Premier League: Player of the Week: Mohamed Salah

Two players earned 10 points last weekend which was by far the most in the Premier League: West Ham’s Robert Snodgrass who was able to score 2 goals and Liverpool’s attacking midfielder Mohamed Salah. We chose Salah based on the fact that his goals ended up contributing to a win. For Snodgrass even though his goals helped West Ham go 3-1 up when playing Brighton, the away side came back and the game ended 3-3. 

Mohamed Salah’s goals this past weekend were very welcome because compared to the last few seasons it could well be argued that the Egyptian international was not scoring enough goals and was going quite a few games without them. At the same time perhaps people have missed his contributions to games, his deft running, his turns, his holding up the ball and letting other players in. Salah really hasn’t stopped and he has become invisible sometimes but in a brilliant way where he is losing his man. The bottom line is his work rate has been second to none.

This past weekend though on top of all of that he did score and he got 2 goals, and this was important for Liverpool who have Sadio Mane out injured for a couple of weeks.

Liverpool were 2-0 up at the time but there was still 30 minutes to play and in the Premier League what we have noticed is that 2 goals is not always enough if you are going for victory. And Southampton played some very good football, they did remain a threat. But the Saints fire was distinguished when Salah grabbed the 3rd goal with just over 20 minutes remaining. A brilliant in swinging pass by Jordan Henderson was met by Salah who lost his marker and he neatly chipped the ball over the keeper for his first goal.

The 3rd goal killed the game and then in the final minute Salah added a 4th goal, a bit scrappy but it went in. In truth 4 goals past Southampton was harsh on the visitors who played much better than that. How many teams for example get 17 attempts on goal at Anfield? They actually had one more than Liverpool. Although what was telling is that Liverpool had 9 shots on target compared to the Saints 4. But the away side did have 11 corners compared to Liverpool’s 6, which proves that they were in attacking mode, perhaps they just left themselves very wide open and it is true Liverpool were waiting to counter them each time they came forward.

As for Salah that was 2 goals certainly needed and moved him up to joint 3rd in the goalscorers table with 14 so far, also he has 6 assists, so has been involved in 20 of Liverpool’s league goals so far. That equates to 33% of all of Liverpool’s league goals this season. Considering the club have goal scorers such as Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane in their side that is really impressive from Salah.

As far as fantasy points go those 10 points have helped Salah to go to 89 points and he is in fact placed in 1st position in the overall Premier League players, 11 points ahead of teammate TrentAlexander-Arnold. In all leagues he is in 2nd place, with the top spot going to Ciro Immobile in Serie A.

Salah is sure to have a strong finish to the season and when he has played for the club he has helped in 11 clean sheets, with the most recent against Southampton. If you want him in your team he is one of the most expensive players- and for good reason valued at 15m.

Liverpool’s next league game is away to bottom club Norwich, where there could well be ample opportunity for him and his team mates to add to their goals.

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Premier League: Game of the Weekend: Southampton 2-3 Wolves

The game of the weekend in the Premier League was surely between Southampton and Wolves, a match that produced 5 goals.

Southampton had been the team in form, it was only weeks ago that we were associating the club with relegation contenders but a flurry of great results and form saw them climb to mid table. They even reversed their 9-0 thrashing against Leicester to beat the Foxes at their home and the turnaround seemed complete. Helped greatly by striker Danny Ings who had scored 11 goals in the last 2 months, it seemed like the Saints would grab all three points again when they took on Wolves.

After 35 minutes of the game Southampton were going to pick up the three points, they were 2-0 up and cruising. Ings though had not been the hero of the day. The first goal was scored by Jan Bednarek and when twenty minutes later Shane Long had doubled their lead it looked inevitable that Southampton would win yet another game. The fans were in obvious joyous mood. Even though Long had made 2 assists this season that goal was the first of the campaign for him and he is much loved here and that mattered. Long earned 4 points from this game and for your fantasy team he can be purchased for 6.5m.

At half time Southampton went in 2-0 and the job looked pretty much done. But eight minutes after the second half whistle had sounded Pedro Neto made everyone think when he pulled one back. That was his 2nd goal of the season. Twelve minutes later the face of the game changed when Wolves were awarded a penalty and deadly striker Raul Jimenez slotted home and now it was 2-2 and now Southampton were on the back foot. Jimenez struck again on the 76th minute to give the win to the away side after being 2-0 down in an amazing comeback. That was also Jimenez’s 10th goal of the season and he has made a further 6 assists.

Interestingly enough Southampton did have 5 shots on target compared to Wolves’ 4 and every stat bar the final score and corners went to them. But going forward the home side were simply not clinical enough once they got the 2nd goal. This was perhaps evidenced in the fact that they had just 1 corner the whole game.

