Playback: Moving time, excuses and expectations

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EXCUSES, EXCUSES

Now is the time of the season when expectations begin to dwindle or grow depending on how the first 11 games went.

Almost a third of the way into the 2017-18 campaign, the Premier League table is taking shape.

That means it’s ready to get out your “Premier League excuses” bingo card. You will likely have heard more than one of the following this past weekend:

  • Injuries are taking their toll
  • We didn’t get what we deserved
  • Squad rotation played a part
  • Refereeing decisions cost us 
  • We were unlucky 

Like clockwork both Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger marked their bingo cards earlier than most with Mourinho blaming a plethora of injuries after Manchester United’s defeat at Chelsea.

“Of course we missed some important players, especially the quality and physicality of some of them that couldn’t be available,” Mourinho said, before adding his side “deserved more” and that this is “not about what is fair and isn’t fair.”

Wenger took a shot at the referees, league-wide, after Arsenal’s defeat at Manchester City which saw Raheem Sterling awarded a penalty kick and Gabriel Jesus‘ goal which should’ve been ruled out for offside.

“Overall once again the referee made the decision today,” Wenger fumed. “It was a soft penalty and an offside goal but we are used to it when you come here. Last year we had two offsides goals against us. The referees don’t work enough and the level drops every season. Overall it’s unacceptable what happens.”

With pressure mounting as preseason expectations dwindle for plenty of the big boys as Manchester City race clear atop the table, what else did you expect?

Mourinho, Wenger et al. are old hands at this game but the new boys were at it too.

Mauricio Pellegrino is struggling to impact Southampton’s style of play as they lost at home to Burnley and now face a ridiculously tough run of games with just 13 points on the board from their first 11 games. He and his players talked about a lack of luck and another gem which we will start to see appear is players “not gelling” as a unit.

Call me cynical, but the only managers or players we won’t be hearing excuses from is that that are overachieving. Anyone connected with Manchester City, Burnley, Brighton, Huddersfield and possibly Tottenham, will not be spewing out excuses anytime soon.

As for the rest? Well, it’s that time of year when the pressure builds and there are no easy answers to failing to live up to the preseason hype. The easiest answer of all is to roll out one of the antiquated excuses listed above.


BILIC OUT AS MOVING TIME ARRIVES

Premier League chairman and boards are known to be the most ruthless in the game, but this season has been something else.

After 11 games last season just one manager had lost his job: Francesco Guidolin at Swansea City. Only five more managerial changes arrived during the entire season, with Bob Bradley replaced by Paul Clement at Swansea, Sam Allardyce replacing Alan Pardew at Crystal Palace, Marco Silva arriving at Hull City, Aitor Karanka ousted at Middlesbrough and Claudio Ranieri replaced by Craig Shakespeare at Leicester City.

Slaven Bilic lost his job on Monday at West Ham on Monday, becoming the fourth manager to do so already this season after Frank De Boer was sacked by Crystal Palace after four games, Craig Shakespeare was given just eight games by Leicester and Ronald Koeman was out after nine games at Everton.

Yet Bilic and Koeman losing their jobs at aspirational clubs in West Ham and Everton, who both spent big this summer, shows the root of the problem: the board has no back up plan. David Moyes has arrived at the Hammers and Sam Allardyce is said to be closing in on getting the job at Goodison on a short-term basis.

Player power played its part in the sacking of all four and in Bilic’s case rumblings of a severe lack of respect from senior first team players is tough to hear. Bilic’s time was up, he admitted it himself, but he deserved better treatment from his senior pros due to his commitment to the Hammers both as a player and a manager. History will be kind to him because of that, even if the move to London Stadium and losing Dimitri Payet wasn’t.

So, why are managers being fired so quickly this season?

One can only assume that the success of the newly-promoted teams is having a huge impact on the established PL clubs who are starting to realize that Brighton & Hove Albion, Huddersfield and Newcastle all being inside the top 11 is no fluke. They’re stable, solid and mean business in the top-flight and all of a sudden the assumption that one or two of the new boys will go straight back down is incorrect.

