Sylvain Distin and Stewart Downing are adding some spice to an already contentious rivalry in anticipation of Liverpool and Everton’s meeting at Anfield tomorrow.
With Everton fighting hard for a European place, Toffees defender Distin began the tiff by proclaiming on Twitter this morning, “My red followers been very quiet this season. I wonder why. Now they beg me for a mistake to make them feel better. I’m feeling sad for them.”
Dystin’s tease referred back to when he gifted Luis Suarez a goal in the reverse fixture at Goodison Park by underhitting a backpass. The mistake was part of the 2-2 draw in that match.
With the first jab thrown, the Liverpool winger didn’t offer a direct response but remained confident, saying to ESPN, “The fact that they haven’t won at Anfield for so long has to play on their minds, I am sure David Moyes will get right amongst them. He must be desperate to beat Liverpool. But we don’t want that record to end. We did really well against Everton in the three games last season and we would have won at Goodison earlier this season but for Luis Suarez’s goal being wrongly disallowed. We have to be ready and make sure we start well. It will be a good test for us and it will be tight with battles all over the pitch, but we’re confident we can get another win.”
Everton currently sit in 6th position in the Barclays Premier League table, 5 points above 7th placed Liverpool. A win for the visitors could bump them into a tie for 5th with Spurs, although they’d most likely still be behind on goal differential and Spurs have a game in hand. A 5th place finish would grant Everton a place in next season’s Europa League. 4th place’s Champions League prize seems a bit out of reach, with Arsenal sitting 5 points ahead of the Toffees in that spot.
Below you will find the first half of the PL analyzed (Arsenal though to Manchester City), with the second half coming up later today.
Plus, click on the link above to follow all of ProSoccerTalk’s reviews of the 2016-17 season.
Let’s get to it.
Final position: 5th (Europa League group stage) Star man: Alexis Sanchez – Involved in 34 goals (24 scored, 10 assisted) Sanchez was the main man once again. He’ll likely move on this summer. The Gaffer: Arsene Wenger – Speculation over his future dominated the entire season and the Arsenal boss admitted it cost them a place in the top four. A poor season by Wenger’s very, very high standards. Mark out of 10: 5/10 – Not making the top four for the 21st consecutive season is the wake-up call Arsenal needed. Collapse after UCL exit to Bayern Munich costly and speculation around Wenger, Ozil and Sanchez impacted the whole team. Late surge couldn’t save them. Season summed up in a word: Regression.
Final position: 9th Star man: Josh King – The Norwegian was on fire in 2017, scoring 13 of his 16 PL goals. The big boys will come calling this summer. The Gaffer: Eddie Howe – A fine job from Howe as he stuck to his philosophy even when a relegation battle looked likely. Strong finish cemented his status as one of the best young managers in Europe. Mark out of 10: 8/10 – Their highest-ever finish as a club says it all. The Cherries shook off suggestions of a Sophomore slump and rallied late in the season. Third-straight season of PL despite getting some big transfer moves wrong. Season summed up in a word: Progression.
Final position: 16th Star man: Tom Heaton – Will surely challenge Joe Hart for England’s No.1 jersey after a fine season. His goal was peppered with efforts but he was the star man on many occasions. Heaton led by example as the skipper. The Gaffer: Sean Dyche – “The Ginger Mourinho” showed his class once again as he made Burnley tough to beat and worked wonders with limited resources. Expect to see him in the PL for many, many years. Mark out of 10: 8/10 – With just one away win all season the Clarets relied on their home form and they turned Turf Moor into a fortress. Dyche and his squad learned from their previous exploits in the PL and adapted much better this time. Key addition of Hendrick in midfield worked superbly. Season summed up in a word: Resilience.
Final position: 1st (Champions League group stage) Star man: N'Golo Kante – The PFA Player of the Year was sublime in midfield and he has now won two titles on the spin. Phenomenal athlete and wonderful soccer brain. He remains unassuming but is getting all of the credit he deserves. Azpilicueta, Luiz, Hazard and Costa all had fine seasons too. The Gaffer: Antonio Conte – Italian maestro galvanized Chelsea early in the season and placed his side in a 3-4-3 formation to perfection. His first season in England couldn’t have gone any better. Mark out of 10: 10/10 – Chelsea were the most efficient team in the PL and setting a record of 30 wins from 38 games says it all. Only one small wobble during the run-in and not having European action helped them dominate the PL. Ruthless. Season summed up in a word: Dominant.
