Trent Alexander-Arnold

Simulating the 2019/20 Premier League finish

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April 30, am I right?

The Premier League season piledrives forward from August until May most seasons. The pause in this, due to the coronavirus, has left us looking for matches.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

With Liverpool so close to its first Premier League title, uneven giants battling for European places, and three clubs tied for 18th place on the table, well, we needed somewhere to turn.

We went with FIFA20 to see how the table will play out, who will claim the FA Cup, and which Premier League sides might thrive in the Champions League and Europa League.

Let’s follow the path, starting with two postponed matches.

Postponed matches: City pulls back within 22 points of Liverpool, as Mikel Arteta doesn’t come close to outfoxing his old boss Pep Guardiola. Meanwhile, Mbwana Samatta strikes late to steal a point for Villa and pull them within a point of West Ham, Watford, and Bournemouth.

Man City 4-1 Arsenal
Villa 1-1 Sheffield United

Matchday 30: A historic kind of day, as Man City is the only host to win a match. Spurs’ Jose Mourinho gets a draw versus Man Utd, while Liverpool crushes Everton behind a Sadio Mane hat trick.

Norwich City 0-0 Saints
West Ham 0-1 Wolves
Bournemouth 2-2 Palace
Brighton 1-2 Arsenal
Everton 1-3 Liverpool
Spurs 1-1 Man Utd
Villa 0-2 Chelsea
Watford 1-2 Leicester City
Newcastle 1-1 Sheffield United
Man City 2-0 Burnley

Matchday 31: Arsenal moves four points clear of Spurs, who fall to an inspired West Ham. The Irons pull out of the drop zone… for good.

Newcastle 2-0 Villa
Burnley 0-0 Watford
Wolves 2-1 Bournemouth
Liverpool 2-0 Palace
Leicester City 3-0 Brighton
Norwich City 1-1 Everton
Spurs 0-2 West Ham
Southampton 1-3 Arsenal
Man Utd 3-0 Sheff Utd
Chelsea 2-4 Man City

Matchday 32: Liverpool wins the league in stunning style. A draw is all the Reds need to take the trophy. Raheem Sterling gives City a 1-0 lead in the first half, only to see a Trent Alexander-Arnold free kick supply the league-winning point.

Nigel Pearson‘s Hornets move out of the drop zone with 31 points.

West Ham 1-2 Chelsea
Arsenal 4-1 Norwich
Everton 1-0 Leicester City
Palace 2-0 Burnley
Brighton 1-5 Man Utd
Bournemouth 0-3 Newcastle
Watford 2-1 Saints
Man City 1-1 Liverpool
Sheffield United 1-2 Spurs
Villa 0-4 Wolves

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images,)

Matchday 33: Norwich City gets within a win of Brighton by beating them at home behind an Emi Buendia penalty. Arsenal draws Wolves to pull within three points of the top five.

Burnley 2-1 Sheff Utd
Leicester City 2-2 Palace
Saints 1-5 Man City
Spurs 0-3 Everton
Wolves 1-1 Arsenal
Liverpool 4-0 Villa
Norwich 2-1 Brighton
Newcastle 2-2 West Ham
Man Utd 0-0 Bournemouth
Chelsea 4-0 Watford

Matchday 34: It’s getting congested in the top four, with third-place Leicester winless in four following a loss at Arsenal. Palace draws Chelsea, allowing victorious Wolves and Manchester United to pull within two points of fourth.

Norwich City wins again, passing Aston Villa and joining 18th-place Brighton on 29 points.

Sheffield United 0-2 Wolves
Watford 1-2 Norwich City
West Ham 4-1 Burnley
Bournemouth 2-0 Spurs
Everton 2-2 Saints
Man City 3-1 Newcastle
Palace 0-0 Chelsea
Arsenal 1-0 Leicester City
Brighton 0-2 Liverpool
Villa 0-2 Man Utd

Matchday 35: Sheffield United snaps a four-match losing streak with a draw against Chelsea, but the top seven hopes are dead.

Burnley takes a point at Anfield as City moves back within 20 of the Reds.

