Vincent Kompany

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Premier League winter break roundtable

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The Premier League is currently on its first-ever winter break and that gave us time to sit down for a roundtable to have a look at what has happened so far as we are now two thirds of the way into the season.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Below we answer a host of questions on the 2019-20 season so far and make some predictions for the final few months of the campaign.


Which team(s) has exceeded expectations so far?

Joe Prince-Wright: I tackled this question a few days ago here at Pro Soccer Talk and I think Leicester City and Sheffield United have been the most surprising. Leicester look nailed on to finish in the top four while the newly-promoted Blades look set to push for the Europa League. Both have been a breath of fresh air in the upper echelons of the table and both teams are great to watch as innovators Brendan Rodgers and Chris Wilder set their teams up very differently to the rest of the Premier League. I’ve marvelled at Liverpool’s brilliance all season long and struggle to sum up just how ruthless they’ve been as they sit here with 24 wins from 25 games and no defeats. Jurgen Klopp‘s side have destroyed the rest of the league. Also, a shoutout for Newcastle United too who should be bottom of the table if you’re going on expected goals for and against but somehow Steve Bruce has dragged them through, even with a myriad of injuries.

Kyle Bonn: Obviously Sheffield United is the easy answer here, and it’s fantastic what they’re doing. It only got better with the Blades bringing in Sander Berge in January, a stellar signing. However, I’m going to reach a little further and say Liverpool. What they’re doing this season is beyond the realm anyone thought possible for any team, not just the Reds. Barring a brutal collapse, this season will go down in the history books as one of – if not the – most dominating season of all time. Jurgen Klopp has engineered a masterpiece for the ages, one to sit alongside Da Vinci and Picasso.

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Nick Mendola: Look: There are only two answers In this muddled Premier League season unless you include Liverpool and we write a lot about them anyway. One is Leicester City, and my gut tells me they’ve thrived on good Fortune more than most teams and will sink into fourth or maybe even fifth by the end of the season (Still an incredible season, but that’s the trend in most metrics). Plus, it’s a lot more fun to wax poetic about Chris Wilder and Sheffield United, who rose up the table through a combination of craft, guile, discipline, and hard work. There’s midfielder John Lundstram, who was so under-the-radar that he’s holds the honor of being fantasy PL gift of the season due to being listed as a defender. Young star goalkeeper Dean Henderson is getting England shouts but he’s lived his full senior career knowing he’s behind David De Gea at Manchester United. Wilder has refined Lys Mousset from a Bournemouth disappointment to a lively threat, and unrewarded striker David McGoldrick has produced without actually producing (7.19 expected goals but zero on the actual sheet). And now they’ve signed Sander Berge, showing both their team room, supporters, and the rest of the league that they will spend to make their over-achievement closer to the norm.

Dan Karell: It’s got to be Sheffield United, and a close 1A to Leicester City. The transition between the Championship and Premier League is incredibly difficult, and at this point it’s hard to predict exactly which preparation is best. However, in this case, for Chris Wilder and his team, limiting summer signings and going with the players who got them promoted has paid handsome dividends. Very few people would have expected Sheffield United to be in the top six of the Premier League standings at this point of the year, and who knows, with how bad Man United and Arsenal have been this year, there’s every chance Sheffield United could be playing in Europe next year.


Which team(s) has been the most disappointing?

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JPW: Man City are up there. They’ve been wonderful at times in attack and midfield but so poor defensively and their title defense has never really got going. Not signing a new center back was a big issue for a club which is usually so practical in planning ahead with its recruitment and Vincent Kompany was never replaced properly and Aymeric Laporte‘s injury compounded that. That said, City will probably win the Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup. What a poor season that would be… I’ve been disappointed by Tottenham and Arsenal but mid-season manager changes have seen both teams become more ruthless. I did not think West Ham would be as much of a mess as they have been and I seriously worry about them being relegated.