Final position: 14th Star man: Wilfried Zaha – The winger is finally coming of age and in the second half of the season he was sublime. Wilf has the pace and power to terrify opponents and now he’s adding the goals and assists. The Gaffer: Alan Pardew/Sam Allardyce – Pardew dismissed around the festive period with Palace in huge trouble. Allardyce struggled initially but marquee wins late in the season edged the Eagles away from the bottom three. Job done for Big Sam. Mark out of 10: 5/10 – This expensively assembled squad massively under-performed with Benteke and Cabaye struggling. Big wins against Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool saved them and showed what they’re capable of. Season summed up in a word: Shaky.
Final position: 7th (Europa League third-qualifying round) Star man: Romelu Lukaku – The big Belgian scored 25 times in the PL but his future remains uncertain as Chelsea and others circle. Lukaku’s goals took the Toffees back to Europe. The Gaffer: Ronald Koeman – A very solid first season at Goodison Park as Everton flirted with the top four throughout the campaign. Another summer of his buys and this will be a true Koeman team. Mark out of 10: 7/10 – Overall a fine season for Everton. Not getting further in the cup competitions will have been annoying but being back in the Europa League was always the aim. Mission accomplished. Season summed up in a word: Rebuilding.
Final position: 18th (Relegated) Star man: Harry Maguire – The marauding center back surely remain in the PL with another club. Handed the captains armband and excelled with perfectly-timed tackles and vital goals. Couldn’t do it all on his own. The Gaffer: Mike Phelan/Marco Silva – Phelan didn’t really have a chance after Steve Bruce left before the season but started well before fading badly. Silva has been a revelation since arriving, somehow giving Hull a chance of survival as he wheeled and dealed, then made them into a solid outfit. The Portuguese coach is high on the list of many PL clubs this summer. Mark out of 10: 6/10 – Okay, so the Tigers were relegated but they did better than most expected. They looked dead and buried for most of the season but a fine charge late on showed character and took things down to the penultimate weekend of the season. Season summed up in a word: Valiant.
Final position: 12th Star man: Kasper Schmeichel – The Danish goalkeeper was superb for most of the season and had to make a string of fine saves in Leicester’s fairytale run to the UCL quarterfinal. He gets better every season. The Gaffer: Claudio Ranieri/Craig Shakespeare – Such a shame that Ranieri was fired but Leicester were in freefall and heading for relegation under his guidance. Shakespeare steadied the ship but there’s still uncertainty over whether he will get the gig full time. Mark out of 10: 5/10 – Never recovered from a poor start and although the UCL run took its toll, this squad underachieved massively compared to their title-winning campaign 12 months ago. This season showed what a miracle their PL title win was. Season summed up in a word: Reality.
Final position: 4th (Champions League playoff round) Star man: Sadio Mane – The Senegalese flyer was on fire whenever he played but after missing a large chunk of the season through AFCON duty and injury, Liverool fans will be wondering what could’ve been. Joint-top scorer with 13 goals and his pace adds an extra dimension to their attack. The Gaffer: Jurgen Klopp – In his first full season at Liverpool the German coach delivered a Champions League return for just the second time in eight seasons. It looked like they might mount a title charge but defensive weaknesses cost them during a bad run in January. Mark out of 10: 7/10 – This season could’ve been so much better for Liverpool had they not wobbled massively at the turn of the year. That said, they recovered well and achieved what many expected for them this season: a top four finish. Season summed up in a word: Expected.
Final position: 3rd Star man: David Silva – Wonderful season from the Spanish midfielder who not only created and scored goals but became the heartbeat of the team. Guardiola put all his faith in Silva and he repaid him. Perhaps his best-ever season at City. The Gaffer: Pep Guardiola – A tough first season for Pep in the PL as defensive issues riddled City’s progress. Claudio Bravo and John Stones struggled with the free-flowing style expected in defense and this will have been a huge learning curve. First season as a manager without any silverware. Mark out of 10: 6/10 – Given all the changes and the fact that City have an ageing squad, third place was fine. But that’s it. The UCL exit to Monaco in Round of 16 was a big disappointment, as was the FA Cup semifinal defeat to Arsenal. Season summed up in a word: Average.
One of the players concentrated at the heart of his side’s success was midfielder Fernandinho, who along with Guardiola, had his share of ups and downs during the Premier League season.
As someone not often associated with flashy play or beautiful goals, it’s easy for the Brazilian veteran to get lost in the mix at times, however, it was his solid play in front of the City back line that helped stabilize the club’s midfield throughout the 2016/17 campaign and since his arrival in 2013.
PST had the opportunity to catch up recently with Fernandinho, where the Brazilian discussed the Premier League season, qualifying for next season’s Champions League and much more.
The 32-year-old finished his season strong, even closing out City’s PL finale against Watford on Championship Sunday with a goal of his own, but it wasn’t always smooth sailing.
