Premier League Takeaways – GW 32+

Gameweek 32+ brought about a crucial win for West Ham over Chelsea, a thumping at the Etihad and a return to form for Sheffield United. Our writers have plenty to discuss, including a deadly partnership at Wolves and Southampton’s heroic striker.

Jamie Braidwood – Fired-up City look like Champions League favourites

Manchester City produced a statement win in their 4-0 thrashing of Premier League champions Liverpool, a sign that Pep Guardiola’s side still have plenty to fight for this season. Spearheaded by Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, and the excellent Phil Foden, City were at their ruthless and clinical best, seizing upon even the slightest mistakes in the Liverpool backline and exploiting the space left behind to rack up an unassailable lead before half-time.

foden

Phil Foden continued his impressive post-lockdown form against Liverpool, looking dangerous and direct in midfield as the 20-year-old popped up with another goal.

Liverpool had their own chances, particularly in the opening 20 minutes, but Jürgen Klopp’s team were not able to put them away. It was a reminder that even when City are at their best, the very nature of their play means that they will leave themselves open to the opposition. It could have been a very different game if Liverpool had struck first, similar to City’s defeat at Chelsea last week in which they conceded the first goal through a defensive error.

But City are happy to play such a high-stakes game, thanks to the attacking options they have. With Bayern Munich set for a few weeks of inactivity following this weekend’s German Cup final, City look like the side who will be in the best form when the Champions League returns in August. Guardiola’s men will take their chances, but there will be no one stopping them if they attack like they did against Liverpool.

Gregor Kerr – It’s going to get worse for Tottenham before it gets better

After their latest capitulation, Tottenham Hotspur’s numbers this season are excruciating. Just four clean sheets. Level with, and no disrespect to them, Burnley after 33 games. These are last year’s Champions League finalists we are talking about. It’s on course for their worst season since the Jacques Santini years in the mid 2000s.

lucas moura

Spurs will feel hard-done by after their instant equaliser against Sheffield United was ruled out by VAR for a questionable handball decision against Lucas Moura.

The ludicrous VAR decision to rule out Harry Kane’s goal for his teammate being fouled before having the ball smashed at his shoulder from point-blank range was a real reason for frustration. But it’s the fans who can afford to feel hard done by, not the Spurs’ players who felt sorry for themselves in the second half. They gave Sheffield United everything they wanted. Please, have your shot at goal. Waltz right through. Would you like it placed in the bottom left corner, or right?

Tottenham are in big trouble. For spells of this season they have played like a genuine relegation contender. A rebuild is needed, but with Daniel Levy’s famously tight purse strings being shut tighter with a financial crisis, it looks impossible. The squad is horribly imbalanced. A 34-year old goalkeeper who has declined for two years. One right-back who plays as a winger. No defensive midfielder. Hundreds of wingers. One striker.

They might have invested in players like Giovani Lo Celso and Steven Bergwijn this season, but that horse bolted a long time ago, the time for spending was in 2018. A new defender wasn’t just needed today, it was needed two years ago. Bergwijn isn’t going to stop Davinson Sanchez and Eric Dier running away from strikers.

You can’t stick Lucas Moura and Sissoko at right back or have a makeshift striker for half the season and expect to get away with it. Daniel Levy has been cutting corners for years and it’s only now creeping to the surface. There’s no easy or quick way out of this mess. Strap in for the ride. Just don’t expect us to pay for the brakes or the seatbelt.

Jack Donnelly – Ancelotti’s family affair has Everton dreaming of Europe

A number of eyebrows were raised when Carlo Ancelotti chose to bring his managerial pedigree to Everton following Marco Silva’s departure. The Toffees were going through a gloomy season, without much going for them in any department. However, the Ancelotti revolution has Evertonians dreaming of a European tour when it seemed so unlikely. But it’s not just Carlo they have to thank.

everton vs leicester

Everton looked solid at the back and clinical up front as they lengthened Leicester’s winless run with a 2-1 victory, with goals coming through Richarlison and a Gylfi Sigurdsson penalty.

Alongside his father in the Everton dugout is Davide Ancelotti, assistant manager and, crucially, the man in charge of Everton’s set piece tactics. Everton have scored 11 goals from set pieces this season – eight of which have come under Ancelotti’s permanently raised eyebrow. Gylfi Sigurdsson’s penalty may not have been the culmination of Davide’s efforts, but Everton’s presence and threat from dead ball situations was clear. This allows any player in Everton’s team to be a goal threat, which is a huge bonus considering their currently negative goal difference.

With Davide turning the defence into an attacking threat through set pieces, Carlo is able to focus on turning Everton’s frontmen into clinical finishers. Even now, Everton have a goal difference of -7 (40 scored, 47 conceded). While the Toffees may have a positive GD under Ancelotti of +1 (20 scored, 19 conceded), early season form under Marco Silva saw the likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison misfiring and unable to build up a good run of form. However, Ancelotti’s arrival has brought about change up front, with Calvert-Lewin scoring eight of his 13 Premier League goals under the management of the Italian, leading to rumours of an England call-up for the now-postponed Euros.

With Ancelotti Senior getting the best out of Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison, while Ancelotti Junior trains Everton’s backline to be able to contribute at the other end of the pitch, Everton have been able to look threatening in every situation. With goals coming in from anywhere on the pitch, the Toffees may still have a chance at European qualification. They’ve still got a lot of work to do, but the future looks bright on the blue side of Stanley Park.

 

Graeme Sinclair – Jimenez and Traore – best partnership in the league?

