Ralph Hasenhuttl

Premier League club grades: The story so far

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We are nearly a third of the way into the 2019-20 Premier League season and the table is finally starting to take shape.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The surprise packages seem here to stay, there are a bunch of teams battling for European qualification, plenty of giants are struggling and it seems like both the title and relegation battles have already started.

Taking all of that into consideration, we feel like 12 games into the season is a very good time to dish out some grades on each PL club based on their performances so far.

Here it goes…


Arsenal: D
Unai Emery is under pressure, big time, as the defensive problems weren’t properly fixed. Add to the mix that Granit Xhaka was handed the captaincy via a player vote, then stripped of it after his outburst following fans celebrating his substitution and things are a bit of a mess. The only reason Arsenal didn’t get an F is because somehow they are still in the top six and well-placed in the Europa League. That said, they are eight points off the top four and Emery needs some big wins fast. His team don’t seem to know what is being asked of them tactically, and he’s almost 18 months into the job. Scary.


Aston Villa: C
This is just about what we expected from Villa on their return to the PL. Dean Smith‘s side are fun to watch and take risks in the final third, but they are naive defensively. They’ve pushed Liverpool, Man City and Arsenal all the way and they’ve picked up some big wins when things click in attack. Villa look set to hover just about the relegation zone this season and look to have enough quality in midfield and attack to stay out of trouble.


Bournemouth: B-
It’s a case of one step forward, one step back for the Cherries. The last few weeks summed that up well as they beat Man United then lost to Newcastle. Defensively they’ve improved massively but Eddie Howe‘s side are now suffering with a lack of clinical finishing in attack. Bournemouth will be well clear of relegation trouble, but a European push still seems a step too far for this young side.


Brighton: B+
Graham Potter‘s arrival has seen the Seagulls play some wonderful stuff, especially at home. Brighton have picked up some big wins and they have a gem in Leandro Trossard and youngster Aaron Connolly has emerged as a regular. Brighton still have a strong defensive core but they are much more adventurous going forward and Potter has got his ideas across to the players very quickly. A great start for a team many tipped as relegation favorites.


Burnley: B
Some very strong displays from the Clarets, as they’ve hammered the likes of Southampton, Norwich and West Ham, plus beat Everton and drew against Villa and Wolves. They are back to their best with a strong defensive unit and Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes are a handful up top. A top 10 finish seems very likely.


Chelsea: A+
It couldn’t have gone any better than this. Frank Lampard‘s first few months as a top-flight manager got off to a slow start but the Blues have won six PL games on the spin and are sitting pretty in the UEFA Champions League. Christian Pulisic has been on fire in the last month and the likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori have taken their chances in the first team, not to mention Jorginho and Willian shinning in their new roles as leaders. Chelsea may not be genuine title contenders, but they look certain to finish in the top four. In a season where they were supposed to be hit hard by a transfer ban, that’s very good going. Super Frank, indeed.


Crystal Palace: C+
The Eagles have had their ups and downs and after a fast start they’ve been on a gruelling stretch of games. Wilfried Zaha doesn’t seem fully focused and has looked frustrated, while Roy Hodgson has had to rely on Jordan Ayew for goals. How long will that last? Defensively Gary Cahill appears to be one of the bargains of the season after his free transfer from Chelsea, with the Eagles tough to beat but lacking a little in attack. Palace will be battling for a top 10 finish. Nothing less, nothing more.


Everton: C-
The last few results have improved this grade significantly, as Marco Silva still has so many issues to sort out at Everton. It appears the owners will give him plenty of time and drawing against Spurs and beating Southampton bought him some more of that. But what is Everton’s identity? They now seem to be slipping into a counter-attacking style which suits their players best, and they have to nail down that identity. Everton have the players to push for the top six (the horrible injury to Andre Gomes will make that tougher) but they have underperformed and Silva has been under pressure. Maybe now the pressure has eased (slightly) they can rise up the table.


