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.

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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