Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Premier League Picks Of The Week 38

Sports - Football - Premier League - Week 38

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

36 goals - most by Crystal Palace = 5
281 shots - most by Man United = 26
109 on target - most by Man United = 10
89 corners - most by Man United = 11
170 fouls - most by Everton = 13
23 bookings - most by Burnley = 5
1 red card - Holebas for Watford
2 penalties - 2 scored (Mendez-Laing for Cardiff, Noble for West Ham)

What a game! Whoever thought the last day wouldn’t bring much action or no surprises, think again! The Premier League served plenty of belters and OMGs yet again. And for 83 seconds it looked like there could and would be a major twist at the top as well. But it was not to be. After Glenn Murray’s opener for Brighton (27’), Sergio Agüero didn’t take long to equalise for Manchester City (28’). Aymeric Laporte put the Citizens back in the lead and to the top of the table before the break (38’). There was no looking back after that. Riyad Mahrez (63’) and İlkay Gündoğan (72’) made sure the Blue party could get started at the Falmer Stadium, Pep Guardiola becoming the first boss since Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United in 2008-09 to see his side lift the Premier League title for a second consecutive season. 
Liverpool stayed second on a record 97 points after beating Wolves 2-0 thanks to Sadio Mané’s brace (17’, 81’). The Reds were top for 21 first-half minutes... It was nice for them whilst it lasted! :-P Anfield still stayed loud and proud of their record-achievement and with a Champions League final to look forward to. With more points than the Invincibles and better than Sir Alex in all his years at the top, Jürgen Klopp will be wondering how the hell his side didn’t end up on top and what else he has to do to change and improve on that. The Reds have made the biggest leap up, 22 points better off than last season, see the Premier League comparison table at the bottom of this post, under the results.
Selhurst Park witnessed a football feast, eight goals off 33 shots, 12 attempts on target, Crystal Palace leading by three, then Bournemouth fighting back to 3-2, but the home side made sure they ended the season on a high, 5-3 winners and with a dizzy Roy Hodgson. The Eagles had only scored 14 goals at home before this game and had only taken 17 points from 18 home games, the second-worst record in the league. As Eddie Howe put it, it summarises the Cherries’ season, scoring plenty (= 56, most outside the top six), but conceding too many (= 70, third most after the bottom two).

What a team! Huddersfield scored a goal and nicked a point at Southampton, a little high and nice farewell from the Premier League after a drag of a season, where they have been bottom most of the weeks (24 match weeks out of 38, relegated for the last 7) and lost most of the points compared to last season (-21), see the Premier League comparison table at the bottom of this post, under the results. Main gainers are Liverpool (+22), West Ham (+10) and of course Wolves, the promoted side finishing 7th on 57 points, Nuno Espírito Santo and his side not getting a fraction of the attention and praise they deserve, as the picture of the post-match press conference shows! Burnley will warn them not to party too hard though, the main gainers from last season, also promoted, also ended 7th, got hit hard this season, 14 points and 8 positions worse off in 15th, only relegated Huddersfield (-21) and Manchester United made a worse drop (-15). More to the Red Devils’ misery below.
The draw against Everton was enough for Tottenham to secure their fourth consecutive top-four finish in the top-flight, their best run since a run of five between 1959-60 and 1963-64.

What a man! Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s brace helped Arsenal beat Burnley at Turf Moor (52, 63’), and put the Gabonese at the top of the Premier League scorers list with Mohamed Salah and Mané on 22 goals each, sharing the Golden Boot between the three of them! The Gunners failed to finish in the top four for the third successive season, the Europa League final against Chelsea on the 29th May being their last chance to grab Champions League qualification. The Golden Glove went to Red stopper Alisson Becker with 21 clean sheets. 
West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini was a proud man after watching his side thrash FA Cup finalists Watford 1-4 at Vicarage Road, the Hammers finishing in the top-half of the table for the first time since 2016, 10 points and 3 places better off than last season. Despite their defeat today, the Hornets recorded their highest season finish (11th) in the top-flight of English football since 1986-87 (9th place), not bad at all, including their first cup final in 35 years, their second in the club's history, Javi Gracia has not done too bad in his first season in charge.