Brighton 1-4 Man City
Norwich City 1-2 West Ham
Villa 1-1 Palace
Watford 2-3 Newcastle
Wolves 2-1 Everton
Spurs 0-2 Arsenal
Sheffield United 1-1 Chelsea
Bournemouth 1-2 Leicester City
Man Utd 2-1 Southampton
Liverpool 1-1 Burnley

Matchday 36: Villa surprises Everton to move within a result of safety in a five-horse race to avoid the drop. Chelsea, Manchester United, and Wolves all win to hit the 62-point mark, two back of third-place Leicester City.

Leicester City 0-0 Sheffield United
Arsenal 0-1 Liverpool
Everton 1-2 Villa
Man City 3-0 Bournemouth
Newcastle 0-4 Spurs
Burnley 0-2 Wolves
Chelsea 3-0 Norwich City
West Ham 2-0 Watford
Palace 0-2 Man Utd
Saints 1-1 Brighton

Matchday 37: All of the top five combatants stumble except Wolves, who jump into third with a win over Crystal Palace at the Molineux.

Spurs 2-0 Leicester City
Wolves 2-0 Palace
Brighton 0-4 Newcastle
Bournemouth 0-3 Southampton
Villa 0-3 Arsenal
Sheffield United 0-3 Everton
Norwich City 0-2 Burnley
Man Utd 1-1 West Ham
Watford 1-3 Man City
Liverpool 2-0 Chelsea

Matchday 38: Talk about a dramatic final day, all things considered!

Manchester United gets a leaping Bruno Fernandes penalty to send Leicester City tumbling into sixth despite most of the season in the top three! The Red Devils climb into third because of what happens at Stamford Bridge.

Hosts Chelsea need a win over Wolves to take back fourth, as the visitors enter the day three points ahead with a one-goal advantage in differential. Christian Pulisic sets up a Willian winner to give Chelsea fourth by virtue of total wins (19).

Liverpool takes the league with a 2-0 defeat of Newcastle at St. James’ Park, completing the season with a 20-point advantage on Man City. Arsenal completes the European picture, havng been settled in seventh for some time.

The relegation scene is pretty nuts, with five teams finishing the day within three points of the bottom. All five lose, with Bournemouth and Watford staying up despite season-ending losing streaks. Nigel Pearson’s Hornets finish the season with 31 points, the same total they had after Matchday 32.

Arsenal 3-0 Watford
Burnley 2-1 Brighton
Chelsea 1-0 Wolves
Palace 2-1 Spurs
Everton 3-0 Bournemouth
Leicester City 0-1 Man Utd
Man City 1-0 Norwich City
Newcastle 0-2 Liverpool
Saints 3-1 Sheffield United
West Ham 3-1 Villa

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

STANDINGS

  1. Liverpool — 105 points (UCL)
  2. Man City — 85 points
  3. Man Utd — 66 points (UCL)
  4. Chelsea — 65 points (UCL)
  5. Wolves — 65 points (UCL)
  6. Leicester City — 64 points. (UEL)
  7. Arsenal — 62 points (UEL)
  8. Spurs — 51 points (UEL)
  9. Everton — 51 points
  10. Burnley — 50 points
  11. Crystal Palace — 49 points
  12. Newcastle United — 49 points
  13. Sheffield United — 47 points
  14. West Ham United — 44 points
  15. Southampton — 43 points
  16. Bournemouth — 32 points
  17. Watford — 31 points
  18. Brighton and Hove Albion — 30 points
  19. Aston Villa — 30 points
  20. Norwich City –29 points

FA Cup: A Manchester derby ends 4-0 to City, Leroy Sane scoring twice to join Gabriel Jesus and Aymeric Laporte on the score sheet. Two assists each for Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez.

Europa League: Manchester United gave Roma permission to use loanee Chris Smalling, and the defender powers a 13th-minute header home that stands until Anthony Martial delivers a goal three minutes from time. David De Gea is the star in penalty kicks, as United wins 4-3.

UEFA Champions League:  Pep Guardiola leads Man City into its final UCL game for two seasons, and it’s against his old pals Barcelona. Quique Setien’s side flusters City’s attack, and Lionel Messi wins it at the hour mark for the Blaugranas.

PST Roundtable: PL at the 3/4 mark

Premier League
Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images
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The Premier League season is paused at just more than the three-quarter mark — 76.05 percent, to be a bit more formal — and we’ve got a good handle on who’s good and who isn’t.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

That said, the number also gives an idea of why there’s plenty of possibilities remaining for the table and award winners once the season presumably resumes for the stretch run.

