Patrice Evra

Top Premier League storylines: Week 10

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Matchweek 10 of the 2019-20 Premier League season sees the games spread across three days

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Below we take a look at the key storylines to keep an eye on across the PL this weekend.


Liverpool and Spurs meet in repeat of UCL final

  • Liverpool v. Tottenham, Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC

Since Liverpool’s narrow win against Tottenham in the UEFA Champions League final in Madrid in June these two teams have headed in very different directions. Spurs have been heading in a downward spiral since January, and heading into this clash Liverpool remain unbeaten this season and top of the PL table. But there have been a few cracks appearing for Jurgen Klopp‘s side as they drew with Man United last time out and have got the rub of the green in recent wins against Sheffield United and Leicester. Spurs haven’t had much luck with injuries, on the pitch and the fact that Mauricio Pochettino seems to be battling against a constant stream of negativity.

Much has been made about several stars soon being out of contract, with the futures of Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderwiereld and Danny Rose still up in the air. Spurs have shown signs of regaining their confidence and they’ve fared well against Liverpool in recent seasons. Harry Kane will need to be at his best in terms of finishing and creating, while Mohamed Salah being back for Liverpool is a big boost as their fluid front three was back to its best at Genk. These teams are heading in two different directions since the dour, tense final in Madrid four months ago. But we can expect a similarly tight encounter at Anfield this Sunday.


Man City hope to cut the gap to three points

  • Manchester City v. Aston Villa, Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Liverpool’s main title rivals, once again, are Man City. The reigning champs showed plenty of grit to win 2-0 at Crystal Palace last time out and they have the chance to momentarily cut Liverpool’s lead atop the table to three points. They host Aston Villa on Saturday, an in-form and dangerous attacking team who have found their feet in the top-flight. Jack Grealish, Wesley and John McGinn will look to create danger for City’s makeshift defense, but we’re not sure how Pep Guardiola will line his defense up after yet another injury. Rodri, playing as an emergency center back, hobbled off in the midweek UCL win against Atalanta and Fernandinho and John Stones are likely to be the center back pairing against Villa. That was a shame as Rodri and Fernandinho had looked comfortable against Palace, albeit against a less than ambitious Palace attack, but whenever Stones or Nicolas Otamendi have played this season, City’s defense looks shaky. In truth, their attacking talents of Sterling, Aguero, De Bruyne and the Silva’s are in form and capable of ripping opponents apart. City will look to score early and break Villa’s resistance as they put a little more pressure on Liverpool ahead of their game against Spurs, and before they host Man City at Anfield on Nov. 10.


Arsenal aim to get back on track, but wary of away day specialists

  • Arsenal v. Crystal Palace, Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Unai Emery and Granit Xhaka have come out in support of Arsenal during the week as pundits (in particular Patrice Evra) have criticized their backbone away from home. The Gunners have won just three of their last 11 Premier League away games and at Sheffield United they were guilty of lacking creativity in attack, being outfought in midfield and showing hesitancy in defense. Not a great combo… The Gunners face a team who love playing away, with Crystal Palace picking up the third-highest number of points on the road since January. Wilfried Zaha is almost back to his best and Roy Hodgson‘s side relish the tag of being the underdog. That is something this Arsenal side first under Arsene Wenger and now under Emery have never seemed capable of grasping. Their star players Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Matteo Guendouzi are trying to hold things together as best as they can, but with criticism of Emery growing, the best way his players can support him is by getting a much-needed hefty win against Palace. Their narrow victories against Newcastle, Burnley and Bournemouth have been far from convincing and it’s time for this Arsenal team to put aside their egos and dig deep. We know they have the talent to be in the top four, but do they have the grit?


Chelsea’s youngsters aim to stay humble

  • Burnley v. Chelsea, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC

Frank Lampard‘s youngsters are flying high after six wins on the trot in all competitions and their best win to date came away at Ajax on Wednesday. Inspired by Christian Pulisic and Michy Batshuayi who combined for the latter to score the win and put them on course to reach the UCL last 16, this young Blues side is showing plenty of grit. They will need all of that, and then some, if they’re going to extend their winning run at Turf Moor on Saturday. What you see is what you get from the Clarets. They work hard, Sean Dyche has them solid defensively and Chris Wood will bully you and win balls in the air to score or create goalscoring chances. Jorginho has been impressive in breaking up play, with and without N’Golo Kante, and he will need to plenty of the dirty work before helping the Blues launch searing counters for Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham to make the most of. Lampard’s youngsters have taken a while to find their stride but that was inevitable. Now they’re in full flow, they look the most likely to finish third. The season is still early and picking up a win at Burnley would underline this young Chelsea side are growing up fast. Lampard has urged caution and wants the Blues to stay humble.

Xhaka slams ‘bulls***’ criticism of Arsenal

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Arsenal have been targets for a lot of criticism recently.

Granit Xhaka is usually at the center of it.

