Monday, October 30, 2023

Premier League Week 10 Results: Top Five Sweep To Victory; Nketiah Hat Trick; Haaland Brace; Salah and Son Score; Newcastle and Brighton Drop Points; Angst For Manchester United And Chelsea; Cherries Win; Newly Promoted Could Be Newly Relegated

There were no changes to the top of the table as the current top four and an ambitious Aston Villa all won on the weekend. League leading Spurs won by the narrowest margin in a 2-1 win at Crystal Palace. The defensive minded Eagles held Spurs without a first half shot for the first time this season. An own goal by Crystal Palace then broke the ice in the 55th minute  before Son Heung-min scored his eighth goal of the season for the insurance goal which rendered a stoppage time score by Crystal Palace meaningless.

Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah, playing in place of an injured Gabriel Jesus, scored a hat trick to lead Arsenal to an easy 5-0 win over hapless Sheffield United. The Blades are the only winless team after Bournemouth’s victory this weekend.

Manchester City also coasted to an easy victory in its Manchester derby at Old Trafford. Manchester United’s 3-0 loss to the Citizens enormously increased the heat on Manager Eric ten Hag. An uncompetitive loss to their cross-town rival was bad enough but ten Hag’s decision making is very much in question. An available Raphael Varane was passed over for ancient Jonny Evans at center back, with the latter being exploited by the league’s leading scorer, Erling Haaland. Right footed center back Victor Lindelof was inserted at left back and looked uncomfortable all game. Meanwhile, expensive acquisitions acquired on ten Hag’s watch, Antony and Mason Mount, failed to crack the starting line-up and were their usually ineffective selves when substituted in. Ten Hag’s tactics and the squad’s playing style were unclear to most observers. Erling Haaland punished the Red Devils with two goals which raised his league leading total to 11 on the season and kept his club level on points with Arsenal, two points behind Tottenham Hotspur.

An emotionally distraught Liverpool club kept pace, just a point behind Manchester City, with a 3-0 win over Nottingham Forest. Luis Diaz was not with the club due to the kidnapping of his parents in his native Colombia. Thankfully both parents were rescued by the Colombian authorities. Diogo Jota raised the jersey of his absent teammate in a show of support following the match’s opening goal on Saturday. Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah would add goals against overmatched Nottingham Forest. Salah has scored in each of Liverpool’s five home matches this season at Anfield, a venue where the Tricky Trees have failed to win since 1969. Forest are now just five points from the relegation zone after having failed to win in the league since September 2nd.

Aston Villa sits just outside the top four, just a point behind Liverpool. A 3-1 victory over Luton Town marked a 12th consecutive win at Villa Park for Manger Unai Emery’s side. The walkover against the newly promoted and likely to be relegated Hatters, however, will not remove the doubt planted by the Villans’ earlier decisive league defeats to better competition in Newcastle and Liverpool. A late November tilt at Tottenham Hotspur will speak volumes about Aston Villa’s top four chances.

Newcastle and Brighton are likely feeling the strain of unaccustomed European  competition. Managers Eddie Howe and Roberto De Zerbi rotated their lineups on the weekend to accommodate fatigue and injury after midweek contests against European sides. Newcastle additionally has the issue of Sandro Tonali’s suspension for gambling violations to deal with. A 2-2 draw at Wolverhampton was thus not an altogether bad outcome for the Magpies. Wolves have been an improving side and extended their unbeaten run in the league to five matches with Saturday’s draw.

Brighton will be less satisfied with dropping points at home in a 1-1 final with Fulham. The Seagulls dominated the play and took an early lead on the Cottagers with a goal by Evan Ferguson who became the first teenager to score 10 or more Premier League goals in a calendar year since Wayne Rooney in 2005. The Seagulls faltered, however, in the second half when they lost possession in a dangerous area and were victimized by a 65th minute strike by Fulham’s Joao Palhinha.

West Ham had an even worse homecoming at London Stadium. The sluggish Hammers fell 1-0 to Everton as the Toffees’ Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored the winner and dedicated the win to long time Everton Chairman Bill Kenwright who died earlier in the week. Calvert Lewin was surrounded by no fewer than three West Ham players as he found a way to launch the winning shot. West Ham, meanwhile, struggled to penetrate a staunch Everton defense. The Hammers managed just two shots on goal as West Hm supporters are once again criticizing the conservative game plan of Manager David Moyes.

Criticism of Chelsea Manager Mauricio Pochettino is more muted, but his project took a step back on Saturday with an embarrassing 2-0 home loss to Brentford. The Bees won for the third consecutive time at Stamford Bridge, the home of their London “rival.” Chelsea, meanwhile, has won just once in its last 13 Premier League home matches. Chelsea had seemed to be making some progress in recent weeks, leading Arsenal last week before collapsing, but the performance against Brentford once again highlighted deficiencies in attack, leaving Pochettino to bemoan his lack of a proper striker in post-match comments. Ineffective striker Nicolas Jackson, a curious purchase amid Chelsea’s wild spending spree, was drawn into an unpleasant encounter with a disgruntled fan. Pochettino himself intervened between Jackson and the unhappy supporter. Bournemouth Manager Andoni Iraola may have pulled himself back from the brink with his Cherries’ 2-1 win over Burnley. The victory was the first of the season for Bournemouth and Iraola’s first as a Premier League Manager. The three points pulled the Cherries out of the relegation zone and portends darkly for the relegation bound Clarets. Burnley, managed by former Premier League star Vincent Kompany, was thought to be the promoted club most likely to survive this season. The Clarets, however, are rooted in the drop zone along with the other two promoted sides, Sheffield United and Luton Town. The last time all three promoted sides were immediately relegated from the Premier League was the 1997/98 season. 

