Johan Elmander

Winners and losers: Who defied expectations during the 2013-14 Premier League season

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On the field and off, here’s a quick look back on who exceeded (and failed to meet) expectations during the 2013-14 Premier League season:

On the field

Winners

Adam Lallana, Southampton – Nine goals. Six assists. The 2013-14 season was more than a just a statistical breakthrough for Lallana. It was a springboard to Brazil.

In the process, Lallana’s rise came to symbolize more than one player’s growth. Praise for the Saints attacker became shorthand for acknowledging Southampton’s broader success. Mauricio Pochettino’s team finished eighth while vaulting Lallana, Luke Shaw, Rickie Lambert, and the now injured Jay Rodriguez into the England national team picture.

Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool – Coming into the season, doubts about the post-Chelsea Sturridge centered on whether he and Luis Suarez could reach their potentials in the same attack. You don’t hear those doubts anymore. Still only 24 years old, Sturridge finished the season with 21 goals, with only Suarez eclipsing him on the league’s goal scoring chart.

Curtis Davies, Hull City – Once a promising Luton product that commanded a near-eight figure fee, Davies’ inconsistency eventually saw him out of the Premier League. Bought by Steve Bruce before the season, the 29-year-old’s return the first division turned into best season of his career. In addition to team of the year consideration, Davies earned calls for a spot in Brazil.

Luis Suarez, Liverpool – The Premier League hasn’t seen a weapon this dangerous since Didier Drogba’s peak. Suarez finished the season with 31 goals, becoming the seventh player in league history to join the 30-goal club.

source: APLosers

Marouane Fellaini, Manchester United – Just as Lallana came to symbolize Southampton’s rise, Fellaini represented Manchester United’s fall. Following David Moyes to Old Trafford, Fellaini vacillated between injured and ineffective. The Belgian only made 12 starts, but for some Red Devils’ supporters, that was 12 starts too many.

Roberto Soldado, Tottenham Hotspur – It was two months into Soldado’s Premier League career before the Spaniard scored from open play. Though he finished the season with six goals, four came from the spot, with the former Valencia forward eventually playing his way out of Spain’s World Cup squad.

Jozy Altidore, Sunderland – For the second time, Altidore took a crack at the Premier League, and for the second time, the U.S. international failed to produce. After a one-goal season, Altidore has two goals in 62 Premier League appearances.

Nicolas Anelka, West Brom – Anelka’s odyssey from Chelsea to China, Turin to The Hawthorns came to a disturbing end. Thanks to the former French international, Premier League fans became familiar with the quenelle.

source: Getty ImagesOn the sidelines

Winners

Tony Pulis, Crystal Palace – A club like Stoke may have the luxury of turning its back on a manager like Pulis, but for Crystal Palace, he proved a savior. In last place at the time of his appointment, the Eagles finished 11th, nine months after most pundits predicted they’d go down.

Roberto Martinez, Everton – Despite winning last year’s FA Cup, plenty of doubts surrounded Martinez after Wigan’s relegation. In David Moyes’ wake, the former Swansea City boss revolutionized the Toffees, leading them to their best Premier League point total.

Gus Poyet, Sunderland – The Uruguayan’s stock was on the rise before his time at Brighton came to a sudden end. At Sunderland, he was brought in to clean up the mess. With his in last place come mid-April, Poyet engineered a spring 180, with four straight spring wins securing another season in the Premier League.

Mark Hughes, Stoke City – Hughes’ departure from Fulham in search of a bigger job turned into an embarrassing move, but after Peter Coates picked him to change Stoke’s approach, the former Blackburn and Manchester City boss was redeemed. The Potters’ transition away from Pulis’s blunt approach saw Hughes guide the team to ninth – the team’s highest finish since 1975.

source: Getty ImagesLosers

Paulo Di Canio, Sunderland – The Italian manager’s Sunderland tenure came to an end five games into the season, after only 12 games in charge, overall. Repeatedly speaking out against the club in the wake of a player revolt, Di Canio ensured he won’t be back on a Premier League sideline anytime soon.

Andre Villas-Boas, Tottenham Hotspur – Turns out the player culture around Chelsea wasn’t the only problem. Given a second Premier League chance by Daniel Levy, the former Porto boss make if half-way through season two before losing his job.

Michael Laudrup, Swansea City – In year one, the Danish great led Swans to a League Cup. In season two, however, the club needed to go in another direction. Mentioned in connection with bigger jobs last summer, Laudrup is now out of a job entirely.

