Matt Phillips

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Premier League 2017-18 preview – West Bromwich Albion

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West Brom is an interesting case. With Tony Pulis leading the way, the Baggies have not truly flirted with relegation since their 17th-place finish in 2014 that saw them finish just three points above the drop. But with finishes of 13th, 14th, and 10th since then, what exactly defines a successful season for the Baggies?

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Premier League obscurity is not a bad thing anymore. With the massive amounts of cash that come with a spot in the English top flight, a long stretch of bottom-half finishes could see the club amass money to eventually become a major player in the market. Clearly, West Brom is biding its time until the club can make a serious move, although the risky acquisition of Jay Rodriguez proves ambition. However, with teams constantly improving around them, the Baggies did little business this summer, which is worrying.

Best, worst case scenarios – The most Baggies fans can usually hope for is Premier League safety, but did last season’s 10th-placed finish change the expectations? Growth is always what any club hopes to achieve, whether it be short-term or long-term, and now fans will be looking for a top-half spot. The Baggies have just one other Premier League top-half finish ever, coming in 2012/13 just before the relegation scare. It would seem the best-case scenario would be for West Brom to match that achievement with hopes of long-term growth from there.

Worst-case would see this club relegated. There is no true star-power on the squad, and while Tony Pulis has a steady ship currently, it’s not hard to envision a few poor results spiraling things out of control.


Best possible XI is…

Foster

Dawson — Evans — McAuley — Nyom

Livermore — Yacob

Phillips — Morrison — Chadli

Rondon


[ MORE: 2017-18 PL season preview hub ] 

Transfers In: Jay Rodriguez (Southampton, $16 million), Ahmed Hegazy (Al Alhy, Loan).

Transfers Out: Craig Gardner (Birmingham, $2 million), Sebastian Pocognoli (Standard Liege, Free), Darren Fletcher (Stoke City, Free).

Last season: 

— 10th place in Premier League
— FA Cup 3rd Round (lost to Derby County)
— League Cup 2nd Round (lost to Northampton Town)

Star Player: Matt Phillips — With Nacer Chadli struggling for consistency on a team that utilizes the flanks, Matt Phillips is the engine to the machine. With nine assists last season to lead the team in his first season with the Baggies, Phillips is a critical part of a team that doesn’t attack a whole lot.

Unfortunatley, Phillips tweaked his hamstring in preseason, and according to manager Tony Pulis, it could be related to repeated back problems the 26-year-old struggles with. If those two problems keep him out for any significant amount of time, West Brom will have to lean on Chadli, who flashes brilliance at times but also tends to disappear quite often. That was evident last season when he made 31 Premier League appearances, but only completed the full 90 minutes 10 times. This team needs Phillips.

Coach’s Corner: Tony Pulis — Pulis has provided a steady presence wherever he goes. He locks teams down, turns them into a disciplined machine, and grinds out results. West Brom sorely needed his presence when he arrived, and now growth seems attainable. The 59-year-old doesn’t bring an exciting style of play, but occasionally the excitement arrives in the surprising results. Last season, the Baggies took care of business against teams below them and upset Arsenal down the stretch.

PST Predicts: The key this season is to stay healthy and avoiding long stretches of failure. If Phillips is indeed injured for a while, there’s not much depth for the Baggies to fall back on. Most worrying is the nine-match winless run to finish the season last year, which featured seven losses. Often, that can be a harbinger of how things will go the following campaign, especially considering the squad hardly turned over this summer. It would be great to see Tony Pulis take this team into the top half two years in a row, but more likely they will end up looking over their shoulders in 14th.

An under-the-radar Premier League XI

Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
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The Premier League’s international break invites reflection on both what we’ve seen so far and what’s to come.

For example, what if we left out the superstars?

For whatever reason, this one is recalling the state of mind of 2015-16, when we were digesting that Leicester City very much looked the part of Premier League champions.

[ MORE: Herrera on “intense” Zlatan ]

For a lot of us, that meant delving into statistics and seeing what matched the eye test. Many started Googling the name “N'Golo Kante“, the dynamic disruptor who’d move to Chelsea in August.

He’s a household name now, with some personalities even arguing that he should buck the trend of Ballon d’Or nominees including only major statistic producers (There was a time when names like Fabio Cannavaro and Matthias Sammer claimed the honor, you know).

For our purposes, we’ll use a pair of advanced stats sites and the good ol’ eye test. (Of the sites we’re using, Squawka seems to skew toward high attack scores, while WhoScored tilts a bit toward the back, so life is good if a player hits both sites’ Top 50).

Before getting into our team — we promise no 10-picture, click-to-reveal-next stuff — some stats that stood out.

— Three players have had outstanding “short” seasons for different reasons.

