Premier League Gameweek 1 Roundup

Photo courtesy of premierleague.com

 

 

It’s been a long three months, but the Premier League is back with a bang. An entertaining Gameweek 1 featured only one goalless draw, and had its share of surprises.

 

Arsenal 4-3 Leicester

Coming into the first game of the week, Arsenal were missing all of their starting center backs. The result? Sead Kolasinac moved over from wing back, Nacho Monreal was stuck in the center, and poor Rob Holding was the only actual center back playing at center back. For Leicester, Shinji Okazaki surprisingly started alongside Jaime Vardy instead of new signing Kelechi Iheanacho.

As an Arsenal fan, this game was just pure stress. For the neutrals it must have been fantastic. Record signing Alexandre Lacazette put the hosts in front after just two minutes with a sublime header, only to see Leicester pull ahead through Okazaki and Vardy. Right before the break, Sead Kolasinac kind of/sort of/shouldn’t have found Danny Welbeck for the equalizing goal.

In the 56th minute, Jaime Vardy found the back of the net to put Leicester back in front, 3-2. Arsene Wenger immediately decided to throw on Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud. They both scored, Arsenal won, and you all probably watched it anyways.

Watford 3-3 Leicester

Many things are constant in the red half of Liverpool. The first is signing Southampton players. The second? They are really, really bad defenders. Goals from Stefano Okaka, Abdoulaye Doucoure, and a dramatic last-minute equalizer from Miguel Britos offset strikes from Liverpool.

Burnley 3-2 Chelsea

No, that’s not a typo. Sam Vokes (twice) and Stephen Ward propelled Burnley to a shocking 3-0 lead over the defending champions at Stamford Bridge. Alvaro Morata and David Luiz managed consolations for the box score, but one question lingers.

What is going on with the Blues?

Crystal Palace 0-3 Huddersfield

Look at the Terriers! Picked to finish last by the whole world, Steve Mounie’s brace thrusted them to the top of the early table. An abysmal showing by Frank de Boer’s side, especially in defense, certainly opened the door. Mounie ran through it.

Everton 1-0 Stoke

There’s not much to say, is there? Wayne Rooney’s header was the only time Everton weren’t just playing it around the back like they didn’t care, and Stoke obliged them.

Southampton 0-0 Swansea

The Saints had 29 shots. Twenty nine! Only two were on target.

Just. . . just move on.

West Brom 1-0 Bournemouth

Tony Pulis grabbed the most Tony Pulis of victories. A header from Ahmed Hegazi put the hosts in front and West Brom promptly spent the rest of the game trying to send long balls to Jay Rodriguez.

Manchester City 2-0 Brighton

Kevin de Bruyne —> David Silva —> Sergio Aguero goal.

de Bruyne—> Silva—> Lewis Dunk own goal

A typical win at the Etihad. Or in Brighton. Either way, it was BORING.

Tottenham 2-0 Newcastle

Dele Alli and Ben Davies scored in the second half to deliver an away win for the Spurs. Newcastle were content to defend, getting booked left and right. It didn’t work.

Manchester United 4-0 West Ham

West Ham were very poor defensively, and Romelu Lukaku took advantage, scoring two . Nemanja Matic seems to have unlocked Paul Pogba’s center midfield potential, as they dominated the Hammers. Hammered them, in fact.

 

That’s all for today! Next week I will round up Gameweek 2, and the article will likely be out on Tuesday. Until then, don’t destroy your FPL teams 😀😎🙄

Premier League Predictions III: The Top Four

Today I predict the top four of the Premier League. If you missed the first two parts of my EPL predictions, please go back and read them.

Arsenal. Liverpool. Chelsea. Manchester City. Those four teams will make up the top four, starting in the fourth spot with. . .

Liverpool. The Reds bolstered their attacking lineup with the €42 million capture of Mohamed Salah from Roma. The problem is, as Arsenal fans like me painfully learned with Mesut Ozil, attacking players tend to get pushed around for about half a season before they become accustomed to the Premier League’s version of the world’s game. Playing Philippe Coutinho in the center of midfield won’t help their playmaking either.

What is left to be said about last year for Arsenal? Their record 19 year streak of finishing top four was broken and the Gunners will compete in the Europa League this year. Fans changed their tune when Arsene Wenger signed some striker (!) named Alexandre Lacazette. This Lacazette guy is actually very good. Mesut Ozil is going to break every assist record imaginable this—oh wait, he did that two years ago.

