Cincinnati Soccer Talk invites you to our next EPL Roundtable on Tuesday 2/20 at 7 pm. Join us at Rhinehaus in OTR to discuss the EPL season thus far and the first half of the Champions League Round of 16 matchups. We look forward to see you there.
- MANCHESTER CITY (72 pts, GD + 59)
LAST GAMES: 5-1 W vs. Leicester
NEXT GAME: at Arsenal
Kevin De Bruyne was simply sensational for Manchester City Saturday afternoon. His passing, his vision, and his playmaking ability was too much for Leicester to handle. KDB’s first touch passing on Sterling’s goal and Agüero’s first goal broke the entire Leicester defense. City looked sloppy for the last half hour of the first half, but whatever Pep said at halftime clearly worked. The Blues were untouchable in the second half and it looked like a training session. Agüero’s four goals were the third time he has scored four goals in a single PL game. He is the only player in PL history to do that.
City’s massive second half coupled with United’s lost at Newcastle means the gap is back to 16 points. City has Arsenal and Chelsea in their next two league games, but first, they have an FA Cup fifth round against match-up with Wigan and then the Carabao Cup final against Arsenal. If City wins against Arsenal and Chelsea in their next two league games, the Manchester City Council will be beginning the parade route.
- MANCHESTER UNITED (56 pts, GD +32)
LAST GAME: 1-0 L at Newcastle
NEXT GAME: vs. Chelsea
United have some ugly losses since Mourinho has taken over, but this may top the list. Newcastle hadn’t won at home since October and they, in all fairness, were lucky to win this one. United wasted chance after chance and it allowed Newcastle stick around long enough to get a goal. Paul Pogba completely disappeared in this game and barely lasted an hour. Pogba can be one of the best players in the world when he is playing at his best and in his best position.
Mourinho vs. Pogba has been a hot-button issue for United fans. Pogba isn’t a holding midfielder, which is where Mourinho has been playing him for a majority of this season. If I am a United fan, I’m hoping United splash the cash for a holding midfielder this summer. Arturo Vidal has been linked to Old Trafford, Casemiro from Real Madrid or Jorginho from Napoli would also be solid signings to play alongside Nemanja Matic in the holding midfield role. With another holding midfielder, that will give Pogba the ability to move up the field and dictate the offense—which is his best position. However, in order for that to happen, and for United to afford it, United will have to sell some players. Jesse Lingard has been sensational for United this season and his price has never been higher. If United are willing to sell Lingard to get the most out of Pogba, I think it is the best deal they can make.
- LIVERPOOL (54 PTS, GD +30)
LAST GAME: 2-0 W at Southampton
NEXT GAME: vs. West Ham
For as good as Mohamed Salah has been this season, and he has been very good, Roberto Firmino has been just as good. Firmino has 12 goals and six assists this season and has been just as valuable to Liverpool as Salah has been. Loris Karius responded well to his critics as he made some crucial saves to deny Southampton an equalizer.
Liverpool played well, now the real question is, can they follow it up? Liverpool has had trouble in the past stringing together quality performances. The Reds have games against West Ham and Newcastle at Anfield before they travel to Old Trafford for their biggest rivalry game. It will be crucial for Liverpool to get max points before playing United to put the ultimate pressure on Mourinho and his men.
- CHELSEA (53 PTS, GD +26)
LAST GAME: 3-0 W vs. WBA
NEXT GAME: at United
The Blues cruised at home against the bottom-dwellers of the PL. Even better for Chelsea fans is that it looks like Eden Hazard has returned to normal ways. He was unstoppable on Monday. Chelsea will need Hazard to play at his best if they want to keep pace with United and Liverpool. When Hazard is at his best, Chelsea is at their best and when Chelsea is at their best, there are few teams better than them in the league. The title race is over, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any drama at the top of the table. The fights for the coveted top four spots are going to be very fun to watch.
- TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (52 PTS, GD +28)
LAST GAME: 1-0 W vs. Arsenal
NEXT GAME: at Palace
Harry Kane loves the North London Derby. His goal was the difference on Saturday and it was his seventh goal in seven North London derbies. Spurs dominated most of the game and could have easily had two or three more goals for their troubles. The battle for the top four is going to be very interesting and luckily for Spurs, they have favorable matchups coming up. Poch and his guys have games against Palace, Huddersfield, Bournemouth, and Newcastle before facing Chelsea on Easter day. Spurs also face City again before the end of the season, so it is in Tottenham’s destiny is in their own hands.
- ARSENAL (45 PTS, GD +15)
LAST GAME: 1-0 L at Tottenham
NEXT GAME: vs. City
What hurts Arsenal even more than losing to their bitter rival is that said loss puts them seven points behind Tottenham. Tottenham dominated most of the game, but Alexandre Lacazette put Arsenal’s best chance just a few inches wide. Arsenal is now seven points behind Tottenham and eight points behind Chelsea in fourth.