The Gunners captain came out all guns blazing after they lost 1-0 at Sheffield United on Monday, as he addressed Patrice Evra‘s comments that Arsenal are “babies” and always will be due to their mentality.

“We have to stop about mental [strength] bulls*** like this. For me, it is the same whether you play home or away – you have to win and show big character and a good game and not to always find the same excuse,” Xhaka said. “A lot of people they speak too much. It is not the first time he has spoken something about us. I have a lot of respect for him as he was a great player but you have to be careful what you say. But it is not only him – a lot of people speak a lot of bulls*** about us. It’s always the same.

“For me it is strange as they were in the same situation as us, they were players as well. Sometimes it is good and sometimes it is not always good but every week they speak bulls*** like this every week. I tell you the honest truth, I’m not interested in what people say and speak. We have to speak in our group to improve things and work hard and not listen to these people.”

Xhaka and Arsenal have only lost twice this season, 3-1 at Liverpool and 1-0 at Sheffield United.

But aside from being fifth in the table and two points outside the top four, pressure is being placed on Unai Emery and his squad as they’ve narrowly beaten Bournemouth, Burnley, Newcastle and Aston Villa so far. Their performances aren’t instilling confidence in anyone that they can seriously push for a top four finish this season.

Has much changed under Emery in the past 15 months? Nope. This is pretty much the same Arsenal team making the same old mistakes and looking vulnerable away from home. Nothing new here. Sure, some new players have arrived, but David Luiz, Pepe and Sokratis have all been hit and miss so far and it has been left to Matteo Guendouzi and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to try and rescue the Gunners each and every week.

Emery was supposed to change their style of play, develop them into a stronger team defensively and improve their chances of challenging for trophies once again.

None of that has happened, and it doesn’t look closer to happening. That is why the critics are circling around the Gunners. Monday was the perfect opportunity to prove their mentality had changed and they are a stronger, more balanced team under Emery. They aren’t and something drastic will have to change for them if Emery is going to win over the fans, and pundits, once again.

Reports: Man United exploring Edwin van der Sar for Director of Football

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According to a number of tabloid reports across England, first broken by The Mirror, Manchester United is highly interested in bringing Edwin van der Sar back to Old Trafford as Director of Football.

The former Manchester United goalkeeper has led Ajax in a similar role since 2016, and has gained enormous respect in the business for his successful construction of last year’s Ajax squad that reached the Champions League semifinal with a wealth of young talent. Ajax won the Eredivisie title and took the Champions League by storm, and also netted an enormous windfall with the sale of valuable talent like Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong.

That has turned the head of Ed Woodward who has reportedly been searching high and far for a Director of Football to take on responsibilities of building a squad, hoping to find someone with a stronger connection to the game to be charged with identifying transfer targets and acquiring talent. While Marc Overmars holds the Director of Football role at Ajax, van der Sar holds the role of CEO and has led the setup successfully in Amsterdam.

The Mirror report states that there are roadblocks to a deal with van der Sar, including convincing him to turn his back on Ajax at a critical juncture, as well as convincing his wife to move abroad amid health issues over the past decade.

Woodward is clearly targeting someone who has history with the club, including reports of conversations with former players Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, and Darren Fletcher, neither of whom has any experience as an executive. United is one of just three Premier League clubs without a Director of Football.

When will Ed Woodward be held accountable for Man United failures?

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Six seasons, five managers, three Champions League qualifications, zero Premier League titles.

That is the Manchester United story since they last trimphed over the English top flight in Sir Alex Ferguson‘s final season as Red Devils boss.

The leadership has been chopped and changed many times over, but there is one constant: Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who ascended to his current role in 2012 and was made top operational executive a year later after the departure of David Gill. Since Woodward took full control of the club, Manchester United has spiraled completely out of control, with the luster of 13 Premier League titles almost fully rusted away.

While Manchester United has collected three trophies under his watch, the two most coveted – the Premier League and Champions League titles – have eluded the storied club, instead settling for an FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League title (plus two Community Shields, as Jose Mourinho would tell you).

Still, Woodward has somehow escaped heavy criticism for his rocky tenure, with the first-team managers – far more publicly accountable figures than club executives – taking the brunt of the flak for losing streaks, negative tactics, mediocre youth development, and shambolic defending. Yet Woodward remains unscathed, free of full-scale scrutiny while everything he touches turns to ash.

Woodward’s history in the transfer market has been downright abysmal. Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Angel Di Maria, Fred, Eric Bailly, and Luke Shaw have all been purchased for enormous sums of money during Woodward’s time in charge, yet none of them have lived up to their financial burdens. It is impossible to truly know what Woodward’s exact role is in the transfer dealings, but as the top operational executive at the club, he is responsible for the consistent failures whether he has taken a hands-on approach or has delegated most of the duties to others. It’s time the buck stops at the top.