NM: Now that Everton and Arsenal have (somewhat) stabilized, the answer comes down to two Uniteds. Manchester United’s disappointment is down to its arrogant lack of depth (especially considering few would’ve expected Marcus Rashford to perform at near-superstar levels before his injury), but there’s been nothing worse than West Ham United. The quality on the roster is a Top Seven contender, but they didn’t have answers to the questions posed by long-term injuries to Lukasz Fabianski and Felipe Anderson. Then the club fired its Premier League-winning manager to bring in an even better one  “All I Do Is Win” David Moyes. Scottish DJ Khaled is winless in six since beating Bournemouth and Gillingham to restart life in London.

KB: Tottenham. It’s shocking that the same squad which made the Champions League final less than a season ago is suddenly as deficient as it seems to be now. The midfield is a wreck, the attack is toothless, and the defense is far less dominating. What made Mauricio Pochettino’s team click – a relentless pressing – is now suddenly a glaring weakness. There’s very little ability to stop a counter. Even the famed Jose Mourinho Bump couldn’t rescue this squad. Daniel Levy will have headaches rectifying problems he never imagined would arise. This summer Spurs should be very busy – if they’re not, something has gone terribly wrong.

DK: I’m biased as an Arsenal fan, but it’s got to be Arsenal. It’s been a failure at pretty much all levels of the club. For the umpteenth year, Arsenal came into the season not addressing their core weakness (Centerback and holding midfield), and instead spent big to sign another talented attacker. The panic buy of David Luiz was further proof that Arsenal was only going to go down and down. For the players, they’ve been terrible, for the most part. If you plugged a lot of these guys into other teams, individually, perhaps they’d play better, but the terrible defending has exposed this squad to be much worse than we all thought. Arsenal has won just two Premier League games since Mid-October, which is insane. It’s been a failure across the board.


Who would you rather watch week in, week out if every single player is fit: Liverpool or Man City?

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JPW: I would usually go with Man City but this season Liverpool have taken their game to another level. They haven’t always been at their attacking best but there is something so satisfying about watching an entire unit know they are going to win games, stay calm and doing it. Klopp has turned Liverpool into a well-oiled machine and as slick as Man City are to watch when they are in full flow, Liverpool can blow teams away at the start of games and then turn on the style. One word to sum up watching Liverpool over the last 12-18 months is absorbing. It just captures you.

NM: Oh my, what a question. My personal football preference is the system behind Man City, which has been successfully implemented by so few. Yet the Reds just pouring everything forward and defending from the front while basically telling Virgil Van Dijk and Fabinho “anything else is on you, dog” makes for the possibility of 4-3 on any given day. And it’s a weird season to ask, given that City’s head-scratching lack of depth behind Aymeric Laporte has not given us many opportunities to see the side as intended by its architect.

KB: It has to be Man City. As much as Liverpool’s season has endured, and will endure for decades to come, Man City on its day is so incisive, so dominating, so unplayable. When the team clicks and Pep’s system produces a masterclass, there’s nothing the opponent can do to stop it.

DK: Manchester City. Pep Guardiola teams are so much fun to watch, with their fluid patterns of play and meticulous passing and movements off the ball. I fully expect (assuming Pep comes back next season) for Man City to contend for the Premier League and Champions League next season.


Sum up this Liverpool team this season in one word ______

JPW: Perfect.

NM: Complete.

KB: Ruthless. What’s wild about this season is Liverpool hasn’t been all THAT statistically dominant. They aren’t demolishing teams like Manchester City was last year. They have an xG differential so far of +29.67, which – while outstanding – isn’t remotely close to the pace Manchester City set last year with a bonkers xG differential of +72.8. They aren’t crushing teams with overwhelming tidal waves of attack. What they are doing, however, is taking every minuscule chance afforded to them and causing opponents to pay for even the smallest of mistakes. Last season, Man City actually underperformed its xG by -4.04, while this season Liverpool is outperforming its already fantastic expected goals total by +2.82. Liverpool has won games despite struggling at times. The Reds have displayed otherworldly grit this season.

DK: Ruthless. Similar to Leicester City in 2015-2016, Liverpool doesn’t have to play well to win, because they always find someone to finish their chances in front of goal. This team’s mentality is incredible.


How much longer do you think Jurgen Klopp will stay at Liverpool?