Leicester City: A+
Brendan Rodgers is working miracles at the King Power Stadium. This young Leicester side have been a revelation so far, with Jamie Vardy leading the PL in goals and finishing off most of the copious chances created by James Maddison, Youri Tielemans and Co. At the other end of the pitch Caglar Soyuncu has replaced Harry Maguire expertly and Wilfred Ndidi is ripping it up as N’Golo Kante’s replacement. The Foxes are perfectly balanced and sit second in the table for a reason. They deserve to be there, but the only worry is who will replace Vardy if he’s injured? If he stays fit, Leicester will finish in the top four. Simple.


Liverpool: A
Unbeaten with 11 wins from their opening 12 games. Not bad, Jurgen, not bad at all. Klopp’s Liverpool are hungry and although they haven’t been at their best for most of this season they are ruthless in attack and dogged in defense. Sadio Mane has taken his game to a new level and Fabinho is shielding the back four superbly. They are eight points clear but know how quickly those leads can evaporate. Still, pretty much the perfect start for Liverpool as the reigning European champs are the red-hot favorites to secure their first league title for over 30 years. If injuries are kind to them, there is no way they will let this lead slip this time.


Man City: B
Pep Guardiola‘s side have been hit hard by defensive injuries early in the season and the defending champs will rue not signing a new center back in the summer. With Aymeric Laporte going down, they’ve had to put Fernandinho at center back with Otamendi and Stones all over the place. Ederson‘s recent injury was also a blow as going forward they’ve been sublime but defensively there have been huge issues, as the defeats against Norwich and Liverpool proved. Nine points off the top early on, can Man City claw this back? It is going to take a superhuman effort, plus a Liverpool collapse, to do that. Guardiola’s side may soon go ‘all-in’ on chasing that Champions League trophy.


Man United: C+
What a weird start to the season for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s young side. They’ve beaten Chelsea and Leicester and drawn against Liverpool and Arsenal, but they’ve also lost to Newcastle, Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and West Ham. A real mixed bag, which is what you can expect with such a young team out there week in, week out, and because of injuries. When Rashford, Martial and James are fit, they look so dangerous in attack and at least there is a plan in place and a style of play. Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have shored things up at the back and United now need a midfield playmaker to step forward to dictate games. Expect them to make a move in the January window for a Bruno Fernandes type, while a top four finish isn’t out of the question but is looking unlikely after a topsy-turvy start.


Newcastle United: B-
Things have gone surprisingly well for Steve Bruce‘s side so far. Anarchy was in the air among the Toon Army in the summer but wins against Spurs and Man United calmed things down, and they’ve just beat West Ham and Bournemouth back-to-back. Relegation could still be on the cards, but for now the Magpies are looking solid defensively and are tough to beat. Joelinton and Miguel Almiron are struggling to produce in attack and long-term that seems to be their biggest problem.


Norwich City: C
It all started so well as Teemu Pukki couldn’t stop scoring and they beat Man City to spark wild scenes at Carrow Road. That was in September and Norwich haven’t won since. There’s no doubt defensive injuries have hit Daniel Farke‘s side hard and the players they have are adventurous but seem to be taking too many chances in possession. Pukki has been an isolated figure in recent weeks but if they can get him the ball in dangerous areas, he will finish. There’s a long way to go but Norwich sit bottom and look destined for relegation. But maybe Pukki is ready to fire up another #PukkiParty…


Sheffield United: A
The newly-promoted Blades have been one of the stories of the season so far as they sit in fifth place. We’ve all heard about their overlapping center backs and Chris Wilder being adamant they won’t change their style of play, but one of the biggest plus points from their opening few months back in the PL has been their work rate. Every play on this Sheffield United team knows their job and works their socks off. They play as a unit and have given some of the big boys big wake-up calls (they’ve beat Arsenal, drawn against Chelsea and Tottenham and only lost late on against Liverpool). The way they commit players forward is refreshing and they have brought something totally different to the PL. They should easily stay up.


