Michael Keane

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Watford reportedly shoots down second Silva shout from Everton

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Watford has turned down a second approach from Everton for manager Marco Silva.

The wildly-disappointing Toffees fired manager Ronald Koeman on Oct. 23, are coming off a thrilling come-from-behind win, coincidentally over Watford.

[ MORE: Dempsey staying in Seattle ]

That victory was caretaker manager David Unsworth‘s first in four outings in charge of the club, with Chelsea, Leicester City, and Lyon taking the other three.

Watford issued a rebuke of Everton’s desires after a Monday approach, but Everton apparently went back to the well on Wednesday. No dice.

Everton spent in the neighborhood of $200 million this summer on players like Gylfi Sigurdsson, Jordan Pickford, Sandro Ramirez, and Michael Keane amongst others.

A coach like Silva, who nearly saved Hull City’s Premier Legaue status before leading a resurgent Watford this season, is certainly capable of righting Everton’s ship. That said, reports say Watford has no interest in letting him walk at any price and Silva is said to not want to rock the boat.

On the plus side for Everton supporters, at least Sam Allardyce declared himself out of the running for the gig. Looks like Unsworth will have more time to make his case to Bill Kenwright, Farhad Moshiri, and Co.

Everton’s Keane hospitalized after “nasty” gash becomes infected

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It’s true what they say, you know: when it rains, it really does pour.

[ PL ROUNDUP: Man City’s historic start; Man United, Arsenal win ]

Just ask Everton, who on Monday fired manager Ronald Koeman only nine games into the 2017-18 Premier League season. The Toffees then lost to Leicester City, 2-0 on Sunday, in David Unsworth‘s first game as the interim boss. That sounds bad enough already, but it gets worse.

For the last six weeks, defender Michael Keane, for whom Everton paid $32 million (rising to as much as $39 million) in the summer, has been dealing with a gash on his leg which he suffered in an EFL Cup victory over Sunderland on Sept. 20. Between then and now, the gash never fully healed and has finally become infected — so infected, in fact, that Keane was recently hospitalized for treatment, thus his absence in Sunday’s defeat at the King Power Stadium — Unsworth quotes from Sky Sports:

“Michael got a knock; a really bad gash against Sunderland, and it got infected and spread up his leg. It’s been really, really nasty and he’s been hospitalized. We got some good news when we got to the ground that there’s been a big improvement, so hopefully he can be available for Sunday’s game.”

Keane has played in six games since the injury occurred — four four Everton, plus a pair of 2018 World Cup qualifiers for England. In what has unquestionably been a disappointing start to the season, Keane has been one of the club’s few bright spots through the season’s first two and a half months.

Unsworth seems optimistic that the issue will soon be under control and Keane will soon be on the road to recovery. Everton host seventh-place Watford, one of the (positive) surprising stories of the still-young season, at Goodison Park on Sunday (11:30 a.m. ET).

Three Premier League teams (and maybe one more) we got wrong

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Two months and five days ago, our six writers went about trying to predict a new Premier League table, conceived in the notion of hearing your opinions.

[ MORE: Koeman in a bad, bad way ]

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.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

— 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.

 

PL Sunday preview: Liverpool, Arsenal face newly promoted sides

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A pair of Premier League big boys take on a pair of sides only just promoted from the Championship over the summer, while Everton host Burnley in the other of Sunday’s three PL fixtures…

[ MORE: PL roundup — Man City win at Chelsea; Kane gets 2 more ]

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.

Brighton, meanwhile, will be without star striker Tomer Hemed, who on Wednesday was handed a three-match ban for his stamp on DeAndre Yedlin last weekend. Hemed maintains he did not intend the contact with Yedlin.

“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.”

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Mesut Ozil (knee), Danny Welbeck (groin), Santi Cazorla (achilles), Francis Coquelin (hamstring); QUESTIONABLE: Laurent Koscielny (achilles), Alex Iwobi (thigh) | Brighton — OUT: Tomer Hemed (suspension), Steve Sidwell (back), Sam Baldock (calf), Beram Kayal (leg); QUESTIONABLE: Glenn Murray (ankle)


Everton vs. Burnley — 9:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

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.”