Carabao Cup

The Carabao (EFL) Cup will play its Round of Sixteen this week with half the Premier League sides still alive in the competition. Four Wednesday matches will feature Premier League sides facing each other. Manchester United’s match with Newcastle on Wednesday could be the most competitive with Red Devil Manager Eric ten Hag desperately needing a win of any sort while his counterpart, Eddie Howe, could be more likely to rotate his line-up ahead of next weekend’s Premier League match with Arsenal. The Gunners travel to West Ham on Wednesday where Hammer Manager David Moyes could also be on the hot seat. Liverpool travels to Bournemouth while Everton is home to Burnley in the other two all-Premier League matches. Chelsea and Fulham will be taking on Championship sides, Blackburn Rovers and Ipswich Town, respectively.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Premier League Week 10 Preview

Tottenham Hotspur, currently top of the Premier League table, leads off this weekend’s schedule with a Friday match at Crystal Palace. Manager Ange Postecoglou has not only posted the best ever mark of a new Premier League manager after nine matches but has his new club off to its best start in more than 40 years. Crystal Palace has scored only one goal in its last four league matches, surprisingly capturing five points despite that lack of production. The Eagles got swamped 4-0, however, by Newcastle last week and are unlikely to threaten Spurs’ undefeated run.

Arsenal, the only other undefeated Premier League club, should have little problem at home against Sheffield United. The bottom of the table Blades are one of just two clubs not to have won a match this season.

Manchester City is level on points with Arsenal after getting back on track with a win over Brighton last weekend. The Citizens had lost two consecutive league matches but seem to have restored order with their win over the Seagulls being followed up by an easy midweek Champions League win. Manager Pep Guardiola’s side heads crosstown Sunday for a Manchester derby against rival Manchester United. The Red Devils have lost four times in the league already this season and are just barely in the top half of the table. A fifth loss in their 10th match of the season would be the first time that’s happened in 37 years.

Liverpool’s first ever loss in the Premier League was at Nottingham Forest in 1992. The Tricky Trees, however, haven’t won at Anfield since 1969. That’s unlikely to change on Sunday when fourth place Liverpool plays host to Forest. The home side has won all four of its league contests at Anfield this season and has only lost in the league at top of the table Tottenham Hotspur. Forest has scrapped to four draws in its last five league matches as the Trees have struggled with the injury absence of striker Taiwo Awoniyi.

Aston Villa is just a point behind Liverpool, surging with four wins in its last five Premier League matches and outscoring opponents in its last four matches across all competitions by an aggregate margin of 16-4. The Villans will be seeking a 12th consecutive Premier League home win when they host newly promoted Luton Town on Sunday.

Newcastle and Brighton are three points behind Villa. The Magpies have posted a clean sheet in four of their last five Premier League matches, winning each of those matches while drawing with West Ham during a five-match unbeaten league run. Manager Eddie Howe’s side will try to shake off a midweek Champions League loss and resume its league form when the Magpies visit Wolverhampton on Saturday. Wolverhampton, however, has also been playing well during its own four-match unbeaten run which includes an impressive win over Manchester City and a draw with Aston Villa. Six of the eight Premier League meetings at Molineux between the two clubs have ended 1-1.

Brighton will be seeking a first ever Premier League victory over Fulham when the Seagulls host the Cottagers on Sunday. The Seagulls are emerging from a brutal three match winless run where all three of their opponents are currently in the top five of the Premier League table. Fulham, meanwhile, has earned its three victories this season against lesser competition with the Cottagers prevailing over Everton, Luton Town and Sheffield United. Brighton is on a different level than those teams which should spell trouble for the Cottagers on Sunday.

These are difficult and sad times for Everton. Long time chairman Bill Kenwright passed this week. The club faces a potential points reduction for financial fair play violations. On the pitch, the club is flirting with relegation for a third consecutive season. The Toffees lost the Merseyside derby to rival Liverpool last weekend. Sunday, they travel to east London to face former Manager David Moyes and West Ham. A hammering would not be surprising.

Chelsea will try to build on a three-match league unbeaten run as the Blues seek their first home victory since August when Brentford visits Stamford Bridge on Saturday. Last week’s draw with Arsenal was both disappointing as a two-goal lead evaporated but also hopeful for the strong effort against a top club. While the draw with the Gunners was a missed opportunity, Manager Mauricio Pochettino’s side appears much more dangerous than earlier in the season. Eight goals in the three-match unbeaten run have supporters in a far more positive state of mind. Brentford, meanwhile, has been unimpressive since its opening draw with Tottenham Hotspur. The Bees’ win over relegation bound Burnley last week was only a second victory for 14th place Brentford since mid-August.

One week after losing to predecessor Gary O’Neal, now at Wolves, Bournemouth Manager Andoni Iraola resumes his quest for a first Premier League win when the Cherries host fellow relegation battler Burnley. Iraola’s side have netted a league low six goals from their nine matches to date as Iraola’s attacking philosophy has yielded little in the way of results for the Cherries. Burnley hasn’t been much better, scoring seven times while conceding more goals than any Premier League club but for fellow relegation zone occupant Sheffield United.  

Premier League in Europe

Newcastle tripped up versus Dortmund in a 1-0 loss at St. James Park to create chaos in its  qualifying group. Dortmund won for the first time in the group and now sits on four points alongside the Magpies. Both clubs trail PSG despite the French side having lost on their own visit to northeast England. PSG responded to that loss by thumping AC Milan in Paris on Wednesday. The Magpies lacked the aggression displayed in their win over PSG and were a deserved loser against the German side which was fighting to stay in the qualification race.  Adding injury to insult for the Magpies was a recurrence of striker Alexander Isak’s groin injury which saw him lifted from Wednesday’s contest.