Panic is a word oft used to describe the actions of PL chairman and decision makers. It’s apt right now.

Who’s next?

The ongoing situation at Chelsea (long-time Technical Director Michael Emenalo left abruptly on Monday) could cause Antonio Conte‘s future to be plunged into further doubt, while Tony Pulis is under pressure at West Brom after just two wins in their last 20 PL games and Clement is under pressure at Swansea following five defeats in their last six outings.

We could very well see half the managers who started the Premier League season replaced by the end of the campaign.

With huge financial gains for being a PL club, the stakes are high and the directors are panicking, perhaps unlike ever before. That’s quite a feat.


MANCHESTER CITY UNSTOPPABLE?

They’ve made the best start in Premier League history after 11 games and right now Pep Guardiola‘s men look unstoppable.

Winning 10 of their opening 11 games, which have included victories against Chelsea, Liverpool and now Arsenal, Man City already have an eight-point lead atop the table and a record goal differential of +31.

The way they toyed with Arsenal was unfair, at times, on Sunday. Their fluid passing, total domination in the final third and ability to have midfielders continually arriving in the box saw Arsenal pinned back. Like everybody else who has faced City this season, they couldn’t cope.

City have scored 52 goals this season after 17 games in all competitions, which is a record for any PL club, and this is exactly why Guardiola arrived at Man City.

We’ve seen this before from City, not on this scale, but a fast start to the season where they looked impenetrable has faltered right around this period in seasons gone by.

The difference this season is they’ve already qualified for the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, meaning they can rest key players between now and the busy festive period. The difference is the sheer squad depth they have despite injuries to Benjamin Mendy and Vincent Kompany.

The fact that Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus were rolled out late on against Arsenal, with Yaya Toure, Danilo and Claudio Bravo unused subs, says it all.

Guardiola has, of course, been backed significantly in the transfer market but he’s not only spending cash like it’s going out of fashion, he’s improving every single player City has.

Look at Kevin De Bruyne and his weekly bouts of magic from central midfield. John Stones‘ growing composure in central defense. Raheem Sterling finally adding an end product to his game. Sergio Aguero’s rejuvenation. The examples go on and on.

Man City face Leicester, Huddersfield, West Ham and Southampton in their next four games in the Premier League. They are expected to win all four and by the time the first Manchester derby of the season arrives at Old Trafford on Dec. 9, United’s fans are surely already shuddering when thinking about just how many points City will be ahead of United, and the rest of the Premier League, by that point.

At this rate it is very plausible that City can go the entire season unbeaten and become one of the greatest teams we’ve ever seen.

Spending over $200 million each summer will help you do that but Guardiola has now had over 12 months in England and he’s experience has added that X-factor which was missing for the middle part of last season.


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

Chelsea update on transfer deals for Dzeko, Palmeri

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Chelsea are keeping their cards close to their chest when it comes to the potential arrival of Roma duo Edin Dzeko and Emerson Palmeri.

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It has been reported that Chelsea have bid $72.5 million for the pair, with Dzeko, 31, fitting the ball for the target forward they’ve been searching for.

Speaking to the media ahead of Chelsea’s League Cup semifinal second leg at Arsenal on Wednesday, Conte was tight-lipped over the approach for Dzeko and left back Palmeri.

“I don’t know. As you know very well about the transfer market, if there are news the club will inform you,” Conte said.

As for Roma, they have acknowledged that Dzeko, the former Manchester City striker, has been impacted by the talks surrounding his future.

Speaking ahead of their game against Sampdoria on Wednesday, manager Eusebio Di Francesco had the following to say about Dzeko’s future.

“As things stand at the moment, he will. Obviously I’m going to have to assess things and see what frame of mind he’s in. I’ll speak to him about it,” Di Francesco said.

With Roma fighting for the Italian title and in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, it’s tough to understand why they would want to offload Dzeko in January. However with Dzeko now 31, Roma could recoup all of the $40 million they paid to Man City (and then some) for the Bosnian forward in 2015. That’s a decent deal for them after getting two-and-a-half seasons and 61 goals in 117 appearances in all competitions (46 goals in 88 Serie A games) from Dzeko.

