Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Premier League Picks Of The Week 38

Sports - Football - Premier League - Week 38

The 38th and final week of the Premier League action saw:

283 shots - most by Chelsea = 28
37 goals - most by Tottenham = 7
222 fouls - most by Man United = 16
30 bookings - most by Everton & Leicester & Stoke = 4 each
1 red card - Koscielny for Arsenal
1 penalty - 1 scored (Lukaku for Everton)

What a game! The top and drops of the Premier League were already confirmed over the last couple of weeks, so, the only thing left to play for was the Champions League qualification. Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal were in the mix, the London side needing a win and one of the other sides to slip up to be able to clinch a top four spot. It was not to be. Quite the opposite. Despite beating Everton 3-1 at the Emirates, Laurent Koscielny's reckless challenge saw him sent off and suspended, plus injury to defender Gabriel Paulista didn't make the Gunners' chances any better for the FA Cup final either... Merde!

What a team! Chelsea won and celebrated in style, but Tottenham stunned everyone just that bit more thrashing Hull City 1-7! 13 goals in the last two games, 15 in the last three! How did they not win anything this season?! Best goals total scored and conceded, best points total in years, they have missed out big time! Will they be able to top that next season??? In absolute contrast to that, total flops were Everton and Watford, why bother turning up if you don't really play?! Both sides were felled easily and taken apart by Arsenal and Manchester City respectively. Refund the fans!!!

What a man! Departing Chelsea skipper John Terry may have been the most celebrated player of the day (and absolutely lambasted for the substitution antiques on BBC TV and radio coverage), but Spurs striker Harry Kane is definitely the best of the season, three goals against Hull City and seven in the last two outings taking his season total to 29 in just 30 games, including four hat-tricks! The Golden Boot well deserved! The Golden Glove has gone to the champions' keeper Thibaut Courtois with 16 clean sheets.

What a goal! Georginio Wijnaldum's opener for Liverpool relieved everyone at Anfield just before the break after the Reds had made it look oh so difficult against relegated Middlesbrough. Philippe Coutinho added a sweet free kick and Adam Lallana sealed the deal with a pass into goal after a fine team break away, buildup and effort. Aaron Ramsey's high curling beauty into the top corner to make it 3-1 to Arsenal was worth nothing in the end. The question now is, will there be any changes at the realm of the London side???

What the hell?! José Mourinho once again took all the attention - this time by saying nothing, in a non-existent post-match press conference at Old Trafford after his side's 2-0 win against Palace! What a farce! Even Arséne Wenger was up to chat (ish) after his worst season at Arsenal! Isn't it part of their job description?! I mean, how much money the media pump into the game and then to get that kind of response, just avoiding them and blanking them out, that's just blatant ignorance and arrogance?!

My Predictions - Actual Results
Arsenal 2:1 Everton - 3:1
Burnley 1:1 West Ham - 1:2
Chelsea 6:1 Sunderland - 5:1
Hull City 1:4 Tottenham - 1:7
Leicester 2:0 Bournemouth - 1:1
Liverpool 2:1 Middlesbrough - 3:0
Man United 1:0 Crystal Palace - 2:0
Southampton 1:1 Stoke City - 0:1
Swansea 1:0 West Brom - 2:1
Watford 1:2 Man City - 0:5

Games In Hand Played Before The Weekend:
Chelsea 1:1 Watford - 4:3
Arsenal 4:1 Sunderland - 2:0
Man City 3:0 West Brom - 3:1
Southampton 1:2 Man United - 0:0
Leicester 1:1 Tottenham - 1:6

20 goals in only 5 games! Wow! 168 shots, 36 of which fell to the Gunners alone, most in a Premier League game since 2003! Double wow! 99 fouls, 22 bookings (6 to Watford alone, triple wow!), Sebastian Prödl sent off for Watford and 1 penalty saved by United's Sergio Romero denying Saint Manolo Gabbiadini. And someone said the Premier League was boring?!

Click here to read my previous Premier League Picks Of The Week.