It would be natural to speculate on the front-runners and Championship-bound sides if there were matches this weekend, so why not do it now?

We’ve quizzed our PST staff on a handful of questions in roundtable form, though there was no table and my desk is decidedly rectangular.


Liverpool players have won Player of the Year for the past two seasons despite not winning the league. Are the tables flipped this year? Who is on track for PL Player of the Year?

Joe Prince-WrightKevin De Bruyne should probably win it but I expect Jordan Henderson or Sadio Mane to win it. Liverpool will win the league by a mile and both have been influential. When they’ve been out injured Liverpool have missed them and I’d probably say Mane should win it.

Andy Edwards: This is a weird one, because Liverpool have been so thoroughly outstanding in every way, on every level, that it would be difficult to pick just one of them for Player of the Year. Is Sadio Mane deserving? Sure is. What about Mohamed Salah? Also yes. Virgil Van Dijk? Yet again, yes. Trent Alexander-Arnold? You can make a strong case that he’s perhaps done the most to lift Liverpool another level higher from a “non-traditional” award-winning position. All of that is to say, simply deliver the award to Melwood Training Ground and let the players decide amongst themselves.

Daniel Karell: Remember when the U.S. women’s national team won the 1999 SI Sportsperson of the Year award? I think we’re going to have to do that for Liverpool. While Virgil Van Dijk, Mo Salah, and Sadio Mane would all be worthy of the trophy individually, it’s truly been a team effort this season and the culmination of 5 years of growth, smart transfer dealings, and hard work. Trent Alexander-Arnold has been immense at times, as has Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, and Allison Becker. Ultimately, it’s a bit of a cop-out answer but I think it’s just hard this year to pick just one who has been better. Jamie Vardy currently leads the Premier League in goals, and while he’s been terrific, he hasn’t also been playing in the Champions League like Salah, Mane, and Van Dijk have, for example. 

Kyle Bonn: It has to be Kevin de Bruyne, right? Yea, it does.

Nick Mendola: Kevin De Bruyne and it’s not particularly close. He has a fine chance of setting the league assist record, and he’s two away becoming the only player in the Top Five twice. There are words to be said for Trent Alexander-Arnold, Sadio Mane, Wilfred Ndidi, and Raul Jimenez, but no true decent arguments outside of “it should come from the champion,” which we covered in the question.


Who’s on track for your Best XI?

Joe Prince-Wright: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Maguire, Saka; J. Henderson, Ndidi, De Bruyne; Mane, Firmino, Vardy

Andy Edwards: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Soyuncu, Robertson; Ndidi, Moutinho, De Bruyne; Salah, Jimenez, Mane

Daniel Karell: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Soyuncu, Robertson; De Bruyne, Maddison, Jorginho; Vardy, Aubameyang, Salah

Kyle Bonn: D. Henderson; TAA, Van Dijk, Maguire, Robertson; Ndidi, De Bruyne, J. Henderson, Grealish; Mane, Vardy.

Nick Mendola: Leno; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Soyuncu, Robertson; Ndidi, Rodri, De Bruyne; Salah, Jimenez, Mane.


What’s the best goal you’ve seen this season?

Joe Prince-Wright: I think that has to be Heung-Min Son’s incredible solo goal. Clear winner for Goal of the Season.

Andy Edwards: Heung-min Son’s solo goal versus Burnley

Daniel Karell:  I mean…it’s got to be Heung-min Son against Burnley. Honorable mention though to Kevin de Bruyne vs. Newcastle and Moussa Djenepo vs. Sheffield United.

Kyle Bonn: Three goals so far stand out in my mind: Heung-Min Son’s dizzying run vs. Burnley, Jahanbakhsh’s bike against Chelsea, and Jordan Ayew’s little zig-zag against West Ham. The Spurs’ man’s goal wins for the sheer distance he covered.

Nick Mendola: Son. Solo. Next.


What are your Top 3 moments of the season so far?

Joe Prince-Wright: Woah. What a question. In no particular order: Christian Pulisic’s hat trick for Chelsea v Burnley. Leicester winning 9-0 at Southampton. Liverpool destroying everyone but I particularly enjoyed their 4-0 win at Leicester.

