Cincinnati Soccer Talk would like to welcome our newest contributor Clay Benjamin to our line up. Clay will be providing a weekly round-up of the English Premier League to our readers. We hope to provide you with more soccer coverage through the USL Playoffs and into the offseason. Tell us what you think of the weekly round-up below!
1. MANCHESTER CITY (22 pts, GD +25)
LAST GAME: 7-2 W vs. Stoke City
NEXT GAME: vs. Burnley
Wow. There isn’t much to say about how City played on Saturday. City has so many different players that can score goals, that it’s almost impossible to stop them. Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sané, Kevin De Bryune, Raheem Sterling, David Silva, Bernardo Silva and of course, Sergio Agüero. City has outscored their opponents 24-2 over their last five league games and they are not showing any signs of slowing down.
Pep Guardiola said after the game that their performance against Stoke was City’s, “best performance since I’ve been here.” City fans everywhere are grinning ear-to-ear and this is only the beginning. When Sheikh Mansour took over in 2008, this was his vision. With this much depth and talent, the sky’s the limit for City.
One more thing: De Bryune is the best player in the Premier League this season—bar none. KDB has 32 assists in the PL since September 2015, which is more than any other player. He is the maestro to City’s attacking symphony.
2. MANCHESTER UNITED (20 pts, GD +19)
LAST GAME: 0-0 T at Liverpool
NEXT GAME: at Huddersfield
This result isn’t surprising. Not even a little. This game had Jose Mourinho written all over it. In a big game, Mourinho did what he does best and “parked the bus”.
With the quality that Liverpool can produce going forward, Mourinho did not want to take any chances. Liverpool dominated possession and despite some fantastic saves from David De Gea, Liverpool did not look too threatening. You would think that United would want to go after Liverpool’s inconsistent defense, but Mourinho did what he had to do and got a result. Hate him or love him, Mourinho got points from a difficult rivalry game on the road.
3. TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (17 PTS, GD +10)
LAST GAME: 1-0 W vs. AFC Bournemouth
NEXT GAME: vs. Liverpool
Harry Kane hasn’t scored in the league at Wembley on 28 shots. That’s a troubling stat. For how good Kane has been this season in front of goal, he needs to help with Tottenham’s struggle at home. Thanks to Christian Eriksen, Spurs were able to get all three points against a tough Bournemouth team. It was their first home win this season in the league, hopefully ending their Wembley “curse.”
It’s tough games like this one where it is important for title contenders to get all three points. Other than the Manchester clubs, Tottenham is the only other title favorite.
4. WATFORD (15 PTS, GD 0)
LAST GAME: 2-1 W vs. Arsenal
NEXT GAME: at Chelsea
Wow…again. What a win for Watford. In their first home win of the season, it took a 92nd-minute winner from Tom Cleverly to solidify that Watford is the real deal. This season, the Hornets have four goals coming in second-half stoppage time—two winners and two equalizers—three of which, have come in the last three weeks.
Club legend Troy Deeney made a real impact with some lethal passes and then converted the penalty that brought Watford level. Deeney said on BT Sport after the game, “Whenever I play Arsenal, I’ll go up and think, ‘let me whack the first one and see who wants it’. I came on today and jumped with Mertesacker. I didn’t even have to jump, actually—I nodded it down. The crowd gets up, and yeah, we’ve got somebody who can win it, and they all just backed off.”
Marco Silva has instilled a “never say die,” attitude and Watford are a team to be taken seriously. The team from Hertfordshire is here to stay.
5. CHELSEA (13 PTS, GD +5)
LAST GAME: 2-1 L at Crystal Palace
NEXT GAME: at Watford
The last time Chelsea lost two straight games in the league, Antonio Conte made the formation change to a back three and won 13 straight games. Will Conte make a change again? He may have to, even if it’s a temporary change.
Losing Victor Moses to injury in the first half against Palace hurts because of his delivery and pace in attack. On top of Moses missing time, Chelsea looked vulnerable without N’Golo Kante. Kante was a big reason why Chelsea’s defense was so strong during their title-winning season last year, and his absence was noticeable.
