Brighton were right to sack Chris Hughton despite Premier League survival

ch(1)

Brighton have sacked manager Chris Hughton after the former Tottenham player steered the club to survival. On the face of it keeping the club up should have assured Hughton his job, but they were right to sack him as the tell tale signs were there for all to see.

Brighton actually started the season well and were propping up in the top 10 even in December. They were being compared to both Wolves and Watford who are two teams this season that really have punched above their weight and did so well. Wolves finished 7th in a best of the rest position and Watford not only finished close behind but are also in the FA Cup final where they will play Manchester City next Saturday.

As for Brighton it all started to go wrong when 2018 said goodbye and the New Year greeted us with 2019. From the last 20 games, that’s 60 points Brighton won 15, that was good enough not to finish 17th where they did but to finish in 19th position and relegation. Again it is their form at the beginning of the season which saved the club.

From those 20 matches they have won just 3 and scored 15 times conceding 34. The club finished their dismal form at home losing 4 of their last 5 games and the other match ended in a draw. In the end they survived in the league by just two points over Cardiff, who if it wasn’t for some bad luck in games easily would have finished above them.

But it was also Hughton’s approach to survival. Once he knew the club were in danger they ended up approaching games to scared to lose, and so would defend deep in numbers, fans like to call this ‘parking the bus’ and that was the club all over. It made for some poor displays and negative football and no football fan wants to pay to see that even if it rarely grinds out a point.

The majority of Brighton’s transfers were undisclosed which was unfortunate but some sources have suggested that the club spent £70m last summer recruiting players. That’s all well and good but the season before they managed 40 points meaning that they spent all that extra money to finish with 4 points fewer.

Chris Hughton is a great guy and a credit to the game and a real footballing man. For many reasons mostly known to him, the heart was not there in the team and there was no real fight in the second half of the season. He will move on from this and so will Brighton.

So on the face of it it can look harsh to sack a manager when the club have just stayed up, but the truth is that they have actually slipped backwards and just got lucky that Cardiff had a mix of bad luck and at times were poor themselves.

Hughton will be back and Brighton will be hoping that their next manager takes them back in the right direction. Hughton in the end saved the ship from drowning, but now it needs a new captain.

EPL Best XI – Week 37

townsend

The curtain is almost down. The business is almost done. With just a single round of games remaining in the Premier League, the relegation battle is finished but the title race remains very much alive. With the final game of the season being the time that this year’s Premier League champions will be identified, there is still plenty to play for at the summit of England’s top flight. With that said, let’s adopt a 4-3-3 formation this week and see which players performed the best for their clubs this past weekend.

Continue reading

Cardiff and Neil Warnock will hold onto Premier League survival miracle for now

war(1)

What a season it has been for Cardiff City, who have had to battle against the threat of relegation for most of the season. Of course one cannot talk about Cardiff’s season without mentioning the tragedy of Emiliano Sala’s plane crash when the Nantes player had just been signed by Cardiff.

One wonders if Sala would have saved Cardiff from the drop? It is a possibility given that the player had vastly improved in front of the goal in the past 12 months and was becoming a really good striker. He would have scored goals for Cardiff and could have earned the club those couple of wins that they have been missing. His passing remains one of the great shocks in modern footballing times.

As for the players that Cardiff manager Neil Warnock has had to work with, overall the club have been poor this season and their league position doesn’t lie. However one can think that Cardiff have also been unlucky. The offside goal that Chelsea scored, took 3 points effectively away from the side. And, when they were losing 1-0 to Liverpool, the Reds 2nd goal, a penalty looked soft and finished the game off, it could have ended a draw on a different day.

Cardiff look down, everyone seems to agree and when you are massive odds on with the bookmakers, well that is supposed to seal the deal. But the club do still have hope, because in 17th place Brighton have been decidedly awful since 2019 came through the front door of the AMEX Stadium.

Chris Hughton’s side have been for the less of a word, boring to watch. Sometimes boring is needed in football. When they are playing a superior team then they have to try and park the bus as it is called. But overall even when they have been playing teams with the same qualities as them they have become a team afraid to lose, celebrating a draw like it’s a win is always a bad sign with 15 games to go of the season.

