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Prediction Masters – How Will The 2019/20 EPL Season Go

Last season, we predicted the EPL season in our Prediction Masters series. We were successful in some ways and flopped in some others but largely it was a total show of force from your lovely Center Circle writers. We feel like we got most of it right. This season, just for some measure of safety (with the transfer window shutting before the season thankfully), we’re putting this series out after the first week of action. We hope you enjoy it!

1. Who will win the Golden Boot (Top scorer)?

Mason Morawitz – Raheem Sterling: After last years 3-way tie at 22 goals, I anticipate at least two more to join this years close Golden Boot race in Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling. Sterling who’s formerly been known for his blistering pace and dribbling, has finally found a calmness in front of net that could see him become one of Europe’s top Scorers this season.

Andrew McCole – Raheem Sterling: If the last bits of summer action is any indication, the boy has his shooting boots on going into the upcoming season.  With a rumored deal with Jordan brand on the horizon and Manchester City primed for another trip towards a title, it seems completely plausible that a healthy and in-form Sterling can bring home the award.  It’s also a great year for a City player to snag the honor as Liverpool don’t feel likely to recreate two Golden Boot finalists (or try and have a player win three in a row), Chelsea have us wondering where goals will come from, Arsenal are looking to score goals by committee, Tottenham are the farthest thing from “predictable” the Premier League possesses, and Manchester United just still feel a bit off having a player reach the top of the goal charts.

Tise Okuo – Pierre Emerick Aubameyang: The temptation to go with Sadio Mane or Mo Salah is great but the Panther promised and delivered much last season but he will likely be more prolific for Arsenal this year, even with Alex Lacazette in the squad, PEA is this Arsenal’s version of Thierry Henry.

2. Who will be the MVP?

Andrew – Paul Pogba: Several players have looked great from the jump; Firmino, Aubameyang, Kane, and a host of others look to be hoping this is one of their best years yet.  However, the title of most valuable player in the league has to go to a team totally dependent on that player’s performance and I’m actually going to turn to one Paul Pogba. Now, I’m not saying Man U is ready to return to the pinnacle of the league, but I’ve always thought that Pogba has underperformed ever since his arrival back in England. However, knowing that a transfer to a different club might be a high-performing season away, and with it seeming like he isn’t letting the United pressure get to his play style as much, Pogba might just give us a full season of him showcasing his talent instead of just tiny blips and moments. As someone that detests most things Man U, you know I’ve got to believe it if I’m saying it.

Tise – Sadio Mane: The Senegal star has been superb since he moved to England. Every season, he’s got better and if the way he ended last season was anything to go by, he promises to be totally unplayable this year. In Liverpool’s attack, Salah and Firmino have both had times when they’ve been loudly hailed by the media, this season it’ll be Mane’s turn. Without him, Liverpool are just not the same dynamic attack. The other obvious place to look for an MVP is at City however they have way too many killers and spread the love way too much. It’s too difficult for one player to excel far and away above others in that team.

Mason – Harry Kane: In what will be one of Tottenham’s most anticipated seasons in recent history after reaching the Champions League final, the big man up top will be at the fulcrum of everything through the attack. A full season of being healthy will do him wonders, with a bloodhound’s nose for goals all he needs is consistent playing time. If Raheem Sterling were to grab the Golden boot it would put his name into the basket as well, but with a projection of Spurs sneaking into second place this season, I see big things coming from Harry.

3. Who will be the breakout star?

Tise – Ruben Neves: Among soccer nerds, this guy isn’t that much of a breakout player but he’s not a mainstream player by any means yet. That should change by the end of the season. Neves is a midfield juggernaut. He ought to take the next step forward in advancement and attain superstar status this year. Years ago, N’golo Kante led Leicester to the title and attained superstar status. This year, it’d be asking a lot for Neves to do that with Wolves as the league is simply far too strong, and the big boys are unlikely to have down years, but Wolves just may break into the top 6 or even top 4, and if that happens, Ruben Neves will be the catalyst.

Mason – Pepe: By becoming Arsenal’s record signing of around 90 million dollars, a lot is expected of the new attacking winger for the Gunners. I think that in a system that will allow the front three of Lacazette, Aubameyang and Pepe move freely, Pepe will thrive on the space created by his counterparts. Add in the eventual service coming from the opposite side from Kieran Tierney, he could be getting tap ins left and right. A couple of big games early on in the season against Liverpool and Tottenham will surely set the tone for his path at the new club.

Andrew – Miguel Almiron: While it might be a bit of bias since he was so much fun to watch with Atlanta United, Newcastle’s Miguel Almiron showed flashes towards the end of last season that he could become a huge part of what is happening for Newcastle. Considering his workrate and the simple truth that he might already be becoming a fan favorite means that the attacking midfielder is poised to make bigger clubs circle by the season’s end. An ability to create in a multitude of ways coupled with the likelihood of chipping in with a half-dozen goals or more means that Almiron could be seen as one of Rafa Benitez’s best transfer moves since that Fernando Torres guy.

4. Who will be the most outstanding young player?

Andrew – Marcus Rashford: While it pains me to give Man U multiple awards today, Rashford looks ready to really take on the mantle as the king of Old Trafford. The English international’s performance in the first game showed a level of poise and comfort that suggests that there won’t be much that Rashford will be allowing to bother him. With the departure of Lukaku and no immediate replacement brought to the club, Rashford get the perfect opportunity to prove that he is United’s present AND future.

Tise – Kieran Tierney: We’ll have to wait a bit to see this one come to fruition because the Scot is hurt and may not wear Arsenal’s colors for a little while but once he does, he’s going to be electric. Tierney is a proper wonderkid. He does everything a modern wingback needs to do, and he does it all with a great attitude and desire to improve. Andy Robertson of Liverpool is widely acknowledged as one of the finest players in the world today at the position but legend has it that Robertson moved on from Celtic’s youth side because there was no way he was going to get ahead of Tierney, the new Arsenal man was that good. This is his chance to show everyone that, I fully expect Tierney to take it with both hands.

Mason – Christian Pulisic: What an exhilarating ride its been to watch this young American star. The soccer world is currently at his feet, with a starting spot at a Premier League club on his plate, the wonderkid has to be hungry. After a mediocre debut in the 4-0 rout to Man United, it will surely get him fired up. In his first positive touch with the ball this past Sunday, he had a sharp give and go and blew by one defender – only to get road blocked by the plumper than normal Paul Pogba. I expected an awakened Pulisic to get back to work in training this week and continue to inspire this young soccer nation this coming weekend – hopefully notching his first Premier League start.

5. Who is your dark horse to win the title?

Mason – Tottenham: Of all the teams but Man City, the Spurs look this season to be the deepest in all areas of the field. Adding the likes of Tanguy Ndombele and Gio Lo Celso in the middle of the field will prove to be great additions to lock down the center of the park, a place where they’ve struggled in the past. The only major loss in defense was Kieran Trippier, who was losing his pace and the young Walker-Peters looks more than ready to take over at wing back. An MVP type season from Kane will have the Spurs tooth and nail with City much like Liverpool was last year. They have one of the most dynamic players in the league in Heung Min-Son who will be eager to continue where he left last year. If Eriksen sees out the rest of the year with the club, and Alli can get over his hamstring issue for good, this could be a very fun team to watch. They have to make the most of their games against non top 6 opponents, a comeback against Villa in the first week has them showing early signs of grit to get the full 3 points when they must. 

Tise – Tottenham: As much as I’d love to say it’ll be Arsenal, the Gunners still have too many defensive holes to win the title. They may surprisingly push for top 2 but winning the crown calls for some steel and outside of the obvious two contenders, City and Liverpool, Tottenham are the side who’ve shown the most steel in the EPL. They strengthened excellently in the off season, and if they can keep Harry Kane healthy, they really ought to be a proper contender past February. If City and Liverpool slip up unexpectedly, Spurs are that team who really could take advantage.