Mesut Ozil is going to break all of his assist records this year if Alexis Sanchez stays. Arsenal could finish even higher if not for second-placed Chelsea. When John Terry is your worst departure, you’ve had a pretty solid transfer window. When Alvaro Morata and Tiemoué Bakayoko come in to South London?  Unheard of. Look at what happened to the last five champions of the Premier League. They got off to abysmal starts the year after. Add the fact that Eden Hazard will miss the first month of the season. Chelsea should be on fire late a lá Arsenal 2015, but it won’t be enough to top. . .

Champions Manchester City. Has Josep “Pep” Guardiola finally assembled the team he has wanted at the Etihad? New signings Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker will start on either side of the defense. Danilo won’t even start. Bernardo Silva and Ederson Moraes have been signed to start at right mid and goalkeeper respectively. Considering that Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva are the other attacking midfielders, this side will score goals. Lots of them. In defense, Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany form a formidable center-back partnership. If they’re healthy.

 

Did you agree with my predictions? Perhaps you thought something different. Let me know in the comments!

Premier League Predictons II: The Europa League race

Yesterday I detailed my predictions for the bottom half of the Premier League table. Today it’s 10-5, the race for the Europa League.

I really like this Newcastle team. Henri Saivet and Tim Krul return from their loans to a side that added Javier Manquillo, Florian Thau—I mean Lejeune, and Mikel Merino. Jonjo Shelvey and Matt Ritchie highlight a midfield that dominated the Championship last year, and that’s just the start. If not for their relative inexperience I would put them higher.

In 9th is West Ham. The Hammers still haven’t replaced Dmitri Payet, and that won’t hinder them to the extreme, but they will be pushed by Newcastle.

In eighth is Southampton. Fraser Forster in goal is never a bad thing, and they won’t be lacking chances in the final third with the likes of Dusan Tadic in the attacking midfield.

Here is where it gets really hard. Chelsea. Arsenal. Manchester City. Manchester United. Tottenham. Everton. Liverpool. All have great squads. All but the Spurs have improved them, and that’s why Tottenham are in seventh. They finished second last year, sure. Their Pythagorean win total placed them at sixth. Mass regression is due, and they’re playing at Wembley. They never do well at Wembley. When all the other top seven sides have boosted their stars and depth, you don’t want to stand pat.

In sixth place, stop me if you’ve heard this before. Perennially underachieving Manchester United won the Europa League last year, and participating in the Champions League this year will be a test for the Red Devils. They lack the squad depth to challenge in the league and in Europe. Despite the signing of Romelu Lukaku, they will still finish sixth.

Look at Everton splashing the cash in the transfer market! Davy Klaassen, Jordan Pickford, and Michael Keane joined early. Then the aforementioned Lukaku left for exactly fourteen times the price Ronald Koeman secured Sandro Ramirez for. Gerard Delofeu’s departure will be a blow, and the squad’s chemistry will suffer for a month or two. However, once they get going, look out!

Tomorrow I will post my top four predictions. As always, leave a like if you enjoyed and your feedback in the comments is appreciated!

Premier League Predictions I: The Bottom Half!

Welcome back to After the Whistle! Today I bring you the first part of my English Premier League predictions: the bottom half of the table.

There has to be a team that finishes bottom of the table. In my opinion it has to be Huddersfield. Aaron Mooy and Tom Ince carried this team last year. Aaron Mooy and Tom Ince. They have made no notable signings and lost Elias Kachunga to Ingolstadt. Because he was in loan. This could be the weakest Premier League team in five years.

Top to bottom, the Premier League (bar Huddersfield) is so close, it’s unreal. In 19th place is Watford. In a normal season I would call them safe. New coach Marco Silva has a terrific record in home games, but recent history has taught us teams have to pick up points on the road. Watford have been abysmal away from Vicarage Road, and that will prevent them surviving relegation.

Stoke City‘s stars are jumping ship faster than Newcastle loaned players to Marseille last year. Marko Arnautovic has gone to West Ham. Bruno Martins Indi has gone back to Porto despite Stoke attempting to trigger his loan-to-buy option. Xherdan Shaqiri is the subject of a rumor mill and could be gone in the next month. This team will not survive relegation.

