Dan James

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

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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.

Pogba unsure about future at Man United

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Paul Pogba has cast fresh doubt over his future as a Manchester United player.

Speaking after their 4-0 demolition of Chelsea, where he grabbed two assists in the second half after yet another Jekyll and Hyde display, the 26-year-old Frenchman revealed he could still leave United this summer with the transfer window still open across Europe.

Pogba had previously admitted he was ready for a new challenge and his agent Mino Raiola reinforced that Pogba wants to leave United as Real Madrid remain interested.

“Obviously there have been things said but only time will tell,” Pogba said. “This question mark remains. However, as I said, I am here in Manchester. I enjoy playing with my teammates and I always want to win every game. I always give it everything. I am always good whenever I play football. It is what I love – it is my job. I give the maximum each time I am on a green pitch.”

Pogba remains a divisive figure and his display against Chelsea summed that up. In the first half he gave the ball away, was easily pushed off the ball and didn’t look too interested. In the second half he set up Marcus Rashford with a delicious ball over the top and then went on a surging run to set up Dan James for United’s fourth.

Even though the summer transfer window is shut in the Premier League, players can still leave and it seems as though Pogba’s future will be open in the air until early September.

Surely United will not sell him now as they’ll have no chance of replacing him.

Romelu Lukaku left out of Man United squad

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Romelu Lukaku has yet to feature for Manchester United in preseason and speculating regarding his future at Old Trafford will continue to swirl.

The Belgian star was left out of United’s 26-man squad for their trip to Norway to play Kristiansund on Tuesday, and there was no reason given for his absence on the club website.

Lukaku, 26, has been linked with moves to Italian giants Juventus and Inter Milan throughout the summer and it appears the end-game is near.

Reports suggest that Juve will offer Paulo Dybala for Lukaku, while Inter have been negotiating with United for some time but the Red Devils are said to want over $90 million for their Belgian striker and Antonio Conte‘s side are yet to offer anywhere near that.

An extra caveat to all of this is that Lukaku traveled with United to Australia and China for their lengthy preseason tour but didn’t play a single second due to a minor injury.

He could often be seen training on his own or working out on an excercise bike in the gym, as his future remains up in the air.

Do United need him?

Given his penchant as a proven goalscorer, you always need those around. But given the fact that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants young, speedy strikers and he has a lot of them, Lukaku’s skillset makes him surplus to requirements right off the bat.

We saw him chucked out wide at times during the second half of last season and although he caused problems in that role, he never looked comfortable. Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and youngsters Dan James and Mason Greenwood looked more natural fits for United’s new high-octane playing style.

Lukaku has talked about his love for Serie A on multiple occasions and it appears his time in the Premier League is about to come to an end.

When we look back on his United career, 42 goals in 96 appearances isn’t a bad record at all. But it doesn’t tell the whole story.

His hold-up play didn’t improve much, neither did his record against the top six clubs, and the lack of service he received — especially in the opening months of Jose Mourinho’s final season in charge — saw him frustrated so when chances did arrive he snatched at them.

Along with Paul Pogba, Lukaku always seemed to be under pressure at United and it seems close to the mark to say both have been too inconsistent over the past few seasons.

Here is United’s squad in full for the trop to Norway

David De Gea, Lee Grant, Joel Pereira, Sergio Romero; Diogo Dalot, Phil Jones, Victor Lindelof, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling, Axel Tuanzebe, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Ashley Young; Fred, Angel Gomes, Daniel James, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay, Andreas Pereira, Paul Pogba; Tahith Chong, Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford.

FA Cup: Crystal Palace, Swansea reach quarterfinals (video)

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Crystal Palace and Swansea City reached the FA Cup quarterfinals on Sunday, as they eased to victory.

[ MORE: FA Cup scores, stats ]  

Palace travelled to third-tier Doncaster Rovers and two first half goals steered Roy Hodgson‘s men into the last eight. As for Swansea City, they trailed Brentford at half time but four goals from the Swans and a red card for the Bees swung the games in the favor of the Welsh side.

Swansea are one of just two teams from outside the Premier League to be in the last eight.

Below are the details from Sunday’s final two FA Cup fifth round games, as the two teams join Wolves, Manchester City, Brighton, Watford and Millwall in the hat for the last eight draw.

The final team in the last eight will be either Chelsea or Manchester United, who play at Stamford Bridge on Monday.


Doncaster 0-2 Crystal Palace

Jeffrey Schlupp gave Palace the lead with a fine individual effort as he was played in after a wonderful interception from Luka Milivojevic. Schlupp’s shot across goal took a slight deflection and flew into the far bottom corner to make it 1-0.

Doncaster went close on a few occasions in the first half but Palace held them at arms length and right on half time made it 2-0.

Milivojevic again created the goal as his looped ball over the top found Andros Townsend who headed the ball towards Meyer and he nodded home.

In the second half Doncaster pushed hard to get back into the game and went close on several occasions from set piece situations, with Alfie May heading their best chance just over.

Overall, Palace held on quite comfortably for the win and secured a spot in the last eight.


Swansea City 4-1 Brentford

The away side took the lead after a wonderful counter-attack was finished off emphatically by Ollie Watkins, but that was to be as good as it got for the west Londoners.

In the second half Swansea came flying out of the traps and drew level in fortunate circumstances, with a free kick from Bersant Celina bouncing off Brentford goalkeeper Luke Daniels and in. 1-1.

Moments later the Swans were 2-1 up as Dan James scored a superb goal to turn the games on its head.

The highly-touted winger surged in on goal and beat Daniels to send the home fans wild.

Brentford ended the game with 10 men as James was then cynically brought down by Ezri Konsa and shown a red card.

Celina then made it 3-1 after a lovely run, and the excellent James and Celina combined to set up George Byers to make it 4-1 in stoppage time to cap off a brilliant day for Graham Potter and his Swans.

Despite their relegation from the Premier League last season and being in midtable in the second-tier, Swansea are in the last eight of the FA Cup for the second season in a row.

Premier League releases 25-man squads for 2017-2018 season

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With the close of the transfer window, Premier League rosters are now set for the season.

On Friday evening, after teams submitted their squads, the Premier League released each team’s 25-man squads for the current season.

There are some notable omissions. Arsenal left out Santi Cazorla, who continues to recover from an achillies injury while Chelsea left Abdul Baba Rahman off its list. However, Diego Costa was included on Chelsea’s roster despite the Spanish international’s attempts to force a move away. Southampton’s Virgil Van Dijk and Everton’s Ross Barkley made their club’s squads as well.

There are six Americans currently registered for the upcoming season. Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron, Newcastle United’s DeAndre Yedlin and Huddersfield Town’s Danny Williams are registered as senior squad members. Bournemouth’s Emerson Hyndman, Arsenal’s Gedion Zelalem and Chelsea’s Kyle Scott are registered as Under-21 players, while Tottenham’s Cameron Carter-Vickers, on loan at Sheffield United for the season, is also registered as an Under-21 player.

 

Per Premier League rules, no more than 17 players who don’t fulfill the league’s “home grown” requirements can be registered. A home grown player is someone who has been registered by the FA or the Welsh FA for three years before the age of 21.

Under-21 players, those born after January 1, 1996, are eligible to play in the Premier League this season without being registered. Teams can update and change their squads

Here’s a look at the 2017-2018 Premier League squads:

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