Kante could be out two more weeks with his thigh injury and with his backup Danny Drinkwater out with his own injury, that leaves Tiemoue Bakayoko as the lone holding midfielder in Chelsea’s squad. Next week at Vicarage Road will not be a cakewalk for Chelsea.
6. ARSENAL (13 PTS, GD +2)
LAST GAME: 2-1 L at Watford
NEXT GAME: vs. Everton
Arsenal gonna Arsenal. That game was PEAK Arsenal. Dominant and controlling in the first half, but lackluster and almost pathetic in the second half. The penalty decision against Bellerin was harsh, but Watford looked hungry for a win and Arsenal did not put up a fight. It’s that kind of performance that has Arsenal fans so frustrated with their team. Arsenal came out of the locker room at halftime and let Watford run all over them. Instead of closing out the game, the Gunners invited Watford to attack and it hurt them in the end.
Troy Deeney said after the game that Arsenal didn’t have the “cojones” to win the game. That is NOT what you want to hear as a fan, or as a player. The Gunners are winless in the first four games on the road this season and have been outscored 7-1. Arsenal ARE NOT title contenders this season, and that is the reason for angst among Arsenal fans.
7. BURNLEY (13 PTS, GD +2)
LAST GAME: 1-1 T vs. West Ham
NEXT GAME: at Man City
A good result for the Clarets, especially with a trip to Manchester City next weekend. Burnley is unbeaten in their last six Premier League games and they can thank Andy Carroll for that. His red card early in the first half had West Ham chasing Burnley for the rest of the game. Chris Wood, the club’s record signing, equalized in the 85th minute and it was no less than Burnley deserved. It’s hard to play for more than an hour down to 10 men and in the end, it was fatigue that did West Ham in.
Burnley is very hard to score against at Turf Moor. In four games at home this season, the Clarets have only conceded twice. They’ll need to channel that type of defensive effort at the Etihad this weekend if they have any chance to beat the highest scoring team in the league.
8. LIVERPOOL (13 PTS, GD +1)
LAST GAME: 0-0 T vs Manchester United
NEXT GAME: at Spurs
Liverpool will feel hard done by this game. They had the better of the chances and if it wasn’t for (arguably) the best goalie in the league in De Gea, Liverpool would have gotten all three points. For all the attacking power the Reds have, they should have been able to find a breakthrough. Yes, De Gea was on top of his game, but Liverpool had almost 70 percent of the possession and couldn’t find the back of the net. Klopp, however, was a little more hesitant at Anfield in this game than in others. When he had the opportunity to put the pedal down, he hesitated, probably knowing that a point would be better than a loss.
It doesn’t get any easier for Liverpool, as they travel to north London to take on Tottenham. Liverpool will be hoping that the Tottenham “curse” at Wembley lasts for one more week.
9. NEWCASTLE (11 PTS, GD +1)
LAST GAME: 2-2 T at Southampton
NEXT GAME: vs. Crystal Palace
Newcastle will head back to Tyneside knowing that they should have left the south coast with all three points. This was a very good showing from Newcastle overall, but once Florian Lejeune tripped Shane long, it was going to be tough to go ahead again. Newcastle is sitting pretty after the first eight games of the season and can improve on their spot next week against Palace.
Worth noting, I guess, but DeAndre Yedlin had a decent game after the USMNT didn’t qualify for the World Cup. (Sorry to remind you.)
News broke Monday afternoon that owner Mike Ashley has officially put the club up for sale, ending speculation that he already had. It’s early to say how this will affect the team, but if a wealthy owner comes in, that’s never a bad thing.
10. WEST BROMWICH ALBION (10 PTS, GD -2)
LAST GAME: 1-1 T at Leicester City
NEXT GAME: at Southampton
The Midlands Derby on a Monday night… can’t get much better than that. It might not be the most popular derby, but for people in the English heartland, it couldn’t get much bigger. (Well, maybe if Aston Villa was still in the Premier League.) For how boring the first half was, the second half was as thrilling a half we saw all weekend. Neither team wanted to lose, and when Nacer Chadli’s sublime free-kick goal went in, the game found some life. Kasper Schmeichel took a bad first step and that was all Chadli needed to put home the free kick. Riyad Mahrez equalized 17 minutes later, and WBA will be content with a point in a tight and aggressive derby.