More troubling than Arsenal’s distance from the top of the table, is what Arsene Wenger said after the game. Wenger said that with Aubameyang’s signing over the winter, Lacazette’s confidence may have taken a hit. I think it’s safe to say that his confidence has taken a hit and it has shown. Competition, especially at this level, can create the worst reaction in some people. When the person is a world-class goal scorer who needs that confidence to be at his best, it’s almost catastrophic, especially given how much Arsenal paid for him. Wenger now has the difficult task on how to get the best out of his players and how to get them adequate playing time. Whether it is changing formation to get all of their best players—Auba, Lacazette, Mhki, Ozil and Ramsey—on the field at once, or finding the perfect balance in the rotation. Either way, Wenger has plenty of trouble on his hands and adding their poor form and distance from the top four only adds to the pressure on his shoulders.
- BURNLEY (36 PTS, GD -3)
LAST GAME: 1-0 L at Swansea
NEXT GAME: vs. Southampton
Burnley is winless in their last 10 PL games and this is probably their worst loss yet. It is safe to say that the possibility of Burnley playing in the Champions League next season is gone. They are safe from relegation and they need to go back to the basics. They need to go back to what made them so dangerous in the beginning of the season. It almost worked when they played Manchester City a few weeks ago. Burnley doesn’t play attractive football, but they are very strong defensively. Burnley plays so many 1-1 and 1-0 games because they wait for their time to attack. Burnley just needs to hit the reset button and get back to playing their style of football.
- LEICESTER CITY (35 PTS, GD -1)
LAST GAME: 5-1 L at City
NEXT GAME: vs. Stoke
The Foxes played really well in the first half and took the few opportunities the got. However, in the second half, Leicester ran into the buzz saw that is Manchester City at their best. The Blues blitzed Leicester in the second half and Leicester didn’t have a response. The Foxes still sit in eighth and are playing well under Claude Puel. With games against Stoke, Bournemouth, and WBA in their next league games, Leicester will be just fine.
- EVERTON (34 PTS, GD -14)
LAST GAME: 3-1 W vs. Palace
NEXT GAME: at Watford
Everton looked really good in the second half on Saturday. Despite their struggles in the first half, Everton looked strong in attack and scored three times in the second half. Much like their Merseyside counterparts, Everton struggle linking solid performances together. Everton has some tough games against Watford, Burnley, and Brighton coming up and we will see if they can link together quality performances. Everton is safe and will be in the league next season, now it’s time for them to focus on working out all the kinks and preparing for next season.
- AFC BOURNEMOUTH (31 PTS, GD -10)
LAST GAME: 4-1 L at Huddersfield
NEXT GAME: vs. Newcastle
Bournemouth was thoroughly beaten at the John Smith Stadium and it was their first league loss since Dec. 23rd. Once Steve Mounie regained the lead for Huddersfield, Bournemouth never really threated to battle back. The Terriers did a good job controlling the game and sometimes you just have to admit when you have been beaten. Bournemouth sits in 10th and Eddie Howe and his team’s magical run to the PL will continue for another season. They are only five points ahead of the drop, so it is not the time to get comfortable, but Bournemouth is a good bet to avoid relegation.
- WATFORD (30 PTS, GD -10)
LAST GAME: 2-0 L at West Ham
NEXT GAME: vs. Everton
Watford was dominated on Saturday against West Ham. Watford played well for the first 20 minutes or so, but for the remaining 60 minutes, Watford was hardly in the game. Gerard Deulofeu was kept in check by West Ham and he wasn’t able to use his creative ability to kick-start Watford’s attack. The Hornets sit ahead of West Ham on goal differential and will be in the PL next season.
- WEST HAM UNITED (30 PTS, GD -12)
LAST GAME: 2-0 W vs. Watford
NEXT GAME: at Liverpool
West Ham looked really good on Saturday in their win over Watford. Both teams have been struggling the last couple months, but it was West Ham who dominated the game at the London Stadium. Watford had a chance early in the first half, but once Chicharito scored in the 38th minute, the Hammers never lost control of the game. West Ham continues their good start to the new year and is now four points clear of the relegation zone. Chicharito is backing to continually scoring goals and if Marko Arnautovic can get on a hot streak, the Hammers will be sitting pretty in the PL next season.
- NEWCASTLE (28 PTS, GD -11)
LAST GAME: 1-0 W vs. United
NEXT GAME: at Bournemouth
Newcastle picked up their first win at St. James’ Park since October and it may be one of the biggest wins at SJP in recent memory. The Magpies were a bit lucky, but Martin Dubravka had an incredible day on his debut. With one win, Newcastle goes from the relegation zone all the way into 13th. It was a big win for Rafa and Newcastle, but they cannot stop now. The Magpies are still only two points out of the relegation zone and every game is going to be a big game.
- BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION (28 PTS, GD -14)
LAST GAME: 1-1 D at Stoke
NEXT GAME: vs. Swansea
The Seagulls played really well in the first half and their goal was well deserved. A beautiful team goal was finished off by Jose Izquierdo and Brighton had the upper half going into the locker room. But in the second half, it was all Stoke City and Brighton was lucky to leave with a point. Mat Ryan saved Charlie Adams’ penalty late, but it was Anthony Knockaert that was the true hero. After coming on in the 86th minute, Knockaert cleared Mame Diouf’s header off the goal line. If Knockaert wasn’t in the right place at the right time, Stoke City would have won the game.
The Seagulls are one of the teams in the very dangerous bottom half of the table where one win could keep them alive or one loss could find them in the relegation zone. Brighton has a game against Swansea before facing Arsenal, Everton and Manchester City, so it will be crucial for Brighton to take all three points from Swansea.
- CRYSTAL PALACE (27 PTS, GD -17)
LAST GAME: 3-1 L at Everton
NEXT GAME: vs. Tottenham
A poor display from the Eagles on Saturday and Roy Hodgson was pissed off after the game. Hodgson, for the most part, is a pretty level-headed guy. After the game, he expressed his frustration on a reporter, but his frustration is justified. Christian Benteke missed a header late in the first half that he should have buried. His miss was made even worse when Everton scored twice in the first five minutes of the second half. Alexander Sorloth, Palace’s deadline day signing, made his debut and looked decent. Sorloth had Palace’s best chance of the second half but Jordan Pickford pushed it wide. Luka Milivojevic converted a late penalty, but the game was long over by that point.
Palace sits just one point above the relegation zone and has Tottenham, United, and Chelsea in their next three games. Palace fans have reason to worry about their position in the league for the next couple of weeks. With games against three of the top five and their struggles in front of goal about to collide, it’s not looking great for Palace.
- SWANSEA CITY (27 PTS, GD -17)
LAST GAME: 1-0 W vs. Burnley
NEXT GAME: at Brighton
Three wins in their last four games and things are starting to click in Wales for Carlos Carvalhal. Ki Sung-Yueng, a weekend after making PL history, scored the winner for the Swans in the 81st minute. Swansea’s last three wins have come against Liverpool, Arsenal, and Burnley, three teams that have been at the top of the table all season. Carvalhal is up for the PL Manager of the Month award for January and he is a legitimate contender for the work he has done in his short time at Swansea. Not only are the Swans playing better football, they are playing with more confidence and enthusiasm. Swansea’s play over the last month is the perfect example of what a team with a newfound confidence and swagger can do.
Swansea is in 15th and only one point above the drop zone, but with the confidence and energy Carvalhal has brought to Swansea, who knows where they will end up at the end of the season.
- HUDDERSFIELD TOWN (27 PTS, GD -24)
LAST GAME: 4-1 W vs Bournemouth
NEXT GAME: at WBA
The Terriers ended their eight-game losing streak at just the right time. With their resounding win at home against the Cherries, Town lifts themselves out of the relegation zone and into 16th. Steve Mounie dominated the game for the Terriers with a goal and an assist. Mounie is going to be crucial going forward as Aaron Mooy was taken off on a stretcher in the 76th minute. That is a tough blow for Huddersfield, especially in the midst of a relegation battle.
The Terriers have a very big game next against WBA. If the Terriers can pick up a crucial win against one of the few teams below them, it will help propel Huddersfield relegation fight and sink WBA even further.
- SOUTHAMPTON (26 PTS, GD -12)
LAST GAME: 2-0 L vs. Liverpool
NEXT GAME: at Burnley
It is not looking good for Southampton. A team that has been consistently pushing for a Champions League spot is now a likely candidate for relegation. The Saints only have one win in their last 14 league games. They do have the best goal differential of the bottom seven teams, but they have only scored 28 times this season. Unless Southampton can start scoring some goals, this PL mainstay is going back down to the Championship.
19. STOKE CITY (25 PTS, GD -26)
LAST GAME: 1-1 D vs Brighton
NEXT GAME: at Leicester
Stoke desperately needed a win and they couldn’t get it done at home. The Potters equalized halfway through the second half when Xherdan Shaqiri hit a beautiful shot and curled it past Mat Ryan. From there on out, it was all Stoke, but the Potters couldn’t find a winner. Ryan saved Charlie Adams’ penalty in the 89th minute and then Anthony Knockaert had a beautiful header on the line to deny Mame Diouf a certain match-winning goal.
The Potters now sit in 19th and are only two points away from safety. The rest of the season is going to be a struggle for Paul Lambert and his men, and they may not make it to the PL season next year. All the Stoke City player can do right now is to fight like hell for their spot in the top-flight.
- WEST BROMWICH ALBION (20 PTS, GD -19)
LAST GAME: 3-0 L at Chelsea
NEXT GAME: vs. Huddersfield
Going to Stamford Bridge and trying to get a result was always going to be a daunting task for WBA. Eden Hazard looked to return to his dominant ways and WBA couldn’t keep up with him. The Baggies are five points off of Stoke and seven from safety. It’s not looking pretty and week after week, it looks like WBA is going down.
@ClayBenjamin_ for @CincySoccerTalk
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