Claudio Ranieri

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“The Moment” of each Premier League team’s season

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Sometimes the moment that defines a Premier League team’s season is a turning point. Other times it’s a wonderful goal or a horrific mistake while others find that moment off the field.

Sometimes, that moment is easy to select  — See: City, Leicester — while others aren’t so simple.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

Arsenal – They fooled us again, you know? Arsenal ran through the Premier League following an Opening Day loss to Liverpool, not seeing another ‘L’ until a Dec. 13 loss at Everton. That one could count as a moment, but we’ll choose the following match. Raheem Sterling finished a classy Kevin De Bruyne pass to give the Gunners’ two losses in a row, and Arsenal wouldn’t beat a PL contender until toppling injury-hit Manchester United on May 7.

Bournemouth – Eddie Howe‘s bunch were winless in seven and trending downward when it arrived at Old Trafford on March 5. Marcos Rojo put United ahead in the 22nd and ex-Red Devil forward Josh King leveled via penalty in the 40th. The Cherries seemed doomed when Andrew Surman was sent off in the 45th, but somehow held on to grab a point (A missed Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty didn’t help things). Bournemouth won its next two, then drew Liverpool and Southampton en route to a top half finish.

Burnley – The Clarets can thank Mike Dean for their signature moment, a 1-0 win via a handled Sam Vokes effort that moved Burnley into ninth place in the league. Ninth place for little old Burnley. Sean Dyche‘s club would stay up. Now where will it go?

Chelsea – The Blues led the Premier League after August, but had dropped to eighth by the end of September. By the start of November, Chelsea sat fourth in the table. Everton arrived at Stamford Bridge, and the Blues absolutely throttled the Merseyside club. Eden Hazard scored twice, the first moments before Marcos Alonso made it 3-0, and both Diego Costa and Pedro had also scored before the match was through. 5-0 spelled the fifth-straight win, and the Blues went on to win a historic 13-straight PL games.

(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Crystal Palace – This one’s pretty easy. With respect to Sam Allardyce‘s record of not being relegated as a manager, Palace opened the vaults to buy Patrick Van Aanholt and Luka Milivojevic, also scooping Mamadou Sakho on loan from Liverpool. The club was already talented in attack, so the January window was the “moment of the season” for Palace.

Everton – It was a season, or at least half-season, of “so close” for Ronald Koeman‘s men. It didn’t get much clearer than the match that followed the Toffees’ second loss in the Merseyside Derby. Everton looked set for a rebound and a win at Old Trafford when Ashley Williams’ handled Luke Shaw’s stoppage time shot to allow Zlatan Ibrahimovic a penalty kick that stole a point for the Red Devils.

Hull City – Unsure if this counts as “the season”, but Steve Bruce quitting the club three weeks before the season because of a lack of transfer ambition (amongst other things) spelled doom for the club far before Marco Silva nearly saved their season.

Leicester City – Firing Claudio Ranieri was a massive risk. The Foxes had posted the most remarkable season in world soccer less than a year before cutting ties with the Italian. While some — like me — would argue that transfer pick-up Wilfred Ndidi was the real reason for the turnaround, it also coincided with the managerial change.

Liverpool – The Reds had a knack for playing like results were expected against lesser lights, and late conceded goals are easy to find when reviewing their season (See Swansea below). It happened against powerful Manchester United, but it also happened against Sunderland. Jermain Defoe scored the second goal of his brace in the 84th minute to cost the Black Cats two points… again.

Manchester City – Pep Guardiola led City to six-straight PL wins at the start of the season, but could only watch as Mauricio Pochettino and Spurs bettered him 2-0 at White Hart Lane to drop City to 6-1. It was one of just six losses on the season, five of which came away from the Etihad Stadium. That away form didn’t impress Guardiola, and it didn’t help City chase the title.

