Nigel Pearson

Simulating the 2019/20 Premier League finish

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April 30, am I right?

The Premier League season piledrives forward from August until May most seasons. The pause in this, due to the coronavirus, has left us looking for matches.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

With Liverpool so close to its first Premier League title, uneven giants battling for European places, and three clubs tied for 18th place on the table, well, we needed somewhere to turn.

We went with FIFA20 to see how the table will play out, who will claim the FA Cup, and which Premier League sides might thrive in the Champions League and Europa League.

Let’s follow the path, starting with two postponed matches.

Postponed matches: City pulls back within 22 points of Liverpool, as Mikel Arteta doesn’t come close to outfoxing his old boss Pep Guardiola. Meanwhile, Mbwana Samatta strikes late to steal a point for Villa and pull them within a point of West Ham, Watford, and Bournemouth.

Man City 4-1 Arsenal
Villa 1-1 Sheffield United

Matchday 30: A historic kind of day, as Man City is the only host to win a match. Spurs’ Jose Mourinho gets a draw versus Man Utd, while Liverpool crushes Everton behind a Sadio Mane hat trick.

Norwich City 0-0 Saints
West Ham 0-1 Wolves
Bournemouth 2-2 Palace
Brighton 1-2 Arsenal
Everton 1-3 Liverpool
Spurs 1-1 Man Utd
Villa 0-2 Chelsea
Watford 1-2 Leicester City
Newcastle 1-1 Sheffield United
Man City 2-0 Burnley

Matchday 31: Arsenal moves four points clear of Spurs, who fall to an inspired West Ham. The Irons pull out of the drop zone… for good.

Newcastle 2-0 Villa
Burnley 0-0 Watford
Wolves 2-1 Bournemouth
Liverpool 2-0 Palace
Leicester City 3-0 Brighton
Norwich City 1-1 Everton
Spurs 0-2 West Ham
Southampton 1-3 Arsenal
Man Utd 3-0 Sheff Utd
Chelsea 2-4 Man City

Matchday 32: Liverpool wins the league in stunning style. A draw is all the Reds need to take the trophy. Raheem Sterling gives City a 1-0 lead in the first half, only to see a Trent Alexander-Arnold free kick supply the league-winning point.

Nigel Pearson‘s Hornets move out of the drop zone with 31 points.

West Ham 1-2 Chelsea
Arsenal 4-1 Norwich
Everton 1-0 Leicester City
Palace 2-0 Burnley
Brighton 1-5 Man Utd
Bournemouth 0-3 Newcastle
Watford 2-1 Saints
Man City 1-1 Liverpool
Sheffield United 1-2 Spurs
Villa 0-4 Wolves

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images,)

Matchday 33: Norwich City gets within a win of Brighton by beating them at home behind an Emi Buendia penalty. Arsenal draws Wolves to pull within three points of the top five.

Burnley 2-1 Sheff Utd
Leicester City 2-2 Palace
Saints 1-5 Man City
Spurs 0-3 Everton
Wolves 1-1 Arsenal
Liverpool 4-0 Villa
Norwich 2-1 Brighton
Newcastle 2-2 West Ham
Man Utd 0-0 Bournemouth
Chelsea 4-0 Watford

Matchday 34: It’s getting congested in the top four, with third-place Leicester winless in four following a loss at Arsenal. Palace draws Chelsea, allowing victorious Wolves and Manchester United to pull within two points of fourth.

Norwich City wins again, passing Aston Villa and joining 18th-place Brighton on 29 points.

Sheffield United 0-2 Wolves
Watford 1-2 Norwich City
West Ham 4-1 Burnley
Bournemouth 2-0 Spurs
Everton 2-2 Saints
Man City 3-1 Newcastle
Palace 0-0 Chelsea
Arsenal 1-0 Leicester City
Brighton 0-2 Liverpool
Villa 0-2 Man Utd

Matchday 35: Sheffield United snaps a four-match losing streak with a draw against Chelsea, but the top seven hopes are dead.

Burnley takes a point at Anfield as City moves back within 20 of the Reds.

Brighton 1-4 Man City
Norwich City 1-2 West Ham
Villa 1-1 Palace
Watford 2-3 Newcastle
Wolves 2-1 Everton
Spurs 0-2 Arsenal
Sheffield United 1-1 Chelsea
Bournemouth 1-2 Leicester City
Man Utd 2-1 Southampton
Liverpool 1-1 Burnley

Matchday 36: Villa surprises Everton to move within a result of safety in a five-horse race to avoid the drop. Chelsea, Manchester United, and Wolves all win to hit the 62-point mark, two back of third-place Leicester City.

