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. 

FIFA propose salary cap, transfer fee talks

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FIFA president Gianni Infantino has proposed talks with leagues across the globe about potentially implementing a salary cap and limits on transfer fees as the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The leader of soccer’s world-governing body released a lengthy video statement Saturday, in which he also asked league associations to work together to find the best solutions for the club and international calendar moving forward.

Last week he said FIFA wanted a ‘common sense’ approach to players who are supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and that players showing messages of support should be ‘applauded and not punished’ despite FIFA’s previously strict rules around players sharing political, religious or personal messages during games.

FIFA are working on a financial package which they hope to discuss with members and finalize in their next council meeting later this month but recent talks with associations across the globe have suggested a salary cap or transfer fees limit could work.

Here is what the FIFA chief had to say specifically when it comes to soccer adapting to the changing financial environment.

“On the financial and governance aspects, I also heard some interesting proposals on a wide range of topics,” Infantino said. “From salary caps to transfer-fee caps or other taxation mechanisms, to the possible obligation for governing bodies, competition organisers and clubs to build reserves or to contribute to a reserve fund which can be of assistance in hours of need such as now.

“I personally advocate for clearer and stricter financial regulations, imposing full transparency and good governance principles, and not only limiting this to the transfer system, but to the entire football ecosystem. FIFA is doing already a lot of work on this area, even if we face some strong vested interests who fight against our plea for a better global governance in our sport.

“Dear friends, we will need your full support and commitment to move to the next level of good governance in football globally. I think that these and other measures, projects and ideas should be discussed at all levels. I know that this is something that will spark intense debate, but debate is healthy, and we should speak about it all together – as we stand together during this difficult period.”

Quite how a salary cap or a limit on transfer fees would work remain to be seen but given the huge financial burden places on clubs during the coronavirus pandemic, it is a very plausible solution to help stop clubs from going out of business.

With governing bodies such as UEFA placing strict financial fair play rules on clubs to stop them from spending beyond their means, FIFA doing something similar would be possible.

Would clubs, leagues and associations sign up for these new rules? In the short-term, probably. Long-term, it would be tough. Nobody knows how long sports, and society, will be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and even if a vaccine is found and fans can return to stadiums and things go back to relative normality, the financial implications of the past four to five months is likely to be felt for years to come.

The salary cap system will not work for every league or even every region but as we’ve seen in Major League Soccer, it can bring stability and certain leagues need that across the globe.

Premier League confirm zero positive COVID-19 test results

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Following the latest batch of tests on players and club staff the Premier League have revealed that there were zero positive results out of 1,195 COVID-19 tests taken on Thursday June 4 and Friday June 5.

The last three rounds of testing has now seen one positive result as Tottenham Hotspur confirmed the individual that tested positive earlier week was one of their players or staff.

With the sixth round of testing now completed in the Premier League, a total of 6,274 COVID-19 tests have now been carried out with 13 positive results.

All players and staff at Premier League clubs will be tested twice a week during the strict return to training protocols put in place, as full contact training is now up and running and a restart date of June 17 has been set.

Here is the statement from the Premier League in full on the latest result:


The Premier League can today confirm that on Thursday 4 June and Friday 5 June, 1,195 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19. Of these, zero have tested positive.

The Premier League is providing this aggregated information for the purposes of competition integrity and transparency. No specific details as to clubs or individuals will be provided by the League and results will be made public after each round of testing.

Round 1: 17-18 May – 748 tested, with six testing positive from three clubs.
Round 2: 19-22 May – 996 tested, with two testing positive from two clubs.
Round 3: 25-26 May – 1,008 tested, with four testing positive from two clubs.
Round 4: 28-29 May – 1,130 tested, with zero testing positive.
Round 5: 1-2 June – 1,197 tested, with one testing positive.
Round 6: 4-5 June – 1,195 tested, with zero testing positive


Watford season restart preview

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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they are at ahead of the final nine weeks of the season as Watford are up next.

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Focusing on Nigel Pearson’s Watford, they have battled back from an awful first half of the season (which included having three different managers) to drag themselves out of the relegation zone as things stand. However, there is plenty of hard work ahead for the Hornets as they try to preserve their Premier League status.

