Premier League Playback: Naive Liverpool, overachievers, Championship Sunday

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SWASHBUCKLING LIVERPOOL PAY THE PRICE

At Selhurst Park on Monday, Liverpool’s title charge took a devastating blow for the second time in a week. 3-0 up with 11 minutes to go, somehow the Premier League’s long-time leaders chucked it all away as they tied 3-3 in dramatic fashion against Crystal Palace. Standing at the back of the old main stand of Palace’s home stadium, as soon as their second goal went in I sensed the game was only going one way.

Despite the horrendous nature of their late collapse against Palace, the real damage was done for Brendan Rodgers’ side when they lost 2-0 at home to Chelsea last Sunday. Liverpool only needed a point from that match but went for the win and paid the price for their naive tactics. They didn’t learn from their cavalier approach going wrong against Chelsea, as Palace picked the Reds apart with Rodgers’ side pouring forward to try and score more goals in order to help their goal differential and their title chances.

Following the game, Rodgers was reserved and slightly stunned in front of the assembled media in South London as he conceded the Premier League title to Man City.

“It is hugely disappointing,” Rodgers said of Liverpool’s collapse. “For 78 minutes we were outstanding, looked solid defensively, didn’t have many scares, got three goals and looked like we could have got more. I think we got a little bit carried away looking to get one or two more goals and lost the defensive structure to our game. To lose those three goals at the end of the game was hugely disappointing. We said at half time that the most important thing was to win the game. I thought we started playing “Roy of the Rovers” football and trying make up the goal difference. Tonight was about winning the game.”

Liverpool didn’t win, and heading into the final game of the 2013-14 Premier League season they know a win at home against Newcastle is unlikely to be enough to hand them their first league title in 24 years. Manchester City — who have remarkably only spent 11 days at the time of the standings the entire season due to the scheduling of their matches — only need a point against West Ham on the final day as their goal differential is 13 better than Liverpool’s and they are two points ahead of Liverpool at the top of the PL standings.

So, did Rodgers really not tell his squad to go for more goals against Palace?

Before the match Rodgers gave a rallying cry that his side had all guns blazing and were trying to erase City’s advantage in terms of goal differential. If I was a Crystal Palace player listening to those words, it would’ve made me determined to scupper Liverpool’s title charge. Don’t get me wrong Liverpool’s free-flowing style, which has seen them score 99 goals this season, is exciting, exhilarating and easy on the eye. Yet it is also extremely naive. Glen Johnson and Jon Flanagan were bombing on from their full back positions even after the Reds let their first two goals in and both were exposed horribly, alongside Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho who were beaten by a long hoof up the pitch late on for the equalizer.

Here is what Johnson, who didn’t have a night to remember, said on Twitter in response to severe criticism after the game.

When it comes to experts…. would Arsene Wenger or Sir Alex Ferguson have gone all-out attack when they were 3-0 up away at Palace to try and whittle down goal difference? No. They would have made sure they won the game and made their competitors win their final match of the campaign. Now City don’t have to and Liverpool have let them off the hook. Rodgers’ game management, once again, was poor. Even if he didn’t instruct his side to grab the ball after every goal and race back to the halfway line to try to score more, the way the Northern Irishman has conditioned his side to play came back to bite him. Liverpool’s players don’t know any other way to play and if you concede 49 goals in 37 games and can’t adapt your style to grind out wins then, unfortunately, you are never going to win the Premier League crown.

In the video below you can see the utter devastation from Liverpool’s players, especially Luis Suarez who was inconsolable, and their fans alongside the jubilation of Palace’s faithful. In a nutshell, Monday’s 3-3 draw at Selhurst Park epitomized the Premier League. Drama, despair and delight all wrapped into a pulsating 90 minutes. It doesn’t get much better than that.

CHAMPIONSHIP SUNDAY SET

With City still needing to get a point from their final match of the season at home to West Ham, all eyes will be on the Etihad on Sunday. You can watch their match live on NBC at 10 a.m. ET, so will we have another dramatic fashion on the final day similar to win City won their first PL title two seasons ago?