Andrew – MUFC/AFC: The desire to put Wolverhampton is nearly overwhelming. However, without taking a Leicester sized risk, I think that the dark horse is actually Manchester United or Arsenal. Nobody really knows what Chelsea is at this point, but seeing the Red Devils or Gunners lift the trophy at the end of the season would really shock everyone. It’s not too big a secret that everyone expects City to trounce the competition on their way to May, but the teams everyone expects to have the best shot would have to be Liverpool or Tottenham. If United or Arsenal finds themselves near the top as April turns to May, anyone not an active fan of those two clubs would have to admit that they were surprised. Add in that it would represent an extreme shake-up in how everybody viewed the Premier League this year, and it would be very intriguing.  

6. Who will finish in the Top 4?

Andrew – MC, LIV, TOT, MU: You would be hard pressed to not think that last year’s top three won’t be back on top of the pile once again. With that, it’s really just a matter of which team is able to sneak in and snag fourth. Despite Arsenal’s uncanny historical ability to sneak 4th away from the jaws of season disappointment, it still feels like they are a defender and midfielder away from truly getting back into the elite. Chelsea has to prove to me that they can consistently score without having Hazard to depend on in clutch moments, and Manchester United made them look second rate in their first match-up. Despite not bearing much of my affection, United feels poised to make the jump back up into the upper echelon. A strengthened backline, the “how do they keep him” bounceback season for De Gea, and several attackers finally starting to come into their own, it’s tough to see the Red Devils not asserting some dominance this season.

Mason – MCFC, Spurs, LFC, Arsenal: Depth is everything in this long and grueling league. Liverpool losing Alisson week one is going to do a number on their defensive security. While Van Dijk will keep things organized, losing one of the best shot stoppers in the league is never ideal. This accompanied with their lack of depth in the attack this year, they’ll be skating on thin ice. A major injury to the Liverpool frontline would have Arsenal sneaking into the top 3. The Gunners are going to score loads of goals this year, with Lacazette and Aubameyang finally reaching full chemistry towards the end of last campaign, and bringing in the 3rd head of the attacking monster, they just need to tighten the ship in the back. The likes of David Luiz will bring experience, if he can keep his composure and lead this young backline, Arsenal is a shoe in for top 4. Man United have added some key additions this offseason in Maguire and Wan Bissaka, but putting goals in the back of the net may become an issue if Rashford is not firing on all cylinders. I have them at a very close 5th place.

Tise – MCFC, LFC, AFC, THFC: This year the gap between the top 2 and the others isn’t going to be the wide chasm it was last year. Last year was a great fight for 3rd and 4th but this year I think the gap between the eventual league champ and the next team will be probably 6 points or thereabout. The gap between 2nd and 5th will be minimal, then I think there’ll be a 3rd tier between 6th and 9th. All in all, the top 9 teams will be quality sides in my estimation. The sides I’ve picked for the top 4 are exceptional teams with exceptional players. I’m wary of Chelsea because they’ve got a new manager who could jolly well be really good but without a star like Hazard, they’ll suffer. United have started exceptionally but consistency will be a worry with them again I think.

7. Who had the best transfer business/best transfer?

Mason – Arsenal: With the signings of the star winger in Pepe, and highly sought after Kieran Tierney at left back, Arsenal improve the most overall as a team this offseason. Adding in the experience and ball winning of David Luiz in the back will provide depth. Dani Ceballos also comes into the center midfield as a creative too at Emery’s disposal, big expectations from the new Gunners this year.  Maguire’s transfer to Man United was huge for them, but Arsenal makes the most improvements. 

Tise – Wan Bissaka: I’m tempted to put Kieran Tierney here because I think he’s going to be superb and he cost virtually nothing in today’s transfer market but he might not play for 4 to 6 weeks while the other major wingback buy at United is contributing from day 1. Everton bought well with Kean, Leicester brought in Praet who’s quality in midfield, Wolves reinforced with Cutrone and Vallejo who’re quality guys from the continent but Wan Bissaka can look down any opposing wingers even if the other ten players at United play poorly, you can count on the rightback to stay healthy and do his job. United paid a lot for him but he’s a star. The top 9 teams in England bought wisely this season, it’s a tossup between any of them but lets go with United here.

Andrew – AFC/THFC: For this summer, two rivals top the transfer chart for me. Tottenham finally splashed the cash to try and make the jump into actually obtaining silverware and Arsenal must have decided to see what actually spending money feels like. Both teams have made serious additions to the squad with players that are already proven in some of Europe’s top leagues instead of their usual style of transfer: a transfer that is seen as a bit of a deal that they hope exceeds expectations. With both spending money fairly freely this summer, it makes the top six that much more interesting and also adds a bit more intrigue to every upcoming transfer window.

8. Who will win the title?

Tise – Manchester City: Pep Guardiola is a relentless pitbull of a manager. His side strengthened very well, and I generally believe that when a side can get over the difficulty of winning back-to-back titles, the 3rd straight title is a lock provided health stays relatively good (already lost Sane which is bad), age doesn’t become a debilitating factor (Fernandinho and Aguero are the two worries but I daresay City have insured themselves against that by buying and blooding at the right time), and provided none of the contenders adds in a MAJOR weapon. Liverpool bring the same side to the contest that failed last year. Tottenham added some real midfield quality but would you bet on Ndombele or Lo Celso to win a club a title? No, they’re not major weapons like a Griezmann or Messi or CR7. I’m betting on City to win this and the race isn’t going to the last day this time around.

Andrew – Man City: Anybody that doesn’t select City as their pre-season favorite is either in massive amounts of denial or simply lying about their pick. Early results show a team that hasn’t missed a beat and, even if teams are able to snag some points off the champs, it won’t be enough. Liverpool gave them as good a run for the title as we may ever see, if City can even crack 90 this season, I see no reason why they won’t be relaxing by April. Seriously, you expect someone to do better in points than Liverpool did last year? The amount of injuries, bad luck, drama, or earthquakes that it would take to cause City to stumble might not exist even in the worst realm of possibility. Scared? You should be.

Mason – City: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.. Well, replace with Fernandinho with Rodri, but that’s about it. They lost Leroy Sane to a season long injury, but that won’t be deterring them from another championship run as he was out of favor with Pep anyway. A healthy and explosive De Bruyne looks back and ready to lead the counterattack in his driving fashion, and Sterling is becoming a spectacle to watch as he’s gained loads of confidence within the 18 yardbox. It would take a near perfect season from Liverpool or Spurs to derail the seemingly unstoppable City train.




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The EPL 2018/19 – The Story Midway Thru

English Premier League 2018/19

What a first half it was for the neutral fan. There was complete football as expected from Liverpool, a hot and seemingly insurmountable start by City only that fizzled into 2nd place with the injury to their main star Kevin De Bruyne, the demise of Jose Mourinho and rebirth of Manchester United under new manager and legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Here’s how we viewed the first half of the EPL season and what we predict the 2nd half of the season will produce.

The Title Race

It’s been business as usual this season for Manchester City and Liverpool FC. Man City started the season hot, racking up goal differentials that were reminiscent of the utter dominance of the previous season. A crucial injury to Belgian star Kevin De Bruyne 30 minutes into the season seemed set to throw a spanner into the works, but fair play to Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan. They’ve stepped up when needed to fill the main creative role alongside David Silva. I can’t say enough about how important Fernandinho is as the rock in the Cityzens midfield. Countless times this season, the Brazil has been the fulcrum for starting the attack many times with a crunching tackle and direct outlet to Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling playing “Catch me if you can” on the wings. As long as Sergio Kun Aguero is able to stay healthy, City should score aplenty as it’s fair to say that City’s breadth of midfield creators will be able to continue rotation as they have so far. A healthy De Bruyne playing 90 minutes will likely bring them back to last year’s champion quality, but it’s looking likely they may need a slip up or two from the current league leaders.

