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5 Premier League players who look broken

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Through the first nine games of the Premier League season, the table is starting to take shape and some players are separating themselves from the pack while others have shown signs of a struggle.

[ MORE: 3 Things from Man United v. Liverpool ]

Liverpool is flying atop the Premier League table with Manchester City giving chase, but teams like Everton, Manchester United, and Tottenham are floundering below their expectations. There are players on those squads who expected to be performing at a higher level that have instead struggled to make an impact.

Here is a quick overview of five players who look shells of their former selves and could do with a hard reset. All numbers from UnderStat.com.


5) Gylfi Sigurdsson – Everton

The Iceland international, along with the rest of the Everton attack, has been completely invisible so far this season. With just one assist through the first eight matches, the Toffees have had trouble converting chances, and Sigurdsson was benched for the win over West Ham on Saturday.

Thankfully, for Gylfi, there’s plenty of hope that both he and Everton will figure it out moving forward. According to infoGol’s xG model, Everton has by far the biggest differential between expected table position and actual table position based on chances created. Their expected table placed them fourth in the league before the West Ham game, with their actual position in the relegation zone. The same can be said for Sigurdsson, whose expected assist total is actually up – significantly – from his career total, with a 0.33 mark this season compared to his career clip of 0.21. It will come. In fact, it already has…he scored a brilliant hit from distance after coming on for the final few minutes of the win over West Ham, a goal that could mark the beginning of a return to form for Sigurdsson.

4) Nicolas Pepe – Arsenal

Now, to the players we’re a little more worried about. Nicolas Pepe cost Arsenal a whopping $118 million, but he hasn’t lived up to that price tag to this point. Through eight matches, Pepe has been a periphery player in the Arsenal attack with just one goal and two assists. The xA off his passes so far this season, on a better team, is on pace for about half what he put up last season at Lille. Obviously he’s facing better competition in the Premier League, but the drop in creativity is stark.

Pepe is also taking worse shots than he did last season in Ligue 1, with just a 0.11 xG mark per shot compared to 0.14 last campaign. That doesn’t seem like much, but most breaking that down further, most concerning is his shots inside the box are much poorer than usual. In his 11 shots from inside the area are averaging just 0.13 xG compared to last season where he found a 0.26 xG mark, a massive contrast that expanded to a full season amounts to just a 6.79 xG total for the season compared to his whopping 17.71 xG total last season for Lille. He is on pace to take slightly fewer shots, which makes perfect sense given Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette are the two main goalscorers in the Arsenal offense, but Pepe needs to make his own efforts count much more.

There is hope for Pepe. It seems he still is learning the Arsenal offense, and should he improve his play even slightly, it tracks that Unai Emery would entrust him with a more prominent role in the attack. Sadly, at the moment, he appears just a bit-part player with Dani Ceballos instead looking the most impressive creatively.

3) Richarlison – Everton

While Gylfi Sigurdsson appears poised to turn his own fortunes around with Everton likely to pick up the pace this season, his Brazilian teammate’s poor form is far more worrisome. Richarlison has been invisible through the first nine games of the year, and put in yet another anemic performance against a West Ham squad at Goodison Park that defended very poorly and did not play well.

Marco Silva stuck Richarlison up front in a striker role against the Hammers, benching Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Moise Kean, and it didn’t get him more involved. Theo Walcott and Alex Iwobi were excellent and Bernard also played well, with the trio behind Richarlison all excelling to produce Everton’s best attacking display yet, but Richarlison wasn’t invited to the party. He took just two shots and missed the target with both, while completing just 58% of his passes (14/24) including 2/9 in the penalty area. So far this season, Richarlison has not taken a single shot inside the six-yard box, having taken eight last season, with six finding the back of the net.

Richarlison admitted over the international break that his increased defensive responsibilities were sapping his attacking energy, which makes sense, and he approached Marco Silva about changing the tactics a bit. This tracks with his switch to a spot up top in the formation, and while it produced a win for the team, it did little to enhance Richarlison’s form.

2) Marcus RashfordManchester United

Looking at Marcus Rashford’s season-long numbers, it’s a shock that he’s receiving the criticism he’s garnered. He collected three goals and two assists in the first eight games, plus a 4.39 xG total in that span, which puts him on double the pace of last season. Then you look a little closer…two of his three goals and 1.40 xG came from the opening match against Chelsea, and two of his three goals are from the penalty spot. In his last three games, Rashford has three total shots (including a pair of goose eggs) for a total of 0.27 xG, plus a measly xA total of 0.13. In the 1-0 loss to Newcastle last time out, Rashford – in a 90 minute performance – had 0 shots while center-back Harry Maguire had two. The 21-year-old was invisible, attempting just 16 passes (nine of which were backward), failing to complete a take-on, 0/4 in the air, and failing to draw a foul.