Manchester United – While their moment may still be coming in the form of Wednesday’s Europa League Final against Ajax, we’ll go with Jose Mourinho’s first tournament win with United: the EFL Cup Final. NBC analyst Robbie Earle often talks about good teams needing to find a way to win when they aren’t at their best, and United did it at Wembley. It could be a harbinger of what’s to come.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Middlesbrough – Boro went to West Brom on Aug. 28, unbeaten in a pair of PL matches. It remained unbeaten following the 0-0 draw, but the zero on its side of the scoreboard was extra significant for one reason: It was the first of a whopping 19 times that the Smoggies were kept off the scoreboard, including seven scoreless draws.

Southampton – Most of these moments are related to Premier League play, but the perfect summation of Saints’ up-and-down season may be the EFL Cup Final. Many believe Saints were the better side that day, only to fall short. The same can be said for their Europa League campaign. But results matter, and Saints didn’t make it back to Europe via either route.

Stoke City – Mark Hughes‘ bunch suffered through a slow start to the season, going winless in seven matches. And every time the Potters started to build a head of steam, it would find a hiccup like this 1-0 home loss to Bournemouth. But let’s not dwell on the negative, instead focusing on Stoke’s vibrant fan base, and Peter Crouch giving his jersey to a man in a Speedo.

Sunderland – The Black Cats managed to take multiple steps back for every step forward, so it’s fitting that we mark the 4-0 loss at home to Southampton on Feb. 11. It followed a 4-0 win against old manager Sam Allardyce and Crystal Palace and a scoreless draw against Spurs. Sunderland was battered by a pair Manolo Gabbiadini goals, and the loss started a run that saw the Black Cats manage points in a whopping three of its 14 remaining matches.

Swansea City – Swans could’ve crumbled after tossing aside a 2-0 lead to Liverpool at Anfield on Jan. 21, but Gylfi Sigurdsson‘s 74th minute goal started one of two winning runs that saved its Premier League status. Swans had never won in league play at Anfield, and Paul Clement had a result on which to hang his hat.

Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs lost just four Premier League matches this season, and responded to each with a PL win. Three of those were blowouts, and the fourth was a 2-1 May win over Manchester United. One of those bounce backs happened to be two weeks after a road loss to Liverpool and three days after Spurs were bounced from the Champions League by Genk, as Harry Kane scored one of his four season hat trick and Dele Alli also scored in a 4-0 demolition of Stoke City.

(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Watford – Every time the Hornets looked on the cusp of dipping into the relegation battle, Walter Mazzarri‘s men engineered an exit. The most gritty? Probably holding onto a 2-0 lead for a long spell with only 10 men to their credit in dispatching West Brom late in the season.

West Bromwich Albion – There’s a moment in every season which sees Tony Pulis‘ Baggies tease us with what they could do if they just allowed a little bit of open play to hamper their “Just Survive” mentality. This year it was a 3-1 win over Arsenal which begged West Brom supporters to imagine life in the Top Seven, only to let them down with another post-safety collapse. Woof.

West Ham United – The club offered fans the opportunity to bring in their old Dimitri Payet jerseys for a free replacement, but finding the player to fill his void wasn’t nearly that easy.

Premier League 2016-17 season reviews: A-M

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The 2016-17 Premier League season is now over and it is time to look back at how all 20 teams fared.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

Below you will find the first half of the PL analyzed (Arsenal though to Manchester City), with the second half here.

Plus, click on the link above to follow all of ProSoccerTalk’s reviews of the 2016-17 season.

Let’s get to it.


Arsenal

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.


Bournemouth

Final position: 9th
Star manJosh 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.


Burnley

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.


Chelsea

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.


Crystal Palace

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.


Everton

Final position: 7th (Europa League third-qualifying round)
Star manRomelu 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.


Hull City

Final position: 18th (Relegated)
Star manHarry 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.


Leicester City

Final position: 12th
Star manKasper 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.


Liverpool

Final position: 4th (Champions League playoff round)
Star manSadio 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.


Manchester City

Final position: 3rd
Star manDavid 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.


STREAM LIVE: Leicester City host Tottenham Hotspur

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Leicester City welcome Tottenham Hotspur to the fortress that is the King Power Stadium on Thursday (Watch live, 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Foxes aiming to keep their incredible home form under Craig Shakespeare going.

