Grades, key takeaways on each PL club so far

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With four games done and dusted as we head into the first international break of the 2018-19 Premier League season, now seems like a good time to focus on how each team team has looked so far.

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Below we give each PL club a grade based on their early season performances (I can hear you screaming ‘it’s a marathon not a sprint’) and what the key takeaway has been for each so far.


Arsenal

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Grade: C+
Key takeaway: Plenty of work to do defensively and the possession style from the back is going to cost Petr Cech his role as a starter. Slick going forward but where does Mesut Ozil slot into Unai Emery‘s plans? Still a lot of questions unanswered with the Gunners looking likely to finish outside the top four after some early season struggles. That said, if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette get going, they could easily finish in the top four.


Bournemouth

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Grade: B+
Key takeaway: Eddie Howe continues to work wonders on the South Coast as the Cherries’ only defeat came at Chelsea, and they pressed the Blues pretty hard and missed some big chances. Bournemouth look like they can push for the top 10 and Callum Wilson is fired up this season. A better start than they’ve had in recent years since gaining promotion to the Premier League in 2015.


Brighton & Hove Albion

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Grade: B
Key takeaway: Glenn Murray continues to defy father time with three goals already. Two defeats have come against Watford and Liverpool, while the win over Man United showed their improved attacking prowess. Any injuries to key defenders and they could struggle but much more adventurous this season, especially at home where their form remains fantastic. Solid and steady start for the Seagulls under Chris Hughton.


Burnley

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Grade: F
Key takeaway: We see it season after season. Qualifying for the Europa League will impact the fortunes of the so-called smaller PL teams and Burnley not only failed to make the Europa group stages, but they’re also without a win in the PL. Sean Dyche has had injuries to key players to contend with but their lack of defensive solidity, and goals, show how remarkable their seventh-place finish was last season. Relegation battle coming up for the Clarets.


Cardiff City

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Grade: C
Key takeaway: Just two points on the board for the Bluebirds but this is pretty much exactly what we expected from Neil Warnock‘s side. Hard to break down and they gave Arsenal a heck of a scare in the Welsh capital on Sunday. They will rue not beating Newcastle and Huddersfield when having a man advantage for large spells of the game, especially with a tough run of games coming up. Scoring goals will be the main issue for Cardiff with Bobby Reid and Kenneth Zohore off target through the first four weeks.


Chelsea

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Grade: A-
Key takeaway: They should really get an A given the way the players have already adapted to Maurizio Sarri‘s tactics, but the only real test was against Arsenal and they showed plenty of weaknesses in that game. Chelsea’s players look rejuvenated going forward, with Jorginho pulling the strings, N'Golo Kante leading the high-press in a new advanced position and Eden Hazard their main man. Defensively the duo of Antonio Rudiger and David Luiz in a 4-3-3 formation have been caught out at times and that will be a concern for Sarri against  tougher opposition. Four wins from four is a great start for the new Italian coach. But he knows his pressing game will take months for his Chelsea side to perfect. Off the pitch, Roman Abramovich’s situation is slightly worrying but it doesn’t seem like the club will be sold anytime soon.


Crystal Palace

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Grade: C
Key takeaway: The Eagles had a great win at Fulham on the opening day and although they lost to Liverpool and Watford, they impressed in both games. Without Wilfried Zaha they had no answer in their third-straight defeat, which came at the hands of Southampton. We’ve learned that Palace are more reliant on Zaha this season than they were last season. Any long-term injury to Wilf and it’s tough to see where the goals will come from for Roy Hodgson‘s men.


Everton

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Grade: B
Key takeaway: Still unbeaten under Marco Silva, Everton have flattered to deceive a little but they’ve been superb on the counter attack which is the style the Portuguese coach loves. Richarlison was flying before his silly red card at Bournemouth and Silva’s inability to arrange his teams effectively at defensive set piece situations continues. Sloppy draws against Bournemouth and Huddersfield show their defense needs work, but in fairness they’ve had injuries galore at that position. Top seven still a real possibility for the Toffees.


Fulham

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Grade: B
Key takeaway: Silly defensive mistakes have riddled Fulham’s first four games. They’ve got four points on the board as they smashed Burnley and drew at Brighton, but they led the latter 2-0 before coughing up two needless goals. Slavisa Jokanovic‘s side are lovely on the eye and Mitrovic, Seri and Schurrle have impressed. More composure in both boxes needed.


Huddersfield Town

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Grade: D-
Key takeaway: Two points on the board shows that the Terriers are still very capable of battling for points in the Premier League, but there’s a sense of a Sophomore slump. Where will the goals come from? David Wagner isn’t getting too worried after heavy defeats to Man City and Chelsea, but it’s clear for all to see Huddersfield will be in a relegation scrap this season.


Leicester City

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Grade: B+
Key takeaway: Their results may not show it but Leicester have been very good early in the season. They lost 2-1 to Man United and Liverpool but could have easily won both games and deserved a point from both at the very least. Claude Puel has injected youth into the Foxes with James Maddison, Ben Chilwell and Demarai Gray all impressing. A really nice balance about this team now compared to their previous incarnation as a counter-attacking monster.


