PL Playback: Hot takes on all 20 teams

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Are you ready for some flaming hot takes on all 20 Premier League teams after the first three games of the season?

I can hear you screaming “heck yeah” from here.

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Inspired by a question I asked you all on Sunday given the upcoming two-week long (it feels like two years, but whatever) international break, I sum up the mood in three words on each team following their opening three games of the season.

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Get involved in the comments section below to sum up in three words how you feel about how your team has started the 2017-18 campaign.


ArsenalArsene Wenger Out

Self explanatory but somehow we keep arriving at this point. The dramatic opening day win against Leicester showed that there was spirit there, but the shock loss at Stoke was followed up by a demoralizing 4-0 thumping at Liverpool. Not long until we see the “Wenger Out” banners return just a few months into his new two-year deal. Not all his fault, but the situation regarding star players Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and many others having just 12 months left on their contracts is a huge distraction. Wenger’s tactics have also been a huge reason why Arsenal has lost two of their opening three games. Some things never change.

Bournemouth – Surprisingly lackluster attack

Just one goal in their opening three games says it all. Eddie Howe‘s side have lost all three games so far and although they showed plenty of attacking intent against Manchester City, they succumbed to a devastating last-minute winner from Raheem Sterling. Jermain Defoe doesn’t look fully-fit and the Cherries must stop conceding sloppy goals. Far from an ideal start as their attacking unit doesn’t look well-oiled at all.

Brighton & Hove Albion – Need new striker

Glenn Murray and Tomer Hemed will get goals but probably not enough to keep Brighton in the Premier League. The Seagulls lost their first two games without really threatening Man City and Leicester but that was a real baptism of fire. They then drew 0-0 at Watford which isn’t a bad result, but the home side were down to 10-men early on. Brighton hit the woodwork twice in that game and they have yet to score in the PL. A new striker in the final days of the window is a must for Chris Hughton‘s well-organized side to give themselves a chance of staying up this season.

Burnley – Same old scrappers

Beating Chelsea on the opening day was a superb result and although they lost at home to West Brom the week after, the Clarets hung in there at Wembley and grabbed a late point against Totttenham in Week 3 thanks to new signing Chris Wood. Sean Dyche has sold Andre Gray and Michael Keane but has invested wisely and Burnley seem like they’re set for another season of midtable mediocrity. That will suit them very nicely.

Chelsea – Crisis almost over

With a horrible preseason, the Diego Costa situation hanging around, Eden Hazard injured and reports of Antonio Conte growing frustrated with a lack of new signings, losing in the FA Community Shield and then to Burnley on the opening day saw the reigning champs labelled a “crisis club” by many. They’ve rebounded magnificently since then with a gutsy win against Tottenham at Wembley and then they beat Everton convincingly to suggest Alvaro Morata can grab the goals they need to launch another title bid. A few more convincing wins and Chelsea will be everyone’s favorites to win the title again.

Crystal PalaceFrank De Boer

Reports state that the Dutchman could be fired after three games in charge. That says it all. De Boer, 47, has tried to usher in an attractive style of play which focuses on possession from the back. The only problem is, this is a squad assembled by a merchant of the direct game in Sam Allardyce and the players at FDB’s disposal don’t appear to be capable of carrying out his plans. With a nightmare run of games coming up in September and October, the pressure is already on Palace who seem set for another relegation scrap.

Everton – Close to exciting

One more striker away from really threatening the top four. Ronald Koeman will be working hard in the final days of the window after Everton have just two goals to their name through the opening three games and both have come from Wayne Rooney. The arrival of Gylfi Sigurdsson and several others have significantly strengthened Everton’s starting XI but they are a top striker away from having a superb season in the PL and Europe.

Huddersfield Town – The new darlings

Seven points from their opening three games means everyone has a new favorite second club in the PL. Like Iceland at EURO 2016, Wichita State most years in the NCAA tournament or Bournemouth in previous PL seasons, everybody wants Huddersfield to do well except when they’re club is playing against them. David Wagner has created a wonderful team spirit among the players and fans and the John Smith’s Stadium is a fortress. A relegation battle is likely but the Terriers will have most people rooting for them.