JPW: He has always hinted that he won’t stay be a manager into his 70s or anything like that but given his success and the age of this Liverpool team, maybe he stays until 2024 then leads Germany at the 2026 World Cup? I don’t think he really needs to do much more in the club game after his success with Dortmund and then Liverpool. Maybe his coaching style wouldn’t suit international soccer but it is tough to see why Klopp would leave Liverpool for any other club.

NM: Forever? I don’t see him as the type to take over another English club, and moving to Bayern wouldn’t give him any new advanced goals. I suppose Barcelona could work but why would he want the political headaches of ego in board rooms of either El Clasico rival.

KB: I can’t imagine him doing a Sir Alex Ferguson – that just doesn’t happen these days – but Klopp does seem like the kind of person who has no desire to wish for a “change of scenery” when things go poorly. Still, it’s tough to endure in this climate – look at Pep, who blitzed the league last season and suddenly, at the slightest hint of adversity, has rumors swirling. The media frenzy is sometimes too difficult to outrun. I would say 5 years at the maximum for Klopp at Liverpool, and those could potentially be five dominant years.

DK: Until things go south, so let’s say 4 to 5 years as the current squad ages out and it becomes difficult to replace those talents.

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Who would you vote for as the Premier League Player and Young Player of the Year (21 years old and younger)?

JPW: Roberto Firmino and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

NM: Young Player is easy. Trent Alexander-Arnold. Next. Player of the Year is a challenge. Virgil van Dijk is probably going to get it.

KB: It would have been Marcus Rashford had his manager not decided to play him while injured. Instead, the award should go to Trent Alexander-Arnold.

DK: Virgil Van Dijk, and Trent Alexander-Arnold.


Pick your three most improved Premier League players this season:

JPW: 1. Adama Traore. 2. Jordan Henderson. 3. Danny Ings.

NM: 1. Jordan Henderson. 2. Adama Traore. 3. Bernd Leno.

DK: 1. Caglar Soyuncu. 2. Tammy Abraham. 3. Fabinho.

KB: 1. Adama Traore. 2. Scott McTominay. 3. Fabinho


How would you assess Christian Pulisic’s first season at Chelsea, so far?

JPW: I would give him 7/10. If it wasn’t for injuries he would have a higher score but given the fact he had a tough start under Frank Lampard but then figured it out, it makes it even more impressive. The USMNT star is still just 21 years old and I think we forget that. Pulisic’s recent spell out of the Chelsea team proves just how much they miss him in the final third. His stock is on the rise.

NM: A success, with one qualification. Hampered early by managerial decisions, Pulisic has been good if not very good in 80 percent of his appearances. It’d be fair to call him a Top Ten wide player when healthy. The injury setbacks are tough, but not the mark of a soft player. Plus, as USMNT watchers, we should hope Chelsea treats his return(s) with patience. 8/10.

KB: Pulisic’s first seasons so far has been an unmitigated success. The American has established himself as a key component of Chelsea’s starting lineup, only hampered by injuries. To make things even better, nobody on the Blues has established themselves as critical to the squad in Pulisic’s absence, making his return to the field upon a return to fitness all but certain. It took a little bit of time to settle in, but that’s completely normal when switching leagues in Europe. Pulisic has been fantastic for Chelsea.

DK: Overall, pretty good. He was in, then out, but worked hard to get back in and kept his place in the squad with goals. The recent injury is a blow for him but if he comes back 100%, I believe he’ll get back into the squad.

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Which of the four Premier League clubs will go the furthest in the Champions League?

JPW: I actually fancy Tottenham to go far. Mourinho is a master of the one-off games and they will fancy their chances to get past a RB Leipzig side which has run out of steam in the Bundesliga. Man City will go far too and Pep Guardiola probably needs to win the Champions League this season to make this a successful campaign for them. No pressure, Pep. Chelsea and Liverpool will both struggle against tough last 16 opponents, so it’s a flip of a coin on those two.

NM: The Round of 16 has not been kind to Premier League teams, so this is an extremely loaded question. I’m confident saying the answer is not Chelsea, but not much else. Forced to choose, I’ll peg Man City. As good as Real Madrid has been this season, I still don’t buy Zinedine Zidane outfoxing Pep Guardiola. Plus: Real allowed five goals in claiming one point over two matches with PSG, who feels a bit like Man City without the possession plan.

