Premier League

Premier League Round-Up: Matchday 24

  1. MANCHESTER CITY (65 pts, GD + 52)
    LAST GAME: 3-1 W vs. Newcastle
    NEXT GAME: vs. WBA

Many people were waiting for City to slip up all season and after their loss two weeks ago, Saturday was the first time we’d see how this team would respond. City responded with a dominating performance over Newcastle. Agüero’s perfect hat-trick
(a goal with his left foot, right foot, and head) on his 200th PL appearance was all City needed. It was Agüero’s 11th hat-trick in his City career. Newcastle made it close with their goal in the 67th minute, but City never looked in danger of losing. Manchester City hasn’t lost to Newcastle in their last 21 games. (18 wins, 3 draws)

Under Guardiola, the Etihad is now a fortress for visiting teams. City is undefeated in 24 straight PL home games and their last loss was in December 2016 against Chelsea. City resorted their 12-point lead and have games against WBA, Burnley and Leicester before facing Arsenal and Chelsea in back-to-back weeks.

  1. MANCHESTER UNITED (53 pts, GD +33)
    LAST GAME: 1-0 W vs. Burnley
    at Spurs

The biggest, yet not surprising, news this week is that Manchester United signed Alexis Sanchez on Tuesday in a player swap with Arsenal for Henrikh Mkhitaryan. It was clear that Mkhitaryan fell out of favor with Mou and the fans at Old Trafford. In Sanchez, United get the better player and a guaranteed goal scorer. United just got 10 times better and only time will tell how he gets along with United’s other attacking players. Sanchez, however, now has the heavy burden of wearing the No. 7 shirt at United. The No. 7 shirt is iconic for United and its fans. Legends like George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo have all worn No. 7 at Old Trafford.

As for their game over the weekend. Burnley is a good side, especially at home, so a 1-0 win over at Turf Moor is a solid result. Both of the teams play similar styles and both teams had chances to win. United has won four straight games in all competitions and has outscored their opponents 8-0.

More importantly, United got three points and stay ahead of Chelsea and Liverpool who are nipping at their tails.

  1. CHELSEA (50 PTS, GD +29)
    LAST GAME: 4-0 W at Brighton
    NEXT GAME: vs. Bournemouth

Chelsea has finally scored! After three straight 0-0 draws, the floodgates opened for Chelsea at the Amex. Eden Hazard was fantastic and returned to his normal ways with two goals. Two goals in the opening six minutes and the game was pretty much over from there. The Blues cruised against Brighton and there was nothing the Seagulls could do. With games against Bournemouth, Watford and WBA, Chelsea’s hot streak may just be getting started.

  1. LIVERPOOL (47 PTS, GD +25)
    LAST GAME: 1-0 L at Swansea
    NEXT GAME: at Huddersfield

In the least surprising outcome of the weekend, Liverpool lost 1-0 to the team at the very bottom of the table. Sorry Liverpool fans, I know that was harsh, but it is true. Under Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool has struggled over and over again with beating the teams they’re supposed to beat. The Reds are fantastic and dominant in games against the top six but struggle against the bottom-feeders. After coming off their best performance of the season against Manchester City, Liverpool couldn’t break down one of the worst defenses in the PL. Despite dominating possession and having 21 shots, Liverpool only had four shots on target.

Who knows where Liverpool would be or what they would have won if they were able to win these games, but until they do, Liverpool will continue to find themselves hovering around the top four.

    LAST GAME: 1-1 D at Southampton
    NEXT GAME: vs. United

Tottenham’s hopes of closing the gap on the top four hit a major set back with a 1-1 draw on the south coast. Davinson Sanchez turned Ryan Bertrand’s cross into his own goal but it was no less than what the Saints deserved. Southampton came out of the gates and attacked Tottenham. Harry Kane responded with his 99th career PL goal three minutes later to tie the game at one. Southampton’s defense held strong and a draw was a fair result.

Tottenham’s lead over rivals Arsenal is now just three points, but with Liverpool’s loss, Spurs are just two points off the top four.

