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PST Roundtable: PL at the 3/4 mark

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

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who’s on track for your Best XI?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nick Mendola: Son. Solo. Next.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s been a season, team.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Nick Mendola: I find Michael Oliver the most consistent.

This is what Pochettino said to get a two-game ban

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Forgot what you thought Mauricio Pochettino said to Mike Dean and his officiating crew after Tottenham’s defeat at Burnley last month.

Because we know now exactly what went down.

Pochettino was handed a two-game touchline ban for his angry reaction at the end of the game, and the contents of Dean’s report to the English Football Association has been released.

Over to Dean, who describes what he and Pochettino “discussed” after the final whistle on the pitch at Turf Moor.

“I then said on numerous occasions to go away at least 10 times and he wouldn’t get out of my personal space and then aggressively pointed his finger just a few inches from my face again saying ‘you know what you are’,” Dean’s report said.

The FA revealed more details about the incident, as Pochettino continued to confront Dean in the tunnel area after the game.

“While the words used are not the worst, the choice of phrase ‘you know what you are’ was used in an on-field outburst, following the conclusion of the game, that lasted for 40 seconds, during which Pochettino was, at times, very close to Mr Dean and face-to-face. Pochettino’s position is then aggravated by the fact of the second charge, which involved him waiting for Mr Dean in the tunnel area to resume his unacceptable comments.”

So, Pochettino said “you know what you are, you know what you are” and that was it.

The FA have confirmed that the angry manner Poch reacted in was the main reason for his two-game ban, but what wasn’t pointed out was what Dean, or one of his officials, said to Pochettino which seemed to make his blood boil.

Pochettino hasn’t divulged what was said, and probably never will, but the way he and his assistant Jesus Perez reacted to whatever was said by one of the officials is key to all of this.

In the first game that Pochettino had to watch from the stands his Spurs side lost 2-1 at Southampton on Saturday, and the second game is at Liverpool on Mar. 31. 

Pochettino handed touch line ban, fine for ref confrontation

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Mauricio Pochettino has learned his fate for berating referee Mike Dean after Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-1 loss to Burnley on Feb. 23.

The Spurs’ manager will serve a two-match touch line ban and pay a $13,150 fine for his display, which continued into the tunnel area.

[ RECAP: BVB 0-1 Spurs ]

Pochettino will be away from his team for matches away to Southampton on Saturday and to Liverpool on March 31 (Spurs’ match home to Crystal Palace has been postponed due to the Eagles’ progress in the FA Cup).

His absence will be the latest boon to Liverpool’s hopes of reclaiming first place in the Premier League, though Pochettino will be able to prepare his Spurs for Liverpool.

The outburst was a rare misstep for Pochettino, whose time at Southampton and Tottenham has featured composed displays in the technical area and after matches.

Poch apologizes to Dean: ‘The way I behaved, it’s not right’

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Mauricio Pochettino has publicly apologized to Mike Dean and accepted his FA charge as a result of his post-game actions toward the referee following Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-1 defeat away to Burnley on Saturday.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines for Week 28 (Tuesday & Wednesday) ]

Pochettino, clearly aggrieved by at least one of the refereeing crew’s decisions during the game, confronted Dean after the final whistle (WATCH HERE) and had to be ushered off the field by members of his coaching staff. Pochettino says he knows he was wrong for how he conducted himself in that moment  — quotes from ESPN:

“I will accept that charge. Watching after on the video, my behavior, I think I need to accept the charge from the FA. I’m not going to ask [for a personal hearing].

“At the same time, I need to apologize to Mike Dean. Right or wrong in the way that I wanted to complain, I cannot behave in that way. My behavior was public and now I want to apologize in a public way, too.”

“I hope I don’t repeat this type of situation. It’s not going to help my team, my club, the job of the referees and, of course, myself. I think I’m a very smart person who cannot repeat the same mistake.

“I was so frustrated after the game, so disappointed with the result. I didn’t want to justify the defeat and complain with the referee. It’s only that when you start to talk, your heart-rate starts to push.”

[ MORE: Premier League midweek streaming, TV schedule ]

… but remains steadfast in his belief that he was “right” about the call(s) being incorrect.

“I feel sorry for that, because I wanted to see him tomorrow and apologize in person. In my mind, I still believe I’m right, but in the way that I behaved, it’s not right. That’s the point.

“For me, he’s one of the best referees. For me, all the referees are really good and I never had a problem. I think I made bigger my problem in my head because for me it was one of the most important games to play, and the three points were so important to put pressure on our opponents.”

WATCH/VOTE: Was Dean right to award PK to Spurs?

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Penalty or nah?

Arsenal has seen its early North London Derby lead turned on its head by an Eric Dier goal and Harry Kane penalty during a wild and proper derby day at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

[ STREAM: The North London Derby ]

The flashpoint, however, was Heung-Min Son‘s actions in winning the decisive penalty late in the first half.

Lively throughout the half, Spurs’ South Korea forward dribbled into the 18 and went down when Rob Holding went sliding through with a challenge and appeared to have made contact with Son’s foot.

Son hit the deck hard, and referee Mike Dean came out of his shell had no problem pointing to the spot.

Was it a penalty? Watch the video, and vote below: