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

Zidane quizzed on Pogba: “We know what we want to do”

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Zinedine Zidane’s open flirtation with Paul Pogba continues, as the Real Madrid manager was asked about Manchester United’s star midfielder again on Saturday.

“We need to respect everybody, but the only thing I can say from the club is we know what we want to do,” Zidane said. “Something could happen before the end of August. We could have some changes.”

[ MORE: Wolves beat Man City in pens ]

On paper the purchase of Pogba makes sense to reloading Real, but the problem here is the sheer amount of paper the Madrid side has spent on players this season.

While sales of James Rodriguez, Dani Ceballos, and Gareth Bale could put Real in okay position regarding Financial Fair Play, buying Pogba would move the needle hard in the other direction considering the club has bought Ferland Mendy, Eden Hazard, Eder Militao, Luka Jovic, and Rodrygo.

Plus, Florentino Perez likes to buy only one Galactico per transfer session, and Hazard is undoubtedly this summer’s model.

That said, Real has assets that United could use in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s overhaul of the Old Trafford set.

UEFA gives partial stadium bans to Bulgaria, Romania for fan racism

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NYON, Switzerland (AP) Bulgaria will have to close part of its national stadium for European Championship qualifiers against England and the Czech Republic because of fan racism.

UEFA issued the order, saying Bulgarian fans were racially abusive during a 2-1 loss to the Czech Republic and a 3-2 loss to Kosovo last month.

Bulgaria hosts England on Oct. 14 and the Czech Republic on Nov. 17.

Romania has also been ordered to close part of its home stadium for a future under-21 game after UEFA ruled its fans behaved in a racist manner during the European under-21 championship last month.

Another racism case against Latvia was dropped.

UEFA also handed out various fines to Romania, Ukraine, and Greece for rowdy behavior by fans.

Transfer rumor roundup: Everton join Zaha chase; Matuidi to Man Utd?

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A roundup of Saturday’s biggest transfer rumors from around the world, including those involving a few Premier League clubs…

[ MORE: PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly” ]

Wilfried Zaha is one of the most wanted men in England, with Arsenal reportedly hot on his trail all summer. An deal between the Gunners and Crystal Palace is yet  to transpire, though, which has perhaps left the door open for Everton to sneak through and sign the 26-year-old Ivory Coast international.

Arsenal would obviously pay more in wages, but are yet to meet Palace’s valuation of their talisman. If Everton is the club that calls with the requisite figures on offer, it wouldn’t be the worst landing place for Zaha. With Arsenal yet to make a meaningful signing this summer, and the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny already gone or on their way out, the 2019-20 season could see the Gunners take a step back, opening the door for — you guessed it — Everton to break into the top-five… or -four.


Speaking of Ramsey, his arrival at Juventus has perhaps made Blaise Matuidi surplus to requirements, which means he could be available for cut-rate price.

Manchester United seem to be perennially in need of influential central midfielders, especially this summer after the departure of Ander Herrera and the failure of a signing that was Fred last summer. Man United have reportedly been in contact with Juve about the 32-year-old, as have Paris Saint-Germain and Everton.


Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is another midfielder who’s been linked with United, but he’ll likely just as much as, if not more than, the $59-million fee paid for Fred. Milinkovic-Savic seemed a surefire target for the world’s top clubs after a star’s showing at last summer’s World Cup in Russia, but the 24-year-old remained at Lazio and is still yet to move 12 months later.


Patrick Cutrone was one of Europe’s breakout stars of the 2018-19 season, now the 21-year-old AC Milan forward is reportedly high atop Wolverhampton Wanderers’ shopping list this summer. He won’t come cheap — Milan are expected to demand nearly $30 million — but he could offer some serious insurance in the event of an injury to Raul Jimenez.

PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly”

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Premier League interim chief executive Richard Masters says that referees have ben instructed “to use the referee review area a bit more sparingly” and rely on the numerous video-assistant referees (VAR) at their disposal to make simple calls upon review when video review is instituted in the PL next month.

[ MORE: Lukaku latest: Man United reject $67-million bid from Inter Milan ]

Following the 2019 Women’s World Cup, where far too many trip to the monitor were made by the center referees, the PL is keen on ensuring that “the Premier League or English football [is not] interrupted, or the pace of the game [is not] changed.” It sounds very much like a “less is more” approach  — quotes from the BBC:

“I think fans want to see those clear and obvious mistakes changed and put right. But they don’t want to see the Premier League or English football interrupted, or the pace of the game changed.

“I think the only difference you might see is the referees using the referee review area a bit more sparingly and relying more on the VAR for the more subjective decisions.

“But we are putting something new into the Premier League and if it needs to be refined or improved or tweaked we will look at it when the moment arises.”

In theory, this should work quite well for the PL. Many of the decisions that referees go to the monitor to review themselves could easily be made by the “fifth official.” If it’s obvious to the VAR and he/she can make the call with 100 percent certainty, the center ref should always take their decision in the name of keeping the game flowing. If the VAR isn’t so sure, or it’s a more subjective call that should be made by the person making 99 percent of the game’s calls, go to the monitor. But do so quickly.