Riyad Mahrez

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Season Review: Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal

Leave a comment

The 2018-19 Premier League season is officially in the books, and while we know who finished where, it’s time to discuss who did (or didn’t) live up to expectations.

[ REVIEW: Man United, Wolves, Everton, Leicester & West Ham ]

Manchester City are champions; Liverpool are record-breaking runners-up; Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal round out the top-five, in the order.

[ REVIEW: Burnley, Bournemouth, Newcastle, Crystal Palace & Watford ]

Arsenal

Finishing position/points total: 5th / 70 points
High point: Beating Tottenham back in December might be the greatest single accomplishment of Arsenal’s season, which says a lot about where the club is today.
Low point
: Three straight defeats — to Crystal Palace, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City, by a combined score of 9-3 — at the same time Tottenham were tripping over their own feet and leaving the door wide open for a top-four heist.

Our opinion: Arsene Wenger left, but did anything really change around the Emirates Stadium?
Star player
: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Most memorable goal
: The goal that wasn’t — Aubameyang’s 91st-minute penalty kick against Spurs — was one of many moments that wound up being the difference between fourth and fifth.

Manager grade: Unai Emery: C+
Hopes for next season
: In a perfect world for Arsenal, Spurs won’t sign a player for the third straight transfer window and Arsenal will have signed a soon-to-be world-class replacement for the departed Aaron Ramsey, at which point Arsenal could accidentally finish above Spurs for the first time in four seasons.


Tottenham Hotspur

Finishing position/points total: 4th / 71 points

High point: Reaching the Champions League final is the obvious answer, but we’re only talking about the PL here. Finishing the season’s last game with 11 upright players was quite the accomplishment given Spurs’ season-long injury crisis.
Low point
: Predictably, a club that signed no new players in the summer, and is still competing in the Champions League, ran out of gas down the stretch. Spurs won just three of the final 12 games, while losing seven.

Our opinion: Mauricio Pochettino has proven himself to a miracle worker year after year, and he deserves better from chairman Daniel Levy.
Star player
: Harry Kane
Most memorable goal
: Son Heung-min didn’t score his first PL goal until the end of November, but it was worth the wait and kicked off a brilliant second half of the season for the South Korean.

Manager grade: Mauricio Pochettino: A-
Hopes for next season
: If Spurs sign some players in the summer — hardly a given — the existing core has yet another level (or two) to reach. They’re as likely as anyone else to solidify their place as the third-best side in the PL.


Chelsea

Finishing position/points total: 3rd/ 72 points

High point: Starting the season unbeaten in their first 12 games, though in hindsight the early-days discussion of a three-horse race for the title was premature and misguided.
Low point
: Losing 3-1 to Spurs to break the unbeaten start was bad, but losing 6-0 to Man City (just days before losing in the League Cup final to them) was worse.

Our opinion: For a team with just one capable midfielder (N'Golo Kante) for the vast majority of the season (Ruben Loftus-Cheek came on strong once given a chance to play), finishing third almost seems like an overachievement.
Star player
: Eden Hazard
Most memorable goal
: Hazard is irreplaceable, which Chelsea will quickly find out if he leaves this summer.

Manager grade: Maurizio Sarri: B-
Hopes for next season
: If Hazard can be convinced to stay another season — until the transfer ban has passed — they’ll scrap for a top-four place again. If he leaves and Christian Pulisic is the only player they can register, it could be a long season.


Liverpool

Finishing position/points total: 2nd / 97 points

High point: How about the 30 games that they won? Or, the 37 games that they didn’t lose?
Low point
: The lone league defeat, to Manchester City at the start of January, comes to mind.

Our opinion: Finishing with 97 points is bafflingly impressive, but conceding just 22 goals in 38 games is equally impressive. To match Man City step for step all season was something not many thought the Reds could do. 97 points would have won the title in all but two seasons — last season and this season.
Star player
: Virgil Van Dijk
Most memorable goal
: You’ll notice it doesn’t say “best” or “favorite” goal. Divock Origi‘s 96th-minute winner was stranger than anything else.

Manager grade: Jurgen Klopp: A+
Hopes for next season
: They’re still young and awaiting breakout seasons from Naby Keita and Fabinho. If either of those players ascend to PL stardom next season, they could very well end City’s run.


Manchester City

Finishing position/points total: 1st / 98 points

High point: Leroy Sane’s game-winning goal to top Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium. Without it, Liverpool might have never lost the lead in the title race.
Low point
: Losing three of four games during the December holiday period to fall seven points behind Liverpool.

