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.

EPL Weekend Picks – Week 36

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With only three or four games left in the Premier League season depending on which side you are following, things are starting to get serious! The title race looks all set to go down to the wire, while the relegation battle appears closer than many thought possible just a few weeks ago. Cardiff and Brighton appear the two sides most immediately in danger of claiming 18th and the final relegation place, though Southampton are not yet mathematically safe. Title contenders Liverpool and Man City both have games where you would fancy them to win, with City’s arguably the slightly tougher game. With that said, let’s go for a 4-3-3 again and see which players are worth keeping an eye on and including in your fantasy squads this weekend.

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EPL Best XI – Week 34

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With the Premier League now very much entering the business end of the season, and with just a few matches remaining to decide the respective fates of several teams, there was a full schedule of games in England’s top-flight this past weekend. Once again, the spread of fixtures was great with Newcastle winning at Leicester on Friday night, six games taking place on Saturday, title challengers Man City and Liverpool winning their respective games on Sunday and Arsenal travelling to Watford on Monday. Results this weekend meant that both City and Liverpool are guaranteed to finish first and second in either combination. With that in mind, let’s take a look and see which players performed the best in their position, using a 4-3-3 formation.

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EPL Game of the Weekend – Southampton vs Liverpool

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When Virgil van Dijk took to the pitch at St. Mary’s on Friday evening, memories came flooding back (both fond and otherwise) of when he would turn out at the venue on a regular basis. This time, however, he was wearing the purple of Liverpool’s away kit – and few would have argued going into the game that the end result would be anything other than an away win. Southampton are not a bad side, but they have really struggled to find their feet for much of the season. Despite improving well under the guidance of Ralph Hasenhüttl, Liverpool are a title-chasing side who cannot afford to slip up as they take on current champions Man City in the final furlong. In the end, what occurred was an absolute cracker, and the second game of the week in a row to feature Jurgen Klopp’s men.

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EPL Best XI – Week 33

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With another reduced number of teams in Premier League action this weekend due to the ongoing FA Cup competition, there were only a few sides to select from for this week’s “Best XI” – though there has been a nice spread of action, with games on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Everton continued their impressive performances against the big teams this season when they beat Arsenal 1-0 at Goodison Park, while Burnley earned a hugely impressive – and vitally important – away win at Bournemouth. Leicester and Crystal Palace also picked up wins on the road at Huddersfield and Newcastle respectively, while Liverpool’s Friday night trip to Southampton also saw them take the points. Let’s go for a 4-3-3 and see which players performed the best!

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EPL: Premier League Predictions Week 33

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With just over a month to go until the Premier League wraps up the two horse race between Manchester City and Liverpool continues, there is just 1 point in it and this battle looks sure to go down to the wire. Champions League places are also up for grabs. Fulham and Huddersfield have been relegated but there is still one more place to decide although it looks likely that could be Cardiff who need to start picking up the points.

Below we take a look at the games ahead of the weekend and predict who we think will come out on top.

Southampton v Liverpool

Liverpool need all three points but Southampton will be a difficult opponent at St Mary’s when the two teams go head to head on Friday night. Goals have dried up for Mohamed Salah but Sadio Mane has been on fire and Liverpool will be the odds on favourites to win this game. When they are not playing well they are getting just the right amount of luck and look unstoppable. Liverpool to beat Southampton

Bournemouth v Burnley

Bournemouth have been in poor form but at the same time they are safe and have won just 1 game in the last five. Burnley can really turn the screw on 18th placed Cardiff with a win here and go further clear which could virtually secure their status in the Premier League. The boost for them is that they have just beaten Wolves and ended a 4 game losing streak. Draw

Huddersfield v Leicester

Now that Huddersfield are down they might just be able to relax and enjoy their football. Leicester are trying to be the best of the rest and finish in 7th place and are in very good form now under new coach Brendan Rodgers and Jamie Vardy will be hoping to get back on the score sheet. Leicester to beat Huddersfield

Newcastle v Crystal Palace

The teams come into this game with the same form and Palace are just 1 point above Newcastle. Newcastle’s form is spectacular at home where they have won their last 5 games in a row and they should have too much for Palace. Newcastle to beat Crystal Palace

Everton v Arsenal

Can Everton win 3 games in a row? They will face  a difficult team in Arsenal and the Gunners are in very good form. Arsenal are looking good for 3rd place and have more quality than  Everton. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang is in good form and they have plenty of goals in their team. Arsenal to beat Everton

Chelsea v West Ham

West Ham have had some poor results lately and even the games they have been winning they haven’t been very convincing. Chelsea at home have been superb this season and Olivier Giroud has finally found his goal scoring boots. Chelsea to beat West Ham

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