In addition, Rashford’s contribution to others in the Manchester United attack has plummeted. Last season, Rashford put together a 0.2 xA mark per game, but the bottom has dropped out of that, falling to 0.06 thus far. Much of that can be attributed to overall team performance in a toothless Manchester United attack, but Rashford has certainly contributed to that as well.

However…

There were plenty of positives to take from today’s performance against Liverpool. While he will still hope his time on the ball increases as the season progresses – Solskjaer’s somewhat negative tactics playing with a lead contributed – Rashford’s movement at times was stellar. On the goal, he utilized a common but effective striker move, drifting towards the near post forcing Joel Matip commit before fading away to the far post where he met the cross. Rashford also completed four take-ons in dangerous areas, adding to the collective showing. Still, he remains miserable in the air (0/5), only received 19 passes all match and delivered just 11 himself, and the goal represented one of just two shots taken (the other was a poor finish when given space outside the top of the area). He was withdrawn after a 83rd minute run that did not produce separation from his defender. The signs of improvement are there, but he must become more consistently dangerous to reach his true potential.

1) Dele Alli – Tottenham Hotspur

Of all the players on this list, Dele Alli’s season-long performance is by far the most worrisome. He’s completely lost his place in the Tottenham squad, and the few chances Mauricio Pochettino has given him to prove his worth have gone quite poorly. Alli was given his first start of the Premier League season against Watford, and Pochettino clearly hoped to reign in his wandering, giving him a smaller area to cover. His passing in the middle of the field was tidy, but he struggled to unlock a Watford defense that has been porous this season. Alli earned two chances created, but both the ensuing shots were extremely poor efforts from bad positions outside the box. Alli did make his trademark runs through the defensive line and was rewarded with the late equalizing goal, but if he is to earn more playing time over or alongside Christian Eriksen, he has to put in a better overall performance to help Spurs get better results than a home draw against Watford.

In their two Champions League games where Alli has seen the field more, he was even worse. Against Bayern Munich, Alli had little influence, especially in the first half where the game was still in the balance.In Greece he was even less influential, sending 11 of his 27 completed passes backward while failing to record a single shot assist, completing just one take-on, and committing three fouls while earning none. Overall, his body language is extremely poor and he looks like he expects bad execution before mistakes even happen.

Honorable mention: Harry Kane – Tottenham Hotspur

This is a tough one because on paper, Harry Kane is in great goalscoring form. He’s bagged five goals this Premier League season, plus a whopping nine goals in his last nine international matches. And yet, the eye test tells a completely different story.

Watching Kane, he has devolved from a quick, crafty striker with excellent off-ball movement to a static target man unable to keep up with counter-attacking chances. Kane has been sapped of his explosiveness, most likely thanks to a host of ankle injuries suffered over the past few seasons. Have a look at Kane’s radar for this season compared to the previous two, and you can see the worrying regression.

Harry Kane 2019/20 season so far.

 

Harry Kane 2018/19 season.

 

Harry Kane 2017/18 season.

As you can see, the xG totals have declined sharply, while so have his shooting totals. Numbers can be rectified with improved play, but watching Kane play tells a whole different story, one of a striker who appears unable to produce the same skill set he once could, and at 26 years old its far too early in his career for that to be a natural transition.

Everton dominate West Ham

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Everton dominated West Ham United and beat them 2-0 at Goodison Park on Saturday, as the pressure eased on Marco Silva.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Bernard gave them an early lead and although the Toffees missed several glorious chances after that, Gylfi Sigurdsson sealed the win in stoppage time with a magnificent strike.

With the win Everton move on to 10 points for the season, while West Ham remain on 12 points.


3 things we learned

1. Everton dig deep and fight for Silva: The Toffees were told by Silva ahead of this match that it was a ‘must win’ in their season. My goodness, did they take those words to heart. Silva’s side fought hard from the start, tracking back and pressing West Ham out of the game. They should have won by three or four but a victory after four-straight PL defeats is exactly what Silva wanted. Great reaction after a tough few weeks as they set the tone and there was a renewed sense of urgency. With games against Brighton, Norwich, Saints, Tottenham and Leicester coming up, Everton need three wins from their next five, at least, to get themselves fully back on track. This was a good start.