The Foxes have won all five of the PL home matches they’ve had under the interim boss who took charge in February following the firing of Claudio Ranieri.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Spurs have second place locked up and Mauricio Pochettino‘s men can now relax after securing a win in the final game at White Hart Lane. They now finish a fine campaign with trips to Leicester and Hull before regrouping over the summer and readying themselves for a season at Wembley Stadium while their new 61,559 capacity home is finished.

In team news Leicester make one change as Daniel Amarety replaces Andy King.

Tottenham bring in Mousa Dembele and Moussa Sissoko to the starting lineup, with Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker out.

LINEUPS

Leicester City: Schmeichel; Simpson, Benalouane, Fuchs, Chilwell; Mahrez, Ndidi, Amartey, Albrighton; Okazaki, Vardy. Subs: Musa, Kapustka, Slimani, Zieler, Gray, Wasilewski, Moore

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris; Dier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies; Wanyama, Dembele, Sissoko; Dele, Son; Kane. Subs: Vorm, Wimmer, Lesniak, Shashoua, Eriksen, Nkoudou, Janssen

Thriving Foxes’ Shakespeare: We never set a points target

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Craig Shakespeare has led Leicester City to 22 points in 10 matches since taking over for Claudio Ranieri, and not only are the defending champions now safe for 2017-18 but they’re looking like themselves again.

Leicester handled Watford with relative ease on Saturday, boosting its points total to within striking distance of eighth place West Bromwich Albion.

[ RECAP: Leicester City 3-0 Watford ]

With Man City, Spurs, and Bournemouth left it won’t be easy to keep climbing the table, but the turnaround is remarkable for a side that also made it to the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League.

From the BBC:

“When I took over, the most important thing was to be competitive, climb the table and never set a points target.

“The remit was to take it (the manager’s job) until the end of the season and we will then sit down and discuss it. I’ve not been told anything else so that’s what we will do.”

It’s a tricky situation for Leicester’s hierarchy, which has seen its players respond to the coaching change but also knows there’s plenty of experienced bosses out there looking for work. But the Foxes look terrific these days, and have a base to build on for next season.

Premier League Playback: Shrewd Spurs succeeding

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TOTTENHAM’S IMPRESSIVE BUSINESS

Victor Wanyama surged forward late in the second half of Tottenham’s 2-0 win against Arsenal in the final North London derby at White Hart Lane on Sunday.

[ MORE: Spurs eager for more ]

Roared on by the crowd the Kenyan clipped the ball into Harry Kane who forced Petr Cech to save as Tottenham closed the gap on Premier League leaders Chelsea to four points with four games to go. Their ninth-straight PL win also, as you may have heard by now, guaranteed that Spurs would finish above Arsenal in the Premier League for the first time in 22 years.

[ MORE: 3 things learned | Player ratings ]

Wanyama, 25, is yet another example of the fine business Spurs have done to turn their squad around. That has led to them being the top performing team in the Premier League over the past two seasons by quite some distance.

After the derby win against Arsenal, ProSoccerTalk asked Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino about Wanyama’s dominant display as the man who joined from Southampton for around $15 million last summer is quickly becoming yet another bargain buy.

“I think this season, what he is doing is fantastic,” Pochettino said. “Today was good and in the second half he was fantastic and he was key in some actions.  I am very pleased, but I am very pleased for all of my squad because we are fighting a lot during the whole season.”

Pochettino has every right to be pleased. So does the transfer committee, board of directors and owner of Tottenham.

Looking at the table below from Sky Sports in the UK, you can see Spurs have accumulated more points, scored more goals and let in the lowest number of goals in the Premier League over the past two seasons.

Despite those incredible stats the most amazing one, for me at least, is how low their net spend is.

In an era where the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United splash the cash like it’s going out of fashion, the shrewd business done by Daniel Levy and Spurs’ board has to be applauded.

