Wesley

Should we expect more from Jack Grealish?

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The beautiful game often divides opinion, and Jack Grealish is one of those players who often stirs up plenty of debate.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Aston Villa’s captain is obviously a genius, but after another frustrating result for his hometown team, how has he fared as a regular in the Premier League?

Joe Prince-Wright and Kyle Bonn watched the same game on Monday, as Aston Villa and West Ham drew 0-0, but both of our writers have very different opinions on Grealish. That is why we love this game, and talking about it.

Let’s see what JPW and Bonn thought about the English midfielder.


JPW: So, I want to start by saying Grealish can pretty much do anything with the ball. He is a magician and his clever passes and flicks will win Villa plenty of points this season. But he needs to do more, and fast, to have a big impact this season in the Premier League. Against West Ham he gave the ball away cheaply and his hurried finish late on summed up another off night for Grealish. He isn’t a youngster anymore. He’s 24 and needs to deliver, otherwise Villa will be in trouble at the wrong end of the table this season. Villa play well when Grealish performs and he’s just not doing it for me.

Bonn: Grealish can’t be the sole creative force in this team. He’s a fabulous do-it-all player for Villa, and clearly their most valuable asset, but this team has serious issues up front and that can’t all fall on Jack’s shoulders. He was excellent against West Ham, controlling possession and bringing the ball forward. He got a bit frantic and panicked slightly after the red card, but without a clear presence on the wing and a black hole at striker, Aston Villa needs to get him help rather than heap more attacking pressure on the 24-year-old.

JPW: I think one of the biggest issues is that Grealish is doing a lot of his work 50 yards from goal. Marvelous Nakamba and Douglas Luiz aren’t offering much in central midfield and a trio of McGinn, Hourihane and Grealish seems better balanced to me. Grealish just took too much time on the ball, was too predictable and Mark Noble and Declan Rice easily won the midfield battle. I think Villa can get the best out of Grealish by starting him just off Wesley in a much more advanced role. What is Grealish’s ceiling, though? Maybe a decent PL midfielder and a very good Championship player is his level. If that’s it, there’s nothing wrong with that. I just think Villa want more from him.

Bonn: If he’s a decent Premier League midfielder, that’s perfectly acceptable at this point for Aston Villa, and they need to support him. He was the team’s most creative presence against West Ham, and while you’re right that he wasn’t able to control the midfield battle with Rice and Noble, he still provided far more contribution forward than Jota in front of him, or even Anwar El Ghazi on the opposite flank. Who was the one making runs in behind the defense to deliver crosses? Grealish. Who was the one charging at defenders with purpose? Grealish. I know he missed that chance towards the end against West Ham, but he was the only one even pushing for that ball. The rest of this team needs a kick in the tail, and Jack is the one to provide that. While he’s still not a finished product – something we’ve admittedly been saying about him for years now – that fire and spark has value and it’s slowly producing results on the pitch, at least far more than anyone else in this squad. I’m not saying he should start for England, but he’s the most consistent presence Villa has at the moment, and that’s saying something. Get him some help, and he can be a consistently dangerous presence against most Premier League sides.

JPW: There’s a reason Grealish hasn’t broken into the England national team yet. His consistency in the final third just isn’t there. I asked Dean Smith about Grealish after the game, and he said the quality on his final pass wasn’t there, but pointed to the cross for Wesley’s early header. That is the most annoying thing about Grealish. The quality, like he showed on that cross, is there. But he’s made the same mistakes over and over again early this season and I want to seem him learn from that and develop. Remember, this is a player Tottenham Hotspur wanted to replace Christian Eriksen last summer. Is he on that level? Maybe in a top six team he’d be better around top quality players, but I’m not sure he’d play on a regular basis. I’ve seen him twice in the flesh this season and on both occasions I’ve walked away very disappointed.

