PL Sunday preview: Man City’s title trot; Wenger’s farewell tour

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Manchester City will play as the confirmed champions of the Premier League, though they won’t celebrate as such for a couple more weeks, on Sunday. Meanwhile, the only manager Arsenal have known for more than two decades begins saying goodbye

[ MORE: Man United come back to beat Spurs, reach FA Cup final ]

Arsenal vs. West Ham United — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

So begins the Arsene Wenger farewell tour, and with a London derby at that. Wenger announced on Friday that he’ll leave Arsenal at the end of the current season, which has little to no chance of seeing the Gunners finish in the PL’s top-five, let alone the top-four. Sunday’s clash with West Ham will be the first of Wenger’s three remaining games at the Emirates Stadium, including the Europa League semifinal against Atletico Madrid on Thursday. Unfortunately for Wenger, three of his final five PL games (four of seven in all competitions) will be played away from home, where his side has lost five straight in league play.

Speaking of lost and wayward seasons, 14th-place West Ham are almost mathematically clear of relegation (there’s currently three places and six points between themselves and 18th-place Southampton). It’s hardly the future they imagined upon moving to the London Stadium at the start of last season. Andy Carroll scored the late equalizer in the Hammers’ 1-1 draw with Stoke City on Monday, which rescued perhaps a perfectly timed point with all five remaining games to be played against sides currently in the top-nine (Arsenal, Man City, Leicester, Man United and Everton).

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (knee), Santi Cazorla (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Jack Wilshere (ankle) | West Ham — OUT: James Collins (hamstring), Sam Byram (ankle), Winston Reid (knee), Michail Antonio (hamstring), Pedro Obiang (knee)


Stoke City vs. Burnley — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Here’s what’s at stake at the bet365 Stadium on Sunday:

Stoke sit two places and five points adrift of safety from relegation, with four games left to play (17th-place Swansea City have a game in hand, to boot). After 10 seasons in the PL, it’s looking more and more likely that Paul Lambert (with a tip of the cap to Mark Hughes earlier in the season) will take the Potters back to the Championship for the first time since they won promotion in 2008.

Burnley trail Arsenal by just two points (though the Clarets have played one more game than the Gunners) in the race for sixth place. A sixth-place finish would be the club’s highest top-flight finish since 1966 (3rd).

INJURIES: Stoke — QUESTIONABLE: Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting (groin) | Burnley — OUT: Steven Defour (knee), Scott Arfield (calf), Robbie Brady (knee), Jonathan Walters (fitness); QUESTIONABLE: Ben Mee (knock), Georges-Kevin Nkoudou (hamstring)


Manchester City vs. Swansea City — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

While Man City won’t lift the PL trophy until their May 6 clash with Huddersfield Town, Sunday’s visit from Swansea will be Pep Guardiola‘s side’s first outing since clinching the title courtesy of Man United’s defeat to West Bromwich Albion last weekend. Guardiola’s focus has turned to breaking the all-time PL points record (95 — they currently have 87 with five games still to play).

“In the past, I won the league at Bayern and at Barca with five, six or seven games (left) but the next games were not good,” he said this week. “We have to think about how many points we can get, it can be a good argument. What we need to do is already done, the points record is not the most important thing, but maybe it can help us to be focused. It would be uncomfortable to finish in a bad way, there always has to be a target and maybe scoring the most goals and winning the most points will be a good focus.”

INJURIES: Man City — OUT: Sergio Aguero (knee), Benjamin Mendy (knee); QUESTIONABLE: John Stones (thigh) | Swansea — OUT: Wilfried Bony (knee), Leroy Fer (achilles), Renato Sanches (hamstring)

Season strugglers: Inominious PL performances

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Tuesday found us breaking ties on our “Most Impactful Premier League Summer Buys” rankings by digging through some advanced statistics sites.

In doing so, something struck us: We rarely if ever check out which players are faring the worst when it comes to those next level numbers.

Ah, the international break: Good for off-the-wall posts.

[ MORE: Alonso, Pedro have Morata’s back]

At the risk of kicking a player while he’s down, here are some negative numbers that stand out from the pack.

Of the 358 players who’ve played at least 10 Premier League matches, Joe Hart is having the worst season of the bunch according to Squawka. That’s a bit misleading due to how the site’s metrics operate, considering eight of the bottom 20 players are goalkeepers (and several, like Jonas Lossl and Jordan Pickford, are having outstanding campaigns).

So the unfortunate honor goes to Swansea defender Martin Olsson, who edges James McClean of West Brom for the infamy. Since the site does heap numbers on players by action accumulated, perhaps it’s better to single out the per-game and per-90 strugglers. Olsson and McClean are still very much near the bottom, but surprisingly Yannick Bolasie is the worst per game, and Swansea’s Wayne Routledge is having the least effective season per 90 minutes.

As for WhoScored, its metrics are hammering forwards, with Lys Mousset, Andre Gray, and Benik Afobe at the back of the back (ahead of McClean, again, who is a multi-site struggler).

These stats aren’t perfect, of course, and I like the idea of having McClean on my squad. But there are some other odds stats in the pack.

 These players might want to pass their next opportunity to the keeper. Of players with 10 or more shot attempts this season, Adam Lallana (11), Renato Sanches (12), Lewis Cook (14), and Dale Stephens (15) have failed to put a single shot on target.