David Moyes, Manchester United – The long-time Everton boss proved the same man with the Red Devils that he was at Goodison Park. Unfortunately, it was a terrible fit. For all his success at Everton, Moyes will forever be known as the man who took Manchester United to seventh place, the club’s worst finish in 24 years.

source: Getty ImagesIn the standings

Winners

Everton – The Toffees only finished one place better than they did in 2012-13, but the manner in which they did so has rejuvenated the club. People are no longer dwelling on Everton’s limitations. They’re talking about the club’s potential.

Stoke City – Had Stoke finished in the bottom half of the table, 2013-14 would have still been considered progress if the team played a better brand of soccer. Under Hughes, the Potters not only began that stylistic transition but also climbed the table. By season’s end, Stoke was only six points behind a much more ballyhooed Southampton.

Crystal Palace – In August, some though Cardiff’s spending has produced a survivor, while fewer had faith in Hull. Almost nobody, however, thought Crystal Palace would stay up. Thanks to Pulis’s appointment, the Selhurst faithful will enjoy another season in the Premier League, having defied expectations with a finish just outside the top half.

Liverpool – Ten days removed from its collapse at Selhurst, Liverpool’s disappointing finish obscures the fact that Brendan Rodgers’ team was the story of the season. In a league that’s rarely has surprise title contenders, the Reds jumped from seventh to within two points of the crown.

source: Getty Images

Losers

Manchester United – Following in the rivals’ footsteps, United fell from its perch among the league’s elites, but whereas the Liverpool’s’ fall came after a series of poor choices by Rafa Benitez, one choice undid the Red Devils. Liverpool spent four seasons outside the top four. Manchester United will hope for a quicker response.

Fulham – Blame Michael Jackson, blame the three managers who couldn’t turn the team around, or blame the new owner. In fact, blame them all. The Cottagers ended up five points from safety, giving up 85 goals while punching their ticket to the second division.

Norwich City – The acquisitions of Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Johan Elmander, and Gary Hooper should have provided enough goals to avoid relegation. Instead, thanks in part to Chris Hughton’s conservative approach, the Canaries only scored 28 goals, losing six of their last seven en route to the Championship.

Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs sold Gareth Bale, but as Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal showed, it’s possible to compete for Champions League without the Welsh international. Tottenham had the talent but never found the right formula, with a series of one-sided results against the league’s top teams forcing Spurs to regroup.

source: Getty ImagesFar afield

Winners

John Henry, Liverpool – Whoever returned Liverpool to glory would also win Anfield’s hearts. While Rodgers has received much of the credit, Henry’s also gotten his due. His management team’s first choices weren’t the right ones, but four years after purchasing the club, Henry and Fenway Sports Group have made the Reds title contenders. And they’re back in Champions League.

Peter Coates, Stoke City – His decision could have blown up in his face. Pick the wrong man to replace Tony Pulis, and Stoke would go down. For Coates, however, change was worth the risk. For the first time in 39 years, the Potters finished in the first division’s top half.

The Class of `92 – From their deal to buy Salford City FC, to Gary Neville’s continued, prominent place in English soccer, to Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, and Paul Scholes’ seats on United’s bench, the club’s famous Class of `92 class returned in more than just documentary form. Their influence off the pitch may never match their impact on, but Manchester United’s golden generation will continue to play a role around the Premier League.

Gareth Bale, Real Madrid – When Bale arrived at White Hart Lane, he was a left back/left winger project, albeit one with tremendous potential. At the beginning of the season, Tottenham cashed in on their investment with a world record transfer fee, giving Bale a path to the Champions League final.

source: Getty ImagesLosers

Alex Ferguson – Moyes wasn’t the only manager whose legacy was harmed by his move. Once his poor fit at Old Trafford became apparent, fans started questioning the man who picked the former Everton boss for Manchester United’s post. For all the right choices Ferguson made at United, his final call was the wrong one.

Assem Allam, Hull City – Allam’s quest to change his club’s name to Hull Tigers was eventually rejected by the Premier League. Along the way,  the team’s owner alienated many of the club’s long-time fans. It almost feels awkward calling them “Tigers” after this year’s ordeal.

Randy Lerner, Aston Villa – News of Villa’s impending sale was met with hope, not trepidation. The reaction was telling. Three straight relegation battles have left supporters disillusioned. Now they’re counting on new ownership to resuscitate the club.

Vincent Tan, Cardiff City – The Bluebirds’ eccentric owner was the object of ridicule during his battle with Malky Mackay. Once the former Cardiff manager was gone, Tan’s true troubles began. After convincing Ole Gunnar Solksjaer to join up, Tan saw his club sink to the bottom the table, relegating the second division winners back to the Football Championship.