Leicester City – Foxes sometimes quit

Craig Shakespeare has made some very good signings over the summer with center back Harry Maguire looking like an absolute steal. However, his arrival hasn’t solved Leicester’s defensive issues as they conceded four at Arsenal and two against Manchester United. Late mistakes in both of those games cost the Foxes points and suggests that they sometimes lose focus. Going forward the duo of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez seem back to their best. Midtable.

Liverpool – Full throttle football

What a start for Jurgen Klopp‘s side who breezed into the UEFA Champions League group stage, then celebrated by battering Arsenal 4-0 in the Premier League. Seven points to open up the season is a very good return but there have been signs that defensive issues remain. Klopp will likely be busy in the final days of the window but the fact Philippe Coutinho‘s potential departure won’t ruin their season says it all. Mane, Salah and Firmino have been sublime. Now, can they do it against the lesser teams in the PL?

Manchester City – Defensive flaws remain

Pep Guardiola‘s men have shown fighting spirit to grab a late point against Everton when down to 10-men and then seal a dramatic win at Bournemouth following their opening day win at Brighton. Still, defensive issues are a little concerning for City and Pep is finding it hard to keep both Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus happy. That said, City looked better balanced than last season and goalkeeper Ederson already looks like a big upgrade. They’ve spent big but what happens if Vincent Kompany gets injured?

Manchester United – Horses roam free

A stunning start to the season from Jose Mourinho who has exclaimed he simply “let’s the horses run freely” late in games. 10 goals scored and none conceded with three wins from three has seen United put down a marker and the easier games keep on rolling after the break. United have big challenges ahead but Romelu Lukaku is scoring, Nemanja Matic is holding down the midfield and Paul Pogba is already looking influential in attack. The Red Devils are rampant.

Newcastle United – Hope springs eternal

After two defeats and zero goals to open the season there was plenty of doom and gloom around St James’ Park with talk continuing about Rafael Benitez potentially leaving as struggles in the transfer market continued. Cue a 3-0 win against West Ham as the Magpies pulverized the Hammers to instill fresh hope among the Geordie faithful that this is their year. Plenty of work to be done but Newcastle seem to have plenty of attacking weapons who can hurt opponents.

Southampton – Everything but goals

Saints have been in the top six of the PL in terms of shots attempted,average possession and passes but one thing remains tough for the South Coast club: scoring goals. Mauricio Pellegrino has brought back high-pressing to Saints but 0-0 draws against Swansea City and Huddersfield shows the same issues as last season remain. Manolo Gabbiadini and Charlie Austin will get Southampton goals but taking chances in key areas remains a big problem. Once it clicks, Saints should be set for another top 10 finish.

Stoke City – Solid and steady

An opening day defeat against Everton was a close run thing and then a 1-0 win against Arsenal kicked off their home campaign in style. Jese and Choupo-Moting seem like inspired acquisitions and Mark Hughes‘ men will be a lot more solid this season with Jack Butland fit and a new 3-4-3 formation getting the best out of their players. Expect another top 10 finish from the Potters.

Swansea City – Recovering from Sigurdsson

The Swans had a rough offseason with Gylfi Sigurdsson finally moving on for $63 million to Everton last week. Paul Clement will make some more key additions in the final days of the window with Wilfried Bony close to a Swans return and Sam Clucas already seeming like a great buy. A win away at Palace was vital and four points from seven isn’t a disaster all things considered. Important final few days of the transfer window ahead.

Tottenham Hotspur – Wembley jinx remains

What is going on for Spurs at Wembley? They dominated both Burnley and Chelsea both walked away from their first two PL games at Wembley with one point after late goals for their opponents in each game. The Wembley jinx remains and so does Harry Kane‘s as he’s never scoring in August. He has now gone 13 games without a goal in the month and Spurs will be hoping things settle down for their main man in September. Tottenham will be challenging for a top four spot but need a win at Wembley ASAP to get rid of their supposed hoodoo.

