Darren Fletcher

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Jese disciplined for walk-out, granted personal leave by Stoke

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Jese Rodriguez has been disciplined, in an undisclosed manner, by Stoke City after the Spanish striker left the bench and stadium upon being an unused substitute during last weekend’s 2-1 victory over Swansea City.

[ MORE: Key battles in this weekend’s Manchester derby ]

With 20 minutes left to go in the game, manager Mark Hughes made his second and third substitutions in tandem — Ibrahim Afellay and Ramadan Sobhi replaced Darren Fletcher and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting — at which point Rodriguez, out of frustration, walked down the tunnel and left the bet365 Stadium.

Asked this week whether or not Rodriguez, who has made just two short appearances as a sub in the last six weeks, has apologized to Hughes and the rest of the squad, the Potters’ boss believes the player’s heart is in the right place and that the apology is understood, and accepted, without necessarily being spoken — quotes from the BBC:

“He made a mistake. He’s been disciplined for that. He understands it wasn’t the right decision at that time.”

“Not in so many words because his English isn’t great but he understands that it was incorrect.

“It’s been addressed, we’ve obviously highlighted what he needs to do in the future. He’s a little bit frustrated, he wants to play, as all players do.”

According to the BBC, Rodriguez has also been granted conditional leave in order to travel home to the Canary Islands and be with his son who was born prematurely, in June. As a result, he will be unavailable for Saturday’s trip to Wembley Stadium to take on Tottenham Hotspur (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

PL Playback: Pogba the key for Man United

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POGBACK

Paul Pogba‘s snake hips goal celebration had been dearly missed by Manchester United’s fans.

So too had his marauding runs from midfield since he injured his hamstring in early September. Jose Mourinho had previously said United were a totally different team without Pogba and his display in the 4-1 win against Newcastle on Saturday proved it.

Speaking to MUTV after the game, Pogba shared his belief that if all of United’s players stay fit they can challenge Manchester City for the title.

“The season is really long so we have to be fit – not only me but all the players,” Pogba said. “To win the league we need all our players. When you have one injured here, one injured there, it doesn’t help. It’s always better to have a full team. Zlatan’s back and Marcos after a long injury. It was hard for them but they kept believing and worked hard to come back. We need them to win the league and we’re really glad they’re here.”

Even if he didn’t jinx past Newcastle’s defense to clip in a wonderful cross for Anthony Martial to head home United’s first, or then make a 60-yard sprint to get on the end of Marcus Rashford‘s knockdown to make it 3-1, Pogba’s presence was felt.

His return gave United’s entire squad, and fanbase, a lift and everything is set up rather nicely for him to battle it out with Kevin De Bruyne in the Manchester derby on Dec. 10 at Old Trafford.

With Pogba this season United have played five games, winning four and drawing one.

Without Pogba United have played seven, won four, lost twice and drawn once in the Premier League.

His influence on this team is key to the way it has been assembled by Mourinho and his power, all-action displays and strong character get the best out of those around him. Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku tick because Pogba is linking the midfield and attack effortlessly with his energetic displays. Over the past two months there’s been a main reason why Lukaku had done seven games without scoring for United before last weekend: Pogba.

Pogba’s comments about United pushing City for the title if they stay fit appear misguided but if he stays fit then there’s no doubt United are the best version of themselves.


INFURIATING ARSENAL

When they play like they did on Saturday, the only team Arsenal will finish below this season will be Manchester City.

Seriously.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned from the North London derby ]

The Gunners destroyed Tottenham Hotspur with a ruthless display in the first half as Mesut Ozil unlocked Spurs’ midfield and defense, Alexis Sanchez ran them ragged and Alexandre Lacazette played on the last shoulder of Tottenham’s disheveled defense.

Arsene Wenger was rewarded for a bold, attack-minded team selection and with Shkodran Mustafi back fit he now has his first-choice starting lineup at his disposal. If the Gunners stay fit, they can make real charge up the Premier League table in the coming weeks with a bunch of winnable games.

In four of their next five Premier League games they should beat Huddersfield, Southampton, West Ham and Newcastle, with the big tests at home against Man United (Dec. 2) and Liverpool (Dec. 22) showing just how far they’ve come so far this season.

The Emirates, so often the site of protests and fan unrest in previous seasons, is become a fortress for Arsenal who have now won 11 PL games there on the spin, their best-ever run of consecutive wins at the stadium.

