Premier League Playback: Analyzing all 20 teams a third of the way in

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With a third of the season in the books and an international break here, it is time to take stock of the 2015-16 Premier League season so far and see how each of the 20 teams are performing.

[ MORE: PL Playback archive ]

In alphabetical order, here’s a brief look at each side based on what we’ve seen in the opening 12 games of the season.

Let’s get to it…


ARSENAL

Position/points: 2nd/26
Best win: 3-0 over Manchester United. Blew them away.
Star of the show: Mesut Ozil is finally delivering consistently. He’s the hub of Arsenal’s offense.
“Oh no they didn’t” moment: Losing the season opener to West Ham at home.
Manager: Arsene Wenger has built a strong squad but injuries are piling up. Let’s see how they cope.
Reason for optimism: The Gunners are unbeaten in six and look stronger at the back with Cech.
Marks out of 10: 8


ASTON VILLA

Position/points: 20th/5
Best win: Only one so far. Bournemouth away on opening day.
Star of the show: This is tough. Idrissa Gana has been the best of a bad bunch.
“Oh no they didn’t” moment: The whole season, really, but defeat at Leicester after being 2-0 up was pretty bad.
Manager: Remi Garde drew with Man City in his first game in charge after replacing Sherwood. Huge task.
Reason for optimism: Garde can shore up the defense which will improve chances of survival.
Marks out of 10: 2 (and that’s generous)


BOURNEMOUTH

Position/points: 18th/8
Best win: The 4-3 win at West Ham showcased all that is good about their free-flowing style.
Star of the show: Matt Ritchie has adapted to the PL like a fish to the water. Rascal haircut too.
“Oh no they didn’t” moment: Either of the 5-1 defeats to Man City and Spurs in back-to-back weeks.
Manager: Eddie Howe has signed a new deal and his team are playing well but have been ravaged by injuries.
Reason for optimism: If Callum Wilson can return, plus new signings in January, then the Cherries can stay up.
Marks out of 10: 6


CHELSEA

Position/points: 16th/11
Best win: Only a few to choose from. Arsenal at home, 2-0.
Star of the show: Willian has scored 5 free kicks. Everyone else is struggling.
“Oh no they didn’t” moment: Lose three-straight PL games and 7 of their first 12. Reigning champs in ruins.
Manager: Jose Mourinho under pressure for off the pitch and on the pitch woes. Blues sticking with him. For now.
Reason for optimism: Things can only get better because, let’s face it, it is as worse as it will ever be right now.
Marks out of 10: 1


CRYSTAL PALACE

Position/points: 8th/19
Best win: Victory at Chelsea, 2-1. Closely followed by winning at Liverpool. They love an away day.
Star of the show: Tempted to say Cabaye but Yannick Bolasie‘s pace is frightening. Scoring more too.
“Oh no they didn’t” moment: They lost 3-1 at home to West Ham on a day to forget.
Manager: Alan Pardew continues to overachieve. Magnificent season, so far.
Reason for optimism: A top six finish is achievable and with strikers to come back from injury, watch out.
Marks out of 10: 8


EVERTON

Position/points: 9th/17
Best win: Beating Chelsea 3-1 as Steven Naismith scored a hat trick.
Star of the show: Romelu Lukaku has found his scoring boots again, while Ross Barkley‘s looking good.
“Oh no they didn’t” moment: They simply didn’t turn up at home to Man United, lost 3-0.
Manager: Roberto Martinez has got some stick but the Toffees look more solid this season.
Reason for optimism: If Lukaku and Barkley can link up, they have an outside chance of top six.
Marks out of 10: 6


LEICESTER CITY

Position/points: 3rd/25
Best win: So many comeback wins to choose from. The opening day 4-2 win vs. Sunderland set the tone.
Star of the show: Jamie Vardy, closely followed by Riyad Mahrez. They have been sublime.
“Oh no they didn’t” moment: The Foxes succumbed to Arsenal’s fluidity and were battered 5-2. It happens.
Manager: Claudio Ranieri was a weird appointment but it’s looking like an incredible one. Foxes are flying.
Reason for optimism: They are one point off the top. Amazing. When they get to 40 points, anything’s a bonus.
Marks out of 10: 10 (11 if possible)