Hughton is one of football’s good guys and knows his stuff about the game and is very down to earth. But the way his team plays it seems that they won’t be missed if they go down. At the same time Brighton are favourites to stay up and currently they are 4 points ahead of Cardiff with just 2 games left to play. That is a massive lead, and it is even bigger. You see Brighton have a  much superior goal difference so in effect that lead is 5 points with just 6 left on the board. How do Cardiff do this, and come back?

Well the good news for them is Brighton will have to travel to Arsenal next. Now Arsenal are in dreadfully poor form but one must think this will not continue especially at home. Note 3 of the clubs four recent defeats have come away from home. If Arsenal do oblige then Cardiff must find a way to win again. They were, for example, poor at the weekend when they lost to already relegated Fulham.

The same weekend Cardiff will play Crystal Palace and the only hope for that game for Warnock and his team is that they are at home. Though the Bluebirds have won just 1 game from their past five in front of their home fans.

If Cardiff win and Brighton lose the league will look like this; 17th Brighton 35 points, 18th Cardiff 34. Then it is game on for the final day of the season. Only there is a problem for both teams.

Brighton will be at home against Manchester City who will be more than likely needing to win for the league title. Cardiff will be away against Manchester United who will be looking to finish the season on a high after some miserable form. Both sides on paper could lose, which would change nothing.

The problem for Cardiff is that they will need to win their last two games to survive, and that, at this stage, will be a miracle. Just like who will win the league or claim those final Champions League places the relegation battle looks as exciting as ever and could well go down to the final game of the season, which could in turn affect the league title out come. Who needs Hollywood?

 

 

EPL Best XI – Week 35

walcott

With the Premier League season continuing whittling itself down to what seems destined to be a thrilling conclusion, nothing more was decided during this past weekend’s action. The battle to avoid being the last side to be relegated from the top flight this season remains far from over, while various intricate races / challenges at the top of the table appear nowhere nearer to being resolved. Liverpool remain two points ahead of Man City at the top of the league with City having a game in hand, Everton impressed many by beating Man Utd 4-0 at Goodison Park and Crystal Palace pulled off a great 3-2 win over Arsenal at the Emirates. With all that said, let us now adopt a 4-3-3 formation and take a peek at which players performed the best this weekend.

Continue reading

Manchester City have a problem, they are not scoring enough goals

manccc(1)

Manchester City are still on course to win the quadruple and create history this season and whilst the club are winning games and staying competitive, they have one problem- they are not scoring enough goals.

Sure winning 1-0 or 7-0 is still 3 points and still a victory but at the same time champions-elect teams usually win bigger and better and that is not what we are seeing from Pep Guardiola’s team. This is a team which is basically Barcelona mark 2, and yet the goals are not always flowing. The other worry weirdly enough is that City are playing excellent football and dominating games and creating so many chances- if they play a poor team and miss some clear cut chances, they will get another chance? What happens if they are playing quality and they do it- it could be the difference between staying in a competition and going out.

When did City stop scoring goals? It started with the Carabao Cup final where in 120 minutes of football they couldn’t score a goal against a team in Chelsea that a few days before they had put 6 goals past. In the end what did it matter, they won on penalties and picked up their first trophy of the season.

Their next league game was at home to West Ham, and they were expected to thrash The Hammers- they had in the past- and whilst they dominated the game they only won 1-0. At such a slight score they obviously left themselves open to a shock equaliser which would have dented their league title chances. Where was that 2nd goal?

Another 1-0 win followed at Bournemouth. Should a multi millionaire team be putting their fans through so much heartache? A tasty 3-1 victory against Watford followed but all 3 goals came in the 2nd half. Back to the cup matches and they had no problems when they destroyed Schalke 7-0 in the Champions League making a mockery in the process of the lack of quality that can make the knock out stages. A lucky 3-2 win in the FA Cup over Swansea followed, But at least the goals had rolled back- 10 in their last 2 games. But again in the league those goals would be tuned down.

The clubs next two games were against two bottom three teams in Fulham and Cardiff, both wins so no complaints but 4 goals scored in those matches when it should have been 10. Last weekend City took a break from the league and made it to the FA Cup final when they beat Brighton 1-0 in a dour semi final that could have gone either way.

Again it seems harsh to criticise City because they are getting the wins and playing great football. But evidently they are not scoring as many goals as they should do. This may not bode well for the remaining games, the crunch ones, or perhaps the team will have the final trick on us and are just saving themselves. Whatever the deal it will be a fascinating end to the season for the club.

