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Barkley sails late penalty, Chelsea falls

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Ross Barkley missed a late penalty as Chelsea lost its UEFA Champions League opener 1-0 to Valencia on Tuesday at Stamford Bridge.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Rodrigo scored the lone goal, and Valencia will be thrilled to collect all three points in London.

Christian Pulisic was an unused sub for Chelsea, who out-attempted Valencia 22-8 on the day.


Three things we learned

1. Pulisic down the pecking order: The American star didn’t start, and wasn’t the first name called when Mason Mount was injured. Granted Pedro played a little deeper, but not a good week for the Hershey-born Pulisic

2. Wide men the danger men: Willian was the likely Man of the Match for Chelsea despite the lack of goals, and full backs Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta were also key to the resutl.

3. Penalty drama: VAR gave Chelsea a chance to level from the spot, but Ross Barkley stepped ahead of Willian and missed the chance. The Brazilian looked aggrieved before and after the miss, and Barkley looked mighty confident right until the moment he missed his shot. Sort yourself out!

Man of the Match: Willian — No wonder he was angry to see Barkley demand the penalty, as a Willian goal would’ve been a fitting result for his clever and industrious day at the office.


Valencia keeper Jasper Cillesen made two stops early, denying Tammy Abraham to concede a corner before collecting a Marcos Alonso header on the ensuing set piece.

Would it be Christian Pulisic time when Mason Mount left the match with injury following a challenge from former Arsenal man Francis Coquelin? Nope. Pedro was called upon to fill the void.

It was a sleepy second half, with Pedro conceding a free kick to Valencia that didn’t amount to anything exciting.

Those who stuck around were rewarded with late drama, as Valencia took the lead through a Rodrigo flick off a free kick.

However, Valencia then had to watch through its fingers as Chelsea was gifted a chance at the spot through VAR when Fikayo Tomori headed a ball off the arm of Daniel Wass.

Willian was upset to see Ross Barkley take the penalty, and the English midfielder probably wishes he let someone else take it after missing over the bar.

Abraham scores hat trick, Chelsea hammer Wolves

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Tammy Abraham scored a hat trick for Chelsea as they battered Wolverhampton Wanderers 5-2 at Molineux on Saturday.

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Chelsea were 3-0 up at the break thanks to a fine strike from Fikayo Tomori, while Abraham grabbed three either side of half time to put the game beyond doubt.

Roman Saiss’ header was knocked in off Abraham to pull one back and Patrick Cutrone made it 4-2 late on, but Chelsea addd a fifth through Mason Mount as he cut inside and curled home.

Chelsea now have their second victory of the season and sit on eight points. Wolves have yet to win any of their five Premier League games.


3 things we learned

1. 3-4-3 formation works well for Chelsea: Frank Lampard‘s Chelsea had been leaking too many goals early in the season and they looked solid and reliable with a three-man central defense. It looks like the switch will stick, for now, and away form home against a very good Wolves team this formation totally nullified the threat of Wolves’ wide players and also supplied Abraham with more support centrally.

2. Wolves’ defensive issues a real concern: Wolves have now conceded seven goals in their last two PL games and the usually dependable Coady and Patricio have been far from solid. Is this a Europa League qualifying hangover? That could be the simple answer here, but Wolves just don’t look as solid and dynamic as they did last season. Nuno Espirito Santo won’t be overly concerned, yet the longer Wolves go without a win, a little pressure will start to build.

3. Abraham taking his chance; Pulisic left out as Englishman lead the way: Abraham has scored seven goals in his last three games and he looks perfect for this Chelsea attack. Mount and Tomori scored the other goals as all 10 of Chelsea’s goals have been scored by Englishman this season. USMNT star Christian Pulisic was an unused sub and after his lackluster displays, he may be out of the starting lineup for a while given this new formation for Chelsea.

Man of the Match: Tammy Abraham – A hat trick says it all, and he has now scored seven goals in his last three Premier League games. That is a wonderful return and Abraham is so sharp in the box and strong in the air, plus his runs behind caused Wolves so many issues. He is getting regular minutes and service, and he has proven he can finish. The youngster has taken his chance.


After a slow start to the game it sprung into life on the half hour mark.

A short corner worked its way to Tomori 35 yards out and the young Chelsea center back curled home a wonderful shot into the top corner to break the deadlock in style.

Moments later Chelsea were 2-0 up as Mount then worked his way into the box and was brought down in the box, but play was waved on and Abraham stroked home to double Chelsea’s lead.

Diogo Jota should have pulled one back for Wolves but then the game was all over.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Abraham nodded Marcos Alonso‘s superb cross home to score his second of the game and make it 3-0 at the break.

At the start of the second half Chelsea put the game beyond doubt as Abraham wrapped up his hat trick in style. The Chelsea youngster turned Conor Coady inside out and smashed home across goal.

Patrick Cutrone almost pulled one back for Wolves but as he slid in he just couldn’t convert Diogo Jota‘s cross into the net.

