Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

A burning question for each Premier League team (and the relegated)

Leave a comment

We continue our postseason review of the Premier League with the big questions bearing down on 22 (soon to be 23) teams.

Twenty Premier League sides (and two already-promoted Championship clubs) have work to do in order to achieve their aims.

Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs, and Man City want to a UEFA Champions League title. Manchester United, too, but the Red Devils join Arsenal as sides aiming to compete for titles.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

Others, like West Ham, Everton, and Southampton, are prepared to grow toward top-end competitions, while Stoke City and Leicester City hope to take the next step after relatively disappointing campaigns.

What’s the top question for each team? Read on…

Arsenal  – This one’s easy: Forget will Arsene Wenger stay on (He will) — Will the Gunners name a sporting director and spend, spend, spend to rejoin the elite?

Bournemouth – Manager Eddie Howe and chairman Jeff Mostyn have steadily built the South coast team into a stylish threat that it isn’t afraid to spend, but can they build on their Top Half finish. More importantly, can they hang onto 16-goal man Joshua King, who scored more goals than anyone not on a European-qualifying team?

Brighton and Hove Albion – Chris Hughton is now thrice the Championship manager of the season, now can he identify which players can help him stay in the Premier League?

Burnley – Sean Dyche and the Clarets dug deep into their pocket books to stay in the Premier League for another season, now can the tiny club make the astute moves to do it again?

Chelsea – How will Antonio Conte organize his squad for his first season in the UEFA Champions League with Chelsea is a good one, but what will he do with older stars Diego Costa, Willian, and Cesc Fabregas?

Crystal Palace – Sam Allardyce may want to leave, which is fine, so who’s the right man to keep a very talented XI from underachieving? And will they be able to hang onto Wilfried Zaha?

Everton – This is less about squad than schedule: Assuming the Toffees dust their summer qualifier, how will Ronald Koeman negotiate both the Europa League and the Premier League?

Hull City – With Marco Silva reportedly off to Porto, there are two main questions for Hull: Can they find a new boss capable of keeping them near the top of the Championship, and able to convince ownership to keep spending?

Leicester City – Will Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy still be there come August?

Liverpool – Can Jurgen Klopp straighten out his defending and motivate a squad even when big names aren’t on the other side of the field?

Manchester City – Will another year of additions allow Pep Guardiola to assert his genius in a third major European league?

Manchester United – Is there a good replacement for Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the top of Jose Mourinho’s XI?

Middlesbrough – If the major pieces stick around, Boro has the tools to compete for the Championship title… but will the major pieces stick around?

Newcastle United – Rafa Benitez will again flip the roster at St. James Park, but can he bring the new boys together fast enough to avoid a relegation race?

Southampton – Is Claude Puel going to be the manager? If that one’s too easy, then will Virgil Van Dijk remain at St. Mary’s?

Stoke City – At what point does administration demand the Potters take the next step, or bounce Mark Hughes?

Sunderland – Will Ellis Short and company actually spend, or will Sunderland’s absence from the top flight be a long one?

Swansea City – Assuming Gylfi Sigurdsson leaves, how will Paul Clement address his attack while also fixing his back line and finding a metronome?

Tottenham Hotspur – Can Harry Kane, Dele Alli, and Mauricio Pochettino punch through the glass ceiling to claim a Premier League title or sustained Champions Leagur run?

Watford – How many managers will the Hornets employ in 2017-18?

West Bromwich Albion – Tony Pulis is asking to spend. If the Baggies back him, can he break free from his defensive shell and build a team that aims for more than 40 points and another season in the Premier League?

West Ham United – Both chairman David Gold and manager Slaven Bilic want to make West Ham a big, big club. Can they find the next Dimitri Payet and finally find the elite striker they’ve been chasing for years?

Wasteful Sheffield United splits points with Brighton

Leave a comment

Sheffield United failed to find the finishing touch more than once in a 1-1 draw with relegation-threatened Brighton and Hove Albion at Bramall Lane on Saturday.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Enda Stevens gave the Blades a lead with a delightful goal, but Neal Maupay quickly answered for the visitors.

