Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

An under-the-radar Premier League XI

Leave a comment

The Premier League’s international break invites reflection on both what we’ve seen so far and what’s to come.

For example, what if we left out the superstars?

For whatever reason, this one is recalling the state of mind of 2015-16, when we were digesting that Leicester City very much looked the part of Premier League champions.

[ MORE: Herrera on “intense” Zlatan ]

For a lot of us, that meant delving into statistics and seeing what matched the eye test. Many started Googling the name “N'Golo Kante“, the dynamic disruptor who’d move to Chelsea in August.

He’s a household name now, with some personalities even arguing that he should buck the trend of Ballon d’Or nominees including only major statistic producers (There was a time when names like Fabio Cannavaro and Matthias Sammer claimed the honor, you know).

For our purposes, we’ll use a pair of advanced stats sites and the good ol’ eye test. (Of the sites we’re using, Squawka seems to skew toward high attack scores, while WhoScored tilts a bit toward the back, so life is good if a player hits both sites’ Top 50).

Before getting into our team — we promise no 10-picture, click-to-reveal-next stuff — some stats that stood out.

— Three players have had outstanding “short” seasons for different reasons.

  • Leicester City’s Wilfried Ndidi took a short spell to adjust to the Premier League after arriving in January, but has been the Foxes’ most influential player in their recent turnaround).
  • Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake essentially was the Cherries’ first-half success before heading back to Chelsea where Antonio Conte won’t move him ahead of Marcos Alonso or Victor Moses (and that’s actually understandable as you’ll see below).
  • Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas just doesn’t feature a ton for Conte, but in limited time his per-90 stats on Squawka trail only Eden Hazard and Alexis Sanchez.

— The following players have risen well above most of their teammates but fall short of the league Top 50 on either site: Ben Gibson (Boro), Michael Keane and Ben Mee (Burnley), Christian Fuchs (Leicester City), Joe Allen (Stoke City), Jose Holebas and Troy Deeney (Watford), Gareth McAuley (West Brom).

— Watford, as a side, is seemingly the choose to a sort of MVP. On WhoScored, not a single player rises above 7, but there are a host in the very high sixes.

— In very different systems, John Stones (91.8) and Adam Forshaw (89.2) are thriving in pass percentage.

Oriol Romeu of Southampton and Victor Wanyama of Tottenham Hotspur (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

— Southampton’s Oriel Romeu and Stoke’s Erik Pieters rank fourth and fifth respectively in tackles per game.

— In a team that has to intervene a ton, Hull City’s Curtis Davies the league with 3.8 interceptions per game.


Honorable mention

Goalkeeper: Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City)

Defenders: Aleksandar Kolarov (Manchester City), Marcos Alonso (Chelsea), Calum Chambers (Boro), Papy Djilobodji (Sunderland), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)

Midfielders: Ake, Victor Wanyama (Spurs), Willian (Chelsea), Juan Mata (Manchester United), Harry Winks (Spurs), Manuel Lanzini (West Ham United), Victor Moses (Chelsea), Jack Wilshere (Bournemouth).

Forwards: Joshua King (Bournemouth), Fernando Llorente (Swansea City), Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace)


Goalkeeper

Ben Foster (West Brom) — With the highest performance score in the position on WhoScored, Foster has claimed all 95 balls he’s went up for and has a league-best 76 saves.

Defenders

Nicolas Otamendi (Man City, 7.49, 29.18) — One of few defenders to rate high in interceptions despite being on a team that doesn’t concede loads of chances or possession.

George Friend (Middlesbrough) — Just out of the upper echelon on the advanced stats site, he is in rarefield air in traditional stats interceptions and tackles.

Steve Cook (Bournemouth, 7.16, 22.76) — Jumps out of the advanced stats on a Cherries team which has faced plenty of attacking pressure.

Antonio Valencia (Manchester United, 7.28, 27.45) — There’s a reason Jose Mourinho rewarded him with an extension not long into the manager’s tenure at Old Trafford.

Midfielders

Ander Herrera (Manchester United, 7.44, 36.64) – Long-heralded at Athletic Bilbao, Herrera is finally showing what made him so sought. One odd stat that may be explained by his willingness to run to any situation: he’s very high in average times dribbled past.

Idrissa Gana Gueye (Everton, 7.34, 20.57) – The best player in Aston Villa’s awful 2015-16, he’s been arguably as effective as N’Golo Kante. Seriously.

Matt Phillips (West Bromwich Albion) – Once the top player on a relegated QPR, Phillips is fifth in the Premier League in assists despite missing the last four matches with injury.

Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur, 7.41, 31.89) – Second in the PL in key passes, he doesn’t get the plaudits of English teammates Dele Alli and Harry Kane. The relationships are very symbiotic.

 

Forwards

Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace, 7.44) – On an under-achieving team, Zaha’s statistics are wild. He’s the most-fouled player in the league, and attempts/completes the most dribbles in the PL. He gives the ball away a lot, too, but that happens when you’re the focal point of everything your team does in the attacking third.

Alex Iwobi (Arsenal, 30.54) – The Nigerian turns 21 in May, and has four goals and seven assists across all competitions.

Tottenham 2-1 Southampton: Spurs cope without Kane

Getty Images
1 Comment
  • Spurs win 10-straight PL home games
  • Tottenham cut Chelsea’s lead to 10 points
  • Saints lose Gabbiadini through injury
  • Spurs remain unbeaten at home this season

Tottenham Hotspur beat Southampton 2-1 on Sunday in the Premier League as Mauricio Pochettino‘s men rode a strong first half performance to victory and proved they can grind out wins without the injured Harry Kane.

Christian Eriksen put Spurs ahead and then Dele Alli doubled the lead from the penalty spot to make it 2-0 at the break. Southampton came back into the game strongly in the second half with James Ward-Prowse pulling a goal back to make it 2-1 but Saints couldn’t break through a stubborn Tottenham defense to snatch a point.

With the win Tottenham move on to 59 points and cut Chelsea’s lead atop the Premier League to 10 points, while Saints remain in 10th place on 33 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Spurs started brightly as Heung-Min Son got in-behind Southampton’s defense after a brilliant ball from Eriksen but Fraser Forster saved superbly as he rushed off his line.

Tottenham took the lead inside the opening 15 minutes as Eriksen cut in from the right side of the box and drilled a low shot into the bottom corner. 1-0 to Spurs.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

Southampton responded well to going behind and Oriol Romeu smashed a fine effort just wide of the far post as Saints searched for a way to get back into the game. Toby Alderweireld then sent a powerful downward header in on goal from Eriksen’s corner but Forster produced a fabulous save to claw it away.

Saints then had two quick chances as Dusan Tadic combined with Manolo Gabbiadini and the latter lashed an effort inches wide of the post and then Tadic had a horrendous miss from close-range but was saved by the linesman stating that the ball had gone out of play before Nathan Redmond pulled it back. It clearly hadn’t. A huge let off for Spurs and they took full advantage of it.

Gabbiadini hobbled off injured after his snapshot, then moments later Saints gave away a penalty kick as Steven Davis connected with Alli and the Tottenham midfielder put home the spot kick to make it 2-0. Spurs cruising but the PK award was a little harsh on Saints.

Saints had a shout for a penalty kick of their own right on half time as Tadic was taken down by Ben Davies in the box but referee Andre Marriner waved away the calls.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

In the second half Saints pushed hard and found themselves back in the game soon after the interval.

Ryan Bertrand‘s cross from the left flank was finished superbly by Ward-Prowse at the back post and Southampton had a way back into the game. 2-1.

Buoyed by that goal Saints dominated possession but failed to create many chances as Shane Long battled hard but timed his runs incorrectly on multiple occasions.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score

Late on Saints searched for an equalizer as nerves increased among the home fans at White Hart Lane but Tottenham held on to keep their top four hopes well and truly alive and keep the pressure on Chelsea.

Stream Live: Tottenham v. Southampton

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Tottenham Hotspur host Southampton on Sunday at White Hart Lane (Watch live, 10:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with Maurico Pochettino’s men aiming to close the gap on leaders Chelsea to 10 points.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Southampton have plenty of games in hand and are looking to push for a fourth-straight finish in the top eight of the Premier League.

In team news Spurs start Son up front for the injured Harry Kane and Pochettino has pretty much a full strength side apart from Danny Rose still missing through injury.

Saints start with the same team for the third game in a row.


LINEUPS

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris; Dier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen; Walker, Wanyama, Dembele, Davies; Dele, Eriksen, Son. Subs: Vorm, Trippier, Wimmer, Onomah, Sissoko, Winks, Janssen

Southampton: Forster; Cedric, Stephens, Yoshida, Bertrand; Romeu, Davis; Ward-Prowse, Tadic, Redmond; Gabbiadini. Subs: Hassen, McQueen, Caceres, Hojbjerg, Boufal, Long, Rodriguez

PL Sunday preview: Man City-Liverpool; Spurs host Saints; Boro-Man Utd

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sunday is Super once again in the Premier League, as four of six top-four hopefuls are in action, two of the four facing off directly…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Middlesbrough vs. Manchester United — 8 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

If Jose Mourinho is to guide Man United to a top-four finish in his first season at Old Trafford, Sunday’s trip to Boro represents a must-win opportunity for the Red Devils to leapfrog Arsenal for fifth place in the PL table, and potentially finish the weekend just three points back of fourth-place Liverpool while holding two games in hand. To do so, though, United must overcome a rash of injuries and suspensions.

