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PST Roundtable: PL at the 3/4 mark

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The Premier League season is paused at just more than the three-quarter mark — 76.05 percent, to be a bit more formal — and we’ve got a good handle on who’s good and who isn’t.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

That said, the number also gives an idea of why there’s plenty of possibilities remaining for the table and award winners once the season presumably resumes for the stretch run.

It would be natural to speculate on the front-runners and Championship-bound sides if there were matches this weekend, so why not do it now?

We’ve quizzed our PST staff on a handful of questions in roundtable form, though there was no table and my desk is decidedly rectangular.


Liverpool players have won Player of the Year for the past two seasons despite not winning the league. Are the tables flipped this year? Who is on track for PL Player of the Year?

Joe Prince-WrightKevin De Bruyne should probably win it but I expect Jordan Henderson or Sadio Mane to win it. Liverpool will win the league by a mile and both have been influential. When they’ve been out injured Liverpool have missed them and I’d probably say Mane should win it.

Andy Edwards: This is a weird one, because Liverpool have been so thoroughly outstanding in every way, on every level, that it would be difficult to pick just one of them for Player of the Year. Is Sadio Mane deserving? Sure is. What about Mohamed Salah? Also yes. Virgil Van Dijk? Yet again, yes. Trent Alexander-Arnold? You can make a strong case that he’s perhaps done the most to lift Liverpool another level higher from a “non-traditional” award-winning position. All of that is to say, simply deliver the award to Melwood Training Ground and let the players decide amongst themselves.

Daniel Karell: Remember when the U.S. women’s national team won the 1999 SI Sportsperson of the Year award? I think we’re going to have to do that for Liverpool. While Virgil Van Dijk, Mo Salah, and Sadio Mane would all be worthy of the trophy individually, it’s truly been a team effort this season and the culmination of 5 years of growth, smart transfer dealings, and hard work. Trent Alexander-Arnold has been immense at times, as has Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, and Allison Becker. Ultimately, it’s a bit of a cop-out answer but I think it’s just hard this year to pick just one who has been better. Jamie Vardy currently leads the Premier League in goals, and while he’s been terrific, he hasn’t also been playing in the Champions League like Salah, Mane, and Van Dijk have, for example. 

Kyle Bonn: It has to be Kevin de Bruyne, right? Yea, it does.

Nick Mendola: Kevin De Bruyne and it’s not particularly close. He has a fine chance of setting the league assist record, and he’s two away becoming the only player in the Top Five twice. There are words to be said for Trent Alexander-Arnold, Sadio Mane, Wilfred Ndidi, and Raul Jimenez, but no true decent arguments outside of “it should come from the champion,” which we covered in the question.


Who’s on track for your Best XI?

Joe Prince-Wright: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Maguire, Saka; J. Henderson, Ndidi, De Bruyne; Mane, Firmino, Vardy

Andy Edwards: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Soyuncu, Robertson; Ndidi, Moutinho, De Bruyne; Salah, Jimenez, Mane

Daniel Karell: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Soyuncu, Robertson; De Bruyne, Maddison, Jorginho; Vardy, Aubameyang, Salah

Kyle Bonn: D. Henderson; TAA, Van Dijk, Maguire, Robertson; Ndidi, De Bruyne, J. Henderson, Grealish; Mane, Vardy.

Nick Mendola: Leno; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Soyuncu, Robertson; Ndidi, Rodri, De Bruyne; Salah, Jimenez, Mane.


What’s the best goal you’ve seen this season?

Joe Prince-Wright: I think that has to be Heung-Min Son’s incredible solo goal. Clear winner for Goal of the Season.

Andy Edwards: Heung-min Son’s solo goal versus Burnley

Daniel Karell:  I mean…it’s got to be Heung-min Son against Burnley. Honorable mention though to Kevin de Bruyne vs. Newcastle and Moussa Djenepo vs. Sheffield United.