Watch Live: Norwich City vs. Arsenal (Lineups and Discuss)

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Will Norwich manage to put something like sixteen goals past Arsenal in order to clinch safety at Carrow Road today? (Watch the game at 10am ET on MSNBC or live online via NBC Sports Live Extra)

Let’s remember that the Canaries have scored the fewest number of goals in the Premier League, with 28 from 37 games. Now, in order to reach safety, they must bridge a 17-goal gap with West Brom. So the Baggies can fall by ten goals to Stoke, or Norwich can win by like fifteen while the Albion lose…or we can just all accept that the Canaries will be in the Championship next season.

Arsenal aren’t likely to go easy on the hosts, either. After all, if Chelsea mess up again, the Gunners can slip into third place, and thus skip all that messy Champions League qualifying nonsense. It’d be so much simpler if they get three points and Chelsea lose…but of course Arsenal would also have to score something like nineteen goals to make that happen.

Dull scoreless draw, anyone?

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One of Norwich’s most expensive – and disappointing – purchases doesn’t make the squad, with Ricky van Wolfswinkel nowhere to be seen. Johan Elmander leads the line, he of the one goal this season, while Nathan Redmond steps in so we all don’t wonder why he spent the first hour on the bench.

Arsenal have Jack Wilshere on the bench for the first time since March. Arsène Wenger is, however, giving Norwich a chance by starting Łukasz Fabiański in goal.

LINEUPS

Norwich City: Ruddy; Martin, R Bennett, Turner, Olsson; Tettey; Snodgrass, Howson, Johnson, Redmond; Elmander

Subs: Bunn, Whittaker, Fer, Hooper, E Bennett, Loza, Josh Murphy

Arsenal: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Sagna, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Rosicky, Ramsey, Ozil, Podolski, Giroud

Subs: Szczesny, Monreal, Wilshere, Kallstrom, Flamini, Diaby, Sanogo

Watch Live: Chelsea vs. Norwich City (Lineups and Discuss)

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The Premier League title won’t be decided until Championship Sunday, but if Chelsea drop points against Norwich, they’ll almost certainly find themselves out of the running (Watch live on NBCSN at 11 a.m. ET and online via Live Extra).

After beating Everton on Saturday, Manchester City are top of the table, but Liverpool will regain the lead if they beat Crystal Palace on Monday. But if Chelsea beat Norwich, they’ll take top of the table – and spend tomorrow rooting hard for the Eagles. If the Blues fail to win, however, and Liverpool grab three points, there will be no trophy in José Mourinho’s first year back in charge.

The visitors, far from fighting for a title, will be fighting for their very lives. Without at least a point, Norwich are essentially relegated. Sure, they could make up the 13 goal gap on goal difference between themselves and Sunderland, but the Black Cats have a game in hand – and Norwich have the lowest number of goals scored in the league, with just 28 from 36 games.

Yeah, it’s not looking good for the Canaries.

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After last week’s disastrous 4-0 loss to Manchester United, a few changes had to be made to the Norwich side. Martin Olsson, Leroy Fer and Nathan Redmond are out, while Alex Tettey, Johan Elmander and Ryan Bennett are in.

Demba Ba gets the start for Chelsea after getting the first goal in the 2-0 win over Liverpool last week. Mourinho does make a few changes, however, from that match, bringing back John Terry, Ashley Cole, and Willian, who got the second last weekend. Eden Hazard begins on the bench – will we see the Belgian?

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Schwarzer; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Lampard, Matic; Salah, Willian, Schurrle; Ba

Subs: Hilario, Kalas, D Luiz, Van Ginkel, Hazard, Torres, Eto’o

Norwich City: Ruddy; Martin, R Bennett, Turner, Whittaker; Tettey; Snodgrass, Johnson, Howson, Olsson; Elmander

Subs: Bunn, Bassong, van Wolfswinkel, Fer, Hooper, E Bennett, Redmond

Norwich City 0-1 West Bromwich Albion: Amalfitano opener proves enough for West Brom this time (video)

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West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City are now even on points, both five points above the relegation zone. But even discounting the Baggies’ game in hand, after two rather weak performances from the Canaries, it’s Norwich that should be sweating the possibility of time in the Championship.

The hosts had the majority of the possession and the better of the chances in the first half, yet somehow, West Brom went into the break with the lead.

Norwich very nearly opened the scoring after just fifteen seconds. A sloppy backpass allowed Gary Hooper in on goal, but the Baggies defense were able to clear.

Thirteen minutes in, Johan Elmander wasted a golden chance for the Canaries, moments after Hooper had forced a save from Ben Foster. A half-cleared ball fell perfectly to the Swede, but rather than set up his teammate, Elmander elected to take a shot from twenty yards out, skewing it into the stands instead.