Between now and Dec. 22 we will get a very good idea as to what way this season will go for Arsenal.

If Wenger’s players stay fit and he remains positive in his team selection, the Gunners could be rewarded with not only a place back in the top four but much more.


WEST BROM’S GAMBLE

Tony Pulis is the man you want in a relegation battle. So, why did West Bromwich Albion sack him?

A run of two wins in 21 Premier League games sealed Pulis’ fate but what exactly did West Brom’s owners expect would happen?

Pulis’ short-term bump from taking over in January 1 2015 wore off midway through last season and his methods, although lauded by many for preserving his proud record of never being relegation from the Premier League, wear players down over time. Even the wily old crew he had assembled at West Brom (they had the oldest average starting XI in the PL) couldn’t cope with it anymore.

[ MORE: Baggies sack Tony Pulis. but what next? ]

The old adage “losing the dressing room” is frowned upon by folks in the industry but it is clear that’s what happened here. Players believe they are better than perhaps they are, most of the time, and get sick and tired of being told to just clip the ball long, stay compact and try to score from set pieces. Most of Pulis’ training session focus on team shape and denying the opposition the ball. Having the ball is an afterthought. That’s too much for some to handle day in, day out.

And we all know, despite the Baggies being a solid midtable club for seven years in the PL now, that getting rid of one manager is much easier than a squad of players.

Getting rid of Pulis was the only available option.

Yet, after a summer where they did some great business to bring in Grzegorz Krychowiak, Kieran Gibbs, Ahmed Hegazi and Jay Rodriguez, things seemed to be on the up. Yet that recruitment and losing the likes of Darren Fletcher caused issues in the squad balance and Pulis all of a sudden had too many newbies on board who either took too much time to get used to his methods or didn’t want to adjust their game to do so.

All in all, West Brom are now left with very few options to replace Pulis other than appointing someone extremely similar to him. Sam Allardyce is from the area (a boyhood Wolves fan, West Brom’s bitter rivals) is the bookmakers favorite and he would seem to be the perfect firefighter against a Premier League relegation battle.

But, like many PL clubs who have sacked their managers so far this season (hello, Everton, Crystal Palace, West Ham) or are contemplating it (Swansea, Southampton and maybe Stoke) the alternatives to their current boss aren’t plentiful. Keeping hold of Pulis was no longer an option West Brom had but, over time, it may seem like the correct one.


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

PL wrap: Pep’s City sets new standard; Man Utd tops Spurs (video)

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Only one of the Top Six failed to claim maximum points on Saturday, with Tottenham losing its battle for second place with Manchester United.

[ WATCH: Full PL match replays ]

That 1-0 decision, won by Anthony Martial and Romelu Lukaku, kicked off the 7-match Premier League slate, with three more to come by the time Newcastle and Burnley square off Monday.

West Bromwich Albion 2-3 Manchester City  — RECAP

Don’t let the score line fool you: Man City had this one in the bag for all but a minute, that moment coming when Jay Rodriguez took advantage of a lax Ederson move. Matty Phillips also scored for West Brom, but Fernandinho had a goal and an assist while Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling scored to keep Man City five points clear of the pack.

And it’s also a bit of history for City:

Manchester United 1-0 Tottenham HotspurRECAP

Anthony Martial’s second half goal was the difference as Manchester United missed Paul Pogba nearly as much as Tottenham missed Harry Kane. Here’s hoping both are back come Jan. 31 at Wembley Stadium.

 

Watford 0-1 Stoke City  — RECAP

It’s a badly needed win for Darren Fletcher and Stoke, who scored off a well-designed corner kick that recalled a Paul Scholes goal or two.

Bournemouth 0-1 Chelsea  — RECAP

Eden Hazard beat old teammate Asmir Begovic hard and to the near post to keep the Blues in the Top Four.

Crystal Palace 2-2 West Ham UnitedRECAP

Slaven Bilic‘s Irons looked destined to cruise on goals from Javier Hernandez and Andre Ayew, but Palace converted a penalty kick and then Wilfried Zaha took advantage of a mindless late move from Michail Antonio as the Eagles claimed their fourth point of the season.

Arsenal 2-1 Swansea City — RECAP

Arsenal is looking dangerous again, in control for most of the match despite allowing a Sam Clucas goal on Swansea’s lone first half touch inside the Gunners’ 18. Sead Kolasinac and Aaron Ramsey scored for the Gunners, who are fifth but level with fourth place Chelsea on points.