Bonn: I absolutely agree he wouldn’t play much on a Top 6 side. I don’t think that’s a fair barometer for him at this point, though. Villa doesn’t need a Christian Eriksen. With Marvelous playing well, I thought, at DM and McGinn somewhat positive on the other side, Grealish is in a good spot. He just needs better support up front so he doesn’t receive the bulk of attention. I like where his trajectory is pointed, given what I saw against West Ham, and I hope Villa gives him the tools he needs moving forward.

JPW: I would loved to be proved wrong, but I don’t see Grealish hitting double figures in goals or assists this season. If you’re going to be the main playmaker on a Premier League team, you need to hit those numbers as well as the fancy flicks. Quick final question: Who else can play in Grealish’s position for Aston Villa?

Bonn: You mean of the players currently in the squad?

JPW: Yep. Who comes in for him?

Bonn: Nobody.

JPW: And that is the problem. Villa have no back-up plan. If Grealish doesn’t rip it up, they are going to be in a relegation struggle. At the moment he is not, and they play Arsenal, Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man United in five of their next 10 games.

Bonn: We saw the same last season with Fulham. Tom Cairney is a similar player in a similar position. He didn’t have the season the Whites needed from the main midfield playmaker after destroying the Championship, and that was a death sentence.

JPW: We both agree Grealish is crucial to Villa’s success then. But we disagree about his current play. And that, right there, is why we love this game. Nobody is wrong, but I’m right Kyle, I’m right…

Bonn: We shall see!

JPW: Indeed. Enjoyed this. I’m off into the Birmingham night to dodge some Villa fans who have no doubt read this by now. Wish me luck.

Three things we learned: Aston Villa v. West Ham

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BIRMINGHAM — Aston Villa and West Ham played out a tense, tight 0-0 draw at Villa Park on Monday, as the Hammers were reduced to 10 men but held on fairly comfortably.

In a game where both teams somewhat cancelled each another out, with their similar approaches and two big men starved of service, Aston Villa had the better chances and will feel like that was two points dropped.

Here’s what we learned from Villa Park.


Wesley v. HALLER A DAMP SQUIB

This was billed as a battle of the big men, and neither showed up. Both big men are essential to the way their teams play, and both had tough evenings. Wesley was more mobile than Haller, making runs right across West Ham’s defense, and he did just that but somehow put a header wide from inside the six yard box early on. He worked tirelessly but it just didn’t happen for him.

As for Haller, he was less mobile, which was surprising, and his first big chance was a tame header wide after Anderson popped the ball right on top of his head. Haller didn’t run himself into the ground and was slow to react to loose balls around the box, but in fairness the service to him was lacking. Both teams are set up to play the ball to their target man as soon as possible and then get their playmakers around them to create havoc from the knock downs or layoffs. Both Wesley and Haller will be far from happy with their displays.


POINTS NOT MATCHING VILLA’S PERFORMANCES

There’s not doubt Villa had the better of the play, and chances, but just as much as their build-up play dazzled, their lackluster finishing once again let them down. Playing against 10 men for the final 25 minutes, Villa failed to make that advantage count. John McGinn‘s efforts from outside the box caused Lukasz Fabianski the biggest problems, and had Wesley powered home a header early on it could have been a very different outcome.

Villa have played well enough in their opening five games to have at least an extra four points on the board. It’s still early days but Villa are in the bottom four, and unless they become more ruthless that’s where they will stay this season.


STAGNANT GREALISH A CONCERN

Many believe Jack Grealish should have be in and around the England national team. Monday’s display, which epitomized his season so far, proved he still has a long way to go. Grealish was busy, trying to get on the ball as much as he could, but he took too many risks in front of his back four and gave the ball away needlessly on plenty of occasions. He failed to make incisive runs off Wesley and aside from the odd long ball out wide or clever flick, he didn’t cause West Ham many problems.

Grealish has the quality to unlock defenses and deliver moments of real quality in the final third and he had Villa’s best chance in the 88th minute but he shanked horribly wide when unmarked at the back post. That summed up his night. Grealish has yet to do it in the Premier League and at the age of 24 he is no longer a young buck with plenty of potential. He has to stand tall and deliver to drag Villa up the table.

