Jannik Vestergaard

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Premier League Preview: Southampton v. Watford

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  • Southampton sit in 19th place, with nine points
  • Watford is right behind the Saints, in dead-last with eight points
  • Southampton has still not won at home this season
  • While Watford has already replaced its manager, Southampton has still held onto Ralph Hassenhuttl. 

It’s a proverbial relegation six-pointer as Southampton hosts Watford in a match broadcast live over the air across the U.S. (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and NBCSports.com).

The Saints have fared somewhat better – all in all – since the 9-0 thrashing to Leicester City at home, and arguably should have picked up a crucial three points at Arsenal last week. However, Ralph Hassenhuttl desperately needs three points on Saturday with Watford coming to town.

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On November 8, Watford picked up on its first Premier League win (2-0 over Norwich City) under Quique Sanchez Flores since he returned to the club in September and could jump over Southampton in the standings with a road win. History isn’t necessarily on either team’s side heading into this encounter. Both teams have finished with a 1-1 draw in the last three matches between these two teams, with Watford coming back to tie the game in all of them.

Sanchez Flores has also had to deflect reports in the media that he could be sacked again by the Pozzo family, which owns Watford, since the team has barely improved since he took charge. Should Watford lose again, his fate could be decided on Monday morning.

Injuries/suspensions

Southampton: OUT – Stuart Armstrong (hamstring); DOUBTFUL – Sofiane Boufal (toe); PROBABLE – Jannik Vestergaard (illness)

Watford: OUT – Craig Dawson (head), Christian Kabasele (hamstring), Daryl Janmaat (knee), Tom Cleverley (heel), Danny Welbeck (hamstring) and Sebastian Prodl (knee); DOUBTFUL – Roberto Pereyra, Daniel Bachmann (both hamstring), Domingos Quina (groin)


Projected lineups

Southampton: McCarthy – Soares, Stephens, Bednarik, Bertrand – Valery, Højbjerg, Ward-Prowse, Redmond – Ings, Long

Watford: Foster – Femenia, Mariappa, Dawson, Cathcart, Holebas – Hughes, Capoue, Doucoure – Sarr, Gray, Deulofeu


What they’re saying

Ralph Hassenhuttl on what Southampton took from its 2-2 draw: “Every game in the Premier League is a tough one. You have to put everything on the pitch to get something and this is what we know and it’s good now that we have found back a little bit of self-confidence. This is very important for us and that gives us a lift, absolutely, and we need this lift that we can put it on the pitch from the first moment on, that we can invest a little bit for the fans and for the crowd, and they help us then – creating chances, showing that we are on the front foot and then we need the crowd to support us, because we must turn the table at home.”

Sanchez Flores on a 6-point match against Southampton: “It could be [a turning point], for us it’s a long time saying it’s finals and finals and finals. We are preparing finals but when you play finals I know what it means. When you prepare finals you need to reduce mistakes. We know they are dangerous, they have very quick players, good players in the midfield, strong defenders. But we have our players too, we have things we want to do. It should be even, like every single match in the Premier League.”


Prediction

Both teams desperately need a win. So of course, they’ll find a way to draw. In the breezy south coast of England, long balls will go wayward and the team which can move the ball on the ground best will control the match. Ultimately, neither team has proven it is good enough to win this match, but Saturday can be a chance to turn it all around.

Southampton 1-1 Watford

Man City comes back to beat Southampton

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Sergio Aguero and Kyle Walker scored in the final 20 minutes to rescue a 2-1 home win over Southampton on Saturday at a rain-soaked Etihad Stadium.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

James Ward-Prowse scored early for Saints, who looked better fit for battle. They remain in the drop zone with 8 points.

City’s 25 points are still six points back of Liverpool, who grabbed a stoppage time winner at Aston Villa.


Three things we learned

1. Ederson not perfect: It took plenty of rain for it to happen, but Man City goalkeeper Ederson made a rare error to put his team down early. Stuart Armstrong‘s bounding shot from distance didn’t have a ton of venom, but enough to provide a rebound for a prowling James Ward-Prowse to deposit.