Southampton: F
What a disastrous start for Saints in Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s first full season in charge. They didn’t make the correct offseason additions and were hamstrung by previous poor signings they couldn’t offload. Danny Ings has been the only bright spot so far as he’s scored seven goals in all competitions, but Saints have the worst defense in the league. They were smashed 9-0 at home by Leicester City and they sit second from bottom in the table. It’s true that the fixtures machine wasn’t kind to them for the start of the season, but they now have a very winnable run of games coming up. If they are still in the bottom three in mid-December, they look certain for relegation.


Tottenham Hotspur: D-
A summer of discontent has rumbled on into the fall and now the winter as Mauricio Pochettino‘s mood swings sum up the current situation at Spurs. Eriksen, Vertonghen, Alderweireld and Rose all want to leave but contract situations haven’t been sorted out by Daniel Levy and this has become one heck of a mess. Spurs sit in 14th place in the table, 11 points off the top four, and they look a shell of the hungry, determined side which overachieved season after season since 2015. Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son are trying their best to score goals and lead the team but something isn’t right behind-the-scenes and Pochettino has a huge job on his hands to push for a top four finish.


Watford: D-
It has taken them 12 games to get a win but the recent signs have been good for the Hornets. After sacking Javi Gracia and bringing in former manager Quique Sanchez Flores they have shored things up defensively overall (let’s forget that 8-0 loss at Man City) and they’ve now drawn games against Spurs, Arsenal and Sheffield United. The win against Norwich gave them belief they can pick things up in the second half of the season and with Troy Deeney set to return they will now have more of a threat in the final third alongside Gerard Deulofeu. Goalkeeper Ben Foster has been superb so far and Watford will need to keep improving defensively if they’re going to get out of the bottom three. They certainly have the talent to do so.


West Ham United: D
Worrying times for Manuel Pellegrini as the Hammers enjoyed a good start but haven’t won since September. West Ham spent big again in the summer and they’re in danger of being sucked into the relegation battle. Declan Rice is struggling for form, so too is Sebastien Haller, and the loss of Lukas Fabianski to injury was a hammer blow (pardon the pun) as Roberto has struggled massively since replacing him in goal. West Ham shouldn’t be in a relegation scrap but it looks like a bleak winter is ahead.


Wolverhampton Wanderers: B-
Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side are ticking over very nicely after a slow start with their small squad seeming to get up to pace of the Thursday-Sunday grind with the Europa League. Raul Jimenez is on fire and although they’re making defensive mistakes, Wolves are able to bounce back better this season when they’ve fallen behind. They should be battling for another top seven finish as well as going on a deep run in the Europa League.

Everton grab huge win at Saints

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Everton beat Southampton 2-1 at St Mary’s on Saturday as Marco Silva‘s men dug deep to secure their first Premier League away win of the season.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Tom Davies gave them the lead but Danny Ings equalized for a much-improved Saints in the second half. However, Richarlison bagged the winner 15 minutes from time as the Toffees continue their fightback.

With the win Everton move on to 14 points, while Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s Southampton remain on eight points and are second from bottom in the table.


3 things we learned

1. Everton dig deep and finally win away: For the first time in nine PL games the Toffees won on the road. They deserved it and after a tough week following Andre Gomes’ horrendous injury, Marco Silva’s side answered their critics. They had a wobble around half time as they let Saints back in but as soon as they scored the second goal they didn’t look like letting their lead slip. Everton looked much better going forward as Walcott, Tosun and Richarlison caused havoc with Sigurdsson pulling the strings. Everton have to win games like this to push themselves towards a top seven finish.

2. Poor defending cost Saints again: In the first half Saints could have been three or four down and they didn’t really deserve to still be in the game at the start of the second half. They didn’t have a recognized right back or left back on the pitch as Hasenhuttl has totally lost faith in some of his defenders after their poor recent displays. Two crosses to the back post led to Everton’s goals and if they had proper full backs in those positions, maybe the positioning would have been better. Saints have the worst defensive record in the PL and after two successful relegation battles in the past two years, they now look destined for the drop unless things change drastically.

