EPL Gameweek 38: Review

The 2016/17 Premier League season has finally drawn to a close with a flurry of goals scored in a number of games that meant little more than pride. Rather than focusing on one match for this last gameweek, The Mumbler has done a short review of each fixture:

Arsenal 3-1 Everton

Arséne Wenger’s side did all that they could to try and maintain their impressive and consistent qualification for the Champions League.

Arsenal took an early lead through Hector Bellerín, but the Gunners were reduced to 10 men after the foolish dismissal of Laurent Koscielny for a dangerous foul just 14 minutes into the game.

Despite the numerical disadvantage, the home side still enjoyed slightly more possession and just five attempts fewer than their opponents. Ronald Koeman’s men ended a strong season poorly with just four points from the last 15 available.

This summer’s focus will be on the possible personnel changes at Arsenal – on and off the pitch – as they prepare for this Saturday’s F.A. Cup final against Champions Chelsea.

It was difficult to tell which side was a player down after Koscielny’s sending off.

 

Burnley 1-2 West Ham

The Hammers earned their first away win after six without at a ground that has proven difficult for most visitors.

While Sean Dyche will be disappointed to miss out on finishing 13th, he can be delighted to have survived their first season back in the Premier League.

Goals from Sofiane Feghouli and André Ayew saw West Ham come back from a losing position for only the second time this season.

It was a deserved victory for the London side who bettered their hosts in attempts, attacking third passes, ball recoveries and interceptions.

This summer will see one manager (Dyche) looking to keep hold of his prized assets and the other (Salven Bilic) his job after a difficult campaign at the London Stadium.

West Ham managed far more ball recoveries than the normally hard-running Burnley.

 

Chelsea 5-1 Sunderland

The Champions became the first team in Premier League history to win 30 games in a season with an emphatic victory over bottom-club, Sunderland.

Against the script, the Wearsiders went ahead through Javier Manquilo after just three minutes but within five the Blues were level through Willian.

Eden Hazard, Pedro and a late brace from Michy Batshuayi sealed the rout as club captain, John Terry, brought an end to his illustrious career at Chelsea with a controversially pre-planned substitution on the 26th minute to match the number on his shirt.

Unsurprisingly, the hosts dominated the game with four times as many attempts on goal (28 to seven) and over seven times as many completed passes in the attacking third (220 to 30). That led to over 70% possession as David Moyes’ relegated side had little to offer once they went behind.

Recruitment is key for Antonio Conte ahead of a Champions League campaign next season. For Sunderland, however, there will be a big turnover in staff following Moyes’ departure and an uninspiring squad that’s bound to lose at least one of its two best players (Defoe) during the upcoming window.

Chelsea completely dominated their opponents with the attacking third passes a clear indication.

 

Hull 1-7 Tottenham

Harry Kane consolidated his place at the top of the scoring charts with a hat-trick at Hull bringing his tally to 29 league goals. The England international joins the select group of Thierry Henry, Robin van Persie, Michael Owen and Alan Shearer as the only other previous back-to-back winners of the Premier League Golden Boot award.

Having suffered relegation last Sunday, Hull could only hope to do to Tottenham what Newcastle managed last season with a victory for pride. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the game was all but finished after just 13 minutes by which time Kane had already got a brace.

It was three by half-time as Dele Alli scored his 18th of the campaign. But all the plaudits were saved for Kane who managed to score nearly a quarter of his goals (seven) in the final two games of the season. Those strikes brought his minutes per goal down to just 87 and also saw him finish top for goal involvement with a total of 36 (29 goals, seven assists) bettering Alexis Sanchez’s 34 (24 goals, 10 assists).

The writing seems to be on the wall regarding Marco Silva’s future as the Portuguese manager is likely to have a few suitors following an impressive first several months in England.

Tottenham need to have a more productive transfer window than last summer while there remains constant rumours about the future of Kyle Walker amongst others.

Kane’s seven goals from eight shots on target during his last two games saw him comfortably take the Golden Boot award for a second consecutive season.

 

Leicester 1-1 Bournemouth

Junior Stanislas’ first minute opener put the Cherries on their way to ensuring an impressive 9th place finish in only their second season in England’s top division.

The former Champions equalised in the second half through top scorer Jamie Vardy who has scored eight in the 13 appearances since Craig Shakespeare took over from Claudio Ranieri.

Eddie Howe would have been disappointed not to have won only their second game on the road out of 11 this calendar year. A victory that would have seen them finish above south-coast rivals, Southampton.

But in retrospect, the visitors were fortunate to come away with a draw having been under pressure for the vast majority of the second period. The Foxes had 11 attempts to Bournemouth’s three as well as another Vardy goal which was wrongly disallowed for offside.

Given the upturn in form since Shakespeare’s appointment, it would seem harsh not to reward him with another season, but the Leicester owners have already proven they’re not adverse to making such decisions.

Leicester were far more threatening in the second-half after a poor display during the opening exchanges.

 

Liverpool 3-0 Middlesbrough

The Reds got the win they needed to finish in the top four but it didn’t come without its tension.

Within eight minutes of the kick-off, both Arsenal and Man City were leading which meant Liverpool were in 5th position. And as the half went on, a sense of anxiety and desperation started to exchange between the players and fans as Middlesbrough defended deep, often deploying Rudy Gestede on his own up front and sitting six across the back.

Liverpool were guilty of trying too many potshots from distance as few players besides Philippe Coutinho seemed willing to take responsibility. It was reminiscent of that fateful loss at home to Chelsea in 2014 when they were going for the title under Brendan Rodgers. That second half display showed a lack of composure as the hosts desperately sought an equaliser and this felt similar.