Kyle Bonn: Three goals so far stand out in my mind: Heung-Min Son’s dizzying run vs. Burnley, Jahanbakhsh’s bike against Chelsea, and Jordan Ayew’s little zig-zag against West Ham. The Spurs’ man’s goal wins for the sheer distance he covered.

Nick Mendola: Son. Solo. Next.


What are your Top 3 moments of the season so far?

Joe Prince-Wright: Woah. What a question. In no particular order: Christian Pulisic’s hat trick for Chelsea v Burnley. Leicester winning 9-0 at Southampton. Liverpool destroying everyone but I particularly enjoyed their 4-0 win at Leicester.

Daniel Karell: The season being postponed for the Coronavirus: Only a global pandemic could upstage the season Liverpool was having. Then Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Man City, which proved that the Reds have fully passed Man City in the pecking order. Finally, I’m biased, but for me it’s the malaise and slide that Arsenal is in. How the mighty have fallen.

Kyle Bonn: Lot to potentially go into the pot here, but the ones that stick out most in my mind are Leicester City demolishing Southampton 9-0, Newcastle ridiculous late 2-2 draw with Everton on Lejeune’s double, and Southampton exacting revenge on Leicester City for the aforementioned demolition with a 2-1 road win. I think Liverpool could potentially have three on here as well, one for the Sadio Mane header against Aston Villa, one for the late Lallana goal against Manchester United to draw, and one for the loss to Watford that ended the unbeaten league season.

Nick Mendola: Two of my three involve the soon-to-be champs, and the first took 24 seconds to reshape the season. It was the time that passed between Trent Alexander-Arnold’s would-be handball penalty for Man City and Fabinho’s rocket to beat Claudio Bravo. ‘Member? Insane. Maybe we should’ve called “Game: Blouses” on the whole season there, citing a season of fate.

The second is Watford’s beatdown of Liverpool to end the Reds’ unbeaten season is here because of its complete nature. The worn-down Reds capitulated to Ismaila Sarr in a way that lives very large.

Third could be anything: Liverpool coming back to beat West Ham. Leicester City hanging nine on Southampton. Hometown kid Matty Longstaff using all five-foot-nothing of his teenage body to piledrive Newcastle past Manchester United on his Premier League debut with his brother next to him in the midfield.

It’s been a season, team.


Grade VAR on a scale of 1-10 (1 being poor and 10 being perfect). What can be changed to make the VAR system more efficient and consistent?

Joe Prince-Wright: I’d give it a 6/10. People forget the small errors which still pop up but a lot of decisions which would have previously been wrong are now correct. I think letting referees use the pitch side monitors will improve the system and the respect for on-field officials. Too much of the control is sent to Stockley Park.

Andy Edwards: 5, dead center of the spectrum. My biggest gripe: it’s been used to micromanage and legislate the smallest of margins far too frequently. We all understand the Laws of the Game are the rules by which the game must be officiated, but what of the Spirit of the Laws of the Game? There must exist a gray area of sorts, as there is with everything in life, where intent and advantage are considered and weighed en route to the final decision. If a player is offside by 2 millimeters, is that an advantage which has a decisive impact in favor of the attacker? In most cases, it’s probably not.

Daniel Karell: 5. It’s decent, but the fact that refs refuse to use the monitors means that they’re just constantly second guessing themselves and it’s affecting how they call games in general. Make a call, and if the VAR says, hey, you might want to look at this, take a look at it to be sure. You can’t go wrong.

Kyle Bonn: VAR so far gets a 4 out of 10 for me. It gets a 3/5 on intent and ability, as the system for the most part has demonstrated the ability to serve as intended when used properly, with a few tweaks necessary such as pitchside monitors and rules like the handball rule needing amending. It gets a 1/5 on execution, with the Premier League struggling mightily to grasp the spirit of the technology. The offside line has done its job, despite the bad publicity, but the “clear & obvious error” has been grossly misinterpreted and calls have been changed or even investigated when not needed.