KB: It would be silly to vote against Liverpool at this stage, right? Right. So I’m not going to do it. Liverpool.

DK: Manchester City. With Aymeric Laporte back and all their focus on the Champions League, I think that Man City will be able to make it back to the semifinals, if not go farther.


Which player(s) will win the Golden Boot?

JPW: I am going for Jamie Vardy and Danny Ings to share the Golden Boot. Both have been brilliant in leading their respective teams and both will be licking their lips at the opportunity to play against plenty of teams below them in the final months of the season.

NM: Sergio Aguero gets his second. The only thing standing in his way is Guardiola possibly prioritizing his use in the Champions League, and that still might not matter.

KB: Jamie Vardy still leads the list, but he hasn’t scored since the holiday season and his insane xG overperformance was always going to regress to the mean eventually (at one point he was outperforming his xG by over 6 goals). Aguero is now one back of Vardy and he seems most likely to overtake the Leicester City frontman. Salah will keep scoring goals as well and has a shot, but there are too many other goalscorers on Liverpool, while Aguero is the focal point at Man City.

DK: Danny Ings? Haha, maybe. I’ll go with Sergio Aguero.


Who will finish in the top four?

JPW: 1. Liverpool. 2. Man City. 3. Leicester City. 4. Tottenham – Mourinho will do his thing and Lampard’s Chelsea will run out of steam. Wolves will be right there at the end of the season and if Bruno Fernandes hits the ground running, I fancy United to shock everyone and maybe sneak into fourth.

NM: 1. Liverpool. 2. Man City 3. Spurs* 4. Leicester City — Leicester’s remaining schedule makes it nearly impossible to drop lower than fourth. The * next to Spurs is because it would be cheating to write “Whoever is first knocked out of the Champions League or Europa League.” Also, Chelsea’s schedule is brutal the rest of the way.

KB: I like the current top four to hold firm. Liverpool, Man City, Leicester City, and Chelsea. Spurs will improve but not enough, while Chelsea will get healthy and maintain that spot. Sheffield United presents more of a threat than Manchester United (I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence) but the gap is just too much at this point to catch a big team.

DK: Liverpool, Manchester City, Leicester City, Tottenham

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Which three teams are going to be relegated?

JPW: Norwich, West Ham, Brighton – The Canaries are great to watch but just haven’t got that extra clinical edge and quality at both ends of the pitch. Daniel Farke knows it and they will be back in a season or two as they continue to be the modern day yo-yo club. West Ham are in freefall and David Moyes looks like a man who has bitten off more than he can chew. They cannot defend and that is what his tactics are based on. Far from ideal. Brighton are my third pick because, like Norwich, they are great to watch but don’t finish off enough of their chances.

DK: Bournemouth, Watford, Norwich

KB: Norwich is the lock at this point, but the other two spots are anyone’s to be had. I like Aston Villa to go down, as Jack Grealish can’t carry that team on his shoulders forever. Watford seemed for all the world to be climbing out, but they just have too many deficiencies to make enough of a push. Bournemouth will also be in the mix – they’ve got tons of injuries and the defense is horrid – but I think Eddie Howe is good enough to keep them up, barely.

NM: 20. Norwich City, 19. West Ham United, 18. Aston Villa — Picking a third team is very difficult with nearly 10 teams in the discussion. Including Villa is the least confident of any prediction on our list, but they could also give us the rare “Championship team in the Europa League” with a win over Man City in the League Cup final. It’s a shame for Norwich City and Daniel Farke, who just don’t have enough good chances for points left on their fixture list. The fixtures are also brutal for West Ham, who may take 2-4 points from their next seven fixtures (Liverpool, Man City, Southampton, Arsenal, Wolves, Spurs, Chelsea) and be adrift for the stretch run.


What is your one outlandish/fearless prediction for the rest of the season?

JPW: Arsenal will finish in the bottom half of the table but strangely there will be an air of positivity around the Emirates Stadium as Mikel Arteta‘s side win some silverware. Europa League or FA Cup.