Our opinion: The team that broke ever conceivable PL record last season, then went out and signed a player of Riyad Mahrez‘s ability, bordered on unbeatable once again. Though slightly more defensively fragile this season, Pep Guardiola‘s men are worthy champions.
Star player
: Raheem Sterling
Most memorable goal
: Vincent Kompany‘s winner against Leicester City in the penultimate game of the season, with Liverpool two points ahead after playing earlier in the weekend. He’ll never ever score another one like it.

Manager grade: Pep Guardiola: A+
Hopes for next season
: Newsflash: They’re going to be good again, and again, and again. Here’s hoping for another brilliant title race between City and Liverpool, one with even more many twists and turns.

Man City win the Premier League title

Leave a comment
  • Back-to-back PL titles for City
  • 4th PL title in 8 years
  • 14th straight win for Man City
  • 2nd highest points total (98) in history
  • Brighton took the lead
  • Aguero, Laporte, Mahrez, Gundogan score

BRIGHTON — Manchester City were crowned 2018-19 Premier League champions on Sunday, as they beat Brighton & Hove Albion 4-1 at the Amex Stadium to retain their crown as the champions of England.

Pep Guardiola‘s men have now won back-to-back Premier League titles, as their incredible run of 14-straight victories to end the season saw them finish one point clear of Liverpool, who they trailed by seven points in early January.

[ MORE: Guardiola reacts, as City cement spot in history

After Glenn Murray opened the scoring to give City a scare, Sergio Aguero equalized soon after and then Aymeric Laporte put City ahead before the break. Riyad Mahrez scored a stunner to make it 3-1 in the second half, as City eased to the title with Ilkay Gundogan adding another.

City finish the season on 98 points, one ahead of Liverpool, as they recorded the second-highest points tally in PL history, two less than the record they set last season.

With the League Cup and Premier League title already secured, Man City will now be the first English team to ever complete a domestic treble if they beat Watford in the FA Cup final next Saturday.

We are truly witnessing greatness.

City started brightly as Bernardo Silva weaved his way into the box but was eventually tackled at the crucial moment just as he was about to shoot.

Brighton then went close as a cross was whipped in that Murray nodded wide, but he was in an offside position anyway. Man City continued to dominate possession with having too many clear cut chances, as Raheem Sterling and Ilkay Gundogan fizzing went close. Then all hell broke loose.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Brighton took the lead as a Pascal Gross corner from the left saw Murray flick home to beat Ederson at his near post and give the hosts a 1-0 lead. But just seconds later City made it 1-1.

David Silva‘s flick found Aguero and he finished calmly at the near post through Ryan’s legs to equalize. Silva then went close with a header at he back post which Ryan saved as City clicked through the gears before the break.

[ MORE: Final Premier League standings ]

A bad giveaway from Murray set Mahrez free but his shot towards the near post was pushed away by Ryan and from the resulting corner City took the lead. Laporte got free of his runner and sent a towering header home to make it 2-1.

Right on half time Lewis Dunk‘s dipping free kick was fumbled and pushed onto the bar by Ederson as City survived a scare.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

In the second half City came flying out of the traps to try and put the game to bed.

They came close on several occasions before a moment of magic from Mahrez saw the Algerian jinx past two tackles and smash home to make it 3-1 and seal the title win.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Man City went close to extending their lead as Gundogan curled just wide, and moments later he did make it 4-1 as the German curled home a superb free kick to seal the glorious title win in style.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Man City preparing $79 million bid this summer; Bale to leave Real Madrid

Getty Images
2 Comments

Pep Guardiola has identified the successor to Fernandinho, and he’s convinced Manchester City to break the bank to acquire him.

[READ: JPW’s Premier League picks]

Per a report in The Telegraph, Manchester City is preparing a transfer bid of nearly $79 million to sign Atletico Madrid central midfielder Rodrigo Hernandez Cascante, better known as Rodri. In his first season in Madrid, the 22-year-old has made 28 La Liga starts along with six in the UEFA Champions League, anchoring the second-place Atletico Madrid midfield.

In addition to his defensive duties, he’s also scored a pair of goals this season.

If true, Rodri’s transfer will break Man City’s previous record when it signed Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City for almost $78 million.

Fernandinho continues to be a world class holding midfielder, but coming up on 34-years old, he’s surely coming up on time when he won’t be able to cover as much ground as he used to. With Rodri in tow, Fernandinho can slowly take a reserve role in the team, or move to another club for one last big contract.

Here are some more transfer rumors from around Europe:

(more…)

Guardiola defends not starting healthy De Bruyne

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
1 Comment

There are a few manners of losing for a manager, and one is when an in-form and up-for-it squad completely overruns yours.

For a managerial wizard like Pep Guardiola, that kind of loss is probably easier to take than Man City’s 1-0 loss to Spurs in Tuesday’s first leg of a UEFA Champions League quarterfinal.

