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Premier League Storylines: Matchweek 24

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There’s no time to languish in weekend losses, revel in big wins, or — like half the Premier League’s teams — scratch their heads about draws.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

A delightful midweek match week arrives Tuesday before the weekend’s FA Cup fourth round scraps, and we’re quite pleased to reap the rewards.


Can Arteta get a statement win at Stamford Bridge? [ STREAM ]

  • Chelsea v. Arsenal, Tuesday (Watch live, 3:15 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta was denied a statement win when these sides met on Dec. 29, a 1-0 lead turned into three dropped points due to some tactical nous from Frank Lampard. Arteta is not mincing words about the import of the return affair at Stamford Bridge, calling it a “must win” against the uneven Blues.

Invincible Watch [ STREAM ]

  • Wolves v. Liverpool, Thursday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Our unscientific ranking says this is the fourth-toughest test of the 16 remaining in Liverpool’s quest for Premier League immortality as an unbeaten team. Wolves played Liverpool to the bone at Anfield, falling on a Sadio Mane 42nd minute goal.

Red Devils rebound on tap [ STREAM ]

  • Manchester United v. Burnley, Wednesday (Watch live, 3:15 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Whatever Ole Gunnar Solskjaer thinks, Manchester United’s 2-0 loss to Liverpool was not encouraging. The Red Devils also learned that Marcus Rashford is out 2-3 months, not weeks, and Burnley’s woeful defense will be feeling a lot better about this fixture than it did last week. So, of course, we should expect Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood to have a field day, right?

Can Eagles, Saints push for Europa? [ STREAM ]

  • Crystal Palace v. Southampton, Tuesday (Watch live, 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold)

Palace has had an uneven season with plenty of injuries, but held off Man City to grab another point at the weekend. That’s ninth place and 30 points, two more than surging Southampton, and Sheffield United’s 33 points provide the seventh place standard. Three points here sure would be nice for either. (Big announcer voice) But only one can take all of them.

Another Brucie Bonus at Goodison Park? [ STREAM ]

  • Everton v. Newcastle United, Tuesday (Watch live, 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold)

When these two matched up on Dec. 28, there were 42 shots but only one goal. If this one is nearly as entertaining, get your proverbial and actual popcorn ready. Steve Bruce‘s Magpies have made a habit of surprising this season, and it’s not like they used up attacking legs while defending deep versus Chelsea.

Transfer rumor roundup: Werner prefers Liverpool, Bentaleb to Newcastle

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Names both familiar and unfamiliar continue to be linked with moves to the Premier League as the January transfer window heats up.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Earlier we posted about Edinson Cavani and Mbwana Samatta, but a younger prolific scorer is having a run through the rumor mill on Monday.

Bild reports that RB Leipzig free scorer Timo Werner’s preferred destination is a club in the Premier League managed by a famous German.

No, it’s not Daniel Farke‘s Norwich City, rather Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool (you gleaned that already, didn’t you?).

Klopp is a reportedly a long-time Werner admirer, and the 23-year-old’s $67 million release clause is not prohibitive for the Reds.

The move would seemingly have to wait until summer given Leipzig’s status as a Bundesliga table leader and Liverpool’s comfort with Roberto Firmino as its number one.

The 28-year-old Firmino has been  greatfor Liverpool, firing in 75 goals and 56 assists since 2015, but Werner is a beast. He’s bagged 86 goals and 37 assists since arriving from Stuttgart in 2016, including 20 goals and six assists this Bundesliga season through 18 matches.

There’s obviously no guarantee he’d reach Firmino’s levels, but watching him play makes it difficult to believe he wouldn’t.


Inter Milan has lodged a formal bid for Christian Eriksen, offering approximately $14 million for the wantaway Dane.

Spurs want $8 million more than that, but Inter is hoping that some performance-based incentives would be enough to get the job done.

The 27-year-old can negotiate with anyone since his contract runs out this summer, and he’ll be bringing a resume with 95 international caps and a combined 101 goals and 154 assists between Tottenham and Ajax.


Newcastle United is still chasing Valentino Lazaro of Inter Milan, but reports claim they’ve quickly moved on a target for the center of the park.

Nabil Bentaleb is reportedly on Tyneside for a medical, the ex-Spurs man finding a more attacking role at Schalke before being frozen out by new boss David Wagner.

Bentaleb, still just 25, has 19 goals and nine assists in 97 matches for Schalke after getting just one and six in 66 appearances for Spurs.

The 35-times capped Algerian, like Lazaro, would be a loan deal with an option to buy.


Finally, the BBC says Wolves are looking to strengthen its wings with $26 million Olympiacos man Daniel Podence.

The 24-year-old has five goals and five assists in 27 appearances for the Greeks, scoring against Spurs and Krasnodar in Champions League play.