Manchester United won ugly once again. Following a nervy 2-1 weekend win over Sheffield United in the Premier League, the Red Devils edged Copenhagen 1-0 in their Champions League match on Tuesday. The much-criticized Harry Maguire earned a bit of redemption with a 72nd minute goal for the club which stripped him of his captaincy. Players previously not preferred by Manager Eric ten Hag, such as Maguire and midfielder Scott McTominay, have returned to the fray and delivered key performances for United in recent weeks.

Manchester United goalkeeper Andre Onana preserved the home victory over the Danish club with a stoppage time penalty save. United now stands third in its qualifying group, one point behind second place Galatasaray while Bayern Munich has a seemingly insurmountable lead for the top spot.

Arsenal forward Gabriel Jesus had a goal and an assist to help Arsenal to an important 2-1 road win at Sevilla on Tuesday. Arsenal, which dropped its last qualifying match at Lens, moved to the top of its qualifying group with the win in Spain. Jesus, however, left the match with a likely hamstring injury and could miss the Gunners’ Premier League match this weekend.

Erling Haaland scored twice on Wednesday as Manchester City stayed perfect in its Champions League group with a 3-1 over Young Boys in Switzerland.

Liverpool was even more dominant in a 5-1 Europa League shellacking of Toulouse on Thursday. Brighton was also a winner in Europa League competition, posting a 2-0 victory over Ajax. West Ham, however, fell 2-1 at Olympiacos.

In the Europa Conference League, Aston Villa notched an impressive 4-1 win over AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Premier League Week 9 Results: Spurs Alone At The Top; Arsenal Grabs Late Point At Chelsea; Manchester City Ends Skid; Salah Scores Twice In Liverpool Derby Win; Newcastle Roll Continues; Villa Hammers West Ham; Revenge For O’Neil As Wolves Overtake Cherries

Tottenham Hotspur is alone atop the Premier League table after defeating Fulham 2-0 on Monday while rival Arsenal dropped points at Stamford Bridge. Son Heung-min and James Maddison provided the goalscoring in a win which gave Spurs Manager Ange Postecoglou the most points ever for a Premier League manager in their first nine matches. Undefeated Spurs have recreated themselves following the departure of striker Harry Kane with Son and Maddison leading the charge. The South Korean is now just two goals off the pace of league leading goal scorer Erling Haaland while former Leicester player Maddison is just one assist behind league leader Pedro Neto of Wolves.

Chelsea was the better side for 75 minutes versus Arsenal before letting the Gunners back into Saturday’s match at Stamford Bridge. Cole Palmer scored a penalty kick and Mykhailo Mudryk lofted a seeming cross into the net over Arsenal goalkeeper David Raya to give Chelsea a 2-0 lead in a match it seemed to have well in hand. Chelsea goalkeeper Robert Sanchez let the Gunners back in with a sloppy pass that was intercepted and converted by Arsenal’s Declan Rice at the 77-minute mark. An unmarked Leandro Trossard tapped in the equalizer seven minutes later to salvage a point for the Gunners and leave Chelsea manger Mauricio Pochettino shaking his head over the lost opportunity.

Manchester City drew level with Arsenal, both clubs two points behind Spurs, as the Citizens responded to back-to-back league losses with a 2-1 home win over Brighton. Goals by Julian Alvarez and Erling Haaland inside of the first twenty minutes seemed to promise a decisive victory but Brighton was able to regroup. The Seagulls defense tightened and a 73rd minute goal by on loan Barcelona player Ansu Fati made things interesting. A stoppage time red card assessed Manchester City Manuel Akanji made for a nervous final few moments for the Citizens. Brighton leads the league in goals allowed but Manager Roberto De Zerbi will take some solace at the Seagulls shutting off the spigot after City’s second goal, avoiding the type of disaster that occurred at Aston Villa when the Seagulls conceded six times.

Villa moved to within a point of the top four with a 4-1 victory over West Ham. Douglas Luiz posted a brace, one goal coming via penalty, as Aston Villa won an 11th consecutive league home match, its best run of home form in 40 years.

Fourth place Liverpool, however, has perhaps the league’s most intimidating fortress, having lost just one of its last 45 matches at Anfield after Saturday’s  2-0 victory over rival Everton. Mohamed Salah scored twice as Liverpool Manager Jurgen Klopp notched a record ninth Premier League victory in the Merseyside derby. A frustrating day for Everton saw defender Ashley Young tossed for a second yellow card in the 37th minute. The ten-man Toffees then doggedly held off the Reds until Salah converted a 75th minute penalty kick following a hand ball in the box by Everton’s Michael Keane. A stoppage time goal by Salah, his seventh of the season, sealed the victory.

Newcastle continued to display its goalscoring muscle in a 4-0 rout of Crystal Palace at St James Park. The Magpies have scored 22 goals, conceding just three, in their last eight matches across all competitions. Crystal Palace had conceded only seven goals in its first eight league matches before being taken apart by the Magpies. The Newcastle victory puts Manger Eddie Howe’s side up to sixth place in the table by virtue of a better goal differential than Brighton.

Manchester United is a point behind the Magpies and Seagulls after a less than impressive 2-1 win at Sheffield United. Defensive midfielder Scott McTominay opened scoring with his third goal in two matches for the Red Devils. McTominay would then be penalized for a handball, however, as Sheffield United ‘s Oli McBurnie drilled the ensuing penalty kick for the equalizer. It was left to fullback Diogo Dalot to rescue the result for Manchester United with a 77th minute strike, only his fourth goal for the club across all competitions since joining the Red Devils for the 2018/19 season. Manchester United forwards continued their season long struggle as they contributed nothing to the scoresheet against the Premier league’s worst club with the Blades having earned just a single point on the season. No club has survived Premier League relegation after accumulating no more than a point after its first nine league matches.

