What we’ve learned, so far, from Premier League

Leave a comment

As we approach Matchweek 4 in the new Premier League season, snap judgements on teams continue to be shared.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

But what have we actually learned in the opening weeks of the new campaign?

Here’s a look at some of the storylines emanating from the first 270 minutes of the season.


Man United continue to be their own worst enemies

After losing 2-1 at home to Crystal Palace, it’s easy to write off Man United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. But that wouldn’t tell the whole story. As Nick Mendola pointed out yesterday, it’s not time to panic just yet. Had they scored two penalty kicks via Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, it is very likely they’d be sitting joint-top of the table with three wins from three. United have been their own worst enemies, with Pogba and Rashford fluffing their lines and David De Gea making another costly error to lose in stoppage time at home against Palace. United’s defense looks better, Rashford, Dan James and Martial are a threat and the side is settled with better balance in midfield. If this young side can cut out costly errors, they will be in the top four hunt all season long.


West Ham, Leicester well placed for top six push

The Hammers and Foxes are both looking very decent early in the season and both seem capable of pushing into the top six. Leicester are unbeaten and should have beat Chelsea, while West Ham took care of business against Watford and should have beat Brighton after an opening day mauling at the hands of Man City. Sebastian Haller looks the real deal up top for West Ham as they finally have a striker who can hold up the ball and bring their plethora of wonderful attacking midfielders into the game.

As for Leicester, they have so many youngsters who can put on a show. Harvey Barnes was the hero this week but James Maddison, Hamza Choudury and Demarai Gray are all stars for Brendan Rodgers‘ side. Caglar Soyuncu has also slotted in seamlessly to replace Harry Maguire. Leicester look set to push for a top six finish as the likes of Tottenham and Chelsea have failed to impress early this season. West Ham and Leicester are ahead of Wolves and Everton in the push for European qualification.


Liverpool a ruthless machine

Jurgen Klopp‘s men have been far from their best but they’re getting the job done and a ruthless second half blitz saw them ease past Arsenal on Saturday. After a disjointed summer where several stars didn’t even go on their preseason tour, Liverpool are clicking through the gears when they need to. Losing Alisson to injury in the season opener was far from ideal and that has led to Liverpool conceding in each of their three games so far, but Firmino, Salah and Mane have all stepped up at different times to seal three-straight wins. Not vintage stuff at all from the Reds, but they’re getting the job done in a ruthless fashion when they’re on top in games and that is title-winning material.


Chelsea’s kids are alright, but top four will be a big ask

It will be a lot of fun to watch Chelsea this season. But only if you’re a neutral. Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount have hit the ground running and going forward they look very dangerous. Defensively they are a little all over the place with Andres Christensen and Kurt Zouma their first-choice duo at center back, for now. Chelsea won 3-2 at Norwich and drew 1-1 with Leicester, but they should have lost the latter game. In midfield they are a little open and Frank Lampard‘s game-management is lacking a little. He and his young players will grow into this season, but the first few weeks have told us that finishing in the top four would be akin to win the title for Chelsea this season.


Tottenham’s poor form continues as uncertainty unsettles

Spurs’ shock defeat at home to Newcastle United highlighted a worrying trend for Mauricio Pochettino‘s side. Only two PL teams have picked up less points than them in the last 15 games, and the Argentine coach pointed to uncertainty over the future of several key players as having an impact on his squad. Aside from sorting out where Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld or Christian Eriksen will go as their contracts run down, a dip in form for Harry Kane has also hit Tottenham hard. In a season where they were supposed to push for the title after finally spending big this summer, they are already five points off leaders Liverpool. A north London derby at Arsenal on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) gives Spurs the perfect opportunity for a boost, but if they lose that it will heap more pressure on Pochettino.


Old guard standing tall for reigning champs

Pep Guardiola‘s side sit two points behind Liverpool and their old guard have been dragging them through games in the opening weeks. Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva and Sergio Aguero were at it again at Bournemouth over the weekend and City’s slick attack has continued to run seamlessly because of them. Defensively they’ve missed another veteran badly, with Vincent Kompany not being replaced as Nicolas Otamendi and Aymeric Laporte haven’t struck up a similar partnership with the former looking far from settled. For now, City will rely on their veteran stars to led the way but others need to step up, like they did last season, if they’re going to challenge for every trophy going.

Wolfsburg’s Mbabu out of Europa League after virus positive

Mbabu
Getty Images
1 Comment

WOLFSBURG, Germany (AP) Wolfsburg defender Kevin Mbabu will miss his team’s Europa League last-16 game against Shakhtar Donetsk after he tested positive for the coronavirus last month, the club said Monday.

[ MORE: Predictions, Odds for Europa ]

Wolfsburg coach Oliver Glasner said the Switzerland defender would “definitely” not travel with the team to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv to play Shakhtar on Wednesday. He has not been training with the team, Glasner added.

Wolfsburg said July 25 that Mbabu had tested positive and was in isolation at home. He was not displaying symptoms, the club said at the time.

The right back played 20 games for Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga this season, including 90 minutes in all nine games after the league resumed in May amid the pandemic.

The Europa League restarts Wednesday after a break of nearly five months. The second legs of last-16 matchups will be played at the original venues.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores  ]

Two fixtures where the first leg wasn’t played before the season was suspended – Inter Milan against Getafe and Roma against Sevilla – will be played as single-leg contests in Germany.

From the quarterfinals onward all games will be played in a tournament format in Germany.

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

Transfer news: Thiago to Liverpool; Gabriel to Man United

Thiago Alcantara to Liverpool
Getty Images
Leave a comment

In transfer news there’s an update on Thiago Alcantara to Liverpool, while Gabriel to Manchester United seems to be moving to the next stage.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Starting in Liverpool, talk of Thiago Alcantara to Liverpool has been gathering steam over the last few weeks and a new report states that Jurgen Klopp’s men are now the favorites to sign him.