The same report has Wolves looking to the future with 19-year-old Ecuadorian striker Leonardo Campana.

Newcastle takes point from Wolves through Almiron, Dubravka

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Miguel Almiron turned in a Man of the Match performance as Newcastle United took a surprise point from the Molineux in a 1-1 draw with Wolves on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Leander Dendoncker scored off a set piece for Wolves, who fall eight points off the Top Four.

Newcastle moves onto 26 points, five off seventh place and six away from the Bottom Three.


Three things we learned

1. Traore, Almiron should compete in the decathalon: For 90 minutes, Newcastle’s Almiron and Wolves winger Adama Traore drove each other nuts on the flank. Matching each other for pace as if the points would be awarded to the victor, there were no better field players to be found at the Molineux.

2. Dubravka continues to deliver: Newcastle’s xG luck will again be off the charts. Midfielder Matty Longstaff had one of three goal line clearances for the Magpies, but goalkeeper Martin Dubrvka denied a pair of strong chances from Wolves with highlight reel stuff. The Slovakian No. 1 is one of Newcastle’s heroes.

3. Almiron finding his stride: Forget the three goals in five matches, Almiron is delivering an all-around game to back up the support he received during his 27-match goal drought. The former Atlanta United man completed five of five dribbles, won 10 of 13 challenges, and was credited with five tackles and two interceptions. He was the easy Man of the Match, and his goal was a beauty, too.


Miguel Almiron dribbled 40-plus yards to cut a shot toward goal, but a diving Rui Patricio saw it sail wide of the frame.

He got his goal two minutes later, Jetro Willems and Dwight Gayle working the ball down the left before the latter poked a ball onto the Paraguayan’s path for a fine finish.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Paul Dummett added to Newcastle’s injury woes when he left after a dozen minutes for Florian Lejeune.

Wolves answered moments later, Dendoncker losing Federico Fernandez for a set piece goal with minimal defending at best.

Gayle then also left with an injury, Newcastle’s fifth first half injury change in 73 first half minutes across two matches.

The Magpies got another shining save from goalkeeper Martin Dubravka when Adama Traore picked out Raul Jimenez for a back post header.

Matty Longstaff provided another goal line clearance when Matt Doherty threatened goal in the 47th, and Dubravka denied Pedro Neto with a point blank save late on.

Watford holds on through red card to topple Wolves

Watford Wolves recap
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Watford built a two-goal lead and held on through a 71st minute red card to beat Wolves 2-1 at Vicarage Road on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Nigel Pearson‘s men have now won three of four matches and are two points back of safety with 19 points.

Gerard Deulofeu and Abdoulaye Doucoure scored the goals, the latter on his 27th birthday.

As for Wolves, they fail in a bid to strengthen their top-end credentials and sit seventh with 30 points.


Three things we learned

1. Deulofeu one of the season’s X-factors: Watford got 10 league goals with five assists out of the Spaniard last season, but the 25-year-old hasn’t been able to do as much this go-round. Ismaila Sarr is now humming along, too, and Watford’s attack finding it footing.

Wednesday’s goal was Deulofeu’s fourth of the season, and it’s interesting to note the change in production from his first Premier League stint. At Everton, Deulofeu had eight goals and 19 assists in 75 matches, compared to now 17 and eight in 63 for the Hornets.

2. Wolves losing hope of Top Four: Wolves are playing as many games as anyone in Europe, and maybe this was all a big ask given the brutal fixture list; Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men were unlucky versus Liverpool but not sharp enough Wednesday in losing a second-successive loss. Their twin wins over Man City show that anything is possible, but they really needed to grab these points before the Europa League fixture list begins to torture them again.

3. Mentality fixed under Pearson: Nigel Pearson’s men could’ve wilted given the opposition and the red card, but stood firm against a very good Wolves side to move even closer to the safe spaces. They’ll finish the day between two and four points back of safety, which seemed silly mere weeks ago. Right now, it looks like Watford has a chance to return to their plucky and potent team of last season.

Man of the Match: Most of the best individual days belonged to Wolves, but Deulofeu was part of a lively attack and gets our nod.


[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Conor Coady sent Matt Doherty through to goal in the 13th minute, but Ben Foster continued his fine form with a big save.

Wolves wanted a penalty when Pedro Neto hit the deck in the box, but a yellow card was given and VAR stayed with the call.

Deulofeu gave Watford the lead with a curling finish around Rui Patricio. Ismaila Sarr continued his good form with the assist, as the Hornets scored with their fifth attempt of the night.

Sarr came close to a goal of his own when Troy Deeney played him into the right of the 18.