Bournemouth has been little better than Sheffield United this season and insult was added to injury on Saturday. Former manager Gary O’Neil, controversially sacked after helping Bournemouth survive last season, took new team Wolverhampton down to the south coast and watched his new charges overcome an initial deficit to win 2-1 on an 88th minute goal by late substitute Sasa Kalajdzic. Bumbling Bournemouth went down to 10 men in the 54th minute and conceded the winner off a poor pass from Cherries’ goalkeeper Neto. Bournemouth remained winless and above only Sheffield United in the table as current manager Andoni Iraola hangs by a thread. O’Neil, meanwhile, has Wolves 12th in the table, currently eight points above his former club.

Newly promoted Luton Town also executed a comeback this weekend, fighting back from two goals down at Nottingham Forest to salvage a point from a 2-2 draw. A stoppage time goal by Elijah Adebayo secured the point for the Hatters and put a damper on a two-goal performance by Nottingham Forest’s Chris Wood. Luton Town is currently safe, 17th in the table and a point above fellow promoted side Burnley. The currently relegation bound Clarets lost 3-0 at Brentford on Saturday. The 14th place Bees won for the first time in the league since August.  

Premier League in Europe

Arsenal will try to rebound from its loss to French side Lens when the Gunners travel to Sevilla Tuesday in Champions League group play. Reining Europa League champion Sevilla has struggled in La Liga this season and recently changed managers. Diego Alonso is now the fifth manager for the seemingly impatient Spanish club in the last two seasons. Manchester United, meanwhile, is in an unexpected must win situation when the Red Devils host Copenhagen at Old Trafford on Tuesday. United is bottom of its qualifying group with two losses in its opening two matches. Newcastle is somewhat surprisingly on top of a daunting Champions League group. The Magpies host Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday after grabbing a point at AC Milan and then defeating PSG in its last group match at St. James Park. Manchester City will seek a third straight Champions League group win when the Citizens travel to Bern, Switzerland to face Young Boys on Wednesday. West Ham will also seek a third win in European competition when the Hammers travel to Greece for a Europa League match against Olympiacos Thursday. Brighton and Liverpool, meanwhile, will be home for Europa League matches against Ajax and Toulouse respectively. Ajax sacked their manager this week as one of the worst starts in club history has seen supporter uprisings leading to the stopping of a match and the use of teargas against protesting fans. The legendary Dutch side are currently next to bottom in the Eredivisie table. Toulouse, currently 10th in the Ligue 1 table, is second to Liverpool’s perfect record in its Europa League qualifying group after a win and draw in the French side’s first two matches.  Aston Villa is at AZ Alkmaar for a Europa Conference League matchup on Thursday. All four clubs are level on points in Villa’s qualifying group, each winning and losing a match in the opening two group contests. 

Friday, October 20, 2023

Premier League Week 9 Preview

The Premier League roars back from international break this weekend. When last we left off, Manchester City had tumbled from its perch atop the table and the two north London rivals, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur moved past the Citizens into a virtual tie atop the table. The Gunners delivered a 1-0 statement win over Manchester City just before the break to move atop the table alongside Spurs which holds a goals scored tiebreaker advantage over the Gunners. Both Arsenal and Spurs will be involved in London derbies this weekend.

Arsenal visits Stamford Bridge Saturday for a match against an improving Chelsea. Arsenal hasn’t lost a league match at Chelsea since 2018 when Maurizio Sarri was Chelsea manager. Chelsea, however, was an improving team prior to the international break, winning three consecutive matches across all competitions as Mauricio Pochettino seemed to be getting a tune out of his young and hastily assembled squad. Injuries continue to bedevil the Blues, however, with numerous players questionable for Saturday’s match. Arsenal will be hoping to have Bukayo Saka available after the English star missed his first league match in 88 games against Manchester City. Teammate Kai Havertz, meanwhile, faces former club Chelsea for the first time.

Tottenham Hotspur returns to action on Monday against Fulham. Spurs remain undefeated in Manager Ange Postecoglou’s inaugural Premier League season but have seemed more vulnerable than their record would indicate. Spurs were gifted a victory by the referees, who admitted and apologized for that fact, after a win over Liverpool. Two added time goals were required for Spurs to put away bottom of the table Sheffield United. A second half set piece goal was the only score in Tottenham Hotspurs’ 1-0 win over newly promoted Luton before the break.

Manchester City, still smarting from its loss to Arsenal will try to bounce back at the Etihad Saturday versus sixth place Brighton. The Citizens have won 20 consecutive matches at their home stadium across all competitions. A 21st home win, which would establish a new record for a Premier League side, should be helped by two key factors. Defensive midfielder Rodri returns after a three-match suspension and his presence will be key against the high scoring Seagulls. Brighton’s wide-open style of play will also have Erling Haaland excited to put an end to his two-match league goalless streak. Haaland has never gone three Premier League games without finding the net. Brighton, perhaps showing the stress of its first ever season in European, has failed to win in its last four outings across all competitions.

At least one noteworthy streak will end when Aston Villa hosts West Ham on Sunday in a match between the league’s current fifth and seventh place clubs. Aston Villa has won its last ten home matches in the Premier League under Manager Unai Emery. West Ham, however, is unbeaten in its last ten league visits to Villa Park. The Hammers’ Manager David Moyes, meanwhile, is unbeaten in 14 matches versus Aston Villa dating back to 2010 when he was managing Everton. Emery and Moyes present an interesting tactical matchup with both managers preferring to counterattack.