What a goal! Jonjo Shelvey’s opener for Newcastle (9’) was a cracker from just inside the box, ending his year-long wait for a goal and contributing to a very comfortable 4-0 win at relegated Fulham. The Magpies end the season on high, but questions still remain about Rafael Benítez’s future at the club. Fans made their feelings clear against owner Mike Ashley in attendance at Craven Cottage, wanting the Spaniard to stay.
Christian Eriksen's equaliser for Spurs, that made it two goals and a point each against the Toffees, was the 1,067th Premier League goal this season, beating the total from any previous 38-game season in the competition.

What the hell?! Cardiff's victory thanks to Nathaniel Mendez-Laing’s brace (pen 23’, 54’) was their first win over Manchester United since 3rd April 1954, when manager Neil Warnock was just five years old. The relegated side’s keeper Neil Etheridge made save after save against the Red Devils, keeping a clean sheet after facing 26 shots and 10 on target, denying Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s men and fans anything to celebrate at Old Trafford. United have finished 32 points behind the champions this season - more than they finished behind the top-flight winners when they were relegated in 1973-74 (30 points). The reaction of the fans, especially towards the title race between their two arch rival teams and towards their most expensive player and French world champion Paul Pogba when he joined them after the match, summarises their flop and frustration. And Ole's quote says it all: "The only positive from today is that the season is over."
Chris Hughton’s sacking seems a bit harsh after seeing Brighton through promotion, a record cup run and avoiding relegation. This tweet lists the 60-year-old's achievements, we will see next season if Albion chairman Tony Bloom's decision is too much of a gamble or it will pay off...

My Predictions - Actual Results
Brighton 1:1 Man City - 1:4
Burnley 1:1 Arsenal - 1:3
Crystal Palace 1:3 Bournemouth - 5:3
Fulham 2:1 Newcastle - 0:4
Leicester 2:1 Chelsea - 0:0
Liverpool 4:1 Wolves - 2:0
Man United 2:1 Cardiff - 0:2
Southampton 2:0 Huddersfield - 1:1
Tottenham 2:1 Everton - 2:2
Watford 1:1 West Ham - 1:4

The Premier League Table compared to last season
1) Man City 98 points = -2 points, same position = 1st
2) Liverpool 97 points = +22 points, up 2 places from 4th
3) Chelsea 72 points = +2 points, up 2 places from 5th
4) Tottenham 71 points = -6 points, down 1 place from 3rd
5) Arsenal 70 points = +7 points, up 1 place from 6th
6) Man United 66 points = -15 points, down 4 places from 2nd
7) Wolves 57 points = not bad at all for a promoted side!!!
8) Everton 54 points = +5 points, same position = 8th
9) Leicester 52 points = +5 points, same position = 9th
10) West Ham 52 points = +10 points, up 3 places from 13th
11) Watford 50 points = +9 points, up 3 places from 14th
12) Crystal Palace 49 points = +5 points, down 1 place from 11th
13) Newcastle 45 points = +1 point, down 3 places from 10th
14) Bournemouth 45 points = +1 point, down 2 places from 12th
15) Burnley 40 points = -14 points, down 8 places from 7th 
16) Southampton 39 points = +3 points, up 1 place from 17th
17) Brighton 36 points = -4 points, down 2 places from 15th
18) Cardiff 34 points = promoted and relegated in consecutive seasons.
19) Fulham 26 points = promoted and relegated in consecutive seasons.
20) Huddersfield 16 points = -21 points, down 4 places from 16th.

All pictures, facts and stats were taken from the BBC match reports, Twitter and RMC Sport coverage.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Premier League Picks Of The Week 37

Sports - Football - Premier League - Week 37

The 37th week of the Premier League action saw:

25 goals - most by West Ham, Crystal Palace and Liverpool = 3 each
295 shots - most by Man United = 23
101 on target - most by Chelsea = 9
114 corners - most by Arsenal = 16
195 fouls - most by Fulham = 15
31 bookings - most by Tottenham and Arsenal = 5 each
2 red cards - Son and Foyth for Tottenham
2 penalties - 2 scored (Aubameyang for Arsenal, Murray for Brighton)