Liverpool

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Grade: A
Key takeaway: Jurgen Klopp‘s men have found a handy knack of not playing well but still winning games. Four wins from four suggests it’s a great start. They edged by Brighton and Leicester despite not being at their best and that came after blowing past West Ham and Crystal Palace. Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez are developing a strong partnership at center back, while Alisson had a solid start but his huge blunder against Leicester should help him out, in the long run, as he figures out the Premier League. The usual suspects continue to fire in attack and with Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri arriving, plus Daniel Sturridge fit, Klopp’s squad is a lot deeper this season.


Manchester City

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Grade: B+
Key takeaway: The only blot on the copybook was the 1-1 draw at Wolves and without the injured Kevin De Bruyne City have struggled to break down teams as easily as they did last season. That said, big wins against Arsenal and Huddersfield proved their strength in-depth and they look set for a big title charge again this season. Pep Guardiola‘s men will have to deal with teams sitting even deeper against them this season. How is that possible? Still, Sergio Aguero and David Silva are delivering again for the reigning champs but both Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez have struggled early in the season.


Manchester United

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Grade: D
Key takeaway: Jose Mourinho’s men have had a tumultuous start to the season and the main issue has been defensive deficiencies. After a summer of searching for new center backs and not buying any, Mourinho’s current defenders are all over the place. Add in rumors about Paul Pogba not being happy, Mourinho’s post-Tottenham meltdown and two-straight defeats and there was an air of panic around Old Trafford. The win at Burnley settled things down before the international break but Mourinho is still in fighting mode as many believe another third-season syndrome is in full-flow. Six points on the board from four games isn’t great, but United will still be challenging for the top four at the very least.


Newcastle United

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Grade: D
Key takeaway: No wins yet for Rafael Benitez’s men but they were handed a pretty awful start in terms of the fixture list. Narrow defeats to Tottenham, Chelsea and Man City have seen him set up his team differently for each and key injuries haven’t helped. The main takeaway is that Benitez is working miracles with the squad at his disposal and Newcastle’s fans shouldn’t forgot that after many criticized his ultra-defensive tactics against Chelsea, where they almost grabbed a point. A season above the relegation zone would be a huge success.


Southampton

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Grade: C+
Key takeaway: Mark Hughes‘ men have every right to feel a little hard done by with their points tally after four games. But at least they have their first win on the board after beating Crystal Palace. Danny Ings will be their savior this season as he looks sharp and Hughes has finally settled on his best starting lineup in a 4-4-2 formation. Narrow defeats against Everton and Leicester prove they probably aren’t good enough to challenge for Europe this season but they shouldn’t be dragged into another relegation scrap.


Tottenham Hotspur

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Grade: B-
Key takeaway: Heading towards four wins on the spin to open the season, a late implosion at Watford ahead of the international break showcased the reason for Mauricio Pochettino‘s recent pessimism. Even after Spurs’ 3-0 shellacking of Manchester United at Old Trafford, Poch warned his side they weren’t performing well. Given the fact plenty of his starting lineup reached the final two days of the World Cup, there is a healthy hangover among this squad. Throw in their stadium delay and no new signings this summer and three wins from four is very decent. Lucas Moura‘s form has been a huge boost and he’s been like a new signing, plus Harry Kane has actually scored (twice) in August. Spurs will be in the top four mix again.


Watford

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Grade: A+
Key takeaway: The surprise package of the season so far, Watford have four wins from four after their comeback win against Tottenham. Javi Gracia‘s men were one of the relegation favorites before a ball was kicked but they’ve once again started a season on fire. Can they keep it up? They seem to have many contributors this season rather than relying on Richarlison like they did before he left for Everton. Abdoulaye Doucoure has taken his game to another level, plus Andre Gray, Troy Deeney and Roberto Pereyra have all chipped in. It seems like the Hornets could challenge the top six this season. What a huge surprise.


West Ham United

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Grade: F
Key takeaway: If we could give them a lower grade, we would. A simply shocking start for the Hammers under new manager Manuel Pellegrini. They spent over $130 million on new players in the summer but there’s no balance to their team, huge holes in central midfield and they’re leaking goals galore. Not a great combo, right? West Ham’s owners will soon see protests and more from the fans if this run continues. That means Pellegrini, quite unbelievably, is the bookmakers favorite to be the next PL manager to get the sack. Defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal were expected but home losses to Bournemouth and Wolves were not. Felipe Anderson has shown bright sparks along with Marko Arnautovic up top, but that’s about it.


Wolverhampton Wanderers

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Grade: B+
Key takeaway: Wolves look the part in the Premier League. Ruben Neves is a wizard alongside Joao Moutinho in midfield, Raul Jimenez is a handful up top and Rui Patricio is a star in goal. New arrivals throughout their spine have helped Nuno Espirito Santo keep the core of his team which won promotion last season but also take to life in the top-flight effortlessly. Wolves could easily have won all four games (they’ve had to settle for five points instead) and they are a team which has a clear identity to press high in a 3-5-2 formation. As the season wears on we should expect to see them in the top 10.


