PL Sunday preview: Man City’s title trot; Wenger’s farewell tour

Leave a comment

Manchester City will play as the confirmed champions of the Premier League, though they won’t celebrate as such for a couple more weeks, on Sunday. Meanwhile, the only manager Arsenal have known for more than two decades begins saying goodbye

[ MORE: Man United come back to beat Spurs, reach FA Cup final ]

Arsenal vs. West Ham United — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

So begins the Arsene Wenger farewell tour, and with a London derby at that. Wenger announced on Friday that he’ll leave Arsenal at the end of the current season, which has little to no chance of seeing the Gunners finish in the PL’s top-five, let alone the top-four. Sunday’s clash with West Ham will be the first of Wenger’s three remaining games at the Emirates Stadium, including the Europa League semifinal against Atletico Madrid on Thursday. Unfortunately for Wenger, three of his final five PL games (four of seven in all competitions) will be played away from home, where his side has lost five straight in league play.

Speaking of lost and wayward seasons, 14th-place West Ham are almost mathematically clear of relegation (there’s currently three places and six points between themselves and 18th-place Southampton). It’s hardly the future they imagined upon moving to the London Stadium at the start of last season. Andy Carroll scored the late equalizer in the Hammers’ 1-1 draw with Stoke City on Monday, which rescued perhaps a perfectly timed point with all five remaining games to be played against sides currently in the top-nine (Arsenal, Man City, Leicester, Man United and Everton).

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (knee), Santi Cazorla (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Jack Wilshere (ankle) | West Ham — OUT: James Collins (hamstring), Sam Byram (ankle), Winston Reid (knee), Michail Antonio (hamstring), Pedro Obiang (knee)


Stoke City vs. Burnley — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Here’s what’s at stake at the bet365 Stadium on Sunday:

Stoke sit two places and five points adrift of safety from relegation, with four games left to play (17th-place Swansea City have a game in hand, to boot). After 10 seasons in the PL, it’s looking more and more likely that Paul Lambert (with a tip of the cap to Mark Hughes earlier in the season) will take the Potters back to the Championship for the first time since they won promotion in 2008.

Burnley trail Arsenal by just two points (though the Clarets have played one more game than the Gunners) in the race for sixth place. A sixth-place finish would be the club’s highest top-flight finish since 1966 (3rd).

INJURIES: Stoke — QUESTIONABLE: Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting (groin) | Burnley — OUT: Steven Defour (knee), Scott Arfield (calf), Robbie Brady (knee), Jonathan Walters (fitness); QUESTIONABLE: Ben Mee (knock), Georges-Kevin Nkoudou (hamstring)


Manchester City vs. Swansea City — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

While Man City won’t lift the PL trophy until their May 6 clash with Huddersfield Town, Sunday’s visit from Swansea will be Pep Guardiola‘s side’s first outing since clinching the title courtesy of Man United’s defeat to West Bromwich Albion last weekend. Guardiola’s focus has turned to breaking the all-time PL points record (95 — they currently have 87 with five games still to play).

“In the past, I won the league at Bayern and at Barca with five, six or seven games (left) but the next games were not good,” he said this week. “We have to think about how many points we can get, it can be a good argument. What we need to do is already done, the points record is not the most important thing, but maybe it can help us to be focused. It would be uncomfortable to finish in a bad way, there always has to be a target and maybe scoring the most goals and winning the most points will be a good focus.”

INJURIES: Man City — OUT: Sergio Aguero (knee), Benjamin Mendy (knee); QUESTIONABLE: John Stones (thigh) | Swansea — OUT: Wilfried Bony (knee), Leroy Fer (achilles), Renato Sanches (hamstring)

PL Sunday preview: Chelsea, Arsenal wandering no man’s land

AP Photo/Alastair Grant
Leave a comment

The Premier League’s top-four is all but confirmed this season, which means perennial Champions League sides Chelsea and Arsenal have little to nothing to play for in their final seven games; the same can’t be said for either of their opponents on Sunday…

[ PL ROUNDUP: United deny City their title; Spurs inch closer to Liverpool ]

Arsenal vs. Southampton — 9:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Arsenal’s quest for a top-four-five-six finish in the PL continues on Sunday, when the Gunners welcome relegation-battling Southampton to the Emirates Stadium, a day after seventh-place Burnley closed the gap to just two points with a 2-1 win over Watford. Form has improved, marginally, in recent weeks (back-to-back league wins, plus three single-leg victories to reach the brink of the Europa League semifinals), but 16 points is the current margin between themselves and fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur. This year’s un-St. Totteringham’s Day could come as soon as next weekend.

18th-place Southampton, meanwhile, face a three-point deficit which represents the difference between the PL and Championship come August. Having lost two straight in the league, and won none in their last five outings, Mark Hughes‘ men are flirting with a return to the second division after five seasons in England’s top flight (and successive finishes of 8th, 7th, 6th and 8th the last four seasons). Last weekend’s 3-0 loss to fellow relegation battlers West Ham United is the season’s low point thus far, though tougher times still appear on the horizon, with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City still to come on Saints’ remaining schedule. Finally, Southampton haven’t won in any of their last 22 trips to Arsenal (November 1987).

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (knee), David Ospina (ankle), Santi Cazorla (achilles) | Southampton — OUT: None

[ THREE THINGS: What we learned from Man United’s comeback over City ]

Chelsea vs. West Ham United — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Much like Arsenal, the final stretch of Chelsea’s season is almost entirely a non-starter — only without the possibility of qualifying for next season’s Champions League by wining the Europa League. Last weekend’s 3-1 loss to Tottenham, the Blues’ first defeat to Spurs at Stamford Bridge in 28 years, all but sealed their place in Europe’s “other” club competition right on the heels of last season’s PL title. Antonio Conte is widely expected to depart in the summer — whether by his choice, or that of Roman Abramovich — and land in any number of high-profile jobs across Europe.