Can Manchester City win the quadruple?

skysports-kyle-walker-ilkay-gundogan_4584668(1)

After victory over Cardiff City last night which took Manchester City back to the top of the Premier League, a question must be asked, can they win the quadruple?

City have of course already won the league cup in England, not only are they in 1st place in the league but they are also in the semi finals of the FA Cup. They have also qualified for the Champions League quarter final stage. Everything does look set up for Pep Guardiola’s men although there are some very important matches still to come and very tough weeks ahead.

Of course 20 years ago it was the other half of Manchester that was sweeping up trophies as Manchester United won the treble of the Champions League, The League title and the FA Cup. But their rivals City could go one better this season.

Guardiola has already won the quadruple with Barcelona in 2009, in fact he ended up winning six trophies that year as the team won the super cup and then went on to win the FIFA World Club Cup. But how realistic is it that City could win it?

In the league City are locked in a fierce battle with Liverpool to win it. Though City are a point ahead Liverpool could go back on top on Friday night. Although City hold the slight advantage as they have a game in hand, that extra game is away to Manchester United their biggest rivals, so 3 points are not certain. That fight looks like it will go down to the wire.

In the FA Cup City will face Brighton in the semi finals and they will be big favourites to get through to the final where they will either play Wolves or Watford. On paper you would say City will win, but let’s not forget how well Wolves and Watford have done in the league this season and they have become the best of the rest with some impressive results and remain a threat.

Finally in the Champions League City have got to the last eight where they will face Tottenham. This all English match should be a fantastic spectacle and even though City will be favourites to advance to the semi finals we must remember that Tottenham have been strong in this competition this season and have their brand new stadium to boot.

If City can get past Tottenham they would face either Ajax or Juventus in the semi finals, with the possibility of playing Liverpool or Barcelona in a final if form went the way it could. How ironic for Guardiola if he was to have the chance to win a quadruple to face his former side Barcelona in a final.

City may fall short but they have given themselves a fantastic chance to make some history this season.

Brighton’s balancing act could see a cup win, survival or relegation from the Premier League

HUGG(1)

What a season it has been for Brighton, but despite some bright points, pardon the pun there has been a lot of low ones and as the season wraps up Brighton still do not know how their season could end. At least it has been an interesting one for the fans, but this rollercoaster may not have a happy ending.

The season got off very well and included a series of home matches where Brighton looked unbeatable, they even beat Manchester United and did it convincingly. But then came 2019- and Brighton simply could not get wins, defeat after defeat even at their home could not lift the gloom and all of a sudden from being talked about claiming the last Europa League place, they slipped to mid table and then they slipped to 16th place. All of a sudden there was the chance of relegation.

The one shining light for Chris Hughton’s side is that they have won back to back games coming into this weekend and that has given them a boost but again there is just 5 points in it to 18th placed Cardiff. Let’s take a look at Brighton’s remaining fixtures.

This weekend they will face Southampton a team just below them in a massive game and if they were to win that they would take a massive step to securing their Premier League status. But with fixtures still to come against the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City it is those type of games, the clubs around them that are must wins.

Their matches in April against Bournemouth and Cardiff which are both at home could be their make or break games, and while the club should be safe this season all it will take is a repeat of their bad form of the past 3 months to send them down. If they do survive this season it should be a lesson to the club that the key is consistency in the league if you are going to stay up.

But it isn’t just the league that is a concern as Brighton have fantastically made it into the FA Cup semi finals. Brighton have not been in an FA Cup final since 1983 and have never won the competition. Could they make it again? The likelihood looks slim given that their semi finals opponents are Manchester City, but then again you never know.

That match takes place at the beginning of April at Wembley and it should be a memorable one. As for this season despite some of the lows the fans should have little to moan about, if anything we are coming into April and the club are still fighting on all fronts good and bad, which is better than nothing.

The battle for Premier League safety

As you would expect, a lot of the focus on the English Premier League is directed to the top of the table. Even more so this season, as we have a title race that looks like it could go right down to the wire. The fight at the other end, the one to retain premier league status should definitely not be ignored though. It is every bit as fierce and close, and involves several teams that know the very future of their clubs hinge on what happens over the next 8 or so games.