WBA has seven goals this season in the PL and all seven have come from seven different players. While it’s a good thing that WBA can find goals from different players, being spread too thin in the goal department doesn’t bode well. Jay Rodriquez and Salomón Rondón will need to step up for Tony Pulis and score more goals.
CST Premier League/Champions League Live Show
When: Tuesday, October 24th – 7:00 p.m.
Where: Rhinehaus OTR – 119 E 12th St, Cincinnati 45202
About: Join members of CST as well as supporters groups from Liverpool, ManU, and others as we discuss the 1st three matches of Champions League and the Premier League season.
11. SOUTHAMPTON (9 PTS, GD -2)
LAST GAME: 2-2 T vs. Newcastle
NEXT GAME: vs. West Brom
The Saints will be happy to have gotten a point at St. Mary’s on Sunday. Coming from a goal down on two separate occasions is no easy feat and it was a deserved point.
Even better news for Southampton is that Manolo Gabbiadini is back in the goals. Gabbiadini, the striker the Saints brought into the club in January, got off to a great start to life in the Premier League. Gabbiadini started the season slow and only had one goal this season before Sunday’s game. If the Saints are going to make any noise and get out of the mid-table twilight zone they’ve been in the last couple seasons, Gabbiadini will need to keep scoring like this.
12. HUDDERSFIELD TOWN (9 PTS, GD -4)
LAST GAME: 2-0 L at Swansea
NEXT GAME: vs. Man United
If Huddersfield wish to stay in the Premier League, games against Swansea are games they need to get points. The Terriers looked sluggish and offered no threat going forward, which is not what you want after an international break. A tough loss like this one can be the beginning of a slide in the wrong direction, especially with Man United next weekend. David Wagner and the Terriers are going to have their work cut out for him this week.
13. SWANSEA CITY (8 PTS, GD -3)
LAST GAME: 2-0 W vs. Huddersfield
NEXT GAME: vs. Leicester
A step in the right direction for the Swans. Chelsea-loanee Tammy Abraham showed why he is favored so highly. Swansea controlled the game and picked up their first home win of the season. With the win, Swansea lifted themselves out of the relegation zone and find themselves in the middle of the table. If the Swans can pick up another win next week against the Foxes, Swansea will forget that they were even in the relegation zone.
14. BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION (8 PTS, GD -4)
LAST GAME: 1-1 T vs Everton
NEXT GAME: at West Ham
Brighton will be upset they did not take home all three points. Bruno, whose pass set up Anthony Knockaert’s goal in the 82nd minute, was called for a penalty only six minutes later after leading with his elbow in a challenge against Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Despite conceding the late goal, the Seagulls had the better of the chances the entire game but just lacked the quality to put it in.
A point against Everton is a good result for Brighton and with a game in east London to take on West Ham—it’s a confusing I know—up next, the Seagulls will think they can take home all three points.
15. WEST HAM UNITED (8 PTS, GD -6)
LAST GAME: 1-1 T at Burnley
NEXT GAME: vs. Brighton
Andy Carroll…yikes. His performance on Saturday is exactly why West Ham fans are so frustrated with him. He’s so talented and he has the ability to lead the team, but he cannot keep his composure. His first yellow, which was a little harsh, got him angry. Then less than three minutes later, he goes elbow out into a jump ball and clashes into Ben Mee. His second yellow could have been a straight red card it was that bad. Because of his sending off, West Ham only got a point when they really needed three.
Michail Antonio got his first goal of the season and the Hammers will need his contribution to turn their slow start around. It is still early in the season, but next week’s game at home against Brighton is looking and feeling like a must win.
