Grading every PL club’s festive season

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And exhale.

The Premier League’s festive season concluded Thursday with a sizzling second half draw between West Ham and Tottenham, 13 days after Arsenal and Liverpool got us started on our 40-match run with a 3-3 thriller at the Emirates Staidum.

[ WATCH: Twin stunners at Wembley ]

Forty matches!

We are not grading on a curve, but we are grading relative to seasonal needs.

Arsenal
Dec. 22 – vs. Liverpool, D 3-3
Dec. 28 – at Crystal Palace, W 3-2
Dec. 31 – at West Brom, D 1-1
Jan. 3 – vs. Chelsea, D 2-2

Unbeaten! But only one win! Arsenal can feel aggrieved at West Brom’s late penalty on New Year’s Eve, and those two points are the reason Arsene Wenger‘s men aren’t level on points with fifth place Spurs. All-in-all, though, these are respectable results. Grade: B.

Bournemouth
Dec. 23 – at Man City, L 0-4
Dec. 26 – vs. West Ham United, D 3-3
Dec. 30 – vs. Everton, W 2-1
Jan. 1 – at Brighton, D 2-2

There’s a reason Eddie Howe‘s name is tossed about as a prime prospect for bigger clubs, and a reason Jeff Mostyn and the Bournemouth administration don’t want him going anywhere. The performances are coming around for the Cherries. Grade B-.

Brighton and Hove Albion
Dec. 23 – vs. Watford, W 1-0
Dec. 26 – at Chelsea, L 0-2
Dec. 30 – at Newcastle United, D 0-0
Jan. 1 – vs. Bournemouth, D 2-2

Chris Hughton‘s doing a very good job at the Amex Stadium, and the fortnight went alright for him. Three points above the drop and a goal scorer from feeling safe. Grade B.

Burnley
Dec. 23 – vs. Spurs, L 0-3
Dec. 26 – at Manchester United, D 2-2
Dec. 30 – at Huddersfield Town, D 0-0
Jan. 1 – vs. Liverpool, L 1-2

A brutal run of opponents is hard, and shows that the Clarets were a bit of a mirage. Still a fantastic season, but only a Top Seven contender if Everton and Leicester City drop the ball. Grade C.

Chelsea
Dec. 22 – at Everton, D 0-0
Dec. 26 – vs. Brighton, W 2-0
Dec. 30 – vs. Stoke City, W 5-0
Jan. 3 – at Arsenal, D 2-2

The Blues will take the draw at Arsenal given that Thibaut Courtois‘ many saves offset Alvaro Morata’s several misses. The Everton one, however, stings and stops the Blues from taking advantage of Manchester United’s draw-heavy December. Grade: B

Crystal Palace
Dec. 22 – at Swansea City, D 1-1
Dec. 28 – vs. Arsenal, L 2-3
Dec. 31 – vs. Man City, D 0-0
Jan. 2 – at Southampton, W 2-1

There’s a lot to like here, especially considering the Eagles probably deserved a point against the Gunners. The draw at Swans is poor considering how well Roy Hodgson‘s had the Eagles playing, but is worth overlooking at this point considering Palace ended City’s 18-match win streak (and were a saved Luka Milivojevic penalty away from ending the prospect of an unbeaten season). Grade A-.

(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Everton
Dec. 23 – vs. Chelsea, D 0-0
Dec. 26 – at West Brom, D 0-0
Dec. 30 – at Bournemouth, L 1-2
Jan. 1 – vs. Man Utd, L 0-2

The Chelsea draw is great, and Sam Allardyce is right that he’s operating without a good striker, but this was not a good period. The loss at Bournemouth could be a blip, but the Toffees were second best at a very poor West Brom side. Grade D+.

Huddersfield Town
Dec. 23 – at Southampton, D 1-1
Dec. 26 – vs. Stoke City, D 1-1
Dec. 30 – vs. Burnley, D 0-0
Jan. 1 – at Leicester City, L 0-3

Depends on how you view David Wagner‘s men, really. Are they overachievers who still should be fearing the drop, or are they a quality side who should be competing for a top half spot? We think the latter, and that makes the home draw vs. Stoke extra disappointing. Grade C.

Leicester City
Dec. 23 – vs. Manchester United, D 2-2
Dec. 26 – at Watford, L 1-2
Dec. 30 – at Liverpool, L 1-2
Jan. 1 – vs. Huddersfield Town, W 3-0

That Watford loss is just sitting there, looking out of place. Beating the Terriers and starting United’s rough patch is a good combination. Grade B-.

Liverpool
Dec. 22 – at Arsenal, D 3-3
Dec. 26 – vs. Swans, W 5-0
Dec. 30 – vs. Leicester City, W 2-1
Jan. 1 – at Burnley, W 2-1

Still humming, beat two decent teams without hemorrhaging goals, and played one of the thrillers of the season. Help coming in Virgil Van Dijk, but Jurgen Klopp improved his defense before the Dutchman signed at Anfield. Grade: A.