2. Hammers attack lackluster: Sebastien Haller had an off-day and the way West Ham’s attack is set up around him, that was bad news for the Hammers. Felipe Anderson and Pablo Fornals were woeful and the introduction of Andriy Yarmolenko only improved things slightly. Back-to-back defeats to Crystal Palace and Everton has seen most of West Ham’s early-season optimism evaporate. Now it is Manuel Pellegrini who will be under pressure.

3. Neither team ready for top seven: Everton were wasteful and West Ham were shaky at the back, as neither team looks ready to push for a top seven finish this season. Leicester, Wolves and even Crystal Palace look better set, right now, to push for European qualification but there’s no doubt Everton and West Ham have the quality to be in the top 10. Taking that next step will be the toughest part.

Man of the Match: Theo Walcott – His energy on the flank epitomized this Everton display as he hit the bar and came close to scoring. Walcott was fired up and along with Bernard and Richarlison, Everton’s attack was dynamic and didn’t allow West Ham to settle.


The Hammers started slowly as Manuel Lanzini curled a free kick wide and Everton flew out of the traps.

Angelo Ogbonna deflected Theo Walcott’s curling shot wide as the Toffees attack looked lively, and Tom Davies was then denied in superb fashion. A corner to the back post found the Englishman but Roberto somehow clawed away his effort.

Moments later Roberto was beaten, as Bernard wriggled free in the box, looked to be going nowhere but somehow snuck home an audacious effort at the near post to put Everton 1-0 up.

Richarlison then struck the foot of the post after Alex Iwobi‘s perfect through ball as the Toffees were rampant in the first half. West Ham were reduced to long balls over the top as Pablo Fornals almost got on the end of one of those.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Andriy Yarmolenko came on at half time to try and give the Hammers some momentum in attack.

Yerry Mina‘s tame header was saved by Roberto, while at the other end Fornals volleyed wide after a poor clearance from Jordan Pickford.

Lucas Digne sent a free kick wide then Roberto denied another Mina header as Everton pushed for a second. Walcott smashed an effort from distance off the crossbar and Yarmolenko’s free kick was saved by Pickford as the Hammers barely threatened.

Iwobi then missed a glorious chance to seal the victory as Djibril Sidibe played him in but the Nigerian forward hit his shot right at Roberto as the home fans couldn’t believe it. Moments later Mina headed home a corner but the referee blew his whistle for a foul in the box, and then Walcott’s cross was somehow deflected over by a combination of Issa Diop and Roberto.

Pickford came up big for Everton with a fine save late on as Ogbonna’s shot deflected off Mina and the England goalkeeper somehow pushed the ball away.

Then substitute Sigurdsson fired home a fine strike from distance to cap off a fine performance from Everton.

Burnley edge past slumping Everton

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Burnley beat Everton 1-0 at Turf Moor on Saturday to momentarily move into the top four of the Premier League.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Jeff Hendrick‘s volley was the difference as Burnley made the most of their one man advantage as Seamus Coleman was shown two yellow cards and sent off early in the second half.

With the win Burnley now have 12 points, while Everton are on seven points and sit one point and one place above the relegation zone.


3 things we learned

1. Everton their own worst enemies: Marco Silva‘s side went down to 10 men and a lack of focus cost them dear at Burnley. They have now lost four-straight Premier League games and they continue to do the basics poorly. Going forward they barely created any clear-cut chances and that is a familiar story. They have gone backwards since last season and they are beating themselves.

2. Burnley’s set pieces the difference: In the first half Burnley found Hendrick at the back post but his shot was cleared away. They were inventive with their set pieces and in the second half found Hendrick in a near identical situation and he delivered the game-winner. Sean Dyche does not complicate things and Burnley play to their strengths. They aren’t pretty to watch, but they have 12 points on the board this season and are primed for a top 10 finish. Not many people expected that after their struggles last season.

3. Pressure piles on Silva: The Toffees boss doesn’t appear to have an answer to their poor form and he’s been given a fair crack of the whip, and plenty of cash, since arriving at Everton. In their next five games they face West Ham, Brighton, Southampton, Tottenham and Norwich. Anything other than three wins from those five will see Silva fired. Simple.

Man of the Match: Jeff Hendrick – Delivered the key moment and although Burnley’s defense played really well, he kept popping up in dangerous positions. Hendrick’s extra bit of quality was the difference.


Erik Pieters‘ cross found Johann-Berg Gudmundsson in the box but his header was saved by Jordan Pickford, while Everton were causing Burnley some issues out wide.

Alex Iwobi had an effort blocked and Everton were building their way into the game.

