Top Premier League stories of 2015

Leave a comment

Chelsea: the rise and demise

To describe Chelsea’s 2015 as “up and down” is a massive understatement. After winning the 2014-15 Premier League title with Jose Mourinho leading the way, the Blues looked to be at the start of becoming English soccer’s next great dynasty.

[ MORE: Top 50 players in 2015

Then, the walls caved in on them in one of the most shocking, and rapid, demises in PL history. Just months after new stars Nemanja Matic, Cesc Fabregas, Thibaut Courtois and Diego Costa gave the Blues a new core — augmented by the magic of Eden Hazard — to take the PL by storm, the defending champs started their title defense in miserable fashion and are still reeling. Their poor start to the season cost Mourinho his job as the Portuguese coach was fired on December 17, 2015, just under seven months after he clinched his third PL title in five seasons at Chelsea.

Guus Hiddink has been placed in charge on an interim basis until the end of the current campaign but after a tumultuous end to 2015, an uncertain 2016 awaits for the reigning champs. Long-term, they seemed to be locked in a battle with other PL giants to land Pep Guardiola as their manager. Short-term, they’re in a relegation battle as the squad Mourinho built and then led to the title is on the verge of breaking point.

[ MORE: All of PST’s festive features

Shocking. Remarkable. Astounding. Stamford Bridge has become the setting of a soap opera. Grab the popcorn. 2016 could be even more dramatic.


Rise of the “little guys”

In conjunction with Chelsea’s demise we have seen the rise of some of the more unfashionable clubs in the Premier League.

[ MORE: Latest PL news from PST

Leicester City have led the way but the likes of Crystal Palace, Southampton, Stoke City, Watford and West Ham United are all threatening the long-established upper echelons. Especially this season.

[ MORE: Premier League standings

Newly-promoted Watford have been a huge surprise, while fellow newcomers Bournemouth had back-to-back wins against Chelsea and Manchester United. Something strange is going on throughout 2015 and is intensifying. The big boys don’t seem as untouchable anymore and the so-called “little guys” are using their new found riches to great effect while the perennial giants continue to seemingly waste big bucks on players not cutting it in the PL.

With an even bigger TV deal coming into play from the start of next season, expect this dramatic turnaround to not only carry on but become more extreme. Parity in the PL is a beautiful thing.


Arsenal the champs… of the calendar year

Congrats, Arsenal. You earned more points (81) in 2015 than any other PL team. Unfortunately that doesn’t win you any silverware. Arsene Wenger and the Gunners have kicked on in 2015, surging through the second half of last season and are right up there this time as it seems like a straight shootout between themselves and Manchester City for the title.

With plenty of injuries piling up (you know the script, Arsenal fans) to end 2015, a familiar battle lies ahead in 2016. Can they rise to the challenge and win their first PL trophy since 2004? Wenger will have to spend in the January transfer window to add the required quality and bodies to push on in both the PL and try to cause a shock against Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League last 16.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

There’s no doubt they’re heading in the right direction after a year which saw the emergence of Francis Coquelin as a mainstay and the Gunners acquire a more solid defensive base to build from following the addition of Petr Cech. They still have the occasional wobble but they are a much better team than 12 months ago.


Managerial madness: champs and chumps

Jurgen Klopp – Ahead of Klopp’s unveiling as the new Liverpool boss, you could be forgiven for thinking you had time-traveled and gone back to the days of Beatlemania. No joke. From his first, perfectly maneuvered press conference to his many memorable sideline celebrations in his opening months at Liverpool boss, Klopp is box office and the perfect man to help propel the Reds back among England and Europe’s elite. Give him a couple of transfer windows and 12 months in charge and there are plenty of rivals worried about “Kloppmania” taking over the PL.

Alan Pardew – Leaving Newcastle right at the start of 2015 for a Palace side in the relegation zone was risky for Pardew, but his South London homecoming has gone incredibly well. 12 months on, Pardew is already in talks about a new long-term deal and the Eagles are battling for a top four spot amid fresh investment from the U.S. which has everything going swimmingly at Selhurst Park. Pardew’s stock continues to rise as the England job or one with a perennial PL giant could be next.

Brendan Rodgers – After failing to clinch the PL title in the dying embers of the 2013-14 season, you always got the sense that the failure to seal the deal was always going to haunt Rodgers and his squad. The Northern Irishman spent so much cash on young new players and many let him down. He will be back but his philosophy and ideas ran out of splendor at Anfield as he failed to deliver any silverware during his three and a bit campaigns in charge.

Jose Mourinho – Wow. Where do we start? The fact that just seven months after delivering the Premier League he was fired says it all. Mourinho, 52, watched on in disbelief as his Chelsea team unraveled at the seams and lost nine of their first 16 games this season. That — coupled with his scathing attack on members of his own medical staff Eva Carneiro and Jon Fearn plus plenty of post-game meltdowns — cost Mourinho his job as one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game fell by the wayside for the second time at Stamford Bridge. Nobody saw this coming in 2015. Nobody.