2. Trailing, Guardiola turns to Aguero and Jesus: The Man City mastermind rarely plays Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero at the same time, but felt it was time when his side trailed at the break. Their lack of time together was evident as Aguero tried to set up Jesus in the 59th, and the Brazilian didn’t recognize the signal. Aguero, of course, got the equalizer.

3. Stout Saints make cliche count… for a while: It’s hard to beat the same team twice in a row, and Southampton will made their supporters plenty proud over 180 minutes versus the champs, minutes that followed a 9-0 home drubbing against Leicester City. The aforementioned cliche a saying often uttered in sports circles and an illogical tag we’ll have to put on City’s first 70 minutes. But there was an air of inevitability to Man City finding the winner, which came from a cross despite much success coming via standard Guardiola-inspired incisiveness.

Man of the Match: Aguero, if only for his refusal to quit after producing and missing so many chances. Notable nods to Kevin De Bruyne, Jannik Vestergaard, and Kyle Walker.


Sergio Aguero just missed heading a promising Kevin De Bruyne free kick on target in the 12th minute.

But Saints took the lead when Redmond set up Stuart Armstrong for a low drive which Ederson fumbled in the rain, allowing Ward-Prowse to knife home from in-tight.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg conceded a second dangerous free kick to City, and this 19th minute effort from De Bruyne was blocked by the wall.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Saints held firm against City’s controlling possession, watching Ilkay Gundogan‘s effort bound wide in the 65th as it remained 1-0 to the visitors.

Aguero couldn’t get high enough to push Bernardo Silva’s under the bar in the 67th, and was center stage to rifle a De Bruyne cross between Alex McCarthy‘s legs less than five minutes later.

Saints goalkeeper Alex McCarthy handled a pass back in his box to set up a prime chance for City, but De Bruyne curled wide of the goal.

Aguero couldn’t turn one home in the 83rd, and an ensuing corner turned into another.

Given how often you’ve seen the Argentine’s name in this recap, it was all the more surprising when Walker arrived at the back post to lash home a winner that was far from straight-forward.

Bournemouth picks up first-ever win away to Southampton

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Bournemouth picked up its first-ever victory (16 visits – all competitions) away to Southampton in the Premier League‘s budding south coast rivalry, 3-1 at St. Mary’s Stadium on Friday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Nathan Ake and Harry Wilson got goals for Eddie Howe‘s side during a wonderfully dominant first-half performance before the roles were reversed in the second half. James Ward-Prowse pulled Southampton back to 2-1 not long after halftime and Saints pressed and pressed for an equalizer but ultimately came up empty. To make matters worse, Callum Wilson put the game away on a late Saints howler.


3 things we learned

  1. Slow starts for Saints — Through six games, Saints have conceded the first goal four times. For a team that’s built around the idea of defensive solidity and limiting chances, Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side appears especially limited once forced to change its plan of attack and… well, attack. In the two games they didn’t concede first, two clean sheets and two wins.
  2. Halftime adjustments — Hasenhuttl certainly got his tactics wrong from the start, but whatever was said at halftime made a noticeable difference in the second half. Given loads more freedom to push forward in attack and to win back possession, Southampton made it a game from 45:01 onward.
  3. Making few chances count a lot — Bournemouth needed just six shots to get their two goals. On the other hand, they managed just six shots in 90 minutes. Highly efficient, or lacking in overall production? Both, perhaps?

Man of the Match: Oriol Romeu


Ake put the Cherries ahead in the 10th minute, rising high above the crowd to get his head to Diego Rico‘s corner kick. It was Bournemouth’s fifth goal (of nine scored) from a set piece this season.

It didn’t take long for Bournemouth to easily cut through Saints’ four-man backline — a tactical change from the three-man operation which secured a victory away to Sheffield United last weekend — and put the ball in the back of the net again. Joshua King finished a devastating counter-attack with a sublime finish, only to have the goal taken off the board for being narrowly offside, via video review.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Once again, Bournemouth met little resistance en route to doubling their lead, only this time the goal stood. Philip Billing got to the endline down the left side of Saints’ penalty area and cut the ball back to the penalty spot where Wilson was waiting to sweep it past a helpless Angus Gunn.