NM: It’s not outlandish to say Liverpool will lose, or is it? Is it outlandish to say Kevin De Bruyne will break the assist record? Cause I like both of those, but I’ll go with the spirit of the question and say Bruno Fernandes becomes Manchester United’s season leader in assists while averaging a goal or assist per game the rest of the way.

DK: Burnley and Newcastle will finish above one of both of Arsenal and/or Manchester United.

KB: This is tough as most of the unthinkable things (Liverpool’s incredible domination, Sheffield United’s rise, Everton and Arsenal’s struggles) have already shown themselves. It’s tough to say if this season has any more truly wild turns. But I’ll say both Wolves and Sheffield United will finish above Tottenham and Manchester United. Jose Mourinho won’t a full calendar year in charge, if he even makes it to next season.

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Best players of decade for each Premier League club

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It has been an incredible decade in the Premier League with plenty of stars on show from 2010-20.

But which players have been the best from the last decade for each current PL team?

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Yes, this will cause controversy. Yes, you won’t agree with these 20 selections.

There is no right answer here because certain players may not have been the best technical player to play for a certain team over the last decade but they may have been the most important to their success.

Anyway, here it goes.


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Arsenal: Alexis Sanchez – Yes, it didn’t end well for him at Arsenal. But for four seasons he led them to the FA Cup, top four finishes and scored superb goals along the way. His hunger to win drove Arsene Wenger‘s teams on and along with Jack Wilshere (when he was fit) and Aaron Ramsey, he was one of the few world-class quality players the Gunners possessed.


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Aston Villa: Jack Grealish – A local lad who arrived from the academy with his low socks and slick Peaky Blinders-esque haircut, Grealish is Villa through and through and Villa’s hopes of staying in the Premier League this season revolve around the English playmaker. He stayed with them when they went down and brought them back up as skipper and his mercurial talents mean the big clubs are circling.


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Bournemouth: Steve Cook – It is amazing to think he is just 29 years old. Cook has been with Bournemouth throughout their promotion from League One to the Premier League and is now at the heart of their defense. Some great players have been key to Bournemouth’s success but Cook has held it all together.


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Brighton and Hove Albion: Lewis Dunk – Another local lad who has com through the ranks to be a star, Dunk is a towering, powerful center back who was with Brighton when they were at the Withdean and has been influential in their promotion and consolidation in the Premier League. He’s also played for England. His decade has been a Slam… Dunk.


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Burnley: Ben Mee – A mainstay in Burnley’s defense after joining from Man City in 2011, initially on loan, Mee has been essential to their promotion campaigns and keeping them in the Premier League. A no-nonsense defender, Burnley can totally trust Mee. The unsung hero in a club of unsung heroes.


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Chelsea: Eden Hazard – My favorite player of the decade in the Premier League because he could change the game on his own. Hazard led Chelsea to two Premier League titles, the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Europa League and when he was at his best he was unstoppable. Ask players around the PL who was the best player they came up against and the vast majority will say Hazard.


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Crystal Palace: Wilfried Zaha – The academy product was a star in the Championship, left for Manchester United, came back and ripped it up. Zaha is loved by Palace’s fans and is probably the best player outside of the top six in the Premier League. His pace and power is just too much to handle for most teams. And even though he wants to leave for a team challenging for trophies, Zaha will go down as a Palace legend.


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Everton: Leighton Baines – Okay, so it was a flip of a coin between Baines and Seamus Coleman, but I’m going for Baines. His quality from set piece situations was incredible and he was just wonderfully reliable. Everton’s two full backs will be etched into Toffees history but Baines’ extra quality in the final third gives him the nod.


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Leicester City: Jamie Vardy – Okay, with N’Golo Kante, Wes Morgan, Kasper Schmeichel and Riyad Mahrez around, this wasn’t that easy but Vardy should get the nod. He scored the goals to lead Leicester to an incredible Premier League title win as his pace and clinical finishing capped off his unreal rise from non-league to the Premier League, and his resurgence over the past 12 months has been amazing. Vardy isn’t everybody’s cup of tea but when he’s at his best, nobody can stop him.