The highest performing player for Southampton in the game was Shane Long with 4 points, whilst goalkeeper Alex McCarthy suffered with shipping 3 goals and earned -4 points. For Wolves Raul Jimenez stood out with 8 points but there should be good mentions also for Adama Traore who assisted in a goal which earned him 4 points and Pedro Neto with 4 points also getting the first goal.

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Brilliant Danny Ings puts Leicester to the sword as amazing form continues

Danny Ings at 27 is having the best top flight season of his career and is in perhaps the richest form of it. His 14th league goal of the season helped Southampton beat Leicester at the King Power Stadium by 2-1. This was one of the best transformations for the Saints given that they had lost to Leicester at home only in October by a record 9-0 thrashing.

Of course football is a team game and no one would doubt that but it is clear that Danny Ings’ goals are going to keep Southampton up this season. It is incredible to think that only a month ago the Saints were in the bottom three with their Premier League survival under immense threat but no striker has been on the rich form that Ings has.

Whilst the former Liverpool forward started the league slowly he has more than made up for it in the past month. But we can go further back when we talk of Ings’ contribution. Since the 9-0 beating by the Foxes Southampton have played 12 games and Ings has scored 10 goals.

Ings has never had a such a successful campaign in the top flight of football and his previous league best was last season when he netted 7 times for the Saints in 24 games, now he has double the figure from two games less. When we take into account his cup goals that figure goes up to 16 for the season so far and he is well on course to beat his best season ever. That occurred in season 2013/14 in the Championship for Burnley when he scored 26 goals in 45 games and it was that type of devastating form that irked the interest of Liverpool in the first place.

Since Ings’ move from Liverpool for £18m he has scored 24 goals in 49 games and has an average of 1 goal for every 2 games. But it is in this period of his career where Ings has been earning praise and one wonders if his scoring feats can give him the chance of playing for England at this summers Euro 2020 tournament? He only has 1 cap so far and surely he deserves some place in Gareth Southgate’s selection?

As for Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl he was full of good words for Ings’ impact a few weeks ago when he said: “This is the result of a guy who is working his ass off. This is exactly how it should be and he’s absolutely positive all the time. You can feel and you can see how much he invests to win balls, to work for the team, and in the last games, he has a fantastic run and hopefully it stays on.”

Ings certainly deserves all the praise he is getting and long may it continue for one of the Premier League’s best loved players.

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Away day blues continue for Tottenham and Mourinho has a real challenge on his hands

It was thought that once Jose Mourinho had stepped in as manager of Tottenham that the club would improve on their appalling away game record but in essence the special one is yet to find the right balance in the squad and Tottenham are being put through their struggles.

This was underlined in the teams New Year’s Day match away to lowly but in form Southampton who beat Tottenham 1-0 in what was seen as a surprise result. It was another defeat for Mourinho too charged with the task of taking Spurs to the next level which seemingly former manager Mauricio Pochettino was not able to do.

But have Tottenham really improved since Pochettino was sacked? Tottenham had 14 points from 12 games, so 14 from a possible 36 points which works out that the club had a points win of 40%. Since Mourinho has come in he has presided over 9 games so from a possible points total of 27 Tottenham have earned 16 points that works out at 60%. So yes there has been an improvement since Mourinho has been in charge.

However saying that did anyone expect Tottenham to have already lost 3 times in those nine games? Also in Pochettino’s first 9 games of the season he had lost three too. Statistically a Tottenham team being managed by Mourinho is earning more points, just, and it is getting even more marginal as the games go on.

Pochettino had a win rate of 54.3% and Mourinho currently has 54.5% these take in all games. Again there is nothing in it and of course we are looking at Mourinho’s records where he has only just joined the club. What might be worrying for Mourinho though is that he is following a trend of hitting under a 60% win rate which has followed him ever since he returned to the Premier League in 2013. Before then it was normal to see him with 65-70% win rates a brilliant figure and even getting early to mid win rates of 50% is good, but it’s clearly not Mourinho level good.

Tottenham have lost 4 games with Mourinho in charge in all competitions from 11 games and that doesn’t seem to be a great record. Although one of those losses was against Bayern Munich in a Champions League match which was a dead rubber game anyway. But defeats in the league have occurred against Chelsea, Manchester United (two of his former clubs) and Southampton. On Boxing Day they found themselves a goal down against Norwich and drew that match in the end. The problem is when Mourinho arrived Tottenham could not win an away game, and they have hardly improved on the road.

