PL Playback: Hot takes on all 20 teams

Leave a comment

Are you ready for some flaming hot takes on all 20 Premier League teams after the first three games of the season?

I can hear you screaming “heck yeah” from here.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Inspired by a question I asked you all on Sunday given the upcoming two-week long (it feels like two years, but whatever) international break, I sum up the mood in three words on each team following their opening three games of the season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Get involved in the comments section below to sum up in three words how you feel about how your team has started the 2017-18 campaign.

ArsenalArsene Wenger Out

Self explanatory but somehow we keep arriving at this point. The dramatic opening day win against Leicester showed that there was spirit there, but the shock loss at Stoke was followed up by a demoralizing 4-0 thumping at Liverpool. Not long until we see the “Wenger Out” banners return just a few months into his new two-year deal. Not all his fault, but the situation regarding star players Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and many others having just 12 months left on their contracts is a huge distraction. Wenger’s tactics have also been a huge reason why Arsenal has lost two of their opening three games. Some things never change.

Bournemouth – Surprisingly lackluster attack

Just one goal in their opening three games says it all. Eddie Howe‘s side have lost all three games so far and although they showed plenty of attacking intent against Manchester City, they succumbed to a devastating last-minute winner from Raheem Sterling. Jermain Defoe doesn’t look fully-fit and the Cherries must stop conceding sloppy goals. Far from an ideal start as their attacking unit doesn’t look well-oiled at all.

Brighton & Hove Albion – Need new striker

Glenn Murray and Tomer Hemed will get goals but probably not enough to keep Brighton in the Premier League. The Seagulls lost their first two games without really threatening Man City and Leicester but that was a real baptism of fire. They then drew 0-0 at Watford which isn’t a bad result, but the home side were down to 10-men early on. Brighton hit the woodwork twice in that game and they have yet to score in the PL. A new striker in the final days of the window is a must for Chris Hughton‘s well-organized side to give themselves a chance of staying up this season.

Burnley – Same old scrappers

Beating Chelsea on the opening day was a superb result and although they lost at home to West Brom the week after, the Clarets hung in there at Wembley and grabbed a late point against Totttenham in Week 3 thanks to new signing Chris Wood. Sean Dyche has sold Andre Gray and Michael Keane but has invested wisely and Burnley seem like they’re set for another season of midtable mediocrity. That will suit them very nicely.

Chelsea – Crisis almost over

With a horrible preseason, the Diego Costa situation hanging around, Eden Hazard injured and reports of Antonio Conte growing frustrated with a lack of new signings, losing in the FA Community Shield and then to Burnley on the opening day saw the reigning champs labelled a “crisis club” by many. They’ve rebounded magnificently since then with a gutsy win against Tottenham at Wembley and then they beat Everton convincingly to suggest Alvaro Morata can grab the goals they need to launch another title bid. A few more convincing wins and Chelsea will be everyone’s favorites to win the title again.

Crystal PalaceFrank De Boer

Reports state that the Dutchman could be fired after three games in charge. That says it all. De Boer, 47, has tried to usher in an attractive style of play which focuses on possession from the back. The only problem is, this is a squad assembled by a merchant of the direct game in Sam Allardyce and the players at FDB’s disposal don’t appear to be capable of carrying out his plans. With a nightmare run of games coming up in September and October, the pressure is already on Palace who seem set for another relegation scrap.

Everton – Close to exciting

One more striker away from really threatening the top four. Ronald Koeman will be working hard in the final days of the window after Everton have just two goals to their name through the opening three games and both have come from Wayne Rooney. The arrival of Gylfi Sigurdsson and several others have significantly strengthened Everton’s starting XI but they are a top striker away from having a superb season in the PL and Europe.

Huddersfield Town – The new darlings

Seven points from their opening three games means everyone has a new favorite second club in the PL. Like Iceland at EURO 2016, Wichita State most years in the NCAA tournament or Bournemouth in previous PL seasons, everybody wants Huddersfield to do well except when they’re club is playing against them. David Wagner has created a wonderful team spirit among the players and fans and the John Smith’s Stadium is a fortress. A relegation battle is likely but the Terriers will have most people rooting for them.

Leicester City – Foxes sometimes quit

Craig Shakespeare has made some very good signings over the summer with center back Harry Maguire looking like an absolute steal. However, his arrival hasn’t solved Leicester’s defensive issues as they conceded four at Arsenal and two against Manchester United. Late mistakes in both of those games cost the Foxes points and suggests that they sometimes lose focus. Going forward the duo of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez seem back to their best. Midtable.

