Premier League

Premier League Round-Up: Matchday 23

Everyone, welcome to 2018. It’s been awhile since you’ve heard from me, but the Premier League has kept you plenty busy. While the festive period may not be fun for managers, it sure is fun for the fans. Who doesn’t love seeing their team play two or three times a week? All of those games made sitting at awkward dinners with your in-laws during the holidays bearable.

  1. MANCHESTER CITY (62 pts, GD + 50)
    LAST GAME: 4-3 L at Liverpool
    NEXT GAME: vs. Newcastle

What. A. Game. The seven-goal thriller is easily one of the games of the season.  All City can do is applaud and give credit to Liverpool. It’s been a long time since this City team were beaten in every aspect. Liverpool’s constant press and high energy never let City get into a rhythm.

Anfield continues to be the Achilles’ Heel for City, who haven’t won in their last 15 games. Despite being down 4-1, City never gave up and almost scored the equalizer in the dying seconds. It was a true testament to their desire to win every game and the mentality that Pep has instilled at the club. It will be interesting to see how Pep and City look following this loss. Now that City is playing the way Pep’s wants to play, this is the first time we will see a true Pep Guardiola City side adapt to a loss.

City still holds a massive gap ahead of the rest of the top four and will see this loss as a chance to reset and get better.

  1. MANCHESTER UNITED (50 pts, GD +32)
    LAST GAME: 3-0 W vs. Stoke
    at Burnley

Manchester United made the most of City’s loss and closed the gap to 12 points. It is still early to say that the title chase is back on and United will continue to hope that City loses.

United cruised over a woeful Stoke side and Paul Pogba dominated the game in the midfield. United fans are happy with Pogba now after a fantastic game, but will they be next weekend? Lukaku was back on the scoresheet, but how long will it be until he scores again? I think those are fair and legitimate questions that trouble United right now.

Once Pogba can play like that consistently and in bigger games against better opposition, like he did at Juventus, United fans will be more impressed. If Lukaku can return to his scoring form from the beginning of the season, United will set themselves apart as the second-best team in the country. It is rumored that Alexis Sanchez is on his way to Old Trafford, and his pace and finishing will make United so much better.

  1. LIVERPOOL (47 PTS, GD +26)
    LAST GAME: 4-3 W vs. City
    NEXT GAME:  at Swansea

What. A. Game. The seven-goal thriller is easily one of the games of the season. Liverpool was sensational the entire game. Klopp and his men attacked City from the beginning with a relentless press. Liverpool is the first team this entire season to actually “beat” Manchester City. Other teams have stifled City’s attack by playing very defensive and making City break them down, but Liverpool took the game to the visitors and got a well-deserved three points. Despite some poor goalkeeping from Karius, everyone on the field for Liverpool put in one of their best performances of the season.

This is how good Liverpool can be and why there is some frustration amongst fans that Liverpool haven’t picked up more points this season. Under Klopp, Liverpool has surged in and dominated games against the other big boys in the PL. When teams play a flowing and attacking style, like City, Liverpool thrives in those games. Liverpool struggle in games against teams that play defensive and teams they should beat that force Liverpool to break them down. That’s where Liverpool need to improve, not in games against the top six.

But as the weekend ends, Liverpool go ahead of Chelsea by goal differential and it’s a tight race for second place.

  1. CHELSEA (47 PTS, GD +25)
    LAST GAME: 0-0 D vs. Leicester
    NEXT GAME: at Brighton

Chelsea was a little lucky to get a point. They didn’t lose the game, which speaks to how good Leicester was, but the Blues were second-best for almost the entire game. That is three straight 0-0 draws for Chelsea and their fourth straight draw in all competitions.

Chelsea is lacking the creativity and creation that makes them so dangerous week in and week out. Chelsea was unable to break down the Foxes even with being a man up for the last 20 minutes. Pedro and Willian haven’t seen extended runs where they can make a difference. Césc Fabregas hasn’t been himself and his passing has been off. Eden Hazard is one of the best players in the league, but he hasn’t been able to keep up a high level. It could be the festive period and exhaustion finally getting to Chelsea, but three games without a goal is cause for worry.

    LAST GAME: 4-0 W vs. Everton
    NEXT GAME: at Southampton

Spurs got off to a slow start this season, but their key players are all hitting stride at the same time. Heung-Min Son has scored at home in five straight PL games. Son is only the second player in Spurs history to do that (Jermaine Defoe). Son also has eight goals and four assists in his last 15 PL games.