Liverpool 3-0 Huddersfield Town  — RECAP

Town goalkeeper Jonas Lossl stopped a Mohamed Salah penalty kick in the first half, but that only slowed the roll of Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds in a highly-publicized battle with his best man: ex-Mainz teammate David Wagner. Georginio Wijnaldum, Daniel Sturridge, and Roberto Firmino scoring for Liverpool.

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Manchester City 10 9 1 0 35 6 29 4-1-0 5-0-0 28
 Manchester United 10 7 2 1 23 4 19 5-0-0 2-2-1 23
 Tottenham Hotspur 10 6 2 2 19 7 12 2-2-1 4-0-1 20
 Chelsea 10 6 1 3 18 10 8 2-1-2 4-0-1 19
 Arsenal 10 6 1 3 19 13 6 5-0-0 1-1-3 19
 Liverpool 10 4 4 2 17 16 1 3-2-0 1-2-2 16
 Watford 10 4 3 3 15 18 -3 1-2-2 3-1-1 15
 Newcastle United 9 4 2 3 10 8 2 3-1-1 1-1-2 14
 Burnley 9 3 4 2 8 9 -1 1-2-1 2-2-1 13
 Southampton 9 3 3 3 8 9 -1 2-2-2 1-1-1 12
 Huddersfield Town 10 3 3 4 7 13 -6 2-2-1 1-1-3 12
 Brighton & Hove Albion 9 3 2 4 9 10 -1 2-1-1 1-1-3 11
 Stoke City 10 3 2 5 11 20 -9 2-1-2 1-1-3 11
 West Bromwich Albion 10 2 4 4 9 13 -4 1-3-1 1-1-3 10
 Leicester City 9 2 3 4 12 14 -2 1-1-2 1-2-2 9
 West Ham United 10 2 3 5 10 19 -9 2-0-2 0-3-3 9
 Swansea City 10 2 2 6 7 12 -5 1-0-4 1-2-2 8

 Everton 9 2 2 5 7 18 -11 2-0-3 0-2-2 8
 Bournemouth 10 2 1 7 6 14 -8 1-1-3 1-0-4 7
 Crystal Palace 10 1 1 8 4 21 -17 1-1-3 0-0-5 4

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Watford 0-1 Stoke: Scrappy, invaluable win for Potters

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  • Hornets first back-to-back losses of season
  • Stoke’s first away W of season
  • Fletcher scores 23rd career PL goal

Stoke City fired into a 16th minute lead through Darren Fletcher and held off Watford the rest of the way for a much-needed 1-0 win at Vicarage Road on Saturday.

The Potters rise to 14th with 11 points, while seventh place Watford is passed by Liverpool.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Though Watford came out of the gate well, this was not the same Hornets team we’d seen in recent weeks.

Nor was it the same bunch of Potters, at least in spirit, as Stoke stayed tight defensively and broke through off a clever corner kick.

Xherdan Shaqiri sent his effort to the top of the 18, and Fletcher belted his effort through traffic to make it 1-0 to the visitors in the 16th minute.

Troy Deeney should’ve been sent off for grabbing Joe Allen‘s face, though perhaps the referees did not spy the incident inside of a scrum.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

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PL AT HALF: Arsenal trails Swans; Four visitors lead (video)

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Raise your hand if you figured the only nil-nil of the 10 a.m. ET kickoffs would be Huddersfield Town at Liverpool.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

West Bromwich Albion 1-2 Manchester City

It’s been all City aside from one porous moment at the back, with Leroy Sane lacing an early shot home and Fernandinho making amends for Ederson’s mental error on a Jay Rodriguez attempt.

Arsenal 0-1 Swansea City

The Gunners were well in truly in control until Swansea’s first touch inside the Arsenal 18 saw Sam Clucas best a charging Petr Cech.

Watford 0-1 Stoke City

Darren Fletcher volleyed Xherdan Shaqiri‘s corner kick home to give Stoke an early lead.

Liverpool 0-0 Huddersfield Town

Nothing cooking at Anfield aside from Jonas Lossl‘s fine stop of a Mohamed Salah penalty.

Crystal Palace 0-2 West Ham United

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez has his fourth PL goal of the season, and Andre Ayew made it three in two games before the break.

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