  • Leicester City’s Wilfried Ndidi took a short spell to adjust to the Premier League after arriving in January, but has been the Foxes’ most influential player in their recent turnaround).
  • Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake essentially was the Cherries’ first-half success before heading back to Chelsea where Antonio Conte won’t move him ahead of Marcos Alonso or Victor Moses (and that’s actually understandable as you’ll see below).
  • Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas just doesn’t feature a ton for Conte, but in limited time his per-90 stats on Squawka trail only Eden Hazard and Alexis Sanchez.

— The following players have risen well above most of their teammates but fall short of the league Top 50 on either site: Ben Gibson (Boro), Michael Keane and Ben Mee (Burnley), Christian Fuchs (Leicester City), Joe Allen (Stoke City), Jose Holebas and Troy Deeney (Watford), Gareth McAuley (West Brom).

— Watford, as a side, is seemingly the choose to a sort of MVP. On WhoScored, not a single player rises above 7, but there are a host in the very high sixes.

— In very different systems, John Stones (91.8) and Adam Forshaw (89.2) are thriving in pass percentage.

Oriol Romeu of Southampton and Victor Wanyama of Tottenham Hotspur (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

— Southampton’s Oriel Romeu and Stoke’s Erik Pieters rank fourth and fifth respectively in tackles per game.

— In a team that has to intervene a ton, Hull City’s Curtis Davies the league with 3.8 interceptions per game.


Honorable mention

Goalkeeper: Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City)

Defenders: Aleksandar Kolarov (Manchester City), Marcos Alonso (Chelsea), Calum Chambers (Boro), Papy Djilobodji (Sunderland), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)

Midfielders: Ake, Victor Wanyama (Spurs), Willian (Chelsea), Juan Mata (Manchester United), Harry Winks (Spurs), Manuel Lanzini (West Ham United), Victor Moses (Chelsea), Jack Wilshere (Bournemouth).

Forwards: Joshua King (Bournemouth), Fernando Llorente (Swansea City), Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace)


Goalkeeper

Ben Foster (West Brom) — With the highest performance score in the position on WhoScored, Foster has claimed all 95 balls he’s went up for and has a league-best 76 saves.

Defenders

Nicolas Otamendi (Man City, 7.49, 29.18) — One of few defenders to rate high in interceptions despite being on a team that doesn’t concede loads of chances or possession.

George Friend (Middlesbrough) — Just out of the upper echelon on the advanced stats site, he is in rarefield air in traditional stats interceptions and tackles.

Steve Cook (Bournemouth, 7.16, 22.76) — Jumps out of the advanced stats on a Cherries team which has faced plenty of attacking pressure.

Antonio Valencia (Manchester United, 7.28, 27.45) — There’s a reason Jose Mourinho rewarded him with an extension not long into the manager’s tenure at Old Trafford.

Midfielders

Ander Herrera (Manchester United, 7.44, 36.64) – Long-heralded at Athletic Bilbao, Herrera is finally showing what made him so sought. One odd stat that may be explained by his willingness to run to any situation: he’s very high in average times dribbled past.

Idrissa Gana Gueye (Everton, 7.34, 20.57) – The best player in Aston Villa’s awful 2015-16, he’s been arguably as effective as N’Golo Kante. Seriously.

Matt Phillips (West Bromwich Albion) – Once the top player on a relegated QPR, Phillips is fifth in the Premier League in assists despite missing the last four matches with injury.

Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur, 7.41, 31.89) – Second in the PL in key passes, he doesn’t get the plaudits of English teammates Dele Alli and Harry Kane. The relationships are very symbiotic.

 

Forwards

Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace, 7.44) – On an under-achieving team, Zaha’s statistics are wild. He’s the most-fouled player in the league, and attempts/completes the most dribbles in the PL. He gives the ball away a lot, too, but that happens when you’re the focal point of everything your team does in the attacking third.

Alex Iwobi (Arsenal, 30.54) – The Nigerian turns 21 in May, and has four goals and seven assists across all competitions.

VIDEO: Premier League’s Top 10 goals of the season, from A(dam) to Z(amora)

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All week at ProSoccerTalk we are reviewing the dramatic 2014-15 Premier League season. From dishing out awards to looking back at the highs and lows in the 380 games as 20 teams battled it out, we’ll have every angle covered.

[ FULL COVERAGE: Premier League season review ]

For the full archive of our review content, just hit the link above. Now, it’s time to take a look back at the best goals of 2014/15 in the Premier League.

The goals run the gamut and it’s a relegated club which a trio of offerings on the docket. We’ve got Queens Park Rangers goals from Charlie Austin’s turn and fire to his teammate Bobby Zamora’s outside-foot chip versus West Brom and Matty Phillips long distance route versus Crystal Palace.