Premier League Preview: Aston Villa v. West Ham

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  • West Ham 9th in PL heading into Matchweek 5
  • Aston Villa, 18th in the standings, look to climb out of relegation zone

There was an international break in between to blow off some steam, but Aston Villa, sitting in the relegation zone, remain set on better days following a controversial ending to their last league game against Crystal Palace. For a team whose only win of the season has come at home, it couldn’t get much better than hosting West Ham at Villa Park on a Monday night (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Dean Smith and Co. aren’t necessarily playing bad, if anything their attack-oriented brand of play is as captivating as they get. The lack of finishing, in-game concentration and poor officiating (like against Palace), however, have not done Villa well. That said, their 2-0 victory against Everton weeks back is a testament to what they can really do on a positive night. With revenge on their mind, that can be the case against the Irons.

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On the other side, after a detrimental 5-0 loss to Manchester City to start the season, West Ham have found their groove under a revamped attack. Bundesliga import, Sebastien Haller, has scored three goals in the last two games, which resulted in victories for West Ham. Currently ninth in the table with seven points, with a win at Villa Park, Manuel Pellegrini‘s side can creep right behind the defending champions. It’s a complete 180-degree turn for West Ham, and they know they need to take advantage of the situation.

Injuries/suspensions

Man United: OUT – Winston Reid (knee), Michail Antonio (hamstring); QUESTIONABLE – None

Leicester: OUT – Jonathan Kodjia (head); QUESTIONABLE – James Chester (thigh), Matt Targett (thigh); SUSPENDED – Trézéguet (one match)


Projected lineups

Aston Villa: Heaton – Guilbert, Engels, Mings, Taylor – McGinn, Douglas Luiz, Grealish – Jota, Wesley, El-Ghazi

West Ham: Fabianski – Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna, Masuaku – Rice, Noble, Felipe Anderson, Lanzini, Yarmolenko – Haller


What they’re saying

Manuel Pelegrini, on playing Aston Villa: “We need to beat teams like Aston Villa, because last season there were a lot of teams around us that we lost to. Now we will see what happens this season. Villa is a difficult team. Their stadium is very important for them, but we go there as we do in all the other games – to try to win. Villa have had some different results, bought a lot of good players and play an attacking style. I think that they are doing well, they must adapt to the Premier League still, but they have a very good team and a manager in Dean Smith who wants to play in an attacking way.”

Dean Smith, on his player’s urgency to play and perform well: “They’re itching for that next game. There’s a burning desire from them to right the wrongs. I can sense that.The international break has given us an opportunity. For instance, we’ve been able to work a lot on our breakthrough opportunities as all of our forward players have been here.”


Prediction

Both teams don’t need extra motivation heading into Monday. It’s simply a matter of who wants the three points more. Obviously, given their position on the table, Villa could benefit more from a win than West Ham. Couple that with Villa playing in front of their vociferous and passionate crowd, and that might be the secret ingredient for the home side to squeeze out a win against what will be a challenging bout against Pellegrini’s side. Aston Villa, 2-1.

Transfer Deadline Day in Europe: Deals galore

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Transfer Deadline Day has arrived across Europe, and plenty of deals are being wrapped up in Spain, Italy, France and elsewhere ahead of the summer window closing.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news

Plenty of Premier League clubs are moving players on to trim their squads after the first few weeks of the season.

Below we look at the top deals developing, as the clock ticks down we roundup the transactions.


Mauro Icardi (Inter Milan to Paris Saint-Germain)
The Argentine striker is close to a loan move to PSG, as his wife and agent, Wanda Nara, has been seen in discussions with Les Parisiens officials in the French capital. Sky in Italy are reporting that Icardi, 26, will actually sign a new deal at Inter Milan before heading to PSG. A lethal finisher, Icardi is a totally different option up top and will compliment Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani well. His character is often questioned but his goalscoring record speaks for itself with 124 goals in 219 appearances for Inter.