Pictures and stats taken from the BBC match reports, Radio Five Live coverage and MOTD.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Premier League Picks Of The Week 37

Sports - Football - Premier League - Week 37

The 37th Week of the Premier League action saw:
260 shots - most by Liverpool = 26
29 goals - most by Arsenal, Crystal Palace & Liverpool = 4 each
223 fouls - most by Middlesbrough = 19
36 bookings - most by Hull City = 5
0 red cards 
4 penalties - 2 scored (Jesus for City & Milivojevic for Palace)

What a game! It was a crucial win for Swansea at the Stadium Of Light, keeping them safe whilst Sunderland's stint in the top league has come to an end after a decade, in a very dire fashion, fans booing... Paul Clement has done what David Moyes has not been able to... Motivation! Change! Woo! Something Arsenal were less complaining about or shouting and begging for after thrashing Stoke 1-4! And with a couple of games in hand, they maybe, just maybe, fancy their hint of a chance to crack and break into the top four. With their last breath! Liverpool's 0-4 thrashing of West Ham didn't help their case though... And it was an emotional farewell at White Hart Lane after 118 years, Tottenham beating Manchester United 2-1 thanks to goals from Victor Wanyama and Harry Kane. A fitting sendoff I think after one of their best seasons against a side having one of their worst campaigns. Contrast.

What a team! Bournemouth are looking to finish in the top ten after beating Burnley convincingly 2-1, their highest league finish in their 118-year history! Sam Vokes had cancelled out Junior Stanislas' goal, but Joshua King restored the lead two minutes later. The Norwegian's goals have been worth 12 points for the Cherries this season, only Diego Costa (15) and Sergio Agüero (13) have been more value to their clubs, Chelsea and Manchester City respectively. Wow! Meanwhile Hull City were relegated after being thrashed 4-0 at Crystal Palace, joining Sunderland and Boro in the drop. Very happy Big Sam. Very sad Marco Silva. But not really a surprise for either side.

What a man! Antonio Conte is not easy to please. His side were crowned champions on Friday night after beating West Brom 0-1, but the feisty Italian is eyeing the double like Carlo Ancelotti did last for the Blues in 2010. Chelsea face Arsenal at Wembley in the FA Cup Final on 27th May. They are also on track to end the season on a record-high number of wins and points total! Molto bene!

What a goal! Ross Barkley's fifth Premier League goal, a lovely curling shot, won the game for Everton against Watford, showing defiance and making a point or two as well to manager Ronald Koeman. The Dutch boss gave his English midfielder a public ultimatum last week, giving him till next weekend to agree a new contract or be sold. To be or not to be... Champions, that's what substitute Michy Batshuayi's late goal made the Blues after beating West Brom 0-1 at the Hawthorns. One to remember. Leicester City's goal at Manchester City was a super acrobatic finish by Shinji Okazaki meeting Marc Albrighton's cross. It was not enough though for the Foxes as they saw Riyad Mahrez's penalty disallowed correctly after a slip and double-touch, meaning it stayed 2-1 and a home win. Cruel but true and correct.

What the hell?! There were quite a few head-shaking moments this weekend! West Brom defender Jonny Evans' blatant handball, casually pushing the ball away mid-fall as if he was goalkeeping. Stoke big man Peter Crouch's goal was more hand than header, Maradona special! And just a yellow card for Boro keeper Brad Guzan's foul on Shane Long, really?! Lucky for him Long sent the penalty sky-high, but Saints still ended 1-2 winners at the Riverside. Ridiculous stuff, best examples for long overdue and much needed video refereeing, pretty please, once again! Pfff!

My Predictions - Actual Results

Everton 1:0 Watford - 1:0
West Brom 1:0 Chelsea - 0:1
Man City 2:1 Leicester City - 2:1
Bournemouth 1:1 Burnley - 2:1
Middlesbrough 0:0 Southampton - 1:2
Sunderland 0:1 Swansea City - 0:2
Stoke City 1:1 Arsenal - 1:4
Crystal Palace 1:0 Hull City - 4:0
West Ham 2:2 Liverpool - 0:4
Tottenham 3:1 Man United - 2:1

Games in hand played before the weekend:
Southampton 3:1 Arsenal - 0:2 

(The game saw 25 shots, 13 fouls, 3 bookings and the Gunners overtaking United and staying in the top four race with a hint of a shout.)

