Premier League

Premier League Round-Up: Matchday 29

  1. MANCHESTER CITY (78 pts, GD + 63)
    LAST GAMES: 1-0 W vs Chelsea
    NEXT GAME: at Stoke

The scoreline may not show it, but City dominated Chelsea. City dominated every aspect of the game and Chelsea never even looked like threatening. This win was City’s 14th straight PL home win. Before kickoff on Sunday morning, it had been 456 days since City were beaten at the Etihad. The last team to do that was Chelsea. City broke some more records over the weekend. City set the record for the most successful passes in a game (902). Ilkay Gundogan set two records. He set the record for most successful individual passes in one game (167) and the most touches in a single game (181). City keeps cruising and the rest of the world is along for the ride.

  1. MANCHESTER UNITED (62 pts, GD +34)
    LAST GAME: 3-2 W at Palace
    NEXT GAME: vs. Liverpool

A massive comeback for United. The Red Devils didn’t show up in the first half, but Palace’s second goal gave them a much-needed wake-up call. Chris Smalling got the ball rolling with United’s first goal and Lukaku got the equalizer. I said last week that Lukaku may go on a dominant run and I stand by that. Nemanja Matic’s first goal for United could not have come at a better time. His 28-yard rocket sunk finished the comeback and the hearts of the Palace fans. Two straight come from behind victories should give United plenty of confidence going into their massive game against Liverpool.

  1. LIVERPOOL (60 PTS, GD +35)
    LAST GAME: 2-0 W vs. Newcastle
    NEXT GAME: at United

Liverpool cruised against Newcastle at home. The Reds struggled to break down Newcastle in the first half, but since they dominated possession, it was always a question of when they would score, not if. Salah’s goal was his eighth goal in his last seven games and 11th in his last 10 games. It was also his goal his 32nd goal in all comps this season. To put that incredible number into context: Newcastle as a team has only 32 goals in all competitions ALL season.

Liverpool has made Anfield a fortress once again. Liverpool has only lost once in their last 23 home matches. Liverpool has a massive game next weekend against their bitter rivals Manchester United. The battle between these two teams is arguably the biggest and most fierce rivalry in all of English football. This weekend’s game has huge implications on the top four race. With City already locking up a spot in the top four, there are only three spots up for grabs.

  1. TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (58 PTS, GD +31)
    LAST GAME: 2-0 W vs. Huddersfield
    NEXT GAME: at Bournemouth

Tottenham cruised against Huddersfield at Wembley. From the opening kick-off to the final whistle, Spurs were always in control. Harry Kane’s ball into Son for his second goal was phenomenal. It had to be played early and he could not have hit it any better. Kane’s ability to create is underrated because he’s always finishing, but it was a beautiful ball.

Spurs will still be battling to stay in the top four, but with no more Champions League and a five-point lead on Chelsea, they should have enough to lock-up a Champions League spot for next season.

  1. CHELSEA (53 PTS, GD +24)
    LAST GAME: 1-0 L at City
    NEXT GAME: vs. Palace

Chelsea was manhandled on Sunday at the Etihad, and it was partially their fault. City played well, but City did not play at their best. Chelsea sat back and gave way too much respect to City. For Conte, the game totally didn’t mean anything after he heard the news of Davide Astori. Astori died suddenly and unexpectedly Saturday night from a “sudden illness”. Conte managed Astori during his time as the Italian national team manager. After hearing news like that, soccer becomes irrelevant.

As for Chelsea’s actual performance, they didn’t register a single shot on target in the first-half for the first time in 14 years. Chelsea didn’t even manage a shot on target for the entire game. Marcos Alonso had a half-volley in stoppage time of the second half that, if he had hit it cleanly, could have snuck into the goal. This loss was their fourth straight PL road loss. The Blues now sit five points outside of the top four and with games against Spurs and Liverpool still to go, they are not out of contention yet.

  1. ARSENAL (45 PTS, GD +11)
    LAST GAME: 2-1 L at Brighton
    NEXT GAME: vs. Watford

If someone you love is an Arsenal fan, give them a hug, because they desperately need one. If Arsenal fans thought last week—and the last month—was bad, it got even worse with the loss to Brighton. Arsenal did not show up in the first 40 minutes, and to put it nicely, the Arsenal players looked genuinely disinterested. Auba used a deft flick to pull one back and Arsenal almost tied it up before halftime, but Laurent Koscielny’s shot hit the post. Glenn Murray had his goal disallowed because of offside, but Arsenal couldn’t find an equalizer after halftime.

