Life at the top is certainly tough! The old adage that it is harder to defend a title than to win it has certainly seemed apt in recent Premier League seasons, with champions often finding themselves struggling to put up a serious defence the year after lifting the trophy. That has not been the case this year, however, with Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions Manchester City sitting on top of the league table with just a handful of games remaining. Liverpool seem to be the only genuine contenders to City’s crown, with the Reds sitting just one point behind the Citizens at the time of writing.It is imperative, therefore, that City’s players continue their excellent run of form as the season begins to wind down.
This past weekend saw no less than three local derbies in the Premier League, with two of them winding up as draws. Of the six clubs involved in these three games only Chelsea triumphed, toppling Scott Parker’s Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage. It was a spirited performance from the hosts, who sacked manager Claudio Ranieri last week after only 19 games in charge. Spurs hosted Arsenal while Liverpool made the short trip to Everton, with both of these games ending in stalemate. Arguably the finest action to be seen was at Old Trafford, where resurgent Man Utd battled to a 3-2 home win against Southampton, who on this performance alone really should not find themselves in the trouble they are in. Adopting a 4-3-3 this time, let’s see which players stood out!
The date was October 18, 1986 and Watford – managed by legendary boss Graham Taylor – beat visiting Aston Villa 4-2 at Vicarage Road. Little did anyone know at the time, but that match would go on to live long in the history of Watford Football Club. For in that game, Hornets striker Mark Falco netted a hattrick. He also scored against Villa the following year, before an unbelievably barren run saw Watford fail to even score against Villa again until late 2015 when they would win 3-2 at Villa Park – some 28 years later. The match in question however, until very recently indeed, held another record – it was the last time a Watford player had scored a hattrick in the top flight.
With the title race continuing to hot up, this weekend’s Premier League action saw contenders Liverpool going toe-to-toe with rivals Manchester United, while champions Manchester City took the weekend off from league action to battle Chelsea in Sunday’s Carabao Cup Final. At the lower end of the table, Newcastle hosted Huddersfield in what could be described as a relegation six-pointer. With that said, let us take a look at which players performed the best for their clubs over the past few days.
Writing about West Ham’s winning run and the last time they matched it was fun while it lasted. The latest win -which came against Fulham- took the club to four wins for the first time since 2014. However, that run came to an end yesterday in frustrating fashion, as the Hammers lost 2-0 at home against Watford.
The game was open from the very start, with both sides creating chances which should have been taken. It was Watford who were gifted the best chance of the first half though. Roberto Pereyra played a one-two with Gerard Deulofeu which saw him enter the West Ham box. Fabian Balbuena attempted to tackle the Argentine, but made a mess of it, giving away a penalty and sustaining an injury that forced him off just a few minutes later.
It was pantomime villain Troy Deeney who stepped up to take the penalty following the delay while Balbuena received treatment. The Watford captain emphatically drilled the ball into the top corner to make it 1-0 before going off to celebrate in front of the Hammers fans. Lukasz Fabianski is renowned for his heroics in penalty situations, but he was given no hope by Deeney’s strike.
Javier Hernandez almost got a goal back before the break, but Ben Foster was able to reach the Mexican’s volley which had been destined for the bottom corner. He also hit an air shot when Felipe Anderson played him the ball after some great trickery in the second half and had an effort stopped by a block from Abdoulaye Doucouré.
However, it will be Michail Antonio who’s most frustrated to have not got on the score sheet. Early in the second half he latched onto a Robert Snodgrass corner, glancing it across goal with his head. He’d got the slightest of touches on the ball, which was only enough to make it connect with the post before bouncing to the feet of a Watford defender.
His second encounter with the woodwork was even harder to take. Grady Diangana had worked himself some space impressively on the right wing before forcing the ball into the box. Snodgrass’ initial header was deflected off of Craig Cathcart and saved by Foster. Antonio got onto the ball with the goal gaping in front of him, but he was only able to send his header against the bar from a few yards out.
Summarising West Ham’s night, just two and a half minutes later Watford scored a second to secure the win. Pereyra and Deulofeu linked up well again before the latter slotted the ball into the bottom corner in the 87th minute. Having dominated the game for large periods the Hammers had found themselves on the losing side without a goal to their name, the finishing touch which had been so prevalent in their last four games having deserted them.
Following this defeat, West Ham sit 12th in the table going into Christmas, though they remain just three points behind yesterday’s opposition who jump to seventh. Next up for the Hammers is an away trip to Southampton on December 27th. The Saints have recorded back to back wins of their own following the arrival of Ralph Hasenhüttl.
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The first three weeks of the 2018-19 Premier League season have gone according to plan for many EPL Fantasy managers, with Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City all having unbeaten starts to the campaign, but there are still plenty of players across the league who could be worthy of inclusion in your team this weekend.
GK – Jordan Pickford (Everton)
Everton haven’t started well defensively this season, conceding five goals in three games, but Jordan Pickford’s tally of -4 points should improve with home fixtures against Huddersfield and West Ham coming up. At 7.00m, he’s worth considering.
The second week of the Premier League season featured 35 goals and plenty of drama, with Manchester City winning 6-1 against Huddersfield, Manchester United losing 3-2 at Brighton and Chelsea edging a five-goal thriller against Arsenal. But which players stood out to make the EPL Best XI of the Weekend?
GK: Neil Etheridge, Cardiff City – seven points
Two weeks into the season, Neil Etheridge is proving to be an absolute steal at 1.50m. The Cardiff goalkeeper saved a last-minute penalty from Kenedy in Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Newcastle, earning an impressive seven points.
Domestic football returned with a bang this past weekend. Continue reading
Watford enter a third successive Premier League campaign under the guidance of a third manager, following the club’s decision to put an end to the often stale tenure of the Italian Walter Mazzarri.
In his place comes the burgeoning talents of the fiery Portuguese manager Marco Silva, a man whose managerial reputation grew exponentially during his brief spell in charge of the hapless Hull City. Continue reading