[ MORE: Premier League final day roundup ]

Then there’s a Merseyside Derby swerving strike and a Wear-Tyne Derby deciding volley. But which wild goal gets the honor of goal of the season? From A to Z, see what Robbie Earle, Robbie Mustoe and Kyle Martino tabbed as top of the pops.

QPR’s Ramsey after 6-0 loss seals relegation: “We shot ourselves in the foot”

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Queens Park Rangers became the second casualty of the Premier League relegation zone, falling 6-0 at Manchester City on Sunday morning.

Manager Chris Ramsey had plenty to say after the loss. He wants to stick around and help the R’s earn promotion, and he’s a bit stunned at how his team looked in such a crucial fixture.

[ MATCH RECAP: Man City 6-0 QPR ]

Even with the odds stacked against their survival, Ramsey expected more.

From the BBC:

“We came here with a lot of hope, shot ourselves in the foot and gave away three set-pieces which they scored from. On the day we didn’t really turn up and they are a very good team. The boys will be very disappointed in the way they performed. We are really feel sorry for the travelling fans.

“As you can imagine the dressing room is very, very quiet. I don’t think it’s a time for post mortems, our fate is what it is. The club is in a rebuilding phase now and would have been anyway regardless of today. There are lots of people at the club who will be extremely disappointed in the way we conducted ourselves today.”

It’s a lot to take for fans of the R’s, who will now have to hope for a rebuilt unit to quickly thrive in the Championship. Twelve players are out of contract, including Joey Barton and Bobby Zamora.

Tony Fernandez has the money to bring in help, but also consider that Charlie Austin, Robert Green and Matt Phillips will be among those sought after in the transfer market. This time, going back up is going to be much, much tougher.

Manchester City 6-0 Queens Park Rangers: Aguero’s hat trick emphatically relegates R’s

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source: Getty Images

Sergio Aguero’s 23rd, 24th and 25th goals of the season clinched another UEFA Champions League berth for Manchester City, and doomed Queens Park Rangers to the Championship in a 6-0 win on Sunday at the Etihad Stadium.

Aleksandar Kolarov and James Milner also scored for City, which moves into second place. The Citizens have a three-point lead over Arsenal, which has played two less matches.

QPR is last in the Premier League, as manager Chris Ramsey was unable to undo the harm caused by Harry Redknapp’s poor start.

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]

Aguero put City up when Steven Caulker allowed him to dribble toward the box, and Clint Hill darted in front of Caulker to tackle the Argentine. Aguero bodied the ball past both and then chipped a sliding Robert Green to make it 1-0 after four minutes.

Charlie Austin headed past Hart in the 20th minute off a great Joey Barton cross, but the striker was one of a trio of offside R’s and the goal wouldn’t go.

City, still, was firmly in control of the match and unfortunate not to have added a second and third goal. A terrific combination play with David Silva and James Milner failed to amount to a goal when Fernando failed to put home Milner’s cross.

[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]

source: Getty Images

And Kolarov made it 2-0 when his free kick influenced Bobby Zamora to break from the wall, and the ball curled past a diving Green.

The former World Cup keeper then was called upon to make a sprawling stop on Aguero, who had turned the QPR back line into a speed bump.

Barton sent another free kick in that Leroy Fer tipped off the cross bar, and Joe Hart snared Zamora’s headed rebound to keep the score 2-0.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The second half provided no reprieve for the R’s, with Yun Suk-Young bungling the trapping of a David Silva clearance right into the path of Aguero. The Argentine raced onto a long breakaway run, and wasn’t about to let left-for-dead Green deprive him of a brace.

Green made a pair of saves on Silva and Kolarov midway through the second half to keep the deficit 3-0.

source: AP

Moments later, Matt Phillips was whistled for taking down Silva in the penalty area, and Aguero completed his hat trick.

Then Wilfried Bony won a header down to Aguero, who passed across the six-yard box for Milner to tap home.

Yaya Toure subbed on late to a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday” from the Etihad faithful. It was funny, all things considered.

Longtime City man Shaun Wright-Phillips entered late for QPR, and earned a nice round of applause from his former home fans.

Silva finished a slick combo play started by Aguero and aided by a Bony back heel pass to complete the scoring.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Mangala, Kolarov, Fernando, Milner (Navas, 82′), Fernandinho (Toure, 75′), Lampard (Bony, 63′), Silva, Aguero.

Goal: Aguero 3 (4′, 50′, PK 65′), Kolarov (32′), Milner (70′), Silva (87′)

Queens Park Rangers: Green, Caulker, Dunne, Hill, Phillips (Wright-Phillips, 86′), Barton, Henry, Suk-Young, Fer (Kranjcar, 78′), Austin, Zamora (Hoilett, 53′).