INJURIES: Everton — OUT: Ross Barkley (back), Ramiro Funes Mori (knee), Seamus Coleman (leg), James McCarthy (knee), Yannick Bolasie (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Michael Keane (foot) | Burnley — OUT: Tom Heaton (shoulder), Nakhi Wells (ankle), Jonathan Walters (knee), Dean Marney (knee)


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.”

INJURIES: Newcastle — OUT: Paul Dummett (hamstring) | Liverpool — OUT: Adam Lallana (thigh), Nathaniel Clyne (hamstring)

Klopp’s reliance on top CB pair nothing new, but a problem

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When Jurgen Klopp was hired at Borussia Dortmund in 2008, he did something right away that would set the stage for BVB’s run back into Bundesliga power.

Klopp brought defender Neven Subotic with him from Mainz, and took Mats Hummels on loan from Bayern Munich.

The 19-year-old Subotic played 38 times for BVB that season, and Hummels played well on way to a permanent transfer.

[ MORE: Klopp left fuming at defending ]

Largely, Klopp seemed to “set it and forget it” with his center backs from that point forward: No big summer buys, and neither Subotic nor Hummels was headed anywhere.

That didn’t change until 2013-14, when Klopp bought Sokratis Papastathopoulos from Werder Bremen, adding Matthias Ginter the next season.

Klopp left BVB after a disappointing 2014-15, taking the job at Liverpool in October 2015.

He didn’t do much in January, but agreed to terms with Schalke center back Joel Matip in February and landed Ragnar Klavan from Augsburg in the summer. The Reds already had bought Dejan Lovren from Southampton in the Summer of 2014, and Klopp seemed set.

[ MORE: League Cup Weds. wrap ]

Lovren improved a lot with Matip next to him, and Klavan made just 15 appearances for the Reds last season. The Reds went hard at Southampton’s Virgil Van Dijk, but failed to get him for any number of reasons. Still, Klopp figured his quartet, including young Joe Gomez in a pinch, would be just fine this season.

And maybe they will be, but there are daunting signs for the Reds in the first couple months of the season. Klopp has used Matip in eight matches, tied for the most on the team with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino. He’s used Lovren six times, and Klavan four.

Liverpool’s record by CB pair (admittedly a tiny sample size):

Matip-Lovren: 3W-2D
Matip-Klavan: 1W-1D-1L
Gomez-Klavan: 1L (today)

The center backs, sans Matip and Lovren, especially hurt the Reds in the 2-0 loss to Leicester on Tuesday. All three moments of Leicester threat in this highlight package find either Klavan or Gomez cooked or out-of-place.

Look, a lot of teams are going to be hurt when using their second-choice CB pair, and many won’t be bothered by Liverpool’s exit from the League Cup. Furthermore, it’s not like anyone has been mistaking Lovren and Matip for Puyol and Pique.

But look at every English team in Europe, including the ones with far fewer defensive frailties heading into this summer than Liverpool.

Chelsea bought Antonio Rudiger.

Everton added Michael Keane.

Manchester United bought Victor Lindelof.

Spurs bought Davinson Sánchez and Juan Foyth.

Arsenal didn’t buy anyone besides Alexandre Lacazette, while Man City bought full backs and has received plenty of criticism for failing to add to its center back corps of Vincent Kompany, John Stones, and Eliaquim Mangala.

Liverpool? They sold Mamadou Sakho.

It’s problematic, yes, and it can’t be fixed until January. The question is whether Klopp sees a need to spend in the winter window. As illustrated above, he loves to ride his horses, even if Lovren and Matip aren’t quite Hummels and Subotic.

Think of what’s ailed Liverpool in recent seasons: Are some of those flops against lesser Premier League teams changed with more rest for their top pair or a better option for the mix?