Nick Mendola: I’m going with five, and it’d be much higher if the PL learned from the NHL’s biggest mistake with replay: offside(s). At least in hockey there’s a blue line to help. The “moment the ball is struck” is such a poor reference point. Let the linespeople live here.


 

BONUS: Who is the best referee in the Premier League and why?

Joe Prince-Wright: Mike Dean because he is not only a pretty fair referee, overall, but he jokes with the players and seems to have their respect. Don’t @ me.

Daniel Karell: I don’t know who the best is, but Mike Dean is towards the bottom.

Kyle Bonn: Mike Dean, because he has supreme control of the pitch and makes the fewest amount of obvious errors.

Nick Mendola: I find Michael Oliver the most consistent.

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 29

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Roy Hodgson‘s got the Eagles flying up our PL power rankings.

Crystal Palace keeps finding ways to win, and Hodgson’s men are rising up the list as notable sides Spurs and Everton falter at the start of the stretch run.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]


20. Norwich City — A Saints visit presents a rare opening for the Canaries.
Last week: 20
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 1-0 at Sheffield United
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Saturday v. Southampton

19. Aston Villa — Take away Tyrone Mings, and Villa’s defense reminds me of McBain’s goggles.
Last week: 19
Season high: 6
Season low: 19
Last match: Lost 4-0 at Leicester City
Up next: 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. Chelsea

18. Bournemouth — Gotta build off the performance at Liverpool, but Palace has looked good lately.
Last week: 18
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Liverpool
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Saturday v. Palace

17. Watford — Can Nigel Pearson take advantage of his former side?
Last week: 17
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 1-0 at Crystal Palace
Up next: 8:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Leicester City

16. West Ham United — Home field is about all the Irons have going for them versus Wolves (aside from Wolves’ penchant to sleep a bit versus lower-half sides).
Last week: 14
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 1-0 at Arsenal
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Sunday v. Wolves

15. Brighton and Hove Albion — Running out of time and opportunity.
Last week: 15
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Drew 0-0 at Wolves
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Saturday v. Arsenal

14. Southampton — Still almost got a point despite an early red card versus Newcastle.
Last week: 12
Season high: 7
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 1-0 v. Newcastle
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Saturday at Norwich City

13. Newcastle United — The Magpies faithful deserves a player like Allan Saint-Maximin.
Last week: 16
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 1-0 at Southampton
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Saturday v. Sheffield United

12. Everton — What was that, Carlo? Suddenly a head-scratching winless in three.
Last week: 6
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Lost 4-0 at Chelsea
Up next: 4 p.m. ET Monday v. Liverpool

11. Tottenham Hotspur — Pretty sure everyone near Spurs wants this season to be over already.
Last week: 5
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Burnley
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday v. Man Utd

10. Sheffield United — Chris Wilder‘s men will want a measure of revenge from Saturday’s trip to the Northeast. Play to the whistle, Blades.
Last week: 11
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 1-0 v. Norwich City
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Saturday at Newcastle

9. Burnley — Steadily hanging around the UEL race.
Last week: 10
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Spurs
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Saturday at Man City

8. Crystal Palace — Three-straight 1-0 wins and the fixtures will get dicey after Saturday’s trip to the Vitality Stadium.
Last week: 13
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Won 1-0 v. Watford
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Saturday at Bournemouth

7. Arsenal — Don’t sleep on the Gunners and the top four.
Last week: 9
Season high: 4
Season low: 13
Last match: Won 1-0 v. West Ham
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Saturday at Brighton

6. Leicester City — Grateful for their fixture list. Harvey Barnes has pure star quality.
Last week: 8
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 4-0 v. Aston Villa
Up next: 8:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Watford

5. Wolves — May look at the Brighton draw as the result that kept them out of the UCL.
Last week: 3
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 0-0 v. Brighton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Sunday at West Ham

4. Chelsea — A really nice win over Everton after an FA Cup ouster of Liverpool. Has Frank Lampard refound his footing?
Last week: 4
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Won 4-0 v. Everton
Up next: 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Aston Villa