This brings us to Liverpool who easily seem the most hungry side in the league this season. As I thought, Jurgen Klopp is continually getting the most out of his starring role players. Roberto Firmino hasn’t performed on the stat sheet quite like last season, but is equally as involved and knows how to play anywhere his team needs him, some would argue that he is the key man in ‘Pool’s attack. Mo Salah and Sadio Mane providing continuous threats cutting in the space Firmino leaves for them, and in much more free roles this season. The same starring role story goes for Gigi Wijnaldum in midfield. However, the biggest difference this season is the solidified team defense and organization, starting with the shot stopper Alisson Becker. An incredible 13 shutouts, only allowing 2 goals in one instance (against major title contender Man City), he has been unconscious. Virgil Van Dijk is proving to be worth every penny of his once conceived “outlandish” transfer fee. The Dutch man is inarguably the best defender in the world at this moment. If he stays healthy the defense will likely always be organized, regardless of the knocks to players around him. With only three of their final 15 games against top 6 clubs, this is going to be smooth sailing for the Reds unless a catastrophic injury occurs.

What about the Tottenham Hotspurs? Their best start in the EPL in the club’s history still has them 9 points behind the lead dogs which tells you a thing or two about how much of a challenge the league is this season. A recent injury blow to Harry Kane – the fulcrum of attack and heart of the club who is out until early March is really going to hurt, especially with Son Heung Min gone for the Asia Games for probably a month. Arsenal and Chelsea aren’t a topic in this conversation, a full year under their new managers and solidifying team selections are in order before they re-enter the realm of solid league contenders even though Chelsea started off like they might be in the picture. You can’t win this league without a defense Gunners, or the ability to score goals consistently in Chelsea’s case.

Transfer Rumors

Of the three clubs that have a chance to contend for the title, it’s now looking like Spurs need someone most urgently. Their decision not to sign a single player in the summer seemed all fine and dandy, that is until 3 midfielders get hurt, two strikers followed, and another leaves for a second required international duty. They’re playing for consolation at this point unless a late deal turns in their favor – possibly a swap for Eriksen with Real Madrid could bring in an Isco, or dare I say it a Gareth Bale return. A little more firepower could get them within touching distance if Liverpool and City were to collapse.

Chelsea has been doing the most shopping so far. By now the hype of Christian Pulisic’s transfer has reached the masses everywhere, it surely will be great to see our American star taking the next step to develop his skills in the most challenging league. With Eden Hazard seeming likely to leave in the summer, let us hope this means plenty of playing time for him next year. In terms of this season’s woes, the Blues desperately need a goal scorer. Forcing Hazard into the false 9 role hasn’t proved a solution, and is apparently frustrating their star. Hence the chasing of strikers left and right including a proven world class striker in Gonzalo Higuain who’s certainly not a long term solution but could be the poacher they need for a couple of years. As of today, Higuain has reportedly handed in a transfer request in hopes of linking back up with Coach Sarri. Selling off Callum Hudson Odoi, the young english winger who is set on Bayern, would certainly fund the striker bill.

Then there’s Arsenal. The North Londoners are working with a zero budget unless the selling of Aaron Ramsey to Juventus this window happens (99.999% not happening). Links with Denis Suarez are irrelevant without some kind of funding, with Barca having placed a 20 Million Euro price tag on him. Where the Gunners really need some help is on the wing and in defense, yet there’ve been no links in those positions. Losing chief scout Sven Mislintat is going to be another big blow to a club struggling to find itself. As a club with historic past, there leaves a lot to be desired in the development of the youth and smart transfers.

Elsewhere we’ve seen Samir Nasri reunite with Pellegrini at West Ham, making an immediate impact in his first start with the club, while it seems Marko Arnautovic clearly wants a money move to China. Ryan Babel lands at a struggling Fulham, he’ll hope to finish his career strong now back in the Premier League. There’ll be more moves to come for sure and we’re waiting with bated breath to see who makes the push for the 2nd half of the year.

The Man United Saga

Well we kind of foreshadowed this trainwreck didn’t we? Typical season 3 house of cards collapse for the proclaimed, “Chosen One”. Jose Mourinho’s results with Manchester United in the first 10 games were catastrophic, at one point United were parked in the bottom half of the table for a couple of weeks. It’s not just that he failed to get the most out of players, but resisted to play his best players in order to retain his puppetry over the play style. The fire got out of hand quickly, to the point where he became more of the topic of conversation before, during and after the games than the players on the field. Like a breath of fresh air, the sacking and hire of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been able to realign the sails and get them instantly back on track. Five wins over lower table clubs left many wondering if the early run was coincidence, but after beating the Spurs this past weekend, United can disregard the naysayers. With less restrictions on his playmakers, Ole’s provided a “go out there and have fun” attitude that is the opposite of the chained to the spot roles forced under Mourinho. Instantly off his leash, Paul Pogba was refreshingly sprinting into dangerous areas and creating for his teammates, averaging almost a goal and an assist per game in the first 6 under Ole. Equally as important, the goals have been flowing, and young starlet Marcus Rashford is really coming into his own. Getting only 21 shots in his first 15 games under Jose, he has equaled that total in his first 5 games with Solskjaer. It will be exciting to see the Red Devils chasing down the 3rd spot in the table, and it would be a win and boost for next season to get there; a result that would likely bring the ‘Baby Faced Assassin’ into consideration for the permanent gig as manager.

Mid Table Analysis

Some really exciting games have come from the mid table clubs this season, proving the depth and week-in competitiveness of the league. Wolverhampton Wanderers shocked the defending champions City by tying in week 3, they’ve managed a point against Manchester United and Arsenal, and a full three against both Chelsea and Spurs, showing that they definitely belong in the Prem and are riding their successes from the Championship run last year.

Everton has had its ups and downs, while young star Richarlison has proven he can create goals, it’s to be seen if the number 9 role fits him. He had a much better run of play on the left wing, allowing him more freedom and space to create off of the dribble and run in late to the box for crosses. Lucas Digne has been a nice addition to the defense, creating a lot of chances from the left flank and chipping in with some key goals. With an attack only capable of 1-2 goals a game, Everton’s leaky defense will need some work and it will begin with some consistency out of Jordan Pickford in goal. The Toffees only notable result has been a 0-0 tie with Chelsea and this form leaves something to be desired.

West Ham’s Felipe Anderson has seen a fantastic start to his season, netting 8 and assisting 3 from the wing, while Roberto Pereya has seen similar success on the left flank for Watford scoring 6 and assisting 4. Despite a spot in 12th place, Eddie Howe has Bournemouth playing some attractive football this season proving that previous performances in the league was no fluke. Callum Wilson is a wanted man because of his 9 goals and 8 assists in his 20 games played, with Ryan Francis scoring 5 and assisting 9 from the wing. With Nathan Ake and David Brooks also being targeted, the future looks bright for AFC Bournemouth.

A mediocre season so far from Jamie Vardy still sees the Leicester Foxes in 8th. With Chilwell and Ricardo Pereira playing exceptionally well down the flanks, it’s only a matter of time before they climb towards the Euro spots with a healthy McGuire to lead the backline. The one time Cinderella champs may not win the league this year but they’re still decent entertainment value.

How the season Ends

We started off the 2018/19 PL season with great predictions and all these gorgeous thoughts. Right now, this is what we think. As long as Liverpool FC stays healthy, they’re going to finish as Champions. It’s been a long time coming and they should finally catch their big rivals United in title wins. 19 will be glorious. Manchester City are having a really good season but they needed to be historic to top this Liverpool and they’ve not been that despite the hot start so 2nd is likely theirs. United and Spurs ought to round up the top four leaving Chelsea and Arsenal to battle for 5th and 6th.

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4 Prediction Masters – How Will The 2018/19 EPL Season Go?

The World Cup is done and dusted, it’s time for the return of the most popular league in the world! The EPL kicks off in a few days and we have our 2018/19 season preview for the top English league. Four of our sagacious experts present you with their views on how it’ll all go down, take their words as gospel!

