What we learned in the Premier League

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Seven games took place in the Premier League on Saturday and we learned plenty at both ends of the table.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Huddersfield and Fulham will both be frustrated as their bad luck continued, while Liverpool and Chelsea held their nerve and there were big wins for Watford, Southampton, Burnley and West Ham.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Here’s a look at the key takeaways from Saturday’s PL action.


Liverpool respond with gritty away win
It wasn’t pretty but Liverpool regained a seven-point lead atop the Premier League table as Mohamed Salah won and converted a penalty kick to beat Brighton 1-0. This was the kind of test Liverpool had to pass if they’re going to win the Premier League this season. After back-to-back defeats against Man City (in the Premier League) and Wolves (in the FA Cup), this was a big statement from Liverpool. Playing at a well-organized Brighton is always tough but Jurgen Klopp‘s side made relatively light work of it as their defensive injuries didn’t hamper their charge towards the Premier League title. Of course, there are bigger tests ahead but they don’t arrive for a while. The next time they play a top six side is the trip to Old Trafford to play Manchester United on Feb. 24. Between now and then there are plenty of tricky tests against teams they are supposed to beat sandwiched between their UEFA Champions League last 16 clashes against Bayern Munich. Liverpool were far from their best at Brighton, but they got the job done with minimal fuss as they were back to being ruthlessly efficient, and solid, just as they were at the start of the campaign. That is a very good sign for Klopp after the disappointment of the last week.


Emery’s Ozil problem not going away
Arsenal lost 1-0 at West Ham on Saturday and Unai Emery‘s post-game press conference was dominated by one person: Mesut Ozil. The German playmaker was not in Arsenal’s 18-man squad for the London derby and Emery said that was because “the players who were here are the players who deserved to be in this match.” That is yet another ominous statement from Emery for Ozil, as the highest-paid player in Arsenal’s history is the biggest headache Arsenal’s new manager has. The defending wasn’t as bad as it has been at times this season in the defeat at West Ham, but you could say that Ozil’s creativity would have been handy as Arsenal had plenty of the ball but couldn’t break down a stubborn West Ham defense. They are now six points off fourth-place Chelsea and could be overtaken by Manchester United in the next few weeks, and all of the momentum Emery had from that 22-game unbeaten run has evaporated with away defeats at Southampton, Liverpool and now West Ham, as they’ve had no victories in their last four PL away games. This poor away form is all getting very similar to Arsene Wenger‘s final season in charge…

Talking of Wenger, he oversaw Ozil, 30, signing a new bumper contract in January and he is guaranteed huge sums of cash. Ozil has only appeared in 16 games in all competitions this season and Emery clearly doesn’t trust him, as he’s said before, in away games against feisty, dedicated opponents. Ozil is a luxury player who is excellent, when given the chance, against lesser opponents at home but it doesn’t appear that the high-pressing, more defensive style Emery prefers can carry any passengers against more aggressive opponents. If Arsenal aren’t going to use Ozil, they have to loan him out or sell him in January. With his huge wages that will be tough and an argument can be made that Arsenal needed him at West Ham to unlock a defense and create chances in only the way he can. Emery’s issue with Ozil, on or off the pitch, has to be resolved one way or another as it threatens to derail their season.


Puel’s time at Leicester coming to an end
The boos rang out at the King Power Stadium as Leicester City lost 2-1 to Southampton, with Claude Puel‘s time in charge of the Foxes surely coming to an end soon. After their big wins against Chelsea, Man City and Everton over the festive period, all was well. But three-straight defeats to Cardiff, fourth-tier Newport County in the FA Cup and now an injury-hit Saints (who played over 55 minutes with 10-men) have cemented what many Leicester fans have been saying: Puel is not getting the best out of this team consistently. His decision to play three defensive midfielders against Saints was baffling, as the likes of Demarai Gray and Harvey Barnes sat on the bench and made a big difference in the second half. Leicester play extremely well against the big boys as they have less of the ball and their squad of players have perfected the art of counter-attacking. Against the teams they are supposed to beat they just aren’t able to break them down, as Puel’s belief in ball rotation, slow build-up and keeping possession doesn’t play to the strengths of this squad. After a testing year off the pitch for Leicester, Puel has brought some stability. He is a good, honest man who has brought plenty of Leicester’s young players to another level but it looks like he may get the hook soon. There is no chance of Leicester being relegated this season, so now is a good time to bring in a manager who can get the best out of this group and kick them on in their pursuit of Europa League qualification.