Doucoure made it 2-0 coming out of the break when Deulofeu dribbled to the middle and laid off wide, a hard deflected strike leaving Patricio for dead.

The hour mark saw the match back in play thanks to Neto’s first Premier League goal, a deflected effort from distance.

Jonny Otto won a dangerous free kick for Wolves and a man advantage, too, when he was fouled by Christian Kabasele in the 72nd. The Watford defender sent off, and Wolves were unable to equalize up a man over 19 minutes.

How January will affect the Premier League’s Top Four race

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It will be 2020 the next time a ball in kicked in Premier League action, making the tales at both ends of the table feel more serious.

We’ll save the relegation talk for another day. For one thing, wild point swings and droughts in the bottom half of the table are a lot more common than the top.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

The table enters January in a weird place. Everton and Arsenal face double-digit distances from the Top Four and aren’t even making this post. That’s not to say the Gunners nor Toffees aren’t capable, but we can revisit their statuses if they get to a new level.

First off, look at Liverpool: That 13-point lead with a match of hand is striking. Good night. Congrats. Barring a red wedding more grisly than Game of Thrones, we’ve got new Premier League overlords.

[ MORE: Premier League midseason grades ]

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Liverpool 19 18 1 0 47 14 33 10-0-0 8-1-0 55
 Leicester City 20 13 3 4 43 19 24 7-2-1 6-1-3 42
 Manchester City 20 13 2 5 54 23 31 7-1-2 6-1-3 41
 Chelsea 20 11 2 7 35 28 7 4-2-4 7-0-3 35
 Manchester United 20 8 7 5 32 23 9 5-4-1 3-3-4 31
 Tottenham Hotspur 20 8 6 6 36 29 7 6-2-2 2-4-4 30
 Wolves 20 7 9 4 29 25 4 4-4-2 3-5-2 30
 Sheffield United 20 7 8 5 23 19 4 4-2-4 3-6-1 29

Leicester City: There are legitimate reasons to suspect the Foxes could lose their seemingly significant foothold in the Top Four. For one thing, they are the luckiest team in the league not named Liverpool or Newcastle according to the xG table.

As silly as this sounds, though, January is Leicester’s last legitimate obstacle. The Foxes have at least seven games in January thanks to a pair of League Cup semifinal dates and an FA Cup quarterfinal (eight if they beat Wigan as expected).

Brendan Rodgers showed us that his men can handle poor teams with a B team when they beat West Ham on Saturday. The other teams on January’s docket: Newcastle, Wigan (FA Cup), Aston Villa x2 (League Cup), Southampton, Burnley, West Ham.

They need to stack enough points to make February’s three-match stretch versus Chelsea, Wolves, and Man City navigable. It’s going to be a battle for fourth, but the lack of European action helps them in a big way.

Man City: The two-time reigning champs will also face a busy month, but they’re used to that. Up ahead are Everton, Port Vale (FA Cup), Manchester United x2 (League Cup), Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, and Sheffield United. If Aymeric Laporte returns and there are no major injuries, City should finish second. Even focusing on the Champions League, they’ll finish Top Four with ease barring some sort of injury plague (which they’ve already handled to some extent).

Chelsea: The Blues’ four league matches are Brighton away, Burnley home, Newcastle away, and Arsenal home. An FA Cup date with Nottingham Forest shouldn’t be a huge issue, either, though the Reds are doing alright in the Championship. Chelsea is likely to spend big this January after a summer without additions, and the Blues feel like a safe bet to deliver third.

Man Utd: This is a rough month for the Red Devils, beginning with a visit to Arsenal on Wednesday. The cup draws weren’t kind to them, with Wolves in the FA Cup and two Manchester Derbies in the League Cup. There’s also a visit to Liverpool between Norwich City and Burnley league dates. Tough one. The League Cup derbies and January transfer action will tell us a lot about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s bunch.

Spurs: Three bottom-half opponents and a visit from Liverpool make for a promising month, as Jose Mourinho can collect a statement win and a place in fourth. It’s away to Boro in the FA Cup, so there’s likely a sixth game depending on how Mourinho wants to play it. Spurs will be right in the thick of it come February.

Wolves: Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men are used to schedule congestion, so they may feel bored by just five January matches. Watford away, Newcastle home, Saints away, and Liverpool at home will make for a promising slate to go with a visit from Manchester United in the FA Cup. At some point it feels like Wolves will run out of gas due to their insane UEL run, but they’ll be alive for the Top Four entering February.

Sheffield United: Chris Wilder‘s men have surpassed all expectations this season, but January may be a bridge too far. The Blades have trips to Liverpool and Arsenal to go with visits from West Ham and Man City. The FA Cup tie versus Fylde will be less of an issue. It’s difficult to bet against the Blades on current form, but logic says they’ll fall off a bit.