Losing to Manchester City should not dishearten Arsenal who can still have a strong finish in the Premier League

For many it was the way Arsenal lost to Manchester City when the Premier League re started on Wednesday night that would have been the biggest concern.Losing 3-0, having David Luiz sent off (is he the gift that keeps on giving)? And then looking at a meaningful statistic that was certainly damning, Arsenal had 0 shots on target. Ouch!

Many expected City to win and Arsenal to lose, after all the Gunners have been poor on the road now for a few seasons, and they were playing the current champions. However there was an uncertainty given that the game of course was played behind closed doors. But it made no difference, City would have won 3-0 with or without fans and played some great football.

As a result Arsenal remain in 9th place and despite their 7th loss of the season the mid week didn’t turn out too bad for the club given that Sheffield United who are above them only earned a point. In short they didn’t lose pace for a European place.

Arsenal need to regroup and refocus, the display they put in against City and Luiz’s sending off will give their next opponents Brighton cause for celebration, and Graham Potter’s side may well be welcoming Arsenal and thinking that they are there for the taking. Brighton have had some very good results lately against the Gunners and have beaten them 2-1 at the Emirates earlier in the season.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta will be disappointed with the way his team lost at City but won’t forget that before the break for the Coronavirus Arsenal were one of the inform teams who had just recorded 3 wins in a row.

The Gunners are only 5 points from a Europa League place and whilst the Champions League looks a little off for them being 8 points adrift of Chelsea, if they can finish the season strong who knows what can happen?

Let’s look at Arsenal’s remaining fixtures. The Gunners have 2 away games in a row coming up facing Brighton and Southampton. Whilst those games look tricky a good Arsenal side can win those. After that they will be at home to Norwich who are bottom of the league and one would expect another 3 points from them. Then they are away to Wolves and at home to Leicester, these will be difficult games, but still Arsenal could win at least one of them.

After that they face Tottenham in the derby, a game that could go either way with no fans and atmosphere. Their last 3 games are against Liverpool, Aston Villa and Watford. The match against Liverpool could be easier than expected given that the Reds should have wrapped up the title by then. But matches against Villa and Watford where both teams could be battling relegation could be close affairs.

It’s possible though that Arsenal could finish the season with 59 points, that’s the prediction here and yes that would fall too short for a Champions League place. Possibly a Europa finish is on the cards, but even then Arsenal might fight and play better not to finish so low in the league.

It must be incredibly surreal for fans to see their club down in 9th place, and without all of their draws (there have been 13 so far) the club would actually be fighting in the relegation.

The game at the weekend against Brighton is a huge one then, lose that and Arsenal could already be losing their direction so soon after the restart. The club are better than that and Arteta must break their away day hoodoo.

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Premier League: Best 11 Players from the Weekend

The winter break has meant that games are now being staggered across the Premier League which means every team will end up, at one stage, getting at least 2 weeks off. This weekend then there was just 4 games to be played. However bad weather conditions meant that the most anticipated match between Manchester City and West Ham had to be called off.

So only 3 Premier League games took place this weekend and there were nice wins for Everton and Sheffield United who have put the heat on Chelsea to try and stake what many would believe is a shock claim for a top 4 spot. Can both clubs find a nice run of consistency? It might be all it takes.

Below then we take a look at the best players from this weekend, having to select from just the 3 games that were eventually played. Did any of your players play this weekend? And how many points did they get? Let’s take a look.

Formation: 4-4-2:

Goalkeeper: Ben Foster- Watford 0pts

Because of the lack of games and the fact that every goalkeeper conceded this weekend we have ended up with a bizarre situation where the best goalkeeper in the league ends up with zero points. That’s because some dipped into the minus points. Foster conceded as Watford drew with Brighton 1-1, away from home which was a decent result for them and Foster made some very good saves to help earn a point.

Defender: Yerry Mina- Everton 0pts

Yerry Mina played the whole game and conceded a goal which jumped him back down to zero points. Everton beat Crystal Palace 3-1 and Mina now has a total of 19 points.

Defender: Michael Keane- Everton 0pts

Michael Keane hasn’t started many games for Everton but he put in a decent shift in the game even if he couldn’t earn any points this weekend, conceding just 1 goal but his team won anyway.

Defender: Shane Duffy- Brighton 0pts

Shane Duffy played a good game as Brighton drew 1-1 with Watford. He is a bargain at just 1.5m and has earned 12 points the majority of those in the last few weeks,

Defender: Craig Cathcart- Watford 0pts

Watford got a decent result at Brighton with the game ending 1-1 and that was a valued point earned away from home. Cathcart has 21 points and is ranked as Watford’s 2nd best defender so far this season.