Javier ‘Chicharito‘ Hernandez (West Ham to Sevilla)
Hernandez, 31, has joined Sevilla on a three-year contract, as the La Liga side paid $9.6 million for Mexico’s all-time leading goalscorer. This is a great move for Chicharito, who never settled down at West Ham. Sevilla are in the Europa League and will pushing for Champions League qualification once again.


Matteo Darmian (Man United to Parma)
The Italian defender has finally left Man United. After four years at Old Trafford, Darmian returns to Italy for a transfer fee of $4.5 million. The 29-year-old arrived at United in the summer of 2015 and won the FA Cup and Europa League with the Red Devils. He made 92 appearances in all competitions for United and heads back to Italy to play for Parma, as he struggled to hold down a regular spot at United.


Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Arsenal to AS Roma)
A season-long loan move for Mkhitaryan who is a bit-part player at Arsenal. After Ceballos’ arrival this summer, the writing was on the wall, and the emergence of several youngsters and Mesut Ozil hanging around also pushed him towards the Emirates exit door. A chance to regain his confidence after a rough few years.


Keylor Navas (Real Madrid to PSG) & Alphonse Areola (PSG to Real Madrid)
The Costa Rican goalkeeper is no longer the starter at Real and he is heading to Paris Saint-Germain. Navas, 32, still has plenty of good years ahead of him and performed well for Real when Thibaut Courtois was out injured last season. After five years and 11 trophies at Real, Navas is set to be the starter at PSG and has signed a four-year deal. Alphonse Areola, 26, moves in the opposite direction to challenge Courtois at Real Madrid. Areola arrives on a season-long loan deal.


Ryan Kent (Liverpool to Glasgow Rangers)
Liverpool want $8.4 million for the young midfielder who excelled on loan at Steven Gerrard‘s side last season. Kent, 22, has been a Liverpool player his entire career but just can’t break into Jurgen Klopp‘s first team. Now is the right time for him to move on a permanent basis and Gerrard will get the best out of him. Kent will be key in Rangers pushing Celtic all the way for the Scottish title.


Fernando Llorente (Free agent, Napoli)
He finally announced his move on deadline day, as the veteran striker was out of contract after being at Tottenham Hotspur. Napoli is a great landing spot for him, as he will continue to play in the UEFA Champions League and his experience off the bench in tight situations was crucial for Spurs last season. At 34, he continues to age like a fine wine…


Asmir Begovic (Bournemouth to Qarabag)
A shock move for out of favor Bournemouth goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, as he sealed a loan move to Azerbaijani champions Qarabag until January. Begovic, 32, has yet to play in the Premier League this season after losing his place in the Bournemouth lineup late last season. He will play in the Europa League for Qarabag.


Florin Andone (Brighton to Galatasaray)
His last act as a Brighton player, at least for this season, was getting a silly red card against Southampton. Andone has joined Galatasaray and the Romanian forward joins Falcao and several others in sealing late move to the Turkish giants. Andone, 26, scored for Brighton on the opening day in their win at Watford, but his tackle against Saints was a straight red card and cost his team dear. They have a few attacking options, but this is a bit of a strange move for the Seagulls.


Mario Lemina (Southampton to Galatasaray)
The Gabonese midfielder is leaving Saints for Turkey, with Galatasaray confirming they are in talks over a season-long loan move. The former Juventus midfielder has been frozen out by Southampton this summer after saying he wants to leave and although the Premier League side wanted a permanent deal, Lemina will initially leave on loan.


Wesley Hoedt (Southampton Royal Antwerp)
Another Saints player will be heading out on loan, as Dutch defender Hoedt is heading to Belgium. Antwerp will initially sign Hoedt on loan and have an option to buy him permanently. Hoedt, 25, is not part of Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s plans and after being signed as a replacement for Virgil Van Dijk he just hasn’t settled at Saints.