1. Who will be the top scorer/golden boot winner?

Andrew McCole, Gabriel Jesus: The top scorer in the Premier League this season will be Gabriel Jesus as Manchester City completes the turn from Sergio Aguero’s time at the helm to Jesus running the show for last year’s champions. I’d actively bet against a member of Liverpool taking the crown this year, as they function as more of a scoring unit than the crazy goal tally that Salah snagged last season. There’s also got to be a timeline on Harry Kane’s brilliance, too much pressure on Lukaku, and Chelsea can’t seem to truly settle on the leader of their front line. With Arsenal, I’m still not sure how they’ll line up and have no clue who else could jump to the top of the list from one of the clubs outside the top six.

Mason Morawitz, Harry Kane: As my Tottenham friend always says “In Kane we Trust”. I see many goals being bagged early this season. The World Cup will have left a bit of a salty taste in the mouth, giving him a wee extra wind in the sails. He’ll get world class service from Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli all year, and his nose for goal will continue to get finer with age. This is his year to show he is the best pure number 9 in the game; at this moment, it’s him or Robert Lewandowski. His big money deal from Real Madrid is likely to come if he snags the Golden Boot and continues to be a vocal leader for Tottenham.

Tise Okuo, Harry Kane: It should be a close fight between Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Mo Salah but I think the Tottenham man will win the crown again simply because Spurs will lean very heavily on him. He might be a bit jaded to start the season after a hectic summer and possible injury worries but he should get into gear soon enough to impact the race. The other competitors are on teams who will split the goalscoring responsibility more evenly than Spurs will. It’s almost inevitably a battle of the usual suspects for this crown and I think it’ll be that again. A possible darkhorse might be Michy Batshuayi if Chelsea hold onto him. He and Giroud could quickly take over the starting role from Alvaro Morata.

James Wilkinson, Harry Kane: It’s not really going out on a limb to say Harry Kane will win the Golden boot once again. He’s won it in two of the past three seasons, and narrowly finished second last campaign. Oh and he’s coming off a World Cup Golden Boot. A quick look around the league, and it’s hard to find a surer thing than Kane. I don’t expect Salah to have one of the greatest seasons of all time again. City will spread the goals around. All Harry Kane does is score. He’ll play every match and take all the penalties. Barring Injury, Kane lifts another (individual) trophy.

2. Who will be the MVP?

Tise, Mo Salah: I’m tempted to say Kevin De Bruyne but there are a few mitigating factors working against him with the biggest being the fact that City has so many bonafide killers that I doubt he stands apart from the crowd long enough to be chosen as MVP. i.e. his impact gets diluted. Outside of him, it feels like Mesut Ozil could be in for a really good season with Arsenal if injury stays away as he’ll have a mobile, and more reliable strikeforce for the first time in London and without the worry of international football, he should be a major player. N’golo Kante is an ever present but Chelsea have a new coach and in Jorginho, a dominant midfield central piece. Alisson should be really good for Liverpool alongside the new midfield pair of Fabinho and Naby but I’ll go safe again and go with Mohamed Salah who should be even better with more weapons around him.

James, Kevin De Bruyne: Last season you could make a real case that De Bruyne was the EPL player of the year. He was the best player on a team that set a record for points and spent much of the season unbeaten. Unfortunately for him, Mo Salah had a season for the ages. City brings back largely the same team that waxed the league last season, and De Bruyne figured to be the best player once again. He pulls the strings and remains one of the better scoring mids around. He may end up with double digit goals and assists, and will rightfully wear the Player of the year crown!

Mason, Kevin De Bruyne: This is the easy one. Kevin De Bruyne rose a class above the rest of the midfielders last season with his ability to do anything his team needed. Most impressive are his plays in the counterattack, linking with the back line and always knowing where his runners are in behind the defense. A nice 3 or 4 iron service as my college coach used to tell me to hit, with pace and a purpose. Underrated is his finishing – capable of netting 15-20 goals if he chooses to let them fly, having the ability with either foot from 25 yards out or more. Almost always stoic and locked in, I see a continued upward trend for KDB with the superfluous attacking options around him. He was the clear #1 draft favorite amongst 8 friends in a fantasy premier league draft this evening (if that means anything).

Andrew, Mesut Ozil: The best player in the Premier League is a tough call. De Bruyne will be magnificent again, but all of City’s talent will make sure that none of their players receive this award (even if they deserve it). Sadly, with how my luck goes, it will probably be Arsenal’s Ozil. Whenever I bury a player or talk about how terrible they are, they inevitably succeed in a ridiculous way. Who did I give the most hate last year? Ozil…so, as goes my time being an EPL fan, he’ll have a sick 18/19. If you guys want somebody to do really well next year, either let me root for them on my team or have me write about how useless they are, people should practically pay me to aid their team at this point.

3. Who will be the breakout star?

Mason, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang: Anyone who’s been following the soccer scene the past 2-3 years has surely heard of Aubameyang, but I’m foreseeing a Mohamed Salah 17-18 type performance (a known player taking over a new league). The writing is on the wall, leading an attacking system that is absolutely perfect for him to flourish. His catalyst, long-time Dortmund friend Mkhitaryan will be on his right all year, add in Ozil/Ramsey who can find the knifing passes into space. If Pierre and company get off to a blistering start, watch out for my dark horse.

James, Richarlison: Everton spent last season desperately in need of a spark. Wayne Rooney did not cut it, and the loss of Romelu Lukaku sent the club into a malaise they only just managed to recover from. Enter Richarlison, who not only has an INCREDIBLE soccer name, but has the game to match. In the half season Marco Silva was at Watford, the Brazilian looked like a budding star. Once Silva left, he fell off the map. Now he moves to Everton with a new manager who happens to be, oh look Marco Silva! His blend of skills is incredibly unique, and he was one of only 7 EPL players to average 1 successful dribble and 1 successful aerial battle per 90 minutes last season. Everton need a star to flirt with the top 6 again, and I expect their newest addition to fit the bill.

Andrew, Domingos Quina: The possible breakout stars this season contains a ridiculous group of talented players. My gut tells me Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon, the Community Shield makes me think Phil Foden, but I’m going to go with Domingos Quina from West Ham. Quina was incredible at the U-19 World Cup and represents the generation of players ready to carry Portugal once CR7 hangs up his boots. If he gets a chance at a very new-look West Ham squad, there’s no doubt that he’ll be playing at a much bigger club after this season.

Tise, Lucas Torreira: Chelsea have a bonafide budding star in Callum Hudson-Odoi whose speed will terrify quite a few opponents but he’s young and will possibly fade by the second half of the year.
Arsenal on the other hand have a fresh midfield pair in Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi. Guendouzi has really caught the eye but his number of games will likely end up being limited because of who’s ahead of him in the pecking order. Torreira should be key in most games for the Arsenal. Expect him to take the EPL by the scruff of the neck kind of like Kante did some years back.

4. Who will be the most outstanding young player?

James, Dele Alli: It’s hard not to pick Leroy Sane, but I expect a larger role for Dele Alli to deliver him this award for a third time. Spurs have..how do I put this lightly..not added much top level talent this summer. If Spurs are going to continue to flirt with title contention and Champions League runs, Dele will need to play a bigger role. Last season was viewed as a step back, but it was still a solid season for the young provocateur. Expect Spurs to utilize his attacking abilities even more as a way to unlock packed in defenses, and you’ll see a reversion to his statistical form from 2017. Numbers win awards, so while Dele is likely to improve again this year, his numbers need to show the same, and he’ll take home some silverware at the end of the season.

Mason, Leroy Sane: Of all the young players to have the chance at winning this, Leroy Sane has a solidified starting place in the Man City lineup. His workrate, spatial awareness to keep the team shape wide and blistering pace is going to continue to pay dividends for City. I can only see his finishing getting better from here, with more confidence on the ball he’ll be having a few more attempts at goal this season. Add to this all – a bit of additional bite to his game having been snubbed entirely from the Germany World Cup roster and yeah this could be fun to watch for the defending young player of the year. My clear 2nd choice would be Marcus Rashford, I’m expecting continued growth from him if given the consistent starting opportunities.

