Dyche on Everton speculation: “It’s the yin and the yang. You get praise, but you lose three games and then you’re getting slaughtered. I don’t mean that in a precious way, it’s just a fact, that’s how quickly the shift occurs. You have managers out there who may have a tough streak, it doesn’t make them a bad manager. They’re just going through a tough spell. That can happen. So I don’t read much in the media, I know what I’ve said so I don’t keep checking up on things. There have been some nice things said recently, some nice links, but the fact is I’m still here and still working hard.”
Benitez on Newcastle’s aims for this season: “Our players will have more confidence now because we’re doing well. But we aren’t saying: ‘Ooh, we have 14 points and we’re fine.’ No way. We know we still have to do things to stay in the Premier League. I won’t say that’s the target because then I’d be criticized for a lack of ambition and I want to be as high as possible but we know that sometimes you can play a couple of games and suddenly everything changes. We have to be prepared for that and make sure the team are ready for difficult moments, ready for losing three games in a row.”
Newcastle are becoming one of the most stubborn defensive unit in the PL and Benitez’s men will grind out an away win. 1-0.
While there will come a time for mulligans, and perhaps a predictive reboot, I’m here this Sunday to admit my wrongs (and maybe wrongs).
Course correction is to be expected in some manner with at least three of these sides, but not to the extent expected before the PL season.
I was wrong!
— Burnley — Current position: 7th place; My prediction: 20th; Staff average: 19th
With respect to the Clarets’ fan podcast, they would’ve been right to scream “No Nay Never” at my thought that Sean Dyche‘s men were too challenged in talent to again defy Premier League relegation. Michael Keane was gone to Everton, and Andre Gray was preparing to leave Turf Moor. The Clarets had added Jonathan Walters and Jack Cork, but had yet to sign Chris Wood.
Well, the Kiwi striker has been impressive and Dyche has rallied the troops (especially James Tarkowski in Keane’s stead, as well as Ben Mee and ). In what looks absolutely comical now, I expected the wealth of money spent by almost everyone else to doom Burnley to under 20 (!!!) points. Had you told me Tom Heaton would go down and Nick Pope, who’s been great, would take over, I might’ve bet even lower.
Clearly I underestimated the consistency of Dyche at the helm and the way he explains his system to players. I don’t expect the Clarets to maintain their top half pace, but clearly trusting me is an error when it comes to Burnley. Sean, I’m sorry. I should’ve known better. Call me.
— Everton — Current position: 16th place; My prediction: 6th; Staff average: 7th
Another disappointing Sunday for Everton is one thing, but the Toffees’ big expenditures have largely failed to move the meter in the Europa League as well.
My expectation that down years for Liverpool and Arsenal would allow Everton join them in the Top Seven was only two-third possible. Ronald Koeman has been indecisive in his use of Wayne Rooney and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and several players like Gylfi Sigurdsson and Morgan Schneiderlin are not adapting to playing non-starring roles (though surely the Toffees would be fine putting the focus on Sigurdsson were he producing, and he should’ve claimed a penalty on Sunday).
How to fix it? Well, keeping Ashley Williams on the bench is a bit of a bother, so why not a back three with Keane and Phil Jagielka? I don’t know, but Davy Klaassen remains on the bench, too, and I’m not sure Everton’s players know what to expect heading into a weekend.
— Watford — Current position: 4th place; My prediction: 17th; Staff average: 16th
Joe Prince-Wright said Watford would finish 12th, which was outlandish considering the rest of us had the Hornets escaping relegation by one or two spaces at best. The highlight reel video of Richarlison almost had me boost the Hornets higher when predicting the table, but that would’ve been offset had I known Nathaniel Chalobah would be hurt.
But betting against Marco Silva has been a mistake so far, and the Hornets boasts a win home to Arsenal and away to Southampton plus a home draw versus Liverpool. The 6-0 home loss to Man City, sadly, is more common than we thought, and JPW’s 12th place feels correct right about now.
I was wrong?
— Crystal Palace — Current position: 20th place; My prediction: 12th; Staff average: 15th
Roy Hodgson’s men looked a lot like Frank De Boer‘s men until Wilfried Zaha returned from injury, and that probably shouldn’t surprise us. The Eagles just suffered through the worst goalless start in Premier League history, but beat Chelsea with their first extended look of Zaha this season (Andros Townsend also looked great). I had Palace at 48 points, and that feels a bit laughable when they have three through eight matches, but I’m not so sure they won’t rebound over time.