Daniel Karell: The season being postponed for the Coronavirus: Only a global pandemic could upstage the season Liverpool was having. Then Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Man City, which proved that the Reds have fully passed Man City in the pecking order. Finally, I’m biased, but for me it’s the malaise and slide that Arsenal is in. How the mighty have fallen.

Kyle Bonn: Lot to potentially go into the pot here, but the ones that stick out most in my mind are Leicester City demolishing Southampton 9-0, Newcastle ridiculous late 2-2 draw with Everton on Lejeune’s double, and Southampton exacting revenge on Leicester City for the aforementioned demolition with a 2-1 road win. I think Liverpool could potentially have three on here as well, one for the Sadio Mane header against Aston Villa, one for the late Lallana goal against Manchester United to draw, and one for the loss to Watford that ended the unbeaten league season.

Nick Mendola: Two of my three involve the soon-to-be champs, and the first took 24 seconds to reshape the season. It was the time that passed between Trent Alexander-Arnold’s would-be handball penalty for Man City and Fabinho’s rocket to beat Claudio Bravo. ‘Member? Insane. Maybe we should’ve called “Game: Blouses” on the whole season there, citing a season of fate.

The second is Watford’s beatdown of Liverpool to end the Reds’ unbeaten season is here because of its complete nature. The worn-down Reds capitulated to Ismaila Sarr in a way that lives very large.

Third could be anything: Liverpool coming back to beat West Ham. Leicester City hanging nine on Southampton. Hometown kid Matty Longstaff using all five-foot-nothing of his teenage body to piledrive Newcastle past Manchester United on his Premier League debut with his brother next to him in the midfield.

It’s been a season, team.


Grade VAR on a scale of 1-10 (1 being poor and 10 being perfect). What can be changed to make the VAR system more efficient and consistent?

Joe Prince-Wright: I’d give it a 6/10. People forget the small errors which still pop up but a lot of decisions which would have previously been wrong are now correct. I think letting referees use the pitch side monitors will improve the system and the respect for on-field officials. Too much of the control is sent to Stockley Park.

Andy Edwards: 5, dead center of the spectrum. My biggest gripe: it’s been used to micromanage and legislate the smallest of margins far too frequently. We all understand the Laws of the Game are the rules by which the game must be officiated, but what of the Spirit of the Laws of the Game? There must exist a gray area of sorts, as there is with everything in life, where intent and advantage are considered and weighed en route to the final decision. If a player is offside by 2 millimeters, is that an advantage which has a decisive impact in favor of the attacker? In most cases, it’s probably not.

Daniel Karell: 5. It’s decent, but the fact that refs refuse to use the monitors means that they’re just constantly second guessing themselves and it’s affecting how they call games in general. Make a call, and if the VAR says, hey, you might want to look at this, take a look at it to be sure. You can’t go wrong.

Kyle Bonn: VAR so far gets a 4 out of 10 for me. It gets a 3/5 on intent and ability, as the system for the most part has demonstrated the ability to serve as intended when used properly, with a few tweaks necessary such as pitchside monitors and rules like the handball rule needing amending. It gets a 1/5 on execution, with the Premier League struggling mightily to grasp the spirit of the technology. The offside line has done its job, despite the bad publicity, but the “clear & obvious error” has been grossly misinterpreted and calls have been changed or even investigated when not needed.

Nick Mendola: I’m going with five, and it’d be much higher if the PL learned from the NHL’s biggest mistake with replay: offside(s). At least in hockey there’s a blue line to help. The “moment the ball is struck” is such a poor reference point. Let the linespeople live here.


 

BONUS: Who is the best referee in the Premier League and why?

Joe Prince-Wright: Mike Dean because he is not only a pretty fair referee, overall, but he jokes with the players and seems to have their respect. Don’t @ me.

Daniel Karell: I don’t know who the best is, but Mike Dean is towards the bottom.

Kyle Bonn: Mike Dean, because he has supreme control of the pitch and makes the fewest amount of obvious errors.

Nick Mendola: I find Michael Oliver the most consistent.

2019-20 Premier League Best XI so far

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With the coronavirus shutdown of all major European soccer, it’s worth taking a moment to recognize the players who have stood out to this point as the table begins to truly take shape. Liverpool is just a hair away from securing the 2019/20 title, but not everything is about the Reds – although a lot of it still is.