[ MORE: Match recap | Kane hurt | 3 things ]

That’s because Guardiola’s lineups and tactical decisions backfired against a stingy and determined Spurs back line and midfield.

Riyad Mahrez started in place of injured Bernardo and over Leroy Sane . The former Leicester City maestro was poor. Kevin De Bruyne was left out of the XI and Guardiola stubbornly waited until the 89th minute to introduce the Belgian (and Sane).

By that time, with Harry Kane injured and Spurs still finding an opener, the plot was lost.

And with City in a left back injury crisis, Fabian Delph was unable to replicate his left back form of last season, coming in from the cold and looking like it. From The Manchester Evening News:

“I saw him really well in the last few days,” Guardiola said. “After four or five months being injured, two games in four days for Mendy was too much. Bernardo could not play so we played Riyad and he played good especially in the second half when he had someone close to him because in the first half it was not easy for him.”

Guardiola explained the choice to not use De Bruyne, one of the best playmakers in the world, by insisting the player is healthy.

“I decided to play with two holding midfielders in that position, Gundogan and Fernandinho, to be a bit more solid. It’s not the issue. I know it’s tough for him but we have the second leg. We spoke about that. It’s 180 minutes.”

To be fair to Guardiola, a good tactical idea can fail if the players don’t perform well. Maybe Gundogan and Mahrez on their average day meet Aguero converting his penalty and Man City wins 3-1. It’s not like they were completely played out of the stadium.

Guardiola didn’t seem too bothered by the performance, though we have to imagine the room will hear another story. Whether you believe in motivation or momentum or whatever at this stage, there was something about this match that made loose balls and tackles appeal a bit more to Spurs than City. The Tottenham men took their bodies to Man City and the reigning Premier League champions couldn’t adjust to the demands in time to score an away goal.

And like that, Man City is 90 minutes away from looking a lot like Paris Saint-Germain: League monsters — albeit in a better league — that find a way to fail in the latter stages of the one trophy it wants more than the others.

Three things we learned from Spurs defeat of Man City

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
1 Comment

It was always going to be a challenge for Pep Guardiola to outfox and Manchester City to outplay Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham Hotspur three times in just under two weeks.

After Tuesday’s first event, the opening leg of the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal between the Premier League sides, Man City can only be thankful for one thing: That the stinker came first.

[ MORE: Match recap | Kane hurt ]

That’s one of the three things we pulled from Tuesday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Guardiola asleep at the wheel

Starting Riyad Mahrez over Leroy Sane and leaving Kevin De Bruyne on the bench for Ilkay Gundogan was probably designed to make Man City a bit safer, but instead left the side stale.

Even if you approve of the moves, Guardiola stubbornly refused to announce the failure of either — especially stunning given the poor night for Mahrez — by neither introducing KDB nor Sane until putting them both into the fray in the 89th minute.

On a lesser but deadly note, Guardiola had few options at left back due to injuries but Fabian Delph was carved up by Christian Eriksen and Heung-Min Son on the goal.

Now City may need to blank Spurs in the second leg to advance, and if they concede early in the second leg they will need to score at least three goals to advance. Pep is playing a precarious game.

Sissoko terrific on patrol

City had little going for it all night, and Guardiola’s lineup choices betrayed him almost as much as his hesitancy to substitute early in the 1-0 loss to Spurs.

Moussa Sissoko was again a monster for Tottenham Hotspur. The question for the former Newcastle United man may have always been about his desire to perform on a consistent basis, but he’s long been a man for the bright lights.

And Pochettino has gotten the best out of the French midfielder in recent weeks, the big man a force against a Man City midfield expected to thrive in possession.

Narrator voice: It didn’t.

Lloris keeps his head

Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris had a long time to mull on the idea of stopping a penalty, with Video Assistant Referee taking its sweet time to decide whether Danny Rose handled a ball inside the 18.

So did Sergio Aguero, and the Man City man didn’t get the most of his attempt from the spot but better marks go to the French goalkeeper.

Questioned at times this year, Lloris went in the right direction to stymy one of the Premier League’s greatest all-time scorers and he feels the incident gave his side a big boost even if he didn’t personally see the offense.

“I didn’t see it,” Lloris said. “It is part of the game. We have to accept that. We stayed in the game and it gave us even more energy.”

Bonus notes

Fernandinho is fortunate he didn’t throw the whole leg in the garbage with his three-times silly challenge on Harry Kane early which involved two elbows and a push to the back of the head.

— That pass from Eriksen that led to Son’s goal. Wow.

— The wait for the new stadium was worth it; Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was noticeably loud and exploded after the goal.