Arsenal vs. Brighton & Hove Albion — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Away in Belarus for Europa League action on Thursday, back home in the PL on Sunday — that’s the not-so-simple reality for Arsenal this season, and it rears its ugly head again this week. The Gunners victory over BATE Borisov will have come less than 72 hours prior to taking on Chris Hughton‘s Brighton on Sunday. Further complicating matters, last week’s 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion came on Monday, less than 72 hours prior to their 1,400-mile European excursion. As such, the majority of Arsene Wenger‘s first-choice starters were left in London, but the likes of Shkodran Mustafi and Per Mertesacker could be asked to pull double-duty given injury concerns along the three-man backline.
“I accept the decision against me but do not agree with it and I am devastated to miss three matches,” Hemed wrote on his Instagram account. “I would never go out and injure a fellow professional on purpose, and those of my friends and teammates who know me, know that this is not in my nature.”
Things are beginning to look up for Everton — maybe just a tad — as Ronald Koeman‘s side is unbeaten in its last three games (all competitions), with a winnable home date with Burnley on Sunday. While the likes of Wayne Rooney, Davy Klaassen and Gylfi Sigurdsson have largely faltered of late (just two PL goals between them — both Rooney’s — and zero assists), Oumar Niasse has stepped into the void and lent the Toffees three goals en route to a pair of wins last week, over Sunderland (League Cup) and Bournemouth (PL).
As for the Clarets, Sean Dyche‘s side is four games unbeaten in PL play (three draws) and up to ninth in the league table. Sunday’s clash at Goodison Park will be the first meeting between Burnley’s current players and former teammate Michael Keane, now at Everton, provided he’s passed fit to play.
“We all got on with Keano. He’s a great lad,” midfielder Jeff Hendrick said. “He’s been brilliant for the club here. It was his time to step on and challenge himself in a different way. He’s still young and he’s still improving. We all speak highly of him here and I’m sure they do at Everton as well. It will be good to play against him. He’s a good player but we want to get one over on him.”
Newcastle United vs. Liverpool — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Rafa Benitez guided Liverpool to UEFA Champions League glory in 2005, a short dozen years ago now, an on Sunday welcomes his former club, and the many by whom he’s still so beloved, to St. James’ Park.
“He’s a very, very interesting person,” Jurgen Klopp said on Friday. “I know he’s still connected, not only because he lives around here still, he’s really connected to the club still, wishes the club all the best and all that stuff — it’s how it should be after this fantastic time he had here.”
The visitors enter Sunday’s game in frustratingly indifferent form, having won just one of their last five games (all competitions). During that stretch, the Reds have conceded 13 goals. Klopp is yet to figure out the perfect formula for consistent defending in the PL, as that very shakiness at the back ultimately ended Liverpool’s title bid last season. Klopp writes a bit of that off as bad luck.
“We in this moment are not the luckiest team in world football, so it’s not that things go easy for us,” he said this week. “We did enough and we had four or five 100-percent chances and that’s then disappointing but it is like it is.”
Below we give all 20 PL teams a grade and sum up their summer window.
Manchester United – A
Their business was done early and properly with Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic starting off superbly and Victor Lindelof will settle in. Smart business by Jose Mourinho with his squad now looking like a much stronger unit overall. Didn’t need a new wide player in the end because his team started the season so well.
Manchester City – A- Pep Guardiola did plenty of business early in the window and he addressed his needs superbly with Kyle Walker, Danilo, Benjamin Mendy and Ederson improving their defense. Bernardo Silva is a luxury signing and Alexis Sanchez would have been something similar but City couldn’t get it over the line. Very solid window but one more center back would have given them an A.
Tottenham Hotspur – B+
Spurs had a really strong finish to the window, adding Davinson Sanchez, Serge Aurier and Fernando Llorente. That gives them more cover in defense and an extra option off the bench with Llorente happy to back up Harry Kane. Selling on Kyle Walker for over $65 million made sense and Mauricio Pochettino will be happy with his summer window after keeping hold of Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Kane and Danny Rose.
West Brom – B+
The Baggies had a really decent window and pulled off a big shock with silky midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak arriving on loan from Paris Saint-Germain. Jay Rodriguez, Kieran Gibbs and Gareth Barry are all solid additions who will start and Tony Pulis managed to keep hold of his skipper Jonny Evans despite interest from Man City and Arsenal.
Leicester City – B+
Decent window for the Foxes as they managed to keep hold of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy and although it seems likely they lost Danny Drinkwater to Chelsea, they added some deadline day deals in Aleksandar Dragovic and potentially Adrien Silva. Early additions of Harry Maguire, Kelchi Iheanacho and Vicente Iborra seem to have strengthened the overall squad too.