They did of course beat West Ham in what was Mourinho’s first game in charge of Tottenham at London Stadium and that ended up being the clubs first away win since January. Since Mourinho joined the club have played 5 away games and won 2 of them and that second win came at Wolves in a match that was clearly heading for a 1-1 finish before Tottenham scored in the final minute of injury time. Still a win is a win but it did seem to paper over some of those away day blues.

In total Tottenham have earned 7 points from the 15 available on the road, that isn’t a terrible record by any means but for a club who need to finish in the top 4 it is.

The bottom line is that under Mourinho from what we have seen in a short space of time there has been minimal improvement. But with fairness to Pochettino his record is obviously over a longer period and from what we have seen this may not bode well for Spurs under Mourinho. A team under the Portuguese used to be much more disiplined at the back and simply more difficult to beat full stop.

In the summer Mourinho will inevitably be given funds but will they be used wisely? He has never been able to re build a team, partly because he leaves after 3 seasons usually. This has not been the start that Tottenham fans would have wished for and the club will need to find more consistency if they have any hopes for a 4th placed finish this season. The only good news actually lies away from Tottenham which is the team in 4th place, Chelsea, seemingly do not want it, and are dropping far too many points to warrant their current position.

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Is this the worst Arsenal side in 35 years?

On Saturday it happened again at the Emirates- Arsenal did not win. The 2-2 draw against Southampton marked the third game in a row that Unai Emery’s side have failed to win at home. The excuse could almost be forgiven if they had faced the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool, but in that time along with Southampton they played Crystal Palace and Wolves. Are we now getting to the point where we can claim that this Arsenal side are the worst in a generation?

At the weekend the Gunners were heading for a defeat until a 95th minute goal by Alexandre Lacazette saved their skin. But the worrying fact was that Southampton who are relegation contenders were able to go away to Arsenal and have more shots on goal and more shots on target. Just like against Aston Villa who were 2-1 up here with a few minutes to go only for Arsenal to win 3-2, Arsenal seemed to find an escape hatch. But their results are now either losing games away from home where they remain dreadful or clutching onto some last desperate minute hope. This is not the Arsenal that we are all used too.

The rot has set in at the club, and apart from some obvious speed bumps like reaching the Europa League final last season and Emery achieving more points in his first season than Arsene Wenger did in his last, as a whole Arsenal seem to have been going backwards for the past few seasons.

First it was letting their neighbours Tottenham repeatedly finish in front of them for the first time in over 20 years, and it wasn’t just luck, Tottenham in every way and shape took over from Arsenal and have stepped out of their shadow. Then came the fact of non Champions League football. The way this season is going the Gunners will be omitted for the 3rd consecutive season.

When Arsenal inevitably fell apart in the closing stages against Leicester before the break manager Unai Emery was under immense pressure but told the press that the club had to remain calm. One could think this was in part because he had looked at the upcoming fixtures. Southampton, Norwich, West Ham all games that Arsenal should be winning. And yet when they face Southampton at home they didn’t win. Norwich have found some confidence in their 2-0 win away to Everton and one wonders being at home if they will now give Arsenal a game that they weren’t expecting?

It’s difficult to remember when Arsenal were this lost at sea and perhaps we would have to go back to the days of Don Howe in the mid 1980s for that. There was of course the season after George Graham was sacked that Arsenal looked like being on the decline and then Wenger was appointed which changed everything.

The problem for Arsenal is that they don’t seem to have the players to make that difference. When Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang is missing or simply doesn’t score, Arsenal don’t seem to have a chance. He is their one player that can change a game. But you need a few more if you want to aim for the top.

By the end of the weekend Arsenal will be in 8th place and whilst they have only lost 3 games- the same as Manchester City, they have only won 4. They have also gone their last 5 games without a win picking up just 3 points from their last 15 available.

Times haven’t been as hard as this for Arsenal in years. But many fans wanted change, and to be fair they had a point. But the old saying comes to mind in this situation, be careful what you wish for.

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Can Everton rise to the challenge after Gomes’ horrific injury?

For a club that couldn’t buy a win and seeing one of your regular players in Andre Gomes receive an horrific injury was just the icing on a cake that no one wants to eat. It’s fair to say that it’s been a tough opening campaign for Everton football club, but could the injury to Gomes which will almost definitely see the player miss the rest of the season actually give Everton an extra gear?

The players will be feeling distraught about what has happened to Gomes, and when he injured his ankle in what was a freak accident against Tottenham, we saw a different character to this Everton side, one of determination not arguably seen since Roberto Martinez’s first season in charge of the club. The club suddenly forced themselves into the game and 1-0 down they searched for and got the equaliser through a thumping Cenk Tosun header.