Manchester City
Dec. 22 – vs. Bournemouth, W 4-0
Dec. 27 – at Newcastle United, W 1-0
Dec. 31 – at Crystal Palace, D 0-0
Jan. 2 – vs. Watford, W 3-1

Taking 10 of 12 points is pretty good, though Pep Guardiola will feel stung to have seen his 18-match win streak come one short of the mark he set while at Bayern Munich. Grade: A-

Manchester United
Dec. 23 – at Leicester City, D 2-2
Dec. 26 – vs. Burnley, D 2-2
Dec. 30 – vs. Southampton, D 0-0
Jan. 1 – at Everton, W 2-0

Just not acceptable. Yes the fixtures came fast, but they also continued a run in which United didn’t really seem to have a plan other than possession. Grade: C-

Newcastle United
Dec. 23 – at West Ham United, W 3-2
Dec. 26 – vs. Manchester City, L 0-1
Dec. 30 – vs. Brighton, D 0-0
Jan. 1 – at Stoke City, W 1-0

Seven points, and a Dwight Gayle missed header away from going through the festive season unbeaten? Not bad, though the Brighton draw was less than exceptional. Grade: B-

(Owen Humphreys/PA via AP)

Southampton
Dec. 23 – vs. Huddersfield Town, D 1-1
Dec. 26 – at Spurs, L 2-5
Dec. 30 – at Man Utd, D 0-0
Jan. 2 – vs. Crystal Palace, L 1-2

Giving points to, at best, a pair of mid-table rivals and, at worst, a pair of relegation scrappers, is not good. The Red Devils draw boosts Mauricio Pellegrino‘s grade just a tad. Grade: D

Stoke City
Dec. 23 – vs. West Bromwich Albion, W 3-1
Dec. 26 – at Huddersfield Town, D 1-1
Dec. 30 – at Chelsea, L 0-5
Jan. 1 – vs. Newcastle, L 0-1

Funny how one match can swing the whole tenor of a quartet, as the loss to fellow scrapper Newcastle colors it in a big way. Grade: C.

Swansea City
Dec. 23 – vs. Crystal Palace, D 1-1
Dec. 26 – at Liverpool, L 0-5
Dec. 30 – at Watford, W 2-1
Jan. 2 – vs. Spurs, L 0-2

Still dead last in the Premier League, but three of Swans’ four opponents were very much in form. Throw in a managerial change, and the grade should probably be a bit higher. Grade B-.

Tottenham Hotspur
Dec. 23 – at Burnley, W 3-0
Dec. 26 – vs. Southampton, W 5-2
Jan. 2 – at Swans, W 2-0
Jan. 4 – vs. West Ham, D 1-1

The draw coming how it did — outshooting a rival 31-3 — makes the fact that Spurs are the only club who could’ve bettered Man City’s festive season even more bitter. Still, a great run. Grade: A- 

Watford
Dec. 23 – at Brighton and Hove Albion, L 0-1
Dec. 26 – vs. Leicester City, W 2-1
Dec. 30 – vs. Swans, L 1-2
Jan. 2 – at Man City, L 1-3

Marco Silva‘s star doesn’t seem as shiny as it did when Watford was turning down Everton interest, and two of these losses were pretty bothersome. Five points above the drop zone now. Not great given the parity in the league. Grade C-.

West Bromwich Albion
Dec. 23 – at Stoke City, L 1-3
Dec. 26 – vs. Everton, D 0-0
Dec. 31 – vs. Arsenal, D 1-1
Jan. 2 – at West Ham, L 1-2

Still winless since August. Didn’t deserve to get a point against Arsenal, but deserved three versus Everton. Need attacking help. Grade C-.

West Ham United
Dec. 23 – vs. Newcastle United, L 2-3
Dec. 26  – at Bournemouth, D 3-3
Jan. 2 – vs. West Brom, W 2-1
Jan. 4 – at Spurs, D 1-1

You’d say bang average, but it’s difficult to overlook that the Irons have climbed out of the drop zone. Grade C+.

VIDEO: Breaking down some celebrated Premier League derbies

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The kickoffs aren’t coming back soon, so we’re finding solace in anticipating the biggest matches on the Premier League calendar.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Certain rivalries are circled on the fixture list when it arrives each summer, the sort of games that seem to level the playing field regardless of the gulf in class.

Is Arsenal struggling? No better way to bounce back than Spurs.

Liverpool sliding a bit? It’ll snap back to form when Everton hits Anfield.

PST lead writer and editor Joe Prince-Wright has prepped up for several of these derbies over the years, and here’s a cheat sheet for those new and a tasty summation for those missing their hated foes.