17th place and a shocker indeed. Swansea City have almost no cover for the playmaking of Gylfi Sigurdsson, who appears to be leaving the club. I don’t care how good their defense is—it isn’t that great anyway—if you can’t score goals, you can’t win. The Swans only survive because. . . well, Stoke.

In 16th is Burnley. Sean Dyche has found a nice formation in the 4-4-2 with Sam Vokes recently dropping into a no. 10 role. The likes of Steven Defour in midfield and Tom Heaton in goal make this side easily safe from relegation. If Michael Keane doesn’t—oh wait.

In 15th is Brighton. It’s really a shame that they haven’t been very active in the transfer market, as I think they could surprise people. They have some solid Premier League quality players in David Sto—

——CUT!!——

They have some solid Premier League players in Anthony Knockaert and new arrival Pascal Groß. This side will not struggle to create chances. Will they finish them? How will the defense do? These are questions that the Seagulls must answer if they wish to establish themselves in the summit of the world’s game.

What to do with West Brom? They finished tenth last season and were very strong at the back, but often lacked ideas in the attacking third. I put them at 14th as teams like Leicester, Crystal Palace, and Newcastle should pass them. Not a bad squad though.

(Un)lucky number 13 for Leicester City. They could sink even lower if Riyad Mahrez leaves. Jamie Vardy doesn’t look like his 2015/16 self, but the Foxes know how to win games. Where’s the Tinkerman when you need him?

Josh King was electric last year for Bournemouth. Scorer of 16 last year on only 1.9 shots per game, he was absolutely clinical in front of goal. He scored 9 goals in his previous three seasons. He has one season wonder written all over him. Bournemouth will not finish top half again unless King carries them like he did last year, and that is not going to happen. Twelfth it is.

What happened to Crystal Palace last year? They were stuck in bottom table form until Wilfried Zaha started playing at a world-class level. The entire team woke up and they cruised to. . . 14th. If Zaha can replicate that form and the team decides to play around him, they could be a top half side. It’s just hard to see them finishing any higher than 11th without some consistency.

 

Make sure to leave a like if you enjoyed! Follow After the Whistle to never miss an article, and leave your feedback in the comments!

What I’d Do #8: FRANCE

I’m bored. FIFA Hybrids is dead. There’s not been much news in the sports world lately. What to do?

5 minutes later. . .

BAM!! Number eight is here. Not Star Wars #8, unfortunately. The What I’d Do series is back! Today, off the backs of a 3-2 win over England, France finds its way into After the Whistle. The team is actually one of the youngest in the world. Les Bleus, as their fans fondly nicknamed them, are simply overflowing with young talent. In fact, Koscielny and Lloris are the only players in the starting eleven above 25. 25!

 

In goal is the aforementioned Hugo Lloris. While I’m an Arsenal fan, I still have to e include him in the team despite how much I despise him. Reasons? The next best goalie is Stephane Ruffier, who refuses to play internationally. After that, France has Steve Mandanda. Not pleasant.

At left back, starting a trend of terrific young AS Monaco players is 22 year old Benjamin Mendy. Mendy has represented France at literally all levels. He played 32 times for the under-17s before being promoted to the U19s, winning 12 caps in two years. Due to turning 20, Mendy was forced to move to the U21s. He assisted five goals in nine games before Didier Deschamps called him up to the senior side.

In the center back positions, first is Laurent Koscielny. Arsenal’s first choice CB at club level, Koscielny has played for France 42 times since his international debut in 2011. He was a rock in defense in France’s run to the Euro 2016 final.

The other center back is Raphael Varane. The 24 year old starred at second tier French club RC Lens before getting a big money move to Real Madrid in 2011. Since then, Varane has won 42 caps for the international team.

At right back is Djibril (JIB-rill) Sidibe. Sidibe is another in a long list of players that had breakout seasons for AS Monaco this year. His critics point to his Sergi Roberto-esque forays forward as detrimental to the team. On November 22nd of 2016, Sidibe cemented his place in France anyways. Monaco was having trouble against Tottenham in the UEFA Champions League. In the 48th minute, Sidibe equalized; heading home Mendy’s cross. He then assisted Thomas Lemar (more on him later) five minutes later to give Monaco the win.

