Premier League

Premier League Round-Up: Matchdays 14/15

Join CST for our next EPL Roundtable at Rhinehaus in OTR on Tuesday, December 19th at 7 pm. We’ll discuss all your favorite EPL teams and recap Champions League Round of 16 draw. We look forward to see you there.

  1. MANCHESTER CITY (43 pts, GD + 36)
    LAST GAMES: 2-1 W vs. Southampton, 2-1 W vs. West Ham
    NEXT GAME: at Man. United

It’s been the Very Late Show for City the last few games, but the blue side of Manchester keeps finding ways to win games late. In both games against Southampton and West Ham, City fell behind right before halftime, but two second-half goals gave City all six points last week. Pep Guardiola and City’s PL win streak stands at 13 games and can set the PL record next weekend with a win at Old Trafford. With 43 points and the massive goal differential, City is off to the best start ever in the entire history of English top-flight football.

When Sir Alex Ferguson was the manager at Manchester United, the last 10 minutes of games was known as, “Fergie Time.” United, famously, always scored in the last 10 minutes of games. Now, for Manchester City, it may be “Pep Time.” Pep’s biggest achievement so far at City has been his ability to unite the locker room and create a closeness that made Fergie’s United teams so great. It’s that belief and trust in each other that leads to winning these late games. With all of the talent that this City team has, combined with this confidence and comradery amongst each other, is why City strikes fear in other teams. For City fans, it’s this kind of spirit that the players and club haven’t had in quite some time, despite winning two titles.

In the games against the Saints and the Hammers, City was exposed to corners and set pieces coming into the box. Southampton and West Ham were only able to capitalize once, but other teams will see that chink in City’s armor as an area to attack. Two of the last three PL goals City have conceded have come from corners. Next weekend’s derby against United is going to be a doozy.

  1. MANCHESTER UNITED (35 pts, GD +26)
    LAST GAMES: 4-2 W at Watford, 3-1 W at Arsenal
    NEXT GAME: vs. Man. City

Jose Mourinho is often criticized for playing it safe in big games, but his side blitzed Arsenal and had a 2-0 lead in the first 11 minutes. United looked vulnerable in the second half after conceding early and Paul Pogba going off with a straight red, but Jesse Lingard’s second goal made sure that United keep pace with City.

In both games last week, United flexed their attacking muscles and twice almost blew leads. However, United are so dangerous in the attack that they were able to kill off any possibilities of a comeback for the Hornets and the Gunners. United have now scored 12 goals in their last four league games, with seven of those coming in two games on the road.

Paul Pogba’s red card will really hurt United against City. Pogba has been playing really well for the Red Devils and to lose his creativity and finishing against your biggest rival and title challenger is crippling. Ander Herrera will most likely take his place, and that will create more room for David Silva and Kevin De Bryune. Instead of having an open and attacking game, don’t be surprised if Jose reverts to his “play-it-safe” mode.

  1. CHELSEA (32 PTS, GD +16)
    LAST GAMES: 1-0 W vs. Swansea, 3-1 W vs. Newcastle
    NEXT GAME: at West Ham

Two games, two wins for Antonio Conte and Chelsea. The Blues struggled against Swansea but turned it around on Saturday. Eden Hazard showed why he is considered one of the best in the world against Newcastle. His two goals and dominating performance in the midfield after Chelsea went behind early saved the Blues from embarrassment at home. These last two games for Chelsea is the perfect example that the PL is not easy. When you’re a top team facing teams in the bottom half of the table, it’s hard to break down a defense with nine outfield players within 20 yards of the goal. It may not be a dominating scoreline, but it takes time to break down those types of defenses.

The Blues are now undefeated in their last seven PL games and have created some space between them and Arsenal and Liverpool.

  1. LIVERPOOL (29 PTS, GD +14)
    LAST GAMES: 3-0 W at Stoke, 5-1 W at Brighton
    NEXT GAME:  vs. Everton

Liverpool is quietly playing very well and this week could not have gone better for Liverpool. The Reds are unbeaten in their last eight games in all competitions (W6 D2 L0). Mo Salah came off the bench in the second half against Stoke and scored twice to continue his fantastic start at Liverpool. Then at the weekend, Roberto Firmino showed that he can be just as lethal. Phillippe Coutinho was spectacular against Brighton as well and if Liverpool can keep Salah, Firmino and Coutinho in form, they will be a dangerous and difficult team to stop.