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Liverpool: Virgil Van Dijk – This could be a controversial pick given the fact that he’s only played for Liverpool for two years, but there’s no doubt that no other player has been as important to the team as VVD. Luis Suarez and Mohamed Salah have been attacking stars for the Reds over the last decade but Van Dijk’s arrival helped lead Liverpool to the Champions League and improved their entire defense which had been their Achilles heel under Jurgen Klopp. Van Dijk is a Rolls Royce and probably the most complete defender the Premier League has ever seen.


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Manchester City: Vincent Kompany – A proper Man City legend, Kompany was the captain for all four of Man City’s Premier League title wins over the last decade. Sergio Aguero, Pablo Zabaleta and David Silva have all been key parts of City’s glittering decade but Kompany was the glue who held it all together. Injuries hit him hard in the second half of the decade but he was no doubt one of the greatest center backs in the history of the game. His goal to clinch the 2018-19 title was the perfect way to go out.


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Manchester United: David De Gea – He routinely won United’s Player of the Season over the last decade and without him Red Devils fans shudder to think where they would be. He has had a few big errors over the last 12 months but DDG has been the best goalkeeper in the Premier League over the last decade. Amid all of United’s struggles to get back to the top, De Gea has been their one true star.


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Newcastle United: Yohan Cabaye – Had the quality on the ball to rip teams apart and led the Magpies to a fifth-place finish under Alan Pardew. Papiss Cisse, Chieck Tiote, Moussa Sissoko and Demba Ba all had exceptional stints at Newcastle, but Cabaye had the extra class required to sew it together. The way he left for PSG wasn’t ideal but when all is said and done the former Lille midfielder was a game-changer at St James’ Park.


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Norwich City: Wes Hoolahan – A yo-yo decade for the Canaries who went all the way down to League One and worked their way back to the Premier League via back-to-back promotions. Republic of Ireland midfielder Hoolahan was their main attacking threat throughout the promotion years and he was capable of the sublime.


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Sheffield United: Billy Sharp – A local lad who has spent three spells at his beloved Blades and most recently signed for them in 2015 in League One, he scored the goals to take them back to the Premier League. Sharp has spent his entire career scoring boatloads of goals in the lower leagues and his dream was to play for Sheffield United in the Premier League. He’s achieved that, even though he hasn’t played a big role in their incredible season back in the top-flight. Sharp, 33, will forever be a Sheffield United legend.


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Southampton: Rickie Lambert – Another star forward who led his team from League One to the Premier League. Lambert signed for Saints from Bristol Rovers for $1.3 million in 2010, just after they had come out of administration, and then led them to back-to-back promotions as they returned to the PL. He then established himself as one of the top strikers in the league, got a call-up to the England team, play at the 2014 World Cup and eventually sealed his dream move to hometown club Liverpool. Known as “Sir Rickie” at St Mary’s, there will be a statue of him at the club one day as he led them back to the top-flight and did it was pure style befitting of the legendary No. 7 shirt he wore. He did Matt Le Tissier proud. Sadio Mane, Morgan Schneiderlin, Van Dijk, Adam Lallana, Jose Fonte and others were stars for Saints in the last decade but Lambert was the reason they were even in the PL in the first place.


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Tottenham Hotspur: Harry Kane – Has any other player in the Premier League burst onto the scene more than Kane in 2010? The London lad has come through Spurs’ academy to become a global star and is a goalscoring machine. In 2013-14 he was struggling to break through after several loan spells and now Kane is one of the best center forwards in the world. Kane scores every type of goal imaginable for club and country and is the captain of England and Tottenham’s talisman. The only thing left for him to tick off is winning a trophy. Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Hugo Lloris and Jan Vertonghen have all been mainstays but without Kane’s goals, Spurs would not have turned into genuine title contenders and regulars in the Champions League.


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Watford: Troy Deeney – Mr. Watford, Deeney led them to promotion to the PL in 2015 and they’ve been there ever since. Deeney’s goals (126 in 380 games in all competitions) and bulldozing displays have kept Watford in the top-flight and they’ve reached FA Cup semifinals and finals as they continue to punch above their weight. Deeney is Watford’s captain and sets the tone for the entire club.


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West Ham United: Dmitri Payet – Yes, West Ham fans will not like to admit this, but Payet was otherworldly at Upton Park and the London Stadium. The way he left for Marseille wasn’t great, at all, and the current owners have pretty much removed him from their history. But his amazing goals, free kicks and general outrageousness turned him into a club legend. Payet was box office as Slaven Bilic‘s side qualified for Europe.


