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Revisiting PST’s preseason Premier League predictions

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Back in August, we asked our staff to pick its 1-20 table and answer a bevy of roundtable questions.

[ MORE: Atleti wins Europa League ]

The crystal ball ain’t so crystal clear.

The table

— Five of six writers had Manchester City lifting the Premier League trophy, with Nick Mendola’s (me) audacious 90-point total the closest to City’s actual 100 points. Kyle Bonn picked Manchester United to win the league.

–Nick Mendola’s (me) equally audacious prediction that Burnley would finish 20th with 18 total points has had him apologizing on this page for months. Way to go, numbskull.

— No one called more than one relegated team correctly. Swansea had three people pick it for the drop, while I was the lone one to tab West Brom. JPW and Andy Edwards failed to name a single relegated team.

— Who had a team finishing the most spots higher than they did? JPW and Andy Edwards had 16th place Southampton finishing 8th. I had eventually relegated Stoke in 11th, while JPW had them 10th, and Andy Edwards had them 7th!

— Chelsea’s fifth place finish was a surprise to everyone; Only JPW had them finishing lower than second… in third.

— Surprised Arsenal finished in sixth? Kyle Bonn, Andy Edwards, and Matt Reed aren’t.

The roundtable

— We asked who’d go the further in the Champions League, and JPW was the only one to name Liverpool (although he hedged in a bit by saying the Reds and Man City).

— We asked who’d score the most league goals between Romelu LukakuHarry Kane, Alvaro Morata, Alexandre Lacazette, or Sergio Aguero? Four correctly went with Kane, with Kyle Bonn wrong with Lukaku and this humble writer wrong with Lacazette.

— We asked which Premier League player would feel worst about his decision to leave his previous PL club, and we were all wrong (except perhaps JPW’s choice of Wayne Rooney, but that’s debatable). Dan Karell said Virgil Van Dijk, Matt Reed said Nemanja Matic, and I said Kyle Walker. All are probably quite happy with the manner of their seasons.

— We asked who’d fare better between manager Marco Silva, Frank De Boer, or Mauricio Pellegrino. They were all fired, though Silva’s departure was least his fault. So JPW wins again.

— We predicted who’d get fired first. The winner was Frank De Boer, but we all named men who’d get the sack. Craig Shakespeare (JPW), Paul Clement (me), Marco Silva (Matt Reed and Kyle Bonn), and Mark Hughes (Dan Karell).

— We asked which newly-promoted club will finish higher. Four of the five said Newcastle, with someone trying to hide his bias by saying Brighton.

— We asked who’d finish highest and lowest of this group: Southampton, Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion, West Ham United, Leicester City.

Leicester finished highest and West Brom finished 20th. Dan and I correctly tabbed Leicester, while four of us correctly pegged the Baggies as the lowest.

— As for who would get promoted from the Championship, so far we’re 1/12. That could move to three if Dan and Kyle are correct in picking Fulham. Matt tabbed Cardiff City.

Arsenal sends Wenger off in style

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  • Arsenal sews up sixth
  • Burnley will finish seventh
  • Both headed for Europa League

Alex Iwobi had a world-class day, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang bagged a brace, and Arsenal sent Arsene Wenger off in style with a 5-0 win over Burnley in his Emirates Stadium finale on Sunday.

Iwobi set up multiple goals and had one himself, while Sead Kolasinac and Alexandre Lacazette also scored in the win.

The Gunners will finish sixth in the Premier League, ahead of Burnley.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Arsenal was all over the Clarets despite the absence of playmaker Mesut Ozil, and went ahead inside the first 15 minutes.

Aubameyang slid to knock in an Alexandre Lacazette pass after a 1-2 between the Frenchman and Alex Iwobi.

Ashley Barnes suffered an apparent shoulder injury and had to leave the game with his arm in his jersey like a makeshift sling, clearing the way for Sam Vokes‘ introduction in the 22nd minute.

Nick Pope made a fine stop on Henrikh Mkhitaryan‘s deflected shot in the 44th, but it didn’t stay 1-0 into the break.

Lacazette darted to slap Hector Bellerin‘s cross into goal after another Iwobi set-up. If Lacazette didn’t hit it, Aubameyang may have, as Arsenal was looking fine on the day.

Kolasinac hit a 54th minute strike on the screws after being cued up by Jack Wilshere, and Arsenal was rolling at the Emirates when Mkhitaryan just missed curling a worldie around Pope.

Iwobi got a deserved goal for himself in the 64th when he belted a Mkhitaryan cutback into the upper 90. Little-to-no resistance from Burnley.

Aubameyang got is second in the 75th minute, and Arsenal then introduced old friend Per Mertesacker to the proceedings. That triggered loud applause from the Gunners faithful.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Atletico Madrid 1-0 Arsenal: Costa downs Gunners again, Atleti into Europa League final

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Diego Costa is yet again the scourge of Arsenal, even after having departed the Premier League.