I’d like to make a plea to Nuno Espirito Santos. Can you please start Adama Traore in every match? It would be very beneficial to my fantasy football team, but I think it might also help your own team. Yes, I know we’ve won every game since you came back without conceding a goal, and I know Adama is a brilliant option off the bench, but I really think I could be the top goal scorer in the league if you played him from the start more often.

Many regards, Raul Jimenez (not really)

raul x adama

Raul Jimenez and Adama Traore have become one of the deadliest attacking duos in the Premier League, and could establish Wolves as a consistent threat in the top six if they play together as much as possible.

In all seriousness, I’d like to make my case as Traore & Jimenez being the best duo in the premier league currently. The most obvious stat I can point to is that the Jimenez – Traore combination has been the most prolific in the Premier League, with the two combining to score 10 goals. This includes goals against West Ham & Bournemouth since the restart, which were virtually identical crosses from Traore straight on to the head of Jimenez. The goal in Saturday’s win against Villa wasn’t one of those goals, but it was scored 2 minutes after Traore came on the pitch, and Jimenez played a magnificent through ball in the build-up.

The other partnership people would put up against the Wolves duo are Kevin de Bruyne & Sergio Aguero at Manchester City. My argument against that is that every combination between those two is a de Bruyne assist to Aguero, whereas at Wolves, it is 7-3 split in favour of Raul Jimenez.

The big change this year has been the improvement of Traore, as Jimenez showed his quality in year one at Wolves, while Adama was still a bit raw. The next step is for Traore to start every game in the team with Jimenez – he’s only had 23 starts out of 32 so far. If Wolves can get production from the duo from the start every game, they have the potential to make Wolves a consistent Champions League level side.

 

Struan Garvie – How’s your back, Jack?

The Jack I am referring to is the Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish and the reason I am concerned about his back is due to the fact he has been carrying his team all season. 

grealish

Grealish will no doubt be feeling the burden of having to come up big time and time again for Villa this season, but will have to carry on carrying the team if they are to survive their relegation battle.

After being promoted to the Premier League last May, it has been clear that Aston Villa’s aim was to achieve safety in the top flight. In an attempt to ensure this, Villa spent £146 million on transfers… but they currently sit 19th in the table with six games to play.

Dean Smith was appointed as the permanent manager of the club in 2018 and got them promoted to the Premier League via a Wembley play-off against Derby County. Jack Grealish was named club captain and played a huge part in their campaign last season. This season he picked up where he left off and has been head and shoulders above the rest of his teammates to be Villa’s player of the season with the most goals and assists for the club, becoming the hero for the Villains.

Apart from Grealish’s good form, there hasn’t been much else for Villa to enjoy this season. John McGinn started the campaign brightly but was sidelined for a few months with an ankle injury. Villa’s defence has been about as reliable as the Hawk-Eye goal line technology-which ironically actually saved Villa from conceding against Sheffield United. Despite having John Terry on the coaching staff, Villa have not looked good at the back at all and have conceded more goals than any other team in the league so far. 

After watching an abysmal performance against Wolves at the weekend, it is clear that Villa have an incredibly steep mountain to climb in order to stay in the Premier League, a mountain which includes stops at Champions elect Liverpool, Manchester United, Crystal Palace, Everton, Arsenal and fellow relegation fighters West Ham on the final day of the season. Unless Villa can turn their form around, it is likely they’ll be competing for the top six next season… in the Championship that is. There are also fears that club captain Grealish will not be with the club next season after attracting attention from some of the top clubs in the country including Manchester City. 

Parting ways with his boyhood club will undoubtedly be difficult for Grealish but in order to move to the next stage in his career, it is a sacrifice he will have to make, especially if he hopes to get into the England squad for the delayed Euro 2020.

Jamie Mcintosh – Danny Ings could still prove to be an excellent signing for any of the top six

This may or may not be a controversial statement, but without Danny Ings’ goals this season, Southampton would probably find themselves in the relegation zone.

ings watford

Danny Ings has been invaluable to Southampton this season, with a brace against Watford bringing him to 18 league goals so far, giving the striker a solid chance of winning the Golden Boot.

The Saints striker has scored 18 goals in 32 league games this season and is just one goal behind the joint league top scorers in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Jamie Vardy. Scoring more than Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Sergio Aguero is quite a remarkable accomplishment, considering he is playing for a side who currently sit 14th in the table. So, the question is – can Southampton hold on to the English striker?

Ings has a contract at St Mary’s until the summer of 2022, but if his impressive goal scoring fashion continues until the end of this season, other Premier League clubs will surely be trying to lure the striker away from the south coast.

I think Spurs, Leicester and Arsenal should all be sniffing around the 27 year old striker during the next transfer window.

Ings seems to be back to the striker we saw at Burnley. His form for the Clarets saw him earn a move to Liverpool, where he was incredibly unfortunate with injuries and couldn’t maintain a starting XI spot at Anfield. However, I think any club who is willing to take a chance on Ings will be rewarded.

The reason I say take a chance is due to the fact he is 27 now and is injury prone. However, if he is able to stay fit, there is surely no doubt about what he can bring to any Premier League side.

As I alluded to earlier, his goals have been vital to what has otherwise been a relatively underwhelming season for this Southampton side and I feel if a top six club were to sign him, his goals could potentially provide the spark to turn a top six finish into a top four finish. Ings has proven this season he can still score goals in a top league, despite the service he is provided with being far from the best available in the top flight.

Any of the top six Premier League clubs could do a lot worse than attempt to negotiate with Southampton for their prized asset during the summer window.

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