Harry Kane tied Tottenham legend Teddy Sheringham as Tottenham’s joint-highest PL scorer with 97 goals with his goal early in the second half. Then right on 60 minutes, Kane became Tottenham’s all-time record goalscorer with his 98th career PL goal in his 135th PL game. Kane’s 135 PL games are 99 (!!) fewer games than Sheringham*. He now has 20 goals in the PL and 28 goals in all competitions in 28 appearances. *The Premier League was formed in 1992*

As for the game against Everton, Tottenham cruised in possession for the entire game and had plenty of time on the ball. Everton has switched to a defensive and counter-attacking side under Big Sam, but the Toffees gave Spurs too much space and it made it so easy for Tottenham.

  1. ARSENAL (39 PTS, GD +11)
    LAST GAME: 2-1 L at Bournemouth
    NEXT GAME: vs. Palace

In a weekend where Arsenal needed to pick up points, they didn’t. Before kick-off, the Gunners knew that Tottenham won and that there was a five-point gap between the two north London sides. But with Arsene Wenger looking on from the stands as he served the last game of his ban, the Gunners squandered a lead and now sit five points back of Tottenham in fifth and eight points off of Chelsea.

The bigger news coming from north London is that Alexis Sanchez did not make the trip to Bournemouth and Wenger almost all but confirmed his impending exit. With Manchester City, United and Liverpool all bidding for the Chilean, it looks like his exit from Arsenal will be sooner rather than later.

  1. BURNLEY (34 PTS, GD -1)
    LAST GAME: 1-0 L at Palace
    NEXT GAME: vs. United

After such a great start to the season, the Clarets have cooled off. After Saturday’s loss at Selhurst Park, Sean Dyche and his team haven’t won in their last six league games. At one point, Burnley was just one point off a Champions League spot but now sit 10 points off Liverpool in fourth.

Burnley needs to find some goals. The Clarets have only been able to score three times in their last six league games. Burnley have never been an attacking side, actually quite the opposite, but if they can’t score one or two goals to alleviate pressure on their defense, they will continue their slide down the table.

    LAST GAME: 0-0 D at Chelsea
    NEXT GAME: vs. Watford

What a performance from Leicester. Few, if any, teams go to Stamford Bridge and dominate the way the Foxes did. The Chelsea fans in the stands were silent for most of the game and the roar from the Leicester fans almost made it seem like a home game. The Foxes had their chances and couldn’t capitalize. Riyad Mahrez was sensational despite a dive that he may be fined for later this week. The Chelsea midfield and defense had trouble stopping Mahrez all afternoon.

When it looked like they could get a point, or even three, Ben Chilwell picked up his second yellow card in the 68th minute, forcing Claude Puel to take off Shinji Okazaki. However, when Leicester did go down to 10 men, they were resilient and Chelsea was unable to break them down. All in all, a good point for Leicester.

  1. EVERTON (27 PTS, GD -13)
    LAST GAME: 4-0 L at Tottenham
    NEXT GAME: at Chelsea

Big Sam came in and revived Everton and took them from the relegation zone into the top half of the table, but big Sam’s changes may be becoming stale. Everton has conceded at least 2 goals in their last four games in all competitions and they were completely outplayed on Saturday at Wembley.

Big Sam has made Everton a defensive and counter-attacking minded side, but Everton gave Tottenham WAY too much respect and space on the ball on Saturday. The Tottenham players had to be shocked that they were given so much space and freedom to pick their passes. Son and Christian Eriksen were running all over the field and had the space to be creative and to pick out the best passes and cripple the Everton defense.

New, big-money signing Cenk Tosun made his debut for the Toffees, but Everton was defending for most of the game that Tosun had no real opportunity on the ball to make a difference. Even worse, Everton only has eight points away from home all season. Everton flat out needs to be better than that. They have the squad and the talent, they need to start working together.

  1. WATFORD (26 PTS, GD -9)
    LAST GAME: 2-2 D vs. Southampton
    NEXT GAME: at Leicester

Watford has made it habit of scoring very late goals to win or tie. That speaks to the resilience Marco Silva has instilled at the club and that is a much-needed trait for a club in the PL. Whether or not the game-tying goal should have counted, the Hornets were able to pick up a point at home. With games against Leicester and Stoke, it’s a good chance to pick up more points before facing Chelsea in the first weekend of February.