The former Chelsea man bagged the game’s only goal as Atletico Madrid beat Arsenal 1-0 at the Estadio Metropolitano to send the Spanish side through to the Europa League final in Lyon on a 2-1 aggregate score. On the other end, the vaunted Atletico Madrid defense completely stumped Arsenal, leaving them with little to show for their 90 minutes of running in Spain.

Atletico had the best early chance six minutes in as Diego Costa shrugged off Nacho Monreal and shot from a tight angle, but David Ospina got down low to make the save. The Gunners were forced to make a chance moments later as captain Laurent Koscielny went down in a heap with a non-contact injury, holding his ankle and screaming in pain. He was stretchered off and replaced by Calum Chambers, and it was eventually confirmed that he suffered a torn Achilles.

The injury sucked much of the early life out of the game, and it devolved into a physical midfield battle. The rest of the first half was cagey, with Atletico understanding that they only needed to keep the scoreline clean to advance. Meanwhile, the Gunners held nearly 60% of the first-half possession, but produced precious little in front of the Atletico net. Alexandre Lacazette had a half-chance for Arsenal after 25 minutes, but couldn’t pull the trigger.

Down the other end, Atletico had a few small chances. Antoine Griezmann missed by inches on what would have been a stunning strike seven minutes before the half-time whistle. Then, just moments before the half-time whistle, the game snagged its first moment of glory. Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak launched the ball deep down the field, and after a few ping-pong touches, Diego Costa burst forward past Hector Bellerin and grabbed a breakaway opportunity, finishing past Ospina to put Atletico 1-0 up in first-half added time.

Things opened up in the second half with Arsenal still needing a goal, now to force extra time. Their best chances of the second half came on the hour mark as a cross from Mesut Ozil was just out of reach of a stretching Lacazette. Then moments later Granit Xhaka forced a fantastic save by Oblak on a low shot towards the bottom-right corner. Substitute Henrikh Mkhitaryan volleyed towards the net two minutes after coming on but ripped it just inches over the bar.

Costa continued to prove dangerous through the final portion of the game, finding himself on the end of a number of late chances to put the game away. As the game waned, the Gunners had less and less to offer and appeared to be both exhausted and out of ideas. It was all Atletico in the final few minutes, with Fernando Torres coming close and forcing an Ospina save.

UEL: Griezmann nabs crucial away goal vs. Arsenal, Marseille cruises

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A game of back-and-forth at the Emirates Stadium set up an enticing second leg in the UEFA Europa League semifinals, while a Ligue 1 side positioned itself well to move into the final.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

Arsenal and Atletico Madrid settled for a 1-1 draw in London, as Antoine Griezmann’s late strike leveled the match for the Spanish side.

The Gunners looked on their way to a victory when Alexandre Lacazette‘s goal just beyond the hour mark put Arsene Wenger‘s men in front.

The result sets up a strong showdown for the two giants in a week’s time, although Arsenal will feel it left something on the table after racking up 26 shots (seven on target) on the day, particularly after Sime Vrsaljko was sent off after 10 minutes for the visitors when he picked up a second yellow card.

Meanwhile, Florian Thauvin and Clinton Njie gave Marseille a 2-0 win over Red Bull Leipzig, giving the French side the edge it sought out ahead of the competition finale.

The two clubs will meet again at Red Bull Arena Salzburg for the second leg.


Arsenal 1-1 Atletico Madrid
Marseille 2-0 Red Bull Salzburg

Premier League Power Rankings: In tiers

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Liverpool has knocked Manchester City from the Champions League, but sits 19 points behind the leaders and City has a match-in-hand.

Manchester United beat City just weeks ago, but was bounced from the UCL even earlier. The Red Devils also took four of six points from Liverpool.

[ MORE: Europa League preview ]

Spurs are fourth in the table but also took four of six from Liverpool and could be level on points with the Reds by winning its match-in-hand.

So the question remains, who’s the best team in the Premier League right now? That’s why we’re revisiting our Premier League Power Rankings for the first time in a while, since City was the unquestioned No. 1 for months.

Will it change anything? Spoiler alert: Probably not.

Spots 20-14: Not safe yet

20. West Bromwich Albion: The Baggies are going down, but Darren Moore has at least instilled some life into a moribund bunch which was saddled with the dour and unsuccessful tactics of Tony Pulis before moving onto the peppy and hard-to-understand tactics of Alan Pardew.

19. Stoke City — The Paul Lambert jump has faded, and the Potters’ inferior goal differential and one more match played than both Southampton and Swansea City feel like a death knell.

18. Southampton — Yes, the Bottom Three is the same as the table, but Saints are a New South Coast Derby win away from sitting three points back of pulling Palace and perhaps Huddersfield Town and West Ham United back into the picture.

17. Huddersfield Town — If David Wagner cannot lead the Terriers past Everton this weekend, his side finishes at Man City, at Chelsea, and home to Arsenal. That’s a recipe for watching a six-point advantage on the drop zone melt away.

16. Swansea City — Still four points clear of the drop zone, Swans have the cup half-full of facing Saints and Stoke City. The two sides aren’t very good, but also the only teams to worry about when it comes to their Premier League lives.