Click here for my previous Premier League Picks Of The Week.

All pictures and stats taken from the BBC match reports and MOTD. 

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Premier League Picks Of The Week 36

Sports - Football - Premier League - Week 36

The 36th week of the Premier League action saw:
217 shots - most by Man City = 26
25 goals - most by Man City = 5
175 fouls - most by Stoke = 15
25 bookings - most by West Ham = 4
0 red cards
1 penalty - 0 scored

What a game! Sunderland's win over Hull came just as surprising as Arsenal beating Manchester United, and comfortably so! From the relegated side doing their one and only double of the season, dragging their opponents down with them, to the old senior manager beating his special rival for the first time, keeping both sides' hopes of breaking into the top four super-slim. Looking at the table, these results were welcomed by winners Swansea and strugglers Liverpool respectively.

What a team! Chelsea sealed Middlesbrough's faith with a comfortable 3-0 win, putting one hand on the trophy themselves. Respect to Antonio Conte for lauding and applauding the Boro fans for staying at Stamford Bridge despite facing the dire result and drop. No one can deny the passionate Italian guy has done something right, learning from mistakes and finding formation with form and consistency, something all the other sides and bosses have been missing. Champions Leicester meanwhile recorded another win which takes them to the top half of the table, back where they belong their fans will feel, surely Craig Shakespeare too, underlining his right for a longterm deal.

What a man! West Ham keeper Adrián made save, after save, after save, denying Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Eric Dier, amongst others. Manuel Lanzini won it for the Hammers, unmarked inside the six-yard box, netting his ninth goal in 14 London derbies, ending Spurs' nine-game winning run and their real threat and shout in the title race as the gap to Chelsea re-opens to seven points with three games left to play for both sides.

What a goal! It took City under two minutes to take the lead against Crystal Palace and the game was over as the hosts bossed the match from then on to the final whistle, thrashing their opponents 5-0 at the Etihad. Why couldn't Liverpool do that at Anfield?! It just shows the gulf between the two sides, from top to bottom, from top three/four to the rest... Your guess is as good as mine where the Reds fall between all this after yet another frustrating display in the goalless draw after James Milner's penalty miss against Southampton at Anfield. Here is my full LFC match report.

What the hell?! I was very annoyed by Phil Neville on Match Of The Day and the BBC website this weekend, ranting and whining about how bad the Premier League and meaningless the games have become... Hm... Ok, the last couple of weeks haven't been the most exciting... But... Funny the former Manchester United player should fire such criticising shots whilst his team is flopping! Frustrated, are we? Boring for you as your team isn't getting anything in the league (despite 25 games unbeaten, dropping more points than gaining compared to the sides above them thanks to a record number of draws). Comparing and contrasting the top Premier League sides to the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid - look at their leagues! Booooooring! Bayern have already won the league months ago, whilst both Barca and Real have no serious competition apart from each other, thrashing one opposition after another week in, week out, year in, year out! And Italy and Scotland have been marred by more financial and political affairs and points deductions downing and deleting competitors and the whole competition with them. Not even mentioning all the diving and whining and lack of pace that spoils most European leagues (and I hate to see more and more in the Premier League too! But that's a whole new separate topic to discuss...)! And Leicester made it to the quarter finals of the Champions League! Not bad for a side that only just climbed back into the top half of the Premier League! But wait, it wasn't United, so it doesn't count, right Neville? (And hang on, aren't the Red Devils in the semi-final of the Europa League?! That doesn't count either, does it? Unless they win of course... Then it will be all wow and glory! Hypocrite!) So, it's not the same team winning the title every season... Sorrrrrrry!!! Yes, Chelsea have been the best this season, but hey, after the last three/four seasons, who dares to predict where Conte and Co will be next season?! Fiver on sacking? But who cares, right Neville?

My Predictions - Actual Results
West Ham 0:1 Tottenham - 1:0
Man City 2:0 Crystal Palace - 5:0
Bournemouth 2:0 Stoke City - 2:2
Burnley 1:0 West Brom - 2:2
Hull City 1:0 Sunderland - 0:2
Leicester 2:0 Watford - 3:0
Swansea 1:1 Everton - 1:0
Liverpool 2:1 Southampton - 0:0 or click here for my full LFC match report
Arsenal 1:2 Man United - 2:0
Chelsea 3:1 Middlesbrough - 3:0

Click here for last week's Premier League Picks.

All pictures and stats are taken from the BBC match reports and MOTD.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Milner Pen Miss Costs Reds Two Points

Sports - Football - Premier League - LFC 0:0 SFC

James Milner's first penalty miss in a Liverpool shirt dealt his club a big blow in their race to stay in the top four by dropping more points after a goalless draw against Southampton.

Anfield was tense and silent, frustrated and disappointed once again, in a game that did not have much else to show for or report about, too much like their last home disappointment against Palace a couple of weeks ago.

The Reds looked tired and slow and rarely tested Saints keeper Fraser Forster, whilst the visitors didn't even record an attempt at all in the first half, nothing on target in the whole match, keeping the back line long and strong.

Over an hour had passed when Emre Can's passionate appeal for a penalty against Jack Stephens handling the ball ended up in celebrations as the referee pointed to the spot.

But the celebrations didn't last long. Milner, waiting in Forster's shadow to place the ball on the spot, seemed to have been cracked by the England keeper's mind games, seeing his spot-kick saved and gloved away to the stopper's right.

The Reds' deputy skipper looked devastated after his first penalty miss since November 2009, whilst Forster was celebrated for his first penalty save in the Premier League (Milner's being the ninth one faced).

The only other chance of note for the Reds came in stoppage time, man of the match Forster keeping out substitute Marko Grujic's header from close range.

It was just not to be. Simon Mignolet on the other hand, had one lucky escape late on, gloving the ball away on the edge of the box, replays showing the LFC keeper was over the line outside his area.

Reds boss Jürgen Klopp was his usual mental self, shouting, grimacing and arguing with the officials throughout.

Saints manager Claude Puel is unbeaten against his German counterpart, having played Liverpool four times this season, conceding not a single goal.

It's the first time since 2008-09 that Liverpool have recorded a goalless draw home and away against the same opponent in the Premier League.

Klopp has never beaten Southampton in the Premier League (D3, L1), having faced them more than any other opponent without winning.

The draw sees Saints drop to 10th with a couple of games in hand, whilst Liverpool stay third, keeping control of their Champions League faith after seeing Arsenal beat Manchester United the same afternoon.

But the Reds can only keep control if they take control, which has not been the case at home lately, none of the famous pressing and gegenpressing, just slow kick-about and blank stares after yet another miss/mess-up!

On a more positive note, Liverpool are already 10 points better off than the end of last season, with two games still left to play!

Liverpool Team: 22 Mignolet, 2 Clyne, 33 Matip, 6 Lovren (booked), 7 Milner, 23 Can, 21 Lucas (20 Lallana 69'), 5 Wijnaldum (16 Grujic 87'), 11 Firmino, 27 Origi (15 Sturridge 69'), 10 Coutinho. 4-3-3
Subs not used: 1 Karius, 17 Klavan, 18 Moreno, 66 Alexander-Arnold.

Southampton Team: 1 Forster, 2 Soares (booked), 24 Stephens, 3 Yoshida, 21 Bertrand (booked), 11 Tadic, 8 Davis, 14 Romeu, 16 Ward-Prowse (booked), 19 Boufal (22 Redmond 60'), 20 Gabbiadini (7 Long 69'). 4-2-3-1
Subs not used: 9 Rodriguez, 12 Cáceres, 23 Højbjerg, 26 Pied, 40 Hassen.

1st & 2nd half stats: LFC-SFC
Score: 0-0 & 0-0
Possession: 66%-34% & 65%-35%
Shots: 5-0 & 17-4
On target: 3-0 & 8-0
Corners: 1-1 & 3-6
Fouls: 4-2 & 9-4
Bookings: 0-0 & 1-3

Referee: Robert Madley
Man of the match: Fraser Forster
Ground: Anfield
Attendance: 53,159

Click here to read my last LFC match report.

All pictures and stats taken from the BBC match report.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Premier League Picks Of The Week 35

Sports - Football - Premier League - Week 35

The 35th week of the Premier League action saw:
264 shots - most by Man City = 22
16 goals - most by Chelsea = 3
212 fouls - most by Arsenal = 15
42 bookings - most by Chelsea, Boro & Man City = 4 each
0 red cards
4 penalties - 3 scored (Rooney for United, Agüero for Man City, Kane for Tottenham)

What a game! Sunday's action awoke everyone out of their Saturday trance. The four games saw eleven goals, whilst the five matches the day before recorded a dire four goals! The two Super Sunday 14:05 kick-offs served cracking second halves, seemingly synchronising some of the action and goals, it was difficult to keep up. Chelsea took Everton apart 0-3 at Goodison Park, whilst Man City left Middlesbrough furious fighting out a 2-2 draw at the Riverside.

What a team! The last Super Sunday fixture was the London derby which saw Tottenham beat Arsenal 2-0 at White Hart Lane, proving they deserve to be where they are, way above their bitter rivals. It will be the first time in 22 years Spurs will finish above the Gunners, or shall I say Goners! I loved the Lane's signs and chants... "Please mind the gap"... "Wenger, we want you to stay"... Lol! It could have been a much worse thrash if it weren't for a certain Czech keeper...

What a man! ... Petr Čech! Arsenal were down and out of the game and race to compete with Tottenham, bad enough as it was, but their stopper spared them from a much worse thrashing! The 34-year-old made some superb saves, blocks and stops, denying Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Jan Vertonghen. Jamie Vardy made it 9 in 13 for Leicester, his clinical right foot seeing the Foxes leave the Hawthorns 0-1 victors. Simon Mignolet is another keeper worth mentioning, keeping a clean sheet...

What a goal! ... After Emre Can's acrobatic cracker of a goal put Liverpool ahead against Watford. The German midfielder stunned everyone at Vicarage Road, meeting Lucas Leiva's cross with a beautiful right-footed overhead-kick into the left corner, giving goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes no chance. It's his fifth goal of the season, which lit up an otherwise ordinary game and kept his side in control of their Champions League qualification. Click here for my full LFC match report.

What the hell?! The referees were useless again this weekend! Burnley had a second goal disallowed at Crystal Palace, and rightly so as replays showed Ashley Barnes handled the ball in. But the officials didn't present or explain themselves very well. Video evidence would have cleared up things much better and quicker. Even worse at Old Trafford and the Riverside, both Manchester sides winning questionable soft penalties, Spurs too at the Emirates, where replays showed their players were diving and whining and making the most out of nothing! And they call themselves men! I've said it before and I will say it again, why oh why can replays not be used to name and shame and caution if not even suspend the right people! Oh, and the referees should be rated and penalised for their poor shows as well!

My Predictions - Actual Results
Southampton 2:1 Hull City - 0:0
Stoke City 2:1 West Ham - 0:0
Sunderland 0:0 Bournemouth - 0:1
West Brom 1:2 Leicester - 0:1
Crystal Palace 1:0 Burnley - 0:2
Man United 2:1 Swansea - 1:1
Everton 2:1 Chelsea - 0:3
Middlesbrough 0:2 Man City - 2:2
Tottenham 3:1 Arsenal - 2:0
Watford 2:1 Liverpool - 0:1 or click here for my full LFC match report

Games in hand played before the weekend (not predicted):
Arsenal 1:0 Leicester (thanks to Huth OG, lucky Gunners!)
Crystal Palace 0:1 Tottenham (their 8th win in a row!)
Middlesbrough 1:0 Sunderland (de Roon's 1st goal in 2017!)
Man City 0:0 Man United (Fellaini sent off for a head butt!)

