Demarai Gray

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.

Which outsiders have hope of breaking into Premier League’s Top Six?

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With unproven managers at Chelsea and Manchester United and a possible David Luiz-Shkrodan Mustafi center back partnership at Arsenal, there are scenarios in which the seas part and a new team finishes in the Top Six for the first time since Chelsea and Liverpool crashed out of the picture in 2015-16.

Wolves will like their chances, having made Raul Jimenez and Leander Dendoncker permanent members of the team and buying Patrick Cutrone, Pedro Neto, and Bruno Jordao from Serie A.

[ MORE: PST’s PL preview roundtable ]

But they’ll face a loaded fixture list thanks to the Europa League (assuming they don’t exit at the hands of Armenia’s Pyunik in the third qualifying round or a similar foe in the playoff round). The first group stage date is sandwiched between Chelsea and Crystal Palace on the league docket, the second between Watford and Man City.

That’s a test of depth, one of which most of their players are taking for the first time.

Then there’s Everton, which has amassed some serious experience and guile even amongst its youngsters. Moise Kean arrives from Juventus, while Andre Gomes, Djibril Sidibe, and Fabian Delph are no strangers to silverware.

If Jean-Philippe Gbamin can quickly adapt to the league to combine with Delph and provide 75 percent of what Idrissa Gana Gueye gave the club, look out.

West Ham is another interesting one: Issa Diop was a revelation at center back and the club is close to keeping a hold of Felipe Anderson.

The Irons have finally added their prototypical center forward and should be nice and settled at the London Stadium. The question is whether West Ham can rewrite their organizational reputation this season.

There are arguments to be made for Watford and even Aston Villa, but those seem a bit farfetched unless the Hornets are seriously out-scouting the rest of the world.

So we’ll finish with Leicester City, who needs to hope that Jamie Vardy can keep holding off the hands of time and youngsters Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi can take a hold of the team to take the next step as stars.

There are enough ancillary pieces in Ayoze Perez and Demarai Gray, as well as gleaming potential stars like Harvey Barnes and James Maddison.

But the question of how they’ll replace Harry Maguire is a real one, as is the big Brendan Rodgers effort: Can he focus the club the way he did when Liverpool had a Europe-free year in 2013-14, and take advantage of the fixture list to ride into the top tier?

Leicester seals permament deal for Youri Tielemans

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Leicester City is backing Brendan Rodgers.

The Foxes broke their transfer record on Monday, sealing the long-anticipated move for 2018-19 loan star Youri Tielemans from Monaco.

The move is worth a reported $50 million, and will tie Tielemans to the King Power Stadium for four seasons.

[ MORE: What we learned about the USMNT this month ]

Tielemans, 22, was wonderful during his half-season with Leicester, posting three goals and four assists with the Foxes.

Remarkably, Tielemans cost just $12 million less than Ayoze Perez of Newcastle, and the pair will join Jamie Vardy, James Maddison, Harvey Barnes, and Demarai Gray in a talented attack.

How is this crew going to line up?!? They have the attacking depth to challenge for a seventh and could even sneak a bit higher given a down season from Manchester United or another power.

They should also be able to aim for a Europa League spot via one of the domestic Cups.

Season Review: Man United, Wolves, Everton, Leicester, West Ham

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We’re into the top half of the Premier League now, as we continue to review all 20 teams’ campaigns after the 2018-19 season came to a close on Sunday.

[ REVIEW: Huddersfield, Fulham, Cardiff, Brighton, Saints ]

The group of clubs that finished between 10th and sixth spans a massive gulf in preseason predictions: from supposed title challengers Manchester United, to newly promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers.

[ REVIEW: Burnley, Bournemouth, Newcastle, Crystal Palace, Watford ]

West Ham United

Finishing position/points total: 10th / 52 points
High point: Handing London rivals Tottenham Hotspur their first defeat at their brand new stadium.
Low point
: Losing four straight to start the season, after spending big in the summer transfer window and hiring Manuel Pellegrini.

Our opinion: Given what West Ham have actually achieved this decade, they finished right where they should. Given what they spent last summer, they underachieved. That is almost certainly a product of the constant turnover taking place in east London.
Star player
: Felipe Anderson
Most memorable goal
: Declan Rice‘s first goal for West Ham was a big one: the winner against Arsenal.

Manager grade: Manuel Pellegrini: C
Hopes for next season
: As ever, West Ham fans will be dreaming of cracking the top-six, as unrealistic and difficult as that is. More realistically, they should be battling Everton and Wolves for the title of “best of the rest.”


Leicester City

Finishing position/points total: 9th / 52 points
High point: Winning five of their first six games after Brendan Rodgers was named new manager in late February.
Low point
: Six games without a win (five losses) to begin 2019. Claude Puel didn’t survive the skid.

Our opinion: Right around mid-table is where Leicester should aim to be season after season. Only to nitpick, to do so without the gigantic swings between highs and lows (15 wins and 16 losses, with just 7 draws) should be the attainable target moving forward.
Star player
: Youri Tielemans
Most memorable goal
: Demarai Gray scored perhaps the most emotional game of the PL season: Leicester’s first, and the winner against Cardiff City, following the tragic death of chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

Manager grade: Brendan Rodgers: Incomplete
Hopes for next season
: If Rodgers views Leicester as a long-term project for himself, he should look to continue the youth movement currently taking place at the King Power Stadium and build a squad that could push for top-six on their best day a year or two down the road.