Notable mentions: Garry Monk initially leading Swansea superbly but then being fired after a dreadful run this season. Mauricio Pochettino kicking Spurs on with shrewd additions and cutting the deadwood. Tottenham look highly likely to return to the top four.


LVG conundrum continues

One theme which has been consistent over the past 12 months is Manchester United’s ongoing identity crisis.

With Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal spending almost $400 million in transfer fees since arriving at Old Trafford 18 months ago, it’s hard to see if any progress has been made. Van Gaal, 64, has a strict philosophy and demands total respect from his players. Even though star names may respect him, LVG isn’t getting the best out of them with the severe struggles to end 2015 heaping plenty of pressure on Van Gaal.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Currently struggling to score goals, without a win in seven-straight games in all competitions and on a three-game losing streak in the PL after crashing out of the UEFA Champions League, its been a bad few weeks for Van Gaal. He may not survive until the end of the season. With Mourinho lurking in the background and United’s supporters growing increasingly frustrated that their team aren’t fun to watch or close to winning any silverware, it’s safe to say the Van Gaal era has seen little to no progress so far.


Top goals of 2015

Philippe Coutinho – Southampton vs. Liverpool, Feb. 22 2015

Matt Phillips – QPR vs. Crystal Palace, Mar. 14, 2015

Charlie Adam – Chelsea vs. Stoke City, Apr. 4, 2015

Jermain Defoe – Sunderland vs. Newcastle, Apr. 5 2015

Christian Benteke – Manchester United vs. Liverpool, Sep. 12, 2015

Cuco Martina – Southampton vs. Arsenal, Dec. 26 2015


Leicester City and Vardy’s party 

Aha, you didn’t think I was going to mention them, did you? Well, there’s no doubt about the surprise package of 2015: Leicester City.

Heading into the final months of the 2014-15 season the Foxes looked dead and buried with Nigel Pearson‘s side all but relegated back to the second-tier at the first time of asking. Then, they went on an incredible run to win seven of their final nine games to survive in memorable fashion.

Despite Pearson being fired over the summer Leicester have rebounded with Claudio Ranieri in charge and largely the same squad. Riding the momentum they gained from fighting off relegation last season, record-breaking Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have scored the goals –between them they have 28 of Leicester’s 37 this season — to lead a workmanlike outfit to joint-top of the Premier League at the halfway point of the season. Whether or not the Foxes can keep it up in 2016 remains to be seen but no Leicester fan will ever forget 2015.

Emotional scenes as Thailand scores in World Cup loss (video)

AP Photo/Claude Paris
Leave a comment

Kanjanaporn Sung-Ngoen won the World Cup for Thailand.

Well, that’s not entirely correct, but the late goal she scored against Sweden in Thailand’s second game of the 2019 Women’s World Cup sure means a lot to the team.

[ LIVE: Watch every single 2019 Women’s World Cup game ]

Thailand was hammered 13-0 by the USWNT in the first match of the World Cup, a statement of the Yanks’ strength as much as the underdogs’ weakness. After all, Thailand carries a higher FIFA ranking (34) than its final opponent Chile (39).

But Sung-Ngoen’s finish late in Sunday’s 5-1 loss to Sweden was a visible relief to the Thai team, who will now turn its attention to Chile and a possible win (The USWNT’s destruction of Thailand’s goal differential gives the Asian side little chance of getting a third-place spot in the knockout rounds).

It was a fine finish, too (See below). Linda Sembrandt, Kosovare Asllani, Fridolina Rolfo, Lina Hurtig, and Elin Rubensson scored for the Swedes, who are 2-0 heading into Thursday’s meeting with the USWNT.

Juve, Chelsea announce Sarri agreement

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The white smoke coming out of Italy isn’t a new pope, it’s Maurizio Sarri setting up shop in Turin.

Juventus and Chelsea confirmed the long-anticipated news: Sarri is returning to Serie A and will manage The Old Lady’s quest for a UEFA Champions League crown.

[ MORE: Pogba says he could leave Man Utd ]

Chelsea executive Marina Granovskaia says an agreement was reached and that the Blues wanted to allow Sarri the chance to be closer to home. From ChelseaFC.com:

“He also believed it important to be nearer his family, and for the well-being of his elderly parents he felt he needed to live closer to them at this point.”

If it took Sarri some time to understand the personality of Eden Hazard, just wait until he gets a load of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Sky Sports says the move will net Chelsea around $6 million, and that Gianfranco Zola will also leave Stamford Bridge. Frank Lampard has been widely expected to get a shot at the Chelsea gig, though Derby County is trying to lock him down with a new deal.

Just how different will Manchester United look next year?

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
1 Comment

It’s Sunday morning, Paul Pogba wants to leave Manchester United, and the USWNT doesn’t play its World Cup match until Noon: Let’s deal in theoreticals by starting with a fact.