Leicester City 0-0 Sheffield United
Arsenal 0-1 Liverpool
Everton 1-2 Villa
Man City 3-0 Bournemouth
Newcastle 0-4 Spurs
Burnley 0-2 Wolves
Chelsea 3-0 Norwich City
West Ham 2-0 Watford
Palace 0-2 Man Utd
Saints 1-1 Brighton

Matchday 37: All of the top five combatants stumble except Wolves, who jump into third with a win over Crystal Palace at the Molineux.

Spurs 2-0 Leicester City
Wolves 2-0 Palace
Brighton 0-4 Newcastle
Bournemouth 0-3 Southampton
Villa 0-3 Arsenal
Sheffield United 0-3 Everton
Norwich City 0-2 Burnley
Man Utd 1-1 West Ham
Watford 1-3 Man City
Liverpool 2-0 Chelsea

Matchday 38: Talk about a dramatic final day, all things considered!

Manchester United gets a leaping Bruno Fernandes penalty to send Leicester City tumbling into sixth despite most of the season in the top three! The Red Devils climb into third because of what happens at Stamford Bridge.

Hosts Chelsea need a win over Wolves to take back fourth, as the visitors enter the day three points ahead with a one-goal advantage in differential. Christian Pulisic sets up a Willian winner to give Chelsea fourth by virtue of total wins (19).

Liverpool takes the league with a 2-0 defeat of Newcastle at St. James’ Park, completing the season with a 20-point advantage on Man City. Arsenal completes the European picture, havng been settled in seventh for some time.

The relegation scene is pretty nuts, with five teams finishing the day within three points of the bottom. All five lose, with Bournemouth and Watford staying up despite season-ending losing streaks. Nigel Pearson’s Hornets finish the season with 31 points, the same total they had after Matchday 32.

Arsenal 3-0 Watford
Burnley 2-1 Brighton
Chelsea 1-0 Wolves
Palace 2-1 Spurs
Everton 3-0 Bournemouth
Leicester City 0-1 Man Utd
Man City 1-0 Norwich City
Newcastle 0-2 Liverpool
Saints 3-1 Sheffield United
West Ham 3-1 Villa

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

STANDINGS

  1. Liverpool — 105 points (UCL)
  2. Man City — 85 points
  3. Man Utd — 66 points (UCL)
  4. Chelsea — 65 points (UCL)
  5. Wolves — 65 points (UCL)
  6. Leicester City — 64 points. (UEL)
  7. Arsenal — 62 points (UEL)
  8. Spurs — 51 points (UEL)
  9. Everton — 51 points
  10. Burnley — 50 points
  11. Crystal Palace — 49 points
  12. Newcastle United — 49 points
  13. Sheffield United — 47 points
  14. West Ham United — 44 points
  15. Southampton — 43 points
  16. Bournemouth — 32 points
  17. Watford — 31 points
  18. Brighton and Hove Albion — 30 points
  19. Aston Villa — 30 points
  20. Norwich City –29 points

FA Cup: A Manchester derby ends 4-0 to City, Leroy Sane scoring twice to join Gabriel Jesus and Aymeric Laporte on the score sheet. Two assists each for Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez.

Europa League: Manchester United gave Roma permission to use loanee Chris Smalling, and the defender powers a 13th-minute header home that stands until Anthony Martial delivers a goal three minutes from time. David De Gea is the star in penalty kicks, as United wins 4-3.

UEFA Champions League:  Pep Guardiola leads Man City into its final UCL game for two seasons, and it’s against his old pals Barcelona. Quique Setien’s side flusters City’s attack, and Lionel Messi wins it at the hour mark for the Blaugranas.

Watford’s Pearson slams PM’s ‘lack of leadership’ on coronavirus

Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images
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Watford manager Nigel Pearson has slammed UK prime minister Boris Johnson over what he deems a “lack of leadership” regarding his handling of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which nearly led to Premier League fixtures — along with those of various levels of British soccer — to be played this weekend.

[ MORE: Klopp on PL suspension: “We must protect one another” ]

“I heard one of the statements from the prime minister last night talking about listening, and that the decisions would be based on science and that there’s not necessarily a greater risk with people being together at sporting venues. If that’s based on science, fine, but that doesn’t necessarily make sense to me.

“I wouldn’t want our fans to be going into a situation where they are fearful of contracting something that could possibly affect either themselves or a member of their family.”

“We’ve had players, as most clubs will have done, who have had symptoms of not being well. We’ve had players experiencing illness this week, who have stayed at home.

“We had somebody with a chest infection, somebody with an upset stomach and players who have shown flu-like symptoms. We’ve got one player awaiting tests results on his symptoms.”