What a game! Liverpool never make it easy for themselves, but never give up either! The Reds can't spell the word boredom, that's for sure! Anyone who thought Rafael Benítez would make it easy for his former side though, got proven wrong on Saturday night: Five goals, plenty of nerves and drama at St James’ Park, substitute Divock Origi with the late winning header against Newcastle (86'), making it 2-3 and taking the Reds back to the top, till Monday at least (see below MNF summary for details). LFC have scored 18 headed goals in the Premier League this season and 12 goals via substitutes, more than any other team in both categories. This Belgian super-sub had replaced Mohamed Salah after the great Egyptian had been stretchered off with a head injury. Worrying for rgen Klopp's men ahead of their second-leg Champions League semi-final tie against Barcelona and the final league match of the season next weekend. Crucial.
MNF saw Leicester making it difficult for Manchester City, holding them for nearly 70 minutes at the Etihad. Skipper Vincent Kompany’s wonder-strike from 30 yards out (70'), the Belgian's first goal of the season, made sure Pep Guardiola’s side stayed top, keeping the title race in their hands in the final week of the season, one point ahead of the Reds. The Citizens have now scored 100 goals in all competitions at the Etihad this season; extending their record for most home goals by an English top-flight team in a single campaign. The defending champions have won each of their last 13 Premier League games - it's the fourth run of a team winning 13+ games in a row in the competition's history, with City the only side to have done so twice. Pep’s men have beaten every team they have faced in the league for the second consecutive season; the only other English top-flight team to achieve this were Preston between 1888-89 and 1889-90. Records tumbling. Just wow.

What a team! West Ham secured a Premier League double over Southampton for the first time since the 2000-01 campaign. Marko Arnautović scored twice (16', 69') - his first goals since January - with Ryan Fredericks adding a third with his first Premier League goal (72'), to make it 3-0 and three points for the home side. It moves the Hammers to within a point of the top half of the table - something that looked less likely after they lost their first four games of the season and stood on just eight points after their opening 10 league matches. 
Wolves secured a seventh place finish beating Fulham 1-0 in their last home game of the season. If City beat Watford in the FA Cup final on the 18th May, then Nuno Espírito Santo's side will land a Europa League place, returning to Europe after a 39-year wait. Not bad for their first season back in the top tier! With 57 points in the Premier League this season, it is the most by a newly promoted side since Ipswich Town in 2000-01 (66 points). Much in contrast to that, the relegated Cottagers have lost 25 Premier League games this season, the most by a newly promoted side since Derby County in 2007-08 (29 defeats).

What a man! Neil Warnock has suffered his third top-flight relegation, going down with three different teams in three different decades – Notts County in 1991-92, Sheffield United in 2006-07 and Cardiff City in 2018-19. Cardiff’s relegation was confirmed after their 2-3 defeat against Crystal Palace in their final home match of the season. The boss had no complaints about his side despite relegation and was emotional after the difficult game, talking about what could have been with Emiliano Sala. Shame his club are denying any such signing! The Bluebirds have been relegated from the Premier League, becoming the only team to play in more than one Premier League season and be relegated in every single one (also down in 2013-14). Drop.

What a goal! "We scored a goal" the Huddersfield fans were singing, watching their bottom club equal Man City's ten goals at home from 2006-07, so, they did not break the record for lowest total in a season. Keeper Jonas Lössl provided the assist, for Montpellier loanee Isaac Mbenza to run clear and beat David de Gea to level the score (60') after Manchester United youngster Scott McTominay's early opener (8'). Too easy. Man Who?! The Red Devils haven’t won their last away league game of the season since the 2011-12 campaign (0-1 at Sunderland), drawing five and losing one since then. Paul Pogba is the first United player to hit the woodwork twice in a Premier League game since Antonio Valencia against Cardiff in January 2014. Ole Gunnar Solskjær's men will have to settle for Europa League football next season after being held by the Terriers. It means United have now gone five games without a win, their worst sequence since they went eight games without a victory under Louis van Gaal between November and December 2015. 
Elsewhere, Watford paid for three mad minutes of defensive blackout, two corners, two goals for Chelsea (Loftus-Cheek 48', David Luiz 51'). Harsh. Arsenal went ahead thanks to a softer than soft penalty against Brighton (Aubameyang pen 9'), but the visitors got a soft one back (Murray pen 61'), 1-1 the final score. The Gunners need a miracle = a lot of goals and Tottenham to lose if they want to grab the fourth spot in the last Premier League week. Less likely.

What the hell?! A crazy few minutes for Tottenham at Bournemouth saw a man sent off each side of the break - yes, you read right, TWO straight reds in the early kick-off at Dean Court on Saturday! Son Heung-min was sent off for a daft tackle and the pushing and fighting in the aftermath (43’), then sub Juan Foyth was just super-daft with a dangerous and late challenge (48’), just a couple of minutes after coming on (two minutes and 13 seconds to be exact). And it could have been more dismissals with all the bust-ups at the end! Booking points galore! Man of the match Mark Travers did well in his first game as Cherries’ stopper, making impressive saves and good cover, even his counterpart Hugo Lloris congratulated him after the match. Nathan Aké scored the winner in stoppage time (90'+1'), all the pressure finally paid off and made the nine men of Spurs leak and pay for it. Please mind the gap, Eddie Howe’s men are up to 12th on 45 points, 14 points clear of the relegation zone, whilst Mauricio Pochettino’s side went down to fourth, 25 points behind the league leaders, after Chelsea overtook them with their win mentioned above. Spurs have lost 13 (THIRTEEN) matches in the Premier League this season. And they are still fourth with 70 points. Crazy. 

My Predictions - Actual Results
Everton 1:0 Burnley - 2:0
Bournemouth 1:1 Tottenham - 1:0
West Ham 2:1 Southampton - 3:0
Wolves 2:0 Fulham - 1:0
Cardiff 1:3 Crystal Palace - 2:3
Newcastle 1:4 Liverpool - 2:3
Chelsea 2:1 Watford - 3:0
Huddersfield 1:2 Man United - 1:1
Arsenal 2:1 Brighton - 1:1
Man City 2:2 Leicester - 1:0

Click here for last week’s Premier League Picks.

All pictures, facts and stats were taken from the BBC match reports, Twitter and RMC Sport coverage.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Premier League Picks Of The Week 36

Sports - Football - Premier League - Week 36

The 36th week of the Premier League action saw:

24 goals - most by Liverpool = 5
257 shots - most by Man City = 25
80 on target - most by Leicester = 12
110 corners - most by Fulham = 11
188 fouls - most by Everton = 15
28 bookings - most by Watford, Newcastle, Leicester and Man United = 3 each
1 red card - Maitland-Niles for Arsenal
0 penalties

What a game! There were six goals between Southampton and Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon, you can imagine the scenes at St Mary’s! It ended 3-3, the point guaranteeing safety for the home side. What a job Ralph Hasenhüttl has done! When he was appointed, the Saints had won just one of their first 15 league games. They were in 18th and among the favourites for relegation. The Austrian has overseen eight wins in 21 games since then, and has confirmed his side's place in the top tier for another year. Matt Targett scored the 1000th goal of the season in the Premier League (67'); this is the second earliest date the 1000th goal has been scored in a PL season, after April 1st in 1994-95. The substitute's header made it 3-2, but man of the match Callum Wilson spoiled the party slightly with his second goal of the day, a late equaliser from close range (86'), to make it three goals and a point each. Bournemouth have taken seven points from their last four away league games (won two, drawn one) after taking none from the nine before that. Southampton have lost 27 points from leading positions in the league this season, more than any other side. But they won't care right now, as the result took hosts to 38 points in 16th, seven points clear from the drop zone, and the Cherries to 14th on 42 points, with two games remaining. Happy days. 

What a team! Liverpool took Huddersfield apart on Friday night, taking them back to the top of the league, temporarily at least, seeing records tumbling all over the place, the fastest, the most, goals, points, individual, club, etc. With Sadio Mané (23', 66') and Mohamed Salah (45'+1', 83') both on the scoreboard with a brace each and passing the landmark, the Reds became the first club to have two players score 20 goals or more in a Premier League season since Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge accomplished the same feat in 2013-14, for the same club. Salah's two-goal return also saw the great Egyptian become only the third LFC player to pass 20 or more Premier League goals in consecutive seasons for the club, placing him in the same company as Robbie Fowler (1994-95 and 1995-96) and the same Suárez mentioned above (2012-13 and 2013-14). His overall tally of 69 goals in 100 games is the highest number of goals managed by any Liverpool player after a century of appearances. Records. But Jürgen Klopp's men didn't stay top for long, see more about Manchester City's win on Sunday below.
Wolves are breaking all sorts of records as well, the newly promoted team sitting four points clear in seventh after winning 1-2 at Vicarage Road, European dreams coming true? Watford can still spoil it for them if they beat the Citizens in the FA Cup final on the 18th May. But still, Nuno Espírito Santo can be a very proud man, what his side has achieved! Respect.

