Ismaila Sarr

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PST Roundtable: PL at the 3/4 mark

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The Premier League season is paused at just more than the three-quarter mark — 76.05 percent, to be a bit more formal — and we’ve got a good handle on who’s good and who isn’t.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

That said, the number also gives an idea of why there’s plenty of possibilities remaining for the table and award winners once the season presumably resumes for the stretch run.

It would be natural to speculate on the front-runners and Championship-bound sides if there were matches this weekend, so why not do it now?

We’ve quizzed our PST staff on a handful of questions in roundtable form, though there was no table and my desk is decidedly rectangular.


Liverpool players have won Player of the Year for the past two seasons despite not winning the league. Are the tables flipped this year? Who is on track for PL Player of the Year?

Joe Prince-WrightKevin De Bruyne should probably win it but I expect Jordan Henderson or Sadio Mane to win it. Liverpool will win the league by a mile and both have been influential. When they’ve been out injured Liverpool have missed them and I’d probably say Mane should win it.

Andy Edwards: This is a weird one, because Liverpool have been so thoroughly outstanding in every way, on every level, that it would be difficult to pick just one of them for Player of the Year. Is Sadio Mane deserving? Sure is. What about Mohamed Salah? Also yes. Virgil Van Dijk? Yet again, yes. Trent Alexander-Arnold? You can make a strong case that he’s perhaps done the most to lift Liverpool another level higher from a “non-traditional” award-winning position. All of that is to say, simply deliver the award to Melwood Training Ground and let the players decide amongst themselves.

Daniel Karell: Remember when the U.S. women’s national team won the 1999 SI Sportsperson of the Year award? I think we’re going to have to do that for Liverpool. While Virgil Van Dijk, Mo Salah, and Sadio Mane would all be worthy of the trophy individually, it’s truly been a team effort this season and the culmination of 5 years of growth, smart transfer dealings, and hard work. Trent Alexander-Arnold has been immense at times, as has Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, and Allison Becker. Ultimately, it’s a bit of a cop-out answer but I think it’s just hard this year to pick just one who has been better. Jamie Vardy currently leads the Premier League in goals, and while he’s been terrific, he hasn’t also been playing in the Champions League like Salah, Mane, and Van Dijk have, for example. 

Kyle Bonn: It has to be Kevin de Bruyne, right? Yea, it does.

Nick Mendola: Kevin De Bruyne and it’s not particularly close. He has a fine chance of setting the league assist record, and he’s two away becoming the only player in the Top Five twice. There are words to be said for Trent Alexander-Arnold, Sadio Mane, Wilfred Ndidi, and Raul Jimenez, but no true decent arguments outside of “it should come from the champion,” which we covered in the question.


Who’s on track for your Best XI?

Joe Prince-Wright: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Maguire, Saka; J. Henderson, Ndidi, De Bruyne; Mane, Firmino, Vardy

Andy Edwards: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Soyuncu, Robertson; Ndidi, Moutinho, De Bruyne; Salah, Jimenez, Mane

Daniel Karell: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Soyuncu, Robertson; De Bruyne, Maddison, Jorginho; Vardy, Aubameyang, Salah

Kyle Bonn: D. Henderson; TAA, Van Dijk, Maguire, Robertson; Ndidi, De Bruyne, J. Henderson, Grealish; Mane, Vardy.

Nick Mendola: Leno; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Soyuncu, Robertson; Ndidi, Rodri, De Bruyne; Salah, Jimenez, Mane.


What’s the best goal you’ve seen this season?

Joe Prince-Wright: I think that has to be Heung-Min Son’s incredible solo goal. Clear winner for Goal of the Season.

Andy Edwards: Heung-min Son’s solo goal versus Burnley

Daniel Karell:  I mean…it’s got to be Heung-min Son against Burnley. Honorable mention though to Kevin de Bruyne vs. Newcastle and Moussa Djenepo vs. Sheffield United.

Kyle Bonn: Three goals so far stand out in my mind: Heung-Min Son’s dizzying run vs. Burnley, Jahanbakhsh’s bike against Chelsea, and Jordan Ayew’s little zig-zag against West Ham. The Spurs’ man’s goal wins for the sheer distance he covered.

Nick Mendola: Son. Solo. Next.


What are your Top 3 moments of the season so far?

Joe Prince-Wright: Woah. What a question. In no particular order: Christian Pulisic’s hat trick for Chelsea v Burnley. Leicester winning 9-0 at Southampton. Liverpool destroying everyone but I particularly enjoyed their 4-0 win at Leicester.