This season is going to be a major challenge for one Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Manchester United boss will seemingly be pulling together a significant amount of new parts into a team which is coming off a sixth place finish in the Premier League, with four of the five teams ahead of him having maintained their managers and most if not all key pieces.

Oh, and he’ll have to fashion this team based out of parts willing to buy into the club’s mystique and ignore the lack of UEFA Champions League play (which is seemingly why Paul Pogba is ready to skip town).

Big paychecks will help, but there’s no way to quickly meld these pieces into one unit. That’s especially true if the biggest piece of their 2018-19 puzzle, Pogba, isn’t in the middle of the park (or pushed a bit forward).

Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, and Antonio Valencia are out of contract, and Romelu Lukaku has been as mentioned as any striker on the market (He has three goals in four days for Belgium, albeit against Kazakhstan and Scotland).

Pogba’s potential departure puts a lot of weight on Ed Woodward to spend money well (One could make an argument for United needing 60-80 percent of those names).

Subtracting them and adding no one, United’s best XI is something like David De Gea, Diogo Dalot, Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Scott McTominay, Nemanja Matic, Anthony Martial, Andreas Pereira, Jesse Lingard, and Marcus Rashford.

As an aside, the expectations and pressure heaped on Rashford by the “he’s better than Lukaku, play him now centrally” media crowd is going to be a burden if 21-year-old has to bear the center forward burden alone. My goodness are their Old Trafford subplots in excess or what?

Now, of course, there are seven weeks to go in the transfer window and there’s no guarantee Pogba and Lukaku will leave town. In fact, you may want to place your confidence on Pogba opening the season unhappy but at Old Trafford. Either way, the center of the park is going to get a remarkable makeover, and both center back and goalkeeper will get upgrades, too.

To the fixes:

— United is expected to spend big on Crystal Palace right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who was sensational last season with the Eagles. They reportedly have sent a $51 million offer to Roy Hodgson‘s squad.

— They’ve been linked with desire for Issa Diop, though West Ham has hopes of $75 million for the center back who made JPW’s Top Ten of the season.

Wilfred Ndidi is “flattered” by links to United, but is focused on Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations line. Should the Red Devils want to buy the 22-year-old, he’s likely in the same price range as the above names.

— Don’t forget Monaco’s Youri Tielemans, who feels like a PL player from his outstanding time at Leicester City last season. He’d merit another $50 million or so.

It’s worth noting that all would get more European football than at their current home with a bump in wages plus an new iconic shirt. Don’t sleep on that.

You’re probably talking a $240-250 million outlay there, should United land them.

Without going further, nor mentioning Swansea’s young Daniel James and Sheffield United loanee Dean Henderson, you can see a thread here: United could be showing us how a Premier League Best XI without any Top Six players would fare in the top flight.

Of course, United has also been linked with big buys from outside of the Premier League and many of these are older than Ndidi, Diop, Tielemans, and AWB.

But taking those four young players and assuming a focal point/back bone strengthening holding mid would likely join part-time players and full-time leaders Nemanja Matic and Chris Smalling (and maybe Juan Mata).

Now of course there are rumors of experienced leaders Ivan Rakitic of Barcelona and there could be a return from Real, PSG, or Juve. And this whole post looks even worse when United swaps Pogba for Neymar straight-up.

Here’s another question in the myriad facing Solskjaer and Woodward: Is the Europa League a better route to the Champions League than the idea of beating out two of Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City, and Liverpool (And noting that Spurs, City, and Liverpool will be heavily expected to finish 1-2-3 in some permutation and Chelsea has a leg up on the field assuming Eden Hazard is their lone significant departure).

Manchester United w/ above transfers (Age when season starts)

De Gea (28)

Wan-Bissaka (21) — Lindelof (25) — Diop (22) — Shaw (24)

Ndidi (22) — Matic (30)

Tielemans (22)

Lingard (26) — Rashford (21) — Martial (23)

What a time to be alive. Rashford better deliver!

Watch Live: 2019 Women’s World Cup – Day 10

AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
Leave a comment

Ten months ago, the United States women’s national team beat Chile 3-0 and 4-0 in a pair of friendlies, but the expectations were ratcheted up when the ladies began their 2019 World Cup with a 13-0 demolition of Thailand.

The Yanks and Chile tangle Sunday at Noon ET in the business end of a Women’s World Cup Group F doubleheader, with Sweden and Thailand opening play at 9 a.m. ET.

You can watch every single game from the tournament live online in Spanish via Telemundo Deportes and via the NBC Sports App. All you have to do is click on the links below.

[ LIVE: Watch every single 2019 Women’s World Cup game ]

Here is your full schedule for Friday, June 14 at the Women’s World Cup.


2019 Women’s World Cup schedule

Group F: Sweden v. Thailand – 9 a.m. ET – STREAM LIVE
Group F: USWNT v. Chile – Noon ET – STREAM LIVE