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.
It’s FA Cup weekend coming up so there are just five EPL matches to look forward to.
Saturday’s games see Bournemouth host Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle United at the Vitality Stadium while Huddersfield Town make the trip to London to face West Ham United.
Brendan Rodgers brings his Leicester team to face Burnley at Turf Moor at the same time. Burnley have lost their last three league games while Leicester won 3-1 against Fulham last time out.
On Sunday, Liverpool travel to meet Fulham as The Reds look to go back to the top of the Premier League, temporarily at least. Everton play host to Chelsea later that day. The Toffees have won just once in their last six games. Chelsea drew 1-1 with Wolves last Sunday.
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.
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.
There is another full list of Premier League fixtures this coming weekend with all games being played over Saturday and Sunday.
Spurs v Arsenal
Spurs XI: Lloris, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Aurier, Sissoko, Winks, Rose, Eriksen, Kane, Son
Arsenal XI: Leno, Sokratis, Koscielny, Mustafi, Maitland-Niles, Ramsey, Torreira, Xhaka, Kolasinac, Lacazette, Aubameyang
Questionable: Jan Vertonghen (Spurs); Lars Koscielny, Stephan Lichtsteiner (Arsenal)
Out: Dele Alli, Eric Dier (Spur); Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Danny Welbeck (Arsenal)
It’s time to look ahead to this weekend’s Premier League action as we predict the starting lineups for each EPL game.
Cardiff City v Watford
Cardiff XI: Etheridge, Peltier, Manga, Bamba, Bennett, Paterson, Gunnarsson, Arter, Murphy, Cordova-Reid, Niasse
Watford XI: Foster, Janmaat, Mariappa, Cathcart, Masina, Doucoure, Capoue, Pereyra, Sema, Deeney, Deulofeu
Questionable: Ashley Darel Jazz Richards (Cardiff)
Out: Sean Morrison (Cardiff); Holebas, Kiko Femenia (Watford)
At the start of the year Liverpool had much to celebrate, 7 points clear at the top of the Premier League, with the FA Cup coming up and in the knockout stages of the Champions League. It seemed that this season would be Jurgen Klopp’s one to finally pick up a trophy with the Reds. But a loss to Manchester City in the league and now being knocked out of the FA Cup by Wolves has put that dream into check.
Just one week into 2019 has seen two losses for Liverpool, who had gone 20 games unbeaten in the Premier League. There has been a body blow to the club of epic proportions. The City loss means that they have just a 4 point advantage at the top of the standings. But the cup defeat means that after starting the season with 4 possible chances of silverware, Liverpool now have 2.
Like Leicester before them one does have to wonder why Klopp decided to play a weakened team against Wolves, a fellow Premier League opponent who also had home advantage.
His decision to rest some of his key players for the Premier League has heavily backfired and why rest them anyway, when Liverpool do not play their next game in the league for another 5 days, it is just makes no sense what Klopp has done. With Leicester who rested players when they lost to Newport County the decision seemed more bizarre given that they won’t come in the top four and won’t be relegated so why not fight on all fronts?
Alas with Liverpool, priorities might be different given that the one trophy they crave this season is the league title-something they haven’t won since 1990. And then there is the little matter of winning the Champions League and they will take on Bayern Munich in the two legged last 16 affair next month.
But then there is the matter of Klopp and how his Liverpool team have won zero trophies under him. He has spent hundreds of millions of pounds, and there have been some wonderful displays, great signings, great wins and two European finals both ending in defeat but nothing there to show for it in the end.
When the league resumes Liverpool will be under pressure to start winning games again, and of course Klopp will pick his strongest available team. His latest move feels like he is disrespecting the importance of the FA Cup, which becomes all the more apparent and bizarre given that Liverpool have not won a trophy since 2012.
Leicester were knocked out of the 3rd round of the FA Cup after their shock loss to Newport County by 2-1 at the weekend. And the blame game should be directed at Leicester’s manager Claude Puel.
Puel made wholesale changes to his normal Premier League squad with the biggest gap being upfront with the omission of Jamie Vardy. One can only wonder why Puel has not respected the FA Cup?
Of course back in 2016 Leicester shocked everyone when they won the Premier League, something that we are not likely to see again for a very long while. But realistically speaking when the likes of a team like Leicester start the season, they are usually not going to win the league.
There are three competitions that they can win, the league, FA Cup and Carabao Cup, and only the cup competitions give teams like Leicester a realistic chance of winning. Their Carabao Cup hopes were fought with more pride but they went out at the quarter final stage against Manchester City on penalties which was very unfortunate given that they would have played Burton Albion in the semi finals- then again if they cannot Newport…..
But this match was a real shocker for them. It is one thing going out of a cup competition against the champions of England quite another against Newport. But what was Puel thinking, not to take this game seriously?
