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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.

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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.

Ayew the hero for Palace against Watford

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Crystal Palace beat Watford 1-0 at Selhurst Park on Saturday in a tight, feisty clash between two teams who know each other very well.

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Jordan Ayew was once again the hero for Crystal Palace as he rifled home a fine goal in the first half and Roy Hodgson‘s side held on for the all three points thanks to a third-straight shutout and 1-0 win. Nigel Pearson‘s Watford huffed and puffed but remain in the relegation scrap after they failed to build on their incredible win against Liverpool last weekend.

With the win Palace move into 10th place and have 40 points, as they are just five points off the top four. Watford remain in 17th place and only out of the relegation zone on goal difference.


3 things we learned

1. Ayew having a sneaky good season: Eight goals in the Premier League is his best-ever return and Ayew has been so important to Palace, especially with Wilfried Zaha not hitting top form week in, week out this season. Ayew isn’t the most natural finisher in the world but he works hard and is taking a lot of the chances Palace create for him. He has now scored one goal on eight occasions this season and on each occasion he has scored Palace are unbeaten with six wins and two draws.

2. Watford’s inconsistency infuriating: They have now beat Liverpool, Wolves and Man United since Nigel Pearson arrived but are still in the thick of the relegation battle. Nigel Pearson’s Watford just can’t string together a run of wins against teams just above them.

3. Hodgson underrated: The 72-year-old Palace coach has led them to 11th and 12th place finishes in the last two seasons and they are now 10th. Does he get the credit he deserves? Probably not. Hodgson signed a one-year contract extension this week and after not being given funds to strengthen in January and after Aaron Wan-Bissaka was sold in the summer, you have to applaud the job he has done. What you see is what you get with Hodgson. His teams are organized and grind out wins. Palace may not be the best team to watch but they are getting it done.

Man of the Match: Christian Benteke – So often a scapegoat, the center forward held the ball up, almost scored with an acrobatic effort and brought out the best in Ayew and Zaha around him. Benteke gets plenty of stick but he is finally playing regularly and even if the goals aren’t flowing he provides a focal point to Palace’s attack.


Abdoulaye Doucoure almost squeezed home a shot at the near post early on and from a corner soon after Watford caused all kinds of problems but Crystal Palace cleared.

Will Hughes then dragged a shot wide as Watford came flying out of the traps and were obviously buoyed by their win against Liverpool.

Palace then took the lead with a superb goal as Ayew smashed home from the edge of the box after a lovely flowing move down the left which saw Zaha play in Benteke who found James McArthur to assist Ayew.

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The game was very feisty with plenty of flash points, most involving Wilfried Zaha, as Watford and Etienne Capoue in particular targeted the Palace winger.

Zaha responded by going on a mazy run and forced Ben Foster into a fine stop down low as Watford’s goalkeeper stood tall.

Troy Deeney forced Vicente Guaita into a fine stop after his powerful effort from outside the box, then Christian Benteke sent one of his trademark acrobatic efforts inches wide.

WATCH: Ayew scores pretty goal to give Crystal Palace the lead

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Jordan Ayew is having one heck of a season.

The Ghanaian scored a beauty on Saturday to give Crystal Palace a 1-0 lead over Watford at Selhurst Park, making a bit of personal history in the process.

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The goal is his eighth of the Premier League season, a single-season high since he arrived from Lorient. He scored a career-best 12 with the Ligue 1 outfit in 2014/15.

Ayew had scored seven twice, once for Aston Villa and once for Swansea City.

Ayew’s work was pretty stuff, as he dug a ball out from his feet to lash a shot past Watford stalwart Ben Foster.

Hodgson signs contract extension at Crystal Palace

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Roy Hodgson will remain in charge at Crystal Palace through the end of the 2020-21 season after signing a contract extension.

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Hodgson, 72, has now been in charge at Selhurst Park since September 2017 and has turned the Eagles into a steady midtable team in the Premier League with 11th and 12th place finishes in the last two seasons.

The former Liverpool, Fulham, West Brom and England manager (not including many other stops on his incredible managerial career) was delighted to commit to Palace for another season.

“I am delighted that the club and I have reached agreement to extend my contract. I am proud of what we have achieved since I was appointed two and a half years ago, and I look forward to us working together for the foreseeable future. Everyone knows how I feel about the club that I supported as a boy, I feel a special bond with the supporters and know that myself, the owners and the players are all working together to achieve the same goal,” Hodgson said.

That final sentence is key as Hodgson has been open and honest in recent interviews about not quite knowing what the direction of the club is.

Palace haven’t spent big in the last few transfer windows and only gave Hodgson loan deals to work with in January when he wanted big spending, but he will get to bolster the squad in the summer. Keeping hold of Wilfried Zaha has been key, especially after selling Aaron Wan-Bissaka last summer for $57 million, but now Palace need to invest in a striker to hell Zaha and Jordan Ayew lead their charge.

Solid defensively and a threat on the counter attack and from set pieces, you know exactly what you’re getting from Palace and Hodgson. That’s why this partnership works so well and why they’ve decided to extend it for another season, at least.

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.

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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