[ MORE: Possible end dates | PST roundtable ]

With that in mind, here’s the frontrunners at each position for Premier League Team of the Season, with the players who could also make a leap into the conversation with a strong finish to the campaign, if they ever get the chance.

Premier League Best XI

Goalkeeper: Dean Henderson
Also considered: Alisson Becker

Harsh on Alisson, who is leading the way for one of the best back lines in Premier League history, but Dean Henderson has been just as brilliant in far more difficult circumstances. The Manchester United loanee has starred at Sheffield United, prompting talk that the Red Devils should cut his loan short and instill the 23-year-old’s loan short and bring him on to take over for a struggling David De Gea. While many have labeled the shot-stopper “England’s future number one,” it’s entirely possible that Henderson would have been the starter had Euro 2020 not been postponed until next season, and it’s certainly fathomable that the youngster could still be first-choice once the tournament arrives. There are recent rumors among English tabloids that Manchester United is preparing a new contract for Henderson worth nearly $120,000 a week, which would be more than backup goalkeeper Sergio Romero currently makes and about equal with new midfielder Bruno Fernandes.

Ederson is normally considered part of this list as well, but he just hasn’t performed up to the level required this season considering how he sparkled in Manchester City’s title campaign last time around.

Left-back: Andrew Robertson
Also considered: Ben Chilwell, Lucas Digne, Jonny

While Robertson doesn’t burst off the page like his fellow full-back teammate Alexander-Arnold (more on that in a moment), he is still far and away the best left-back in the league. The former Hull City man who joined Liverpool for just $9 million back in 2017 has flourished into one of the world’s best, and his chemistry with Alexander-Arnold is growing the two into a legendary pairing. He is a long-ball master, delivering 2.4 per game, the most of any left-back in the league and third among full-backs to just Kyle Walker and Alexander-Arnold.

Right-back: Trent Alexander-Arnold
Also considered: Ricardo Pereira, Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Did you know the Premier League was absolutely stacked at right-back? If not for Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is quickly establishing himself as the best full-back in the world and has a shot at a place among the greatest of all-time should he maintain this form for a number of years, the likes of Ricardo Pereira and Aaron Wan-Bissaka would actually have a legitimate shot at this award. Pereira’s performance this season has been so good he’s earned himself links to Real Madrid, and both he and Wan-Bissaka are tackle masters who are blowing away the rest of the league in that category (both are the only men not named Wilfried Ndidi to average over 4 successful tackles per match). Throw in Kyle Walker and wing-back Matt Doherty, and the ranks of Premier League right-backs are loaded. Too bad TAA trumps them all, with a gargantuan 12 assists this season and 2.6 key passes per game, more than double the total of any other right-back.

Center-Back: Virgil Van Dijk, Harry Maguire
Also considered: Caglar Soyuncu, Wily Boly, James Tarkowski

Selecting one of these players is a no-brainer. Virgil van Dijk is far and away the best center-back in the Premier League, and maybe the world. Selecting his partner is far more difficult.

WhoScored’s second-highest rated player at the position this season is Wily Boly, but like Scott McTominay, thanks to injuries he has not played enough this season to qualify. Caglar Soyuncu is another popular choice, and the youngster no doubt has been a pleasant surprise next to Jonny Evans at Leicester City, one of the league’s rising stars at the position. But Harry Maguire lived up to his price tag this season and that’s no small feat as the world’s most expensive defender. His positioning is exquisite, and while he hasn’t displayed van Dijk levels of domination – a slight slip in form through the months of October and November prove that – he has done fabulously at Manchester United, racking up a complete 2,610-minute Premier League season to this point and playing significant minutes through the other Cup competitions as well while the Red Devils struggle with injuries all over the pitch.

Defensive Midfield: Wilfred Ndidi
Also considered: Scott McTominay, Declan Rice, Jorginho

Wilfred Ndidi is a midfield destroyer the likes of which we haven’t seen since…well, since N’Golo Kante did it first at Leicester City just a few short years ago. But that doesn’t take away from the otherworldly performance that Ndidi has put forth this season, given that Kante earned himself Ballon d’Or nominations for his performance in Leicester City’s title-winning season. See this from November:

Ndidi is completing 4.4 successful tackles a game, only second to Crystal Palace’s James McCarthy who has only appeared in 12 games this season. He is doing so in a vicious pressing system that centrals around the Nigerian’s ability to cover an insane amount of ground, easing the pressing load on the other players as to not tire them out. Need an idea how important Ndidi is to the team? Of the five matches he missed in 2020 due to a knee injury, Leicester City won exactly zero of them, with three losses and two draws. He’s so important to the squad that Pep Guardiola game-planned for him successfully.

