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Championship Focus: Top three all win; everyone else drops points

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The EFL Championship’s races for Premier League promotion and the second-division title might just go down to the final days — if not day, singular — of the season based on the recent form of three runaway clubs.

[ MORE: What did we learn on a wild PL Saturday? (video) ]

As we discussed last week, Norwich City and Leeds United have paced the league for the vast majority of the season and remain in line to return to the PL for the first time in three and 14 years, respectively. There remains, however, a threat to their duopoly: Sheffield United are unbeaten in their last eight outings (five wins) and sit just two points back of Leeds, who are two points off the pace of Norwich.

All three of the aforementioned promotion chasers won this weekend — Norwich 1-0 Swansea City; Bristol City 0-1 Leeds; Sheffield United 2-0 Rotherham.

[ MORE: PL Sunday preview: Liverpool in chase mode; Arsenal v. Man United ]

That’s all the joy and happiness there is to report from the upper reaches of the Championship this weekend, as the next five teams in the table (entering the weekend) all dropped points.

West Bromwich Albion were one of the luckier sides, able to salvage a 1-1 draw with 24th-place Ipswich Town despite coughing up an early lead. Manager Darren Moore, who took over and re-energized the club just before the Baggies were relegated from the PL last season, wasn’t so lucky: he was fired with West Brom sitting fourth in the table.

Fifth-place Middlesbrough blew an early lead of their own and gave away all three points to suddenly red-hot Brentford (four wins in their last five — up to 12th, six points out of 6th) at the Riverside Stadium. Sixth-place Bristol City fell victims to Leeds, which opened the door for Derby to leapfrog them for the fourth and final playoff place on the back of their draw with Sheffield Wednesday.

After 35.5 of 46 rounds…

Place Team Points GD
1 Norwich City 72 +27
2 Leeds United 70 +22
3 Sheffield United 68 +27
4 West Bromwich Albion 61 +20
5 Middlesbrough 58 +13
6 Derby County 55 +2
7 Bristol City 54 +7
8 Nottingham Forest 53 +10
9 Preston North End 51 +6
10 Birmingham City 50 +8
11 Hull City 50 -1
12 Brentford 49 +13

Report: Faria, Terry may take charge at Aston Villa

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Rui Faria and John Terry worked together at Chelsea for many years and it appears they could be getting the band back together.

A report from Sky Sports states that Faria and Terry are being lined up by Aston Villa as their head coach and assistant manager respectively, with the long-time assistant manager for Jose Mourinho out of work since he left Mourinho’s side over the summer.

Yet separate reports suggest that Faria was happy to be offered the Villa position but is happy enough to spend time away from the game with his family.

Terry, 37, announced his retirement as a player just a few days ago (he played for Villa last season as they lost in the playoff final, coming up one win short of promotion back to the PL) and it is believed he is in the running to take on the vacant manager position at Villa after Steve Bruce was fired.

However it now appears that Terry is instead being lined up as an assistant coach, with previous reports stating he could link up with Thierry Henry in a managerial dream true. Henry is now expected to be handed the AS Monaco job, leaving the Villa position open for Terry, and Faria, to take on.

Faria, 43, was Mourinho’s assistant for 16 years, moving with him from Porto to Chelsea to Inter Milan and Real Madrid, before then heading back to Chelsea and being alongside him at Manchester United. He is represented by super agent Jorge Mendes, with the latter advising Villa in their search for a new manager. Faria worked closely with Terry twice, with the former Chelsea captain winning three PL titles with Faria as his assistant coach. These two know how to build successful teams and win trophies but given the resources at Villa and the unpredictable nature of England’s second-tier, this isn’t an easy job. At all.

Despite its obvious size as a club and Villa’s new Egyptian owners promising to spend what they can under Financial Fair Play restrictions, the lack of interest in this position sums up where the club is at right now.

Bruce assembled an experienced yet ageing squad and although Jack Grealish is talented, Villa face a bit of an uphill battle just to be among the promotion candidates in the Championship this season.

With Derby County hiring Frank Lampard to lead their promotion charge, plus Leeds United going well under Marcelo Bielsa, West Brom flying under Darren Moore and Tony Pulis plugging away at Middlesbrough, Villa are already nine points off the automatic promotion spots.

Add on top the expectation levels from home fans at Villa Park and this is a tough, tough job.

Rondon wanted by Atleti, Inter Milan, and West Ham

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The big boys are looking to Salomon Rondon as a bargain striker.