Marcus Edwards (Tottenham to Vitoria)
The Spurs youngster has left on a permanent deal and many at Tottenham will be disappointed by this. Edwards, 20, has been on the fringes of Spurs’ first team under Mauricio Pochettino but the winger failed to kick on after loan moves at Norwich and Excelsior. The England youth international will now play for Vitoria who are in the Europa League, and has signed a four-year deal.

Premier League Club Power Rankings: Week 3

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What a mess.

Half of the Premier League’s teams — yes, 10 of them — have 1-1-1 records after three match days, though not all are created equal.

For example, baffling VAR decisions. Manchester United can feel righteously aggrieved to not have at least six points. Spurs got huge VAR help to draw Man City but could’ve snared a point from Newcastle (yeah, that happened) should a penalty decision have went their way.

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]

Sheffield United and Bournemouth drew each other and beat poor sides at home.

And what in the world do you make of Wolves, who have three draws but have been clobbered by early season qualifying rounds of the Europa League.

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low


20. Watford — The Pozzo family doesn’t mind changing bosses and, fair or not (it isn’t), Javi Gracia may find himself unemployed without a win at Newcastle next week. Fortunately, they are playing Newcastle.
Last week: 19
Season high: 19
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 1-3 v. West Ham
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Newcastle United

19. Newcastle United — Beat Tottenham and only move up one spot? Unfortunately, while the Magpies were gritty against Spurs and the win should not be discounted entirely, they hemorrhaged possession aside from the 15-pass sequence that led to Joelinton‘s first goal for the Toon. A fine moment for embattled Steve Bruce, but still so much work to do.
Last week: 20
Season high: 19
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 1-0 at Spurs
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Watford

18. Crystal Palace — Credit that wonderful play at the end of the match for a remarkable and historic win over Manchester United, but Palace is still getting little out of Wilfried Zaha and probably should’ve lost by 3 or 4 goals before David De Gea fumbled away a point for the hosts. And we can’t jump them above a Sheffield United side which dominated them in Week 2.
Last week: 18
Season high: 18
Season low: 18
Last match: Won 2-1 at Manchester United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Aston Villa

17. Bournemouth — Probably better than their 17th place status, but the Cherries have a draw against Sheffield United and a win over Aston Villa in which they were controlled after a wobbly opening. Too good to stay this low, but justifiably 17th.
Last week: 14
Season high: 14
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 3-1 v. Man City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Leicester City

Joshua King  (Photo by Robin Jones – AFC Bournemouth/AFC Bournemouth via Getty Images)

16. Sheffield United — The scrappy Blades are following the Sean Dyche at Burnley model, and weren’t able to get a point at home despite a brave effort against Leicester.
Last week: 13
Season high: 13
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 1-2 v. Leicester City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Chelsea

15. Norwich City — Daniel Farke‘s men are going to bring us entertainment, and we’ll get another clue of their place in the league when they visit dangerous but another dangerous attack in West Ham.
Last week: 12
Season high: 12
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 2-3 v. Chelsea
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at West Ham United

14. Brighton and Hove Albion — We gave the Seagulls a mulligan for the West Ham draw, but cannot look past this week’s loss to Southampton. Saints are a good side, but a 2-0 loss at home and a reckless red card do not make friends amongst the power rankers.
Last week: 6
Season high: 5

Season low: 14
Last match: Lost 0-2 v. Southampton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Man City

13. Southampton — A Danny Ings flick away from giving us 11 teams with a 1-1-1-1 record, Saints earned this week’s win and will relish it coming via a nice showing from Moussa Djenepo.
Last week: 16
Season high: 13

Season low: 19
Last match: Won 2-0 at Brighton
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Manchester United

12. West Ham United — Sebastien Haller looked every bit the versatile star center forward, able to set-up, hold-up, and finish. We already knew Felipe Anderson was the truth. Now can Manuel Pellegrini find consistency in this bunch?
Last week: 17
Season high: 12