Saints were gifted their way back into the game in the 52nd minute, when Steve Cook went straight through Che Adams as Southampton broke down the left side of the box. Ward-Prowse stepped up to the spot and hammered the ball past Aaron Ramsdale to cut the deficit in half.

Saints’ best chance at drawing level came in the 82nd minute, but Ward-Prowse was denied Ramsdale from close range, and though he spilled the rebound in front of goal, Bournemouth were able to clear the ball away in just the nick of time.

Gunn and center back Jannik Vestergaard ran into one another outside the Saints penalty area in the 95th minute, allowing Wilson to pick the ball up and walk it over the end line for the late exclamation point on Bournemouth’s historic night.

Bournemouth’s defensive desperation was such that they attempted just the six shots in the game, including zero between the 38th and 85th minutes. Alas, Saints couldn’t find the equalizer and Bournemouth catapulted all the way up to third in the PL, for the time being.

Premier League player Power Rankings

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The Premier League is back, and Matchweek 5 didn’t disappoint.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

There are plenty of new entries in our first rankings after the international break, with the likes of Norwich, Chelsea and Liverpool well represented throughout our top 20.

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. Tammy Abraham (Chelsea) – Up 4
2.  Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) – Up 2
3. Teemu Pukki (Norwich) – New entry
4. Mason Mount (Chelsea) – New entry
5. Heung-Min Son (Tottenham) – New entry
6. Emiliano Buendia (Norwich) – New entry
7. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – Down 6
8. Gerard Deulofeu (Watford) – New entry
9. Harry Maguire (Man United) – New entry
10. Ibrahim Amadou (Norwich) – New entry
11. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – Down 4
12. Sergio Aguero (Man City) – Down 10
13. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) – Even
14. Moussa Djenepo (Southampton) – New entry
15. Callum Wilson (Bournemouth) – New entry
16. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) – New entry
17. Jannik Vestergaard (Southampton) – Even
18. Fikayo Tomori (Chelsea) – New entry
19. Aaron Ramsdale (Bournemouth) – New entry
20. James Maddison (Leicester) – New entry

Who’s the most irreplaceable player on ‘Big Six’ Premier League sides?

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When Aymeric Laporte was lost for months with a knee injury, there was a fairly standard reaction to the news.

This was the player Manchester City could least afford to lose for a long period of time.

[ MORE: Juve wants De Gea ]

There’s a debate to be had there, and it’s been had plenty, but it has us thinking: Which player is the most indispensable for each of the “Big Six” in their quest for a successful PL season?

It’s going to be a defender heavy list.

Tottenham Hotspur

Tough one, here, and we may be just a few months of consistent performances from changing the answer to Tanguy Ndombele (Yes, he looks that good).

But this one’s down to two players. It’s not a defender, as Spurs have three dynamite center backs and the drop-offs between full backs don’t hold wide-enough margins.

It’s between the Harrys (Harries? Anyway, “Between the Harries” sounds like we just started a new reality show).

Don’t be misled by Spurs’ remarkable job making up for the loss of Harry Kane to injury late last season; the big striker is still on history-making pace for his young-enough career. Since becoming a full-time starter, Kane has 162 goals in 241 matches. Would you believe he’s not 27 until next summer?

Harry Winks is the ball-possessing, clean-passing motor that so many teams crave for their midfield. He’s been a 90-plus percentage passer in every season, and has completed 94 percent this early season. Again, small sample size, but his 75 passes per game trails Nicolas Otamendi, Aymeric Laporte, Granit Xhaka, Paul Pogba, and teammate Toby Alderweireld.

It’s almost a coin flip here. We’re taking Kane, but we’re basing it on a tiebreaker of advanced statistics. Anyone making an argument for the 23-year-old Winks deserves to be heard.