This past weekend was another huge game for Everton away to Southampton. On paper one could have made Everton the favourites given that Southampton had come into the game conceding 14 goals in their last 3 competitive matches, but with Everton you just never know. They took the lead early on but as the game continued Southampton got back into it and then Danny Ings ex-Liverpool player equalised and that seemed to be it for the Toffees. In normal circumstances their confidence would have evaporated but something different happened at the weekend and a team who are supposed to be low on confidence took the game by the neck and scored again through Richarlison to win 2-1.

The victory was only Everton’s 4th of the season and 2nd in 10 matches and lifted the club to 15th place with 14 points, 6 points from the bottom three. Manager Marco Silva has been under pressure to keep his job but it does seem that every time his P45 is being prepared his side manage to get a win. He will be hoping that Gomes can be some sort of lasting influence on the club- do it for Gomes not only in the league but in the Carabao Cup where Everton have reached the quarter finals.

Everton’s next game is against Norwich who have been very poor and the club will be favourites to win that game at home and win they must because December will be their hardest month of the season. As Christmas comes Everton will have to play the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, and could well end up with 0 points.

Can Silva turn on the magic once more or is his job back on the line?

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Can Leicester win another Premier League title?

No one associated with football will ever forget the Premier League season of 2015/16 when Leicester City at odds of 5000/1 won the Premier League. It was the biggest shock to grace the league since becoming the Premier League in the 1992/93 season. That season the usual suspects were supposed to be winning it, namely Chelsea who were the current champions and the ever present Manchester City. Tottenham also had their say, but it was Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester side who deservedly won it and in stunning fashion.

When the Foxes won the league, one suspected that was it, some players would leave, some would stay, some would write biographies and so on. But Leicester’s moment in the gleaming success of the football elite would be over. They had had their time, what a time it was of course, and see you later, perhaps in another 100 years time. But 3 years on from that success the team are shaping up to have another successful league campaign.

This time it is under former Liverpool and Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers, who himself came very close to winning the league with Liverpool in the 2013/14 season. The Reds had an infamous 5 point lead with just three games left to play that season. Rodgers has been around and proved to be a very capable manager and since taking over at Leicester in March has turned the clubs fortunes around, more importantly he has made the players believe once again that the club were champions very recently and should be proud of that fact.

Rodgers record since taking over reads like this; He has a 54.5% win rate and from 22 games managed he has earned the club 41 points. On average then that means that in 38 games he would have pulled in around 70 points. That is probably Champions League football.

But here’s the thing, can Leicester win the league again and really put everyone on their backsides? The answer is most probably no, because they have the mighty two teams to challenge who are also in front of them in the shape of Liverpool and Manchester City. Liverpool are 8 points in front and City the current champions are 2 points in front of them. But then again all it takes is for Liverpool to have a bad run and Leicester simply to keep consistency. It would still be very difficult, but the Foxes do have a great chance to return to the Champions League, if they finish in the top four surely that is rubber stamping what has been a fantastic era for the club.

Their recent 9-0 thrashing of Southampton will be rightly remembered for some time and it will be fascinating to see how far the club can go and how many points they can accumulate at least from now up until the Christmas period. If anything it is brilliant to see the club right up there, determined not to simply fade away on the horizon after their fantastic league win. Rodgers is proving to be a very special manager indeed.

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Southampton 1-1 Man Utd: The Red Devils cheaply drop points once again

Although the main focus of gameweek four is between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United had a good opportunity to bounce back from the Crystal Palace defeat with the away fixture against Southampton. With the match being the final one just before the ten-day international break, it would have been the ideal chance Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men to get back to winning ways.

The match as a whole, was one-sided in favour of the visitors in terms of the control in possession and the chances created, despite the host piling on the pressure for 20 to 30 minutes of the game before and after the half-time break. United took the lead very early in the 10th minute, through a well-taken shot by Daniel James, who smashed it past Angus Gunn and into the far corner of the net.

However, Southampton were able to get the equaliser in the second half as Jannik Vestergaard leaped above Victor Lindelof to head the ball into the net, leaving David De Gea absolutely hopeless in goal. Ralph Hasenhuttl’s boys continued to look for the winner, though, Kevin Danso went into a poor challenge in the 77th minute and left the referee with no option but to book him once again.

In the end, the Saints did defensively well to hold onto a draw for the last 15 to 20 minutes whilst being down to ten men, but the Red Devils will feel they did not create enough or showed the ideal amount of urgency to turn the single point into the three points they badly needed and required.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…

Daniel James continues to live life at the top

Throughout the game, United’s go-to-man was no one else but Daniel James, someone who was causing Southampton’s backline a serious amount of problems with his dribbling ability and his incredible burst of pace. After making it on the scoresheet once again, he has now scored three league goals in four appearances, equalling Alexis Sanchez’s dire record of the last 18 months.

