PL Playback: Hot takes on all 20 teams

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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

Prince William’s dilemma: Royal Wedding clashes with FA Cup final

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The date for the Royal Wedding between Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle has been set and there’s a bit of a dilemma for Prince William: it’s on the same day as the 2017-18 FA Cup final on May 19, 2018.

Why does that matter?

William has been the president of the English Football Association for the last 10 years and he, along with other members of the Royal Family, usually attend the showpiece final at Wembley and hand out the trophy to the winning team.

Not this time.

With the date confirmed on Friday for the Royal Wedding takes place at Windsor Castle on May 19, specific times have yet been announced for the ceremony. Could that mean a late dash from the wedding to hand out the trophy at Wembley for Prince William? If his beloved Aston Villa make the final, maybe it’s not out of the question…

In a statement to the BBC, the FA had the following to say about the “fixture clash” in May:

“Everyone at The FA is delighted for HRH Prince Harry and Megan Markle with the announcement of their wedding at Windsor Castle next year. Saturday May 19 promises to be a wonderful day with a special royal occasion followed by English football’s showpiece event, the Emirates FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium. With millions coming together to watch both events at home and around the world, it will be a day to celebrate.”

The life of a royal isn’t all fun and games…

Guardiola eyes January deals after winning Manager of Month

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Scary news: Manchester City are looking to improve in the January transfer window.

Pep Guardiola confirmed on Friday that Premier League leaders Man City will look to buy a new central defender in January.

City, currently on a record-breaking 15-game winning run and sitting 11 points clear at the top of the Premier League table, have Nicolas Otamendi, Vincent Kompany, Eliaquim Mangala and John Stones as their center backs, but both Stones and Kompany have been out injured recently.

Speaking to the media ahead of City’s clash with Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com), Guardiola revealed he is keen to add defensive reinforcements.

“We speak about (January signings) with the club and Txiki Begiristain (the club’s director of football),” Guardiola said. “We have just three guys in central defense. We don’t want to sign someone for a few months. We want to sign them for years and we have to make sure it’s the right guy.”

Who could come in?

Virgil Van Dijk and Jonny Evans were both linked with moves to Man City in the summer and it is an area of the pitch City clearly want to add in. Southampton have said that van Dijk will not be leaving this season but if a massive offer arrives in January then it may be tough for the struggling Saints to turn it down this time after VVD wanted to push through a move to Liverpool in the summer.

As for Evans, he is playing week in, week out at West Brom but his future remains far from clear with Arsenal and Man City both looking to add the former Manchester United center back in the summer.

Aside from transfer talk, Guardiola was also named the Premier League Manager of the Month for November earlier on Friday, with the Spaniard winning the award for the third-straight month.

Only Antonio Conte had achieved that feat in PL history before but City’s boss isn’t getting ahead of himself as many have already handed his team the 2017-18 Premier League title.

“Tomorrow is an important game. Spurs are so tough. Last season and this season. Nothing is going to change – we are not going to win the Premier League tomorrow, we are not going to lose it either,” Guardiola said. “It’s important to play better, that is the most important thing. The record will always stay there until one day it is broken. I am happy not with the results but the way we play. Statistics are good but I have the feeling we can be much, much better.”

Gulp. City being better than they already are? That is a scary thought…

Mourinho: Eric Bailly out; United may look to buy in January

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Jose Mourinho has revealed that Eric Bailly requires ankle surgery and will be out for up to three months for Manchester United.

The Ivorian center back has been missing since early November after suffering the injury on international duty.

Bailly, 23, hasn’t recovered as quickly as United would have liked and his injury is more serious than originally thought.

“He [Bailly] goes to surgery, the decision is made,” Mourinho told MUTV. “I don’t say (he’s out) for the rest of the season but it’s for the next two or three months.”

United have plenty of options at center back with Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo all around, but all three have been out with injuries during this season. That said, Bailly is by far United’s most consistent and reliable defender and having him out until February or March is a big blow for Mourinho.