Scott McTominay has been a revelation this season, taking the next step into one of the league’s best defensive midfielders, but he missed too many games due to injury. Declan Rice continues to push forward as one of West Ham’s best assets, but has been unable to assert the same table-climbing effect on his side that Ndidi exerts on Leicester City.

Central Midfield: Jordan Henderson, Kevin De Bruyne
Also considered: Joao Moutinho, John Fleck

Kevin de Bruyne is everyone’s first choice on this squad. Leading the league 17 assists and producing scintillating displays nearly every week. The Belgian has displayed positional flexibility, often best sitting behind the striker in an attacking midfield role but also moving back into central midfield to receive the ball deeper or shifting out wide to make use of his crossing technique. De Bruyne will likely battle with van Dijk for Player of the Season should the awards eventually end up given out.

On the other end, Jordan Henderson is a perfect foil for de Bruyne. The Liverpool captain has been gargantuan this season, moving from cult hero to widespread household name. Henderson is a lynchpin of the highest order, calming the side and bringing structure to the buildup while helping defensively when Liverpool is hit on the counter.

The others considered from this position deserve to be mentioned. Joao Moutinho, along with midfield partner Ruben Neves, has turned the Wolves midfield into a dominant force no matter who they play. While they don’t necessarily hold the ball for endless spells of possession, they have been vicious when moving forward and relentless when shielding the back line. John Fleck, meanwhile, has been the other Sheffield United standout this season alongside Henderson, and his performance this season must be mentioned given where the Blades sit in the table.

Attacking Midfield: Jack Grealish
Also considered: James Maddison, Mason Mount

As far as players who are the most important to their team, Jack Grealish is unquestionably tops of that list. The Aston Villa midfielder has produced spectacular performance after spectacular performance this season, often the best player on the field despite Villa’s overall struggles. With his current club potentially going down should the season be concluded, Grealish is being linked with teams scattered across the top of the Premier League table and rightly so. At just 24 years old, Grealish has grown into a flourishing attacker who excels at taking players on and creating chances out of nothing.

Mason Mount has been fabulous for Chelsea this season, but injuries have hampered his campaign. The Blues should nonetheless be encouraged about the bright future of their young star. James Maddison has been equally fantastic for Leicester City in a similar role with freedom around the pitch, but he doesn’t quite carry his team like Grealish does. The youth on this list should be encouraging for the long-term health of attacking systems in the English top flight.

Forward: Sadio Mane, Jamie Vardy
Also considered: Sergio Aguero, Mohamed Salah, Adama Traore

Absolutely the most difficult choice of any position here, some high-profile players have missed out on a place in the team, but there’s just no way to leave out the two men at this spot. Jamie Vardy leads the league in goals, and while things have dried up somewhat until his brace against Aston Villa last time out, his goal conversion rate is still at historic levels. The dry spell has lowered his xG that at one point sat above the +6 mark, but he still has converted chances at a +4.76 rate this season, bagging 19 goals on a 14.24 xG mark. While Sergio Aguero and Mohamed Salah have also been prolific goalscorers, they just haven’t finished at the absurd rate that Jamie Vardy has produced.

Those two also just don’t equate to the importance that Sadio Mane presents to Liverpool. The presence of Gabriel Jesus means that Sergio Aguero could be missed and Manchester City hardly misses a beat, and while that shouldn’t take away from what the Argentine means to the heartbeat of that squad, it just doesn’t stack up to Mane’s vital presence at Liverpool. Adama Traore has burst onto the scene the second half of the campaign, injecting life into an occasionally stagnant Wolves attack and earning himself a place on this list, but he still struggles with consistency and doesn’t quite equate to the massive stature of the Liverpool winger.

Atleti ends Liverpool hopes of UCL repeat

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Marcos Llorente scored twice in extra time, the first off an extra-time blunder from Liverpool goalkeeper Adrian, as Atletico Madrid knocked the reigning champions out of the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.