What a man! Arsenal keeper Bernd Leno spared his side from a thrashing at Leicester on Sunday, it could have been 6 or 7-0 if it weren’t for the German's top saves, blocks and stops. Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ two soft bookings and consequential dismissal were harsh and didn’t help the Gunners (36’), who were dominated by the Foxes before and after that. It was no surprise when Youri Tielemans headed in the opener after the break (59’), taking the Monaco loanee to three goals and five assists in 11 games for the 2016 champions. Jamie Vardy sealed the win with a fine brace, first heading in the ball after it came off the crossbar from his fine counter run and lob over Leno (86’), assisted by Kasper Schmeichel. And then in injury time, he made it 3-0 unmarked from close range (90’+5’). Since his Premier League debut in August 2014, the 32-year-old striker has scored 31 goals against the 'big six' sides - more than any other player. Brendan Rodgers continues his fine form, whilst Unai Emery will have all his hopes and eyes and everything on the Europa League now after yet another disappointing defeat, his side locked in fifth, only one point ahead of Manchester United in sixth, two points behind Chelsea in fourth. More to the latter two's crucial clash below.

What a goal! What a hit is was by Ryan Babel! The former Liverpool winger's beautiful curler (79'), his fifth goal since joining from Besiktas in January, was enough to bank the three points for the relegated side. Fulham’s season is ending on a high, the result condemning Cardiff to their 23rd defeat of the season, keeping them in 18th, four points from safety with two games to go after Brighton snatched a point from Newcastle in the evening kickoff on Saturday. Crucially cruel or cruelly crucial.
Manchester City beat Burnley thanks to the ref’s watch on Sunday! The stubborn home side frustrated the visitors, blocking, clearing, saving everything the Citizens threw at them. But Sergio Agüero, who else, saw his shot from close range cleared by defender Matthew Lowton (63'), but it was over two centimeters over the line (29.51mm to be exact). Sean Dyche can still be proud of his side. Like the Clarets boss said, Pep Guardiola shouting at his side to get the ball into the corner, summarises how strong and well his team did. The defending champions are back at the top, but only one point ahead of Liverpool, with two games to go. Crucially cruel or cruelly crucial, again.

What the hell?! This builder’s curse worked for West Ham at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in the lunchtime kickoff on Saturday. The French media reported how a builder, who's a Hammers fan, left scarves and/or shirts of his team in the concrete and/or under the pitch whilst constructing the ground. He must have enjoyed seeing the first goal conceded and first defeat for the home side at their new stadium. Michail Antonio's smashing goal (67') led to groovy celebrations. A last-minute clearance of Vincent Janssen's header off the line by Fabián Balbuena made sure the points stayed with the visitors after they had missed chances to seal the deal themselves. Everyone was knackered when the final whistle finally blew! Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino blaming "stress and fatigue". That's not good ahead of their first Champions League semi-final against Ajax on Tuesday. Even worse with their lack of signings now showing the leaks, wounds and weaknesses of his side in the final and most crucial stage of the season. Hard. Life. 
Referee Martin Atkinson was ridiculous at Old Trafford on Sunday! Absolute shambles! Juan Mata gave the Red Devils the lead against Chelsea (11’), but his teammate David de Gea made sure Marcos Alonso pulled one back (43’) after the stopper spilled Antonio Rüdiger's 30-yard attempt. Howlers, left, right and centre! The race for the top four remains wide open. Well. If anyone wants to. They are all trying their best not to win at the moment. Mistakes against Manchester City and Barcelona mean de Gea has, in the space of 13 days, matched the total number of costly errors he made in 123 previous club appearances. The Spaniard has not kept a clean sheet since United's goalless draw against Liverpool on the 24th February. But will his boss Ole Gunnar Solskjær dare to drop him??? Manchester United have not won any of their last four games in all competitions - they have not had a longer winless run since December 2015 under Louis van Gaal. And three points behind Maurizio Sarri's men in fourth, Champions League qualification is now out of their hands. 

My Predictions - Actual Results
Liverpool 6:0 Huddersfield - 5:0
Tottenham 2:1 West Ham - 0:1
Crystal Palace 1:2 Everton - 0:0
Fulham 1:2 Cardiff - 1:0
Southampton 2:0 Bournemouth - 3:3
Watford 1:1 Wolves - 1:2
Brighton 1:1 Newcastle - 1:1
Leicester 1:1 Arsenal - 3:0
Burnley 1:1 Man City - 0:1
Man United 1:1 Chelsea - 1:1

Click here for last week’s Premier League Picks.

All pictures, facts and stats were taken from the BBC match reports, Twitter, Sky Sports app and RMC Sport coverage.