Sheffield United improves to 40 points, behind fifth-place Spurs on goal differential.

Brighton’s 10th draw of the season pulls it four points clear of the bottom three.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]


Three things we learned

1. Blades fail to take advantage of Spurs stumble: If Chris Wilder‘s men fail to qualify for Europa, let alone the Champions League, they will point to results like this one. The hosts had all of the ball and gave up just one big chance, but switched off on one set piece and only collected a single point.

2. Misfiring forwards don’t help the cause: While Blades did have plenty of possession, they managed a single shot on target between starting forward Oli McBurnie and Billy Sharp, as well as substitute David McGoldrick.

3. Norwood impresses in the center: Well-traveled Oliver Norwood sprayed the ball all over the pitch on Saturday. Norwood had 100 touches for the hosts while completing seven of 14 crosses and 12 of 18 long balls. Despite all the big launches, he passed at 88 percent in the center of the park.


The Blades opened the scoring in the 26th minute as Stevens smashed a clinical shot home after a clever short corner routine.

Brighton answered when Lewis Dunk flicked a free kick onto the path of Maupay for 1-1.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Stevens would only last to halftime thanks to injury.

Mat Ryan and his defenders needed to come up big several times in the second half, including an 88th-minute scramble in the heart of his box.,

Palace rides Van Aanholt free kick past messy Newcastle

Crystal Palace v. Newcastle United recap and video highlights
Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Patrick Van Aanholt starred against his former derby rivals as Crystal Palace beat Newcastle United 1-0 on Saturday at Selhurst Park.

Palace snaps a three-match losing run with the win, moving 13th with 33 points.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Newcastle stays on 31 points in 14th.

Valentino Lazaro took a straight red card for a take down of Wilfried Zaha deep in stoppage time and will miss the next three games.


Three things we learned

1. Van Aanholt shines bright:  The Eagles’ fullback hasn’t been at his best too often this season, but he was marvelous on Saturday even apart from the free kick goal. Playing against his former Northeast rivals, Van Aanholt passes at 85 percent, completed five of eight crosses and two of four long balls. He was credited with six key passes and the creation of two big chances (via Sofascore).

2. Same two stars for Newcastle, the rest passengers: Martin Dubravka made eight saves to keep Newcastle in the match, and the attack only went so far as electric winger Allan Saint-Maximin. Newcastle has badly needed a difference-maker in the midfield, and it’s no surprise the midfield is a mess without a real January energizer. Sean Longstaff has been a shell of the man linked with a $35 million move to Manchester United this summer.

3. Scrappy affair: Referee Peter Bankes handed out plenty of yellow cards — five for Newcastle, two for Brighton — and there wasn’t much consistency as to what merited a mere whistle and what registered as a caution. Palace had 15 fouls to Newcastle’s nine despite the discrepancy in cards.

Man of the Match: Van Aanholt, who got the better of his only rival for the honors with his free kick goal.


Dubravka was as busy early as Palace was wasteful. Jordan Ayew and Christian Benteke failed to strike with force from 18 yards before the keeper palmed away a strong Scott Dann header off a corner.

Palace keeper Vicente Guaita was then troubled by a Joelinton rip from distance, and Newcastle had a corner and a chance to breathe.

Benteke missed a sitter on a perfectly struck free kick, Newcastle bailed out in the 21st minute.

Joelinton and Benteke seemed intent on competing for least clinical striker, with the former then bungling a chance to cross for a streaking Miguel Almiron.

It took ex-Sunderland man Van Aanholt to put Newcastle to the sword with a delightful 45th-minute free kick.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Ayew should’ve had it 2-0 in the 48th minute when Van Aanholt’s cross found him near the back post, which he struck.

Gary Cahill then headed a Van Aanholt free kick off the side netting from close range.

Dominated for 68 minutes, the Magpies saw two bits of danger through Danny Rose and Fabian Schar in the 69th. The latter led to a pair of corners.

Dubravka again got the better of Ayew after Zaha and Cheikhou Kouyate set up a brilliant chance. Wasteful.