Contrasting styles will be on display in Saturday’s Merseyside derby when Liverpool hosts rival Everton. The high pressing Reds will work overtime to attack what should be a deep lying Toffee defense set up by Everton Manger Sean Dyche. The Toffees, though, did score three times against Bournemouth in their last outing, a shocking output for a club which has failed to score in half of its eight matches to date. Dominic Calvert-Lewin has returned from injury to provide an element of danger for Dyche with the oft injured striker notching three goals in Everton’s last four matches across all competitions. Unfortunately, Anfield should put a stop to Everton’s recent momentum. The Reds have lost only once on their home pitch in their last 45 Premier League home matches. Jurgen Klopp will surpass Rafa Benitez as the all-time winningest manager in the Merseyside derby with a win on Saturday while Mohamed Salah will be looking to find the net for a 200th career Premier League goal. Salah has been involved in a remarkable 27 goals in his last 23 league appearances, recording 16 goals and 11 assists.

While not technically a derby, the matchup between Bournemouth and Wolverhampton has a rich story line. The Cherries have won only one of their six Premier League matchups versus Wolves. The manager of that Bournemouth victory is now in charge of Wolverhampton and likely anxious for some revenge against his former employers after a questionable sacking. Gary O’Neil kept a ragtag Bournemouth squad safe last season after taking over from former Cherries manager Scott Parker who publicly declared the squad not to be of Premier League quality and was sacked soon after. O’Neil was then sacked himself, after keeping the Cherries up, in favor of current Bournemouth Manager Andoni Iraola. O’Neil’s surprising sacking might not have been the best move for the Cherries. Bournemouth has yet to win under Iraola this season, matching their worst ever league start. Yet another managerial change could be on the table if the new manager loses to the former manager this weekend.

Another manager on the host seat is Sheffield United’s Paul Heckingbottom. The Blades are the only other winless squad besides Bournemouth as Heckingbottom’s gang prepares to face Manchester United on Saturday. Manchester United Manger Eric ten Hag, meanwhile, has his own problems. A loss by the Red Devils to the league’s bottom team on Saturday would be a fifth loss in their opening nine league matches, the first time that will have happened in 37 years.

Surprisingly level on points right now with Manchester United is Crystal Palace. The Eagles are ninth in the table despite their seven goals being less than any club not in the relegation zone. Palace are at Newcastle on Saturday to face a Magpies side which has scored more goals than any Premier League club but for Brighton this season. Look for Crystal Palace, however, to park the bus in the latest iteration of low scoring duels between the clubs. Only 15 goals have been scored in the last 14 meetings between the Eagles and Magpies across all competitions.

Nottingham Forest was involved in a goalless draw with Crystal Palace just before the break. The Tricky Trees now could be looking at another tedious battle when hosting Luton Town this weekend. Forest has struggled without injured striker Taiwo Awoniyi. Only Bournemouth, meanwhile, has scored fewer goals than Luton Town. The absence of suspended striker Ivan Toney continues to weigh on Brentford as the Bees prepare to host Burnley on Saturday. The Bees have even resorted to using former Brighton and Everton striker Neal Maupay who has gone 30 appearances in the Premier League without a goal. Both Brentford and Burnley have one win this season, but the Bees have drawn on three more occasions than the relegation bound Clarets.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Premier League Week 8 Results: Arsenal Prevails But Spurs Go Top; Late Lighting At Old Trafford; Chelsea Blitz Burnley; Liverpool, Brighton, West Ham, Newcastle, Villa, Palace, Forest, And Wolves Earn a Point In Weekend of Draws

Arsenal ended the hex, and defeated Manchester City for the first time with Mikel Arteta as manager, in a 1-0 victory Sunday at the Emirates. Gabriel Martinelli, making his return from injury as a second half substitute, scored the winner in the 86th minute to topple Manchester City from the top of the Premier League table. Fellow substitute Kai Havertz earned a bit of redemption with his first assist for the club on Martinelli’s winning goal. Arsenal moved past Manchester City in the standings, but it is Tottenham Hotspur which sits atop the table. North London rivals Spurs and Arsenal are level on points and the two remaining undefeated clubs in the league. The clubs are also equal on goal differential, but Spurs has scored two more goals than the Gunners to break the early table tie. Manchester City falls to third after a second consecutive Premier League loss and third defeat in the Citizens’ last four matches across all competitions. It’s the first time City has lost back-to-back league matches in almost five years.

Tottenham Hotspur squeezed past Luton Town 1-0 despite being reduced to ten men for the entire second half after two first half yellow cards eliminated Yves Bissouma from the contest. Micky van de Ven scored his first goal for Tottenham Hotspur, heading in a cross from James Maddison, Maddison’s joint league leading fifth assist of the season.

Liverpool missed a chance to move past Manchester City into third place when Brighton’s Lewis Dunk scored a 78th minute equalizer in a 2-2 draw with the Reds. Mohamed Salah had a brace for Liverpool and now has five league goals for the season to go with his four assists.

Fifth place Aston Villa still trails Liverpool by a point after a 1-1 draw at Wolverhampton. A Pau Torres goal salvaged a point for the Villans after Hwan Hee-Chan had given Wolves the lead. Hee-Chan scored for a second consecutive match after his winner versus Manchester City last week.

West Ham’s 2-2 draw with Newcastle was another of three draws on Sunday. The Hammers’ Mohammed Kudus delivered his first Premier League goal in the 89th minute to salvage the pint at London Stadium and neutralize a brace by Newcastle’s Alexander Isak.