Andrew, Leroy Sane: Young player of the year is Leroy Sane’s to lose, as he looks to become the fifth player to repeat for the award. The story from Sane’s World Cup exclusion will become the most annoying, repetitive piece of commentary that we’ll hear this season.

Tise, Wilfred Ndidi: Outside of the obvious Alli and Sane calls, Callum Hudson-Odoi seems a great choice here but who knows how much game time he’ll get for Chelsea once the big boys get back in the groove. Gabriel Jesus will be in the discussion once again but can he take the next step to greatness? If he does, he should win this title but I’ll go with Leicester’s Wilfred Ndidi who is a tackling machine and should be even better this season. Unlike Gabriel Jesus, he’s the undisputed starter at his position and should play a lot for the Foxes.

5. Who is your dark horse pick to win the title?

James, Liverpool: There are only two horses in this race, and Liverpool is the darker of them. Liverpool has a world class attack. That much is not up for debate. They will be able to put pressure on even the staunchest of defenses. They spent the offseason shoring up a midfield that caused them issue last season, and Naby Keita paired with Fabinho should vastly improve play in the center of the park. With Alisson between the pipes, they’ve addressed all of their weaknesses. Imagine if they get any sort of contribution from Adam Lallana, Daniel Sturridge, or Nathaniel Clyne – three players who missed the entire season last year due to injury. All three have looked good in preseason, and getting something out of just one of those guys would boost this team’s ceiling. They can compete with the World’s best teams, and might just finally top the EPL again.

Tise, Arsenal: We’re not likely to see a Leicester-style win. The defending champs are likely to win it all again. Liverpool are not really a darkhorse after their showing in the last few years. West Ham could be a really good side if they stay fresh and healthy, they’ve a great coach in Pellegrini and that squad with Wilshere, Lanzini, Felipe Anderson, Quina, Chicharito, etc could be sneakily good BUT the big boys this year are not what they were when Leicester won (they were all largely sick in one way or the other which allowed the Foxes sneak in). I’ll go with Arsenal here. New manager, new central midfield, loaded attack, angry #10, it could be a surprising win for the Gunners.

Andrew, ABMC: Anyone But Manchester City. The darkhorse to win it all is anybody not named Manchester City. A ridiculous point tally last season and a reload in player talent over the summer means that the blue side of Manchester is even more prepared to sit at the top of the table than last season. If there’s a team not wearing light blue dancing around at the end of the season, it’ll be an upset.

Mason, Arsenal: In terms of weapons, there’s a plethora; namely Pierre Emerick Aubameyang who looks to capitalize on his first full season with the club. Lacazette could be the best striker in the world who doesn’t have a guaranteed starting spot at the moment, and a Mesut Ozil/Mkhitaryan creative monster in the making if they both stay locked in for more than half the season. A beefed up Petr Cech in goal looks the best shape of his life, veteran Lichtensteiner at wing back and Sokratis at CB; Arsenal may just have a enough defensive stability to field a “complete” starting XI.

6. Who will finish in the top 4?

Tise, MCFC, LFC, AFC, MUFC: I have Spurs dropping out of the top four and being replaced by Arsenal. Spurs are going to need Harry Kane to stay healthy all season and I think that may be a struggle for them. Liverpool and City have spent well and look good so should be there. United? They may suffer from that 3rd season Jose syndrome and are yet to find a way to truly integrate Pogba but that’s still a loaded squad. Arsenal have the chance to be superb under Emery. The other contenders are Chelsea who may take a while to get their feet under them for a variety of reasons; Leicester who have Ndidi and Vardy but no Mahrez; and Everton who have bought well but still feel a bit lightweight.

James, City, Liverpool, Spurs, Arsenal: The top 4 has two locks – City and Liverpool – one probable lock in Spurs, and then three teams all with a number of reasons to doubt them. Arsenal makes the cut after doing some solid business this summer and adding an experienced manager in Unai Emery who can inject some new life after the Wenger era. But this top four is really more about what the remaining teams don’t have than what the included teams do. The curse of year three with Jose Mourinho is very real, and there is already a dark cloud hanging over Manchester United after a tumultuous preseason. Expect them to come out of the gates decent, but fade as Jose gets more and more irritable. This will be his last season in Manchester. Chelsea bring back much of the same team from last year – barring late swoops for their stars this window – but I expect the managerial situation could hurt them. Sarri is a talented manager, but his late arrival to the team could cause them to stumble a bit. Any loss of their top players late in the window will set them back even further.

Mason, LFC, MCFC, THFC, AFC: In terms of the deepest team in the league – without questions Manchester City have the attacking options to form two world class lineups, but it’s not going to be nearly as easy this go around with everyone gunning for the champs. Liverpool have added exactly what they needed into their team and have the best and most influential manager in the league; I see their upward trend continue to the tippy top. A quality season (20-25 goals) from Harry Kane insures Spurs make the top 4 and have the edge over Arsenal. Mourinho will make the season all about him, continuing to siphon the emotional gas from Man United; and Chelsea’s new system will take some getting used to.

Andrew: The top four this season will be Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, and Chelsea. Out of Arsenal and Chelsea, I’d think that the blue side of London will be most likely to have a boost from new management.

7. Who will win the 2018/19 EPL?

Mason, Liverpool: Sometimes great coaches can have an effect on players; unlocking their ability in a way that amplifies the sum of the team’s intangible parts. Jurgen Klopp and the display Liverpool made at times last season in the PL and on their Champions League run was something that’s stuck in my head. The team’s willingness to work high in defense and provide options for their teammates in attack are a thrill to watch as a neutral party. The front three of Firmino, Salah, and Mane has the most chemistry of any front three in the league. Add the likes of Keita, Shaqiri, Fabinho to deepen and add a bit of flair to the midfield where they needed it in front of Jordan Henderson (assuming he’s still a starter). Most importantly the shot stopper, good with the ball at his feet, with the Brazilian Alisson who can start their counters. It’s Man City’s title to lose, and Liverpool will be the first to answer the call.

Andrew, City: How could you bet against Manchester City? How? This feels like City’s time to create a dynasty and perhaps finally obtain the Champions League glory that they’ve been hoping to obtain for quite some time. As long as Pep is at the helm, the squad is kept fresh, and talent keeps lining up at the Etihad, the sky is certainly City’s limit.

James, City: It’s impossible for me to look at the EPL and pick any other club to win it all. City’s dominance last season was impressive, awe inspiring even. They spent the summer without any major losses in the transfer market. They added Riyad Mahrez to an already stacked attacking lineup, and add Benjamin Mendy back from injury. Throw all of that into another year of Pep’s system, and I like what he’s got cooking. Health permitting, I think there are only two reasons to have any pessimism about City’s chances. One, David Silva is getting older, and plays a key role for this squad. This could be the year he starts to decline. Two, it’s possible some complacency could set in. It’s hard to reach the mountaintop again after you’ve already done it. If the club drops off slightly from the way they started last season, and the squad decides they can coast a bit, there might just be a chance they get caught. I don’t think either off those reasons are compelling enough to dethrone the Champs, and we’ll see Manchester City lifting their second trophy in as many years!

Tise, Man City: The EPL is the toughest league to win in Europe but Pep Guardiola is a maniac. His side could be even better this season after adding Riyad Mahrez. Liverpool ought to push them but somehow the Reds always get in their own way. I’ll stick with City to repeat.

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EPL Season Review

Chelsea EPL Champs

The 2016/17 EPL season has come and gone

Tears have been shed, lessons have been learned, champions have been made and finally rivalries have gone on a summer break. For the sake of brevity, we are going to keep the bulk of this review limited to just the sides who qualified for Europe. Seven sides in all with five of them headed to the Champion’s League (*Manchester United got in there by winning the UEFA Cup).
Before we dive into the meat and potatoes of this review, let’s spare a thought for Hull City, Middlesbrough, and Sunderland who were relegated to the Championship. Two of those sides changed managers during the season, that’s almost always a recipe for disaster. There are few managers who can come in and get things jump-started midway through the season but it keeps happening and the high stakes world of the English Premier League keeps chewing managers up and spitting them out.

