Diogo Jota

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Just how wrong? Revisiting Premier League predictions

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Own it.

That’s how I look at Premier League predictions. When you’re right, be happy about your good fortune. When you’re wrong, raise your hand.

But there’s another level to it: Why was I right or wrong? Did a team let me down, or did I vastly overrate/underrate their potential?

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

Twenty months ago I pegged Burnley to get relegated with an almost record-low amount of points. The Clarets qualified for the Europa League, and I ate my words (even if Sean Dyche‘s men seemingly out-performed every metric on Earth in spite of stats, like some old man claiming Man City wins because of “better chemistry, not talent”).

Cardiff City
Predicted finish: 20
Actual finish: 18

How wrong was I? Not. As much credit as the Bluebirds got for grinding every week, and as much of a difference as the late Emiliano Sala could’ve been to their fortunes, they completed passes at an almost absurdly-bad 63.9 percent rate while having just 39.1 percent of the ball. It was bad.

Huddersfield Town
Predicted finish: 19
Actual finish: 20

How wrong was I? Not. Huddersfield Town managed a league-worst .4 attempts per game from inside the six-yard box, and were one of only five teams to attempt less than six shots per game from inside the 18.

Watford
Predicted finish: 18
Actual finish: 11

How wrong was I? Pretty wrong. Javi Gracia‘s men were strong against bad teams — for the most part — but never sprung another real upset after beating Spurs to go 4-0 early in the season. Record against the Top Six? 1W-0D-11L.

Bournemouth
Predicted finish: 17
Actual finish: 14

How wrong was I? Eh. The Cherries were never really in trouble thanks to a 6-2-2 start, but man did they ride their luck.

Burnley
Predicted finish: 16
Actual finish: 15

How wrong was I? I’ve learned my lesson. Regardless of how much talent appears to be on a Sean Dyche roster, he’s a rich man’s Tony Pulis and should not be doubted.

The face Sean Dyche makes before he fist fights an entire village. Terrifying. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Southampton
Predicted finish: 15
Actual finish: 16

How wrong was I? With respect to Mark Hughes, I thought Saints’ season would come down to when he was sacked and who they identified to replace him. Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s in a good place.

Brighton and Hove Albion
Predicted finish: 14
Actual finish: 17

How wrong was I? A bit wrong, and I pretty much blame Pascal Gross, who back slid from 7 goals and 8 assists in his Premier League debut to just three and three in Year No. 2. The Seagulls didn’t score a single goal from outside the 18.

Wolves
Predicted finish: 13
Actual finish: 7

How wrong was I? It’s not simply about buying players — see: Fulham — but about acquiring hungry players. Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota, and several others had points to prove, and Jimenez especially made it well.

Newcastle United
Predicted finish: 12
Actual finish: 13

How wrong was I? To be honest, this went about as I expected given the brutal fixture list to start the season. Had I known Miguel Almiron would’ve transitioned so nicely from MLS to the PL, I might’ve had them 10th.

 (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Fulham
Predicted finish: 11
Actual finish: 19

How wrong was I? Very, but to my defense so were most people. On paper, the Cottagers improved more than even Wolves.

Crystal Palace
Predicted finish: 10
Actual finish: 12

How wrong was I? The stats kinda back me up, and it may be worth noting for next season that the Palace’s results didn’t match its performances. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Luka Milivojevic, and Wilfried Zaha gave them difference makers in all thirds of the field, and it’s surprising they didn’t push a bit higher on the table.

Leicester City
Predicted finish: 9
Actual finish: 9

How wrong was I? Not. The Foxes were pretty infuriating all year. Maybe Brendan Rodgers‘ ego and power will match the player power that’s run the club since they won the title. That said, the inconsistency and tumult shouldn’t be a surprise in a season the club had to deal with its owner dying on a match day.

West Ham United
Predicted finish: 8
Actual finish: 10

How wrong was I? Not really. I thought it would take Manuel Pellegrini some time to put his men together, but I didn’t predict the Irons would get a total of 37 appearances from Andriy Yarmolenko, Jack Wilshere, Manuel Lanzini, and Carlos Sanchez.

Everton
Predicted finish: 7
Actual finish: 8

How wrong was I? It took Marco Silva longer than expected to get his men humming, but think of this: If Jordan Pickford doesn’t give Divock Origi a derby winner, Everton is going to Europe. I know, I know… chaos theory. But still.