Of course, Pochettino and his staff are the ones who put the players in a system and have drastically improved the likes of Dele Alli, Wanyama, Kyle Walker and Danny Rose to name but a few. In truth you could go through the entire starting XI for Spurs and make the argument that they’ve all gone to a new level under Pochettino over the past two years.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

When the Argentine arrived in the summer of 2014 he took over a bloated squad which was full of castoffs as a vast chunk of the then world-record transfer fee for Gareth Bale was squandered. Only Christian Eriksen (just $14.8 million from Ajax, by the way) and Erik Lamela remain from that spree.

With Spurs’ new 61,000 capacity, $1 billion home rising behind the current White Hart Lane it is easy to forget that amid all the euphoria around the likes of Dele, Harry Kane, Eriksen and Co. there has to be cost-cutting somewhere. Tying their key players down to long-term deals and spending wisely has been a shrewd move for Spurs. With the potentially tumultuous temporary move to Wembley coming up for next season, having the squad “all-in” with Pochettino will help.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

And if Pochettino and the club can keep upgrading sensibly each summer, then move on squad players to leave room for youngsters to break through, it is a formula which may bring success for the next decade given the average age of this Spurs team and so many of its key contributors still in their early 20’s.

Even if Tottenham don’t quite catch Chelsea this season, there are so many reasons for Spurs to be hopeful for the future.


TOP FOUR BATTLE

The battle is well and truly on for the final two places in the top four as Manchester City and Manchester United both slipped up at the weekend.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Liverpool took full advantage of that slip-up as Emre Can scored a Goal of the Season contender with an astonishing bicycle kick to put them four points clear of fifth-place Manchester United (who have a game in hand) with three games to go. That means Jurgen Klopp‘s men now control their own destiny as wins against Southampton, West Ham and Middlesbrough will guarantee they’re in the UEFA Champions League next season.

As for City and United, they’re both scrambling to catch Liverpool and although City have the easier schedule, Pep Guardiola‘s men have drawn their last two and have lost the momentum they had gained early in 2017.

For Arsenal, well, a dejected Arsene Wenger admitted after their North London derby defeat to Tottenham that finishing in the top four would prove very difficult but if they win their game in hand against struggling Southampton then they’ll be right back in the race and just three points off fourth place.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Everything is still to play for and two of City, United and Arsenal won’t make the UCL next season. United could, if they win the UEFA Europa League, but given their injury crisis it will be a big ask for Jose Mourinho’s men.

All of a sudden it is Liverpool who have grasped their chance to put themselves in the driving seat to snap up one of the final two places in the top four. City look like the other favorites given their remaining games (Crystal Palace, Leicester and West Brom at home, plus a trip to Watford) but in this season when it seems like nobody wants to finish in the top four, we can expect a few more twists and turns.


PUEL UNDER PRESSURE

ProSoccerTalk understands that the pressure is mounting on Southampton manager Claude Puel at the end of his first season in charge of St Mary’s.

Puel saw his side booed off the pitch at half time and full time of the 0-0 draw against Hull City on Saturday as Dusan Tadic had a last-gasp penalty kick saved by Eldin Jakupovic which would’ve provided Saints with an undeserved victory.

[ MORE: Saints’ fans take over Milan

With Saints still on course for a top 10 finish and coming incredibly close to winning their first major trophy in 41 years, why is Puel under pressure?

For outsiders everything may seem rosy but if you dig a little deeper it’s not easy to find discontent at Southampton. It is believed that throughout the season several senior members of Puel’s squad have aired their concerns over the style of play being ordered by the 55-year-old Frenchman and when that starts to happen, well, we all saw what happened to Claudio Ranieri

Puel is a great coach and has shown in his time in France with Monaco, Lille, Lyon and Nice that he can develop attractive teams and bring through talented youngsters.

That said, there are several reasons why Southampton’s fans, and perhaps players, are turning on him already.

Number one: Southampton’s fans have had success after success. They’ve finished in a higher league position for seven-straight seasons but that run will now end. With Mauricio Pochettino followed by Ronald Koeman, the transition was seamless (almost freakishly so) and they’ve finished in the top eight of the PL in each of the past three seasons. They can’t go on forever — they may indeed finish eighth, once again — but the issue is that many of Southampton’s fans feel like it should. With the current uncertainty surrounding a potential $271 million investment for 80 percent of the club from a Chinese businessman, Saints want to push for the top four and many are unsure if Puel is the right man to lead them to that challenge.