Also spare another thought for the 2015/16 champs, Leicester City

For a chunk of the season, they looked like they were going to be relegated. The fairy tale story looked to be facing a mad return to reality. The unthinkable happened, the manager who led them to the EPL title was fired. Claudio Ranieri, the Tinkerman, was given the boot. The world of football was shocked. From Turin to the Merseyside, the gasps could be heard and the comments about Leicester’s ownership rang out. Protests, anger, rage, disgust. Craig Shakespeare took the manager role temporarily and he did such a decent job that he was given the job full time. We will not get into the reasons behind their eventual turnaround but they finished in 12th place and escaped the relegation fight by a fine margin. Chelsea FC finished 10th in 2015/16 and won it all this year, maybe Leicester can repeat that feat.

The top 7

The sides who finished in the top 7 (and qualified for Europe) are probably the sides who you’d have expected to do so at the start of the season. Certainly, no one expected Leicester City to fall as far as they did but many fans would not have been surprised to see them not get back into Europe after all that 2015/16 was a once in a lifetime magical season that no one saw coming. In descending order, we will go through England’s European warriors for next season.

Everton – 7th

The Toffees finished 7th in Ronald Koeman’s first year in charge. Considering the size and wealth of the sides who finished ahead of them, they can claim to be the best of the rest in England. Romelu Lukaku was the main man grabbing the headlines but Idrissa Gueye should get more plaudits. He was an absolute unit. Lukaku has been rumored to be leaving for a long time now and this summer could see that finally happen. Koeman is a great, pragmatic manager so Everton will be back in the top ⅞ next season but a European challenge could make life tougher than they’d like.

Manchester United – 6th

The 1st year in the reign of Jose Mourinho was a bit disappointing from a performance perspective. United struggled to find the ruthless streak needed to put away games. They drew when they should have won, and lost when they should have tied. Still, they won the League Cup and the UEFA Cup which got them back in the Champions League and that makes for a successful season! Paul Pogba became the most expensive player in the world when he joined the Red Devils and while you may have read elsewhere about his ‘failure’ to meet the expectations, the fact is he was good and will get better. Their player of the season was Zlatan though, he simply never stopped delivering until injury knocked him out. (*honorable mentions to Eric Bailly and Marcus Rashford). United will be a legit threat next season as they restock a few positions. In his second season, Mourinho’s sides tend to be cold blooded winners so United will be in the running more seriously for all titles.
Arsenal FA Cup Champs

Arsenal – 5th

For the first time in the reign of Arsene Wenger, the Gunners failed to finish in the top 4. They will miss out on the Champions League. For Gooners everywhere, it was a disappointing season. With transfer coming in and so much optimism among fans, it ended with a shocking understanding that the league now has at least 6 sides who can win every year and London’s red half has to buck up or they’ll keep missing Europe’s finest dance. It was a season filled with underachievement by team and individuals. Alexis Sanchez was the best player and realistically, there could be an argument that even he failed to play at his peak all season long. The talents of Alexis and Ozil have to be better utilized and they owe it to that club to be more consistent. It may have been a rough season but Arsenal did win the FA Cup again with a thorough beatdown of the EPL champs (the 2-1 scoreline is deceiving). The back 3 switch showed enough promise to keep Gooners coming back for more but Arsene Wenger simply has to get his side playing with more consistency and ruthlessness ALL season long. Changes are coming for the team, they simply must or Arsenal will repeat a finish outside the top 4 again next year.

Liverpool – 4th

Jurgen Klopp’s first full season in charge of the Reds saw them return to the Champions League. Liverpool proved to be a difficult side to read last year. They are an entertaining side to watch and deservedly made the top four but they will need more structure and solidity going forward. This season, they fell in games they had no business falling in. They could be unplayable one day and totally shambolic the next. Coutinho was their best and most influential player and they missed him when he was hurt but rumors say he’s on his way to FC Barcelona. If they can keep him and add some consistency to their game, watch out! They’ll beat the tar out of some teams next year but the EPL will be stronger. Their challenge in the UCL and EPL will depend on how well they tackle the transfer market this summer, any half hearted entries will see them pay in 17/18.

Manchester City – 3rd

Pep Guardiola set such high standards at his previous jobs that everyone expected him to come to England and lay waste to all challengers. England is no Germany or Spain, there are not just one or two true challengers. There are at least four usually, and going forward, there’ll likely be at least six or seven. City did not have a stand out player instead De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Aguero, Yaya, David Silva all took turns in fluctuating between disappointing and scorching hot. The team also had too many players who really shouldn’t be playing for a contender. This summer, they will shed some of those chaps and reload. Season 2 of the Pep show should make for better viewing. Pep Guardiola is still an outstanding manager with ideas about the game that are a fresh breath of air but to succeed in England, he’ll need some luck and need his stars to be more consistent.

Spurs the nearly men

Tottenham Hotspurs – 2nd

For a second year in a row, Spurs have come up just short of winning the crown. Some would argue that in both years, they were the best team in England. That argument will be no comfort to them though. Last year, they saw Arsenal pip them to 2nd and Leicester walk away with the crown. This year, they cancelled St. Totteringham’s day from their bitter rivals yet the Gunners got silverware and Spurs left empty handed. They had a poor Euro campaign and now there are rumors of key players possibly leaving in the summer, from the fullbacks to Dele Alli. Spurs have shown themselves to be a resilient, and excellent bunch to watch. Mauricio Pellegrino has crafted a side that are reminiscent of those Alex Ferguson United sides (no trophies…..yet) with their pressure, flexibility, and sheer overwhelming array of ways to beat you. Harry Kane was the player of the season for me, he’s a world class striker and he’s only going to get better. The story with Spurs is simple, if they keep their core and add one or two signings, they will trouble Europe and England next year. Any key losses and they’ll struggle to return to the UCL which would be a shame. A bright note for them, two famous ex-Spurs, Gareth Bale and Luka Modric won the UCL, glory by association rules in full play.

Chelsea – 1st – Champions!

Antonio Conte is a master of winning league titles. He did it at Juventus and he’s brought his golden touch to Chelsea. The Blues started the season tentatively and when they were blown away by Arsenal, it looked like they could be in serious trouble. They switched from a back four to a back three (like Arsenal eventually did when the race was over and done with) and that catapulted them to another plane from the rest of the EPL. Eden Hazard was a man reborn, Diego Costa rediscovered his most fiery form, the often loan-out Victor Moses became the king of the flank, and the player of the season, N’golo Kante did what he does best. Chelsea were the best side and deserved winners of the league title. They showed a solidity and desire to win that matched the fire of their manager. They’ll be itching to take on Europe once again but they must strengthen a few areas. Central midfield seemed a bit shaky sometimes. Matic simply was not inspiring attack-wise along Kante, and while Cesc offered that attacking thrust, he offers nothing going the other way which meant that in certain games, Kante was overrun. Next season, good teams will make Chelsea pay in Europe and even in England (see the demolition job Arsenal put on them in the FA Cup final). They must reinforce. Additionally, the Diego Costa rumors have not gone away, it appears like he could be off to China. They’ll need to spend big to replace his ability and even if they replace that, it’s unlikely the replacement will have the menacing presence he had, an aura that struck fear in defenders. Chelsea cannot afford to stand pat, even though they are champs, they need to keep moving forward. A center mid and a striker should join the fray.
The Blues were worthy winners of a very entertaining EPL season, next year promises to be better and England will surely make noise in the Champions League as well. Europe, beware.

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Chelsea Shocked; Liverpool Win

Sadio Mane

Liverpool 3-1 Everton

We kick off this week’s weekend recap with the Merseyside Derby. In the table, Liverpool and Everton are actually pretty close this year, and both of them could very well be competing in Europe next season. Sadly, for Evertonians, their European ambitions suffered a little bit of a setback Saturday morning at Anfield.