Despite being utilised on the right flank in recent games, the fixture against Southampton was his first match where he was played in his favourite position, and he went on to play more comfortably and effectively than usual. Not only that, his immense work rate on and off the ball is something to truly highlight, as United’s attacking players in recent years have failed to help the team out as a whole.

United lack clinical quality on both sides of the pitch

One could say Solskjaer had the perfect plan at St Marys Stadium, where they created a decent amount of chances and had hardly concerns over the opposition’s attacking threat. Southampton actually had one shot on target, which was the goal they achieved in the second half, other than that, they were missing a playmaker and a dominant forward to open up United’s defence.

Meanwhile, on the attacking side of the game, the likes of Ashley Young, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford were lacking the intelligence and the required quality in the final third of the pitch to help the side to achieve the winning goal. The trio were failing to do the basics rights and were making mistakes after mistakes, allowing Southampton to sit deep with no rising issues to worry about.

Southampton are expected to go on to big things under Ralph Hasenhuttl

Majority of the English media and the Premier League experts were expecting the Saints to have a difficult season and see themselves experience most of the campaign around the relegation zone. However, that hasn’t been the case, as Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Southampton have proven to do well with their high-pressing style of play and their mentality to constantly break on the counter-attack.

With the club failing to bring in a number of players throughout the summer transfer window, the supporters of Southampton will be hoping that either of the 3-5-2 or 4-2-2-2 setup will get the best out of the current squad. And once the winter window arrives, the manager will surely be hoping that the board and owners are more than able to invest into the team, allowing them to potentially push for a mid-table finish, which they had experienced on a few occasions before the previous season.

A preview of this weekend’s EPL action

There are some great games to look forward to in the English Premier League this weekend.

Here’s a brief preview of all ten EPL fixtures over the coming days.

Southampton v Manchester United

Key men: Ings (Southampton); Rashford (Manchester United)

Prediction: Southampton 2 – 1 Manchester United

Something of a surprise a could be on the cards at St Mary’s in the early game on Saturday. Manchester United look like they could be in for another tough season and Southampton could make things worse for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men. Continue reading

Was Andrew Robertson more deserving of the PFA award than van Dijk?

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Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk won the PFA award a few days ago and not many people involved in the game and fans could really disagree with that result. Given that the award is voted by professional players it simply added even more weight to the fact and in the process van Dijk has become the first defender in the Premier League to win the award since Chelsea’s John Terry back in 2005.

Still some were surprised that the award was not given to Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling instead who has grown from a very good player to a World class one. He got bizarrely in the end the Young player of the year, which given he is 24 just seemed odd, and he has been around of course for many years. It felt like a sympathy vote in the second thought- but alas that argument is for another day.

Another argument that we can put to one side is why would an award celebrating the best players of the season be handed out before the season has ended? van Dijk no matter how good he has been may end the season empty handed. An argument could be that the next 2 games will not yield a different and superior player but these voting cards were given out in mid March with still 10 games left to play. Thus a player should not be judged on 75% of the season- again an argument for another day.

But something that should not be overlooked is the fact that van Dijk’s team mate Andrew Robertson was. Robertson has been superb this season and was last season too for the Reds. It is interesting why he was overlooked given how solid he has been and given that fellow ex professionals rank him so highly. Phil Neville once said that Robertson was the best left back in the world. Maybe that was a stretch, but he has arguably been the best defender in the Premier League for this season.

Robertson has had a personally brilliant season and that is reflected also in the Premier League fantasy rankings. In the defenders Robertson is currently in 1st position with 114 points and is beating van Dijk by 3 points. While both players have been rocks in defence it also worth noting that Robertson has yet to score a goal- van Dijk has 3, but at the same time Robertson is not employed to score goals. However he has incredibly assisted 11 times this season to van Dijk’s 2.

One could be cynical and say that van Dijk got the awards nod because of the huge transfer fee involved when Liverpool bought him from Southampton for £75m in January, 2018. That fee attracted instant pressure on both the player to perform and manager Jurgen Klopp- had he for example taken a gamble? In contrast Robertson joined the Reds for under £10m.

Big performances from big fee players have always attracted positivity just like they do in the negative sense when it all goes wrong, and let’s be fair van Dijk has been superb in the Premier League this season. It is also hard to argue with professional footballer players whether a certain player deserves the award or not.

Let’s just say that Robertson was unlucky this season, perhaps in the future he will get even more credit if his performances remain the way they have been.