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. 

Manchester United: Solskjaer hopeful of new Paul Pogba contract

Paul Pogba contract
Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images
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Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is singing a new tune, hopeful that star midfielder Paul Pogba will stick around Old Trafford for the long term.

Reports say that United has an option to extend Pogba’s contract by an extra year beyond its 2021 expiry, but Solskjaer is thinking bigger. He has been praising Pogba plenty since the World Cup winner returned to the lineup.

[ MORE: Premier League summer schedule ]

It’s a bit surprising given Pogba and his super agent’s constant time in the rumor mill, with Real Madrid often linked with the Frenchman. And that agent, Mino Raiola, has not been so nice when it comes to judging Solskjaer.

But Solskjaer is reportedly hopeful that Pogba can join Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, and others in building a new power.

“I can’t comment on discussions between player and the club but. of course, we want to keep the best players around the club,” Solskjaer said. “We want to build a squad for the future and Scott and Nemanja are a similar position but at different stages in their careers. One at the start, one really experienced one.”

Pogba leads United in key passes per game with 2.3, though his minutes have been severely limited by injuries this season. He had 13 goals and nine assists last season, and turned 27 in March.

The way United’s performed in recent weeks it would not be a surprise if keeping its main talents while adding another stalwart center back and wing would propel it into a more serious table discussion.

Do you buy the idea that Pogba could be with United well into the future?

Suarez goal gives Barcelona win, relegates neighbors Espanyol

Espanyol relegated
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Seventh-place one season ago, La Liga mainstays Espanyol are being relegated from Spain’s top flight.

The final decision came at the hands of their Catalan neighbors Barcelona, who got a second-half goal from Luis Suarez to relegate Espanyol.

[ MORE: Premier League summer schedule ]

Espanyol are 11 points back of 17th place and can only capture nine more points this season following the 1-0 loss in a match where both teams had a player sent off.

Suarez’s goal was a nice one after Antoine Griezmann’s back heel pass to Lionel Messi saw the Argentine’s shot deflect onto the path of the Uruguayan finisher.

Espanyol had been in the top flight since 1994 and has only spent four single seasons outside La Liga since 1929. Leganes and Mallorca may join them soon.

Barcelona moves a point back of Real Madrid. Real has four matches left to Barca’s three and holds the tiebreaker.

Klopp reacts to Liverpool wins, says Henderson injury ‘not nothing’

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Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion was a bit more what we’re used to from the Premier League champions.

But that wasn’t the focus of the post-match despite a highlight-reel show from Mohamed Salah, as Reds boss Jurgen Klopp sounded an ominous note when asked about Jordan Henderson leaving the match with injury.

“I don’t know exactly but it was something with the knee I think. We know it’s not nothing.”

[ MORE: Premier League summer schedule ]

Henderson’s not exactly a player to hit the deck unless he’s feeling pain, and Klopp removed him for James Milner with 10 minutes to play.

That’s about the only bad news from the win, as Liverpool became the first team this season to breach the 90-point mark and saw Salah’s brace move him within three goals of the Golden Boot lead.

Salah would only say, “Let’s take it game-by-game,” but it’s clearly on his mind.

Trent Alexander-Arnold says the Egyptian is hungry to get a share of a third-straight Golden Boot.

From the BBC:

“He has his targets, he’s around the Golden Boot and it’s something he wants to retain,” Alexander-Arnold said. “He’s a world class player who scores so many goals for us and we try to get him on the board as much as possible.”

As for the match, Brighton almost as missed some big chances as Liverpool before the game was out of reach. Klopp admits that it was a challenge.

“We started really well,” Klopp said. “We had to adapt a little bit as we knew what they wanted to do but it was a little bit hard to defend. We left one or two players in a position where if we won the ball we had players in the counter-attack position. We got the first two goals with super balls but we could have scored more. I said to the boys at half-time they could have been 2-2 too. It was a nice game to watch.”

The Reds finish with Burnley, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Newcastle United.

Liverpool march continues with 3-1 win at Brighton

Brighton - Liverpool recap
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Mohamed Salah had two goals and an assist in the first eight minutes of Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium on Wednesday.

Salah is now three goals behind league leader Jamie Vardy, and Liverpool’s 92 points are 23 more than Man City. Jordan Henderson also scored for the Reds.

BRIGHTON – LIVERPOOL FULL MATCH REPLAY

Leandro Trossard scored for Brighton, whose 36 points are nine clear of the bottom three with four matches to play (The 18th and 19th place sides do have a match each in hand).

[ MORE: Premier League summer schedule ]

Liverpool’s 30 wins through 34 outings is a Premier League record and Jurgen Klopp’s men are chasing several PL records. The Reds finish with Burnley, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Newcastle United.


Three things we learned

1. Salah somehow under the radar: Look, the Egyptian star’s 32-goal league season was an outlier. Not a lot of guys consistently hit 25, let alone the 30 mark in the Premier League. But Salah has rather quietly put together another amazing season with 19 goals and nine assists in PL play plus another four and three in cup competitions. Salah is one assist of joining the a small group of players to get double digit league goals and assists in a top five European league this season.

While it’s become sexy to praise Sadio Mane as the Reds’ top winger, Salah has been just as good. He could’ve had another goal in the 53rd but Mat Ryan made a fine intervention at close range. If Salah is under the radar, it’s because Liverpool has spread the wealth this season and had so many heroes in close matches. But boy, oh boy, is he their best weapon.

2. Lamptey shows glimpses, then youth: The sample size is very small, but 19-year-old Chelsea outcast Tariq Lamptey has played well at right back in most of his outings for Brighton since the return from the coronavirus pause. Lamptey was at blame for Liverpool’s third goal in both the chance conceded and actual finish from Salah, but the $4 million January buy looked well worth the price tag in a terrific first half at the Amex.

3. Seagulls still missing final ball: Brighton produced four big chances in the game to Liverpool’s two, but only put one in the back of the net (SofaScore). That’s sadly been par for the course this season, as Brighton’s style has been worthy of a top half place. Brighton entered the day with seven fewer goals than its expected goals total. Only Everton, Watford, and Norwich have been less fortunate.

Man of the Match:

Salah.


Brighton – Liverpool recap

Salah had a goal and an assist within 500 seconds of kickoff.

The Egyptian took a feed from Naby Keita to score off a Davy Propper giveaway and then set up Henderson’s second to have the Seagulls’ heads spinning early.

Brighton found a chance in the 19th but Neco Williams recovered with a slide to block Leandro Trossard from slotting a point-blank goal.

The Seagulls pulled within one just before halftime when in-form youngster Tariq Lamptey swept a cross into the mix for Trossard to punch home.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Salah could’ve had it 3-1 at one end but Brighton’s Dan Burn asked the Egyptian to hold his drink with a butchered wide-open shot at the back post in the 60th minute.

Jurgen Klopp didn’t like the close score, and brought on Fabinho, Andy Robertson, and Sadio Mane in the second half. One of the players he removed, Naby Keita, had a strong hour before departing the contest.

Henderson almost produced a third Liverpool goal after a rare Lamptey error spring a chance that took a wicked turn off Dale Stephens.

The Reds made it 3-1 off the ensuing corner, Salah’s clinical header in front of Lamptey. Henderson limped off for Liverpool late in the contest.

Ryan denied Salah a hat trick in stoppage time and the Egyptian headed over the bar at the final whistle. He could’ve had five.