Emiliano Sala

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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.

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.

Warnock, Cardiff City react after relegation confirmed

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Cardiff City’s stay in the Premier League was a brief one — just one season — as the Bluebirds’ inevitable fate was sealed on Saturday: relegation back to the EFL Championship.

[ MORE: Liverpool survive Newcastle scare to take PL title race to final day ]

Manager Neil Warnock was quick to put the club’s current situation in perspective, taking one last opportunity to remember Emiliano Sala and what it means to suffer through a real tragedy — quotes from the BBC:

“We worked really hard for two months to get the lad signed, that puts it into perspective — yes, we’ve got relegated, but life is far more important.

“You can’t plan for something like that and I didn’t think it would affect the players in the way it did.

“I did think he would score 10 or 15 goals, he was the type we needed. It wasn’t to be.”

“The fans knew when I took over the club was in a mess, it’s been reborn – everybody is singing from the same hymn sheet.

“They know we’ve given it our best. We had some great chances in the second half.

“The Chelsea result killed us, that night in the dressing room. It was really low that night, they have kept fighting so I have no complaints.

“The problems we have had to put up with throughout the season, I have nothing but praise for everybody. It makes such a difference when you hear the crowd.”

It remains to be seen whether or not Warnock, something of a promotion specialist throughout his career, will stick around the Cardiff City Stadium and chase a return to the PL at the first time of asking.

[ MORE: Cardiff City relegated from the Premier League ]

Captain Sean Morrison is undoubtedly feeling the pain of being relegated, but the 28-year-old whose been at the club since 2014 is hopeful of a quick return.

“We always felt we had a chance but it just wasn’t to be today, another day a couple of them would go in but it’s been like that all season – it just hasn’t been our year.

“We would’ve loved to have taken it to the last day. We’ve fallen short today and over the season and we’re relegated because we didn’t do enough over the year. We’ve lacked a bit of quality but we’ve always bounced back. Hopefully we can bounce back again.

“The fans have been incredible, every year gets better and better, they’re as proud of us as I am and they can see the effort we’ve put in. I’m sure they’re disappointed but to hear them cheering like that is nice to hear.”

Warnock admits tactics wrong; mourns loss of Sala

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Neil Warnock held up his hands after Cardiff City lost 1-0 at Fulham on Saturday to move them closer to relegation in the Premier League.

Cardiff’s manager admitted he set his team up to be too defensive, as they sat back for most of the game, then launched a furious onslaught on the Fulham goal late on and almost scored on four occasions.

Speaking after the game, Warnock isn’t giving up hope despite his side being at least three points from safety with two games of the season to go.

“It is disappointing, The team selection was wrong, I should have changed it earlier, but they have tried hard, I can not fault them, we are not out of it yet,” Warnock said. “We still had enough opportunities, on another day we could have scored two or three goals. We could not get it in at the end. I always thought this was a must win game, but you just don’t know in football.”

Warnock’s men hit the crossbar and missed several glorious chances late in the game as Fulham goalkeeper Sergio Rico made a couple of fine saves, but it was more about the poor finishing from Cardiff.

After the tragic plane crash which killed club-record $19 million signing Emiliano Sala in January without him playing a game for the club, Warnock pointed to the fact that the Argentine striker would have added 10 goals in the second half of the campaign.

“You see the chances, we should score some of those chances. You pay for your finishers in this league, we have never been blessed with that,” Warnock said. “Emiliano Sala would have been that and that was a big blow… I was over the moon to get him and he could have scored 10 goals for the rest of the season on his own.”

Cardiff are still in with a chance, but it’s a very slim one as they host Crystal Palace next weekend and then travel to Manchester United on the final day of the season.

Warnock’s side will have to win both to have a realistic chance, but Brighton do have Arsenal and Man City to play in their final two games.

Premier League Club Power Rankings: Week 34

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We’re one week away from all Premier League clubs sitting on equal footing in terms of matches played, and may then have a true tale of favor in the battles for 17th place, seventh, and first.

[ MORE: Klopp on Messi match-up ]

But until then, we power rank.


20. Huddersfield Town — It’s a slow death followed by a long funeral procession, this one.
Last week: 20
Season high: 16
Season low: 20

19. Fulham — Showed enough quality to comfortably beat Everton, but how many players will stay at Craven Cottage through relegation?
Last week: 19
Season high: 11
Season low: 20

18. Cardiff City — The defeat of Brighton combined with the Seagulls’ diving form has Neil Warnock‘s men dreaming of safety; In a season with so many setbacks and the tragedy of Emiliano Sala, a place in the top flight for 2019-20 would be an immense achievement.
Last week: 18
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

17. Brighton and Hove Albion — What’s happened here? Points are going to be hard to come by the rest of the way, and Chris Hughton‘s men are in real trouble.
Last week: 17
Season high: 9
Season low: 19

16. Bournemouth — Had to feel good to hang five on Brighton, but the Cherries feel like they’ve hit their heights. Will Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson last the summer?
Last week: 16
Season high: 6
Season low: 14

15. Newcastle United — Rafa Benitez deserves a raise and a real transfer budget. At almost any other club, he’d get both without a debate. But…
Last week: 14
Season high: 11
Season low: 19

14. Southampton — Ralph Hasenhuttl admits that Saints have to be a developmental club, but he’s getting a heck of a lot of performance from such a unit.
Last week: 15
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

13. Crystal Palace — Nearly managed another notable result against Man City.
Last week: 12
Season high: 6
Season low: 17

12. West Ham United — Badly need a summer of rest and rejuvenation. Next season should be a legit Top Seven campaign.
Last week: 11
Season high: 6
Season low: 20

11. Burnley *New season high* The Clarets safety again underscores the import of Sean Dyche as a tiny club continues to grow in stability. 
Last week: 13
Season high: 11
Season low: 20

10. Leicester City — Losing to Newcastle at the King Power Stadium is a reminder that the style may look a little different under Brendan Rodgers, but it’s no surprise to many that simply changing managers won’t turn the Foxes back into a top contender. Wake us when you see a result Claude Puel was incapable of delivering. Remember: Puel helped Leicester beat Chelsea and Man City.
Last week: 9
Season high: 7
Season low: 13

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

9. Wolves — 
Last week: 6
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

8. Everton
Last week: 8
Season high: 5
Season low: 15

7. Watford — Performed admirably with 10 men against Arsenal, but it’s also hilarious the hoops people are jumping through the excuse Troy Deeney‘s shot at Lucas Torreira.
Last week: 9
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

6. Manchester United — A win at Goodison would sure soothe the nerves of those wondering about that full-time appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Last week: 7
Season high: 3
Season low: 14

5. Chelsea — The Blues have a weekend to recover from Thursday’s Europa League second leg versus Slavia Prague before meeting in-form Burnley at Stamford Bridge.
Last week: 3
Season high: 1
Season low: 7

4. Arsenal — Navigating Napoli with some early certainly would be huge given two league matches by Wednesday.
Last week: 5
Season high: 2
Season low: 9

3. Spurs — Forget that Spurs advanced in the Champions League on aggregate: Can Mauricio Pochettino‘s men put in a better defensive shift versus Man City than the 4-3 loss at midweek when the two sides renew acquaintances in Manchester?
Last week: 4
Season high: 2
Season low: 8

2. Liverpool — The dream of a double more impressive than Man City’s is very real.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 4

  1. Manchester City — How does one rebound from Wednesday? Just how? Still the top dog in our rankings, but only just because getting six points from six against Spurs and Manchester United in under a week is a massive ask.
    Last week: 1
    Season high: 1
    Season low: 3