Next weekend’s Merseyside Derby will be difficult for Liverpool. Everton is coming off two massive wins and they are still desperate to climb the table. Add in the flavor of a brutal rivalry, and that is all Everton need to throw everything at this game. Liverpool will be coming off a Champions League game and they haven’t qualified for the knockout stages yet. It will be tough for Klopp to find the balance in keeping pace in the PL and qualifying for the next round of the Champions League.

  1. ARSENAL (28 PTS, GD +10)
    LAST GAMES: 5-0 W vs. Huddersfield, 3-1 L vs. Man. United
    NEXT GAME: at Southampton

The jubilation of a 5-0 thrashing at home during the week was quickly gone for Arsenal fans after being dominated by a title rival three days later. Against a good Huddersfield side, Arsenal looked determined and played with an authority that’s only been seen in a few games this season. Any momentum and confidence Arsenal picked up against the Terriers didn’t show up last Saturday. United dominated the first half and ultimately that was the difference. Two goals in the first 10 minutes were the difference and it was all United needed to control the game. Mourinho’s side is too good when you let them control a half of the game. David De Gea was fantastic in goal for United and he made it look like Arsenal would never score again.

Wenger needs to continue pairing Ozil and Sanchez with Lacazette up top because Arsenal is 4-0-1 in five games in which those three have started together. The United game was the first time the Gunners have lost with those three starting together, but you can blame them for the bad defending that led to the two quick United goals.

Arsenal has Southampton, West Ham and Newcastle before facing Liverpool on December 22nd and those are games Arsenal are going to have to win to keep pace with the clubs ahead of them. Those three games should be games that Arsenal can win, but they can easily be trap games if Arsenal is not careful.

    LAST GAME: 2-1 L at Leicester, 1-1 T at Watford
    NEXT GAME: vs. Stoke

Spurs are sliding in the wrong direction. Tottenham only has one win in their last six league games and only one win in their last five PL road games. Just a few weeks ago, Tottenham was level on points with United and was sitting in third place. Leicester played like the team that won the league two years ago and Tottenham didn’t really look like they’d get anything out of the game, even after Harry Kane equalized.

Then four days later, Tottenham went to a tough Vicarage Road and did well to earn a point after being a man down for almost the entire second half. Watford almost doubled their lead, but Abdoulaye Doucoure hit the post. Tottenham was a little lucky that the refs didn’t award two penalties to Watford that could (and should have IMO) have been given.

Tottenham needs to be careful and not see improvement in the Champions League as an overall improvement. Yes, Tottenham beat and tied Real Madrid and are already into the next round, but they are two points off from where they were last year in the league. After 15 matches in the PL last season, Spurs had 27 points and a GD of +13. With the money that was spent and the players that were brought in, Tottenham hasn’t seen improvement in the PL. We’re almost halfway through the PL season and Tottenham are no better than they were a year ago. There is still plenty of games and Tottenham did finish second last season, but with the way Liverpool, Chelsea and the Manchester clubs have been playing, it’s going to keep getting harder and harder.

  1. BURNLEY (25 PTS, GD +2)
    LAST GAME: 2-1 W at Bournemouth, 1-0 L vs. Leicester
    NEXT GAME: vs. Watford

The Leicester loss will hurt for the Clarets. Burnley dropping those points means they stay level on points with Tottenham and missed the chances to end the weekend tied with Arsenal. Burnley played well to get three points on the south coast against Bournemouth during the week, but they had to work on`1 all three points. Playing another tough game against Leicester three days later would explain the lack of sharpness against the Foxes. Tough and quick games only a few days apart is what makes the festive period in the PL so hard yet so fun to watch. While other leagues go on break during the holidays, the PL revs up the engine even more. Even with the tough week, Burnley still sits just four points from a Champions League place and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

  1. WATFORD (22 PTS, GD -1)
    LAST GAME: 4-2 L vs. Man. United, 1-1 T vs. Tottenham
    NEXT GAME: at Burnley

A pretty solid week last week for Watford, even with a 4-2 loss. To play two top clubs in a span of four days is incredibly difficult, but they were able to get at least a point and keep pace with Burnley. Watford had two legitimate penalty claims against Tottenham that did not get called, so they could have even stolen all three from Spurs. Nonetheless, Marco Silva is easily one of the candidates for manager of the year for the work he’s done so far in Hertfordshire.