Number two: the Europa League exit was a big blow for Puel. I was in his press conference following the exit to Hapoel Be’er Sheva at St Mary’s back in December and he was distraught. The main reason he was brought to Saints was due to his pedigree in European competitions and his side crashed out at the group stage due to the amount of away goals they’d scored. His rotation policy came back to bite him. Hard. When Saints beat Liverpool in the EFL Cup semifinal to reach the final against Man United at Wembley, I asked Puel if righting the wrongs of this European campaign was key to him. He was unequivocal as to how important Saints being back in Europe, via winning the EFL Cup would be, but Saints came up short, losing 3-2 to United in a final they dominated. Now, he’s left with a bloated squad of players and a lot less games. That will be a headache.

Number three: Puel having a distinct “lack of personality” has been one of the main reasons the fanbase hasn’t quite taken to him. His English isn’t great and he isn’t bothered about delivering box office performances in his press conferences. That has led to many Southampton fans who want him to succeed now having a “meh” attitude if he does leave. Southampton’s fans aren’t too bothered either way about Puel and that’s led to discontent growing steadily despite promising displays littered throughout the season.

However deep you try to dig into this situation, there does appear to be something not quite right about one of the steadiest clubs in the PL in recent years. With key injuries to Charlie Austin, Sofiane Boufal and Virgil Van Dijk this season, plus the Jose Fonte saga leaving him without his two first-choice center backs for over half the campaign, Puel has had plenty of obstacles to overcome, especially with Saints playing 48 games in all competitions to date and that will rise to 53 matches by the end of the PL campaign.

This has not been a normal season and with no European action next season, Puel could thrive with extra time on the training ground and a smaller squad to rotate. Whether or not he’ll be given the chance to kick Saints on is another matter. Rumors state the likes of Garry Monk and Marco Silva are being lined up and ProSoccerTalk understands Fulham’s Slavisa Jokanovic is a leading contender to take charge if Puel is shown the door.

Puel should probably be given another season to push Southampton towards the top six again but the reality is they may not finish above seventh place for the foreseeable future as the perennial powers who struggled over the past two seasons have now regrouped. Whoever came in after Koeman left summer had a big job on their hands to meet rising expectations and Puel has, so far, failed to do that despite glimpses of hope. The current Southampton manager is the victim (unfairly so) of their rapid ascent and undoubted overachievement in recent years.


DIVING NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED

The great simulation debate reared its ugly head this weekend and, as always, it was not pretty.

Penalty decisions involving Marcus Rashford, Leroy Sane and Harry Kane stole the headlines, while we won’t waste much time on Lucas Leiva‘s pathetic dive for Liverpool against Watford on Monday because it was the easiest yellow for simulation in the history of the game. Perhaps the Brazilian had gained inspiration from Rashford and Sane given their actions earlier in the weekend…

Now, let us start by saying referees have an incredibly tough job and players make it even tougher.

Rashford went down right on half time against Swansea as goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski rushed out and referee Neil Swarbrick awarded a penalty kick despite not having a clear view. On second viewing Fabianski pulled away his hands and expecting the contact Rashford had fallen to the ground. It was a clear dive.

Sane then did something similar on Sunday as Man City won a penalty at Middlesbrough. The German winger left his leg trailing and went down under a challenge from Martin de Roon. Boro’s players were livid by referee Kevin Friend awarding a penalty and rightly so. It was another case of simulation.

Then, once again on Sunday, Harry Kane went down under a challenge from Gabriel and although the trailing leg of Arsenal’s defender caught him the Spurs striker let referee Michael Oliver know he’d been caught. Let’s clear up any debate on Kane’s penalty: it was a foul and not a dive. There was clear contact so Oliver got it spot on and hopefully Video Assistant Referees (VARs) will be on hand to help clear up these decisions in the PL in the near future.

In the meantime, how do we stop instances of simulation? The boys discuss in the video above and you have to agree that harsher retrospective bans for diving will help stamp it out of the game. Simple.


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