3. Manchester United — Unbeaten in 10 and Paul Pogba‘s gonna be back soon enough. Can hardly wait to see if he works well with Bruno Fernandes.
Last week: 7
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Man City
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday at Spurs

2. Manchester City — Can Pep Guardiola‘s men reclaim form ahead of second leg versus Real Madrid?
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 6
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Man Utd
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Saturday v. Burnley

1. Liverpool — Title incoming.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Bournemouth
Up next: 4 p.m. ET Monday at Everton

Saint-Maximin magic leads Newcastle past 10-man Saints

Southampton v. Newcastle United recap and video highlights
Photo by Mark Kerton/PA Images via Getty Images
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Allan Saint-Maximin‘s second-half solo goal helped Newcastle United find a way past 10-man Southampton 1-0 at St. Mary’s on Saturday.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Saints goalkeeper Alex McCarthy was brilliant in the loss, but sas his side slip a point and a place behind the Magpies.

Newcastle United now has 35 points and sits 13th. That’s good for eight points clear of the drop zone.


Three things we learned

1. VAR a big help for Newcastle: Southampton was down a man for more than an hour thanks to VAR, which asked referee Graham Banks to review his yellow card decision for a Djenepo stamp on Isaac Hayden. The referee saw fit to send off the Malian.

Newcastle would’ve been felt indebted to VAR when it spotted a clear handball in the box from Sofiane Boufal, but Matt Ritchie‘s penalty was well-saved by Alex McCarthy. Speaking of the keeper.

2. McCarthy keeps Saints alive: A fantastic triple save came before the Saints went down to 10 men, and McCarthy stayed hot with his penalty save on former Portsmouth man Ritchie. The saves kept coming until Valery’s error put the keeper to the sword.

3. Saint-Maximin is Newcastle’s life force: With respect to lively Miguel Almiron, the Magpies’ attack lives and dies with wing wizard Allan Saint-Maximin. The young Frenchman’s 4.3 dribbles per game is nearly triple that of his closest teammate (Almiron), and the Magpies are 1W-3D-7L when he doesn’t see the pitch.

Man of the Match: It would’ve been Shelvey in the first half, but his touch betrayed him in the second phase. Saint-Max is the man here, just over McCarthy.


The hosts surged out of the gates, a couple of corner kicks leading to a dangerous chance that Matt Ritchie blocked for Newcastle.

Alex McCarthy made three incredible saves for Saints after Jonjo Shelvey cued up Dwight Gayle for a chance and Miguel Almiron had two chances at rebounds.

Southampton then tested Martin Dubravka with a Yan Valery drive, but the goalkeeper was well-positioned to keep the match scoreless.

Moussa Djenepo then saw a yellow card for a stamp on Isaac Hayden, but VAR Peter Banks recommended that referee Graham Banks have another look at it. It became a red card.

McCarthy soon made an incredible save on a diving Gayle header, and the striker missed an ensuing chance wide off a Allan Saint-Maximin feed.

Jamaal Lascelles had the ball in the goal from a free kick but a raised linesman’s flag denied him.

VAR then awarded Newcastle a penalty when Sofiane Boufal handled the ball at the edge of the box. It was Newcastle’s first penalty of the year, and McCarthy did well to save Matt Ritchie.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Saint-Maximin won a 52nd minute free kick on the left side of the box, but Shelvey’s pass was cleared away.

Hayden soon headed a corner kick wide of the goal.

Saint-Maximin put Valery under pressure before picking his pocket and rolling a ball under McCarthy, off the post, and into the goal.

Almiron salutes injured ex-Atlanta United teammate as Bruce praises star

Miguel Almiron
Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images
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Newcastle United got a big performance out of Miguel Almiron in the No. 10 role, and the Paraguayan used his star show to pay tribute to Josef Martinez.

Almiron and Martinez famously celebrated goals at Atlanta United by combining to make a heart with their arms, and Martinez has been linked with Newcastle in recent transfer windows.