  1. ARSENAL (42 PTS, GD +14)
    LAST GAME: 4-1 W vs. Palace
    NEXT GAME: at Swansea

In another chapter of bad Arsenal moves, the Gunners gave away their best player for another playmaking attacking-midfielder. Alexis is a guaranteed goal scorer and game-winner and Arsenal gave him away to a title rival. Mkhitaryan is a solid player and will definitely add to Arsenal’s squad, but he isn’t a goal scorer or a game-changer like Alexis. In Arsenal’s defense, Alexis made it very clear that he no longer wanted to play for the Gunners and it was starting to affect the rest of the dressing room. However, if Arsenal can land Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund, he could be the signing Arsenal need to reignite their top-four push.

As for their game last weekend, Arsenal brushed aside a woeful Palace team that was out of the game after 13 minutes. Their three goals in 13 minutes made them the fastest team in the PL to take a 3-0 lead since Arsenal did it seven years ago. The post-Alexis period at Arsenal started with a bang.

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

The Foxes have responded well to Claude Puel’s management. With their 2-0 dispatching over Watford over the weekend, Leicester is unbeaten in 2018 and has kept three straight clean sheets. Both teams had chances in the first half hour, but Jamie Vardy broke the deadlock from the penalty spot. Watford had some half chances in the second half, but never really threatened to equalize. Mahrez secured all three points for Leicester in stoppage time to send them above Burnley into seventh.

  1. BURNLEY (34 PTS, GD -2)
    LAST GAME: 1-0 L vs United
    NEXT GAME: at Newcastle

Three straight losses in the league for Burnley and their slide in the wrong directions continues. Burnley had their chances to win the game against United but couldn’t find the back of the net. Burnley haven’t won since December 12 and Sean Dyche needs to hurry and right the ship before they continue to slide.

  1. EVERTON (28 PTS, GD -13)
    LAST GAME: 1-1 vs. WBA
    NEXT GAME: vs. Leicester

Everton hasn’t won in the PL since December 18th, but for Everton, Saturday’s result was more than points. James McCarthy suffered a double leg fracture in a collision with WBA’s Salomon Rondon. There was no malice or foul play in the collision, but the players were noticeably distraught and knew the seriousness right away. Regardless of your loyalties, no one ever wants to see that kind of injury and we wall wish James the quickest recovery.

As for the game, substitute Oumar Niasse scored the equalizer nine minutes after McCarthy’s injury. It was Theo Walcott, on his Everton debut, that provided the assist. Walcott has the pace and the playmaking ability to help Everton return to battling for a top-four spot. Ashley Williams, Morgan Schneiderlin and Nikola Vlasic returned from injuries and Everton are getting some key players back at a very important time.

  1. WATFORD (26 PTS, GD -11)
    LAST GAME: 2-0 L at Leicester
    NEXT GAME: at Stoke

Marco Silva was sacked last Sunday after Watford’s drop in form over the last two months. What separates his firing from others is Watford’s reasoning for firing him. In their official statement, the club said, “The catalyst for this decision is that unwarranted approach, something which the board believes has seen a significant deterioration in both focus and results to the point where the long-term future of Watford FC has been jeopardized.” No club, certainly in recent memory, has stated that they have fired a manger because of other teams trying to poach him. Silva was loved at Watford and was in contention for manager of the year after the way they started the season, so it was clearly a difficult decision for Watford.

With their loss at the KP on Saturday, Watford has lost three of their last four PL games and one win in their last 11. The Hornets had their chances in the early stages of the game, but once Vardy scored from the penalty spot, Leicester was pretty much in control for the rest of the game. Wilfried Nididi had a couple chances in the second half but never threatened to take any points from this game.

  1. WEST HAM UNITED (26 PTS, GD -12)
    LAST GAME: 1-1 D vs. Bournemouth
    NEXT GAME: vs. Palace

The Hammers may feel unlucky that they didn’t get all three points, solely because they were the better team for most of the game, but they responded well to Bournemouth’s goal. Chicharito scored 64 seconds after Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser opened the scoring.

West Ham has taken points from their last five games and have lifted themselves from the relegation zone and now sit middle of the table. The Hammers have responded well to David Moyes and West Ham fans have a lot to be hopeful about for their future.

    LAST GAME: 1-1 D at West Ham
    NEXT GAME: at Chelsea

No game on the road is easy, even if the team is struggling at home. A point at the London Stadium for Bournemouth takes them up to 12th but only 3 points above the relegation zone. For how tight the bottom-half of the table is, any point will do.