Manchester United’s Scott McTominay dramatically pulled Manchester United back from the brink with two stoppage time goals for a 2-1 victory over Brentford at Old Trafford. McTominay had only entered the match with three minutes left in regulation before his added time heroics. Harry Maguire, like McTominay a seldom used outcast during Manager Eric ten Hag’s regime, assisted on Mctominay’s winner in the 97th minute. The win snapped a two-match losing run for the Red Devils at their historic ground and prevented Manchester United from losing a fifth Premier League match this season.

Everton had lost all four of its home matches this season before feasting on bumbling Bournemouth at Goodison Park Saturday. Numerous mistakes by the Cherries made the Toffees look like the offensive powerhouse they are not. Winless Bournemouth Manager Andoni Iraola has the Cherries in the relegation zone and likely faces a must win match if he is to save his job in two weeks. After the international break, the Cherries face Wolverhampton and former Bournemouth boss Gary O’Neil who was sacked in favor of Iraola after keeping the club up last season.

Chelsea now has three consecutive victories across all competitions following a 4-1 defeat of Burnley. Chelsea exploded for three second half goals after a Burnley own goal had pulled Chelsea back from an early one goal deficit. Raheem Sterling, perhaps with something to prove after not being called up by England, was key to Chelsea roaring back against the Clarets.  It was Sterling’s cross that Burnley defender Ameen Al-Dakhil deflected into his own net. Sterling would then win a penalty converted by Cole Palmer to give Chelsea the lead. Sterling would then score himself for Chelsea’s third goal. Nicolas Jackson would join in the goal scoring fun for Chelsea’s fourth and final goal, assisted by Palmer.

There was no scoring at all at Selhurst Park where Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest played to a goalless draw. Both sides were hampered by the injury absence of key attacking players such as Eberechi Eze for the Eagles and Taiwo Awoniyi for the Tricky Trees. An otherwise unremarkable match did mark Crystal Palace Manager Roy Hodgson’s 400th Premier League contest.

The seat of Sheffield United Manager Paul Heckingbottom became warmer after his Blades were dispatched 3-1 at Fulham. Sheffield United sit at the bottom of the table with one point and no wins to date. Fulham Manager Marco Silva, meanwhile, celebrated his 50th win as Fulham’s manager. Fulham is level on points with 11th place Chelsea.  

Friday, October 6, 2023

Premier League Week 8 Preview

One match takes center stage this weekend as Manchester City goes to the Emirates to face Arsenal on Sunday. Arsenal is a mere point behind table leading Manchester City as the first and second place finishers from last season square off in their first confrontation of the new Premier League season. Arsenal overcame a long injury list to cruise in impressive fashion over Bournemouth last week but then were tripped up midweek in Champions League by Lens. Limping out of that Lens match with a muscle injury was Arsenal star Bukayo Saka whose availability and fitness are now questionable for Sunday. The Gunners are already expected to be without forward Gariel Martinelli for a sixth consecutive match. Manchester City, meanwhile, will be without suspended defensive midfielder Rodri. The Citizens dropped their first points of the season last weekend at Wolverhampton, and it will be an irascible group of Citizens which heads to London this weekend looking to extend their winning streak over Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta to eight matches as Arteta has failed to manage a victory versus his former club. 

Tottenham Hotspur could take over the table lead based on a Manchester City and Arsenal draw or the margin of an Arsenal victory. Spurs are level on points with Arsenal, technically second by virtue of more goals scored, as Manager Ange Postecoglou’s undefeated side head to Luton Town. The Hatters have lost five of seven matches to date in their first ever Premier League season.

Liverpool rounds out the current top four though that standing could be in jeopardy this week at sixth place Brighton on Sunday. Brighton Manager Roberto De Zerbi has two wins and a draw in his three meetings with Liverpool Manger Jurgen Klopp. De Zerbi’s Seagulls have won five of their seven league matches on the strength of the league’s highest scoring attack which has provided cover for an extremely vulnerable defense. Liverpool incurred its only loss of the season last week at Tottenham Hotspur where it was victimized by egregious officiating. The controversial defeat ended a 17-match unbeaten Premier League run for the Reds.

Newcastle is on a six-match unbeaten run across all competitions as the 8th place Magpies head to 7th place West Ham on Sunday. Contributions come from all directions for Newcastle Manager Eddie Howe’s side as ten different players have scored for the Magpies, more goal scorers than any other Premier League side this season.

West Ham has gotten a huge boost from transfer addition James Ward-Prowse. The former Southampton midfielder, who will make his 350th Premier League appearance this week, has two goals and three assists after seven matches. Dating to last season with the Saints, Ward-Prowse has nine goal involvements in his last ten appearances.

Aston Villa is just a point outside the top four as they head to Wolverhampton where Manchester City was ambushed last week. Despite their lofty standing in the Premier League table, Villa remains unpredictable. Easily defeated in losses to Liverpool and Newcastle, Aston Villa crushed Brighton last week only to struggle with Zrinjski in the Europa Conference League on Thursday.

Manchester United will be trying to avoid losing a third consecutive home loss for the first time since 1977 when it hosts Brentford on Saturday. The Bees haven’t presented many problems at Old Trafford in the past. Their last victory there came in 1937 and they’ve never scored at Old Trafford in the Premier League.

Crystal Palace could have trouble scoring when the Eagles face Nottingham Forest at Selhurst Park. Eberechi Eze is out with a hamstring problem, joining Michae Olise on the injury list. Striker Edouard Odsonne has had some good moments this season, but he could be deprived of service with his club’s top two creators sidelined. Worse yet, Edouard could also be questionable with his own hamstring problem. Nottingham Forest thus has an improved chance to win for just a second time in 15 Premier League away matches for the Tricky Trees.

Chelsea will be trying to win back-to-back Premier League matches for the first time since March when the Blues visit Burnley. The Clarets were midweek winners over Luton town in a rescheduled match which gave Vincent Kompany his first win as a Premier League manager.