Daniel Karell: The season being postponed for the Coronavirus: Only a global pandemic could upstage the season Liverpool was having. Then Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Man City, which proved that the Reds have fully passed Man City in the pecking order. Finally, I’m biased, but for me it’s the malaise and slide that Arsenal is in. How the mighty have fallen.

Kyle Bonn: Lot to potentially go into the pot here, but the ones that stick out most in my mind are Leicester City demolishing Southampton 9-0, Newcastle ridiculous late 2-2 draw with Everton on Lejeune’s double, and Southampton exacting revenge on Leicester City for the aforementioned demolition with a 2-1 road win. I think Liverpool could potentially have three on here as well, one for the Sadio Mane header against Aston Villa, one for the late Lallana goal against Manchester United to draw, and one for the loss to Watford that ended the unbeaten league season.

Nick Mendola: Two of my three involve the soon-to-be champs, and the first took 24 seconds to reshape the season. It was the time that passed between Trent Alexander-Arnold’s would-be handball penalty for Man City and Fabinho’s rocket to beat Claudio Bravo. ‘Member? Insane. Maybe we should’ve called “Game: Blouses” on the whole season there, citing a season of fate.

The second is Watford’s beatdown of Liverpool to end the Reds’ unbeaten season is here because of its complete nature. The worn-down Reds capitulated to Ismaila Sarr in a way that lives very large.

Third could be anything: Liverpool coming back to beat West Ham. Leicester City hanging nine on Southampton. Hometown kid Matty Longstaff using all five-foot-nothing of his teenage body to piledrive Newcastle past Manchester United on his Premier League debut with his brother next to him in the midfield.

It’s been a season, team.


Grade VAR on a scale of 1-10 (1 being poor and 10 being perfect). What can be changed to make the VAR system more efficient and consistent?

Joe Prince-Wright: I’d give it a 6/10. People forget the small errors which still pop up but a lot of decisions which would have previously been wrong are now correct. I think letting referees use the pitch side monitors will improve the system and the respect for on-field officials. Too much of the control is sent to Stockley Park.

Andy Edwards: 5, dead center of the spectrum. My biggest gripe: it’s been used to micromanage and legislate the smallest of margins far too frequently. We all understand the Laws of the Game are the rules by which the game must be officiated, but what of the Spirit of the Laws of the Game? There must exist a gray area of sorts, as there is with everything in life, where intent and advantage are considered and weighed en route to the final decision. If a player is offside by 2 millimeters, is that an advantage which has a decisive impact in favor of the attacker? In most cases, it’s probably not.

Daniel Karell: 5. It’s decent, but the fact that refs refuse to use the monitors means that they’re just constantly second guessing themselves and it’s affecting how they call games in general. Make a call, and if the VAR says, hey, you might want to look at this, take a look at it to be sure. You can’t go wrong.

Kyle Bonn: VAR so far gets a 4 out of 10 for me. It gets a 3/5 on intent and ability, as the system for the most part has demonstrated the ability to serve as intended when used properly, with a few tweaks necessary such as pitchside monitors and rules like the handball rule needing amending. It gets a 1/5 on execution, with the Premier League struggling mightily to grasp the spirit of the technology. The offside line has done its job, despite the bad publicity, but the “clear & obvious error” has been grossly misinterpreted and calls have been changed or even investigated when not needed.

Nick Mendola: I’m going with five, and it’d be much higher if the PL learned from the NHL’s biggest mistake with replay: offside(s). At least in hockey there’s a blue line to help. The “moment the ball is struck” is such a poor reference point. Let the linespeople live here.


 

BONUS: Who is the best referee in the Premier League and why?

Joe Prince-Wright: Mike Dean because he is not only a pretty fair referee, overall, but he jokes with the players and seems to have their respect. Don’t @ me.

Daniel Karell: I don’t know who the best is, but Mike Dean is towards the bottom.

Kyle Bonn: Mike Dean, because he has supreme control of the pitch and makes the fewest amount of obvious errors.

Nick Mendola: I find Michael Oliver the most consistent.

Deulofeu out for season in massive blow to Watford

Gerard Deulofeu
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As big of a win as Watford’s 3-0 defeat of Liverpool was on Saturday, they suffered a loss of similar magnitude.