Premier League Schedule – Week 37

Result Recap & Highlights
Arsenal 1-0 West Brom Recap and watch here
 Aston Villa 3-1 Hull City Recap and watch here
Chelsea 0-0 Norwich Recap and watch here
Crystal Palace 3-3 Liverpool Recap and watch here
Everton 2-3 Manchester City Recap and watch here
Manchester United 0-1 Sunderland Recap and watch here
Newcastle 3-0 Cardiff City Recap and watch here
Stoke City 4-1 Fulham Recap and watch here
Swansea 0-1 Southampton Recap and watch here
West Ham 2-0 Tottenham Recap and watch here

In case you didn’t know, you can also watch all 10 PL games live across NBC’s umbrella of channels on Sunday as “Championship Sunday” takes over your TV sets. Here are all the details, as games will be played on NBCSN, CNBC, MSNBC, E!, Bravo and many more.

MORE: Championship Sunday focus, all 20 teams

For one last time this season sit back, relax and get your remote ready for a good old bashing as you flick between the 10 games being played simultaneously. Plus, you can catch every game live online via NBC Sports Live Extra.

10 games, 10 channels, one Championship Sunday.

THE OVERACHIEVERS

It is that time of the year again when awards are handed out and we are no different here at ProSoccerTalk.

Next week look out for our Premier League reviews, as from Monday to Thursday we will be awarding several accolades and reviewing one of the greatest seasons in PL history.

Many of the same teams or individuals have and will win most of the awards, and rightly so. Yet which teams have overachieved this season in the PL? For me, Southampton, Stoke City, Crystal Palace and Hull City could all fight for that accolade. Okay, even top five teams like Liverpool and Everton can be roped into the “overachievers” bracket, but those sides will get awards and in fairness they are massive clubs. The four aforementioned teams are not and they have punched well above their weight in the Premier League. Here’s a quick look at all four, as you may not have hear about them too much all season long.

  • Southampton: It has been a remarkable season on the South Coast for Mauricio Pochettino’s men. Teenagers Luke Shaw, Calum Chambers, Harrison Reed and Sam Gallagher have all come through the academy as Saints are the envy of most PL clubs as they run a sustainable ship. Adam Lallana, Shaw and until injury wrecked his World Cup dreams, Jay Rodriguez, have been the stars as they team have equaled their best-ever PL finish of eighth and recorded their best-ever PL points total off 55 and counting. Can they keep all of their stars together and mount a serious challenge to the top five next season?
  • Stoke City: The Potters will finish in the top half of the standings for the first time in PL history as Mark Hughes men recovered superbly after a slow start. Even up until January there were lingering doubts around relegation at the Britannia Stadium but Hughes’ first season in charge has seen massive home wins over Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United as Stoke have shone. They still have a solid defensive core but now a silky style has started to seep through. Can they kick on and fight for the top six next season.
  • Crystal Palace: Tony Pulis is right up there for the manager of the year award and the job he has done at Palace deserves it. On the four previous occasions they had been promoted to the PL they were relegated at the first attempt but that isn’t the case this time around. When Pulis arrived in late November they had just four points in the standings and were dead and buried… now they are 11th and have amassed 44 points in an astonishing turnaround. Selhurst Park is a hostile stadium to visit and the fans are enjoying “Crystal Pulis'” progression. What are they capable of next season?
  • Hull City: The Tigers’ season has petered out in terms of their PL success, just two wins in their last 10 tell that story. However with a first-ever FA Cup final hanging over them against Arsenal on May 17, its not all doom and gloom for Steve Bruce’s side. Far from it. If you had said the Tigers would have stayed up at the start of the season, any Hull fan, player or staff member would have ripped your hand off. They are difficult to beat and have a chance of silverware at the end of a landmark season back in the big time.

CAN MAN UNITED SEAL A EUROPEAN SPOT?

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With plenty of permutations still around for Championship Sunday, there are a few things to be decided. One of those if whether or not Manchester United will be playing in the Europa League next season. If the Red Devils beat Southampton at St. Mary’s on the final day of the season then they will hope for a Tottenham defeat at home to Aston Villa, which would seal a sixth place finish for Ryan Giggs’ men.

After the final whistle blows on the 2013-14 campaign, do we think United would be happy to finish sixth and have European soccer to attract better players to sign this summer? Personally, I don’t think it makes a difference. If anything United’s rebuild will be hampered by Thursday night matches in far flung corners of Europe. As we’ve seen with Liverpool this campaign, not having the distraction of European nights can be a huge plus point in terms of a charge towards the PL title. The big question still remains about their manager and who will be at the helm next season, as Giggs played himself in the midweek win over Hull and spoke to the United faithful from the pitch. Watch that video above.