— Of the 81 players who’ve tried their luck 30 times or more, these are the worst accuracy rates

— For perspective, Harry Kane has put 56 percent of his league-leading 162 shots on target, while second place man Mohamed Salah is 61 percent of 118.

— Defensive errors also can be increased significantly by the times a player is put under pressure by his team, which is why goalkeepers are high on Squawka’s list. Take them out, and you get a list with Spurs’ Eric Dier up top. Two of his six errors have led to goals against Tottenham, with Zanka (Huddersfield Town), Alfie Mawson (Swans), Andreas Christensen (Chelsea), and Shane Duffy (Brighton) next with four errors.

FA Cup preview: Huddersfield, Swansea set for replays

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Huddersfield Town and Swansea City will try again for a spot in the FA Cup 5th round as they have another shot after draws their last time out.

First, David Wagner‘s crew takes a five match winless run into St. Andrews as they visit Birmingham City after a 1-1 draw. Their Championship opponents might be in 19th place in the table, but they are in good form, having moved further off the bottom of the table in recent weeks.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

Lukasz Jutkiewicz has lost his starting spot in Championship play, but he scored on the Terriers in the first meeting between these two clubs and could be given another shot. The early portion of the match could be critical, as Huddersfield has trailed eight times at the halftime break this season, and earned just a single draw from those games.

Elsewhere, Swansea City hosts League Two side Notts County as the Swans look to build on their good form, without a loss since January 2nd. The Swans have gone to a replay now in two straight FA Cup rounds, after being held their first time out against Wolverhampton before winning the second go around at home.

Notts County came into their meeting with Swansea in poor form, having lost two in a row, but they earned the 1-1 draw to force a replay, and then came back and clobbered Crewe Alexandria 4-1 in their subsequent league meeting. Swansea will be without Wilfried Bony and Leroy Fer who both suffered long-term injuries in the past week.

when one swan falls, another swan begins to fly,” said manager Carlos Carvalhal. “We are disappointed because Fer was doing very well and Bony was fighting hard every day to get to his best level. We wish we had them available, but we have players to cover the situation in the time that they are not here.”

They are also missing young loanee Renato Sanches who is out a month with hamstring injury. That makes three players who started the 1-1 draw with Notts who will be absent for the second go. In addition, new arrivals Andre Ayew and Andy King are both cup-tied and cannot be selected.

Finally, League One basement-dwellers Rochdale host Championship side Millwall in a replay after the two played to an exciting 2-2 draw that saw Millwall equalize in the 90th minute to force a replay.

Top 10 loan signings for January

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The winter transfer window is opened, and that means a fresh chance for players to make an impact across the Premier League and Europe.

The Silly Season is already well underway, with confirmed moves such as Virgil Van Dijk to Liverpool and tons of un-confirmed and sometimes un-sourced rumors of Harry Kane and Dele Alli to Real Madrid, just as an example.

[ LIVE: Stream every PL game

However, the January transfer window presents both clubs and players with a unique opportunity. For some players, it’s a chance for them to find playing time on a new team. For clubs, it’s a chance to upgrade their squad for a second-half title push or battle against relegation.

Here’s a look at 10 potential loan signings that Premier League clubs can make this month:

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Swansea 0-2 Tottenham: Spurs stay red-hot

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  • Llorente scores controversial winner
  • Tottenham up into fifth place
  • Alli scores late on with assist from Kane

Tottenham Hotspur battled to a 2-0 win at a spirited Swansea City side in treachrous conditions at the Liberty Stadium on Tuesday.

Fernando Llorente, playing against his former club, headed home a controversial opener and despite heavy Swansea pressure in the second half Spurs sealed the victory late on as Dele Alli continued his good form.

With the win Tottenham move into fifth place and have 40 points, while Swansea stay bottom on 16 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

Spurs went ahead after 12 minutes with Christian Eriksen‘s free kick from the left nodded home by Llorente, but the Spanish striker was clearly in an offside position against his former club. The goal stood as Llorente scored on his first PL start for the club.

In the driving rain in South Wales the away side continued to push with Llorente sliding in and going close to getting on the end of another pinpoint pass.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Before half time Swansea had a free kick in a dangerous area but Renato Sanches was off target, while Martin Olsson fired wide with the soggy conditions impacting the flow of the game.

Llorente almost scored a carbon copy of his first goal just before half time, as he elected to use his foot to flick on Eriksen’s superb free kick but the Spaniard’s effort was over the bar.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ] 

Spurs started the second half brightly with Dele Alli going close and Heung-Min Son also looked dangerous.

However, Davinson Sanchez was lucky to stay on the pitch as he picked up a yellow card and then clattered into Olsson but no second yellow was dished out. Soon after Victor Wanyama made his long awaited return and came on for Sanchez who had pushed his luck.

Lukasz Fabianski denied Alli and then at the other end substitute Luciano Narsingh ran in behind and from a tight angle forced Hugo Lloris into a save.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Alli then nodded a header close from Eric Dier‘s ball and up the other end Lloris came flying off his line as Jordan Ayew looked certain to equalize but Ben Davies cleared superbly.

Mike Van der Hoorn then hit the post with Lloris beaten as Harry Kane jumped off the bench to try and help Spurs see out the win. Son went close as he volleyed Kieran Trippier‘s cross inches wide late on, but Tottenham sealed things late on.

Kane played in Alli superbly to finish at the second attempt as Spurs won 2-0.