That miss was made even worse minutes later, when West Brom took the lead. An unfortunate slip from Martin Olsson allowed Morgan Amalfitano to slip past him, placing his shot perfectly into the far corner of the net. That’s two for two for the Frenchman, who just might be single-handedly keeping the Baggies in the Premier League.

Norwich got off to a decent start in the second half, with Elmander looking to redeem himself, although he was unable to connect with a good ball from Robert Snodgrass. Shortly thereafter, Snodgrass himself forced Ben Foster to tip his shot into the bar, just minutes after Hooper hit the woodwork.

That was about all the Canaries were able to muster, however, as their attack rather petered out in the final fifteen minutes. Chris Hughton introduced Nathan Redmond and Luciano Becchio, but kept Ricky van Wolfswinkel on the bench. Becchio managed a decent attempt minutes from the end, but his shot went just wide.

LINEUPS

Norwich City: Ruddy; Martin, Yobo, Bassong, Olsson (Gutierrez 81); Snodgrass, Howson, Tettey, Hoolahan (Redmond 64); Elmander (Becchio 70), Hooper

West Bromwich Albion: Foster, Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Amalfitano, Morrison, Mulumbu, Dorrans (Gera 77, O’Neil 83), Sessegnon, Vydra (Berahino 71)

Goals: Amalfitano 16′

Premier League Roundup: Fulham, West Brom finally win; Chelsea lose game and composure

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After beating Newcastle, are Fulham now on course to right the ship?

Will Pepe Mel’s reign on the West Brom bench become a successful one?

And just how much of an effect will Chelsea’s loss have on the Premier League title?

Read the quick rundown of Saturday’s Premier League action, then feel free to give us your thoughts.

Hull 0-2 Manchester City
It looked like Hull were set to get a surprise win at the KC Stadium after Vincent Kompany was sent off ten minutes in. But David Silva scored just four minutes later, and Edin Džeko added an extra in stoppage time. The win lifted Manchester City into second – at least until Liverpool and Arsenal both play tomorrow.

Everton 2-1 Cardiff City
It looked like 19th placed Cardiff were set to sneak away from Goodison with a point. Gerard Deulofeu broke the deadlock at the hour mark, but Cala responded with the equalizer in the 68th minute. But the Bluebirds’ songs were cut short in stoppage time, when Seamus Coleman put in the winner for Everton. They’re temporarily in sixth, pending the outcome of tomorrow’s match between Liverpool and Manchester United.

Fulham 1-0 Newcastle United
Yes, you’re reading that right. Fulham beat Newcastle, thanks to a 68th minute goal from substitute Ashkan Dejagah. It helped, too, that Howard Webb ignored a clear handball from Johnny Heitinga in stoppage time, so Felix Magath should really think about sending the referee some flowers tomorrow. The win doesn’t pull the Cottagers out of the bottom three, or even off the floor, but it’s at least a start.

Southampton 4-2 Norwich City
The day’s thriller saw Southampton race to a 3-0 lead, thanks to goals from Morgan Schneiderlin, Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez. But when Robert Snodgrass followed Johan Elmander’s goal with one of his own just a minute later, it looked like the Canaries might find a point. Instead, Southampton grabbed another with the last play of the match.

Stoke City 3-1 West Ham United
You were expecting a goalless draw? No, you’ll find Tony Pulis in the match below. Instead we had Andy Carroll opening the scoring after five minutes, only to have Peter Odemwingie score a brace on either side of a goal from Marko Arnautović. Stoke are now up to 10th, with 34 points, three points above West Ham.

Sunderland 0-0 Crystal Palace
This game happened. This game did little to help either side in their dreams of safety. Sunderland are now 18th, Palace are three points ahead in 17th.

Swansea 1-2 West Bromwich Albion
Pepe Mel finally has his first win, after eight games in charge at West Brom. The Swans took the lead after just two minutes thanks to a goal from Roland Lamah, but Stéphane Sessègnon put the Baggies level in the second half. Then, in the 85th minute, Youssouf Mulumbu slipped the ball through Jordi Amat’s legs, and the visitors were in front. The win puts West Brom three points above the drop, while Swansea are just four above.

Aston Villa 1-0 Chelsea
Villa ended Chelsea’s 14-game unbeaten run – and caused them to lose their composure in the process. Nemanja Matić had a goal ruled out in the first half after he was adjudged to have handled it, but that was nothing compared to the second. After Willian was sent off with a second yellow, Fabian Delph scored with a fantastic backheel to put Villa out in front. After Delph nearly doubled his side’s lead in stoppage time, Ramires was sent off with a straight red, and José Mourinho followed for protesting too much.