3. Hasenhuttl’s time running out: His strange formation and personnel decisions show he is a desperate man and Hasnehuttl is coming up to one year in charge of Saints. His time is running out. Saints are now second from bottom and three points from safety. They face Arsenal, Watford, Norwich and Newcastle in their next four games and nothing less than three wins will do.

Man of the Match: Richarlison – Scored the winning goal and his pace caused Southampton all kinds of problems. The Brazilian was the difference in a game between two teams lacking in confidence.


Saints started well as they aimed to get on the front foot but they were then dealt a hammer blow.

Everton then took the lead with poor defending from Southampton as Sigurdsson’s corner was flicked on by Holgate and an unmarked Davies at the back post as he made it 1-0 with a simple finish.

Cenk Tosun then missed a glorious chance as Jack Stephens tackled the Turkish striker superbly.

Sigurdsson then whipped in a lovely delivery which almost found Yerry Mina to make it 2-0.

Theo Walcott then got free down the right again and forced Alex McCarthy into a fine save at his near post.

Everton dominated the first half as Southampton failed to deliver any dangerous moments in attack.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Sofiane Boufal came on at half time and Saints improved immediately.

The Moroccan winger smashed Saints’ first shot on goal and then dribbled towards towards and crossed for Ings to tap home and make it 1-1.

Some poor defensive work from Saints then set up Sigurdsson who had his shot tipped over my McCarthy as the game became and end-to-end encounter late on.

Tosun dragged an effort across goal, while Jordan Pickford denied James Ward-Prowse‘s fine free kick with an equally good save.

Richarlison was causing problems up top for Southampton as there was extreme pressure for both teams late in the second half.

Mason Holgate flicked a header inches over as Everton pushed hard for their first away win of the season.

And it arrived as Djibril Sidibe‘s cross was finished by Richarlison to make it 2-1.

Lucas Digne then whipped the ball in for sub Alex Iwobi who had a shot deflected wide and another one deflected onto the post, as Everton eased to victory and piled more misery on Southampton.

Top Premier League storylines: Week 11

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Matchweek 11 of the 2019-20 Premier League season is here, as the table starts to take shape as we head into November.

[ 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’s stars fresh for trip to Villa

  • Aston Villa v. Liverpool, Saturday, 11 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Jurgen Klopp‘s squad rotation worked perfectly in midweek, as his star players were rested and Liverpool’s youngsters got some great experience, and a penalty kick win, against Arsenal. The A squad now travel to Aston Villa as they remain top of the table and unbeaten after another gritty win against Tottenham. Fabinho is emerging as a leading man for Liverpool as the balance he provides in midfield is key to Klopp’s counter-press being launched, while Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah continue to chip in and go about their business.

Joel Matip being out injured is a little bit of a concern, with neither Joe Gomez or Dejan Lovren taking their chance to prove they should be the permanent stand-in for Matip. Aston Villa are sweating on he fitness of captain Jack Grealish, while Wesley‘s battle with Virgil Van Dijk is one to watch in this game. Newly-promoted Villa will cause Liverpool problems but Klopp’s side will expect to leave Villa Park with all three points as their grit and focus has been spot on in the opening months of the season.