LIVERPOOL

Position/points: 10th/17
Best win: Beating Chelsea 3-1 away from home. Patient display to end a string of draws.
Star of the show: Philippe Coutinho has once again been the main man going forward.
“Oh no they didn’t” moment: Losing 2-1 at home to Palace. Welcome to the PL, Jurgen.
Manager: Jurgen Klopp arrived after Rodgers was fired and he’s said all the right things. Time to deliver.
Reason for optimism: Klopp’s methods will begin to work over time. Mixed signs so far.
Marks out of 10: 5


MANCHESTER CITY

Position/points: 1st/26
Best win: 3-0 vs. Chelsea as they started off with five wins on the spin.
Star of the show: Kevin De Bruyne has already become a key part of the jigsaw. Pure class.
“Oh no they didn’t” moment: A bad day at the office away at Spurs saw them lose 4-1. Move on.
Manager: Manuel Pellegrini has assembled an incredible squad. He’s been given time and it’s working.
Reason for optimism: KDB and Raheem Sterling will gel better. Aguero and Silva will be back from injury.
Marks out of 10: 7


MANCHESTER UNITED

Position/points: 4th/24
Best win: 3-1 win at home to Liverpool as Louis Van Gaal‘s side rose to the occasion.
Star of the show: Anthony Martial is worth every penny. 19 going on 29. Takes it all in his stride.
“Oh no they didn’t” moment: Hammered at Arsenal as they let in three goals in the opening 20 mins.
Manager: Van Gaal has spent lots of cash on attackers but they’re not delivering. Defense looking good.
Reason for optimism: If Wayne Rooney and the attackers get back on form, watch out.
Marks out of 10: 6


NEWCASTLE UNITED

Position/points: 17th/10
Best win: 6-2 at home to Norwich City in a bonkers game.
Star of the show: Georginio Wijnaldum has been sublime. Runs from midfield, goals, drive. All-rounder.
“Oh no they didn’t” moment: Collapsing at Man City and losing the Tyne-Wear derby… again.
Manager: Steve McClaren is slowly building momentum after a rough start. Still, tough times ahead.
Reason for optimism: They have looked better defensively in recent weeks. Mitrovic and Wijnaldum.
Marks out of 10: 4


NORWICH CITY

Position/points: 15th/12
Best win: Grinding out a 1-0 win over Swansea wasn’t glamorous but it was much needed.
Star of the show: Nathan Redmond has stepped up his game out on the wing.
“Oh no they didn’t” moment: Losing 6-2 at Newcastle was a body blow even if they were a little unlucky.
Manager: Alex Neil is adapting to life in the PL. His side have shored up at the back but goals an issue.
Reason for optimism: If the Canaries can get Howson, Redmond and Co. scoring they will do just fine.
Marks out of 10: 5


SOUTHAMPTON

Position/points: 7th/20
Best win: Beating Chelsea 3-1 away from home was a statement of how the team is gelling.
Star of the show: Sadio Mane has been sensational in attack with his pace causing problems.
“Oh no they didn’t” moment: Losing 3-0 at home to Everton in home opener.
Manager: Ronald Koeman has built a new side once again and he’s done a fine job.
Reason for optimism: With new faces arriving, things are clicking into place nicely. Top six attainable.
Marks out of 10: 7


STOKE CITY

Position/points: 12th/16
Best win: Beating Chelsea 1-0 at home showed perfect mixture of grit and style. Progression.
Star of the show: Jack Butland has been phenomenal in goal. Hard to believe he’s 22.
“Oh no they didn’t” moment: Lost 1-0 at home to West Brom after going down to nine-men.
Manager: Mark Hughes has added magnificent talents and now they’re gelling.
Reason for optimism: Bojan, Marko Arnautovic, Ibrahim Afellay and Xherdan Shaqiri.
Marks out of 10: 6