Everton

Finishing position/points total: 8th / 54 points
High point: Beating Chelsea, West Ham and Arsenal in successive games, without conceding a single goal in the process (March 17 to April 7).
Low point
: Losing to Liverpool, on that goal.

Our opinion: Marco Silva is clearly the most talented and ambitious manager Everton have had in a long time, and that’ll show through even more so after a second summer of transfers to build a squad that better fits his style (e.g., younger, more mobile defenders).
Star player
: Gylfi Sigurdsson
Most memorable goal
: Sigurdsson’s long-range was the pick of the litter in the Toffees’ 4-0 rout of Man United.

Manager grade: Marco Silva: B-
Hopes for next season
: Of all the sides in the top-10, Everton are probably best positioned to mount a challenge on the top-six, given not only the talent up and down their squad, but also the experience at very high levels in the game. Most likely, though, they’ll be seventh or eighth again.


Wolverhampton Wanderers

Finishing position/points total: 7th / 57 points
High point: Other than being back in the PL? How about wins over Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal, all in your first season back in the PL? No wonder Wolves landed seventh.
Low point
: Huddersfield Town finished bottom of the league — with just 16 points, 10 adrift of 19th place. Six of those 16 points (37.5 percent) came against Wolves, as they did the double over Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side.

Our opinion: Wolves were one of the PL’s most active and aggressive clubs during last summer’s transfer window; they also happened to be some of the best buyers, as Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota, Joao Moutinho and Jonny were rock-solid figures in the first team. That’s a very strong foundation upon which to build.
Star player
: Raul Jimenez
Most memorable goal
: Jimenez’s outside-the-foot cross to Jota, and Jota’s ball back to Jimenez for the finish, was the clincher against Cardiff and delightful to watch.

Manager grade: Nuno Espirito Santo: A
Hopes for next season
: Should they wind up in the Europa League next season (Manchester City would have to beat Watford in the FA Cup final), Wolves will have multiple rounds of qualify to wade through before even reaching the group stage. They would be best suited not having to deal with such a fixture list.


Manchester United

Finishing position/points total: 6th / 66 points
High point
: The lengthy honeymoon period (12 games unbeaten, including 10 wins) for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s interim appointment after Jose Mourinho was fired.
Low point
: The remainder of the season cratering (just two wins from their final eight games, including four defeats) after Solskjaer was named permanent manager on March 28.

Our opinion: This is a club in desperate need of a massive overhaul, from top to bottom: perhaps beginning with the owners, to the club executives, to the technical decision makers, perhaps the manager as well, and the first-team squad.
Star player
: Marcus Rashford
Most memorable goal
: Another goal conceded by Cardiff. Anthony Martial and Co., kicked off the Solskjaer era in dazzling fashion.

Manager grade: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: C
Hopes for next season
: Let’s say Man United hit on every one of their signings this summer — we’re guessing $200 million’s worth of them — which includes a new backline, a deep-lying midfielder, an attacking midfielder and at least one winger. They could finish in the top-four.

Vardy leads Leicester’s rout of Huddersfield (video)

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  • Leicester have won 5 of last 6
  • Vardy has 7 goals in last 6 games
  • Huddersfield lose fifth-straight game

Leicester City beat Huddersfield Town 4-1 at the John Smith’s Stadium on Saturday, as the Foxes continue their revival under Brendan Rodgers with four wins on the spin.

The Foxes went ahead through Youri Tielemans and Jamie Vardy doubled the lead, and although Huddersfield pulled a goal back through Aaron Mooy‘s penalty kick, James Maddison scored a beautiful free kick and then

With the victory the Foxes move in to seventh place on 47 points, while Huddersfield remain bottom on 14 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Leicester started the game well as Harvey Barnes whipped in a dangerous cross which just evaded the onrushing James Maddison.

The Foxes took a deserved lead after a corner saw two efforts blocked, then Tielemans struck a shot from the edge of the box which found the net with Ben Hamer unsighted.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Maddison had another great chance before half time as he was set free on goal but the youngster dragged his effort wide.

The best chance Huddersfield had was via Jon Stankovic, who drilled a shot just wide of the far post. But then Ben Chilwell fired over and Demarai Gray raced clear before the break but Hamer saved superbly to deny Leicester a second. Hamer then clawed away a cross from Vardy which threatened to loop in.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Huddersfield started the second half well as Karlan Grant looked certain to score but Kasper Schmeichel saved his header. But Leicester doubled their lead right away as Ricardo Perreira sent in a perfect cross which Vardy tapped home at the back post, although the English striker looked to be slightly offside.

However, Huddersfield were handed a penalty kick as Caglar Soyuncu slipped and then Grant nipped in just ahead of him. It didn’t look like a penalty, but it was awarded and Mooy slotted home calmly to make it 2-1.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Leicester were denied by former goalkeeper Hamer again as Barnes’ audacious backheel found Maddison who was denied.

Schmeichel pulled off a great low save to deny Steve Mounie an equalizer, as Huddersfield pushed hard late on but Leicester sealed the win in style.

Maddison curled a free kick around the wall to make it 3-1, then Vardy won and scored a penalty to make it 4-1, as the Foxes continue their charge up the table.