It took just eight minutes for Liverpool to open the scoring. Sadio Mane, who would suffer an injury later in the match, delivered a barnstorming run through the heart of Everton’s defense before hammering a low-driven shot past Joel Robles to give the Reds a deserved lead. Ten minutes later, Philippe Coutinho came close to doubling the hosts’ advantage, but a deflection allowed Everton to clear his shot off the line.

The Toffees found some hope just before the half hour mark through an unlikely source. After Liverpool failed to clear Leighton Baines’ corner kick, Matthew Pennington hammered the ball home from five yards out to level the scores. Everton’s hope was short-lived, however, as Coutinho restored the Reds lead minutes later with a beautiful curled shot into the side netting.

The final dagger came in the 60th minute through Divock Origi. The Belgian, who came on to replace Mane after his injury, hit a powerful 20-yard drive past Robles to seal a 3-1 victory. The win moves Liverpool up to third in the table, while Everton remain in seventh.

CFC League leaders stunned

Chelsea 1-2 Crystal Palace

One match that I didn’t think I’d have to write about this weekend was Crystal Palace’s trip to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea. Going into the match, the Blues had more than double the point total of Palace, and they’d only lost once at home this season. Needless to say, I did experience a little bit of schadenfreude watching this one pan out.

If you missed the first 15 minutes of this match, then you somehow missed every single goal there was to see. Five minutes in, some fancy footwork from Eden Hazard on the left wing, ended with Cesc Fabregas smashing home a cross from inside the six-yard-box. At that point in time, I’m sure that 90 percent of the stadium assumed that they were in for a very one-sided match.

“Big” Sam Alladryce’s men had other plans. Four minutes after Fabregas’ opener, former Manchester United man Wilfried Zaha somehow muscled his way past three Chelsea defenders before firing a low shot into the far side-netting. Moments after Zaha’s stunner, the winger provided an assist to Christian Benteke. The big Belgian forward completed fooled his compatriot Thibault Courtois with a fake shot before delivering the cheekiest of chipped finishes to put Palace in the lead.

Zaha nearly had another goal in the 61st minute, but Courtois made a kick save and a beauty to knock it wide. Chelsea’s attack was surprisingly muted during this fixture as they fell 2-1 to Palace. Despite the loss, Chelsea still hold on to a commanding seven-point lead atop the table. Palace now sit four points clear of the drop zone in 16th.

Theo Walcott scores

Arsenal 2-2 Manchester City

The biggest matchup of the weekend had to be City’s trip to take on Arsenal at the Emirates. Not only for the footballing ability on display, but also because of the inevitable “Wenger Out” banners that were going to be on display. The Gunners’ poor form, as of late, has seen them drop all the way down to sixth. Would they be able to inject some life back into their season with a win over Pep’s City?

Former Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck came within inches of opening the scoring against his former rivals, but his volley sailed just wide of the post in the fourth minutes. Moments later, Leroy Sane broke past his defender and rounded David Ospina before tapping into an empty net, and giving City the lead.

In the 40th minute, Arsenal leveled the scores. City failed to clear the danger twice, and Theo Walcott was in the right place at the right time to put the ball into the back of the net. The joy of scoring was quickly replaced with the agony of conceding, however, as Sergio Aguero’s tight-angle finish put Manchester City back into the lead in the 42nd minute.

Less than ten minutes after the restart, Shkodran Mustafi got his head on Mesut Ozil’s corner kick to once again level the scores. The German’s header was the final strike of the match as Arsenal fought back for a draw. The point keeps them all the way down in sixth, and will do little to silence Wenger’s critics.

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FA Cup Preview: United Battle Chelsea

Sadly, there aren’t a lot of blockbuster Premier League matches this weekend. On the bright side, we have plenty of FA Cup action to look forward. Without a doubt, the most tantalizing of these matchups is Manchester United’s trip to take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. The last time the Red Devils took the pitch at Jose Mourinho’s old stomping ground, they were promptly smashed 4-0. Can they reverse the luck, and find a way to advance into the semi-final?

Starting off with United, the Red Devils are coming off of a casual midweek trip to Russia for the Europa League. On this trip, Mourinho’s men battled for a 1-1 draw against Rostov. Luckily, they’ll have four days to rest and recover from the trip. Last season, Manchester City faced Chelsea in the Round of 16 and fielded a less than full-strength 11. They were promptly smashed 5-1. To prevent history from repeating itself, Mourinho has told reporters that he will be fielding his best possible line-up. With that being said, the Special One still has to think about preserving some of his players for the return leg of the Europa League just three days after Monday’s fixture.

Hopefully, Mourinho will still give Henrikh Mkhitaryan a chance to impress in the starting lineup. When these two sides faced off in October, the Armenian magician was injured/in the middle of his exodus from the squad. Since “Mkhi” returned to the squad, he has been arguably United’s best player besides maybe Zlatan Ibrahimovic. In his last seven games, he has four goals and two assists, and that doesn’t even take into account how much influence he has throughout the match. I think that he can be a real difference maker on Monday, and hopefully he can lead United into the next round.

Now to talk about Chelsea. Honestly, this is pretty much the only competition that they have to worry about for the rest of the season. They are in possession of a 10-point stranglehold lead on the top spot in the Premier League. They don’t have to worry about any European competition because their nightmare season last year prevented them from qualifying for any competition. While Man U is coming off of only four days of rest, Chelsea will have a full week to prepare for the matchup. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where this advantage doesn’t play a factor in the match.

What Antonio Conte has managed to accomplish this season at Chelsea is nothing short of amazing. The Italian’s prudent transfer choices (i.e. N’Golo Kante) and tactical awareness have helped revitalized Stamford Bridge, and unfortunately, for every other team in the league, it’s not looking like they’re going to be slowing down anytime soon. With all of the momentum that the Blues have going into this matchup, it’s hard to call them anything but the favorites. The form of Eden Hazard in attack, mixed with the nearly unbeatable defensive front standing in front of Thibault Courtois, make them the most intimidating force in England at the moment. Will it be business as usual against United, or will we finally see the Chelsea train derail a little bit?

As much as I want to say that United will steamroll past Chelsea on their way to a repeat FA Cup title run, I don’t think it’s going to be that easy. Chelsea have so much talent, and form on their side, and United are in the middle of a cluttered fixture schedule. Even with that being said, I don’t think I could ever pick Chelsea to beat the Red Devils and still call myself a United fan. Final score: Chelsea 0-1 United

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Arsenal Silenced, Kane’s Double

Manchester United 1-1 Bournemouth

My weekend got off to a pretty rocky start. After waking up bright and early at 6 A.M. on Saturday morning, I thought that I would be treated to a routine winning performance from my beloved Red Devils. Sadly, that wasn’t the case, and United ended the day with just a point.

United started off the match well enough, but there were also signs of some defensive cracks that would come back to haunt them. After 23 minutes of near constant attacking pressure, Marcos Rojo of all people found the back of the net for the Red Devils. The Argentinian defender got just enough of a touch on Antonio Valencia’s driven pass/cross to send it past Artur Boruc. For a moment, I relaxed and prepared for the beautiful attacking football that was going to follow this goal.

As stated before, that didn’t really come to fruition. Just before the 40th minute, Phil Jones, who had been struggling throughout the half, brought down Marc Pugh in the penalty area with a sliding challenge. Former United man Joshua King stepped up for the spot kick, and blasted his effort past David De Gea to level the scores.

The big talking point of the match came in the 45th minute. First, replays appeared to show Tyrone Mings delivering a painful stamp on the back of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s head while the Swedish striker was on the ground. Shortly there after, Zlatan delivered a menacing elbow to Mings’ face on a corner kick. The obvious result of this exchange was that Andrew Surman was sent off with a second yellow card. I’m honestly still not sure why that happened, but either way, United had the numerical advantage going into the second half and had to be considered favorites.