Gerard Deulofeu tore a meniscus and ruptured an ACL and will miss the rest of the season and likely the start of next.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

“We wish him all the best, we wish his family well,” said club captain Troy Deeney. “Unfortunately this is the game that we play. It’s going to be a real tough one and we wish him well. I said to him at half-time ‘we’re going to win this for you’, and thankfully we did, thankfully I’m a man of my word.”

Deulofeu had four goals and five assists in just over 2,100 minutes this season, chipping in 1.2 tackles and .9 interceptions per contest.

He’s also averaging 1.6 key passes and 2.2 successful dribbles per game (all stats via WhoScored). Both of those figures are top 20 in the Premier League.

Deulofeu is a huge loss for the Hornets, who will need more magic from Ismaila Sarr and consistency from Roberto Pereyra. Will Hughes has impressed as well but there are few playmakers like Deulofeu in the league, let alone Watford.

The good news is that Watford is currently outside the drop zone on goal differential, and still face five bottom half sides.

Premier League player Power Rankings

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Our latest Premier League player Power Rankings are here and there are new faces pushing their way into the upper echelons.

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Stars from in-form Premier League sides Everton, Man United and Wolves dominate our power rankings after some impressive performances and there are plenty of new entries and plenty of players from the same teams. Due to Man City, Aston Villa, Arsenal and Sheffield United not playing this weekend due to the League Cup final, none of their players feature.

[ MORE: Club Power Rankings

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League. If they didn’t play in the last matchweek, they aren’t getting in this list!

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


1. Ismaila Sarr (Watford) – New entry
2. Matt Doherty (Wolves) – New entry
3. Bruno Fernandes (Man United) – Up 9
4. Raul Jimenez (Wolves) – Up 7
5. Diogo Jota (Wolves) – Down 3
6. Emiliano Buendia (Norwich) – New entry
7. Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton) – New entry
8. Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) – New entry
9. Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford) – New entry
10. Jarrod Bowen (West Ham) – New entry
11. Michail Antonio (West Ham) – New entry
12. Richarlison (Everton) – Down 6
13. Adama Traore (Wolves) – New entry
14. Harry Maguire (Man United) – Up 3
15. Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace) – New entry
16. Martin Dubravka (Newcastle) – Down 1
17. Anthony Martial (Man United) – Down 16
18. Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Man United) – Even
19. Sebastien Haller (West Ham) – New entry
20. Nathan Ake (Bournemouth) – New entry

Watford’s Sarr’s ‘unbelievable talent’ dooms Liverpool’s historic run

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Who would have guessed that Liverpool’s emphatic unbeaten run of 423 days – the second longest ever top-division unbeaten run – would end on a cold, soggy night at Vicarage Road to the dominance of 22-year-old Ismaila Sarr?

[ MORE: Klopp reacts | Social media, too ]

Liverpool remain indisputable favorites to lift the league title, but they will fall short to Arsenal’s Invincibles. Jurgen Klopp‘s men were vulnerable on Saturday. The potent performance put together by Watford will be talked about for years to come. And perhaps no other player on the field came as close to the protagonist role as Sarr.

The winger stood out from the rest, scoring twice before setting up captain Troy Deeney for the third and final goal of the bout. To the BBC:

“Ismaila Sarr is an unbelievable player, unbelievable talent,” Deeney said about his teammate. “He still has a lot to learn, and will continue to learn. But I think it’s a full team performance and a special mention has to go to Gerard Deulofeu as well, it looks like it’s going to be a bad one.”

Sarr, who turned down Barcelona during his career’s infant years, exhibited exactly why that was an option to begin with. The Senegalese was the cog of a well-oiled engined that took care of its chances. There’s no way around it.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

“First of all credit to Watford,” Liverpool’s captain Virgil Van Dijk said following the Reds’ first loss in 45 Premier League matches. “They deserved it. The chances they created they stuck to their plan and I don’t think we created too many big opportunities. We shouldn’t take the credit away from Watford.
“If you concede three goals, that’s something we didn’t have for quite a while. That’s something we have to improve as a team in total and we will. It’s very tough to take this one. The only positive thing is we have an FA Cup game in a couple of days.
“The last game, one set piece, one good goal. Today obviously it should be better. If you look at the whole season we’ve been pretty good defensively. We have the most clean sheets in the league.”
For Nigel Pearson, the win comes at a precious time. The Hornets were on the outside looking in, with a seven-match winless streak behind them heading into Saturday.
In theory, three points in such fashion at home against this Liverpool should taste like silverware to a club flirting with mediocrity like Watford has all season long. In practice, it’s just another vital win for Watford.
“It’s such an important win for us,” he said. “But it is one win. Our season has been tough so far, with losing last week and not playing well, we were keen to get a response.