The Cherries were a little lucky to take the lead, but Ryan Fraser’s go-ahead goal was well taken. However, the lead only lasted for 64 seconds when Chicharito equalized for West Ham. Besides their next game against Chelsea, The Cherries have winnable games in the upcoming weeks. Although, Bournemouth have beaten Chelsea at Stamford Bridge before and the beautiful thing about the PL is that anything can happen.

  1. CRYSTAL PALACE (25 PTS, GD -12)
    LAST GAME: 4-0 L at Arsenal
    NEXT GAME: at West Ham

After two straight wins, Crystal Palace flat out did not show up in the first half against Arsenal. The Gunners scored four times in the first 22 minutes, but even before Alexandre Lacazette’s goal in the 22nd minute, the game was long over.

With games against West Ham, Newcastle and Everton coming up, Palace needs to regain focus to avoid sliding down the slippery slope that is the bottom half of the table.

    LAST GAME: 2-0 L at Stoke
    NEXT GAME: vs. Liverpool

Like their newly-promoted counterparts Brighton, Huddersfield Town are slipping. The Terriers haven’t won in their last six PL games and their last win was on December 16th. At that time, Huddersfield was 11th in the table. While 14th isn’t that big of a drop, the last 11 teams in the league are separated by six points. With games against Liverpool and United in the next two weeks, the Terriers need to find a way turn some momentum in their favor.

  1. NEWCASTLE (23 PTS, GD -12)
    LAST GAME: 3-1 L at City
    NEXT GAME: vs. Burnley

Newcastle played well, but they sat back and defended for the entire game. Their only goal came off a counterattack and never really threatened again. Newcastle is one point above the drop zone with some very vital games coming up.

    LAST GAME: 4-0 L vs. Chelsea
    NEXT GAME: at Southampton

The Seagulls ran into the buzz saw that is Chelsea at their best. Chelsea ended their goal drought with two goals in the first six minutes and the game was over from there. Brighton did have a few chances, but Willy Caballero played well for Chelsea. Brighton is now winless in their last five league games and their descent down the table continues.

  1. STOKE CITY (23 PTS, GD -25)
    LAST GAME: 2-0 W vs Huddersfield
    NEXT GAME: vs. Watford

How about that for a first day on the job? In his first game in charge, Paul Lambert and his Stoke City side picked up a vital three points that lift them out of the bottom three. It was the Potters first win in their last five games. Even though Stoke is out of the bottom three for now,  but they need to ride this momentum in their next three games against struggling sides Watford, Bournemouth and Brighton.

  1. SOUTHAMPTON (22 PTS, GD -11)
    LAST GAME: 1-1 vs. Spurs
    NEXT GAME: vs. Brighton

Sunday’s draw against Spurs was a huge point for the Saints, but Southampton finds themselves in the bottom three after Stoke’s win over Huddersfield. Southampton hasn’t won in their last 12 PL games and it’s not looking good for the guys on the south coast. Mauricio Pellegrino is on the hot seat and he may not last much longer if Southampton continues to drop points.

    LAST GAME: 1-1 D at Everton
    NEXT GAME: at City

Grzegorz Krychowiak’s beautiful through ball to Jay Rodriguez gave WBA a deserved lead over Everton to start the game. Salomon Rondon almost scored the game-winner late in the second-half, but his shot hit the crossbar. The draw sees WBA go even on points with Swansea, but they are only ahead because of goal differential.

  1. SWANSEA CITY (20 PTS, GD -20)
    LAST GAME: 1-0 W vs. Liverpool
    NEXT GAME: vs. Arsenal

A huge win for the Swans. Alfie Mawson poached home the game’s only goal and moved Swansea three points away from safety. It wasn’t a pretty win because Liverpool dominated the game, but all the Swans will care about is the three points. In their next three games, Swansea faces Arsenal, Leicester, and Burnley. Those are three very tough teams that are sixth, seventh and eighth respectively in the table. Swansea’s safety battle got a huge boost with their win on Monday, but they’ll need that boost to get some vital points over the next couple weeks.

@ClayBenjamin_ for  @CincySoccerTalk

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