But just like the wins at West Brom and Watford, Jürgen Klopp’s side grabbed an opener just before half-time. Giorginio Wijnaldum might only be scoring at home but he’s now done so in big moments which include Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Burnley. The Dutch midfielder drilled his shot past Brad Guzan at the near-post much to the delight and relief of the supporters.

Within 10 minutes of the second half, the game was dead and buried as Coutinho deceived Guzan with a free-kick and Adam Lallana slotted in a third.

Middlesbrough could have really cranked up the fear had Patrick Bamford been awarded a penalty in the first-half. But once they went behind, they looked like a side that won just once in their last 21 league matches.

Before Wijnaldum’s goal, it looked like a similar performance to the second-half against Chelsea three years ago.

 

Man Utd 2-0 Crystal Palace

True to his word, Mourinho fielded a team largely made up of youngsters with the Europa League final against Ajax on Wednesday.

Despite the weakened line-up, United went two-up through debutant Josh Harrop and Paul Pogba. The latter came off at half-time as a precaution while Sam Allardyce’s Crystal Palace failed to exploit the lack of experience.

An impressive debut for Mitchell who was joint-top for chances created (2) and interceptions (3); fourth for attacking third passes (12); joint-second for take-ons (2/4) and fouls suffered (2); and second for tackles (5/6).

It was clear that there was little riding on this fixture which for the home supporters is an indictment of the seasons gone by since Sir Alex Ferguson left. A disappointing 6th place finish for one of the world’s richest and most expensively assembled sides shouldn’t be excused irrespective of whether or not they claim the Europa League trophy and subsequently, Champions League qualification.

Man Utd’s first win in six league matches condoned Crystal Palace to their fifth defeat in the last 10 games. But those 10 included matches against each of the top six, three of which were won. Those unexpected victories ultimately sealed their survival which was confirmed last week at home to Hull.

 

 

 

 

Southampton 0-1 Stoke

Fans at St. Mary’s have been left disappointed by the shortage of entertainment throughout the season and this match was no different.

Claud Puel’s men failed to score in front of their supporters for a fifth consecutive match which left the Saints with just 17 goals at home this season. Only relegated duo Middlesbrough and Sunderland scored fewer.

This is despite attempting the seventh highest number of shots per game at home (15.8) and ranking eighth for shots on target (4.8). That raises questions over the quality of opportunities and finishing, particularly as the attacking options at Southampton have had various issues. Jay Rodriguez and Charlie Austin have been dealing with injuries, Manolo Gabbiadini failed to rediscover his form after returning from injury, Shane Long lacks a clinical edge and record signing Sofiane Boufal has been ineffectual in his debut campaign.

Should Puel stay then the summer’s focus will surely be on attacking reinforcements that he can rely upon as well as replacing any big names that are once again poached by the bigger clubs.

Peter Crouch’s winner on the hour mark meant Stoke managed eight points from the last 30 on offer to end a stagnant season in 13th. Mark Hughes may look to strengthen his defence with players such as Phil Bardsley, Geoff Cameron, Glen Johnson, Ryan Shawcross and Erik Pieters at least 29-years-old come the start of next season.

Southampton had nearly twice as many passes in the attacking third, yet Stoke created 50% more chances.

 

Swansea 2-1 West Brom

Despite anticipating a dramatic relegation battle just a few weeks ago, four wins from the last five games saw Swansea propel themselves to 15th place. Tony Pulis’ West Brom, meanwhile, failed to win any of their last nine league matches – their last win coming at home to Arsenal in mid-March – yet they still ended the season in the top 10.

Jonny Evans’ opener was cancelled out by Jordan Ayew before the Swans’ top scorer, Fernando Llorente, scored the winner with less than five minutes remaining. The former Juventus striker has been a success this season, netting 15 goals which have led to 13 points, the exact difference between the Welsh side and low-scoring Middlesbrough.

West Brom’s target man, Salomón Rondon, has had a less productive season having scored just once since his hat-trick of headers in the corresponding fixture five months ago. Pulis will hope to get more of what he wants this summer while Paul Clement will be looking to build on an impressive term since taking over in January, which led to a Manager of the Season nomination.

Swansea have had much more joy from their target man this season as Llorente scored one and provided the other against WBA.

 

Watford 0-5 Man City

Pep Guardiola can look forward to another crack at the Champions League next season as his Man City side finished 3rd in the league with a thumping victory over a depleted and disjointed Watford.

The Hornets announced earlier in the week that Walter Mazzarri will be leaving Vicarage Road after this fixture to continue the Pozzo family’s tradition of regularly replacing their manager. Unfortunately, Mazzarri’s challenge to motivate his players was made even harder with all six centre-backs unavailable against one of the league’s more potent attacks.

True to form, Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sané and Kevin De Bruyne found gaps all over the home defence to go 4-0 up before half-time. The Citizens only added a fifth in the second period as Aguero desperately tried to claim his hat-trick but was denied by Heurelho Gomes and a gaping miss from close-range.

It brought a sorry end to Mazzarri’s tenure with six straight defeats including five games without scoring. Keeping Watford in the Premier League despite the frequent changes should be commended but the terrible run of form and the Italian’s lack of English proved to be the former Napoli manager’s undoing.

Guardiola said he feels better prepared for a title challenge having endured his first season in England. The Spaniard will no doubt be tapping into the market for new players, particularly at full-back, as the likes of Pablo Zabaleta and Gaël Clichy depart.

David Silva, De Bruyne and Sané were carving Watford apart, particularly during the first-half.

PREDICTION CHECK
The Mumbler’s pre-season predictions were unsurprisingly proven vastly wrong through a combination of under and overestimations on certain sides. Perhaps a mid-season prediction after the January transfer window would have been more accurate. Check the table below to realise that you’re wasting your time reading any of The Mumbler’s posts:

One right, three within one position and seven within two. Those in red are four or five out.