Liverpool – Full throttle football

What a start for Jurgen Klopp‘s side who breezed into the UEFA Champions League group stage, then celebrated by battering Arsenal 4-0 in the Premier League. Seven points to open up the season is a very good return but there have been signs that defensive issues remain. Klopp will likely be busy in the final days of the window but the fact Philippe Coutinho‘s potential departure won’t ruin their season says it all. Mane, Salah and Firmino have been sublime. Now, can they do it against the lesser teams in the PL?

Manchester City – Defensive flaws remain

Pep Guardiola‘s men have shown fighting spirit to grab a late point against Everton when down to 10-men and then seal a dramatic win at Bournemouth following their opening day win at Brighton. Still, defensive issues are a little concerning for City and Pep is finding it hard to keep both Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus happy. That said, City looked better balanced than last season and goalkeeper Ederson already looks like a big upgrade. They’ve spent big but what happens if Vincent Kompany gets injured?

Manchester United – Horses roam free

A stunning start to the season from Jose Mourinho who has exclaimed he simply “let’s the horses run freely” late in games. 10 goals scored and none conceded with three wins from three has seen United put down a marker and the easier games keep on rolling after the break. United have big challenges ahead but Romelu Lukaku is scoring, Nemanja Matic is holding down the midfield and Paul Pogba is already looking influential in attack. The Red Devils are rampant.

Newcastle United – Hope springs eternal

After two defeats and zero goals to open the season there was plenty of doom and gloom around St James’ Park with talk continuing about Rafael Benitez potentially leaving as struggles in the transfer market continued. Cue a 3-0 win against West Ham as the Magpies pulverized the Hammers to instill fresh hope among the Geordie faithful that this is their year. Plenty of work to be done but Newcastle seem to have plenty of attacking weapons who can hurt opponents.

Southampton – Everything but goals

Saints have been in the top six of the PL in terms of shots attempted,average possession and passes but one thing remains tough for the South Coast club: scoring goals. Mauricio Pellegrino has brought back high-pressing to Saints but 0-0 draws against Swansea City and Huddersfield shows the same issues as last season remain. Manolo Gabbiadini and Charlie Austin will get Southampton goals but taking chances in key areas remains a big problem. Once it clicks, Saints should be set for another top 10 finish.

Stoke City – Solid and steady

An opening day defeat against Everton was a close run thing and then a 1-0 win against Arsenal kicked off their home campaign in style. Jese and Choupo-Moting seem like inspired acquisitions and Mark Hughes‘ men will be a lot more solid this season with Jack Butland fit and a new 3-4-3 formation getting the best out of their players. Expect another top 10 finish from the Potters.

Swansea City – Recovering from Sigurdsson

The Swans had a rough offseason with Gylfi Sigurdsson finally moving on for $63 million to Everton last week. Paul Clement will make some more key additions in the final days of the window with Wilfried Bony close to a Swans return and Sam Clucas already seeming like a great buy. A win away at Palace was vital and four points from seven isn’t a disaster all things considered. Important final few days of the transfer window ahead.

Tottenham Hotspur – Wembley jinx remains

What is going on for Spurs at Wembley? They dominated both Burnley and Chelsea both walked away from their first two PL games at Wembley with one point after late goals for their opponents in each game. The Wembley jinx remains and so does Harry Kane‘s as he’s never scoring in August. He has now gone 13 games without a goal in the month and Spurs will be hoping things settle down for their main man in September. Tottenham will be challenging for a top four spot but need a win at Wembley ASAP to get rid of their supposed hoodoo.

Watford – Signs of progress

Marco Silva has quietly gone about his rebuild of the Hornets and they are unbeaten after three games with an impressive draw against Liverpool kicking things off. Watford seem more dynamic in attack with Richarlison and Andre Gray and a little more organized too as Nathaniel Chalobah pulls the strings in midfield. Watford will be pushing for the top 10 this season.

West Bromwich Albion – Same old Pulis

Seven points from nine and Tony Pulis is at it again. His team are scoring goals from set piece situations and have only conceded once this season so far. The situation surrounding captain Jonny Evans with a potential move to Man City is worrying, but Jay Rodriguez adds a cutting-edge up top. Expect West Brom to get to 40 points early in the season and then it is all about mental focus to see what is possible.