    LAST GAME: 2-1 W vs. Spurs, 1-0 W vs. Burnley
    NEXT GAME: at Newcastle

Aside from Everton, the Foxes had the best week in the PL. Last week, the Foxes looked like the team that won the title two years ago. Claude Puel has struck gold since taking over at the King Power Stadium and two huge wins against some of the better teams in the league are huge for this team’s confidence.

Leicester blitzed Tottenham and the Spurs couldn’t handle it. The Spurs didn’t see that performance coming and two fantastic goals were all Leicester needed to take all three points. Then four days later, the Foxes shut down Burnley, who have become accustomed to controlling games. A fantastic week for Leicester.

  1. EVERTON (18 PTS, GD -9)
    LAST GAME: 4-0 W vs. West Ham, 2-0 W vs. Huddersfield
    NEXT GAME: at Liverpool

Last week could not have gone better for the Toffees. Two wins and they get a new manager in Sam Allardyce. Allardyce is an expert at saving teams who are in a relegation fight and they get the win in his first game against a good Huddersfield side. After entering matchday 14 in 16th, Everton is now in 10th and Toffee fans can breathe easy again. Everton has picked 10 out of a possible 15 points in their last five league games.

Wayne Rooney scored his first hat-trick since 2011, including a goal from inside his own half against West Ham, but Everton’s best display was against Huddersfield. The Terriers, who entered last week in 11th, battled tough in the first half, but Everton owned the second half. Allardyce named an unchanged side from a team that played three days before and it paid off.

Next weekend, Everton take on bitter rivals Liverpool. If I’m Everton, I’m going to throw the entire kitchen sink at Liverpool. Klopp and Co. will be coming off an important Champions League game and need a result to keep pace with Chelsea and United. Liverpool have a lot more to lose than Everton does and confidence is creeping back into the squad, so why not go after it in a massive derby game?

  1. SOUTHAMPTON (17 PTS, GD -3)
    LAST GAME: 2-1 L at Man. City, 1-1 T at Bournemouth
    NEXT GAME: vs. Arsenal

A tough week for the Saints. Southampton played very well against City, but a Raheem Sterling curler with the last kick of the game was a dagger in the hearts of Southampton. The Saints showcased City’s weaknesses defending corners and could have had another goal or two. However, when City has that much-attacking talent, all it takes is one moment of magic, regardless of how well you defend it.

To follow-up, the City game with the South Coast Derby isn’t easy, but the Saints did well to fight back and earn a point. This game had a lot of controversies involving the referees, but a draw was a fair result. Charlie Austin scored the equalizer and he has scored every time he has started for the Saints. Why Mauricio Pellegrino doesn’t start him more often is beyond me. Austin is a striker’s striker. He always finds the ball in the box and requires two, sometimes three defenders’ attention.

    LAST GAMES: 0-0 T vs. Palace, 5-1 L vs. Liverpool
    NEXT GAME: at Huddersfield

Not a great week for the Seagulls. Brighton started last week playing against Palace in the M23 derby. It’s not the most popular, or the most logical derby ever, but it is fierce. I tried to figure out how to describe it, but Copa90 did a great job in this mini-documentary. The M23 derby means a lot to both of these teams and it was the first time these two played since 2013. Both teams played to not lose and what resulted was a boring 0-0 game.

Then the Seagulls ran into the buzz saw that is Liverpool at their best. It was Brighton’s first home loss of the season, and there was nothing they could do. Liverpool was just too good for Brighton last weekend. Brighton’s next game against the Terriers will be a big one.

  1. STOKE CITY (16 PTS, GD -12)
    LAST GAME: 3-0 L vs. Liverpool, 2-1 W vs. Swansea
    NEXT GAME: vs. Liverpool

The Potters showed strong resilience coming back from a quick 1-0 deficit and it came at a big time. It was their first win since October and gave them a little breathing room above the relegation zone. Mark Hughes has bought himself some time for now, but if results against Tottenham and Burnley the next two weeks go against Stoke, and Hughes will find himself back in the hot seat.