Whether or not Ryan Giggs, Louis van Gaal or whoever else is in charge at the start of the next season, Europa League soccer is not a necessity at Old Trafford if England’s most successful club are to make a quick return to glory amongst the PL’s elite.

Premier League Playback takes an alternative look at all the weekend’s action from the PL, it comes out every week.

Gerrard extends contract amid strong start as Rangers boss

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Steven Gerrard is quite keen to stick around as Rangers boss following a strong start to his managerial career, leading the 39-year-old first-time manager to sign a two-year contract extension on Friday.

[ MORE: Ljungberg wants quick appointment of new Arsenal manager ]

With his current contract previously set to run through the 2021-22 season, Gerrard’s services have been secured until the summer of 2024.

Gerrard has been largely successful since taking over the Scottish Premiership side last summer, guiding Rangers to their highest points total (78) since returning to the first division in 2016, and a second-place finish (also for the first time) behind rivals Celtic. Rangers reached the Europa League’s round of 32 on Thursday, marking their first trip to the knockout round of European competition since 2011.

That much success so quickly will undoubtedly lead to Gerrard’s name being linked with increasingly large jobs in England, likely prompting Rangers to act preemptively.

“I’m delighted to be extending my stay at this fantastic football club. When the chairman approached me about the possibility of extending my contract with Rangers, it was a very easy decision to make because I’m very happy and feel that we are building something special together at the club.

“I’d like to thank the board for the backing they have given me already in my time at the club and also most importantly, the Rangers fans who have given me and the team such tremendous backing both this season and last.”

Ljungberg wants quick appointment of new Arsenal manager

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Freddie Ljungberg is honored to serve as Arsenal’s interim manager following Unai Emery’s dismissal, but the Swede is also hoping for a speedy conclusion to the club’s search for a permanent replacement.

[ MORE: Lampard: Chelsea youngsters can’t worry about January transfers ]

In theory, taking over the most famous club for which Ljungberg played was a no-brainer. In practice, though, he openly admits it’s been not only a difficult time for everyone emotionally, but also in terms of the staff members available to assist him during the day-to-day grind. Throw in the fact he has no idea whether or not he’ll still have a role at the club when the new manager arrives, and it’s beginning to sound like a no-win situation. Perhaps he’s being considered to remain in the job permanently, but Ljungberg says he’s been given no indication of any such thing — quotes from the Guardian:

“The club have said I have to wait until they make a decision, so I can’t do anything at the moment. I have Per [Mertesacker] but at the same time he is academy manager. He is helping me with the coaching. The club has said when they make a decision then that’s it — or I’m leaving, obviously — and maybe then we can do something with the staff. But it’s up to the club.

“If you look at the person who was here before, he had a lot of staff and maybe I don’t have so many. So if you keep on going like that for months and months, it’s not so easy. But that’s totally up to the club.”

“I haven’t got any indication of if I’m here or not. What I’ve said to the bosses and the club is I will do everything in my power to do as well as I can for this club and the players. Then obviously it is up to them to make a decision. I try not to put any emotions into that.”

Arsenal came back from a goal down (twice) to draw Norwich City in Ljungberg’s first game in charge, then the Gunners were comprehensively beaten (at home) by Brighton & Hove Albion. The bounced back with a win over West Ham United on Monday, but could only draw Standard Liege (albeit with a weakened team) in the Europa League on Thursday.

Lampard: Chelsea youngsters can’t worry about January transfers

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Frank Lampard knows it’s only natural that some of Chelsea’s youngsters will have worries about the January transfer window and the Blues’ newfound ability to sign players, considering they were only afforded a first-team opportunity by the club’s transfer ban.

[ PL Preview: Chelsea v. Bournemouth ]

He doesn’t, however, want those thoughts and fears to dominate their thoughts for the next three weeks, until the window opens and Chelsea can sign players for the first time since January of this year. As Lampard sees it, the fact he has roughly $200 million to inject into the squad doesn’t necessarily mean they promising teenagers and early-20-somethings will immediately be cast aside. It does, however, mean he has to navigate this very unique set of circumstances extra carefully — quotes from the Guardian:

“I haven’t banned the talk [about the January window], but I am not going to set out to engage in it. If players want to come and see me and talk then I will happily have a conversation with them individually, but that hasn’t happened.