West Ham United – Nightmare via experience

Slaven Bilic‘s future is reportedly up in the air after the Hammers spent big in the offseason but have lost all three games away from home. Without any games at the London Stadium due to the World Championships athletics, it was tough for West Ham to be on the road three times to open up the new season but they have conceded 10 goals and scored just twice through Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. With Marko Arnautovic sent off for a silly elbow in their second game, plus mistakes from Pablo Zabaleta and Joe Hart, experience is not proving valuable after a nightmare start for the Hammers.

Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

$280m? Who cares? Salah is the rare “unsellable” player

Leave a comment

The gossip reports are out there, with lofty claims that Real Madrid and Barcelona are willing to pay as much as $280 million dollars for Mohamed Salah.

Normally that figure triggers something in my brain that screams, “Sell! Sell! Sell before they realize what they’ve offered!”

[ MORE: Best PL summer buys ]

That’s not happening with Mohamed Salah.

This isn’t an inflated fee for a young English player like Ross Barkley or John Stones, nor is it a club throwing a lofty and desperate figure at a very good but supremely overvalued player like Philippe Coutinho. Even Raheem Sterling, who I advocated selling, has proven replaceable.

In the case of Salah, his Golden Boot figure is likely to dwarf any in the Premier League era. He’s at 28, three behind Luis Suarez’s 31. Cristiano Ronaldo has bagged 31 once Alan Shearer and Andy Cole hold the modern record with 34.

Salah needs six to tie Shearer. Here’s Liverpool’s run-in: Crystal Palace (A), Everton (A), Bournemouth (H), West Brom (A), Stoke City (H), Chelsea (A), Brighton and Hove Albion (H).

Five of those teams absolutely hemorrhage goals. Would you bet against Salah?

By the way, Salah has 10 assists, too. Sure Jurgen Klopp deserves credit for buying and deploying the Egyptian wizard, but

When Klopp argued that Liverpool was not a selling club, this is the exact example to follow. Selling Coutinho — again, not trying to poke the bear that is ornery overvaluing fan — is fine in a world where your club has Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah

But selling one of Europe’s leading scorers is almost never okay for a club challenging for a Champions League crown and with the clear caliber of a Premier League title hunter.

I’d argue that for this club, one who has sold Coutinho and Suarez, there is not a fee that meets Salah straight-on.  He’s 25 and living in the air just below Lionel Messi and Neymar.

The Messi comparisons I keep reading are fun but still unbelievably premature by every stretch of the imagination. By the time Messi was Salah’s age he had league seasons of 34, 31, 50, and was en route to a 46-goal mark. He posted 68 combined assists over those four seasons.

If this is somehow an aberration, and Salah cannot find this form ever again, well, that’s bad luck and a risk worth its weight in standard setting.

There is not a replacement player.

There is no fee.

Say it again now.

Dangerous playmaker Silva joins Montreal Impact (video)

Photo by Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images

Alejandro Silva’s got a creative mind, and that’s something Montreal will welcome with open arms.

The Uruguayan signed with the Impact this week, joining Ignacio Piatti and Saphir Taider as playmakers in Quebec.

[ MORE: Top PL summer buys ]

Silva, 28, is a right-sided and forward-playing Argentine who can also play right back if necessary.

The Impact lost two of three to start the season, winning this weekend’s 401 Derby versus Toronto FC to put a number in the win column.

Lanus has been a fertile ground for Major League Soccer clubs in recent years, with Lucas Melano (Portland Timbers) and Miguel Almiron (Atlanta United) making the move to North America.

The South American club has also sent Gustavo Gomez to AC Milan and Oscar Benitez to Benfica.

Kante squashes PSG rumors: “I am at home” with Chelsea

AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
Leave a comment

At least one and erhaps two big Premier League clubs are going to finish outside of the UEFA Champions League this year.

As it stands now, those clubs are Arsenal and Chelsea. The former could still seal a spot in the UCL via winning the Europa League but Chelsea needs wins and help from the field to find a way into the fray.

[ MORE: Best PL summer buys ]

An absence for either side will send UCL-bound vultures over the rosters of the failed clubs, hoping to woo the best players with Champions League dreams.

N'Golo Kante has been a name bandied about as a potential departure should Chelsea miss its mark, with the French star mentioned as high atop Paris Saint-Germain’s wish list.

The midfielder, who turns 27 at the end of the month, has moved to squash those rumors (from The London Evening Standard):

“I am at home. It is my club, I am a Chelsea player.