Watford – Signs of progress

Marco Silva has quietly gone about his rebuild of the Hornets and they are unbeaten after three games with an impressive draw against Liverpool kicking things off. Watford seem more dynamic in attack with Richarlison and Andre Gray and a little more organized too as Nathaniel Chalobah pulls the strings in midfield. Watford will be pushing for the top 10 this season.

West Bromwich Albion – Same old Pulis

Seven points from nine and Tony Pulis is at it again. His team are scoring goals from set piece situations and have only conceded once this season so far. The situation surrounding captain Jonny Evans with a potential move to Man City is worrying, but Jay Rodriguez adds a cutting-edge up top. Expect West Brom to get to 40 points early in the season and then it is all about mental focus to see what is possible.

West Ham United – Nightmare via experience

Slaven Bilic‘s future is reportedly up in the air after the Hammers spent big in the offseason but have lost all three games away from home. Without any games at the London Stadium due to the World Championships athletics, it was tough for West Ham to be on the road three times to open up the new season but they have conceded 10 goals and scored just twice through Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. With Marko Arnautovic sent off for a silly elbow in their second game, plus mistakes from Pablo Zabaleta and Joe Hart, experience is not proving valuable after a nightmare start for the Hammers.

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

LAFC’s Adama Diomande voluntarily enters MLS’s health program

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Los Angeles FC forward Adama Diomande has entered Major League Soccer’s substance abuse and behavioral health program.

[ Premier League Previews: Leicester City v. Tottenham | Man City v. Watford ]

MLS announced Diomande’s voluntary decision Friday.

Diomande won’t play for LAFC at least until the program’s doctors complete their evaluation and he is cleared by program officials.

The 29-year-old Norwegian scorer has eight goals and seven assists in 25 appearances this season, including 15 starts. He has played a valuable complementary offensive role alongside MLS scoring leader Carlos Vela.

[ MORE: Report: Netherlands FA to meet with Sergiño Dest ]

Diomande is in his second MLS season after joining LAFC from Hull City. He also previously played under LAFC coach Bob Bradley in Norway.

LAFC (19-4-7) has clinched the Western Conference title, and it leads the overall MLS table by seven points despite a four-game winless streak.

Premier League Preview: Newcastle v. Brighton

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  • Early-season relegation battlers meet on Saturday
  • 18th-place Newcastle to host 16th-place Brighton
  • Brighton won at Newcastle, drew at home last season

Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion, a pair of Premier League sides with just two wins from the first five weeks of the season between them, will meet at St. James’ Park on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) for what could prove to be a retrospective relegation six-pointer when May rolls around.

Each side replaced its manager — Steve Bruce for Rafa Benitez at Newcastle; Graham Potter for Chris Hughton at Bright — in the summer and neither of the new bosses has had a particularly enjoyable start to the 2019-20 campaign. Brighton won on the opening day of the season, but have taken just two points from the following four games. Newcastle lost their first two games, won their third, and have drawn and lost again since. It’s the kind of form that’ll see both sides stuck in the high-teens of the PL table if they don’t find their footing in the coming weeks.

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Things are particularly worrying for Newcastle, who didn’t they’d be without Benitez until the end of June and didn’t appoint Bruce until mid-July. Key players had already left the club and reinforcements for few and far between. Forward Joelinton joined for $50 million and is one of four players with a single goal scored thus far.

Last week was nearly fruitful for the Seagulls, until the conceded a stoppage-time equalizer and settle for a point at home against Burnley. Summer signing Neal Maupay bagged his second goal for Brighton earlier in the game, giving Potter a potential trump card over a handful of other relegation-threatened sides without a consistent goalscorer.