At left center midfielder, oh boy is this controversial. Instead of Blaise Matuidi, Hatim Ben Arfa, Corentin Tolisso, or Adrien Rabiot, I’ve included Paul Pogba. It’s an understatement to say Pogba was Juventus’ best player last year. Manchester United thought so, and broke the world transfer record, paying the Italians nearly £100 million to bring him to Old Trafford.

At right center midfielder, who else but N’Golo Kante? Leicester signed him from Caen in 2015, leading to a move to Chelsea. The rest is history.

At left midfielder, make a wild guess. It’s Thomas Lemar. The 21 year old had one of the best seasons in Monaco’s history, scoring 14 goals and assisting 14 more. Lemar even won UNFP Player of the Month in November 2016.

In he other side of midfield, welcome Ousmane Dembele to the international team. The 20 year old Borussia Dortmund phenom has been terrific this year, scoring 10 goals in 49 games for the German giants. He recently burst on to the international stage, scoring the winning goal for France against England. His spot is further cemented by the fact that the next best French RM is Moussa Sissoko. Hmm.

Right striker is Antoine Griezmann. If you haven’t heard of this guy, look him up. Since 2014, Griezmann has scored 60 goals in 111 games for Atlético Madrid. He also won La Liga Player of the Year in 2016, beating out Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Nice.

At left striker is the fan favorite, Kylian Mbappe-Lottin. The things this 18 year old has achieved are downright phenomenal! This year, he scored 26 goals in 44 games for Monaco. That’s a better goal ratio than Messi. Mbappe scored in every single Champions League knockout stage match Monaco played. He is the first player in history to do that. Let me remind you, he’s only 18! To round up his 2016-17 accolades, he was included in the UEFA Champions League Team of the Season, the Ligue 1 TOTS, and won the UNFP Young Player of the Year.

And lastly, something that you all have wanted, I’ll show you the impact of the last season on FIFA Ultimate Team. The bottom of the top image shows the highest rated cards the French have, starting from the back. Hugo Lloris got a 94 rated(!) Premier League TOTS. Koscielny still has his basic 85. Varane was awarded with an 86 Team of the Group Stage (TOTGS) card. Sidibe had an 83 TOTGS card. Lemar grabbed a 91 Ligue 1 TOTS card. Pogba has a 92 inform. Kante has a 92 EPL TOTS. Dembele has a 91 Bundesliga TOTS. Griezmann has a 95 La Liga TOTS. Mbappe has an 89 Ligue 1 TOTS. (Stagger breathing, pants like a dog)

The quality of these French players is simply astounding. The squad is so good, they are a legitimate World Cup winning contender. I’m not kidding.

And finally, kudos to the people who read this whole thing! Please leave a like if you enjoyed, and goodbye!

Hybrids #4: The Morelos of the story

Welcome back to FIFA Hybrids! Today the instructions are simple:

  • Build a squad around TOTS Morelos
  • Include at least two other TOTS cards.
  • Include no more than five Colombians.
  • No silvers other than Morelos.

I completed it, but it was tricky! First I put Morelos at right striker in the 4-4-2 formation. I then surrounded him with Colombians James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao, and Juan Cuadrado. To get James and Cuadrado both on full chemistry, I needed a French Calcio A right back in the form of Konko to link with Raphael Varane.

I then simply needed to put players on the left side that get strong links to each other. I’ve done that with Thomas Lemar, Djibril Sidibe, Loic (not Remy) Perrin, and Morgan Sanson. I needed one more TOTS and he needed to be a French goalkeeper. Sound like anyone you—oh! Hugo Lloris! Hybrid complete.

Premier League: What the top teams can still accomplish this season

***”Magic number” refers to the amount of points the team must grab in the last two/three games, the amount of points teams below or above them must drop, or both in combination.

 

Chelsea

  • Win the league and fend of Tottenham’s late charge. MAGIC NUMBER: 4
  • Win the FA Cup: MAGIC NUMBER: Beat Arsenal.

Tottenham

  • Win the league. MAGIC NUMBER: 10

Manchester City

  • Clinch a Champions League spot. MAGIC NUMBER: 6

Liverpool

  • Clinch a Champions League spot. MAGIC NUMBER IS 5

Arsenal

  • Clinch a Champions League spot. MAGIC NUMBER IS 13
  • Beat Chelsea to win the FA Cup

Manchester United

  • Clinch a Champions League spot. MAGIC NUMBER IS 11.