SUNDERLAND

Position/points: 19th/6
Best win: Only one so far, they derby win over Newcastle.
Star of the show: This is hard. Probably Costel Pantilimon in goal.
“Oh no they didn’t” moment: Most of the season but especially the 6-2 collapse at Everton.
Manager: Sam Allardyce has taken on a huge challenge after Advocaat walked out.
Reason for optimism: Aside from Everton, looking more solid. Where will goals come from?
Marks out of 10: 2


SWANSEA

Position/points: 14th/13
Best win: Beating Manchester United 2-1 at home seems like a while ago now.
Star of the show: Jefferson Montero has stepped his game up out wide.
“Oh no they didn’t” moment: Losing at Watford was the start of this dreadful run.
Manager: Tipped for England boss after a great start, Garry Monk is now fighting for his job.
Reason for optimism: No wins in eight has people worried but the Swans should come good.
Marks out of 10: 5


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

Position/points: 5th/21
Best win: 4-1 demolition of Man City had it all.
Star of the show: Eric Dier in holding midfield has been key to their defensive solidity.
“Oh no they didn’t” moment: 2-0 up at home to Stoke but blowing it, drawing 2-2.
Manager: Mauricio Pochettino has cut the deadwood and this is his team. Solid and bold.
Reason for optimism: Spurs look so good at the back. If Kane continues his good form, top four is on.
Marks out of 10: 9


WATFORD

Position/points: 11th/16
Best win: 2-0 at home to West Ham. Complete domination for the Hornets.
Star of the show: Odion Ighalo has scored plenty of goals and is a real handful.
“Oh no they didn’t” moment: Not too many, but losing at home to Palace showed a lack of belief.
Manager: Quique Sanchez Flores has been very conservative but it’s getting results.
Reason for optimism: Deeney and Ighalo are scoring and if they stay fit, they’ll stay up.
Marks out of 10: 8


WEST BROMWICH ALBION

Position/points: 13th/14
Best win: All four wins have been 1-0. Winning at Villa will have been sweet for the fans.
Star of the show: Salomon Rondon has started to score and is superb in the air.
“Oh no they didn’t” moment: 1-0 up against Leicester, they lost 3-2. 
Manager: Tony Pulis does exactly what he’s always done: grind out wins. Not pretty but it works.
Reason for optimism: Hmm. Probably won’t be a relegation battle this year but no top 10 finish.
Marks out of 10: 6


WEST HAM UNITED

Position/points: 6th/21
Best win: Any of the wins at Arsenal, Liverpool or Man City. Oh and the home win vs. Chelsea.
Star of the show: Dmitri Payet has been different class as the chief creator.
“Oh no they didn’t” moment: Totally didn’t turn up in the recent 2-0 loss at Watford.
Manager: Slaven Bilic has had a great start to life at Upton Park. Some huge wins.
Reason for optimism: So many options in attack and pace away from home bodes well.
Marks out of 10: 9


 

Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here. 

Ibrahimovic scores twice, 10-man Galaxy ties Sounders 2-2

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Carson, Calif. (AP) Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in each half and the LA Galaxy tied the Seattle Sounders 2-2 on Saturday night despite playing nearly the entire match down a man.

The Galaxy’s Daniel Steres was sent off in the sixth minute for the denial of obvious goal opportunity.

Ibrahimovic tied it at 1 for the Galaxy (13-11-2) with a header in the 45th minute. In the 65th minute, he was taken down by Kim Kee-hee while going for a header in the area and converted the penalty, making it 2-1 with his 20th goal of the season.

LA defender Jorgen Skjelvik scored an own goal in the 82nd minute when he inadvertently deflected goalkeeper David Bingham’s attempted clearance into the Galaxy net.

Raul Ruidiaz opened the scoring in the 42nd minute for the Sounders (11-8-7). Harry Shipp hustled to round up a loose ball and fed it to an open Ruidiaz, who slotted it home.

MLS Wrap: What we learned

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Three unanswered goals from FC Dallas to earn a draw, a late Jozy Altidore goal and Chicago cruises past Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia Union: Saturday’s early slate of games had it all. Here’s what we learned from the busy action.

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Montreal, Dallas split points in six-goal thriller

The Montreal Impact, up 3-0 in the 56th minute, probably thought they had the game in the bag. Dallas said, ‘not so fast.’