The match finished 3-2 to Atleti, 4-2 on aggregate, as Alvaro Morata scored late to pour salt in Liverpool’s wounds.

[ MORE: Klopp, Milner react | Simeone, too ]

The Reds forgot their finishing boots on a dominant day, out-attempting Diego Simeone’s visitors 34-9. Atleti goalkeeper Jan Oblak made nine saves.

Roberto Firmino’s goal in the fourth minute of extra time joined Georginio Wijnaldum‘s first-half goal to give Liverpool an advantage it held for less than two minutes.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]


Three things we learned

1. Gini and The Ox run the show, but miserable finishing kills Reds: Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain rewarded Jurgen Klopp for his risk of removing off-kilter star Fabinho from the Starting XI. The pair teamed up on the opening goal but it was more than that that earned them headlines. Wijnaldum was the best player not named Jan Oblak in the first half, while Oxlade-Chamberlain was a menace to Atleti’s midfielders in the second frame. While Jordan Henderson was understandably a bit rusty at times, his center midfield mates delivered the goods.

That said, Liverpool’s finishing was a combination of truly poor and terribly unlucky. Even when the Reds went ahead in stoppage time, it was Firmino cashing in a rebound after his first shot toward a gaping half of the goal hit the post. Robertson headed off the cross bar. Mohamed Salah shot ball after the ball almost directly to Jan Oblak or over the goal. This won’t go down as “Atleti is so hard to break down,” though Simeone’s men obviously are a tough team; The Reds just didn’t finish enough of their many, many chances.

2. Oblak almost everywhere: Not sure where exactly the joke is here, but Atletico Madrid’s goalkeeper blocked nearly everything that came his way, inspiring “Oh” and “Oh” from the Anfield faithful. The Slovenian shot-stopper

3. Adrian gives it away: Spanish keeper Adrian had very little to do on the day in filling in for the injured Alisson Becker, but ultimately will go down as the man responsible for Liverpool’s failure to defend its UCL crown. He made three saves on the day, but his poor pass up the middle of the pitch to Joao Felix will be what everyone remembers as Liverpool again loses a big UCL match due to a goalkeeper error (and terrible finishing).

Man of the Match: It’s Oblak. Yes, Llorente scored twice. Sure, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wijnaldum were incredible. But the Slovenian commanded his box in the face of extreme adversity and congestion.


Liverpool entered the match with predictable vigor, Jan Oblak’s first duty coming off a Georginio Wijnaldum header of a Trent Alexander-Arnold cross.

Atleti found its footing soon after, Kieran Trippier unable to turn a long diagonal ball off a free kick back toward goal.

Salah tempted the frame with a 20-yard attempt in the 10th minute, and Oblak made a sprawling denial of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain four minutes later.

Atleti won a corner in the 17th, but Felipe nodded short of the near post.

Salah took advantage of a Renan Lodi slip to cue up Sadio Mane, but his bounding shot was blocked and collected by Oblak.

The Atleti keeper then made a fantastic save on Roberto Firmino after an incisive Alexander-Arnold cross.

Wijnaldum leveled the tie in the 43rd minute, and the goal had been coming. Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross found a wide-open Wijnaldum at the spot for a powered-down header that bounced past Oblak.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Salah stung Oblak’s palms early in the second half, and the Atleti keeper stopped an offside Mane with a fantastic left-hand save in the 50th.

Oblak got low to palm away an Oxlade-Chamberlain drive, conceding a corner.

Joao Felix had a chance out of nothing, and Adrian bumbled the ball but saved his error by blocking Correa’s chop at the rebound.

Robertson was celebrating a would-be go-ahead goal off a Salah cross, but it hit the cross bar in the 67th minute. Oblak made another fine save before the rebound was blocked by a defender.

An 81st-minute corner routine set up Robertson for glory, but he blazed clear of the frame from 18 yards.

Wijnaldum couldn’t finish with a back post header off a James Milner cross, and Mane smashed an overhead kick over the bar.

Saul Niguez was offside when he headed a stoppage-time free kick home, and the match moved to extra time.

Oblak made another save to start stoppage time, his ninth of the match. Firmino then took his rebound off the post to make it 2-0.