A large number of the UK’s soccer leagues intended to go ahead with fixtures as scheduled this weekend — some with empty stadiums, but many with thousands of fans in attendance — on the basis that “the guidance from the relevant authorities remains that there is no medical rationale to close or cancel sporting events at this time,” per a(n early) Thursday statement from the English Football League (EFL).

[ MORE: UEFA postpones Champions League, Europa League fixtures ]

The PL released its own statement, much to the same effect, on Thursday: “Following the latest update from Government issued this afternoon, all Premier League matches will go ahead as scheduled this weekend.”

That statement was quickly backtracked when it was revealed that Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta had tested positive for the virus, less than 60 minutes after the PL’s statement. News regarding Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi quickly followed in the same vein, just three hours later.

The sensible decision — to postpone the highest levels of British soccer — was, to Pearson’s overall point, made on Friday. The fact that sporting officials have been forced to take the lead, ahead of government officials from numerous countries around the world, and institute a period of social isolation also speaks to Pearson’s frustration.

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 29

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Roy Hodgson‘s got the Eagles flying up our PL power rankings.

Crystal Palace keeps finding ways to win, and Hodgson’s men are rising up the list as notable sides Spurs and Everton falter at the start of the stretch run.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]


20. Norwich City — A Saints visit presents a rare opening for the Canaries.
Last week: 20
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 1-0 at Sheffield United
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Saturday v. Southampton

19. Aston Villa — Take away Tyrone Mings, and Villa’s defense reminds me of McBain’s goggles.
Last week: 19
Season high: 6
Season low: 19
Last match: Lost 4-0 at Leicester City
Up next: 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. Chelsea

18. Bournemouth — Gotta build off the performance at Liverpool, but Palace has looked good lately.
Last week: 18
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Liverpool
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Saturday v. Palace

17. Watford — Can Nigel Pearson take advantage of his former side?
Last week: 17
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 1-0 at Crystal Palace
Up next: 8:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Leicester City

16. West Ham United — Home field is about all the Irons have going for them versus Wolves (aside from Wolves’ penchant to sleep a bit versus lower-half sides).
Last week: 14
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 1-0 at Arsenal
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Sunday v. Wolves

15. Brighton and Hove Albion — Running out of time and opportunity.
Last week: 15
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Drew 0-0 at Wolves
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Saturday v. Arsenal

14. Southampton — Still almost got a point despite an early red card versus Newcastle.
Last week: 12
Season high: 7
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 1-0 v. Newcastle
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Saturday at Norwich City

13. Newcastle United — The Magpies faithful deserves a player like Allan Saint-Maximin.
Last week: 16
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 1-0 at Southampton
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Saturday v. Sheffield United

12. Everton — What was that, Carlo? Suddenly a head-scratching winless in three.
Last week: 6
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Lost 4-0 at Chelsea
Up next: 4 p.m. ET Monday v. Liverpool

11. Tottenham Hotspur — Pretty sure everyone near Spurs wants this season to be over already.
Last week: 5
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Burnley
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday v. Man Utd

10. Sheffield United — Chris Wilder‘s men will want a measure of revenge from Saturday’s trip to the Northeast. Play to the whistle, Blades.
Last week: 11
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 1-0 v. Norwich City
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Saturday at Newcastle

9. Burnley — Steadily hanging around the UEL race.
Last week: 10
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Spurs
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Saturday at Man City

8. Crystal Palace — Three-straight 1-0 wins and the fixtures will get dicey after Saturday’s trip to the Vitality Stadium.
Last week: 13
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Won 1-0 v. Watford
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Saturday at Bournemouth

7. Arsenal — Don’t sleep on the Gunners and the top four.
Last week: 9
Season high: 4
Season low: 13
Last match: Won 1-0 v. West Ham
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Saturday at Brighton

6. Leicester City — Grateful for their fixture list. Harvey Barnes has pure star quality.
Last week: 8
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 4-0 v. Aston Villa
Up next: 8:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Watford

5. Wolves — May look at the Brighton draw as the result that kept them out of the UCL.
Last week: 3
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 0-0 v. Brighton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Sunday at West Ham

4. Chelsea — A really nice win over Everton after an FA Cup ouster of Liverpool. Has Frank Lampard refound his footing?
Last week: 4
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Won 4-0 v. Everton
Up next: 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Aston Villa

3. Manchester United — Unbeaten in 10 and Paul Pogba‘s gonna be back soon enough. Can hardly wait to see if he works well with Bruno Fernandes.
Last week: 7
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Man City
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday at Spurs

2. Manchester City — Can Pep Guardiola‘s men reclaim form ahead of second leg versus Real Madrid?
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 6
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Man Utd
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Saturday v. Burnley

1. Liverpool — Title incoming.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Bournemouth
Up next: 4 p.m. ET Monday at Everton

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.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

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.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

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.

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.