Premier League Review – 23/25th April

mark hughes

Hughes needs to address his sides slump.

1. Man City 4-0 Stoke
Stoke hammered again 

Mark Hughes’ Stoke City conceded four-goals for the third game in a row as Man City prepared perfectly for their Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid.

The Potters’ end of season collapse has seen them have no more than a club record points tally to play for. Up until their League Cup semi-final defeat to Liverpool, Stoke were looking like a team to keep an eye on. A team on an upward spiral that could compete for silverware and regularly challenge for European qualification. Hopes were raised by the performances of Bojan Krkic, Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic in an impressive front three, particularly at home against the two Manchester clubs.

But the recent downturn in form suggests their season has prematurely ended like a dreadful American TV show; although, some do continue exist. And while the attacking trio is the envy of some sides, their team’s goals return is not quite so impressive.

The table below shows Stoke to be the sixth lowest scorers yet they rank highest in the league. The fact relegation strugglers, Newcastle and Sunderland have scored more suggests that Hughes won’t only have to find consistency at the back.

Team Goals For Goals Against League Position
Aston Villa 25 69 20th
West Brom 32 43 13th
Swansea 34 49 15th
Norwich 35 60 18th
Crystal Palace 36 45 16th
Stoke 37 51 10th
Newcastle 38 64 19th
Sunderland 39 57 17th
shane long

Long could be a big asset for his national side this summer.

2. Aston Villa 2-4 Southampton
Shane Long proving more than a nuisance

Having played for several clubs in the Premier League, Irish international, Shane Long, has developed the reputation for being more of a hard worker than a consistent goal scorer.

This season however, he appears to be more than a squad player for Southampton. His nine goals and four assists in 1,849 minutes means he has been involved in a goal every 142.2 minutes, that’s just over 1.5 games.

Long’s rate of productivity in addition to his speed and effort makes him more than just a nuisance.

3. Bournemouth 1-4 Chelsea
Fabregas with a hattrick of assists

Cesc Fabregas was given too much freedom as Chelsea ran out comfortable winners.

The Spaniard is the first player to provide three assists in one game this season and now sits third on the all-time Premier League list with 95. Only Frank Lampard (102) and Ryan Giggs (162) have more.

Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth are getting a few lessons towards the end of their debut campaign, having lost four of their last five. Fortunately for the Cherries, they’re already safe, but they’ll need to learn from these results ahead of next season.

Rafa Benitez

Benitez needs more than draws to save Newcastle.

4. Liverpool 2-2 Newcastle
Rafa’s double Anfield comeback

Rafa Benitez returned to his former club where he’s still held in high regard, and no it’s not Chelsea.

The Spanish manager brought his struggling Newcastle side to Anfield and watched them get off to a terrible start. Daniel Sturridge put the Reds ahead with a well-taken goal just after the first minute.

And when Adam Lallana made it two-nil with a great curling effort from 20-yards, Liverpool appeared to be coasting to another victory. But as it is Liverpool of 2015/16, that wasn’t so certain.

As Benitez inspired his side to make a second-half comeback, Liverpool relinquished a two-goal cushion for the third time this season (Sunderland, Southampton and Newcastle). Their Merseyside rivals, Everton have done the same against West Ham, Bournemouth and Chelsea. But Klopp’s Liverpool are slightly ahead when it comes to losing one-goal leads having done so on nine occasions to the Toffees eight.

It gets tighter at the bottom as each week passes and the remaining fixtures will probably throw up a few more changes. Norwich look to have the most difficult games while the Magpies have to make the most of their next two to stand a chance of survival. Sunderland look best placed thanks to their current form but that could all change.

Sunderland (PTS: 31) Norwich (PTS: 31) Newcastle (PTS: 30)
Stoke (A) Arsenal (A) Crystal Palace (H)
Chelsea (H) Man Utd (H) Aston Villa (A)
Everton (H) Watford (H)  
Watford (A) Everton (A) Tottenham (H)

5. Sunderland 0-0 Arsenal
Are Sunderland the serial escapists?

Much to Sam Allardyce’s delight, his Sunderland side held Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal to a nil-nil draw, putting a dent in the Gunners top four ambitions.

The former manager of most Premier League teams has made The Black Cats harder to beat as proven by their current form of just two losses in the last ten games. However, six of those were draws, some of which should have been converted into wins.

But could Allardyce join Di Canio, Poyet and Advocaat in performing the great escape? During the last four seasons, Sunderland haven’t just flirted with the drop, they’ve got it a matching bathrobe and spare toothbrush before the first date.

The table below shows how they’ve earned over 20% of their total points in the final six games (15.8%) of the last few seasons. But could four years in a row be pushing it?

Season Last six games (PTS) Percentage of total points won in last six games Final Position Total points (PTS from 18th)
2012/13 WWLDDL (8 pts) 20.5% 17th 39 (3 pts)
2013/14 DWWWWL (13 pts) 34.2% 14th 38 (5 pts)
2014/15 DWWDDL (9 pts) 23.7% 16th 38 (3 pts)
2015/16 DDDLWD (7 pts) 22.6% 17th (currently) 31 (0 pts)

6. Leicester 4-0 Swansea
Foxes on the brink of glory

No Vardy, no party. This was going to be the game where the pressure could prove too much for Leicester.

The absence of their top scorer and main outlet was going to be replaced by a very different type of player in Leonardo Ulloa. How could Leicester possibly adapt? Where will their pace come from?

The answers were with ease and Jeffrey Schlupp. Pace on the wings as oppose to the centre where Ulloa would provide a focal point for attacks and a threat on set-pieces.

As soon as Riyad Mahrez – later deservedly voted PFA Player of the Year – capitalized on Swansea captain, Ashley Williams’ error, the worries washed away. Leicester’s biggest win of the season in what was supposed to be one of their biggest challenges.

Just one win is needed from the remaining three, and whilst they’re a tricky few games – if Everton play much closer to their potential – you’d expect the Foxes will have enough to confirm this fairy tale has the happy ending a Hollywood screenwriter could only dream of.

Leicester (PTS: 76, GD: 30) Tottenham (PTS: 69, GD: 39)
Man Utd (A) Chelsea (A)
Everton (H) Southampton (H)
Chelsea (A) Newcastle (A)
Tony Pulis

Pulis gatecrashing another title challenge.

7. Tottenham 1-1 West Brom

Spurs stumble as Pulis puts out the party 

Like at Liverpool’s expense in 2014, Tony Pulis has all but spoilt the Tottenham title challenge following a draw at White Hart Lane.

Spurs should have won this game and a maiden Premier League title looks less likely having dropped seven-points behind Leicester, lost Dele Alli for the season following a lukewarm execution of a hotheaded moment and facing arch rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in their next fixture on Monday night.

The blow delivered by cap-wearing Pulis wasn’t as big as when his Crystal Palace side came back from three-nil down to draw with Liverpool, but it could prove to be just as deflating.