Unavailable on Sunday: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (suspension), Ander Herrera (suspension); doubtful or questionable through injuries: Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, Daley Blind, Wayne Rooney, Bastian Schweinsteiger. Woof.

“I can imagine some people will say we should play better, we could play better, we should score more goals, we should not have so many difficulties to beat this opponent, but the reality is we have lots of things going against us and we have to try and fight,” Mourinho said ahead of Sunday’s clash at the Riverside Stadium. “The boys are amazing and we will probably lose the game on Sunday but we will try our best.”

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Chelsea delight, Arsenal misery ]

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Southampton — 10:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Life without Harry Kane begins, again, for Tottenham. A top-four finish — not to mention the chance to finish above Arsenal for the first time in 22 years — are very real for a second straight season, but Mauricio Pochettino‘s side will have to navigate the all of, or most of, the season’s final 11 games without their 19-goalscorer (37 percent of his side’s league goals — 4th-highest in the PL) after the 23-year-old re-injured his left ankle during last Sunday’s FA Cup thrashing of Millwall. Up first, it’s a visit from Southampton, which sees one of the PL’s most confounding, up-and-down sides fighting for a top-half finish in Claude Puel‘s first season at St. Mary’s Stadium.

Heung-Min Son bagged a hat trick while playing up top in Kane’s absence last weekend, which seems Pochettino’s most likely Plan A to replace last season’s Golden Boot winner. The problem, of course, is the South Korean’s lack of size and strength to hold the ball up, bring others into the attack, and muscle defenders around the 18-yard box in order to create space for himself. Dele Alli will likely play further forward, and more centrally, to provide a greater numerical advantage for Spurs.

“We have different options (up front) — you could see in the last game against Millwall,” Pochettino believes. “At the beginning of the season, Harry got injured in the Sunderland game and we missed him for nearly two months but we played with different options – with Son, with Vincent Janssen. We used different players, but we are sure that we will play well.

[ MORE: Wenger to determine his future “very soon” ]

Manchester City vs. Liverpool — 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com

It’s a matchup between third and fourth in PL, as Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds visit the Etihad Stadium to a Man City side which hasn’t lost a league game in over two months (six games — four wins, two draws). After failing to win a single one of their first five PL games of the 2017 calendar year, Liverpool’s title challenge was put to bed, as their dreams of returning to the top-four for just the second time in eight seasons so nearly were as well.

Pep Guardiola‘s men must rebound immediately after bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday, having blown a two-goal advantage in the second leg away to Monaco. Having played one game more than City thus far, Liverpool trail Sunday’s opponents by a single point, and currently sit five points clear of Arsenal.

“These games are always important. Actually, I can’t remember a not-important game in the Premier League, to be honest,” Klopp said. “But I think we all know about the quality of Manchester City, probably a few people think they’re out of the Champions League now against Monaco, but I think the way they played was quite impressive.”

Premier League player Power Rankings – Top 20

Leave a comment

The cream is rising to the top…

[ MORE: Power Rankings archive

As the business end of the season arrives in the Premier League, the in-form players are strutting their stuff and making the difference. Many remain steady in our rankings too.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League.

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections of the top 20 players in the PL right now.


  1. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – Up 2
  2. N’Golo Kante (Chelsea) – Even
  3. Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) – Up 2
  4. Leroy Sane (Man City) – Up 8
  5. Romelu Lukaku (Everton) – Up 13
  6. Dele Alli (Tottenham) – Even
  7. Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) – Even
  8. Diego Costa (Chelsea) – Even
  9. Adam Lallana (Liverpool) – Down 5
  10. Raheem Sterling (Man City) – Even
  11. David Luiz (Chelsea) – Even
  12. David Silva (Man City) – Up 3
  13. David De Gea (Manchester United) – New entry
  14. Manolo Gabbiadini (Southampton) – Down 5
  15. Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester City) – New entry
  16. Josh King (Bournemouth) – New entry
  17. Ross Barkley (Everton) – New entry
  18. Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea) – New entry
  19. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – Down 3
  20. Nathan Redmond (Southampton) – Down 1