Bayern Munich expect the 29-year-old Spanish international to leave this summer and according to Mundo Deportivo Liverpool have jumped ahead of Paris Saint-Germain and are ‘very likely’ to sign the former Barcelona star.

Bayern want $35 million for Thiago who has one year left on his current contract.

The deep-lying playmaker is a totally different central midfielder to what Liverpool currently have as Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum are all hard-working more defensive minded players. And then there’s Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who provide a bit more attacking intent with forward runs from central midfield.

Thiago Alcantara would help Liverpool control games better when opponents sit back and don’t allow them space to operate in-behind. He is a silky pass-master who is wanted by PSG, Liverpool, Manchester United and others, but it appears he will be heading to Anfield to give Liverpool a totally new dimension to their play. If this happens, it will make an already strong Liverpool side stronger.

Gabriel to Manchester United
Getty Images

Switching to Manchester, a report in France states that Gabriel Magalhaes could be heading to Manchester United.

The Brazilian defender, 22, has been a star for Lille over the past few seasons but has been linked with Arsenal, Chelsea, Napoli, Everton and Man United consistently in recent months.

A report from French outlet RMC states that Man United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has met with Gabriel’s agents about his availability.

Lille want $35 million for Gabriel and although the report says that Man United haven’t made an offer directly to the Ligue 1 club, it is believed talks are ongoing.

Man United are said to be in the market for a winger, center back and central midfielder this summer and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is likely to be given cash to spend after securing Champions League qualification for next season.

It is believed Solskjaer wants a left-footed center back, which Gabriel is, as Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire are often too similar at center back. Those two have developed a decent enough partnership but it appears that Solskjaer wants to replace Lindelof and adding Gabriel will also give him an option to switch to a 3-4-3 system which he likes to do to match up against  more attack-minded opponents.

Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones are very much on the outside looking in at Man United in terms of their other center back options.

With Jadon Sancho reportedly on his way to Old Trafford, Solskjaer needs to bolster his center back and holding midfield options and then he is good to go for next season.

Gabriel is a young, talented center back and seems ready to make the next step and this is a good price for a player who can develop over the next few seasons.

How long of a break will Premier League clubs get?

Premier League break
Getty Images
Leave a comment

How long of a break will Premier League clubs get? That is the big question during the significantly shortened offseason between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 season.

In short: not long.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

When Premier League clubs all agreed that the 2020-21 season would kick off on September 12, there was an understanding that clubs in European action will be handed extra time off and could start the season late.

Manchester City and Chelsea are in Champions League action and if they reach the quarterfinal stage (Man City are looking a lot more likely to do that than Chelsea) it is expected they will start next season one week late and if they reach the semifinals and final they will start two weeks late.

The same rule is in place for Manchester United and Wolves who are in Europa League and are both in Round of 16 action this week.

If Chelsea lose to Bayern Munich on Saturday, their season will be over and they will have a 35-day break before the 2020-21 season. That is longer than the 30-day limit but Frank Lampard wants longer.

As for the other 16 Premier League teams for the 2020-21 season, the clubs who finished on the final day of the  2019-20 Premier League season on July 26 will have had 47 days off until the new season begins.

So, there you have it.

A staggered start to the 2020-21 season seems likely as the domestic campaign begins in a few weeks with the Community Shield final at Wembley between Liverpool and Arsenal on Aug. 29.

Premier League teams will have shorter, more intense preseason campaigns and are unlikely to travel for friendly games, so it will be interesting to see how much rest players actually get over the summer and if teams who get a 2-3 week longer break benefit compared to those clubs in European action.

Christian Pulisic issues injury update

Pulisic injury news
Getty Images
Leave a comment

‘Pulisic injury news’ is probably trending worldwide at this point, and Chelsea and USMNT star Christian Pulisic has an injury update after he damaged his right hamstring in the FA Cup final against Arsenal on Saturday.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Pulisic, 21, scored a superb goal early on and was arguably the man of the match even though he pulled up abruptly in the 46th minute when sprinting free (once again) of the Arsenal attack and then hitting a shot wide.

After being helped off the pitch while clearly in pain, Pulisic was seen hanging around the tunnel area after the FA Cup final and was at least walking on his own.

Posting a message on Instagram following the final, here’s what Pulisic had to say:

“Gave it everything we had. Wasn’t our day. Thank you guys for your support I’ll be back in no time,” Pulisic said.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The fact Pulisic went off injured early in the second half of the FA Cup final severely hampered Chelsea and gave Arsenal the impetus to go on and win the final at Wembley. He has become that important to Chelsea.

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard previously confirmed that Pulisic would not be fit enough to play at Bayern Munich on Saturday in their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg (Chelsea trail 3-0 from the first leg) and would have a scan to assess the damage.

Pulisic’s 2019-20 season is now done and both Chelsea and USMNT fans will be waiting with bated breath for the next injury update as hamstring injuries can be a nasty thing and reoccur easily.

The USMNT star had a few of them at Borussia Dortmund and given his incredible pace it is clear he will be more susceptible to hamstring and upper leg injuries.

Previously Lampard revealed that Pulisic had been working hard with Chelsea’s strength and conditioning coaches in recent months to build up his strength in order to adapt to the Premier League. We’ve certainly seen the results of that work in recent week as he took the Premier League by storm during the restart.

This latest update from Pulisic seems to be very good news as many had feared a lengthy injury layoff for the USMNT star but it seems like he may be ready for the start of the 2020-21 season for Chelsea.