The Red Devils couldn’t take advantage of Surman’s dismissal, however, as they failed to find a way past Boruc. Zlatan even had the chance to win the match from the penalty spot, but was denied. The dropped points keep United in sixth, while Bournemouth gain a vital point in the relegation fight.

Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal

Out of all of the Premier League matches this weekend, Arsenal’s trip to Liverpool had to be the most intriguing. Both of these clubs are battling to stay in the Champions League spots, and neither of them have really impressed in recent months. Arsenal started the match without Alexis Sanchez or Mesut Ozil on the pitch. Would their absences spur on the a passionate performance from the Gunners, or would it lead to an easy day at the park for Liverpool?

The answer to that question came pretty quickly. Just nine minutes into the match, Roberto Firmino found the back of the net. Sadio Mane’s cross cut across the box and was smartly left by Philippe Coutinho for his compatriot to tap in at the back post. 1-0 Liverpool.

The Reds continued to impose their will on the match, and just over half-an-hour later, they doubled their lead. This time, Mane finished off a pass from Firmino to make it 2-0, and you could hardly argue that Arsenal deserved more out of the match up to that point.

Despite their poor first half, Arsenal nearly found a dream start to the final period of play through Olivier Giroud. The big French forward got on the end of Nacho Monreal’s cross, but his header was beautifully denied by Simon Mignolet. In the 57th minute, Arsenal’s renewed pressure paid off as Danny Welbeck dinked a shot over the keeper to make it 2-1, and suddenly, Arsenal found themselves back in the match.

Sadly, for the travelling fans, that’s as close as they would get to reaching Liverpool. In stoppage time, Georginio Wijnaldum delivered the dagger with a low shot past Petr Cech. The 2-1 result pushes Liverpool two points ahead of Arsenal into fourth, while the Gunners downward slide continues.

Tottenham 3-2 Everton

If you wanted to see goals this weekend, you didn’t need to look any further than Everton’s trip to White Hart Lane. With two of the league’s top-scorers in Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku, battling it out, we were bound to see a shootout.

Tottenham started off the goal fest in the 20th minute through a Harry Kane wonder strike. The striker gathered the ball close to 30 yards out from goal and hammered a stunning shot just inside of the near post. As impressive as the goal was, Kane’s viral handshake with Dele Alli may have overshadowed it. One minute later, Kane nearly doubled Spurs’ lead after dancing past Everton’s defense, but Joel Robles made a close-range save to keep the deficit to just one.

Ten minutes into the second half, Kane finally grabbed his second goal of the day. After Dele won possession back in Everton’s defensive third, he quickly found Kane who easily slid his shot past Robles. 2-0 Tottenham.

The Toffees grabbed a lifeline in the 80th minute through who else but Lukaku. The Belgian striker muscled past his compatriot Jan Vertonghen before hammering a shot past Hugo Lloris. With ten minutes left on the clock, Everton were still very much alive in the match.

Any hope of a comeback was silenced in the 92nd minute, however, when Dele tapped home Harry Winks’ cross to make it 3-1. Everton grabbed a consolation goal less than a minute later through Enner Valencia’s close-range finish from a Ross Barkley set-piece.

Unfortunately, for the visiting fans, it was too little too late as Tottenham held on for a dramatic 3-2 win. With the win, Spurs hold on to the second spot in the table, but they still sit seven points behind Chelsea. Everton, on the other hand, drop to five points behind Manchester United in seventh.

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EPL Wrap-up: Liverpool Cruises Past Spurs; Burnley Slows Chelsea’s Train

Arsenal 2-0 Hull City

We’ve all heard of the “Hand of God” goal from Diego Maradona. Not that Arsenal’s matchup against Hull City was on nearly the same level of importance as a World Cup Quarter-Final, but we got to see a similar type of incident on Saturday at the Emirates. Sadly, for a resurgent Hull City side, it may have cost them an invaluable three points.

Despite the tall task ahead of them, Hull actually came out firing to start the match with loanees Lazar Markovic and Oumar Niasse both pestering the Arsenal backline. This promising start was all for not, however, as Arsenal controversially took the lead in the 34th minute. After Kieran Gibbs’ initial effort was cleared off the line, Alexis Sanchez reacted quickest to knock the ball home. After looking at the replays, it became glaringly obvious that the Chilean’s hand was used to bat the ball into the net, but the officials didn’t see it. 1-0 Arsenal.

After the match, Hull City players admitted that Mark Clattenburg apologized to them for missing the call, but in the end, an apology doesn’t change the result.

Hull came out firing on all cylinders once again in the second half, and it looked like they were the more likely team to find the match’s second goal. Unfortunately, for the visiting fans, it just wasn’t meant to be for the Tigers.

To make matters worse, Hull were forced to finish the match with 10 men after Sam Clucas was shown a red card in the 91st minute. Clucas’ crime: a handball on the goal-line to stop Lucas Perez’s goal-bound header. Sanchez clinically finished off the penalty kick to secure a controversial 2-0 victory for the Gunners.

Liverpool 2-0 Tottenham

Liverpool beats Tottenham 2-0
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I’ll be the first to admit that I had extremely low expectations for Liverpool this weekend. The Reds had been absolutely abysmal, as of late, and I just didn’t think they had the talent to take on Tottenham. Luckily, for the Anfield faithful, I was dreadfully wrong as Jürgen Klopp’s men got a much-needed victory that may have very well ended the title race.

Just after the quarter-of-an-hour mark, Liverpool found pay dirt. A precision through ball from Georginio Wijnaldum sprung Sadio Mane through on goal. The Senegalese striker easily ran past Ben Davies before slotting the ball into the back of the net for his tenth of the season.

Two minutes later, Mane doubled the hosts’ lead. Poor judgement from Eric Dier gave Mane the chance to dispossess him in midfield. After that, the striker was off to the races once again. This time, he squared the ball to Adam Lallana whose shot was blocked. Then, Roberto Firmino’s shot from the rebound was saved by Hugo Lloris, but Mane was there to finish off the third chance.

What was a close match, quickly unraveled for Tottenham as Mane ripped apart their defense. If anything, Liverpool were unlucky not to find themselves three or four goals up at the end of the first half.

The second half saw Liverpool continue to dominate, but no more goals were on the cards. Two goals were all they needed, however, to take home all three points and to remain above Manchester United in the table. Tottenham’s loss meant that Chelsea had the chance to climb 12 points clear at the top of the table on Sunday.

Burnley 1-1 Chelsea

A trip to Turf Moor was all that stood in the way of Antonio Conte’s Chelsea taking a near insurmountable 12-point lead at the top of the table. On paper, the Blues have a much more talented roster than Burnley, but a trip to Turf Moor is never an easy task. Going into Sunday’s fixture, Sean Dyche’s side had only lost twice at home the entire season. Could Chelsea break down Burnley and take home all three points?

It looked like it was going to be business as usual for Chelsea with Pedro scoring after just seven minutes. The former Barcelona man was found in the center of the box by Victor Moses, and his off-balance shot had just enough on it to sneak past Tom Heaton. 1-0 Chelsea.

The early goal did little to silence Burnley’s attack as they pressed and pressed Chelsea’s backline throughout the first half. In the 23rd minute, a foul by Nemanja Matic on Joey Barton gave the hosts a free kick from a dangerous position. Manchester United academy product Robbie Brady, who had just signed from Norwich City, lined up his shot and sent an absolutely stunning curled free kick into the top corner. Thibault Courtois had no chance to stop the shot, and now Chelsea needed to find another goal if they wanted a win.

Burnley didn’t sit back on their laurels after Brady’s goal, and it looked like they were really going for all three points. Andre Gray and Matthew Lowton both forced Courtois into challenging saves, but would they be able to sneak another one past him?

Sadly, for neutral fans, neither side was able to grab another goal as the match ended in a 1-1 draw. Even after two dropped points, the Blues still managed to extend their lead at the top of the table to 10 points. Burnley, on the other hand, find themselves firmly mid-table and out of the relegation battle.