Everton Manger Sean Dyche is squarely on the hot seat after last weekend’s home loss to Luton Town. The Toffees are off to their worst home campaign in 65 years after losing all four of their Goodison Park league matches this season. On the other hand, Bournemouth hasn’t won a home or away match as they try again versus the Toffees on Saturday.

Sheffield United are the only other winless team in the league. The Blades are at Fulham on Saturday. 

Premier League in Europe

Long suffering Newcastle fans were rewarded Wednesday as the first Champions League match at St. James Park in more than 20 years delivered victory over an esteemed opponent. Newcastle sailed past French League Champion PSG and star Kylian Mbappe by a dominating 4-1 scoreline. Perhaps no Geordies were happier than Magpies Dan Burn and Sean Longstaff, both of whom scored a Champions League goal in the same stadium where they watched matches from the stands as children. The magical evening saw Newcastle deliver its quartet of goals from just 26% possession of the ball on an unproductive evening for the French. The Magpies now top their group standings.

Manchester United, on the other hand, sit at the bottom of their group after a second consecutive loss in Champions League play. The Red Devils were 3-2 losers to Galatasaray despite a stellar performance from 20-year-old striker Rasmus Hojlund who twice gave his club the lead in Tuesday’s match. Defensive frailty, however, sent the Red Devils to a third loss in their last four matches at Old Trafford across all competitions. Casemiro was at the center of the follies. The midfielder was caught out on Galatasaray’s second goal and then was later red carded for a foul committed in the box after a giveaway by United goalkeeper Andre Onana. Mauro Icardi missed the penalty but would later score the winner against 10-man Manchester United. Former Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha, who also spent a brief and unsuccessful stint at Manchester United, scored Galatasaray in his return to Old Trafford.

Arsenal also lost in Champions League play Tuesday, falling 2-1 at Lens in a sluggish performance by the Gunners. Squad depth could be telling on Arsenal as Bukayo Saka started the match despite being forced off with discomfort in Saturday’s Premier League win over Bournemouth. The match against the Cherries was Saka’s 87th consecutive Premier League start. Mikel Arteta may regret Saka’s subsequent participation in Tuesday’s match as Saka pulled up with a muscle injury which could affect his fitness for this weekend’s all-important showdown in the Premier League with Manchester City. Goalkeeper David Raya was at fault for one of the Lens goals, adding further spice to the goalkeeping competition between he and Aaron Ramsdale for the Gunners. Elye Wahi, meanwhile, assisted the first and scored the second Lens goal to become the youngest player to assist and score in a Champions League match since Kylian Mbappe in 2018.

Manchester City responded to back-to-back defeats in the Carabao Cup and Premier League by scoring a 4-1 victory over RB Leipzig to remain perfect in its Champions League group. Substitutes Julian Alvarez and Jermy Doku both registered a goal and assist for the Citizens.

West Ham established a new English club record by extending its unbeaten run in European competition to 17 matches. The Hammers stayed perfect in their Europa League group with a 2-1 win at FC Freiburg. No West Ham fans were in attendance for the historic win as they were banned from the match as punishment for poor behavior after the club’s Europa League title victory last spring.

Liverpool secured its second group win with a 2-0 Europa League defeat of Union Saint Gilloise at Anfield. Ryan Gravenberch scored his first Liverpool goal in the victory.

Brighton is still in search of its first Europa League victory after a 2-2 draw at Marseilles. Brighton will be happy with the point, however, as the Seagulls recovered from a two-goal deficit to tie the match on an 88th minute penalty kick by Joao Pedro. It was Brighton’s first point ever in a European match.

John McGinn’s stoppage time header gave Aston Villa a 1-0 Europa Conference League victory over Zrinjski. All four clubs in Aston Villa’s qualification group now have a win and a loss. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Premier League Week 7 Results: Wolves Shock Manchester City; Spurs Steal A Win; Aston Villa Blitzes Brighton; Arsenal Crushes Cherries; Hatters Top Everton’s Big Head; Mudryk Magic For Chelsea

What a weekend in the Premier League. Things started with Saturday’s early game when Aston Villa surprisingly routed third palace Brighton 6-1. Ollie Watkins’s hat trick spearheaded Villa’s assault which continually asked questions of a vulnerable Brighton defense. The high-flying Seagulls have scored the most goals in the Premier League this season. After Saturday’s capitulation to Aston Villa, however, the Seagulls have also now conceded more goals than any club not in the relegation zone. The debacle at Villa Park for Brighton marked the first time the Seagulls had conceded a six pack in a topflight game. Aston Villa, meanwhile, responded to a puzzling mid-week loss to Everton in the Carabao Cup by putting an exclamation point on a tenth consecutive Premier League win at Villa Park.

Surprise was to give way to shock on Saturday when previously perfect Manchester City was ambushed by Wolves at Molineux Stadium. The upset provided just a brief glimpse of hope that there could be a title chase in the Premier League season. Wolves won’t be part of such a chase, of course, but Manager Gary O’Neil can take pride in his club’s perseverance and composure to capture all three points from a contest in which it seemed overmatched.

Manchester City dominated the play with 68 percent possession and 23 shots to only 3 by Wolves. The defending league champions had difficulty converting their chances, however, while spotting their hosts with an early lead on an own goal by Manchester City’s Ruben Diaz. Things appeared to be reverting to the norm when Julian Alvarez scored on a curling free kick to bring Manchester City level in the 58th minute. Wolves, however, would win the day by converting their only shot on target, a 66th  minute goal by Hwang Hee-Chan. A suspended Pep Guardiola watched in disbelief from the stands as City dropped its first points of the season. Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal would both move within a point of Manchester City with victories on Saturday.