Richarlison (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Tottenham Hotspur
Predicted finish: 6
Actual finish: 4

How wrong was I? Like many, I was stunned that Spurs didn’t spend this summer and thought injuries would hurt them. They did, but only to the extent that Tottenham wasn’t able to sustain a title challenge. Spurs rarely gave the ball away, and the only teams that averaged fewer “times dispossessed” than Tottenham’s 9.2 per 90 were teams that never had the ball: Brighton, Cardiff, and Burnley.

Arsenal
Predicted finish: 5
Actual finish: 5

How wrong was I? Spot-on. It was going to take time for the Gunners to come together following a first managerial change in ages, but Arsenal had the offense to challenge for the Top Four. Surprisingly for Arsenal, they averaged just eight dribbles per game, 12th in the PL. Unai Emery had them more cautious than usual.

Chelsea
Predicted finish: 4
Actual finish: 3

How wrong was I? Not. Maurizio Sarri is not for everyone, but he knows how to get results. Granted Gonzalo Higuain was his guy, but he did it without a top striker.

Liverpool
Predicted finish: 3
Actual finish: 2

How wrong was I? Well, considering the Reds had one of the best runners-up finishes of all-time, quite wrong. Mostly, I didn’t expect Mohamed Salah to deliver again and he mostly did (save for a late winter slump).

Manchester United
Predicted finish: 2
Actual finish: 6

How wrong was I? Real wrong. Almost as wrong as United looks for canning Jose Mourinho. The manager needed to leave town, but there was a reason he was playing so packed-in. Ask yourself this: If Ed Woodward gave Mourinho the use of Toby Alderweireld, would Spurs and United be flipped?

Manchester City
Predicted finish: 1
Actual finish: 1

How wrong was I? On point. How good was City? For a club that ranked No. 1 in possession, they were only dispossessed 10.3 times per match. That was the 8th fewest total in the league.

Wolves qualify for Europa League

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Next season Wolverhampton Wanderers will play in Europe for the first time since 1981.

Courtesy of Manchester City’s victory against Watford in the FA Cup final, and their seventh place finish in the Premier League this season, Wolves will now compete in the UEFA Europa League from the second-qualifying round in 2019-20.

Wolves have enjoyed a fantastic season back in the top-flight, as Nuno Espirito Santo led his newly-promoted side to some huge victories against teams from the top six with Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota leading the way up front.

The likes of Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho, Conor Coady, Matt Doherty and Rui Patricio also dazzled, as Wolves will aim to try and push into the top six next season.

Wolves are going on a European tour, with the first leg of the second qualifying round to be played on July 25 and the second leg on August 1.

Top Ten moments of the Premier League season

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The Premier League season is over, and it’s not difficult to find the moments that will live a bit longer than the others when we imagine the 2018-19 campaign.

[ MORE: Derby County reaches playoff final ]


10. Neil Warnock stands defiantly at midfield, stares at referees

Cardiff City didn’t do enough to stay up, but it got a lot of help from officials in its fall into the Championship.

Fortunately for us, manager Neil Warnock did not lay off of the officials who made or reversed calls he perceived as major slights to his Bluebirds.

Perhaps his best tune would be best accompanied by a version of The Robot dance.

“I always thought Mike Riley was a manufactured referee from day one,” Warnock said after a loss to Chelsea. “I don’t think he’s changed since then. He’s been coached, manufactured, almost like a robot. He knows everything about the rules, but I feel these people struggle to understand the game and the human element. A lot of referees are like Mike Riley and that’s why I think we have gone backwards. Common sense is not allowed nowadays, but the best refs still use it.”

That loss ended with Warnock standing at midfield, staring at the referee crew before stating that the Premier League is “the best league in the world with the worst officials.”

9. De Gea stuns Spurs to take Ole mania up a notch

Manchester United’s star goalkeeper was not up to his standards this season, but his performance against Tottenham Hotspur early in the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era was impeccable.

Spurs dominated the Red Devils, but De Gea made 11 saves at Wembley to give OGS his first win over a top side.

8. Arsenal wins thrilling North London Derby

Arsenal finished below Tottenham Hotspur on the table, but the Gunners sent a message that they were up for the fight with a thrilling 4-2 win over Spurs on Dec. 1.

It had everything, including Mike Dean calling penalties for both sides. Arsenal outshot Spurs 22-11, and the teams combined for 13 shots on target. And the Gunners trailed 2-1 at the break!

Most importantly for the Gunners, it was a victory over their hated rivals which ran their unbeaten mark to 19 matches.

7. Wolves howl into contention with first upset

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s Wolverhampton Wanderers became giant killers for the first time when they ended a six-match dry spell by using a second-half burst to beat Chelsea 2-1.