    LAST GAME: 2-1 L at vs. Burnley, 1-1 T at Southampton
    NEXT GAME: at Palace

A tough week for the Cherries. A tough game against a good Burnley side and then a meeting with Southampton in the South Coast derby. Spots 10-17 are only separated by five points, and the Cherries find themselves in the middle of it. As long as Bournemouth and keep picking up points against the teams around them, they should be just fine.

  1. NEWCASTLE (15 PTS, GD -8)
    LAST GAME: 2-2 T at West Brom, 3-1 L at Chelsea
    NEXT GAME: vs. Leicester

It’s been a bad couple of weeks for Rafa Benitez. October 21st was the last time the Magpies won a game and it was against a one-win Crystal Palace side. At that time, Newcastle was sitting seventh on the table and only two points away from a Champions League spot. Since that day, Newcastle has only picked up ONE point and have only scored four goals and conceded 14. Things need to change on Tyneside.

    LAST GAME: 5-0 L at Arsenal, 2-0 L at Everton
    NEXT GAME: vs. Brighton

Two games, zero goals and seven conceded is a rough span of three days. Now the Terriers are only five points away from the relegation zone. Huddersfield has only two league wins in their last 14 league games. Saturday’s game against Brighton is must-win.

    LAST GAME: 2-2 T vs. Newcastle, 0-0 T vs. West Brom,
    NEXT GAME: vs. Newcastle

After the Baggies draw against Newcastle, the club named Alan Pardew their new manager. In his first game in charge, he faced off against his former team. The Baggies started well against Palace, but it will take time to see how Pardew transforms the squad. Pardew has plenty of PL experience to his name, but his biggest test is going to be keeping WBA in the league. Saturday’s game against Swansea is crucial.

  1. CRYSTAL PALACE (10 PTS, GD -17)
    LAST GAME: 0-0 D at Brighton, 0-0 D at West Brom
    NEXT GAME: vs Bournemouth

I’ve said for the last few weeks that we are seeing the beginning of Crystal Palace’s revival and now they only sit three points from safety. Back-to-back goalless draws may not seem like much, but with West Brom and Swansea dropping points, Palace picking up two points in four days is huge. Now that Cristian Benteke is back in the starting XI, Palace is going to need him to start scoring and linking up with Jason Puncheon and Wilfried Zaha.

  1. WEST HAM UNITED (10 PTS, GD -19)
    LAST GAME: 4-0 L at Everton, 2-1 L at Man. City
    NEXT GAME: vs. Chelsea

West Ham looked like a completely different team on Sunday compared to the team that got dominated by Everton last week. Their performance against Manchester City was fantastic. They had some good chances going forward and could have had another goal. Even though it was a loss, it was one of West Ham’s best performances all season.

Adrian made his case against Manchester City to be the starting goalkeeper for West Ham. Joe Hart couldn’t play because he is on loan from City and part of his loan deal is that he cannot play against his parent club. Adrian, however, was spectacular at the Etihad. He made some fabulous saves that kept City at bay for most of the game. City’s first goal was bumbled in by Otamendi, but it was only Silva’s deft touch that truly beat Adrian. Adrian earned his right to play next week. Hart has been the number one all season in goal for the Hammers, but keeping Adrian will be the perfect way for Moyes to send the message that the players have to earn their spot in goal.

However, the reality is that West Ham is only one point off the bottom of the table. Even though they played well against City, they need to turn games like that into actual points. The Hammers are going to need to replicate their performance against City for the next two games, as they have two London derbies at home against Chelsea and Arsenal.

  1. SWANSEA CITY (9 PTS, GD -10)
    LAST GAME: 0-0 L at Chelsea, 2-1 L at Stoke
    NEXT GAME: vs. West Brom

Ouch. Swansea has lost seven of their last eight games in all competitions and Paul Clement may be the next PL manager out of a job. Swansea hung tough at Stamford Bridge, but three days later, Swansea capitulated. Bony had a beautiful volley in the third minute and he’s finally scored Swansea…but then it all fell apart. Two goals in four minutes were all it took for Stoke to take the lead and win. After Swansea’s goal in the third minute, they never really threatened again.

Swansea is no stranger to a relegation battle, but unless they start scoring goals, they may lose it this time.

@ClayBenjamin_  for @CincySoccerTalk

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