  1. WEST HAM UNITED (25 PTS, GD -12)
    LAST GAME: 4-1 W at Huddersfield
    NEXT GAME: vs. Bournemouth

Marko Arnautovic, wow, there may not a hotter player in Europe at the moment. He is almost single-handedly saving West Ham at this point. In his last seven PL games, Arnautovic six goals and three assists. It finally seems like West Ham has an answer up front, and under David Moyes, their defense will soon follow suit.

West Ham finally has some breathing room between them and the relegation zone, but they are not out of the woods yet. The bottom half of the table is still very tight, but with the momentum coming from this win, Hammer fans have plenty to be excited about.

  1. CRYSTAL PALACE (25 PTS, GD -12)
    LAST GAME: 1-0 W vs. Burnley
    NEXT GAME: at Arsenal

Palace picked up a solid this weekend against a good Burnley side. Burnley is not an easy side to break down, but once Palace took the lead, the Eagles controlled the rest of the game. Roy Hodgson will be very happy with his defense because Burnley never looked close to scoring.

The win takes Palace up to 12th and five points clear out of the drop zone. They’re not out of the woods yet, but Palace’s resurgence under Hodgson—eight points in their last five games—is a promising sign for Palace fans that the team will stay up this season.

    LAST GAME: 2-1 W vs. Arsenal
    NEXT GAME: at West Ham

History at the Vitality Stadium. In a thrilling comeback, the Cherries picked up their first-ever win against Arsenal. Not only is it a huge win because of the historical value, but it creates a little breathing room for the Cherries. The win takes Bournemouth all the way to 13th and four points ahead of the relegation zone.

    LAST GAME: 4-1 L at West Ham
    NEXT GAME: at Stoke

The Terriers just got blitzed by West Ham in the second half. Conceding 11 seconds into the second half killed any plan Huddersfield had for the second half. Two more goals after that made it an easy win for the Hammers.  It’s always hard for promoted teams during the festive period, and the exhaustion from those games was noticeable for Huddersfield. However, they play the same type of schedule and more games in the Championship, so there isn’t a lot of room for excuses.

  1. NEWCASTLE (23 PTS, GD -10)
    LAST GAME: 1-1 T vs. Swansea
    NEXT GAME: at City

Newcastle did well to respond to Swansea and get an equalizer, but they should win this type of game. At home, in front of 51,000+ at St. James’ Park against the last place team, Benitez will be upset his side didn’t play well enough to win.

The Magpies sit in 15th but three points ahead of the relegation zone. It doesn’t get easier for Newcastle with City and Burnley in their next two league games. A lot of work will need to be done over the next two months if Newcastle wants to remain in the league.

    LAST GAME: 2-0 L at West Brom
    NEXT GAME: vs. Chelsea

Flat out not a good day for the Seagulls on Saturday. WBA took the lead in the fourth minute and never looked back. Despite a few chances, Brighton never looked threatening enough to score.

  1. SOUTHAMPTON (21PTS, GD -11)
    LAST GAME: 2-2 T at Watford
    NEXT GAME: vs. Spurs

Saints fans will feel hard done by the referee’s no-call on apparent handball that led to the game-tying goal for Watford. Abdoulaye Doucoure scored the winning goal after it deflected off his hand and into the goal. Whether it was intentional or not, you cannot use your hands to score a goal, thus it should not have counted.

 The Saints are now legitimate relegation candidates, which is a position they are not accustomed too. A team that has been sitting in the top half of the table the past couple of years, they are now just one point off the bottom three. Something needs to change fast on the south coast.

  1. STOKE CITY (20 PTS, GD -27)
    LAST GAME: 3-0 L at United
    NEXT GAME: vs. Huddersfield

It’s not looking good for the Potters. They were blown away at Old Trafford as their new manager, Paul Lambert, watched from the stands. Lambert has his work cut out for him if Stoke City want to stay in the Premier League.

    LAST GAME: 2-0 W vs. Brighton
    NEXT GAME: at Everton

“FINALLY,”- WBA fans. The Baggies finally get their first win under Alan Pardew and their first win since August (!!). the win takes WBA to one point behind Stoke and two points away from safety. It’s not going to be easy for WBA to keep fighting, but getting the first win under Pardew will give the squad some confidence and momentum moving forward.

  1. SWANSEA CITY (17 PTS, GD -21)
    LAST GAME: 1-1 T at Newcastle
    NEXT GAME: vs. Liverpool

In a battle of two teams battling relegation, both teams came out with a point. Both teams played conservatively to avoid dropping points. In the end, both teams deserved a point. The point hurts more for Swansea because of West Brom’s victory over Brighton. The Swans are now four points from safety.

@ClayBenjamin_ for @CincySoccerTalk

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