Just after the transition to 2017, Fernandinho was handed a four-match suspension by the FA for serious foul play during a match against Burnley, but it was that experience, among others, that helped Fernandinho improve under Guardiola.
“Personally it was good because I have been playing a few different positions and learning a lot of things with him [Pep],” Fernandinho told PST. “I am happy with that. Finishing the season playing like this is good because I improved myself during the year after having a tough moment where I was suspended for several games.
“That’s why it was good for me. I learned a lot and it’s going to be giving me more experience with my football and I hope I can put my stamp on the game and help my teammates win as much as possible.”
This season was one of finding rhythm for many teams throughout the PL, especially for those with new high-profile managers like Antonio Conte, Jose Mourinho and Ronald Koeman taking over new positions in England. However, it was Guardiola’s move to the Etihad Stadium that was easily the most noted and carefully-watched from day one.
The former Barcelona boss has always been watched — mostly because of his success while with the Spanish giants and with Bundesliga power Bayern Munich — and even though it wasn’t always easy for the Citizens with their new manager there were certainly signs of momentum as the season progressed.
“We just needed a little bit of time to know the players and for the players to know him,” Fernandinho said. “He had a new style of play and sometimes it’s not easy to adjust so quickly. It’s takes a bit of time. But I think we improved a lot since the beginning of the year, the beginning of the season. For sure for the next season it’s going to be completely different and much better.”
One area that Fernandinho and his side will need to improve upon next season is the team’s home form, which the midfielder also noted.
While the Citizens posted 11 victories at the Etihad in 2016/17, Guardiola’s group mustered up seven draws, dropping 14 crucial points in the title race.
That’s something Fernandinho says must change next season.
“We solved some of our problems and we improved a bit on what we have to do, but of course we drew so many games, especially at home, and we lost so many points at home,” the Brazilian told PST. “Since the beginning we tried to play good football. We tried to make it attractive football, but sometimes that’s not possible. I think the way we finished the league this year was okay. For next year, for the next season, we are going to definitely be better than this year.”
The PL has proven be one of the toughest leagues to compete in for decades, making City’s recent success and consistency so impressive, even prior to Guardiola’s takeover.
Guardiola’s first season in charge with the Citizens marked the seventh straight year in which the team has finished inside the top-four of England’s top flight, while the club has also qualified for the UCL for the seventh consecutive season after not having reached the competition prior to the 2011/12 campaign.
For Fernandinho, although there may be disappointment for not winning the league, Man City is pleased with its success given the level of competition that the club faces on a week in and week out basis in the PL.
“It’s important because we’ve got many good teams in England and we fought great players and of course it’s four positions that go through to qualify for Champions League,” Fernandinho said. “It’s not easy. We are happy for that to secure third place and we’re going to try to do our best to finish better than we finished this year in Champions League as well.
“We have to be proud because the Premier League isn’t easy to finish in the top four. We play against good players and good teams, so we have to be proud to play in the Champions League every year.”
David Moyes has resigned as manager of Sunderland after the Black Cats were relegated from the Premier League following a dismal 2016-17 season.
Sunderland won just six of their 38 PL games, finishing bottom of the table and 16 points from safety as they were relegated to the Championship.
Below is the statement from Sunderland who confirmed Moyes’ departure following a meeting with owner Ellis Short on Monday.
Sunderland AFC has announced that David Moyes has resigned from his position as manager of the football club.
David advised the chairman and chief executive of his decision to leave the club at a meeting in London this morning (Monday 22nd May 2017).
Sunderland’s owner said he had “pursued Moyes for a considerable period prior to his appointment last summer” and also stated that Moyes “has chosen to leave the club without compensation.”
Short added that “in the days ahead we will take some time for reflection, and then focus on recruitment and pre-season as we prepare for our Championship campaign.”
Moyes had the following to say after walking away from Sunderland after just one season in charge at the Stadium of Light.
“I would like to thank Ellis Short and the Board for giving me the opportunity to manage Sunderland and the fans for always being so passionately supportive of their club,” Moyes said. “I wish the players and my successor well in their efforts towards promotion back to the Premier League.”
This was what Sunderland’s fans would have wanted as they need a huge rebuild of the squad and a fresh start in the second-tier.
With Short actively trying to sell the club, instability at the top has gone through the team and the likes of Jermain Defoe, Jordan Pickford and Lamine Kone are all expected to follow Moyes out of the door this summer.
In truth, Moyes was doomed from the start as a club which lost Sam Allardyce as manager during preseason as he took charge of England never recovered. With top players sold and Moyes given few funds to strengthen, the fact he was talking about a relegation battle just a few weeks into the season said it all.
Moyes’ reputation is in tatters after disastrous spells at Manchester United and now Sunderland.