Huddersfield, Fulham in danger of being cut adrift
The bad luck continued for two relegation battlers as Fulham scored two own goals to lose at Burnley and Huddersfield had a penalty kick awarded, then overturned at Cardiff. In two six-pointers they both came up short and all of a sudden Huddersfield are eight points from safety and Fulham are five points (basically six points, given their goal difference) from staying up. Given their respective schedules in the next few weeks as they play plenty of the big boys, they are likely to be cut adrift. David Wagner is doing all he can with limited resources at Huddersfield, while the jury is out as to whether Claudio Ranieri was ever the right hire for Fulham. Both teams have shown they can hang in games but the little things are going against them as Saturday proved. Their fortunes will have to change quickly if they’re going to drag themselves out of the relegation zone with 16 games to go. There is almost a resignation among the Huddersfield fans that they are doing down, while Fulham will be at that stage very quickly. 

Heroic Southampton win at Leicester (video)

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  • Ward-Prowse, Long score for Saints
  • Valery sent off in first half 
  • Southampton out of relegation zone
  • 3 defeats in last 4 for Leicester

10-man Southampton beat Leicester City 2-1 at the King Power Stadium on Saturday, as Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s men dragged themselves out of the relegation zone with a wonderful defensive display.

James Ward-Prowse and Shane Long put Saints 2-0 up in the first half but they also had teenage right back Yan Valery sent off for two yellow cards. With a host of injuries, suspensions and players away on international duty, Saints dug deep with eight academy graduates in their matchday squad.

In the second half Leicester pulled one back as Wilfred Ndidi made it 2-1, but despite having all of the possession and efforts they couldn’t break down a stubborn Southampton side.

With the win Saints move up to 16th place on 19 points, while Leicester slip to eight on 31 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

Southampton took the lead early on thanks to a moment of madness by Nampalys Mendy. The Leicester midfielder caught Shane Long in the box and gave away a blatant penalty kick.

Ward-Prowse stepped up to score the penalty as Kasper Schmeichel got close to it but couldn’t keep it out.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

An unmarked Jack Stephens then forced Schmeichel into a stop as he powered in a header from a corner which the Leicester goalkeeper pushed away. Harry Maguire nodded wide from Ben Chilwell‘s cross as Leicester battled their way back into the game before half time.

After a flashpoint between Jan Valery and Chilwell saw them both booked, Jan Bednarek somehow cleared Wes Morgan‘s effort off the line as Saints held firm. At the other end Valery should have finished off Matt Targett‘s cross at the back post under pressure and moments later he was the villain.

Valery brought down Marc Albrighton and was given a second yellow card as Saints were reduced to 10 men right on half time, but then they went 2-0 up. Long beat Mendy to a long ball and his shot had too much out on it Schmeichel to keep out.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ] 

At half time Leicester brought on Demarai Gray and Harvey Barnes to try and get back into the game, as Leicester had plenty of the ball but Saints were a threat on the break with the pace of Nathan Redmond and Long.

The Foxes pumped long balls into the box and soon pulled a goal back as Ndidi bundled the ball home from Ricardo Pereira‘s cross. Game on.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Jamie Vardy and Barnes went down in the box without any contact to leave Southampton’s defenders furious, while Vardy headed off target when under pressure.

Late on Leicester threw everything at Southampton as Maddison curled a long-range effort just wide, but Saints held on for a huge victory after a valiant defensive effort.

Watch Live: Five Premier League games, 10am ET

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Five Premier League games take place at 10 a.m ET on Saturday, with Liverpool in action at Brighton headlining the morning slate.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ] 

Leicester host Southampton and Watford head to Crystal Palace in intriguing clashes, while two relegation six pointers see Fulham travel to Burnley and Cardiff host Huddersfield.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ] 

You can access additional games by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold which also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: “Goal Rush” here ]

For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of being similar to the NFL RedZone with action shown from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window. More info is available here.