Liverpool – B Mohamed Salah and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are both key additions in the window and sealing the deal for Naby Keita was a big one for next summer. However, not adding a top-class center back (the Virgil Van Dijk pursuit was doomed from the start) was a big letdown and there is still an issue with the goalkeeping department. Some issues not addressed but Philippe Coutinho seems all but certain to stick around, so that’s a positive.
Huddersfield Town – B David Wagner added more new players than any other team and Huddersfield have looked the part early on. Steve Mounie is a powerful forward with an eye for goal, grabbing Aaron Mooy on a permanent deal was superb business and goalkeeper Jonas Lossl has settled in well. Unlike the other promoted teams Huddersfield did their business early and were rewarded.
Swansea City – B
They held out and got a huge sum of $57.6 million for Gylfi Sigurdsson which they then spent wisely on re-signing Wilfried Bony and adding Renato Sanches on loan in a stunning deal from Bayern Munich. They did lose Fernando Llorente too, but Tammy Abraham seems like a steal on loan and the Swans will be hopeful their young squad can surprise opponents. Decent window all things considered.
Burnley – B
They lost Michael Keane and Andre Gray but did recoup over $60 million for the duo and spent it wisely with Chris Wood, Jack Cork and Jonathan Walters coming in. Plenty of experience added by Sean Dyche and the Clarets will once again be tough to break down. Solid window.
Watford – B Marco Silva added some decent signings from Udinese around deadline day and brought in Andre Gray and Richarlison to strengthen their attack. Nathaniel Chalobah and Will Hughes will add energy in midfield and overall an inventive window, once again, from the Hornets.
Stoke City – B
The Potters did some really good business late in the window which saved them. Jese and Choupo-Moting look lively up top and Kurt Zouma, Kevin Wimmer and Bruno Martins Indi will improve them defensively. Darren Flecther is another solid buy but another striker would have been ideal for Mark Hughes.
Southampton – B-
They kept hold of Virgil van Dijk which was the main aim and added Mario Lemina in midfield and center backs Jan Bednarek and Wesley Hoedt. Saints really could have done with freshening up their attack but it didn’t seem like they were close to key forward additions.
Chelsea – B-
A really weird window for Chelsea who kept seeing players turn them down. From Romleu Lukaku to Oxlade-Chamberlain and Llorente to Ross Barkley, Antonio Conte couldn’t get deals over the line and Chelsea’s squad isn’t looking as strong as it did at the end of last season. Selling Nemanja Matic to Manchester United was a bad decision and the situation surrounding Diego Costa’s future was handed poorly. Alvaro Morata will be a star and both Bakayoko and Rudiger are also good additions, but not a great window at all for the Blues.
Bournemouth – C+
Adding experience was the main aim and Bournemouth did that early with Asmir Begovic and Jermain Defoe coming in. Nathan Ake should be a solid buy too but Eddie Howe‘s attack is looking a little lackluster after the opening weeks of the season.
West Ham United – D
It looked like decent business on paper but three of their four buys in the window look like they could be ill-advised. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez will score goals for fun but Pablo Zabaleta and Joe Hart look low on confidence and Marko Arnautovic already has a red card and some poor displays against his name. Not a great window for the Hammers.
Crystal Palace – D-
Yes, they may well add Mamadou Sakho, but apart from that it has been a disastrous start to life in the Premier League for Frank De Boer. With three defeats he needed to add another two defenders and another striker to help ease the load on Christian Benteke. Palace have some big squad issues with a new playing style not suiting many of their players.
Brighton – F
Numbers have arrived but real quality hasn’t for the Seagulls. It is early days but you have to think more firepower was necessary for them to have any chance of staving off relegation. Davy Propper could be a good buy and so too could Jose Izquierdo but apart from that an underwhelming window. If they manage to add Vincent Janssen it would improve their grade, but not by much.
Arsenal – F
My goodness. What happened? From still having Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil around, to losing out on Thomas Lemar on the final day and selling Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsene Wenger has a nightmare. They added Alexandre Lacazette but did they really need another striker? Yet another window has come and gone without Wenger addressing the glaring problems in central midfield and defense. They way this situation has been handled from the top of the club is shambolic.
Newcastle United – F Rafael Benitez and his owner Mike Ashley have been airing their dirty laundry in the media and Benitez has not got the deals he wanted. Joselu could score some goals but overall it was a really poor window for Newcastle, a team who should be challenging for a top four finish considering their stadium and fanbase. This window suggests they will be battling relegation.