[ MORE: Every PL season restart preview ] 

Let’s take a closer look at all things Watford when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: Watford were rock bottom and looked doomed heading into December but the turnaround since Nigel Pearson arrived has been remarkable. They won once in their opening 17 Premier League games of the season as first Javi Gracia then Quique Sanchez Flores were sacked, and Nigel Pearson arrived to bring organization and defensive stability. He has done more than that as home wins over Man United, Aston Villa, Wolves and Liverpool has breathed new life into their season. Now, Watford are still only out of the relegation zone on goal difference (one goal, to be exact) and if Aston Villa win their game in-hand they are back in the bottom three. That said, any Watford fan would have bitten your hand off in December had you offered them this scenario heading into the final nine games of the season. Their home form should see them over the line but there are plenty of tetchy games coming up between now and late July for Watford. If Troy Deeney can return to training and action, that will be a big boost, but losing Gerard Deulofeu to a serious knee injury just before the suspension was a cruel blow as he’d been the catalyst to turn their season around.


Tactical analysis: There’s no doubt Watford have the talent to be further up the table, just as it showed last season when they were battling in the top half for most of the campaign (before their famed second half of the season slump hit) and reached the FA Cup final. Putting players in the right positions is key and Abdoulaye Doucure has been vital to their turnaround in form. His surging runs from midfield were not impacting play enough earlier this season but Pearson has moved him into almost a No.10 role and he’s flourished. With Etienne Capoue and Will Hughes in deeper central midfield roles behind Doucoure, they have found the right balance in the engine room. The French midfielder causes havoc and has defenses dropping off, which allows the wingers and forwards around him to find space. Defensively, Ben Foster has been great all season in goal and Pearson is very good in setting up his teams to be tough to break down in two solid blocks and then lethal on the counter. Ismaila Sarr has settled down in his first season in the Premier League (Liverpool know all about that) and he will have a big say in their battle against the drop as he will cut in from the right flank. Watford are now sturdy and if Andre Gray can hold the ball up in Deeney’s absence, Sarr and Doucoure will give him plenty of support in attack.


Possible XI (4-2-3-1) 

—– Foster —–

— Feminia — Cathcart — Kabasele — Masina —

—- Capoue —- Hughes —- 

— Sarr — Doucoure — Pereyra —

—– Deeney —–


Remaining schedule:
Home: Leicester, Southampton, Norwich, Newcastle, Man City
Away: Burnley, Chelsea, West Ham, Arsenal

Predicted finish: They don’t have the easiest run-in but given the fact they’ve beaten Man United and Liverpool, we know this Watford side under Pearson has a shock up their sleeve. Wins against relegation rivals Norwich and West Ham will be key and they will likely need two more wins from their other seven games to have a chance. That is doable and I think with Bournemouth and Aston Villa having a very tough run-in, Watford will just stay up. Just. No matter what happens, Pearson has done a fine job to organize them and he is a master at orchestrating great escapes against relegation.

Dortmund beat Hertha on day of Bundesliga protests (video)

Dortmund Black Lives Matter protest
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Borussia Dortmund beat Hertha Berlin 1-0 in a hard-fought encounter at the Westfalenstadion, as Saturday saw Black Lives Matter protests and messages of support take place across the Bundesliga in Germany.

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Dortmund and Hertha led the protests, as players and staff from both teams knelt as one before kick off to show support for the movement sweeping across the USA, Europe and now the world.

After Bayern Munich’s players wore armbands which read ‘Black Lives Matter’ and had warm-up shirts which called for an end to racism, while Dortmund had warm-up shirts on which read ‘No Justice, No Peace’ among other messages of support after widespread protests in the USA.

As for the action once the game started at Dortmund, Jadon Sancho (who last weekend paid tribute to George Floyd) went close on several occasions throughout but a battling and in-form Hertha came close to taking a shock lead in the second half but Alexander Esswein dragged his shot inches wide.

Moments later Dortmund finally broke through as Sancho clipped the ball into Julian Brandt who nodded down for Emre Can to calmly slot home and seal all three points.

The victory means Dortmund are steady in second place but are seven points behind leaders Bayern Munich with four games remaining. Hertha lost for the first time since the restart but remain well in the hunt for Europa League qualification.

Below are videos of the protests from both clubs, plus the game-winner for Can which just about keeps Dortmund in the title race.