Manchester United

This is perhaps the trickiest call of the bunch.

Anthony Martial has been far and away the most important player to the Red Devils’ early season, sputtering as it may be, but it’s far too soon to say he’s irreplaceable.

Four players have played every minute of the early season: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Paul Pogba, Victor Lindelof, and David De Gea. Both Marcus Rashford and Scott McTominay have nearly played the full 360.

The fact of the matter, and this belies United’s plight, is that United is too thin to have a single player who would hurt the most to lose; Forced to choose one, we’ll say Maguire as he’s the most proven consistent entity of the bunch.

Chelsea

Another tough one, though it seems like it should be an easy one: N’Golo Kante. But he’s still finding his footing under Frank Lampard and last season wasn’t a great one as Maurizio Sarri messed with a great recipe by moving Kante from his role of pure opposition destruction.

Again, Chelsea’s has a good answer in replacement players for any of their stars getting injured; Marcos Alonso is barely playing, same with Michy Batshuayi. Olivier Giroud, Willian, even Pedro.

So while we’d like to make the case for Cesar Azpilicueta, the answer is probably still Kante.

Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Arsenal

The easy answer is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but it is not necessarily the correct answer because of replaceability. If the Gabonese superstar goes down, Unai Emery can still roll out a strike force with Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe.

The Gunners are very thin at center back, but the problem is that the starters aren’t stars.

So we’ll proffer one that’s a bit out of the box: Bernd Leno. The goalkeeper has been pretty darn good considering his team has offered very little resistance to attacks. His back-ups are Emiliano Martinez and Matt Macey. There’s no rule stating one of those two wouldn’t be a good starter, but they have six PL appearances between them (all Martinez).

Liverpool

It’s Virgil Van Dijk.

Mohamed Salah is the straw that stirs the drink, but the Reds have a very good attackers behind him (both young and experienced) and made a run to the Champions League and a record league point total while he was not exactly thriving in form (Salah had a lone goal in an eight-match league run over February and March, and missed the incredible Barcelona comeback with a concussion).

The idea of it being Alisson Becker is interesting, but for Liverpool supporters that is probably fueled more by watching substandard keepers derail their dreams for a couple of years. For a neutral and especially for stat hounds, it’s not as big of a drop to Adrian as it seems (but it’s big).

We may want to revisit this discussion in January regarding Fabinho, but Liverpool is very deep in the midfield, too. It’s Van Dijk, and it’s not close.

Man City

It was a combination of a few things, the first obviously being the players’ quality. The PFA Team of the Year winner helped City lower its goals conceded total in his first full season at the Etihad, as City won almost every competition it entered in 2018-19.

But it was also City’s depth behind Laporte, with Vincent Kompany gone to Anderlecht and the next injury seemingly cueing up Fernandinho or Kyle Walker for center back duty.

An argument could be made for Ederson simply based on the keeper’s quality in possession and shot-stopping alone but no other position, really; City may have had to work harder for the title last season with Kevin De Bruyne injured, but it found an answer largely through Bernardo Silva. Leroy Sane looked like City’s MVP two seasons ago, but Raheem Sterling emerged as the club’s best wide man and there’s some guy named Mahrez behind him.

Laporte, it is (And if you want to really get into the nexus of this article, and why the stats say there is a big drop-off from Laporte to even John Stones, let alone a third wheel, check here. Also, I’ve learned that City fans vastly under-appreciate Otamendi).

Best of the Rest

Less explanation, similar amounts of confidence.

Aston Villa: Jack Grealish
Bournemouth:
Nathan Ake
Brighton and Hove Albion:
Shane Duffy
Burnley:
James Tarkowski
Crystal Palace: Luka Milivojevic
Everton:
Michael Keane
Leicester City:
Wilfred Ndidi
Newcastle United:
Fabian Schar
Norwich City:
Teemu Pukki
Sheffield United:
Dean Henderson
Southampton:
Jannik Vestergaard
Watford:
Abdoulaye Doucoure
West Ham: 
Sebastien Haller
Wolves: Willy Boly