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Wolverhampton Wanderers: Conor Coady – A mainstay in central defense for Wolves, Coady has led the charge since Fosun bought the club and Nuno Espirito Santo took over. A produce of Liverpool’s academy, he is a true professional who sets the standards day in, day out. Coady joined Wolves when they were struggling in the Championship and they are now in the Europa League knockout rounds and are challenging for the top four four after taking the PL by storm over the last two seasons. All of the recent impressive signings in attack and midfield have been important, so too has Matt Doherty who has been with Wolves since their days in the third tier, but Coady is the heart of Wolves and has been since 2015.

Premier League Preview: Man City v. Leicester City

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Raise your hand if you thought Saturday’s meeting between Manchester City and Leicester City (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and NBCSports.com) would turn out to be a head-to-head battle for the right to finish second, miles behind Liverpool, in the Premier League title race. If your hand is in the air, please put it down now because you’re lying and everyone knows it.

The two-time defending champions have struggled badly — by their own otherworldly standards, at least — and have already lost as many games (four) this season as they did all of last campaign. Two years ago, when they broke virtually every PL record, they lost just twice. The main culprit, beyond their own unrealistic standard and expectations, has been injuries to an already-thin defensive unit. When Vincent Kompany left in the summer, no replacement was signed; Aymeric Laporte suffered a serious knee injury in August and hasn’t played since; now, John Stones is also out. As such, Man City are currently on pace to concede 38 goals this season — an astounding defensive record for just about any other PL side, until you see they conceded just 23 and 27 in each of their title-winning campaigns.

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When one side falls down the pecking order, the door opens for another to capitalize and climb a few rungs higher. That’s exactly what Brendan Rodgers‘ Foxes have done this season, largely through their nearly impenetrable backline which is led by 23-year-old Caglar Soyuncu. The Turkish international joined Leicester in the summer of 2018 and played just six games in his first season at the King Power Stadium, before emerging as one of the best center backs in the world this campaign. Then, there’s Jamie Vardy, who has 16 goals through 17 games and looks set to smash his career-best output of 24 goals in the Foxes’ title-winning 2015-16 season.

Last time out, Leicester suffered a rare setback in the form of a 1-1 draw with Norwich City. It was the first time they had dropped points in the PL since losing to Liverpool in early October — a run of eight straight wins followed and saw them surge past the likes of City and Chelsea in the table.

Injuries/suspensions

Man City: OUT – John Stones (hamstring), Aymeric Laporte (knee), Leroy Sane (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Sergio Aguero (thigh), David Silva (leg)

Leicester: OUT – Matty James (achilles)


Projected lineups

Man City: Ederson — Walker, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Mendy — Rodrigo, Gundogan — Mahrez, De Bruyne, Sterling — Jesus

Leicester: Schmeichel — Pereria, Evans, Soyuncu, Chilwell — Praet, Ndidi, Tielemans, Maddison, Gray — Vardy


What they’re saying

Pep Guardiola, on Leicester’s strong start: “Last year after the game, it was my feeling that this season they would be fighting for the top-four and it’s happened. They did really well last season when [Rodgers] took over the team. They have been so consistent this season and they are a fantastic team. They have a lot of quality up front and through the middle. At the back they are solid and they play so good on the counter-attack. They control all departments in the game.”

Rodgers, on the PL title race: “At the beginning, of the season nobody really expected us to be in the position that we’re in. However, for us, we have a belief in our work and how we work. The players have been absolutely first class throughout the season and this is another opportunity for us. We’re not even at the halfway point. There is still so much football to play. … It is still so early. You have just got to approach each game, be really focused and looked to bring the best quality game that you can.”


Prediction

The only sides to beat Leicester this season are Liverpool and Manchester United, a class of opponent which obviously includes Man City. The ease with which the Foxes can sit back and watch an opponent dominate possession, which City will undoubtedly do, and play for the counter-attack makes them an incredibly dangerous opposition for Guardiola and Co. Man City 2-2 Leicester.