The man who won the Premier League title twice with Man City may also feel like he has a little left to prove in England as he fell behind Sergio Aguero and many others in the pecking order towards the end of his time at the Etihad Stadium. It is also believed Dzeko will almost double his wages if he moves from Roma to Chelsea.

With Peter Crouch and Andy Carroll mentioned as potential signings for Chelsea as Conte looks for a big man to mix up his attacking options, Dzeko is by far the most prolific name mentioned and he must have previously impressed Chelsea this season after scoring twice against them in a 3-3 Champions League draw at Stamford Bridge in October.

Alvaro Morata is out of form and has struggled with injuries, plus Michy Batshuayi has struggled to deliver whenever he has stepped in so far so this season, getting a reliable back-up striker has become the main aim for a Chelsea side in third place in the Premier League table and still in the FA Cup, League Cup and Champions League.

As for Palmeri, the deal for the Brazilian born left back, 23, will see him become a valuable squad member and add depth at left wing-back with no real options to back up Marcos Alonso. Think of a left-footed Davide Zappacosta who steps in admirably for Victor Moses at right wing-back whenever needed.

With Cesar Apzilicueta now a permanent fixture at center back, Conte needs help at left back, especially as he revealed on Tuesday that a loan deal for Kenedy to Newcastle United is all but complete.

Arsenal confirm talks over Aubameyang transfer

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Arsene Wenger has confirmed that Arsenal are in negotiations with Borussia Dortmund over signing striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Arsenal’s CEO Ivan Gazidis and their new Director of Recruitment, Sven Mislintat, are in German to talk with Dortmund about a deal for the 28-year-old Gabonese forward.

Aubamyenag hasn’t played in Dortmund’s last two games, first due to a disciplinary problem and he was then left out of their squad to face Hertha Berlin last Friday due to a lack of focus. The man who has scored 141 goals in 212 appearances for Dortmund in all competitions since 2013 seems to be edging his way out of the Westfalenstadion.

Asked if he was confident that the reigning Bundesliga top goalscorer would arrive at Arsenal during the January window, here’s what Wenger had to say.

“Confident or not confident, I don’t know. You never know how close you are,” Wenger said. “This is the kind of thing – he is one of the possible movements, but we have other things in mind as well. We have plenty of opportunities and the final decision is not made. At the moment we are not close to any deal, Aubameyang or anybody else.”

Okay, Arsene, so you may have other targets too. You sly fox…

But seriously, it seems like Arsenal have gone all in on Aubameyang and given his goalscoring record over the past five seasons, who can blame them? Here comes the juicy stuff.

Reports have stated that Dortmund wanted Olivier Giroud plus cash in exchange for Aubameyang, but Wenger said that negotiations aren’t yet at that stage.

Various reports over the weekend suggested that a fee of close to $70 million would nab Aubameyang from Dortmund, but it is believed Arsenal have offered close to $61 million so far.

The languid forward is a good friend of new Arsenal signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan as the duo wrecked havoc during their time together at Dortmund, and having Ozil and Mkhitaryan thread balls into Alexandre Lacazette and Aubameyang will leave Gunners fans salivating uncontrollably.

Stop drooling. Whip your keyboard or smartphone clean. But if Arsenal pull off this deal for Aubameyang, it could well signal a new era of challenging for the top four seriously and getting themselves back into the title conversation.

Yes, they’ve lost a final talent in Alexis Sanchez in the swap deal with Mkhitaryan, but they also gained a fine playmaker who will slot into their style of play seamlessly and they could have one of the most lethal marksman in world soccer on his way.

An intriguing final eight days of the window away with Wenger, Arsenal and Aubameyang.

List of top 30 richest clubs in world revealed

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10 Premier League were listed among the top 20 richest clubs in the world, with 14 PL clubs in the top 30.

