jones try to save the club form relegation. The Saints will try to begin their ascent Saturday at Brentford. The Bees added former Freiburg winger Kevin Schade to their senior squad but made more news with the loan signing for their “B” team of Romeo Beckham, son of Manchester United legend David Beckham.

Tottenham Hotspur completed a deadline day deal for Sporting Lisbon’s Pedro Porro. The former Manchester City property should slide right into the right back position in Spurs’ starting lineup. Spurs host Manchester City Sunday in a matchup of clubs currently fifth and second, respectively, in the Premier League table. The Citizens surprisingly loaned fullback Joao Cancelo to Bayern Munich on deadline day amid a reputed rift between the player and Manager Pep Guardiola.