Yes, $22 million is a bargain in the striker market these days.

[ MORE: Napoli hires Ancelotti ]

West Brom’s Venezuelan international, 28, stands 6’2″ and has a relegation release clause that is reportedly interesting Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid, and West Ham United.

Atleti and Inter are in the Champions League next season, but Rondon played for new West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini at Malaga, posting 25 league goals in two seasons.

He’s scored 24 goals in three Premier League seasons at West Brom, almost a quarter of the 104 produced by the Baggies.

He also picked up three assists this season as the target man for Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew, and Darren Moore (and was fouled more often than any other Baggie (Baggy?)).

Rondon and Marko Arnautovic next to each other would be a real handful for PL defenses. Then again, maybe he’ll stay loyal to West Brom and set the Championship scoring record next season.

Moore takes hold of West Brom’s promotion bid

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Darren Moore‘s spell as West Brom caretaker manager couldn’t quite pull off a miraculous run to Premier League safety, but the promise it contained has helped him to the first chance at earning promotion back to the top flight.

West Bromwich Albion announced Moore as its new manager on Monday, with the boss promising his Baggies would play attractive football while also being a side “that’s willing to fight and scrap for every ball.”

[ MORE: No World Cup for Chelsea trio ]

Moore is also happy to carry a flame for minority coaches — called BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) — in England.

“If it does inspire others, I would be extremely proud,” he said. “I don’t just speak on behalf of BAME coaches but the young, aspiring British coaches across the board.”

Moore, 44, only lost one of his six PL matches as WBA boss, winning three times and inspiring many to wonder what would’ve happened had the Baggies’ pulled the plug on Alan Pardew — and Tony Pulis before him — earlier.

A center back in his playing career, Moore spent 18 seasons between a number of clubs including West Brom, Derby County, and Doncaster Rovers. He won promotion as a player twice with West Brom, and again with Derby.

Top stats of the 2017/18 Premier League season

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We love stats. We love the Premier League.

[ MORE: PL grades for all 20 clubs ]

So, let’s use stats to breakdown the 2017/18 campaign.

Via our friends at Opta, here’s a look at some of the most intriguing stats of the 2017/18 season.


Man City’s brilliance

  • Man City won 32 matches, the most in a single Premier League season, breaking the record which had been held by Chelsea, who won 30 in 2016-17 – it is also a record in top-flight history.
  • Even including when points totals are altered to three for a win, Man City became the first team to win 100 points in a top-flight season.
  • Man City won 16 away league matches, a joint top-flight record in a single season along with Spurs in 1960-61.
  • Man City won the title with five games remaining, equalling the top-flight record set by Man Utd in 1907-08 and 2000-01 and Everton in 1984-85.
  • Manchester City trailed for just 153 minutes in Premier League matches this season – the fewest by a side in a single campaign.
  • Manchester City scored 106 goals in the Premier League this season; a record in a single Premier League season. The last top-flight side to score more in a single season were Tottenham (111) in 1962-63.
  • Between August and December 2017, Manchester City broke the record for most consecutive top-flight wins, winning 18 in a row and eclipsing the record set by Arsenal between February and August 2002 (14 wins in a row).

Surprising stats

  • All three newly promoted clubs (Brighton, Huddersfield and Newcastle) avoided relegation, only the third time this had happened in Premier League history, along with the 2001-02 and 2011-12 seasons.
  • Five different players recorded 10+ goals and 10+ assists in the Premier League this season (Salah, Eriksen, Sane, Sterling and Mahrez) – a record in a 38-game season.
  • This season saw the best shot conversion rate of any Premier League season since 2003-04 (10.95%), with 1018 goals scored from 9297 shots.
  • There were 78 Premier League wins by three or more goals this season – the most in an season in the history of the competition.
  • Spurs also finished as the highest placed London team in the top-flight for the first time since the 1994-95 season, when they finished seventh and above six other London sides.
  • Spurs finished above Arsenal in consecutive seasons for the first time since doing so in 1981-82 and 1982-83.
  • Jamie Vardy ended on the losing side in nine matches he scored in this season – a new Premier League record in a season.
  • Kevin De Bruyne set a new Premier League record for matches won by a player in a season, ending on the winning side in 31 different games.
  • Crystal Palace played nine Premier League games without Wilfried Zaha this season and lost all nine matches.
  • Despite only scoring 10 Premier League goals this season, Chris Wood earned his side Burnley 12 points this season – only Mo Salah (16) and Harry Kane (22) won more points via their goals.
  • Frank De Boer became the first permanent manager in Premier League history to not see his team score a single goal during his reign (four games, zero goals). Frank de Boer’s tenure as Crystal Palace manager was the shortest in terms of matches managed in the Premier League by a permanent appointment (four games).
  • Liverpool’s 0-5 defeat at Manchester City in September 2017 was the joint-biggest margin of defeat for Jurgen Klopp as a manager, level with Mainz 1-6 Werder Bremen (Oct 2006).
  • Darren Moore won more points in his six league games in charge of West Brom this season (11) than both Alan Pardew did in his 18 (8) and Tony Pulis did in his 12 (10) for the Baggies.