Watford stay perfect, beat Crystal Palace in fiery encounter

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  • 3 wins from 3 for Watford
  • Pereyra, Holebas put them ahead
  • Wilfried Zaha scores for Palace
  • Zaha’s 7th goal in last 9 games

Watford beat Crystal Palace 2-1 at Vicarage Road on Sunday with Javi Gracia‘s Hornets making it three wins from three to start the new Premier League season.

That is the first time in 20 years they’ve won their opening three games of a campaign and the first time they’ve ever done that in the Premier League.

After a feisty first half which saw plenty of late challenges fly in, Andreas Pereyra put Watford ahead in the second half and Jose Holebas doubled the lead with a cross which flew into the far corner.

Wilfried Zaha, booed throughout after early yellow cards for and against him, pulled one back for Palace but it wasn’t enough to stop Roy Hodgson‘s boys slumping to back-to-back defeats.

With the win Watford remain perfect with nine points from nine, while Palace stay on three points.

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Palace started the game brightly and Etienne Capoue was booked for catching Zaha inside the first five minutes. Andros Townsend‘s clipped cross to the back post found Zaha and Christian Benteke unmarked but the latter headed wide.

Zaha was booked himself for a late challenge on Jose Holebas in a fiery start to the game.

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Benteke went even closer moments later as Townsend’s cross found the Belgian but his header was well-saved by Ben Foster. And a few minutes later Foster denied the onrushing James McArthur

Watford’s best chance of the first half arrived as Pereyra’s shot was deflected over by McArthur when it seemed certain to fly in. Pereyra then curled an effort towards the far post which Wayne Hennessey saved comfortably in the end. At the other end McArthur again broke free but a wonderful last-ditch tackle from Holebas denied him.

Right on half time Daryl Janmaat then drilled a shot just wide of the far post as Watford finished the half strongly.

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Pereyra gave Watford the lead after the break as a powerful run forward from Capoue saw the Argentinian cut in and curl home a beauty into the far corner. 1-0.

Palace pushed hard to get back into the game and Benteke curled a powerful effort inches wide of the post as the Eagles went so close to an equalizer.

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Watford then made it 2-0 with a bizarre goal from Holebas as his cross from the left flew over everyone, including Palace goalkeeper Hennessey, and into the far corner.

Moments later Palace halved the deficit as Zaha scored from close range to become their leading all-time goalscorer in the PL and make it 2-1.

In the 96th minute Joel Ward somehow headed wide when unmarked from a corner as Palace went so close to snatching a dramatic equalizer.

But Watford held on for the win as they remain the surprise package of the opening month of the season.

Watch Live: Watford v. Crystal Palace

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Watford host Crystal Palace at Vicarage Road on Sunday (Watch live, 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Hornets hoping to make it three wins from three to start the season.

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Palace have impressed early in the season too, with Roy Hodgson’s men playing well but losing to Liverpool on Monday after their opening weekend win at Fulham.

Javi Gracia’s Watford look sharp and ready to prove their doubters wrong, but this will arguably be a tougher test than playing Brighton or Burnley, who they beat in their opening two games of the season.

In team news Watford are unchanged.

Palace bring in Joel Ward for the suspended Aaron Wan-Bissaka, while James Tomkins was a late scratch as Martin Kelly came in for him.


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Hodgson labels Watford mascot “a disgrace” after mocking Zaha

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Ahead of Crystal Palace’s match on Sunday against Watford, Palace boss Roy Hodgson has dug up old dirt on Watford mascot Harry the Hornet, warning the costumed man to behave himself.

The Watford mascot famously fell to the ground in 2016 while walking past Zaha to mock the Palace man who received a yellow card for a dive earlier in the match. The incident occurred after the match and drew a sarcastic clap from Zaha who did not take kindly to the incident.

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“Zaha does not dive,” said Hodgson during his pre-match press conference. “If you’re asking me whether Harry the Hornet, who I presume is the mascot, should dive in that way, I think it’s disgraceful, because that’s not what football matches are about. And certainly if it’s provoking the crowd into looking for something that’s not there, it should be stopped.”

At the time, Zaha was asked if there was “an agenda against him” to which the Palace winger responded, “I feel that there totally is.”

“It was definitely a penalty,” Zaha said back in 2016. “I was so shocked when the ref told me it was a dive. What was funny was after the game – even though it makes no difference – was that he [Adrian Mariappa] has actually gone: ‘I’ll be honest, Wilf, it was actually a pen.'”

Then-manager of Palace Sam Allardyce called the incident “out of order” but the club was not punished by the Football Association.

Watch Live: Crystal Palace vs. Liverpool

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Liverpool looks to continue it’s strong start to the season Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) when the Reds visit former manager Roy Hodgson and Crystal Palace.

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Both teams won their season openers, with Liverpool thrashing West Ham 4-0 and Crystal Palace overcoming Fulham, 2-0. Monday will be a battle of two of the best wingers in the Premier League, with Mo Salah lining up against Wilfried Zaha.

In addition, both teams have made no changes to their opening-day lineups, though Crystal Palace has new signing Max Meyer available off the bench.

Enjoy what could be an exciting match featuring plenty of goals!


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