Premier League

Premier League Round-Up: Matchday 11

Remember when you were a kid and your mom or dad would say, “Finish your vegetables or you won’t get dessert?” That’s exactly what this Premier League weekend was. The Saturday games were the vegetables and Sunday’s games were dessert. If Saturday was the NFL preseason, then Sunday was the Super Bowl. The top five teams coming into this weekend all played on Sunday and four of them played one another.

Going into the final international break of 2017, this was the last chance for teams to get points before fixture congestion becomes a problem. November 18th through the next international break in March is the most important time for every Premier League team. It is game after game after game in the Premier League with little rest in-between. Add games in the Champions League, FA Cup and the League Cup and fatigue and injury can pile up. This is the time of year where depth becomes so important in the Premier League.

Each game this weekend had a moment of silence before kickoff in honor of Remembrance Day. Remembrance Day is November 11th in the UK, but with the international break next weekend, teams honored those who lost their lives since World War I the last two weekends. The teams do so by wearing the poppy flower on their jerseys. The poppy is the symbol of Remembrance Day because it was the only flower that would grow on the battlefields after the war.

1.MANCHESTER CITY (31 pts, GD + 31)
LAST GAME: 3-1 W vs. Arsenal
NEXT GAME: at Leicester

Looking at the score, you would think that City was dominant but Arsenal was in this game. Kevin De Bryune opened the scoring in the 19th minute to cap off City’s first real spell of possession. Arsenal started the game attacking City and arguably deserved a goal. Sergio Aguero, who became City’s all-time leading scorer on Wednesday against Napoli, added the second from the penalty spot five minutes into the second half. Raheem Sterling was tackled by Nacho Monreal in the box and it was a tough call for the referee but he awarded the penalty. City’s third should have been disallowed for offside but it was another tough call for the assistant referee to make.

The numbers City are putting up this season is insane. Let me just throw some of these stats at you.

  • Thier margin of victory this season was 3.5 goals before the Arsenal game.
  • 52 goals in 17 games.
  • 31 points through 11 games is Pep’s best start to a season in his entire managerial career.
  • 31 points through 11 games is tied for the second-best start to a to a season in the ENTIRE history of the English top-flight. (Six other teams have had 31 points after 11 games, including City in 2011/12 when they won the title.)
  • 15 straight wins and nine straight in the league are both club records.

The only question surrounding Manchester City is if they can continue playing at this high level the entire season.

2. MANCHESTER UNITED (23 pts, GD +18)
LAST GAME: 1-0 L at Chelsea
NEXT GAME: vs. Newcastle

Mourinho in big games is a give and take. In big games, he’s never gone out and attacked the other team. He’s always tried to shut down the opposing team offensively and it didn’t work on Sunday. Even worse, when United did get forward, they never threatened Thibaut Courtois. The Red Devils finished the game with only two shots on target.

United have won just one Premier League game at Stamford Bridge in the last 15 years and Chelsea finished that game with nine men. Mourinho has lost three of the four games in all competitions against Chelsea since taking the Manchester United job. Despite what Mourinho or the pundits say, United are still in second and are still in the title race. Mourinho has improved a team that has struggled to find its identity since Sir Alex Ferguson left. Under Mourinho, United are winless in seven away games against the top six and have only scored one goal. (W0 D3 L4.) However, Manchester City are beating the other title contenders where Mourinho has been settling for draws and that is why United find themselves eight points back.

3. TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (23 PTS, GD +13)
LAST GAME: 1-0 W vs. Crystal Palace
NEXT GAME: at Arsenal

Not much to say here other than sometimes you have to grind out wins. Paulo Gazzaniga was superb while filling in for an injured Hugo Lloris. It wasn’t the best performance from Tottenham, but with the teams around them beating each other up, it was important they got all three points.

The international break will give time for Dele Alli, Toby Alderweireld and Lloris to recover from their injuries. Spurs will need those guys for the North London derby in two weeks.

4. CHELSEA (22 PTS, GD +9)
LAST GAME: 1-0 W vs. Man. United
NEXT GAME: at West Brom

There has been plenty of rumors and reports that something is wrong at Chelsea and I’m still not buying it. Yes, Tuesday’s thrashing in Rome was bad but it is that kind of loss that can be a crucial wake-up call. Chelsea’s problems this season have stemmed from individual mistakes and inconsistency. That’s not a reason to blow everything up. Chelsea is in the thick of the title race (City not included.)

Cesar Azpilicueta has five assists this season and all of them are to Alvaro Morata. Azpilicueta’s ball into the box was absolute perfection and Morata did a wonderful job of heading it past David De Gea. On the other end, the Chelsea defense did a great job of keeping United at bay. This was a solid win for Chelsea going into the international break.

5. LIVERPOOL (19 PTS, GD +4)
LAST GAME: 4-1 W at West Ham
NEXT GAME:  vs. Southampton

Two goals in three minutes were all Liverpool needed to leave east London with all three points. Liverpool started the game slowly, but Salah’s goal in the 21st minute came off a devastating counter-attack. Three minutes later off a Salah corner, Joel Matip tapped in a rebounded shot to double the lead. After that goal, West Ham’s energy and spirit was crushed. West Ham started the better of the two teams but never threated Simon Mignolet. Manuel Lanzini pulled one back for West Ham, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored his first Liverpool goal less than 60 seconds later.