Martinez tore his ACL this week, and Almiron celebrated one of his two goals in a 3-2 defeat of West Brom in the FA Cup by forming half of a heart from an ocean away.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

That part of the performance was lovely for MLS and Atlanta fans, but what Newcastle United fans and manager Steve Bruce love is Almiron’s promising performances now seeing end product.

“As I have said many times he has been a breath of fresh air,” Bruce said, via The Chronicle. “That little bit of confidence will hopefully do him the world of good.”

Almiron was a sparkplug last season for Rafa Benitez, but failed to get a goal or assist in 10 outings. This season, he waited 14 league matches for an assist and three more for a goal.

The FA Cup has helped him grow, as Almiron has added four goals to give him six in all competitions.

“He looked a top, top player tonight and we all know he can score,” Bruce said. “He just missed a few chances and then it ebbs away at you. One thing you can’t deny is the kid is a good player.”

Almiron still needs to produce more against PL competition, but his numbers are promising. He’s second on Newcastle with 43 tackles, and his 40 successful dribbles trail only wizard Allan Saint-Maximin (Stats via SofaScore).

It seems Almiron is ready for a breakthrough in league play, though the Magpies still badly need an engine in the midfield and a shuttler who sets up the playmakers. Steve Bruce has changed the club’s defensive formation to something more open, so this will be a good few weeks to track Almiron’s progress.

FA Cup wrap: Liverpool loses again; Almiron drives Newcastle win

Liverpool
AP Photo/Ian Walton
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Previously impermeable Liverpool allowed three goals for the second-straight match in bowing out of the FA Cup in the fifth round.

Chelsea beat the Premier League leaders 2-0 at Stamford Bridge as one of two FA Cup matches on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Joining the Blues and Arsenal in the hat for the quarterfinal draw is Newcastle United. Sheffield United and Reading are in extra time at the Madejski Stadium, so check back for updates.

They don’t use a hat. They used to. Those were the days to be a haberdasher.

Chelsea 2-0 Liverpool

Liverpool has lost three in four in all competitions after an even match at Stamford Bridge.

Both sides turned to their depth after weekend disappointments, and Chelsea’s responded with a fine showing.

The opener came thanks to a series of Liverpool errors, Willian‘s hammered shot hitting Adrian square in the hands and finding its way over the line.

Kepa Arrizabalaga had a three-save sequence to keep it 1-0 at the break.

Barkley then seized on an unlucky Van Dijk flick and raced sixty yards past a sleepy Fabinho and cautious Joe Gomez to smash a rocket off the in-goal camera.

Pedro was denied 1v1 by Adrian before Olivier Giroud smashed off the bottom of the bar.

Liverpool brought on Roberto Firmino and James Milner in the 70th minute in a late bid to reverse the Reds’ fortunes. Mohamed Salah entered 10 minutes later, all to no avail.

Reading 1-1 Sheffield United (currently in extra time)

Hard-luck Blades striker David McGoldrick finally got his goal, the 32-year-old taking a Ben Osborn feed to make it 1-0. McGoldrick has an expected goal mark of more than seven in Premier League play, but had not found the net.

Reading leveled the score just before halftime through a George Puscas penalty. That was it for the goals in regulation.

West Brom 2-3 Newcastle United

Newcastle had several big chances early and were justly rewarded when Allan Saint-Maximin slipped Miguel Almiron into the box for a clinical finish past Baggies keeper Jonathan Bond.

Almiron made it a brace when Joelinton backheeled a pass toward the penalty spot for the Paraguayan’s sliding finish.

Valentino Lazaro got his first Newcastle goal within two minutes of restart thanks to a Bond error.

Longtime West Brom servant Matty Phillips pulled one back in the 74th minute off a Kenneth Zohore assist.

The Baggies took the slimmest of hopes from a pretty stoppage time connection from Kyle Edwards to Zohore, but a late penalty shout went unheard and the Championship-leading Baggies left the tournament.