Injuries/suspensions

Newcastle: OUT – Matt Ritchie (ankle), Florian Lejeune (knee), Dwight Gayle (calf); QUESTIONABLE – DeAndre Yedlin (groin)

Brighton: OUT – Leandro Trossard (groin), Jose Izquierdo (knee), Ezequiel Schelotto (knee)


Projected lineups

Newcastle: Dubravka – Krafth, Schar, Lascelles, Dummett, Willems – Almiron, Hayden, Shelvey, Atsu – Joelinton

Brighton: Ryan – Duffy, Dunk, Webster – March, Stephens, Propper, Burn – Gross, Maupay, Murray


What they’re saying

Joelinton, on Andy Carroll: “It’s always great to have experienced players in the group, and he’s one of them. He can help the club, he can help the young players. Andy Carroll has scored a lot of goals in the Premier League, and it’s great to be playing alongside him. He’s a calm guy. I still haven’t spoken to him a lot because my English isn’t great! But every day he’s trying to help. He’ll help me before the games, he’ll give me positional advice and suggest what I’ve done both good and bad.”

Graham Potter, on the trip to Newcastle: “Newcastle away is a tough game just like all the others. We don’t target particular matches — it’s about what we need to do to get a positive result. They have an experienced manager who I came across last year and he’s someone I have a lot of respect for. They have good quality players and we know it can be a hostile environment, it’s a big club and we know we have to play well to get something.  Steve has a lot of games under his belt – he’s had a lot of success and he’ll understand the challenge that lies ahead.


Prediction

Newcastle haven’t scored multiple goals in a game yet this season, and they’ve conceded twice as many as they’ve scored (four). It’s hard to trust them to be anything resembling consistent from game to game. It wouldn’t be surprising if they battled to a boring 0-0 draw, or conceding three times before halftime. It’ll probably be closer to the former, a 1-1 stalemate.

AC Milan announces internal anti-racism task force

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MILAN (AP) AC Milan has announced it will establish an internal task force to address racism in Italian football.

[ Premier League Previews: Leicester City v. Tottenham | Man City v. Watford ]

The club says the task force will be supported by “an external consultancy” and “develop a program of activities to increase awareness, monitor and address racist behavior on social media and in the stadium, and drive the adoption of global best practices on diversity and inclusion.”

The move comes after reports of racist chants directed at Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, who is black, during a match at Hellas Verona last weekend.

Milan says the anti-racism initiative will be launched during Saturday’s derby against Inter Milan.

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Inter striker Romelu Lukaku was subjected to racist chants in a match at Cagliari this month.

Milan CEO Ivan Gazidis, who is South African, says: “Italian football needs to wake up and take a strong stance against racist behaviors. AC Milan will take a leadership position on this issue. . We believe that we have a moral obligation to do everything we can to address this issue.”

Slow start dooms Southampton again: ‘We lost the game in first half’

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Slow starts are, ironically, quickly becoming the story of Southampton’s Premier League season. It happened again on Friday, resulting in a 3-1 home defeat to Bournemouth in the Premier League‘s budding south coast rivalry

[ Premier League Previews: Leicester City v. Tottenham | Man City v. Watford ]

Through six games, Saints have conceded the first goal four times. In those four games, they have taken just one point. When scoring the game’s first goal, they have two wins and two clean sheets.

It would appear that Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side is set up to play one way, and one way only. Speaking after Friday’s defeat, Hasenhuttl lamented his side’s slow start, conceding that the game was all but lost when they fell 2-0 behind in the 35 minutes — quotes from the BBC:

“The finish was not important anymore. If you lose 2-1 or 3-1 it does not make too much difference. We lost the game in the first half.

“In the second half, we were sharp. Had about 26 shots to six from Bournemouth but the most important stat is the goals. They scored three, we scored once.

“We weren’t aggressive enough and too easy in the first half. It is not easy to be 1-0 down after 10 minutes. We had a lot of blocked shots and misses near the post. It was a good performance in the second half but without a result.

“For the second goal was had a lot of players in our attacking box so it was not easy to defend.

“We showed a good reaction because we knew we needed to be brave. We changed our shape and were aggressive for the second ball. It gave us 64% possession and we had a lot of shots. Maybe we didn’t deserve to take something because of our first half.”

Southampton’s next chance to start a game quickly will come in an away bout with Tottenham Hotspur next Saturday.