This was a big win for Liverpool to close the gap on the top four. With four of the five teams ahead of Liverpool coming into the weekend playing one another, this had to be a must-win for the Reds. Mohamed Salah is loving life on Merseyside. Two goals on Saturday and that’s seven goals in the league since joining Liverpool. We know how good Liverpool are in attack with Salah, Sadio Mane, Daniel Sturridge and Roberto Firmino, but it seems like their defensive woes have been alleviated for now.

6. ARSENAL (19 PTS, GD +4)
LAST GAME: 3-1 L at Man. City
NEXT GAME: vs. Tottenham

Arsenal will be upset after this game. They played really well and the scoreline doesn’t show that.  Arsene Wenger said before the game that the best way to defend is to attack and Arsenal did just that. For the first 15 minutes of the game, Arsenal took it to City.  Wenger was upset with the officials after the game, but even if the penalty wasn’t called and the offside was, City had plenty of other chances.

Arsenal lacked quality in the final third in the first half. Their best effort in the first half came seconds before halftime by Aaron Ramsey. Alexandre Lacazette came into the game in the 56th minute and scored nine minutes later. He now has 6 goals in 12 appearances for Arsenal and why Wenger doesn’t start him in big games is mind-boggling. He is the club’s record signing and he is spending more than half the game on the bench.  Lacazette caused problems for the City defense when he came on and who knows how the game would have turned out if he played the full 90 minutes.

7. BURNLEY (19 PTS, GD +1)
LAST GAME: 1-0 W at Southampton
NEXT GAME: vs. Swansea

Cometh the man, cometh the hour. Substitute Sam Vokes came on in the 65th minute and then 16 minutes later, he scored the winner. Sean Dyche’s managerial stock rises and rises every week and another three points aren’t going to slow it down. Going into the international break, Burnley sits just three points out a Champions League spot. It’s been a dream season so far in Lancashire for the Clarets.

8. BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION (15 PTS, GD 0)
LAST GAME: 1-0 W at Swansea
NEXT GAME: vs Stoke City

It’s important to win games against teams below you in the table and that’s exactly what the Seagulls did on Saturday. Glenn Murray scored his fourth goal in the three Premier League games to give Brighton all three points. The Seagulls have a playmaker in Pascal Gross and a goal scorer in Murray and those are two huge pieces newly promoted teams need to stay in the Premier League.

9. WATFORD (15 PTS, GD -4)
LAST GAME: 3-2 L at Everton
NEXT GAME: vs. West Ham

As a neutral, this was the best game all weekend. But if you’re a Watford fan, this was the worst loss all season. A very tough loss for Watford. Up two with 25 minutes to go against a team struggling as much as Everton should be a win. Watford made mental mistakes and went away from the attacking play that gave them two goals early in the second half. Everton deserves a lot of credit, but Watford is better than what they showed in the last 35 minutes of the game.

10. HUDDERSFIELD TOWN (15 PTS, GD -5)
LAST GAME: 1-0 W vs. West Brom
NEXT GAME: at Bournemouth

In their first ever Premier League season, the Terriers are in the top half of the table after 11 games. German-American manager David Wagner has his team playing without fear. I’ve said it before, but newly promoted sides just need to go out and attack the game and it worked on Saturday for Huddersfield. Van La Parra’s goal was beautiful and it was all the Terriers needed. Even when they went down to 10 men in the 57th minute, West Brom didn’t look threatening aside from a couple small chances near the end of the match.

11. NEWCASTLE (14 PTS, GD 0)
LAST GAME: 1-0 L vs. Bournemouth
NEXT GAME:  at Man. United

In a week were Rafa Benitez believed he could have gone into the international break with six points, he got zero. Back-to-back 1-0 defeats against teams Newcastle are better than is bad and the Toon Army won’t be happy. Bournemouth played better than Newcastle on Saturday, but conceding in the 92nd minute will sting over the next two weeks.

It doesn’t get any easier as Newcastle will travel south to take on Manchester United after the international break.

12. LEICESTER CITY (13 PTS, GD 0)
LAST GAME: 2-2 T at Stoke City
NEXT GAME: vs. Man. City

The Foxes have yet to lose since Shakespeare’s firing, but they will be disappointed they didn’t leave Stoke-on-Trent with all three points. Twice Leicester went up and twice they let the Potters back into the game. A draw at the Bet365 is a solid result, but Puel knows he could have gotten all three.

 Luckily for Puel, he has two weeks to figure out how to stop Manchester City.

13. SOUTHAMPTON (13 PTS, GD -2)
LAST GAME: 1-0 L vs. Burnley
NEXT GAME: at Liverpool

In all honesty, this was a boring game. Southampton dominated possession but never threatened in attack. They finished with 13 shots but only three were on target.  The Saints will need to find some goals before they travel to Liverpool in two weeks.