Leicester are currently 7th in the league but they are almost 20 points behind 4th place and will not be finishing in a Champions League position. At the other end they are almost 20 points from the bottom three and will not be getting relegated, so why didn’t Puel start his best team for this game and why didn’t he get the team behind this fantastic competition- after all it is a trophy at the end of the day which is up for grabs, and nothing makes sense about The Foxes attitude coming into this game. Newport always seemed like the hungrier team and now they have got their just rewards.
For Puel this is a real head shaker not to be fully committed to a cup competition. It’s true that the top 4 sides in England haven’t always taken cup competitions as seriously but then again they are challenging for the league title or a European one, Leicester are challenging for 7th place trying to get to 6th.
Puel’s attitude and other managers around him need to change as cup competitions remain the best chances to win trophies for mid table teams and Puel should be a little embarrassed about his choices at the weekend.
Here comes the big test for Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, a man who has usually got his own way when it comes to coaching teams to league titles. But he has found this task rather difficult since coming to England.
Winning the league this season suddenly looks distant after his side lost their 3rd game in 4 matches after losing and imploding against Leicester 2-1. That game saw Fabian Delph sent off and now there are question marks over City’s all conquering side.
City have now fallen 7 points behind Liverpool in the race for the league and have even dropped to 3rd place as Tottenham have overtaken them. Whilst this makes the league interesting to watch there has to be question marks over Guardiola’s management skills.
Last season City played out the greatest ever performance by a team in the Premier League where they amassed 100 points losing just 2 games and finishing 19 points ahead of 2nd placed Manchester United. This was a fantastic season for the team where Guardiola’s team clicked. But if his side were not to win the league this season and we look at his debut season in England where he failed to win the league, is winning one league from 3 seasons after spending £500m on players deemed a success or failure?
Simply put it has been a shocking few weeks for City and Guardiola has now talked about changing the dynamic of the team, but what has gone wrong for the club? Is it a coincidence for example that their form has dipped in line with David Silva’s absence. And given the quality of players that they have why should having one player albeit an influential one make such a difference?
After the teams latest defeat at Leicester Guardiola said: “As soon as possible we have to try to win again for our mood, our confidence and our desire. You have to be confident to play and to come back. I have to reflect and think about what the team needs and how to help them. That is what I am concerned about right now what I have to do to help them come back playing the way they want to play, to move something and try to win again.”
Guardiola will have to prove his worth as one of the best coaches in the world in the coming weeks and get his championship winning team back to winning ways. City’s next three games in the league are; Southampton (away), Liverpool (home) and Wolves (home). The Wolves game seems the most straight forward, but the club will have two very matches coming up. Southampton have looked like a different team since their new coach took over and have already beaten Arsenal at home a few weeks ago.
Then of course there is league leaders Liverpool who could, with a win, go 10 points clear of City. That is the big game and if City can play like champions and prove their worth they could bring the gap down to just 4 points. There is all still to play for, but right now there is judgment and pressure on Guardiola to turn the last few games around.
Look at a Leicester result from the past 3 years and one player always seems to be banging in the goals for them, one Jamie Vardy. The same player who just a few years ago was plying his trade in non-league football. But the England international doesn’t seem to get the attention that should be afforded to him, why is that?
Vardy remains a consistent and very important player for Leicester who of course infamously won the Premier League in 2016 in what has to be hailed as not only one of the greatest achievements in modern day football but also as a huge shock, especially given todays money in the game where the football elite always seem to rise to the top.
Even after all the celebrations died down and Leicester got on with the following seasons, finishing in mid table or having a decent run in the league and always still upsetting the odds ( see Leicester’s latest win against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge) there has been Vardy still getting the goals. One could ask is Vardy amongst the very best strikers the Premier League has been fortunate to have?
Statistically the answer would be no. After all Vardy only has 68 goals in his five seasons so far. He would need 150 just to break into the top 10, with age against him he might not get to that figure. But with Vardy it is more than just goals and his worth to the Foxes in general that has set him apart from just being another ‘fox in the box’. He assists, encourages players and is very loyal to his club. It was Vardy of course that turned his head at a big money move to Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal after Leicester had won the league.
The move to Arsenal was supposed to be Vardy’s gift for all of his hard work, but he wasn’t interested. Perhaps he could see that under Wenger Arsenal were on the decline and if a new coach had come in like Emery Vardy could quickly be resigned to the subs bench where his career would have stalled. At least staying at Leicester he has the respect of the fans and will surely go down as one of the genuine club legends at the King Power Stadium once his career comes to an end.
So Vardy may not be amongst the very best strikers to have graced the Premier League, but make no mistake he keeps popping those goals in and keeps turning up at just the right time to make defenders life’s hell. For that he must surely be one of the most important strikers and for a former non-league player that isn’t bad going at all.