West Ham have been having a fair to middling season in truth. At times criticised for poor performances, the Hammers have nonetheless staved off any threat of a relegation scrap thus far and find themselves ninth in the Premier League table. While they sit quite a distance from the European places – indeed, points-wise they are closer to the drop zone – they have managed to pull some decent results out of the bag, and this past weekend’s thriller at home against Huddersfield could be labeled many things, but never boring! Manuel Pellegrini has used his experience and past success in English football (one Premier League title and two League Cup trophies) to instill a sense of purpose throughout the side.
Life really can be cruel at times. Sometimes, no matter what you try and do, things just don’t come off – nothing works, and all you are left with is frustration and confusion. Depending on which side of the London Stadium you were sitting in on Saturday, that could be either the exact opposite of what happened, or the embodiment of your weekend. For the neutral of course, while West Ham taking on Huddersfield may not necessarily seem like the most must-watch game of the weekend, this was an absolute cracker. It could be argued that, like West Ham fans, the neutrals felt the opposite of the aforementioned frustration. Huddersfield, however, really look in danger – they somehow managed to claw defeat from the grasp of victory, and hopes of a miracle continue to fade with each passing match. Continue reading
There was only half a round of games in the Premier League this past weekend, what with FA Cup action also going on, and so with just ten teams taking part picking a best XI may be slightly different to usual. Sunday’s action was fun-packed, as Everton raised some eyebrows by beating Chelsea 2-0 at Goodison Park – their first home victory since mid-January – putting a big dent in Chelsea’s top-four ambitions. Liverpool were tested more than many will have been expecting at Craven Cottage, a late James Milner penalty putting them top of the table with a 2-1 win against Fulham. On Saturday, Bournemouth played out a 2-2 draw at home to Newcastle, Leicester won 2-1 at Burnley and West Ham beat Huddersfield in a 4-3 thriller.
Life at the top is certainly tough! The old adage that it is harder to defend a title than to win it has certainly seemed apt in recent Premier League seasons, with champions often finding themselves struggling to put up a serious defence the year after lifting the trophy. That has not been the case this year, however, with Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions Manchester City sitting on top of the league table with just a handful of games remaining. Liverpool seem to be the only genuine contenders to City’s crown, with the Reds sitting just one point behind the Citizens at the time of writing.It is imperative, therefore, that City’s players continue their excellent run of form as the season begins to wind down.
With a reduced run of fixtures in the Premier League this coming weekend owing to FA Cup Sixth Round action, there are only ten teams from which to take this week’s weekend picks. The pick of the upcoming fixtures is arguably Everton hosting Chelsea in the 4.30pm kickoff on Sunday, while Bournemouth host in-form Newcastle on Saturday. Burnley do battle with Leicester and West Ham take on Huddersfield in Saturday’s other games, while Sunday’s earlier game sees Fulham welcome Liverpool to Craven Cottage. Taking all of that into account, let’s adopt a 4-3-3 this time and see which players could be set to work their way into fantasy management consideration.
Newcastle fans have had something of a rough time of things this season – they have seen their side struggle to finish off the opposition, struggle to pick up the wins and all the while without the safety of knowing that their popular manager will be at the club for a great deal longer. With rumours surrounding the future of Rafa Benitez refusing to go away, the players have, at times, seemed unable to muster what was needed to get the job done. The quality in the squad can not be disregarded, but this has not always lent itself to fluent performances. As a result, when the Toon Army saw their heroes fall two goals down at home to Everton on Saturday, they could have been forgiven for expecting the worst.
This past weekend we saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lose his domestic unbeaten run as Man Utd manager, with Arsenal triumphing 2-0 at the Emirates. Elsewhere, Liverpool maintained pressure on league leaders Man City with their 4-2 win over Burnley at Anfield, and Southampton caused something of an upset by beating Tottenham 2-1 on the south coast. There were wins for Brighton and Cardiff, with Newcastle also putting in an impressive showing with their 3-2 home win against Everton. With that in mind, we will now adopt a 4-4-2 formation and see which players performed the best for their clubs in England’s top flight this past weekend.
It is not really creating any headlines to say that Premier League new boys Wolverhampton Wanderers have impressed many a neutral this season. The club have been in the Premier League before, of course, and have experienced football as low as League One in the intervening years, but this time they have played their top flight football at a level which seems assured to keep them among England’s elite for the forseeable future. While things can change in the blink of an eye, of course, Wolves have some real quality among their ranks – chief among them is this week’s EPL Player of the Week, Diogo Jota.
This weekend’s Premier League action has one or two tasty fixtures coming at a great time, with arguably the match of the round closing out the weekend’s proceedings when Arsenal take on Manchester United at the Emirates in Sunday’s 4.30pm kickoff. Conversely, getting things underway with the Saturday lunchtime kickoff will be Crystal Palace hosting rivals Brighton at Selhurst Park. With the exception of Man City taking on Watford on Saturday and Chelsea hosting Wolves on Sunday, just about every other game sees a top-half side taking on a bottom-half side, and so there could be one or two surprises in store for fans attending a game in England’s top-flight this weekend.
When Man Utd parted company with Jose Mourinho back in December and brought in club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on a caretaker basis, many assumed this was little more than a nostalgia act – a chance to see Ole back at the club for a time while the hierarchy went about searching for a permanent successor to the Portuguese boss. However, in the time since Solskjaer’s return, United have gone on a run of 13 wins in 16 matches, tasting defeat only once – and this run of form has led many to assume that the 46-year-old will be given the job on a permanent basis at some point between now and the start of the 2019-20 campaign. This past weekend, the Red Devils welcomed Southampton to Old Trafford in what would turn out to be a modern-day classic game. Continue reading