Midfielder: John Lundstram- Sheffield United 4pts

Points earned! John Lundstram scored for Sheffield United as they won a vital game 2-1 over Bournemouth who were threatening to take a point from them and the win has sent the Blades into 5th place.

Midfielder: Abdoulaye Doucoure-Watford 4pts

Doucoure scored against Brighton and was able to earn a vital point for his relegation threatened team. He earned 4 points and now has a total of 28, he has been in fine form too and could be worth picking up for the remainder of the season.

Midfielder: Wilfried Zaha- Crystal Palace 2pts

Wilfried Zaha was on the losing side, 3-1 against Everton but the highly thought of player showed a lot of creativity and he assisted in Palace’s goal, which at the time was an important one as the club had just equalised.

Midfielder: Theo Walcott- Everton 2pts

Theo Walcott has upped his game in recent weeks and started to score points. Walcott had an unlucky game as he had to go off injured after just 25 minutes but he still managed to assist in Everton’s opening goal which led the way to their victory at the weekend over Crystal Palace.

Striker: Richarlison- Everton 4pts

Richarlison scored his 9th goal for Everton this season as they swept by Crystal Palace winning 3-1. He now has 38 points for the season and is worth adding to your team as he has really grown in confidence over the last few weeks.

Striker: Billy Sharp- Sheffield United 4pts

Billy Sharp has suffered with some set backs with injury lately so it was impressive of him to bounce back and get a vital goal which helped the Blades to secure 3 huge points and gives them a chance of European football next season.

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West Ham look likely for relegation after implosion against Brighton

Beating Brighton was the bear minimum requirement for West Ham and for the majority of their game on Saturday it looked like David Moyes team were cruising. But there would be a deadly sting in the tail.

Issa Diop opened the scoring after half an hour much to the relief of Hammer fans, when Robert Snodgrass made it 2-0 just before half time, for many that was game over. It has been proven time and again scoring just before the break can kill and change the opposition’s mindset. All looked well.

But two minutes after the break Brighton pressure led to an own goal scored by Angelo Ogbonna. The Hammers now could slowly collapse under their own pressure or march on. Ten minutes later the game looked wrapped up and it was Snodgrass again, emerging as the unlikely hero to make it 3-1 to the home side. With fifteen minutes remaining the fans were singing despite Brighton creating wave after wave of attacks, 3-1 just looked too good to be overhauled. But then again this is West Ham a club who have repeatedly blown decent leads in the past.

Pascal Grob is his name but it was Pascal ‘Grab’ on Saturday, when he scored for the away side to make it 3-2 and now there was a belief that 3-3 seemed more likely than a Snodgrass hat trick. West Ham thought they had 3 points and were now not blowing bubbles, but blowing this match. Glenn Murray, the type of striker any Italian team would love in their squad, one that isn’t consistent but will get the goal you need scored to make it 3-3 and the London Stadium turned into the biggest gob smack you could ever want to witness. VAR played out yet again, what is a game without it? Because Brighton’s goal had to be delayed and debated on for a possible hand ball, VAR decided against it and Brighton got their goal which only rubbed the salt into the wounds for the home side.

Somehow West Ham had blown it again- they hadn’t lost but being 3-1 up at home with 15 minutes left and finishing 3-3 certainly felt like it. Suddenly you were looking at a team who could well be playing in the Championship next season. The draw confirmed West Ham’s slip into the bottom three, in 18th place. Though they are just 2 wins from 14th and 3 wins from 10th.

West Ham have lost 13 games and manager David Moyes comments when he joined the club of ”I win” have certainly come back to haunt him. In the league his record reads like this: Played 6, won 1, drawn 2 and lost 3.

There is talk of relegation even though the tables show the teams in the bottom half being so close for West Ham because of their upcoming fixtures. This month will see the Hammers having to play Manchester City and Liverpool- both away games. They end the month at home to Southampton. Arsenal and Tottenham follow in March and there is a real chance that West Ham could be relegated with such tough fixtures ahead.

The Brighton game was being highlighted by fans as the one match they had to win to give them some breathing space at least, but if form continues like it has this season without any improvement then they are looking to finish the season with about 36 points, that total may not be good enough to stay up.

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Brighton were right to sack Chris Hughton despite Premier League survival

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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

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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.

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

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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

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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.

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

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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?

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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

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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.