Burnley, as they always are, were dangerous from set pieces situations and continued to cause Everton plenty of problems with crosses into the box.

A shot from Jeff Hendrick across goal caused some problems, but the Toffees defense stood tall in a tight first half. At the other end Dwight McNeil cleared off the line and James Tarkowski blocked as Richarlison troubled Burnley’s defense.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Everton were reduced to 10 men at the start of the second half as their captain was shown a second yellow card.

Coleman was shown his first yellow card just before half time for a late challenge on Pieters and his second came after he caught McNeil with his arm in an aerial challenge.

Ashley Barnes went close with a volley for Burnley as the home side smelt blood in the water.

Burnley then took the lead from a corner, as Hendrick peeled away at the back post and volleyed home to put them 1-0 up late on.

Everton couldn’t muster any chances late on as Silva cut a forlorn figure on the sidelines at the final whistle.

Watch Live: Everton v. Manchester City

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Two attacking teams allowing the fewest shots in the Premier League meet at Goodison Park on Saturday, where Everton hosts Manchester City (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Man City is keeping Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva, and David Silva on the bench with a midweek Champions League match against Dinamo Zagreb on the docket.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Englishmen Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Theo Walcott start over Moise Kean and Alex Iwobi against the champs.

LINEUPS

Everton:

Man City:

Premier League preview: Everton v. Man City

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  • Everton has just 1 win in last 12 PL meetings with Man City
  • Seven of last 11 PL goals City have conceded have come via set piece
  • Everton has 7 points through 6 matches, one more than this stage last season

With Liverpool on the road looking to keep a perfect record intact, Man City will also leave the friendly confines hoping to keep pace or rise to an opportunity as they visit Goodison Park to take on Everton at 12:30 p.m. ET live on NBC or live online at NBCSports.com.

Both teams have hit rough patches over the last few weeks, with Everton unable to capitalize straightaway on its summer spending spree and Man City falling five points back of Liverpool early in the title race. Pep Guardiola and company were able to bounce back last weekend and clobber an out of form Watford side 8-0, and they will hope to take advantage of another struggling side this time around, with Everton having lost three of four.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ] 

Still, City is struggling with injuries to its back line as Fernandinho is forced back to play in a defensive partnership with Nicolas Otamendi. That, however, has not stopped the onslaught up front as Bernardo Silva is fresh off a hat-trick and five other players added goals against Watford. Raheem Sterling will look for a way back into the starting lineup and a frustrated Gabriel Jesus may see time if Guardiola chooses to rotate his striker, as Sergio Aguero’s worst goalscoring record against any Premier League opponent (min 2 appearances against) comes against Everton.

For Everton, striker Moise Kean has struggled to adapt to the Premier League and could be swapped for Dominic Calvert-Lewin who scored midweek in cup action. Alex Iwobi could also be in contention for a place in the starting lineup off the bench.

Injuries/suspensions

Everton: OUT – Andre Gomes (rib), Jean-Philippe Gbamin (thigh). QUESTIONABLE:

Man City: OUT – Leroy Sane (knee), Aymeric Laporte (knee), John Stones (unspecified muscular).


Projected lineups

Everton: Pickford; Digne, Kean, Mina, Coleman; Schneiderlin, Delph; Bernard, Sigurdsson, Richarlison; Calvert-Lewin.

Man City: Ederson; Angelino, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Walker; De Bruyne, Rodri, D Silva, B Silva, Sterling; Jesus.


What they’re saying

Everton manager Marco Silva on recent form: “Of course, we’re not happy, but it’s too early to look at the table and panic. If we won our last game, we are talking completely differently about the position in the table; everything is too close. If you ask me if I’m really concerned or panicking, of course not. We know what we’re doing, we know we should improve, and if we do, then the results will come, and after more games we’ll see a different position in the table, for sure. But if you ask me if I’m happy with our last performance, of course not. It wasn’t good enough. I shared our fans’ frustration after the match.”

Man City boss Guardiola on Jesus’s playing time comments:  “He’s special. I saw the interview and it was perfect. No problem. He was respectful. Of course he wants to play. He’s the No 9 for Brazil. He’s the only striker in the world with this mentality. He plays one second, two minutes, 90 minutes and has to play his best. I understand completely. All the players want to play all the games. It’s normal.”


Prediction

Manchester City got back in good form against Watford. Meanwhile, Everton’s slide is mind-boggling given the talent in the squad, and any more slips could see Marco Silva on his way out. They will be up for this game at home, but it won’t be enough to challenge a City side blistering with talent, with the visitors winning convincingly 3-0.