Those that have gone

With apologies to Huddersfield and Fulham fans, I am going to assume you are already down. Fulham have been hamstrung from day one by a raft of signings that were bought with little or no knowledge of what it would take for a fight in the world’s most competitive division. As for Huddersfield, if they have achieved nothing else this season, they have made life easy for punters around the globe as a shoe-in for their for their weekly football accumulators. On the plus side, The Terriers at least will look like they will be well equipped for a challenge next season for a quick return.

Those that are relatively safe

Several teams that have flirted with the drop zone appear to have pulled themselves out in recent weeks. Newcastle are a case in point. They have had far from a vintage season, but they have picked up some crucial wins of late and have done enough for another season in the top flight. It is a reverse situation for Bournemouth. Their form and points picked up in the first half of the season should be enough to see them safe despite a worrying drop in form in recent weeks.

Those very much in the fight  

Crystal Palace

I was very tempted to put these in the preceding category. Though they have not got the points on the board to guarantee safety, they have been playing well – especially away from home – and have a team that should have enough to see them over the line. A win against rivals Brighton would have all but seen them safe, but it wasn’t to be, their poor home form coming back to haunt them. Their run in is not the easiest but they should be able to pick up the 3 or 4 points they need.

Brighton

Back to back wins, including that one at Selhurst have breathed new life into the Seagull’s fight for survival, and it has come at just the right time. They play Arsenal and Man City on the last two games of the season. They do however have home games against Cardiff, Southampton and Bournemouth, and you would think in those games alone they would be able to secure the points required.

Southampton

Sticking or twisting regarding the manager is always a tricky decision, but bringing in a new man in the shape of Ralph Hasenhüttl looks like it may be the difference to the Saints’ survival. They are playing with a belief and freedom that just was not there before, and crucially they are scoring goals. Their last three games are against Bournemouth, West Ham and Huddersfield, all who are unlikely to be playing for anything other than pride. They should be safe, and it will be interesting to see how they push on next season.

Burnley

Sean Dyche’s team payed heavily for their European run, one which meant their season started when most of their rivals were still on the beach. Since the turn of the year they appeared to have turned a corner, going on a run and picking up crucial points. Suddenly however their form has deserted them, just when they had safety in their grasp. Their run in is tricky to say the least. They face Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City as well as Wolves and Everton. It is doubtful how many points they will amass from that, and their fate will more than likely depend on how the one remaining team fare:

Cardiff

The Welsh outfit were all but down at the end of the year, but they have shown a fight and crucially a nose for goal, that has seen them still in with a sniff of safety. It comes down to a head to head with Burnley. Like The Clarets, Neil Warnock’s team have not been handed a comfortable run in, with games against Man U, Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea to come. They will need to pick up points against Brighton, Palace and Fulham. There is however one game that could decide it all. Saturday 13th April sees the ultimate relegation 6 pointer when Cardiff go to Turf Moor. The winner of that match, as well as the 3 points could well also be taking home EPL survival.

The EPL’s likely starting lineups for this weekend

Ross Barkley

This weekend we have another full schedule of ten EPL matches to look forward to. Here are the predicted lineups for every EPL game.

Crystal Palace v Brighton

Crystal Palace XI: Guaita, Wan-Bissaka, Dann, Tomkins, Van Aanholt, Kouyate, Milivojevic, Schlupp, Townsend, Batshuayi, Zaha

Brighton XI: Ryan, Montoya, Dunk, Duffy, Bernardo, Propper, Stephens, Bissouma, Knockaert, Andone, Jahanbakhsh

Questionable: n/a

Out: Speroni, Sakho, Souare (Crystal Palace); Balogun, Gross (Brighton)

EPL Best XI – Week 29

pereiraThis past weekend saw no less than three local derbies in the Premier League, with two of them winding up as draws. Of the six clubs involved in these three games only Chelsea triumphed, toppling Scott Parker’s Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage. It was a spirited performance from the hosts, who sacked manager Claudio Ranieri last week after only 19 games in charge. Spurs hosted Arsenal while Liverpool made the short trip to Everton, with both of these games ending in stalemate. Arguably the finest action to be seen was at Old Trafford, where resurgent Man Utd battled to a 3-2 home win against Southampton, who on this performance alone really should not find themselves in the trouble they are in. Adopting a 4-3-3 this time, let’s see which players stood out!

Continue reading