Arsenal is 13 points adrift of the top four and it would unrealistic to entertain the idea that the Gunners can come back. Like they should have done years ago, it’s time for Arsenal to take a long look in the mirror to figure out their next step. I’ve said before that I don’t like calling for managers to be fired, but if Wenger truly loves Arsenal like he says he does, he needs to realize that his staying is only hurting the club.

  1. BURNLEY (40 PTS, GD -2)
    LAST GAME: 2-1 W vs. Everton
    NEXT GAME: at West Ham

A big win for Burnley. The win ends their winless streak of 11 games in the league. Burnley pulls within five points of Arsenal in sixth, which could be a massive feat. If Tottenham, United or Chelsea can win the FA Cup and finish in the top four, that will open a second spot for an English team in the Europa League. If Burnley can finish sixth and ahead of Arsenal, it could very well be Burnley playing in the Europa League next season.

  1. LEICESTER CITY (37 PTS, GD -1)
    LAST GAME: 1-1 D vs. Bournemouth
    NEXT GAME: at West Brom

An absolutely beautiful free kick from Riyad Mahrez in the dying seconds rescued a point for the Foxes. Say what you want about Mahrez, but even though it’s obvious he wants to move on, he still gives it his all for Leicester. The Foxes have struggled in recent weeks, but they have played the full 90 minutes each game and have earned the points that are keeping them ahead of the tight relegation battle.

  1. WATFORD (36 PTS, GD -8)
    LAST GAME: 1-0 W vs. WBA
    NEXT GAME: at Arsenal

It wasn’t a pretty game, but Watford took home all three points. Despite starting slower, Watford survived some early WBA chances. Troy Deeney’s goal and all three points move Watford into ninth and nine points ahead of the relegation zone.

10. BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION (34 PTS, GD -10)
LAST GAME: 2-1 W vs. Arsenal
NEXT GAME: at Everton

A massive win for the Seagulls. With the way Arsenal has been playing, Brighton had to see this matchup as a real opportunity to steal some points and they did. Brighton played with confidence and energy and it paid off with two goals in the first 26 minutes. Arsenal almost equalized before halftime, but Brighton did enough to hold on to the three points. This win should be enough to keep Brighton in the PL. The Seagulls are in 10th and sit seven points clear of the relegation zone.

  1. EVERTON (34 PTS, GD -16)
    LAST GAME: 2-1 L at Burnley
    NEXT GAME: vs. Brighton

Everton is a mess. Everton and West Ham are prime examples of what happens when clubs think spending loads of money can fix everything. Everton’s problem isn’t that they don’t have good players—they have great players. Everton’s problem is that there is no discipline or club philosophy, at least a noticeable one. With no philosophy, the players are only playing for themselves and playing for bigger and better deals from other clubs. Until Everton’s players can all get on the same page and start believing in something bigger than themselves, they will continue to struggle. Big Sam may be great at saving clubs from relegation, but there is a reason he’s never been able to take the next step in his managerial career. Big Sam has never been the type of manager to build and create a successful club philosophy.

Everton still has games against City and Liverpool, as well as games against Brighton, Newcastle and West Ham. Everton looks safe, but if their form continues to slide, they may be dragged into a late-season relegation battle.

  1. AFC BOURNEMOUTH (33 PTS, GD -10)
    LAST GAME: 1-1 D at Leicester
    NEXT GAME: vs. Spurs

Eddie Howe made a bold call and switched to a back three for the game against Leicester and it worked. Besides the very late equalizer, the Cherries’ back three stifled Leicester’s attack. The call to move to a back three shows Bournemouth’s adaptability, which every successful PL team needs. However, in the sixth minute of stoppage time—even when the ref called for four—it all fell apart for Bournemouth. Riyad Mahrez curled in a beautiful free kick to save Leicester. Despite being seconds away from all three, it is still a solid point from a solid display for the Cherries.

  1. SWANSEA CITY (30 PTS, GD -17)
    LAST GAME: 4-1 W vs. West Ham
    NEXT GAME: at Huddersfield

Swansea were the biggest movers of the weekend. The Swans jumped 5 spots with their thrashing of West Ham. This was the biggest win yet in the revival under Carlos Carvalhal and Swansea find themselves in 13th but still three just points above the relegation zone.

This was their best display of the season and their fourth straight league home win. Swansea controlled the entire first half and put the game out of reach when Jordan Ayew converted from the penalty spot. West Ham pulled one back with about ten minutes left to go, but the game was already decided. The win over West Ham will do wonders for Swansea’s confidence, but they have another big relegation battle against Huddersfield next weekend.