Man City aim to batter sorry Saints

  • Man City v. Southampton, Saturday, 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Manchester City beat Southampton 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday in the League Cup and that didn’t tell the whole story. Pep Guardiola‘s side, which was littered with teenagers, dominated possession and chances and only when they took their foot off the accelerator in the final 30 minutes did Saints pull a goal back and look somewhat dangerous in attack. Man City will bring the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Fernandinho back into the starting lineup and that’s a scary prospect for a Southampton side still reeling from that historic 9-0 defeat at home against Leicester City last week. Guardiola’s City are ruthless and if there’s any sign of Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s Saints feeling sorry for themselves, another 9-0 drubbing could be coming up…


Pulisic aims to regain momentum as Chelsea face stingy Watford

  • Watford v. Chelsea, Saturday, 1:30 p.m. ET, on NBC

Christian Pulisic‘s perfect hat trick against Burnley stole the headlines last Saturday, but the USMNT star came back down to earth with a bit of a bump on Wednesday. He started and played 70 minutes in Chelsea’s 2-1 home defeat to Man United in the League Cup, and he underwhelmed on the left flank. Pulisic, 21, is still learning and his game is adapting to England and he will have these ups and downs. It is also possible that in games against teams like Burnley and Watford will be the ones where he has more space and can show off his supreme pace and dribbling skills.

Watford will not give Pulisic (if he starts ahead of Willian and Hudson-Odoi) and Chelsea’s other attackers much space, as Quique Sanchez Flores has shored things up since the 8-0 drubbing by Man City. Watford have drawn each of their last three games in the PL and Ben Foster has been in inspired form in goal. He will need to keep that going against in-form Chelsea this weekend, and all eyes will be on Pulisic to see if he can regain the momentum from last week.


Man United aim to continue away day run

  • Bournemouth v. Man United, Saturday, 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Three away wins on the trot has Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and United in a buoyant mood heading down to the South Coast this weekend. Marcus Rashford is scoring goals, Anthony Martial is back fit and the Red Devils are finally showing an end product, even if scoring penalty kicks is still a struggle for them…

Bournemouth have shored things up defensively but surprisingly they are struggling to score goals. That has never been a problem for Eddie Howe‘s side and the balance of the Cherries just seems a little off early in the season. United need a win to push closer to the top four and something seems to have clicked for Solskjaer’s side with Scott McTominay and Fred putting up a shield in midfield and the pace of Daniel James, Martial and Rashford reunited in attack. This will be a tight encounter but United should have the extra quality in attack to edge it.


Who needs the win more: Everton or Tottenham?

  • Everton v. Tottenham, Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Two teams languishing in the bottom half of the Premier League table and desperate for a win meet at Goodison Park. Everton and Spurs can both say they’ve been unlucky so far this season, and it’s hard to disagree with that. Maybe that is why both Marco Silva and Mauricio Pochettino seem fairly relaxed even though their teams have struggled. For Everton, late VAR drama cost them at Brighton last time out as Silva’s side didn’t take their chances and were punished.

That said, their home form has been impressive this season with all three wins coming at Goodison. For Spurs, they’ve been wretched on their travels and even though they took the lead at Liverpool last weekend, the disjointed nature of their display in midfield and the shaky defensive performance showcased why Pochettino is pulling his hair out. Trying to shoehorn Kane, Son, Eriksen and Alli into the same team remains an issue for Poch, and the same could be said for Everton as they tweak their frontline with Richarlison, Walcott, Bernard and Calvert-Lewin in attack. Both team are desperate for a big three points, and this game will not be pretty.

Southampton: ‘The whole country is laughing at us’

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Southampton’s players are still reeling from their shocking 9-0 defeat to Leicester City last week.

[ MORE: Saints donate wages after humiliation ]

The heaviest defeat in Saints’ 133-year history was also the biggest-ever away win in the top-flight of the English Football League, and equalled the largest ever win in Premier League history.

You get it, it was bad.

Speaking after their 3-1 defeat at Manchester City in the League Cup on Tuesday, Southampton’s goalscorer Jack Stephens admitted the past few days have been incredible tough for everyone involved with the club.

“It’s been a really tough few days, but not just for us, for everyone: the staff, the club, the fans and everyone in the city,” Stephens told BBC Radio Solent. “The whole country has been laughing at us and I’m sure there were a lot of people expecting us to concede a lot of goals against Manchester City. It was tough for us to come here, but I thought we showed a lot of character and fight. When it went 2-0 in the first half, after Friday, it would have been very easy to give up like we did on Friday. It was important that we stood up and stuck together.”