The schedule for all five games at 10 a.m. ET is below and you can stream each game live by clicking on the links.


10 a.m. ET: Brighton v. Liverpool – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Burnley v. Fulham – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Cardiff City v. Huddersfield – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace v. Watford – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Leicester City v. Southampton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

Premier League Roundup: Chelsea-Bayern negotiations at a standstill, Blues offer Morata, and more

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Negotiations between Chelsea and Bayern Munich are reportedly at a standstill over a transfer clause.

As Bayern Munich continues to push to sign young English winger Callum Hudson-Odoi, Chelsea has insisted that the transfer agreement include a buy-back clause, according to The Times of London. Hudson-Odoi, possibly seeing the path to the first team at Chelsea blocked by veteran players, has reportedly decided his development would do best in Germany, even at the biggest club in the nation.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

The report states that Chelsea has requested the buy-back clause after missing out on Romelu Lukaku and having to pay well above market value for Nemanja Matic. This clause could have helped Chelsea also bring back players like Mohamed Salah and Kevin De Bruyne after both of them left Chelsea on transfers.

At this point, with all the pressure from Bayern and Hudson-Odoi, Chelsea will eventually agree on a deal. It’s just a matter of it coming for a deal in the summer, or whether the star young English winger will leave this month.

Here are some more notes from around the Premier League:

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Transfer Rumor Roundup: Ighalo on the move; Grillitsch to Tottenham

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Odion Ighalo has told Sky Sports that he wants to return to the Premier League.

The Nigerian international spent two-and-a-half seasons at Watford (two in the PL) from 2014-17 as he scored 16 goals and added four assists in 50 PL starts. He’s spent the past 12 months playing in the Chinese Super League for Changchun Yatai, scoring 36 goals in 55 games but, per the report, Ighalo is flying to the UK this week and wants to hold talks about his future.

A transfer fee of $25 million (what Changchun Yatai paid Watford for Ighalo in January 2017) has been suggested if Ighalo is to be sold, but which PL clubs will be interested in his services?

At a quick glance a few stick out: Southampton, Everton, Leicester and Crystal Palace would all seem like decent spots for him to land as they need added firepower and a target man. Everton have struggled in that area and have the cash the pay Ighalo, while Everton may have to get sell the likes of Shinji Okazaki and Kelechi Iheanacho to bring Ighalo in. Southampton have sold Manolo Gabbiadini, so a spot has opened up but does his style of play suit Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s high-pressing philosophy? Probably not.

Crystal Palace would be a good fit for Ighalo but whether or not they have this kind of cash is another matter. With Christian Benteke about to return from injury, Roy Hodgson may give him a run in the team, while Jordan Ayew has found some decent form in recent weeks in a central role.

Ighalo, 29, could want a move back to the PL as much as he likes, but at the moment there doesn’t seem to be many clubs who could take 1) afford his wages, and 2) have a spot for him to be a regular.


Another report from Sky Sports claims that Tottenham want to sign Austrian midfielder Florian Grillitsch, 23, from Hoffenheim.

The report claims that Grillitsch has a release clause in his contract for $24 million and with Mousa Dembele close to sealing a move to Chinese Super League side Beijing Sinobo Guoan, it appears Spurs have found their replacement.

A penny for your thoughts, Harry Winks, Victor Wanyama and Olivier Skipp…

This move seems very much like a Tottenham transfer. A young player who has UEFA Champions League and Bundesliga experience who is ready to make the step to a team competing in the top four of the Premier League each season and is hungry to improve under Mauricio Pochettino.

Grillitsch is a tall defensive midfielder who is comfortable on the ball, and likes to break up the play, so it seems like he would be a direct replacement for Dembele. This potential move says an awful lot about Winks’ future at Tottenham, while Wanyama has been hit by injuries but it appears he could be heading out of the door this summer. Either way, Spurs need extra depth as it is so if Dembele does leave then at least giving Pochettino the cash to bring in a replacement for a few million more is the least Daniel Levy can do.

Right?