Burnley batter Bournemouth amid VAR drama

Leave a comment

Burnley beat Bournemouth 3-0 at Turf Moor on Saturday as Sean Dyche‘s side continue to surge up the table amid plenty of VAR controversy.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Matej Vydra, Jay Rodriguez and Dwight McNeil scored but Bournemouth had two goals chalked off by VAR as the second incident resulted in them thinking they had made it 1-1 to conceding a penalty kick.

With the win Burnley move up to eighth on 37 points, while Bournemouth remain just two points above the relegation zone.


3 things we learned

1. VAR steals the show: This was a game which was decided by VAR as Bournemouth had two goals ruled out. Philip Biling’s handball meant that King’s goal was disallowed and it looked harsh on Biling amongst a slew of bodies inside the box from a corner. Then the big moment came in the second half as Wilson scored to make it 1-1 but VAR intervened as Adam Smith had handled at the other end of the pitch. The goal was chalked off and a penalty kick awarded and that was the game. Bournemouth were livid as it looked like a heft chunk of shoulder from Smith but VAR had spoken.

2. Bournemouth running out of time: Howe’s side are playing well in games but are being knocked back at key moments time and time again. The VAR calls were harsh but Howe’s side never looked dangerous enough in attack and had Ramsdale to thank for not being four or five down. With Chelsea and Liverpool in their next two and Spurs, Everton, Man City, Leicester and Man United still to come, where are Bournemouth’s points going to come from? They’ve shocked plenty of big boys in the past and their five-season stay in the Premier League now depends on a few more of those.

3. Surging Burnley so underrated: Sean Dyche’s men are now in eighth place, three points off the top five and fifth could mean Champions League qualification this season. Imagine that? After just staying up last season and a slow start to the opening half of this season, Burnley have taken 13 points from the last 15 available. They have gone from relegation candidates to European hopefuls and they have stuck to their gameplan and played to their strengths which is huge credit to Dyche.

Man of the Match: Dwight McNeil – Vydra was a pest and Ramsdale did well to deny him on multiple occasions but McNeil was brilliant, whipping in superb crosses and he smashed home a beauty late on after another mazy run.


The first big chance of the game arrived as Matej Vydra charged in from the left and forced a fine save from Aaron Ramsdale.

Bournemouth thought they had taken the lead through King but the goal was chalked off for VAR as Phillip Billing handled the ball before it found King.

Harry Wilson got on the end of Josh King‘s cross at the back post but his header was punched away by Nick Pope.

Burnley battled to get back into the game as Bournemouth looked more likely to break the deadlock. Jack Stacey was denied by Pope and then Burnley launched a counter but Vydra was denied once again by Ramsdale.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

At the start of the second half it was third time lucky for Vydra as Bournemouth gave him plenty of space and the Czech Republic striker cut inside and finished calmly to make it 1-0 and make it two goals in two Premier League games after a 17-month wait for one.

Bournemouth thought they had equalized soon after as the Wilson’s combined with Callum setting up Harry to slot home, but VAR checked the goal for a possible handball by Adam Smith in his own box and the goal was taken away and a penalty awarded to Burnley.

Rodriguez slammed home the penalty to make it 2-0 as Bournemouth’s bench couldn’t believe it and referee Mike Dean had to give them a telling off.

Rodriguez almost made it 3-0 late on but Ramsdale denied him at point-blank range with Burnley dangerous on the break as Bournemouth chucked men forward.

Vydra almost slid in for another and Dwight McNeil hit the inside of the post with a fine curling shot and then smashed home a beauty to seal the win in style.

Watch Live: Leicester City v. Man City

Leicester City v. Man City stream link
Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manchester City can put Leicester City deep in its rearview mirror when the two sides meet at the King Power Stadium on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Leicester opens the day four points back of the second-place visitors. The Foxes also saw Chelsea move four points back with a win over Spurs.

[ STREAM: Leicester City v. Man City ]

Aymeric Laporte again pairs with Fernandinho in Man City’s back line, keeping John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi on the bench.

Harvey Barnes and Ayoze Perez start on the bench for Brendan Rodgers‘ Foxes.

LINEUPS

Leicester City

Man City