The win was typical of Wolves’ best days, as Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota were the goal scorers. On the season, the newly-promoted Wolves beat Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, and Manchester United, drawing the Blues, Gunners, and Red Devils as well en route to a possible Europa League berth.

6. Mourinho’s “respect” rant

Manchester United had just lost 3-0 to Spurs at Old Trafford, but that’s not the three Jose Mourinho wanted to discuss in his post-match media briefing.

“Three-nil. Do you know what that also means? Three Premiership titles, and I also won more titles than the other 19 managers combined.”

5. Emiliano Sala‘s plane disappears

Cardiff City’s joy at the record purchase of Nantes striker Emiliano Sala soon turned to sickening grief when the Argentine’s plane was lost at sea. His body was recovered from the wreckage a few days later.

4. Pickford error gives Origi, Liverpool the derby

Everton supporters don’t need to be reminded that Liverpool had two moments of good fortune for every bit of bad luck in a run to second on the Premier League table. Jordan Pickford lost track of the ball in stoppage time to deny the Toffees a memorable point against their despised cross-town Reds.

3. Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha mourned

Leicester City lost its owner in November when his helicopter crashed after leaving King Power Stadium, and the world soon learned just how deeply Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was loved by the Foxes’ faithful. The scenes at the next home game were poignant and unforgettable.

2. Kompany’s thunderbolt

Manchester City’s big Belgian leant an aire of inevitability to his side’s title defense when he busted down the door of Kasper Schmeichel and Leicester City with an absolutely stunning strike.

  1. Eleven millimeters

Let’s set the scene: Unbeaten Liverpool has a chance to put Man City in its rear view mirror at the Etihad Stadium when Sadio Mane beats the keeper and hits the post. City center back John Stones‘ effort to clear the ball hits his keeper Ederson, and the Englishman does this en route to City’s 2-1 defeat of the Reds.

Ranking top 10 Premier League players at each position

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There are 25 players in each Premier League squad, but who not only starred for their respective clubs but also elevated themselves to the upper echelons of the league this season?

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

We pondered that as we analyzed those who rose to the challenge best over the past nine months.

Below is a look at our complete list of the top 10 players in each position based on their play during the 2018-19 campaign.


Goalkeepers
1. Ederson
2. Alisson
3. David De Gea
4. Kepa
5. Ben Foster
6. Lukasz Fabianski
7. Hugo Lloris
8. Jordan Pickford
9. Rui Patricio
10. Martin Dubravka


Right backs
1. Trent Alexander-Arnold
2. Matt Doherty
3. Aaron Wan-Bissaka
4. Cesar Azpilicueta
5. Ricardo Perreira
6. Kyle Walker
7. Seamus Coleman
8. Kiko Femenia
9. Pablo Zabaleta
10. Yan Valery


Left backs
1. Andrew Robertson
2. Lucas Digne
3. Ben Chilwell
4. Luke Shaw
5. Jonny Otto
6. Patrick Van Aanholt
7. Ben Davies
8. Nacho Monreal
9. Jose Holebas
10. Emerson Palmeri


Center backs
1. Virgil Van Dijk
2. Aymeric Laporte
3. Toby Alderweireld
4. Jan Vertonghen
5. Vincent Kompany
6. Sokratis
7. Antonio Rudiger
8. Conor Coady
9. Michael Keane
10. Issa Diop


Central midfielders
1. Fernandinho
2. Joao Moutinho
3. Moussa Sissoko
4. David Silva
5. Jordan Henderson
6. Andre Gomes
7. Abdoulaye Doucoure
8. Fabinho
9. N'Golo Kante
10. Youri Tielemans


Attacking midfielders
1. Eden Hazard
2. Bernardo Silva
3. Kevin De Bruyne
4. Christian Eriksen
5. Gerard Deulofeu
6. Dele Alli
7. James Maddison
8. Gylfi Sigurdsson
9. Paul Pogba
10. Diogo Jota


Wingers
1. Raheem Sterling
2. Bernardo Silva
3. Sadio Mane
4. Mohamed Salah
5. Wilfried Zaha
6. Ryan Fraser
7. Pedro
8. Ryan Babel
9. David Brooks
10. Nathan Redmond


Strikers
1. Sergio Aguero
2. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
3. Harry Kane
4. Roberto Firmino
5. Alexandre Lacazette
6. Raul Jimenez
7. Heung-Min Son
8. Jamie Vardy
9. Marcus Rashford
10. Salomon Rondon


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.