“They are such an outstanding side, we had to get our performance right – as close to max as possible – and I thought we thoroughly deserved the win. We threatened with the ball and defended with discipline, energy and commitment. That’s been the message from day one.

“It’s in our own hands, and we have to deliver that performance week in, week out.”

And a stellar 90-minute performance from Sarr that will go down in the books for obvious reasons.

Liverpool’s unbeaten run ends in blowout

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Ismaila Sarr and Watford battered sorry Liverpool 3-0 at Vicarage Road on Saturday to stop two key aims of the Reds’ historic season.

The impending Premier League champions will not go down in history as one of England’s only unbeaten teams, and also fall short of setting a new record for consecutive league wins.

The Reds also come five matches short of Arsenal’s record for consecutive unbeaten matches in Premier League history (49).

[ MORE: Klopp reacts | Social media, too ]

Man City and Liverpool will live together (forever?) with 18-consecutive league wins.

Watford needed this win badly, and Nigel Pearson‘s men pull out of the drop zone with 27 points.

Liverpool still leads the league by 22 points over Manchester City.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]


Three Four things we learned

1. A beautiful run ended by a messy performance: The 2019/20 Liverpool team may go down as the best in the history of England and, perhaps, the world. Let’s get that out of the way, as well as this: You’d hate to be on the Reds’ fixture list in the coming weeks.

The Reds had the ball a lot late as Watford closed up shop, but they had little to no foothold in the game from moment No. 1. Outshot 14-7 with just one shot on target, it was the variety of errors that killed them.

Jurgen Klopp‘s men will still win the league, and the manager was classy in greeting Pearson and assistant Shakespeare with a smile and hug before the final whistle. He’s an incredible ambassador for the club, who are still are favorites to have a claim as one of the best teams of all-time. But they won’t go unbeaten. And they’ll (probably) forever share the longest domestic win streak with their era rival. Fitting, fair, but frustrating for the Reds.

2. Let down by the brightest star: In a way befitting the shock of the occasion, the biggest errors of Liverpool’s history-ruining loss came for its best player.

Both Virgil Van Dijk and Andy Robertson were out to lunch as the Reds took the lead, a seemingly harmless ball bouncing over Dejan Lovren to Abdoulaye Doucoure. The Frenchman then got a pass beyond Van Dijk with ease, and Robertson had no handle on Sarr as the winger punched a shot into the back of the goal.

It was even worse for Van Dijk on the second, as he was asleep to Sarr’s danger after a 50-50 battle on the sideline led to a loose ball.

 

3. Sarr the star: Ismaila Sarr had two goals and an assist, but he could’ve scored five as the Reds were wide open and chasing the match. In 79 minutes, the danger man delivered scares across the soon-to-be champs back four. He now has five goals and four assists in his first Premier League season, but few will stand out more than the two and one on Saturday.

4. Dark cloud looms over incredible win: Watford needed this win badly, and it qualifies as a major surprise that the Hornets went on to win after a scary injury to star man Gerard Deulofeu.

The Spaniard has keyed Watford’s run from the depths of the table, and his absence will call into question the club’s hopes of staying in the top flight.

Man of the Match: Sarr.


Gerard Deulofeu had the match’s first chance, dribbling around Trent Alexander-Arnold and Fabinho to fizz a shot wide of the near post.

Watford saw a shot from Deulofeu sail wide, and Fabinho broke up a Will Hughes chance in the 12th minute.

The Hornets continued to threaten against off-kilter Liverpool, with Doucoure and Deulofeu especially busy.

Watford’s heart would’ve sunk when Deulofeu’s leg appeared to lock up in a 50-50 with Virgil van Dijk. He was stretchered off the pitch.

An extraordinary sequence saw Alisson Becker bungle the ball upon Troy Deeney pressure, but Liverpool was able to thwart the chance.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The second half again saw Watford ready to roar, Roberto Pereyra setting up Sarr for a shot that Alisson pushed over the bar.

Moments after Liverpool failed to capitalize on a mess in the Watford box, the Hornets took the lead.

Sarr darted in front of Andy Robertson after Abdoulaye Doucoure got the better of a sleepy Virgil van Dijk.

Van Dijk was asleep again when Deeney belted a ball off the sideline that drifted past him and onto the path of Sarr, who beat Alisson 1v1.

Then came the third, as Sarr raced past the Liverpool back line and this time cued up Deeney for a goal.