But wait, Atleti had an answer when Adrian’s clearance went right to Joao Felix. A few touches later it was 2-1 through Llorente’s low drive, and he added another through a well-worked counterattack to stun the reigning champs.

Morata blazed past the Liverpool back line to seal the result deep in the second period of extra time.

Sloppy Liverpool edge past Bournemouth

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Liverpool beat Bournemouth 2-1 at Anfield on Saturday as Jurgen Klopp‘s men recovered from an early setback to secure another victory and bounce back from a tough week.

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After losing at Watford last weekend to see their hopes of an unbeaten season end, Klopp’s side were also dumped out of the FA Cup by Chelsea in midweek and they fell behind early on to Callum Wilson’s controversial goal. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane both scored in quick succession in the first half to put Liverpool ahead and the rest of the game was a fairly tight encounter as Bournemouth kept battling and almost levelled late on.

Liverpool have now won 22-straight top-flight games at home, setting a new club and top-flight record, and they are 55 Premier League games unbeaten at home, stretching back to April 2017.

With the win they now need just three more victories from to secure their first-ever Premier League title and are 25 points clear atop the table. Bournemouth remain in the relegation zone on 27 points.


3 things we learned

1. VAR sets the precedent: There’s no doubt Callum Wilson pushed Joe Gomez in the build-up to Bournemouth’s early goal but the contact looked pretty natural and the referee waved play on. VAR intervened to check the call but didn’t think it was a clear and obvious error and that set the precedent for the rest of the game. Similar tussles were not called as fouls and whatever you think about Wilson not being penalized, there was consistency in the decisions. In the end it didn’t matter but Wilson’s goal was certainly controversial.

2. Ruthless Liverpool three wins away: It is fair to say Liverpool is limping over the line in their quest to win a first league title in 30 years. A lackluster display mimicked the atmosphere at Anfield as there as an air of expectancy now as everybody just wants to get the job done. Mane and Salah finished off their big chances and even though Liverpool were a little sloppy defensively, they ground out another one-goal win, their 14th of an amazing season.

3. Bournemouth cause their own problems: The Cherries did not play badly at all and had chances late on to grab a point at Anfield. It wouldn’t have been undeserved. Eddie Howe‘s side created their own problems on Saturday as Jack Simpson and Jefferson Lerma gave the ball away in the first half and they were punished. If Bournemouth keep playing like this they will drag themselves out of the relegation zone but the big problem is, they have a very tough schedule remaining.

Man of the Match: Mohamed Salah – A superb goal and wonderful trickery all game long, Salah stepped it up when Liverpool needed it. The Egyptian King has now scored 20 goals in all competitions in all three of his seasons as a Liverpool player. A special mention to Nathan Ake too, who was superb for Bournemouth.


Bournemouth got off to a perfect start as they stunned Anfield with an early goal. Wilson was involved in a tussle with Joe Gomez and play continued with Bournemouth attacking down the right and Jefferson Lerma crossed for Wilson to tap home.

VAR was used but it was deemed that Wilson’s push on Gomez wasn’t a clear and obvious error as Bournemouth were 1-0 up. Soon after they were almost 2-0 up as Nathan Ake towered above a crowd of players from a corner and his superb header was fortuitously pushed onto the bar by Adrian.

Liverpool’s first big chance of the game then arrived as Trent Alexander-Arnold played in Roberto Firmino and his powerful effort was well-saved by Aaron Ramsdale who stood tall. Soon after the game turned on its head.

Jack Simpson, who had come on to replace the injured Steve Cook moments earlier, was caught in possession and Salah kept his composure to equalize with a cheeky finish. Moments later Mane put Liverpool 2-1 up as Virgil Van Dijk found the Senegalese forward who finished calmly as Jurgen Klopp went wild on the sidelines.

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Bournemouth hung in there in the second half and almost levelled things up as Ryan Fraser got in over the top and lobbed the ball over Adrian but James Milner appeared from nowhere to hook the ball off the line superbly.

Adrian continued to look uncertain in goal as Bournemouth pushed for an equalizer, while at the other end Virgil van Dijk’s header was saved well by Ramsdale.

Mane then curled an audacious effort off the crossbar late on as Liverpool aimed to see out the game in style, with Roberto Firmino also firing an effort over the bar. Ake almost scored a late winner but was flagged offside as Liverpool held on with minimum fuss, in the end.