  1. WEST HAM UNITED (30 PTS, GD -18)
    LAST GAME: 4-1 L at Swansea
    NEXT GAME: vs. Burnley

Just embarrassing from West Ham. West Ham has spent the money and has been trying tirelessly to take their club to the next level, but it has yet to pay off. Whether it’s been poor managerial decisions to lackluster play from the squad, West Ham has not been at their best for almost three years. Back-to-back 4-1 losses are not something West Ham fans should be getting used to. A 4-1 loss to Liverpool, who has one of the most lethal attacks in Europe, is one thing, but a 4-1 loss to one of the worst teams in the league is horrendous. West Ham started the season in a relegation fight, then fought themselves out of it, and now they are back in it.

  1. HUDDERSFIELD TOWN (30 PTS, GD -25)
    LAST GAME: 2-0 L at Spurs
    NEXT GAME: vs. Swansea

It was always going to be a tough task to beat Tottenham at Wembley, but Tottenham looked in control for the entire game. The best chance for the Terriers didn’t come until the 52nd minute when Hugo Lloris saved Tom Ince’s shot. Then from the build-up directly following that save, Son scored his second goal of the game and putting it out of reach.

Despite the loss, there is some hope for Huddersfield. They are just three points ahead of the relegation zone, but with games against Swansea, Palace, Newcastle, and Brighton in the coming weeks, the Terriers will believe that those are games they can win to stay in the PL for next season.

  1. NEWCASTLE (29 PTS, GD -13)
    LAST GAME: 2-0 L at Liverpool
    NEXT GAME: vs. Southampton

Rafa’s plan to stifle the lethal Liverpool front three worked for most of the first half. Liverpool dominated possession but never really threatened…then Mo happened. Salah scored just before halftime and you could tell that was going to be the nail in the coffin. Newcastle had a slight chance after conceding but never really threatened in the second half. The Magpies are in 16th and sit two points above the relegation zone. Rafa and his boys have taken 11 points from their last 9 games and have only lost once during that span. That’s how you survive in the middle of a relegation battle and with Rafa’s squad, that’s all he can hope for. Next weekend’s relegation six-pointer against Southampton could decide either team’s fate.

  1. SOUTHAMPTON (28 PTS, GD -12)
    LAST GAME: 0-0 D vs. Stoke
    NEXT GAME: at Newcastle

The Saints will feel like they should have beaten Stoke over the weekend. Southampton dominated in the second half and had the best chance of the game when Sofiane Boufal missed a header from six yards out. In his defense, he just came on the field and isn’t known for his heading, typically because he is the smallest guy on the field, but it seemed easier to make it than miss it.

With the point, the Saints are down a spot from last week and are just one point ahead of the relegation zone. Like many of the teams in the bottom half of the table, they will be in a fighting every week to stay in the Premier League, and it starts next week with a massive game against Newcastle.

  1. CRYSTAL PALACE (27 PTS, GD -19)
    LAST GAME: 3-2 L vs. United
    NEXT GAME: at Chelsea

Another heartbreaking loss for Palace. The Eagles were in control for most of the first half and looked like they would get their first ever PL win against United when Patrick van Aanholt scored three minutes into the second half. But after Palace’s second goal, it was all Manchester United. Palace’s defense got too comfortable, let United back into the game, and blew their lead.

Palace is back in the relegation zone and has a tough London derby against Chelsea next weekend. Palace still has tough games against Chelsea, Liverpool, Brighton, and Leicester. Palace will be in a dogfight to the very end to stay in the league.

  1. STOKE CITY (27 PTS, GD -26)
    LAST GAME: 0-0 D at Southampton
    NEXT GAME: vs. City

Stoke played really well in the first half, but they were lucky to get a point. The Potters were outplayed by a dominant Southampton side in the second half. How Sofiane Boufal missed his header from six yards out is beyond me but Stoke is lucky he did. The Potters haven’t won in their last five league games and have a terrible schedule ahead. In their next five games, Stoke faces City, Everton, Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham. The Potters needed three points from this game to give them a chance of staying in the league. Unless Stoke can pull off some major upsets in the coming weeks, they will be relegated.

  1. WEST BROMWICH ALBION (20 PTS, GD -21)
    LAST GAME: 1-0 L at Watford
    NEXT GAME: vs. Leicester

Another nail in Pardew’s and WBA’s coffin. With the loss, they are 8 points adrift and running out of time. It is time to say adios to the team from the Black Country.

 


@ClayBenjamin_ for  @CincySoccerTalk

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