Since the start of the 2013 summer transfer window, Manchester United has shelled out a gargantuan $712 million in transfer net spend and the Red Devils are no closer to challenging for the Premier League title than when they began their quest to replace Sir Alex Ferguson. After losing to relegated Cardiff City to close out the 2018/19 Premier League season with little more than a whimper, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said it would take “a long time” for Manchester United to be in a position to compete for the league title. The Notwegian boss even dared to warn supporters to temper their expectations; the Europa League would be a reasonable ambition for the time being. Those words from a Manchester United mouthpiece like Solskjaer are a brutal indictment of Woodward and his leadership of the club over the past few years.

When Sir Alex departed, the team admittedly needed an overhaul. The legendary boss somehow squeezed one last triumph out of an old and dilapidated squad, as if fans needed yet another reason to revere the greatest manager the game has ever seen. Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, and Dimitar Berbatov were all over 30 and on their way out of the club while David De Gea, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Rafael, Fabio, Jesse Lingard, Danny Welbeck, and Adnan Januzaj were all 22 years old or younger and looking for guidance and direction as they continued to develop.

Instead, they were met with chaos and instability, as David Moyes, Giggs, Louis Van Gaal, and Jose Mourinho all tried and failed to restore order to the club. None of the managers were given enough time to establish any sense of consistency, and it’s unclear whether any of them were good enough hires that things would have improved if given that luxury. Instead of embracing the period of transition, the club fell into a form of purgatory, hoping to maintain a steady ship while also understanding that things would not be the same. Woodward, a career accountant, may know what it takes to secure a lucrative sponsorship, but eventually they need the on-field results to match the claim of the world’s most popular club, or the financial leverage will wane.

While many players and managers have come and gone over the past few years, Woodward has remained the only constant figure, and the longer the club continues to rot, the more obvious his role in allowing the club to fester. Now, he wishes to bring on a technical director (see: Director of Football) to help with on-field decisions and player acquisitions, a smart choice in delegating the football responsibilities but also another hire to get right. And yet…he’s reportedly looking to hire Darren Fletcher, who literally retired as a player one week ago and has zero executive or managerial experience, in what feels like more of a PR move than anything of actual significance.

With this year’s sixth place finish – the club’s fourth finish outside the Premier League’s top four over the last six years – it is time fans direct their frustration and unhappiness further up the food chain. Ed Woodward must be held accountable for the failures of the club, or the glory days of (actually not that) long ago will become an even more distant memory with every passing year.

Season preview: Pellegrini the man to meet West Ham’s ambition?

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West Ham United at a glance

Premier League titles: 0
FA Cups: 3 (1964, 1975, 1980)
League Cups: 0
UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup: 1 (1965/66)

[ MORE: 2018-19 PL season preview hub ]  


They will challenge for the Top Six because… Pellegrini is simply a different class of manager to their recent bosses, and has a better grip on massaging bigger egos in a bigger squad. Marko Arnautovic is a tough mark up-top, and should be further freed by the addition of Brazilian winger Felipe Anderson. The full backs are good, especially Arthur Masuaku, and Lukasz Fabianski is an upgrade on the Joe Hart-Adrian combination.

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They’ll again stumble and find themselves in a relegation scrap… Last season’s demons hit the club on and off the pitch, and fan anger is just a moment away. Arnautovic is a combustible character, and the club is an injury or two away from counting on Mark Noble.


Transfers in: Felipe Anderson ($43 million, Lazio), Issa Diop ($29 million, Toulouse), Andriy Yarmolenko ($23 million, Borussia Dortmund), Lukasz Fabianski ($9 million, Swansea City), Fabian Balbuena ($5 million, Corinthians), Ryan Fredericks (free, Fulham), Jack Wilshere (free, Arsenal).

Transfers outCheikhou Kouyate ($12 million, Crystal Palace), Reece Burke ($2.5 million, Hull City), James Collins (free agent), Patrice Evra (free agent)


Best possible XI

—– Fabianski —–

—- Fredericks — Diop —  Ogbonna — Masuaku —- 

—- Rice — Wilshere — Obiang—-

—- Anderson —- Arnautovic —- Yarmolenko


Ranking their offseason: 7/10 – Anderson missed significant time last season but was a big part of Lazio’s strong second half to the season. Yarmolenko has been productive in multiple top leagues, and Jack Wilshere on a free is a big deal. If Issa Diop can stand firm in his first Premier League season, this figure might be an 8/10 or better.


Star player: Marko Arnautovic –  Yes, the striker often gets top billing in these preview pieces, but it’s hard to debate another player as West Ham’s star when this Austria menace is on his game. The 29-year-old matched his career-best output of 11 goals and six assists.

Coaches’ CornerManuel Pellegrini — The Premier League winner returns to England, this time in London. He’s been successful in both league and Cup play, which could bode well for West Ham’s hopes of taking a step into Europe via an alternative route.


PST Predicts: Comfortably midtable, but just below the radar of making a threat to the Top Six.