16. EVERTON (8 PTS, GD -8)
LAST GAME: 1-1 T at Brighton
NEXT GAME: vs. Arsenal
Cometh the hour, cometh Wayne Rooney. Full disclosure, this was a boring game, but Rooney’s 90th-minute penalty rescued a very important point for Everton. Regardless of Rooney saving Everton, the pressure is still on Ronald Koeman and his team. Everton has not looked the same since earning a point on the road against Man City. That was the last time the Toffees looked threating and the team that spent so much money over the summer.
Koeman told the media before the weekend that his team shouldn’t be judged yet, considering that Everton has played four title contenders already this season. Those games against title contenders came in four straight weeks and they only picked up one point in those games and were outscored 10-1. It’s a fair argument, but for how talented Everton is, they need to be winning games against Brighton.
17. STOKE CITY (8 PTS, GD -9)
LAST GAME: 7-2 L at Man City
NEXT GAME: vs. Bournemouth
There isn’t much to say about Stoke this weekend, other than they were on the receiving end of Pep Guardiola’s brutal attacking force. Stoke made some City fans nervous when they made it 3-2, but City kept their cool and flexed their attacking muscle.
Stoke need to improve on the road. Since January, the Potters only have two wins and three draws in 13 games on the road. For as hard as they are to beat at the Bet365 Stadium, Stoke City are one of the worst teams on the road.
18. LEICESTER CITY (6 PTS, GD -3)
LAST GAME: 1-1 T vs. West Brom
NEXT GAME: at Swansea
The Midlands Derby on a Monday night… can’t get much better than that. It might not be the most popular derby, but for people in the English heartland, it couldn’t get much bigger. (Well, maybe if Aston Villa was still in the Premier League.) While I started WBA’s update the same way—since it was a big game for both teams—Leicester struck back and got a crucial point. With help from the raucous fans at the King Power Stadium cheering them on, the Foxes through Riyad Mahrez, pulled one back with 10 minutes left in the game. Mahrez’s goal made up for his missed chance earlier in the game when he blasted a shot over the crossbar from 12 yards out.
Jaime Vardy, the hero from two seasons ago, started up top for Leicester alongside Kelechi Iheanacho and the two had no rhythm. Iheanacho sat behind Vardy to create more space for the Englishman, but Leicester couldn’t create any connection between the midfield and the strikers. Iheanacho joined Leicester from Man City over the summer to get more playing time, but after his performance today, he may not see much more time.
19. AFC BOURNEMOUTH (4 PTS, GD -8)
LAST GAME: 1-0 L at Spurs
NEXT GAME: at Stoke
Eddie Howe and his men deserved a point, despite how much the Spurs controlled the game. Junior Stanislas had the best chance of the first half after his shot was deflected off Eric Dier. Substitute Jermain Defoe had his late attempt saved by Hugo Lloris.
Once again, the Cherries were hindered by their ineffectiveness in front of goal. The man they bought to help them up front, Defoe, came on as a sub and hasn’t found his scoring touch of seasons past. Stanislas and Josh King haven’t gotten the job done, and Callum Wilson hasn’t returned from injury. If the Cherries want to keep their dream story alive and stay in the PL, they need to finish in front of goal.
20. CRYSTAL PALACE (3 PTS, GD -16)
LAST GAME: 2-1 W vs. Chelsea
NEXT GAME: at Newcastle
731 minutes. It took 731 minutes, but Crystal Palace finally scored in the Premier League. I don’t know what was more surprising, Palace scoring against Chelsea, or beating them. Entering the game, Palace had 0 points and 0 goals, but they did not look like it at Selhurst Park. Roy Hodgson made the most of the last two weeks and it paid off. Palace looked inspired, energetic and took the game to Chelsea. Their best player, Wilfried Zaha was back from injury and he made the world of difference in attack. Zaha and Andros Townsend in attack gives the Eagles so much pace going forward that if they can keep it up, they’ll retain Premier League status, despite their awful start.
This is where the beauty of the Premier League shines. Palace lost their first seven games of the season and their still only five points away from retaining Premier League stauts.
@ClayBenjamin_ for @CincySoccerTalk
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