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.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

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.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

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

Man City’s attempt to block UEFA investigation denied in court

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MONTREUX, Switzerland (AP) Manchester City lost its attempt Friday to block an investigation into allegations it deceived UEFA while violating rules that monitor soccer club finances.

[ MORE: Berhalter: No “like-for-like” replacement for Pulisic ]

The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that City’s appeal against UEFA’s handling of the investigation was inadmissible. The two-time defending Premier League champions tried to stop UEFA’s club finance panel from handling a referral by investigators to impose a punishment.

“At CAS we can only hear appeals against final decisions,” said Matthieu Reeb, the court’s secretary general.

UEFA investigators had called for a severe penalty — that City be excluded from the Champions League for one season.

The file will now proceed to UEFA’s club finance judges. Any sanction they impose can also be challenged at CAS.

The latest UEFA investigation started after leaks of City’s internal correspondence and documents to German news outlet Der Spiegel last year.

The leaks implied City deceived UEFA for several years, including by hiding information that revenue from potentially overvalued commercial deals came from the club’s owners in Abu Dhabi to curb losses.

[ MORE: Report: LA Galaxy want Cavani to replace Zlatan ]

City has never disputed the authenticity of the documents.

“There was absolutely no examination of the merits,” Reeb said of the three-judge panel’s ruling. “We cannot say whether the decision of the alleged breach of financial fair play rules are real or not.”

Friday’s ruling extends a long-standing conflict between City and UEFA in the era of “Financial Fair Play” rules which began in 2009 after consultation with clubs. The project was intended to protect clubs from reckless overspending.

UEFA rules limit cash injections from wealthy owners, which critics say penalize emerging clubs with big ambitions. Commercial deals such as shirt sponsorships that are suspected of being inflated are also assessed for the fair market rate.

City was deducted $22 million of Champions League prize money by UEFA in 2014 in the first round of FFP judgments.

Report: Bruce hopes to bring Xhaka to Newcastle in January

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Steve Bruce has prioritized a loan move to bring Granit Xhaka to Newcastle United in January, according to a report from Sky Sports.

[ MORE: Berhalter: No “like-for-like” replacement for Pulisic ]

Xhaka, now the former captain of Arsenal after his recent confrontation with the club’s fans, is expected to leave Arsenal in January and Bruce hopes that Fabian Schar, a longtime teammate of Xhaka with the Swiss international team, will be able to persuade the 27-year-old midfielder to choose the Magpies over what will surely be a long list of clubs desperate to acquire his services.

According to the report, a number of clubs in Italy have already expressed an interest in signing Xhaka — whether or loan or permanently — therefore Bruce and Co., are likely to face plenty of competition. However, the chance to remain in the Premier League and prove his detractors — many of them Arsenal fans — wrong could be appealing to Xhaka.

[ MORE: Report: LA Galaxy want Cavani to replace Zlatan ]

Xhaka, who is not currently injured, hasn’t made an appearance for Arsenal since the incident occurred late last month. Schar recently said that he “can’t wait to give [Xhaka] a hug” next time the two players see each other.

VIDEO: Each PL team’s best and worst player of October

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PST’s Joe Prince-Wright looks at the best (and worst) player of October for each Premier League team as the league enters its final international break of 2019.

[ MORE: Berhalter: No “like-for-like” replacement for Pulisic ]

With Liverpool and Leicester City flying high, picking the Reds’ or Foxes’ best player presented plenty of worthy candidates. As for terribly underperforming sides like Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and Southampton, it was a challenge for the opposite reason, though JPW wasn’t short on options when it came to worst performers.

Hit Play on the above video to see who graded out well — and not so well — for your club, and feel free to agree or disagree all you want in the comments below.

Unhappy in Madrid, Bale ‘more excited’ to play for Wales

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Thanks to the ongoing FIFA-mandated international break, life is currently pretty good for Gareth Bale, who says he “definitely have a bit more excitement playing for Wales” compared to when he’s playing — or not playing — for his club, Real Madrid.

[ MORE: Sterling backs Gomez after boos were heard at Wembley ]

Bale confirmed on Friday what the entire world has known for a couple of years now: that he’s thoroughly unhappy at not being allowed to leave Madrid this summer; that he never truly adapted to his home since the summer of 2013; and that his on-field performance has suffered for those reasons, as well as his extensive injury history — quotes from the BBC:

“With Wales, I’m speaking my own language and feeling more comfortable. I definitely have a bit more excitement playing for Wales.

“I’ve been with most of the players, especially the older ones, since we were in the Under-17s. It’s like playing with your mates down the park on a Sunday.

“But it still doesn’t change what I give on the pitch. I always give 100 percent wherever I am, and that’s what I always strive to do.”

As for how Bale has been painted by the Spanish media, he says he only pays attention to the negative coverage when his friends since him “funny pictures or whatever they write,” but it’s clear he feels like an outsider and that’s a key reason he was so keen to leave the club and country when a(n even more) mega-money offer came from China this summer.

“I’ve heard some stories but I don’t really take notice. My friends tend to send me some funny pictures or whatever they write.

“I find it hilarious to be honest, especially some of the pictures and stuff my friends send me. On one, it said ‘triple bogey’ and I’ve never had a triple bogey. At least give me an albatross! It’s funny.”

Unfortunately for Bale, he’ll have to continue playing nice with manager Zinedine Zidane, until January at least.