There is no easing into the short MLS off-season; you go hard or you get left behind.
Here are the Top Three so far in terms of improving their rosters. (We will update this ranking periodically through the off-season):
Ryan Bertrand had a fine day for Southampton in its 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, forcing Spurs into an own goal and picking up a point for its relegation battle.
[ RECAP: Saints 1-1 Spurs ]
Saints now sit a point back of safety after Stoke City leapt over them with a Saturday win, and Bertrand says the club will be buoyed by a Sunday bonus.
“Very heavy, the rain didn’t help, just pleased to come away with the point,” Bertrand said. “We have to scrap it out. We have to analyze, look at our remaining fixtures, which games you want to win and which games we’ll be slightly be the underdogs and today was a bonus point on our journey.”
Saints host Watford in the FA Cup on Saturday before welcoming Brighton on Jan. 31 for a massive midweek six-pointer (It’s the appropriate time of year to consider matches six-pointers, yes?).
Harry Kane made amends for a Davinson Sanchez own goal as Tottenham Hotspur drew Southampton 1-1 at St. Mary’s on Sunday.
Southampton is now winless in 11 Premier League matches, while Spurs are unbeaten in six.
[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]
Spurs entered the game with Christian Eriksen and Hugo Lloris out through sickness and several more not at 100 percent, and Sanchez was surely feeling ill when his sliding attempt to block a Ryan Bertrand cross beat his own keeper to the inside post.
Stephens just missed making up for his error when he zipped onto Ward-Prowse’s free kick but headed just wide of the far upper 90.
Mario Lemina forced Vorm into a save after a 41st minute set-up by Gabbiadini.
[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]
[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]
Ward-Prowse tried his luck from 25 yards to start the second half, but Vorm saw the ball the whole way into his arms.
Spurs grew into the second half, and Dele Alli lashed wide of the near post in the 65th minute. Vertonghen buzzed the tower with a left-footed shot five minutes later.
Good work from Kane and Sissoko ended with an on-the-doorstep Lamela shooting off a Saints defender and out, poorly adjudged to be a goal kick.
Obafemi misjudged a chance to redirect a cross past Vorm in the 87th minute, and Cedric ventured a laser wide of the goal as Saints looked for a winner. Boufal was then blocked by Sanchez after taking a touch too much in the box.
Kane had late opportunity for Spurs, but dragged his shot or pass through the six without a receiver.
This hasn’t been a good league year for Cristiano Ronaldo nor his club Real Madrid, and the reigning league winners let their frustrations out on Deportivo de la Coruna on Sunday.
[ MORE: 2 Robbies on Alexis-Mkhi ]
Ronaldo scored twice in the 7-1 rout, and the second saw his face bloodied by a boot when he went low to head home in the second half for Real’s sixth goal.
Fortunately for Ronaldo, he’s the sort of player who doesn’t care about his looks. Hilariously, cameras caught the mega star using a cell phone to assess the damage.
The goals end a three-match league dry spell for the Ballon d’Or collector, who has 17 goals in 25 matches across all competitions this season.
Real is 16 points back of Barcelona in La Liga, on pace to finish fourth in the division.
Stoke City, Swansea City, and now Watford have all made managerial changes in the last month, and await the long-term response of their players to new bosses Paul Lambert (so far, so good), Carlos Carvalhal (mixed, but a win), and probably Javi Gracia, respectively.
That means 40 percent of Premier League clubs have ditched their Opening Day bosses this season. Some were overdue, others were debatable, and the latest — Watford’s sacking of Marco Silva after denying Everton’s pursuit of the boss — is a real head scratcher.
[ MORE: Watford fires Silva, blames Everton ]
How have the moves worked so far?
Hodgson is actually on pace to outdo Sam Allardyce‘s 8W-2D-11L campaign to save Palace’s 2016-17 season. FDB’s short-lived campaign is difficult to judge, his lone win coming in the League Cup against Championship competition, but there’s little debate as to whether Hodgson’s discipline has worked at Selhurst Park.
Everton’s entire season has been the same tale: beat the lower half clubs but fail to meet expectations against almost anyone of merit. That’s taken a dive in recent weeks, as Allardyce has drawn West Brom twice and lost at Bournemouth. Jury’s out, and Allardyce has a lot to prove as another team brings him in and spends dough on his behalf.
It’s now two-straight seasons of poor starts dooming the Leicester City manager, and Shakespeare understandably did not get patience considering the Foxes fired the architect of their stored PL run in Claudio Ranieri (who has Nantes fifth place in Ligue 1). Puel got a rough ride from expectation-heavy Saints fans, who’d probably love to have him back right now. This is an unqualified success, and Leicester may just make it back to Europe.
It’s hard to gauge whether Carvalhal was the right hire, but Swans’ record has improved in the five matches since he was fired and the lone losses are to Liverpool and Spurs. The firing, it seems, was the right call.
The wins still need to come, but West Brom do look a more promising side and Alan Pardew’s desire to play two strikers certainly makes for better entertainment than Tony Pulis’ unit. Like Everton, the jury is still out. If we had to judge, we’d say it’s the right move for a fan base which prefers a more fashionable style of play (but also prefers being in the Premier League).
So far, Moyes is doing wonders for his reputation while performing feats that Everton is still seeking from Allardyce; West Ham has spent some money, and Moyes is getting performances out of Marko Arnautovic and using his width well (Arthur Masuaku has been impressive at full back).