“I speak to them regularly. I can be, not hard on them, but I push them because I think they need that. I think they feel the trust I have in them because they know I’m prepared to give them the opportunities if they train well and they come in the team and play well. I think they should naturally feel a little bit of tension all the time so that’s not the worst thing.

“They just need to work and believe in their own talents because their talent is there for all to see. We also have to be patient with that because it may take different periods of time for them to fully blossom as players. They might have a period in and out of the team, have a run of the games and then not. I am prepared to stick with them through that because I really believe in them.”

22-year-old Tammy Abraham currently sits second in the race for the Premier League Golden Boot with 11 goals in 15 appearances. 21-year-old Christian Pulisic, while not an academy product, has shone brightly of late with a half-dozen goals and nearly as many assists to his name in the last two months. 20-year-old Mason Mount was a surprising revelation in the season’s opening weeks. 21-year-old defender Fikayo Tomori has been a regular starter for the last three months. 20-year-old Reece James has made the starting job at right back his own.

While the temptation to sign high-priced replacements for these budding stars will be hard to resist, perhaps Chelsea would be wiser to sign players in other positions and ride the wave of what could turn out to be a golden generation of homegrown products.

Premier League Preview: Southampton v. West Ham

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Saturday’s final Premier League fixture is set to pit a pair of underperforming relegation battlers against one another when Southampton host West Ham United at St. Mary’s Stadium (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and NBCSports.com). Managers Ralph Hasenhuttl and Manuel Pellegrini have each flirted with being fired in recent weeks, though the former was able to pull himself back from the edge with back-to-back wins last week.

Southampton had lost six of eight games during a two-month winless skid before beating Watford and Norwich City, both at home, to not only save the Austrain’s job but also pull his side to within touching distance of safety from the relegation zone.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

As for West Ham, Pellegrini is hanging on by a thread as he faces the possibility of being the next PL manager fired on the back of a 1W-2D-7L record in the Hammers’ last 10 games. To call that run of results — comprising more than 25 percent of the season — relegation form would be an understatement.

It’s not just the results which have been disastrous, but more so the margin by which they’ve suffered them. In those 10 games, West Ham have managed to conceded fewer than two goals only twice, including just one clean sheet. A number of bottom-half sides have found lots of joy against them: Newcastle United, Burnley, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal each scored three; Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and Everton and Wolverhampton Wanderers each score two.

Injuries/suspensions

Southampton: QUESTIONABLE – Stuart Armstrong (hamstring)

West Ham United: OUT – Manuel Lanzini (clavicle), Jack Wilshere (groin), Lukasz Fabianski (thigh), Winston Reid (knee)


Projected lineups

Southampton: Gunn — Soares, Vestergaard, Yoshida, Bertrand — Djenepo, Ward-Prowse, Hojberg, Redmond — Long, Ings

West Ham: Martin — Fredericks, Balbuena, Ogbonna, Cresswell — Snodgrass, Noble, Rice, Anderson — Haller, Antonio


What they’re saying

Hasenhuttl, on his place as Saints boss: “This experience has been very important for me as a manager and I’m happy that I went through such a period. I’m thankful to the club that it is going a different way, not immediately sacking the manager but supporting him. Thank you to everyone at the club, I could feel big support in this moment, which is important for the future of the club. That was very important for me as a manager, I’ve never had such a long time without winning in my managerial career.”

Pellegrini, on his place as West Ham boss: “What I really need is to win the game but maybe I’m not in my job on Monday. That’s not a problem of the job. The problem is to try to improve what you’re doing because we don’t have the results. It’s a difficult league where the difference is very little between one player and the other one. I repeat it’s not normal to have five points and very bad results. That’s why I know that the owners trust what we are doing because with another owner you may have been sacked before, and we know what football is and we are trying to get results.”


Prediction

Given their medium-term form and the fact they’re playing at home, Southampton should be winning this game. If they’ve done one thing right all season, it’s that they’ve beaten the rest of the sides down near the relegation zone when they’ve faced them head to head. Whether or not West Ham will remain down there remains to be seen, and could be revealed based on what happens Saturday. Saints 2-2 West Ham.