15. Crystal Palace — Given their turnaround from the beginning of the season, it feels dirty to have them so low. But of the three clubs sitting six points clear of 18th, the Eagles are the one to have three matches left and not four.

14. West Ham United — A brutal schedule featuring two of David Moyes‘ old sides — Everton and Manchester United — means the Irons cannot breathe safely yet (especially with Swans, Saints, and Stoke set to take points off each other).


Spots 13-11: Foot off the gas (and is there any gas in the tank?)

13. Watford — Javi Gracia may have Watford safe, and that was his charge, but the Hornets look like the same team they did under previous bosses. The Hornets have two points from their last six, and would be much further down the table if they weren’t essentially safe.

12. Bournemouth — Eddie Howe is probably wondering how that Arsenal chair would feel right about now, as the Cherries have probably reached a glass ceiling. Now a derby against Saints can define the run-in to the season.

11. Brighton and Hove Albion — Perhaps satiated by a five-match unbeaten run that featured a win over Arsenal and beat downs of Swansea and West Ham, Chris Hughton‘s Gulls have two points in five matches including a derby loss to Palace.

10. Everton — Sam Allardyce‘s men nicked a win off of Newcastle last weekend, and it was about as satisfying as moribund draws against Liverpool’s B Team and Swansea City. There’s a lot of unrest at Goodison Park, and Sam Allardyce has to go. Because of the relative positive vibes at lower table sides Leicester and Newcastle, Everton sinks beneath them.

9. Leicester City — A fun team which has had infuriating lapses at the back. Jamie Vardy‘s as reliable as ever, and there’s a real question what they’ll do without Riyad Mahrez (allegedly) in the future. Wilfred Ndidi, Demarai Gray, and Fousseni Diabate look a big part of said future, but it’s a bit alarming that the Foxes haven’t been able to take advantage of the relatively open door to seventh since Claude Puel righted Craig Shakespeare‘s sinking ship.

8. Newcastle United — The Magpies saw their win streak snapped by Everton, but Rafa Benitez is playing with house money after coaxed a midtable season out of a Championship squad. A healthy Islam Slimani has moved Dwight Gayle to his rightful role as a spark plug off the bench, but don’t sleep on the wonders Benitez has worked in turning Mo Diame, DeAndre Yedlin, and Paul Dummett into serviceable Premier League players. The future is bright if Mike Ashley sells the team or at least opens his purse strings to make one of the longest road trips in the PL even harder for visitors to St. James’ Park.


Spot 7: One of the best stories in Premier League history

7. Burnley — A loss to Chelsea and draw with Stoke has sunk Sean Dyche‘s excitement, we’re sure, but Southampton’s departure from the FA Cup means seventh place means Europa League. It’s Burnley in Europe: Yes, for real!


Spots 6-4: The bargaining stage of grief

6. Chelsea — The Blues have won two-straight in the league and reached an FA Cup Final against old pal Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, but there’s as much uncertainty at Stamford Bridge as there is at the Emirates. The difference? We know Roman Abramovich will spend more to try to fix it.

5. Arsenal — The danger of slipping behind Burnley and into seventh on the table has passed, but the Arsene Wenger goodbye tour is focused firmly on the Gunners’ fate versus Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Europa League and the quite decent form of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, as well as a resurgent and healthy Aaron Ramsey. Defenders need improving in a big way and there’s a lot of uncertainty regarding Wenger’s replacement. Don’t know what you’ve got til its gone?

4. Spurs — No trophy again this season, and there’s a very good chance Tottenham will miss out on third place by virtue of goal difference when all is said and done; When all’s said and done, Mauricio Pochettino‘s men will have drawn 1-1 or 0-0 against West Brom, Swansea, Watford, West Ham, Saints, and Brighton. That’ll render a decent record against top foes less impressive.


Spots 3-1: Power trio

3. Manchester United — The Red Devils are better than almost everyone thinks despite precious few standout seasons from its players (David De Gea, Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic and Jesse Lingard are among the pardoned). When it comes to talking progress, however, second place won’t cut it: Mourinho needs that FA Cup win over Chelsea, a trophy United hasn’t won since (checks his notes) oh, two seasons ago.

2. Liverpool — The Reds looked incredible in dicing up Roma for 80 minutes, but allowed Roma a sliver of hope. Moreover, the last four goals Liverpool has allowed have come in the 79th, 88th, 81st, and 85th minutes. Why won’t we put them ahead of City? Well, let me clarify: it’s not PST, it’s me. I’ll own this: As brilliant as Liverpool was against City, they were out-chanced 31-14 over two legs. Give me that scenario 100 times, and I’m betting on the 31 about 85-90 times. The Reds are almost there, and Naby Keita over Jordan Henderson would be a huge upgrade (especially if this success convinces Emre Can to stick around). Next year, yeah. This year, just no.

  1. Manchester City — The records continue to fall, and it’s funny to consider that should City had lost the first Manchester Derby and been knocked out of the UCL a round earlier — yes, even by Liverpool in the same manner — no one would be arguing for anyone other than City at No. 1.