Harry Kane’s magic

  • Harry Kane scored 13 goals in September 2017 for club and country in all competitions – his best ever month as a professional footballer. This also equalled the tally of goals that both Lionel Messi (13 in March 2012) and Cristiano Ronaldo (13 in October 2010) have scored in a single month during their career.
  • Harry Kane’s record of not scoring a single Premier League goal in the month of August continued in 2017. His record in the month is now 13 games, 898 minutes and 44 shots without a single goal.
  • Kane became the first Spurs player to score 100 Premier League goals, a tally he reached in just 141 appearances – only Alan Shearer scored 100 in fewer games (124).
  • Kane scored 39 Premier League goals in 2017, breaking the record for a calendar year in the Premier League previously held by Alan Shearer in 1995 (36).

Relegation focus

  • Crystal Palace lost their first seven league games of the season without scoring, an English league record.
  • Crystal Palace became the first top-flight team since Liverpool in 1899-1900 to lose their first seven league matches in a season and avoid relegation.
  • Newcastle United finished 10th – the highest position by a newly-promoted club since West Ham also finished 10th in 2012-13.
  • West Brom were relegated from the top-flight for the 10th time – only fellow Midlands clubs Leicester (11) and Birmingham (12) have been relegated more often.
  • It was West Brom’s fourth Premier League relegation (also 2002-03, 2005-06 and 2008-09), with no side relegated more often (Crystal Palace, Middlesbrough, Norwich City and Sunderland also four relegations).
  • Stoke City suffered their seventh top-flight relegation and first since the 1984-85 campaign, when they went down having accrued just 17 points.
  • Stoke’s relegation was the first in any division for 20 years, when they were relegated from the second tier in 1997-98 along with Reading and Manchester City.

Mohamed Salah central

  • Mohamed Salah scored more goals in his debut season for Liverpool than any other player in their entire history (44).
  • Salah also broke the record for most left-footed goals in a Premier League season, netting 25 goals.
  • Salah scored 32 goals in the Premier League, the most in a 38-game season.
  • Salah scored against 17 different Premier League opponents this season – no player has ever scored against more in a single campaign.
  • Against Watford in March, Salah scored four goals from four shots – since 2003-04, he is only the second player to achieve this in a Premier League match after Andrey Arshavin against Liverpool in April 2009.

Pep Guardiola‘s domination

  • Pep Guardiola has won the top-flight league title in seven of his nine seasons as a manager, with the only exceptions being 2011-12 at Barcelona and 2016-17 at Manchester City.
  • Pep Guardiola secured his best points tally in a single league season as a manager (100); surpassing 99 points with Barcelona in 2009-10.
  • Pep Guardiola became the first Spaniard to win the English top-flight – he has won the top-flight in seven of his nine seasons as a manager, failing only in 2011-12 at Barcelona and last season with Man City.
  • Manchester City ended 19 points ahead of 2nd placed side Manchester United – the Premier League record points gap between 1st and 2nd place at the end of a season, overtaking a gap of 18 points by Manchester United in 1999-00.

Farewell, Arsene Wenger

  • Arsene Wenger broke the record for most Premier League games managed, eclipsing Sir Alex Ferguson’s haul of 810 games on New Year’s Eve against Crystal Palace (currently on 828).
  • Arsene Wenger has now beaten 46 different opponents in the Premier League, more than any other manager (Alex Ferguson, 44).
  • Wenger’s victory at the John Smith’s Stadium was the 48th different ground he had won at in the Premier League, more than any other manager.
  • Arsenal finished outside the top five in the Premier League for the first time 1994-95, when they finished 12th.