“We will fight until the end to finish in the top four and to get in a Champions League position. We also have the FA Cup to play for – it is a good competition. Last season we failed in the final. It is the only trophy we can win this season, so we have to give everything to get to the final and win it.”

That’s good, because we’re looking forward to seeing what a midfield with Kante and Tiemoue Bakayoko could do with an offseason together.

Yet is there anyone out there doubting Kante’s intentions?

Who’ve been the most impactful Premier League summer buys?

Leave a comment

It’s been a heck of a season for Premier League transfer buys, and that includes a bevy of intra-league purchases.

So who’ve been the best imports? Probably a safe bet to set some parameters.

[ MORE: Alonso, Pedro have Morata’s back ]

We won’t count players like Aaron Mooy, who’s Huddersfield Town purchase was formalized after a loan, or those who returned from loan like Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen or Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere.

We’ll also opt against a couple Chelsea loanees signings, if just to whittle our list. Ruben Loftus-Cheek was magnificent before a long-term injury at Palace, and Kurt Zouma probably just sits beyond the Top Ten.

Mainz loanee Jonas Lossl of Huddersfield Town fits the bill, too. And for injuries: Who knows how high  Benjamin Mendy would’ve surged up this list?

Stats culled from WhoScored and Squawka.

Honorable mention – Antonio Rudiger, Mario Lemina, Richarlison, Alexandre Lacazette, Mat Ryan, Bernardo Silva, Steve MounieKyle Walker, Alvaro Morata, Florian Lejeune.

10. Jordan Pickford, Everton — Under siege at Sunderland for most of last season, Pickford probably expected smoother sailing than this: the Everton backstop has been forced into making the most saves in the Premier League (95). Fifty-four of those required him to dive. Only four teams have allowed more goals than Everton, which explains why some of you might be scratching your head at his inclusion.

9. James Tomkins, Crystal Palace — I thought the signing was silly, but Tomkins is nearly unrivaled in terms of interceptions per game in league play. Palace hasn’t been a defensive powerhouse, but his former club West Ham looks terrible since he moved across London.

8. Davinson Sanchez, Tottenham Hotspur – There have been bumps along the way — Sanchez is 21 — but he’s blessed with the speed to make up for his and others mistakes. A fine passer, Mauricio Pochettino should only further benefit from his career progression.

7. Ahmed Hegazi, West Bromwich Albion — Hegazi’s 2757 minutes played are the most amongst field players in the Premier League (though Alfie Mawson, Harry Maguire, Jack Cork, and Lewis Dunk could pass him by playing more than an hour in their match-in-hand).

6. Harry Maguire, Leicester City — The Foxes badly needed to lower the age of their center back corps, and can count their purchase of Maguire from Hull City as a coup. Perhaps no player other than Wilfred Ndidi has been as influential for Claude Puel‘s bunch.

5. Romelu Lukaku, Manchester United — Lukaku started dispelling myths about his production versus big teams when he was one of the lone stars in United’s Super Cup loss to Real Madrid. While he’s been up-and-down in terms of goals in said contests, his hold-up play and work ethic have been better than expected. His 21 key moments (14 goals, seven assists) are even with Roberto Firmino and trail only Mohamed Salah, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero, and Leroy Sane. Anthony Martial is the closest United comparison, and he has 14. Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard have 12.

4. Pascal Gross, Brighton and Hove Albion — The Ingolstadt transfer’s promise was quickly realized, and he’s posted five goals and eight assists. On a team with the fourth-lowest goal total in the league, that’s impressive. The only players with more PL assists: De Bruyne, Sane, Dele, David Silva, Salah, Pogba. Gross also ranks third in the league in crosses per game.

3. Nemanja Matic, Manchester United — It’s hard to fin the numbers to meet the eye test, but Matic flat out makes his team better. Maybe it’s organization, maybe it’s toughness, but there’s little doubt United is better in the middle of the park while former club Chelsea has struggled to find the same form since he skipped town. Advantage: Mou.

2. Ederson, Manchester City — Look only to last season’s status of City net minders to know how important the sweeper-style passing keeper is to Pep Guardiola‘s side. The Brazilian has pushed himself into competition for the starting gig at one of the World Cup favorites.

1. Mohamed Salah, Liverpool —  There is no other answer here, and Harry Kane’s injury essentially gift wraps the Golden Boot to the Egyptian. There was a question as to whether he’d bring his Serie A flourish over to England, and that seems absurd now.