Liverpool-Manchester City

Arsenal-Tottenham Hotspur

Liverpool-Everton

Manchester City-Manchester United

Chelsea-Tottenham Hotspur

Bournemouth’s Howe takes voluntary pay cut, first PL manager to do so

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Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe is the first Premier League manager to take a pay cut due to the coronavirus suspension.

Howe joins Bournemouth chief executive Neill Blake, first team technical director Richard Hughes, and assistant manager Jason Tindall in taking “significant, voluntary” pay cuts.

Howe is the longest-serving manager in the PL. He started with Bournemouth’s academy in 1994 and spent just a few short seasons away from home (Portsmouth and Swindon Town) during his playing career.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The club has also furloughed employees throughout the organization. From a Bournemouth statement:

There is no script for moments like this. No tactics and no set plays to find a winning formula. But as a board we are continually looking at ways to ensure the future of the club and our employees is protected when the season returns.

We have also advised a number of staff across all areas of the club that they will be temporarily furloughed, as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

These measures have been taken to safeguard the financial stability of the club during what is such an uncertain period, not only in football but for businesses in all industries across the world.

Surely Howe won’t be the last during this uncertain time for clubs and businesses all over the world.

Ex-Marseille president first coronavirus-related death in Senegal

Pape Diouf
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DAKAR, Senegal (AP) Pape Diouf, a former president of French soccer club Marseille, died Tuesday in Senegal after contracting the coronavirus. It was the West African country’s first COVID-19-related death, according to the health ministry. He was 68.

Diouf, who was president of Marseille from 2005-09, had been treated since Saturday in intensive care in Dakar, health minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr said.

Senegal President Macky Sall wrote on his official Twitter account that he had followed Diouf’s health closely after he was admitted for treatment.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

“I pay tribute to this great figure in sport,” Sall wrote. “I pay tribute to the medical staff at Fann Hospital who spared no effort to save him.”

Relatives said Diouf was meant to be moved to France. He had recently traveled to several countries in the West Africa region.

In its most recent count, Senegal has reported 190 cases of the coronavirus, with 45 of those having recovered.

Diouf was a charismatic and popular leader who was close to the fans and players at Marseille, the only French team to win the European club title.

“Pape will forever remain in the hearts of Marseille people and (is) one of the great architects of the club,” Marseille wrote under a photo of Diouf.

Shortly before his time at the club ended, Diouf signed Didier Deschamps as the new coach and Deschamps won the French league title and League Cup in his first season in charge. It was Marseille’s first league title in 18 years.

Deschamps, who coached France to World Cup success two years ago, described Diouf as “a man of convictions, a spirited man, passionate about football” adding that his “sudden and brutal death deeply saddens me.”

“I could measure his popularity, which was immense with the Marseille people whose hearts he had won,” Deschamps said on L’Equipe’s website.

The French soccer league called Diouf’s death “a moment of immense sadness for French soccer.”

Diouf was born in Chad to Senegalese parents. After arriving in Marseille at the age of 18, he became a sports journalist and then a players’ agent.

Diouf was not afraid to take risks in signing unheralded players, such as the diminutive Mathieu Valbuena from third-tier side Libourne in 2006 when he was 21.

The 1.67-meter (5 feet, 5 inches) Valbuena went on to prove Diouf right, and all the doubters wrong, playing 52 times for France.

“A great man with a great heart,” Valbuena said. “We were hypnotized by his speeches, he had a lot of charisma.”

Diouf was awarded the French Legion of Honor medal in 2012, one of the country’s highest honors.

Pugmire reported from Paris. AP reporter Babacar Dione in Dakar, Senegal contributed.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Report: Griezmann plus cash could finally get Neymar back to Barcelona

Neymar
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Neymar’s long-rumored return to Barcelona hasn’t quite reached the point of exhaustion, but it’s close.

A new report has said Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain may be coming to terms with what’s been a fairly obvious swap deal for some time.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

According to Sky Sports, PSG would send Neymar to Barcelona in return for French hero Antoine Griezmann and money.

The $167 million price tag attached to Neymar is significantly more than the $110 million on Griezmann, and there’s no doubt the former is more of a gamechanger at this point on their careers.

While Neymar gets both the #whenhealthy and #whenavailable tags to his rep, he’s scored 18 times with 10 assists in 22 matches across all competitions this year.

Before the full phrase ‘Ligue 1’ exits your lips, he’s scored against Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Celtic, Galatasaray, Liverpool, Anderlecht, and Red Star Belgrade in his three seasons with PSG.

Griezmann is a full year older than Neymar and, while one of the world’s elite attackers, he’s a step below the Brazilian’s tier. He’s also said to want to keep finding his way at Barca, with Gerard Pique and others ready to lend support.