Arsenal had a relatively easy time in a 4-0 victory at Bournemouth, which included two penalty kicks against the error prone Cherries. Even Kai Havertz scored as the notably unproductive former Chelsea player scored on one of Arsenal’s penalty tries for his first goal as a Gunner. Things are looking dark for the Cherries who dropped into the relegation zone, joining fellow cellar dwellers Sheffield United and Burnley as the only Premier League sides not to have won a match this season.

Tottenham Hotspur had a far more difficult time capturing three points on Saturday and it’s debatable whether they truly earned their 2-1 victory over Liverpool. The referees’ association (PGMOL) has already apologized over “significant human error” which incorrectly disallowed a Luis Diaz goal for Liverpool. The Reds were already down a man for a red card assessed to midfielder Curtis Jones when Diaz seemed to open the scoring for the visitors. The assistant referee, however, incongruously raised his flag for offside. The VAR official mistakenly thought the goal had been initially ruled good and therefore ruled his cursory review complete, mistakenly thinking he was allowing a clear goal. Apparently, no corrective action was available after his silly gaffe and Diaz and Liverpool were deprived of the goal which would have ultimately salvaged a point on a difficult day. Son Heung-Min would score for Spurs. Cody Gakpo would even things for the shorthanded Reds. Then a second red card was assessed to Liverpool in the 69th minute. Bravely defending with nine men, Liverpool looked to have escaped defeat until the final minute of stoppage time…when an own goal was committed by weary Liverpool defender Joel Matip. Spurs walked away with all three points as Liverpool was left angry and heartbroken.

Manchester United fans, on the other hand, are at risk of becoming apathetic as poor performances are becoming commonplace for the Red Devils. A 25th minute goal by Crystal Palace defender Joachim Andersen handed the Red Devils a 1-0 defeat, a second successive league loss at Old Trafford and a fourth Premier League loss of the young season. United is off to its worst start after seven matches in 34 years.

West Ham ended a two-match losing run in the league as first half goals by Jarrod Bowen and Tomas Soucek sufficed to defeat Sheffield United 2-0. Sheffield United managed two shots on target, one more than they had in their embarrassing loss to Newcastle last week so at least that’s some progress for the woeful Blades.

The Magpies’ defense, meanwhile, allowed only two shots on target Saturday in Newcastle’s 2-0 win over Burnley. Newcastle pelted the Clarets with 20 shots, 8 on target, though only Miguel Almiron found the net from the run of play. Alexander Isak added the insurance goal with a 76th minute penalty kick after Anthony Gordon was fouled in the box.

Nottingham Forest salvaged a point at home when Nicolas Dominguez scored his first goal for the club to equalize matters at the City Ground in a 1-1 draw with Brentford. It was the fourth draw in seven matches for the Bees who jointly led the league in non-decisions last season.

Hats off to the Hatters after Luton Town emerged from the relegation zone with its first Premier League victory, a 2-1 win at Everton. It was a ridiculous loss for the Toffees at home versus a Hatters side which had scored only three times all season heading into the match. Everton had been gaining confidence after a league win and a Carabao Cup victory in their last two outings. All that optimism vaporized with the loss to the Hatters. It wasn’t Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s fault. The oft injured striker scored in a third consecutive appearance to give the Toffees a chance in the 41st minute after goals by Tom Lockyer and Carlton Morris had given the Hatters an almost incomprehensible early two goal advantage. Everton could do nothing more, however, and went down to defeat in front of their new prospective club owners watching from the Goodison Park stands and perhaps wondering what exactly they might be getting themselves into.

Chelsea’s owners have been under fire for assembling an expensive, potentially mismatched, cast of young players who have failed to produce. One of those players took a step toward redemption on Monday when Mykhailo Mudryk scored his first goal for the Blues in a 2-0 London derby victory at Fulham. Mudryk had been looking to find the net since his arrival last January but his clinical finish on Chelsea’s opening goal hinted at his unrealized potential. Chelsea’s second goal came from another unexpected source as striker Armando Broja marked his Premier League return by scoring in his first league action since injuring his knee last December. 

Premier League in Europe

St. James Park will host its first Champions League match in 20 years when Newcastle welcomes French champion PSG on Wednesday. The French visitors are no longer as star studded a group with Messi and Neymar gone from the side, but Kylian Mbappe remains in France for at least this season under former Barcelona Manager Luis Enrique. A lot will be riding on the success of Enrique’s maiden season as Mbappe’s contract is completed this year and he’s so far refused offers of a contract extension. Real Madrid continues to be rumored as Mbappe’s next port of call. A successful Champions League run wouldn’t hurt in helping convince Mbappe to extend his stay in France. The Magpies, meanwhile, have bounced back in a big way from an earlier rough patch this season. Newcastle has won three consecutive Premier League matches, knocked Manchester City out of the Carabao Cup, and took way a point in a draw at AC Milan in their opening Champions League match. Arsenal faces another French side when the Gunners travel to face last season’s Ligue 1 runner up Lens on Tuesday. Arsenal mauled PSV Eindhoven 4-0 in their opening match. Manchester United will try to rebound from its poor Premier League form and an opening Champions League loss to Bayern Munich when the Red Devils host Galatasaray on Tuesday. Manchester City, meanwhile, travels to Germany for a Wednesday match at RB Leipzig. Manchester City rolled 7-0 over the Germans in their last meeting in the Champions League in March. Thursday’s Europa League clashes include SC Freiburg visiting West Ham, Brighton traveling to Marseilles and Liverpool hosting Belgian side Union Saint-Gilloise. Aston Villa tries to pick up the pieces from its opening loss in Europa Conference League group play when the club hosts Zrinjski from Bosnia and Herzegovina on Thursday.