Saiss then nodded home a corner to make it 4-1, as his header was saved by Kepa but bounced off Abraham and in.

Cutrone then scored his first Premier League goal to make it 4-2, but Chelsea left Wolves with all three points as Mount curled home in stoppage time to seal the win in style.

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

Lampard baffled by Chelsea draw: “It was under control”

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Frank Lampard is having trouble wrapping his mind around Chelsea’s problems getting anything comfortable out of its leads.

The Blues have led in each of their last three matches but taken just five points from Leicester City, Norwich City, and Sheffield United.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 2-2 Sheff Utd ]

On Saturday, Chelsea led 2-0 before drawing the newly-promoted Blades 2-2 at Stamford Bridge.

Lampard mentions the youth of the players, but perhaps should consider the relative inexperience of the manager as his team lost points at home to Sheffield United that  most teams — let alone most contenders — will not. From the BBC:

“It was under control, it is our fault for gifting them a goal in the first minute of the second half. It’s a similar story already. The game should have been comfortable and we have dropped two points. We want to win games, the emergence of youth is one thing but winning games is another. When you are 2-0 up at half-time you should win the game.”

Lampard said there should be “no chance” a game could swing in the way it did, but here Chelsea sits in real danger of being bottom half at the international break.

Lampard’s subs in this match were all focused on scoring goals, not preventing them, with the exception being 18-year-old midfielder Billy Gilmour coming on for 2-goal man Tammy Abraham in the 84th minute. Gilmour was making his PL debut, however.

Chasing the restoration of your 2-goal lead at home is a fair aim, but he finished the game with Andreas Christensen and Marcos Alonso on the bench. Heck, even Olivier Giroud would’ve been an experienced choice over Gilmour (whose debut is terrific and wasn’t at fault for the draw).

Our take: Lampard thought the game was in hand. It obviously wasn’t.

Top 10 Premier League players at each position

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There are 25 players in each Premier League squad, but who will not only star for their respective clubs but also elevate themselves to the upper echelons of the league this season? With the Premier League campaign officially set to begin this week, we continue our look ahead to the upcoming campaign with an overview of the top players at each position across the league.

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Sure to incite debate, these rankings are based on player performance over the past few years for both club and country, with numerical production combined with the eye test.

Below is a look at our complete list of the top 10 players in each position coming into the 2019-20 Premier League season.


Goalkeeper

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

Joel Matip partnered brilliantly with Virgil Van Dijk for much of last season to lead Liverpool at the back (Photo by Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Getty Images).

Center-back

  1. Virgil van Dijk
  2. Aymeric Laporte
  3. Toby Alderweireld
  4. Jan Vertonghen
  5. Harry Maguire
  6. Joe Gomez
  7. Antonio Rudiger
  8. Joel Matip
  9. Conor Coady
  10. Nathan Ake

Right-back

  1. Trent Alexander-Arnold
  2. Kyle Walker
  3. Aaron Wan-Bissaka
  4. Ricardo Pereira
  5. Matt Doherty
  6. Cesar Azpilicueta
  7. Serge Aurier
  8. Kiko Femenia
  9. Max Aarons
  10. Seamus Coleman

Left-back

  1. Andrew Robertson
  2. Lucas Digne
  3. Ben Chilwell
  4. Nacho Monreal
  5. Luke Shaw
  6. Matt Ritchie
  7. Jonny Otto
  8. Patrick Van Aanholt
  9. Benjamin Mendy
  10. Marcos Alonso

It remains to be seen what N’Golo Kante’s role will be under Frank Lampard, but at his best he’s near the top of the game (Photo by Laurens Lindhout/Soccrates/Getty Images).

Central midfield

  1. Fernandinho
  2. Jordan Henderson
  3. N’Golo Kante
  4. Etienne Capoue
  5. Moussa Sissoko
  6. Luka Milivojevic
  7. Rodri
  8. Ruben Neves
  9. Paul Pogba
  10. Abdoulaye Doucoure

Attacking midfield

  1. Kevin De Bruyne
  2. Christian Eriksen
  3. David Silva
  4. Gylfi Sigurdsson
  5. Diogo Jota
  6. Mesut Ozil
  7. Gerard Deulofeu
  8. James Maddison
  9. Dele Alli
  10. David Brooks

Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva provide a deadly one-two punch on the flanks for Manchester City (Photo by Rob Newell – CameraSport via Getty Images).

Winger

  1. Mohamed Salah
  2. Raheem Sterling
  3. Bernardo Silva
  4. Sadio Mane
  5. Heung-Min Son
  6. Wilfried Zaha
  7. Nicolas Pepe
  8. Jesse Lingard
  9. Richarlison
  10. Christian Pulisic

Striker

  1. Sergio Aguero
  2. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
  3. Roberto Firmino
  4. Harry Kane
  5. Raul Jimenez
  6. Jamie Vardy
  7. Alexandre Lacazette
  8. Marcus Rashford
  9. Moise Kean
  10. Sebastian Haller