With three unanswered goals – one of those in stoppage time – Dallas did the unthinkable, stunning the Impact and flying back home with a point that tastes like three.

Dallas, like practically everyone else in the West this season, is dreaming of cracking into the final seven. Whether that happens or not is yet to be seen. What was palpable on Saturday, however, is that Dallas played with a lot of determination on the road and with all the odds against them.


Chicago gets by Philadelphia with ease

The Philadelphia Union are good but not good enough to beat the Chicago Fire, apparently.

It could have been the league’s well-known parity, or the fact that the Union were on the road, but the Fire were able to squeeze out the three points, winning 2-0 with 10 men. Nicolas Gaitan earned a straight red right before halftime.

The Union, a proven side time and time again this season, alternatively, have questions to answer and a set of defects that were unearth Saturday (including finishing) to polish up on. But as they shown several times this season after suffering loses, they’ll bounce back under Jim Curtin.

The Fire (33 points) sit one point behind Montreal, Toronto and Orlando, while Philadelphia (45 points) remain clear leaders in the Eastern Conference.


 

NYCFC too much for Cincinnati 

NYCFC had quite the showing.

With Valentin Castellanos and Heber recording a brace each, Allan Cruz’s goal stood no chance. City, who are now third in the Eastern Conference with 41 points (one behind Atlanta), are clearly in midseason form, while FC Cincinnati is yet to win under Ron Jans.

With a defense that has allowed 61 goals – like the one above – Jans’ rest of the season is looking bleaker than brighter. But then again, it’s with a team he purely adopted. It worth noting that New York’s attack has produced eight goals in the last three games, so maybe that was the determining factor.

 

 


 

Altidore earns last-minute draw for Toronto

Like in many other instances, it was Altidore to the rescue for Toronto FC.

Its goal No. 10 for the 29-year-old goal, making it his fourth season with double digit goals. Jonathan Osorio, too, pitched in a goal in the 42nd minute. 26 games in, this is exactly when Greg Vanney needs his big-time players to step up.

The Columbus Crew, in contrast, can’t catch a break. Once again the superior team, a lack of finishing and defensive concentration make it three-straight draws for the Caleb Porter’s men. With seven games to go and seven points out of playoff contention, even a late run might not be enough for a postseason regular.

Sporting KC earn valuable win against Quakes (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less):  While the San Jose Earthquakes continue to drop in the playoff race, Sporting Kansas City are slowly creeping their way into contention after their 2-1 victory against San Jose. The Quakes, who have lost their last two games, are now sixth in the Western Conference and depending on the Portland Timbers’ result, can fall right above the red line. Surely, it’s not what Matias Almeyda desires, despite being the master of overcoming adversity. Peter Vermes’ side, on the other hand, is now six points out of the playoffs, a reachable distance with eight games left. The Quakes had the game in their hands in the first half, though, controlling the pace of the game. The home side’s finishing in the final 45 that got the job done, however. Moving forward, turnaround for both teams will have to be instantaneous as the Quakes travel to LAFC and Kansas City hosts Minnesota United, respectively.

Three moments that mattered

25′ — Wondolowski sets MLS record —

Whatever you do, don’t leave Wondolowski unmarked unless you want to get scored on.

48′ — Feilhaber rips it into the back of the net  —

Benny Feilhaber still has it, obviously.

73′ — Smith seals a massive victory for Sporting  —

Not who one expected to earn Kansas City three points, but soccer is all about surprises.

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Chris Wondolowski sets another MLS record in historic career

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Just months removed from becoming MLS’ all-time leading goalscorer, Chris Wondolowski is putting pen to the record book once again.

The 36-year-old is the league’s first player to ever score 10 goals (or more) in 10 consecutive seasons. His tenth of the season came against Sporting Kansas City, who, for one reason or another, left him unmarked in the box on a corner kick – an imprudent defensive strategy.

Wondolowski’s regular-season tally is now at 154 goals, 31 goals clear of Kei Kamara‘s 123, who is the second highest active goalscorer in the league.

The San Jose Earthquakes captain’s record run began in 2010. He was 27.