West Ham, on the other hand, enter Sunday’s London derby at Stamford Bridge full of confidence for the first time in months (they lost their three games prior to the win over Southampton, by a combined score of 11-2), and a full five points clear of the relegation zone. Like Saints, though, the Hammers have been woeful in recent years against Sunday’s foe: 11 games without a win at the Bridge (outscored 22-6).

INJURIES: Chelsea — OUT: Ross Barkley (fitness), David Luiz (ankle); QUESTIONABLE: Pedro (knock) | West Ham — OUT: Micahil Antonio (hamstring), Winston Reid (knee), Sam Byram (ankle), Andy Carroll (ankle), Pedro Obiang (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Manuel Lanzini (knee), James Collins (hamstring)

James Collins injured in West Ham friendly

Getty Images
Leave a comment

West Ham defender James Collins hobbled off the field in the 29th minute of the Hammers’ friendly against Dagenham & Redbridge on Wednesday, a big blow to the club’s already paper-thin back line.

With the league on an international break, West Ham agreed to play a friendly against Dagenham & Redbridge to help raise money for National League club that could be in serious financial trouble. However, it could be detrimental to the short-term future of the Hammers, who are hoping to stave off relegation, sitting just two points above the drop.

The 34-year-old defender has missed significant time this season due to injury, with an ankle injury keeping Collins out for nearly three months in 2017. West Ham has lost just four of the 12 Premier League matches Collins has appeared in this season, with three clean sheets. However, two of those have come in the club’s last three games, thrashed by a combined 7-1 scoreline between 90 minutes against Liverpool and Burnley.

The injury comes at the worst possible time, with West Ham set to play Southampton in a critical relegation matchup between teams in the in 17th and 18th in the Premier League table. The Hammers are already without defender Winston Reid who remains out for the season with a knee injury, while the club sold center-back Jose Fonte to Chinese club Dalian Yifang F.C. in late February.

West Ham was hoping to do its part to help save the London club. Former director Glyn Hopkin abruptly resigned and pulled all financial backing in early February, leaving the club fearing for its immediate future. They reportedly need $353,000 just to stay afloat the rest of the season, even with zero club debt.

Moyes “embarrassed” in Wales, updates scary Reid injury

Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images
Leave a comment

David Moyes is bitterly disappointed in his players as West Ham United dipped closer to the relegation zone with a 4-1 hammering in Wales.

[ RECAP: Swans 4-1 West Ham ]

Swansea scored early and often, and the Irons could only manage a Michail Antonio consolation marker in the 78th minute.

The loss has the Irons just three points above the drop zone, and Moyes doesn’t need X’s and O’s or a tactics board to break down the loss, taking the blame for his players’ poor performance.

From the BBC:

“We played so bad. I couldn’t assess it, it was that poor.

“The fans travelled through the snow to get here and we let them down badly. That was the poorest performance since I came here. I’m embarrassed.”

There’s reason to be concerned, as West Ham’s run-in is dastardly: Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City are all on the docket, and Leicester, Everton, and Burnley aren’t walkovers. Southampton and Stoke City at home are must-win for Moyes’ men.

West Ham also had a scary injury to Winston Reid, in which the New Zealand defender was stretchered off with his neck in a brace after his knee bent in grotesque fashion.

Moyes admitted the knee is a bigger concern than the head, which is good considering the player was knocked unconscious.

“Winston Reid is conscious, he was knocked out, we are more worried about the injury to his knee than the knock to his head. He’s an important player for us so we hope it’s not too bad.”

Swansea 4-1 West Ham: Swans soar again

Leave a comment
  • 7 wins in a row at home for Swansea for the first time since 2004
  • Swansea have won four PL home games in a row
  • Hammers who have one win in their last six

Swansea City continued their fine form as they hammered West Ham 4-1 at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday to ease their relegation fears.

The Swans surged into a 2-0 lead as Ki drilled home and Mike Van der Hoorn headed in a second, while Andy King and Jordan Ayew piled on the misery for West Ham in the second half.

With the win Swansea moved up to 13th place and have 30 points, while West Ham drop to 14th on 30 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

The Swans started brightly and were rewarded as Ki’s low shot from distance beat Adrian but West Ham’s goalkeeper will have been disappointed to have been beaten from that range.

A corner from Swansea then caused chaos as Declan Rice eventually cleared off the line to deny Federico Fernandez amid a mad scramble.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

There was then a lengthy delay as Winston Reid twisted under his under weight and appeared to hurt his left knee badly. The Hammers center back was eventually stretchered off as Mark Noble and Swansea’s Andre Ayew (formerly of West Ham) squared up in the aftermath.

Van der Hoorn then put Swansea 2-0 up just before half time as he nodded home from a corner to give the Swans a deserved two-goal lead.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Swansea made it 3-0 soon after half time as King prodded home following Andre Ayew’s header being saved. Game over.

On the break Marko Arnautovic looked like he would pull one back but he dinked his shot straight at Lukasz Fabianski and that effort summed up the Hammers’ afternoon in South Wales.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]  

It got worse for West Ham as Andre Ayew was brought down in the box by Cheikhou Kouyate and his brother Jordan stepped up to finish off a mercurial display from Swansea.

Michail Antonio, on as a half time sub, scored a consolation goal for the second game running as he spun in the box and hammered home a low shot.