14. STOKE CITY (12 PTS, GD -9)
LAST GAME: 2-2 T vs. Leicester
NEXT GAME: at Brighton

Super Sub Peter Crouch does it again. The joke “super sub” is an adjective tossed around to a player who comes on and scores a goal, but “super sub” is a noun when referring to Crouch. Crouch almost exclusively scores only when he comes on as a sub. His goal Saturday gave the Potters a crucial point. The 6’7” striker is still getting it done at the age of 36. Mark Hughes will be happy that his team came back from a goal down twice to earn a point.

15. EVERTON (11 PTS, GD -12)
LAST GAME: 3-2 W vs. Watford
NEXT GAME: at Crystal Palace

It’s this type of game that makes the Premier League so fun to watch. A massive, MASSIVE win for Everton. A win they desperately needed. With the win, Everton is out of the relegation zone and it could be the start of a turnaround at Goodison Park. This game had plenty of drama and it wasn’t a pretty win, but the Toffees will take the points any way they can get them. Five goals in the second half and 12 minutes of stoppage time at the end made for plenty of drama.

Everton never gave up, which is saying a lot for how they’ve been playing this season. I always say that 2-0 is the most dangerous lead in soccer and Watford found that out the hard way. Everton rallied behind the support from their fans and with a little bit of luck, got a win. Everton almost blew it after Pickford tackled Richarlson in the box late in stoppage time, but former Everton man Tom Cleverly straight up missed the penalty in the 100th minute. This has to be the spark that Everton needed.

16. WEST BROMWICH ALBION (10 PTS, GD -5)
LAST GAME: 1-0 L at Huddersfield
NEXT GAME: vs. Chelsea

Another loss for the Baggies. Tony Pulis and his team sit in 16th and only two points off the relegation zone. West Brom didn’t really threaten Jonas Lossl in the Terrier goal until it was too late. West Brom is winless in their last nine matches and Pulis is now on the hot seat.

17. AFC BOURNEMOUTH (10 PTS, GD -7)
LAST GAME: 1-0 W at Newcastle
NEXT GAME: vs. Huddersfield

The win on Saturday made it 32 points in 30 games in 2017 for Eddie Howe and the Cherries. It will take more than that if Bournemouth wants to stay in the Premier League. But Saturday’s result was a massive one. Bournemouth was by far the better team in the second half and deserved the win. Callum Wilson had a couple of chances that he should have finished but couldn’t. He’s looked lively since returning to the first team. Marc Pugh used some lovely footwork in the box but hit the post in the 88th minute and the game seemed destined for a 0-0 draw.

However, Steve Cook, the massive center back, headed in the goal in the 92nd minute. With the win, Bournemouth is out of the relegation zone and Eddie Howe and his men will want to stay out of it through the Christmas period.

18. WEST HAM UNITED (9 PTS, GD -12)
LAST GAME: 4-1 L vs. Liverpool
NEXT GAME:  at Watford

West Ham fired Slaven Bilic on Monday. Bilic was in the final year of his three-year contract. A former West Ham player, Bilic was loved by the fans but his inability to turn the team around after their bad start left the board with no choice.

On Saturday, West Ham looked done and dusted at halftime. They started the game well, but the first goal for Liverpool came on a devastating counter-attack. Liverpool doubled three minutes later and it looked like the game was won. Bilic brought Andy Carroll on to start the second half and Manuel Lanzini scored in the 55th minute. But in true West Ham fashion, Liverpool scored less than 60 seconds after the restart.

Whatever Bilic said at halftime worked because the Hammers looked energetic and passionate in the second half. The London Stadium was trying to do their best to motivate their team but it’s another tough loss for Hammer fans. Once Mohamed Salah added his second goal in the 75th minute to make it 4-1, the exodus began at the London Stadium. For all the pressure that was on Bilic, he needed his players to perform too. There is only so much Bilic could have done, but in the end, it’s the players on the field who need to play better.

19. SWANSEA CITY (8 PTS, GD -6)
LAST GAME: 1-0 L vs. Brighton
NEXT GAME: at Burnley

It’s looking bleak in south Wales. Fans at the Liberty Stadium were booing at the final whistle on Saturday. With this loss, the Swans are now in the relegation zone.  Luciano Narsingh’s shot hit the post late in the second half, but Swansea only had two shots on target.

The Swans are no strangers to the relegation zone and if there is a team that can get out of it, it’s Swansea. I said it last week that they need production from their goal scorers and playmakers and I’ll say it again. Burnley at Turf Moor after the international break will not be easy.

20. CRYSTAL PALACE (4 PTS, GD -18)
LAST GAME: 1-0 L at Tottenham
NEXT GAME: vs. Everton

A tough loss for Palace. They looked good going forward in the first half but were unable to beat Gazzaniga. A 1-0 loss to Tottenham isn’t a bad result and there were a lot of positives in this game for Palace.

Roy Hodgson and Palace beat Chelsea after the last international break and Hodgson will need to work some magic to get Palace ready for the bust winter period.

 


@ClayBenjamin_  for @CincySoccerTalk

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