Report: Loader, Haaland to Man United; Upamecano to Man City

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Ah, the January transfer window is just around the corner and we can be certain of one thing: Manchester City and Manchester United are about to be linked with signing a ton of players.

A ton.

But in this instance, even though we’re six weeks away from the transfer window reopening but reports make, uh, sense?

First up, Manchester City have been linked with a move for RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano via 90min. And yep, City do indeed need a center back and he ticks all of the boxes as a long-term replacement for Vincent Kompany. With Aymeric Laporte out injured until January at the earliest, plus Nicolas Otamendi struggling for form and John Stones in and out of the team with fitness issues, Pep Guardiola is short on center backs.

Fernandinho and Rodri can’t keep on filling in at center back and the lack of cover City have in the heart of their defense is the main reason they are nine points behind league leaders Liverpool. After the reigning champs admitted they weren’t going to match United’s summer bid for Harry Maguire, they probably knew this was going to happen and Laporte’s injury underlined their weakness in this area.

Upamecano, 21, will cost close to $65 million and he’s been a star at Leipzig in the Bundesliga in recent seasons. He will have just 18 months left on his current contract in January and he seems both attainable for a reasonable price and capable of having an instant impact as well as being able to develop into a fine center back.


Man United’s latest financial results suggest that will continue to focus on picking up younger gems in the British market to supplement their squad (see: James, Daniel) and they’ve been linked with a move for Reading’s Danny Loader.

Loader, 20, is out of contract this summer and will be available for a knockdown price in January. The striker has impressed on the international stage with England’s youth team, but has struggled in the second tier with the Royals as he’s scored just once in 29 appearances. He is definitely one for the future but with Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood around, do United need another young striker?

According to our partners in the UK, Sky Sports, contract talks have stalled between Reading and Loader, while the England youth international almost moved to Wolves in the summer.

United proved with the signing of Daniel James from Swansea City in the summer, they aren’t afraid to pick young talents out of the Championship and give them a chance in the PL, while they have also been linked with a move for the ridiculously in form RB Salzburg striker Erling Haaland.

Haaland, 19, has scored 26 goals in 18 games in all competitions for Jesse Marsch’s side and the Norwegian striker is one of the hottest commodities in Europe. His father, former Manchester City midfielder Alfe-Inge Haaland, recently visited United’s training ground according to The Athletic. And with Haaland being a former international teammate of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, there’s a lot of crossover here.

United want to sign young, hungry players and both Loader and Haaland fit that mold. The latter would be much more expensive and would he be a regular at United ahead of Rashford and Martial? On current form, probably. Long-term having Rashford, Martial and James playing off Haaland in a 4-2-3-1 formation would probably be the dream for Solskjaer.

Kompany: Liverpool’s Premier League title ghosts should ‘be to City’s advantage’

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Vincent Kompany says history could help Manchester City climb back into the Premier League title race even after his former team dropped nine points back of first place Liverpool.

[ MORE: Salah out for Egypt ]

Now at Anderlecht, the center back also said history might’ve played a role in City’s 3-1 setback at Anfield. In a rare bit of explicit honesty, the often interesting Kompany said that players do deal with demons of a club’s past.

“We always struggle at Anfield,” he said, according to Sky Sports. “I said that on Super Sunday, you’re fighting 25 years of not winning at Anfield and that’s difficult, it’s two games in one game: You’re playing a great team and you’re fighting history.”

“Flip it around and the same will happen for Liverpool. They will fight the history of not winning the league for 30 years. That should be to City’s advantage I still think.”

Do you buy that? Most of the buzz around the Premier League is that this Liverpool is a different team than even the dominant one of last season, and City has suffered big injury problems. The Reds players almost went out of their way last year to say they weren’t worried about blowing their table lead last season (which was bigger, later in the season).

Kompany also said that he believes City doesn’t need to add a center back in January, which is bonkers unless he’s coming back, but the Belgian has proven time and again that he’s one of the better minds in the game.

The guy did title  his MBA dissertation, “How professional football clubs in the Premier League can benefit from home game advantage and achieve game-changing levels of improvement” after all. Then again, I’m not sure any of our dissertations on the same topic would’ve been approved had we done that.