As for the January transfer market, Mourinho may not go and buy a replacement for Bailly but he did hint at perhaps doing some business in the January even though he isn’t the biggest fan of the mid-season window.

“Not a big defender of the January market,” Mourinho said. “There are players and situations you have the chance to do and you shouldn’t lose them. I don’t like January market just to buy.”

United have been linked with a January move for Antoine Griezmann but Mourinho refused to comment on speculation linking the French international with a move to Old Trafford.

Griezmann looked set to move in the summer with United, Barcelona and PSG all interested in signing the striker, but with his manager at Atleti, Diego Simeone, saying that he will now be able to leave Atletico if the right offer comes in, surely United will be looking at bolstering their attack if the right deal can be done.

Buying in January, especially for a player of Griezmann’s caliber, usually comes at a premium but what if he has a great summer with France at the 2018 World Cup? His transfer value would surely rocket then.

With the Red Devils 11 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City, they will need something special to claw back points in the second half off the campaign. Griezmann’s arrival would make everyone sit up and take notice, even if United don’t exactly need to boost their attacking talent.

Simply put: if a player of Griezmann’s caliber becomes available, as it appears is the case, you need to pull out all of the stops to try and sign him.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan‘s future at United appears to be over, so maybe if they can move the Armenian playmaker on and free up some cash to bring in Griezmann (a good friend of Paul Pogba) then a deal can be done. With Atleti not qualifying for the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League, it appears the Spanish club are willing to let Griezmann leave after he handled the summer of transfer speculation admirably and remained with the La Liga outfit during their transfer embargo and move to a new stadium.

Conte on “lucky” Man City; expects to “suffer” v. Southampton

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Antonio Conte appreciates Manchester City’s incredible recording breaking 15-game winning run but admits there is an element of luck helping out Pep Guardiola‘s men too.

[ MORE: Wenger on Ozil, Wilshere ]

Conte, who took Chelsea on a 13-game winning run last season before losing to Tottenham Hotspur on Jan. 4 when they could’ve equaled the previous record, is still hoping that his side can challenge for the title despite being 14 points behind Man City.

“They are a good team but to have 15 wins in a row, you must be also lucky because in many games they won in the last minutes. When you have this type of run, for sure, you must also be a bit lucky but they are deserving this,” Conte said.

Jose Mourinho also pointed to the “luck” being in Man City’s favor and it something which is said quite a lot when a team goes on an incredible winning run. But are City really “lucky” to have grabbed late wins against the likes of Bournemouth, Huddersfield, Southampton and West Ham throughout the run? Or do they just have players who are mentally focused and can deliver in key moments? It’s probably a mixture of those factors.

Conte then went on to say that his team could still defend their PL title despite City’s record-breaking start to the season.

“We must find the right way to contend the title. Not only us but Manchester United, Tottenham, Liverpool,” Conte said. “Time is moving on and they [Man City] are continuing to win. In the last nine game we won 7 games, drew one and lost one. The distance, the gap still improved for Manchester City. It is possible to draw away to Liverpool and lose one but now we are 14 points behind.”

So, that’s not so much a title concession from Conte but him pointing out that it will be very tough for his team to claw any points back on City. Still, it’s a little different from his comments after their loss at West Ham last weekend when he seemed to all but concede their title chances.

“So you’re saying there’s a chance….”

Heading into Chelsea’s game against Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) Conte also said he expects his team to suffer against Saints.

“Tomorrow will be very difficult,” Conte said. “Southampton are a good team with a lot of good young players with a great future and will make us suffer. They are a good team.”

In terms of Chelsea team news ahead of the game Conte revealed that David Luiz is suffering from swelling in his knee and has no return date set, while Alvaro Morata could return to the lineup after being left out for the midweek win at Huddersfield.

The Italian coach also said he will sit down with others at Chelsea to discuss potential targets in the January transfer window soon, but that the final decision on new players coming in was not his.