Season low: 18
Last match: Won 3-1 at Watford
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Norwich City

11. Everton — The performance at Villa is the kind that has been taking Everton out of the Top Six discussion during the Marco Silva era (and well before it, really). Huge test Sunday before an international break which could find Silva feeling plenty hot under the collar.
Last week: 8
Season high: 8

Season low: 11
Last match: Lost 0-2 at Aston Villa
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Wolves

10. Aston Villa — The Villans are looking more like a side which never left the Premier League than a newly-promoted one. Dean Smith deserves PL Manager of the Month honors if he’s able to get a result at Palace and skate into the break at a mid table pace.
Last week: 15
Season high: 8

Season low: 15
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Everton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Crystal Palace

Aston Villa’s Wesley (center) with Trezeguet (left) and John McGinn  (Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)

9. Chelsea — Just not buying it yet, are we? Mason Mount looks a legit force, Tammy Abraham is showing flashes, and Christian Pulisic is doing well enough, but who is the star that will consistently make the difference, let alone against the big boys?
Last week: 12
Season high: 9

Season low: 12
Last match: Won 3-2 at Norwich City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Sheffield United

8. Wolves — Three draws from three matches, and just barely got a point off of Burnley, but the performances have come while waylaid with Europa League duties including an unfriendly match against Torino on Thursday (Who they absolutely handled). Nuno’s got it simmering.
Last week: 7
Season high: 7

Season low: 9
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Burnley
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Everton

7. Spurs — Dominant again against Newcastle despite an injury to key man Tanguy Ndombele, and simply unfortunate to not get a point, but there are so many questions for Mauricio Pochettino. If you’re going to risk Christian Eriksen, why not start him? If you don’t have an answer at right back, why not play a back three instead of keeping Jan flipping Vertonghen on the bench?
Last week: 2
Season high: 2

Season low: 7
Last match: Lost 0-1 v. Newcastle United
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday at Arsenal

6. Man Utd — We watched the Palace loss, and still can’t quite believe our eyes. The Red Devils are so much better than 1-1-1, but that and a friendly pour at the pub will give you a headache and a 1-1-1 record. Now start Juan Mata over Jesse Lingard and thank me later.
Last week: 5
Season high: 2

Season low: 6
Last match: Lost 1-2 v. Crystal Palace
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Southampton

5. Burnley — They aren’t doing this again, are they? The Clarets struggled last season with Europa League schedule congestion, but finished in the Top Seven the last time they only had to focus on the league. A silly Erik Pieters challenge away from third place in our rankings.
Last week: 9
Season high: 5

Season low: 9
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Wolves
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. Liverpool

4. Arsenal — Don’t give them too much credit for producing three terrific chances against Liverpool — that’s what’s keeping Liverpool out of 1st this week. The questions about the defense remain real, but Nicolas Pepe is going to be a delight once he finds his finishing boots.
Last week: 4
Season high: 4

Season low: 7
Last match: Lost 1-3 at Liverpool
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Tottenham

3. Leicester City — There’s a bit of “by default” to this ranking, but the Foxes have drawn Wolves and picked up a point away to Chelsea. The win at Sheffield United wasn’t a ballot-box stuffer by any means, but Brendan Rodgers‘ men did what Manchester United sand Spurs could not this weekend in beating a probable relegation scrapper.

Last week: 10
Season high: 3

Season low: 10
Last match: Won 2-1 at Sheffield United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Bournemouth

2. Liverpool — The Reds are 3-0, champions of Europe, and a pleasure for the eyes. Their defense remains a problem, and Jurgen Klopp‘s crew has given up more big chances from open play than anyone would deem functional for a title squad.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2

Season low: 3
Last match: Won 3-1 v. Arsenal
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Burnley

  1. Manchester City — The only way to score on City is through set pieces, and the only way to stop them is locking them out of the stadium.
    Last week: 1
    Season high: 1

    Season low: 1
    Last match: Won 3-1 at Bournemouth
    Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Brighton