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Deloitte released their Football Money League findings after analyzing the financial performance of clubs across the world for the 2016-17 season, with Manchester United coming out on top for the second season on the spin and the 10th time overall.

However, United were less than $2.2 million ahead of Real Madrid who finished in second, as the reigning European and Spanish champions switched places with third-place Barcelona. Bayern Munich and Manchester City rounded out the top five in fourth and fifth place respectively.

14 PL clubs were in the top 30, an increase from 12 this time last year. Arsenal were in sixth, Chelsea in eighth, Liverpool in ninth, Leicester in 14th, West Ham in 17th, Southampton in 18th and Everton in 20th.

Southampton are the only newcomer into the top 20, with Saints benefiting from their eighth-place finish in the PL last season, their fourth-straight finish in the top eight of the Premier League table, plus their appearance in the Europa League for a second-straight season. The South Coast boom in the PL also saw Bournemouth as the only debutants in places 21-30 with the Cherries now the 28th richest club on the planet, with Crystal Palace, West Brom and Stoke also among the top 30.

A noticeable trend is that Italian giants AS Roma and AC Milan both slipped out of the top 20, while just one team from France featured in the top 20 (Paris Saint-Germain), plus three teams each from Italy, Germany and Spain.

Below is a look at the top 30 and how much revenue they generated in 2016-17, with a more in-depth look at the top 20 available here via Deloitte.


  • 1. Manchester United: $828.4 million
  • 2. Real Madrid: $826.2.m
  • 3. Barcelona: $794m
  • 4. Bayern Munich: $720m
  • 5. Manchester City: $646.4m
  • 6. Arsenal: $597.1m
  • 7. Paris Saint Germain: $595.5m
  • 8. Chelsea: $524.2m
  • 9. Liverpool: $519.6m
  • 10. Juventus: $496.9m
  • 11. Tottenham: $435.5m
  • 12. Borussia Dortmund: $407.3m
  • 13. Atletico Madrid: $333.7m
  • 14. Leicester City: $332m
  • 15. Inter Milan: $321m
  • 16. Schalke: $281.9m
  • 17. West Ham: $261.3m
  • 18. Southampton: $259.8m
  • 19. Napoli: $245.8m
  • 20. Everton: $244m
  • 21. Lyon: $242.9m
  • 22. AC Milan: $234.8m
  • 23. Zenit St Petersburg: $220.9m
  • 24. Roma: $210.4m
  • 25. Borussia Monchengladbach: $207.5m
  • 26. Crystal Palace: $200.8m
  • 27. West Bromwich Albion: $196.6m
  • 28. Bournemouth: $195m
  • 29. Stoke City: $193.9m
  • 30. Benfica: $193.1m

Serie A: Juve keep winning to remain 1 point back of Napoli

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TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus closed the gap on Serie A leader Napoli back to just one point as the six-time defending champion eased past Genoa 1-0 on Monday.

Douglas Costa scored in the 16th minute, the first conceded by Genoa in five league matches. It was a less than convincing performance from Juventus but it was never really troubled, as goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny – standing in for the still-injured Gianluigi Buffon – was little more than a spectator.

“What was important was to win,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “At the end there was a bit of nervousness because we were lacking in energy a bit.

“We could have finished off the match in the first half, and again with a couple of occasions after the break. We didn’t manage to so compliments to Genoa.”

The battle for the Serie A title is shaping into a two-horse race. Juventus moved 10 points clear of third-placed Lazio, although the capital side has a match in hand.

“The season is still long and all those who are behind us can still get back into the race,” Allegri said. “It was important to stay in Napoli’s slipstream.”

Juventus needed to win after Napoli beat Atalanta 1-0 on Sunday.

Allegri’s side started brightly and had an early chance to take the lead but Genoa goalkeeper Mattia Perin did well to keep out a free kick from specialist Miralem Panic.

However, it did not take much longer to strike. Douglas Costa passed out left to Mario Mandzukic, who played a delightful return ball for the Brazil midfielder to slot into the bottom left corner.