Not much missed, just 3 goals in the 4 games, 81 shots, 92 fouls, 20 bookings and one sending off! You know it's been a bad display when fouls outnumber shots!

Click here for my previous Premier League Picks Of The Week.

All pictures and stats taken from the BBC match reports and MOTD.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Can's Acrobatic Winner Stuns Watford

Sports - Football - Premier League - WFC 0:1 LFC

Emre Can's extraordinary acrobatic volley, his fifth goal of the season, decided an otherwise ordinary game at Watford, handing Liverpool a crucial 0-1 away win in their race to stay in the Premier League top four.

The German midfielder stunned everyone at Vicarage Road, meeting Lucas Leiva's cross with a beautiful right-footed overhead bicycle-kick into the top-left corner, giving goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes no chance, two minutes into stoppage time before the break.

That has taken the Reds' goal tally in the last 15 minutes before the interval to 16 this season, more than any other side, one more than Manchester United and Tottenham.

Before that, not much else happened, both sides recording just a shot on target each, Can with another strong attempt from 25 yards out in the 20th minute, but not much else to worry either keeper much.

Adam Lallana, who had to be brought on for an injured Philippe Coutinho in the 13th minute returning from injury himself after five matches out, had come closest just a few minutes before Can's stunner, seeing his attempt from outside the box come off the crossbar.

The second half was dominated by both keepers' strong displays, strength and presence.

Gomes denied James Milner, Divock Origi and then substitute Daniel Sturridge late on in a tense ending to the game.

Simon Mignolet kept solid as well, frustrating the Hornets, Etienne Capoue and Sebastian Prödl especially, who both were booked for their anger at the decisions that went against them, the latter also seeing his effort come off the crossbar in the final seconds.

Vicarage Road was loud, the away end even louder, louder than Anfield last week after the miserable defeat against Crystal Palace, YNWA echoing around the ground at the end.

Both managers Walter Mazzarri and Jürgen Klopp made themselves heard and seen throughout the game as well, with shouts and gestures, to keep everyone entertained when not much else was happening on the pitch.

The result sees Watford drop to 13th on 40 points with a game in hand on the other teams around them, whilst Liverpool remain third three and four points ahead of Manchester City and United in fourth and fifth respectively, both with a game in hand.

So, after all the other results went their way, as long as the Reds keep winning their final three league games and don't repeat an embarrassing slip up like against Crystal Palace, the Champions League qualification is in their hands!

The last three games are: Southampton at home (Sunday 7th May), West Ham away (Sunday 14th May) and Middlesbrough at home (Sunday 21st May). Easy. You would think.

It never is easy with Liverpool though!

Liverpool Goal: Can 45'+2'.

Watford Team: 1 Gomes, 6 Mariappa, 5 Prödl (booked), 3 Britos (27 Kabasele 19'), 7 Amrabat (33 Okaka 85'), 29 Capoue (booked) (10 Success 73' (booked)), 16 Doucouré, 8 Cleverley, 22 Janmaat, 9 Deeney, 21 Niang.
Subs not used: 11 Behrami, 18 Zuñiga, 30 Pantilimon, 42 Eleftheriou.

Liverpool Team: 22 Mignolet, 2 Clyne, 32 Matip, 6 Lovren, 7 Milner, 21 Lucas (booked), 5 Wijnaldum, 23 Can, 11 Firmino, 27 Origi (15 Sturridge 84'), 10 Coutinho (20 Lallana 13' (17 Klavan 87')).
Subs not used: 1 Karius, 16 Grujic, 18 Moreno, 66 Alexander-Arnold.

HT & FT Match Stats: WFC-LFC
Score: 0-1 & 0-1
Possession: 36%-64% & 40%-60%
Shots: 3-5 & 9-12
On target: 1-2 & 2-8
Corners: 1-1 & 3-5
Fouls: 4-4 & 11-9
Bookings: 0-1 & 3-1

Referee: Craig Pawson
Man of the match: Emre Can
Ground: Vicarage Road
Attendance: 20,959

Click here for my last LFC match report.

All pictures and stats are taken from the BBC match report.