Umm, Jack, hate to be the bearer of bad news but the Leicester game was broadcast across the globe and there are plenty of smart remarks about Saints across the world right now. Not just the UK…

Saints can take little solace in the fact that an understrength City didn’t score more than three goals on them, but goalkeeper Alex McCarthy had to make several big stops and Southampton barely got out of their own half in the first half.

Confidence did start to come back, but only after Man City were 3-0 up and cruising and took their foot off the accelerator a little.

Next up for Southampton: Man City away, again, in the Premier League on Saturday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com). So, they are expected to remain in the relegation zone and Ralph Hasenhuttl clearly has a huge job on his hands to repair the damage done at St Mary’s last week.

But on the horizon they do have games coming up which, at least on paper, you’d fancy them to get a few wins from. After another daunting trip to the Etihad Stadium this weekend to play Man City they face Everton, Watford and Norwich at home, with trips to Arsenal and Newcastle in their next five. Aside from Arsenal, those are teams all around them in the table.

The next few weeks will define how Southampton’s season will go. Are they going to feel sorry for themselves? Or are they going to dig deep and win three or four games to drag themselves out of the bottom three?

How could Saints lineup for that pivotal run of games? Here’s a look at a projected starting lineup, one which sees plenty of youngsters given their chance to replace players who have clearly failed to deliver week in, week out.

The likes of Bertrand, Vestergaard, Yoshida, Romeu and Long have been left out of the lineup below, with the focus being on youngsters given a chance and more attacking players selected. Hasenhuttl’s high-pressing system hasn’t been seen consistently this season and neither has his preferred 4-2-2-2 lineup.

In the projected lineup below only four players who started against Leicester remain…


Potential Southampton starting XI (Hasenhuttl’s preferred 4-2-2-2)

—– McCarthy —–

Cedric — Bednarek — Danso — Vokins —

—- Hojbjerg —- Slattery —- 

— Boufal — Djenepo —

— Ings — Redmond —

Subs: Gunn, Danso, Smallbone, Valery, Adams, Obafemi, Nlundulu


EFL Cup Tuesday preview: Man City, Leicester, Everton in action

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Five Premier League teams return to the field for League Cup fourth round action on Tuesday, including a pair of all-Premier League meetings.

A berth in the quarterfinals is on the line, but many top-tier teams still may wish to rotate the squad as fixture congestion continues to prove difficult to navigate. Manchester City is likely top of that list as they take on Southampton, with Pep Guardiola potentially looking to get fringe players some time against Premier League opposition.

22-year-old Angelino seems the most likely of the reserves to see the field, although Guardiola could look to get Benjamin Mendy more playing time in place of the injured Oleksandr Zinchenko. Riyad Mahrez could get a run on the field while Raheem Sterling sits, while teens Eric Garcia and Adrian Bernabe both could be in contention. Southampton will be looking to bounce back from its landmark drubbing against Leicester City over the weekend, and that could push Ralph Hasenhuttl to field a strong lineup.

Also meeting are Everton and Watford at Goodison Park, with both squads languishing in the bottom of the league table and looking for some form. The Toffees feel like they’re on the brink of breaking through with a string of performances, and this match looks a promising chance to break the scoring struggles against a woeful Watford defense.

Leicester City has drawn a road date with Burton Albion coming on the heels of the Saints pasting. They have scored 21 goals across their last four matches, white-hot form that will have Burton fans cowering prior to this matchup. Burton Albion sits 13th in League One after relegation last season, but they knocked off Bournemouth last time out, so the Foxes will need to keep their heads.

All games kick at 3:45 p.m. ET.

Tuesday EFL Cup matches

Man City v. Southampton
Everton v. Watford
Burton Albion v. Leicester City
Crawley Town v. Colchester United
Oxford United v. Sunderland