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Chops

Chops

Chops is the executive producer of High Press Soccer. He's an unabashed Liverpool fan who will absolutely let that bias seep into his reporting and analysis.

Liverpool Player Ratings vs Newcastle United (Matchday 5)

Chops September 14, 2019
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The 2019-20 Premier League season is back after the September international break. Liverpool hosts the first match, as Newcastle United visit Anfield. The Reds sit atop the table at 100%.

Surprisingly, manager Jurgen Klopp only rotated two regulars out of the line-up: captain Jordan Henderson and 2019-20 MVP so far, Roberto Firmino. Here’s how Liverpool lined up.

Liverpool went down 1-0 in the 7th minute after a brilliant Jetro Willems strike. After that, they were on their front foot. Liverpool utterly dominated possession as Newcastle parked the bus. Sadio Mane leveled the game in the 28th and put the Reds ahead in the 37th. At half-time, Liverpool had 81% possession and 10 shots on goal (3 on target) to Newcastle’s 2/1. 

It wasn’t just that Liverpool was dominating possession, they were dominating it in Newcastle’s half / third. That’s usually is a recipe for success. 

(NOT SELFISH) Mohamed Salah added another brilliant link-up goal in the second half and Liverpool cruised to a 3-1 win. The Reds now have 14 wins in a row, tied for 4th best in Premier League history. So yeah, this is in play now:

 

Liverpool Player Ratings

Manager

Jurgen Klopp (7) – Opted to only rotate out Henderson and Firmino. Coming out of the international break and with two important matches next week, we expected maybe Fabinho and either / or TAA or Robbo resting as well. Wisely subbed Firmino in for Origi, who had an instant impact. And he gave Shaqiri some run finally.

This was a game where the defense really drove the offense. Lots of building and attacking from the back. It’s a good plan for success for this team.

Goalkeeper

Adrian (6) – Nothing he could do on the Jetro Willems opener. Not much to do after that. The goal was the only shot on target he faced. 

Defenders

Trent Alexander-Arnold (6) – Could’ve played Willems tighter on the opening goal. Gave him enough space in the box to get  a quality shot off. 

Servicing was on point though. Tightened up defensively in second half.

Virgil van Dijk (7) – Good showing. Got his big noggin on some headers that didn’t convert, but still had three shots on goal. Tidy on defense. Successfully completed an absurd 96% of his passes.

Joel Matip (8) – Another strong performance. Matip continues to slightly out-play VVD, which is just insane. Got a shot off. Won 12 (!!!) aerials. Made three tackles. Just a boss. 

Andy Robertson (8) – Hasn’t looked 100% this season but was back to his full-throttled booming self today. Actually led the team in touches today with 143, so he was very involved in all aspects of the game. This is the Robbo we need the rest of the campaign.

Midfielders

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (7) – Ox looks back to normal. Playing with great pace and confidence. Classic Ox sequence in the 11th minute, cutting through Newcastle to drive a shot that went just wide. Subbed out in the 75th for James Milner. An encouraging outing. 

Fabinho (6) – Should’ve rested this game. Was fine. Fewer touches than normal but completed a bunch of short passes (93% success rate).

Georginio Wijnaldum (6) – Got off a couple of quality shots. Better than the more anonymous performances he had in August. Klopp needs to let Gini be more aggressive / offensive. He’s better in a more advanced role. Subbed out in the 84th for Shaqiri. 

Forwards

Divock Origi (5.5) – Had some opportunities but couldn’t find the magic of LITERALLY CONVERTING EVERYTHING like last year. Went out in the 37th minute due to injury.

Sadio Mane (9) – First goal was a great, confident finish.

Second goal was just the tenacity of wanting a goal.

No temper tantrums either today, so that’s a win!🙌

Mohamed Salah (8) – At times felt like a “last season” Salah performance, with lots of effort but little results. That all changed in the 72nd minute. Salah linked up with Firmino who beautifully back flicked it to Mo as he continued his run and waltzed into the box for a goal. Just gorgeous. 

Selfish tho.🙄

Substitutions

Roberto Firmino (9) – Came on for Origi in the 37th. Instant impact, threading the through ball to Mane for the second goal. His back-flick pass to Salah was just awesome. Everyone is in love with Bobby this season.

James Milner (NR) – Came on for Ox to help shut Newcastle down. 

Xherdan Shaqiri (NR) – Late sub but good to see him on the pitch finally. Too late to make an impact though.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Almost permanantly want to start giving this to Bobby, but Mane scored two critical goals when Liverpool really needed them. Sadio gets it today.

Here Are the Five Teams Who Can Win the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League

Chops September 13, 2019

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The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League is less than a week from today. While a lot can happen between now and the final on May 30th, enough has happened in domestic league play to start drawing some conclusions as to how the tournament could play out.

Just a few weeks into the campaign, FiveThirtyEight’s club soccer probabilities favor the usual suspects.

We agree with that top five for the most part. FiveThirtyEight probabilities have their flaws. They seem to habitually overvalue Bayern Munich and undervalue Liverpool. And on a game-by-game basis, match probabilities don’t weigh luck heavily enough into the potential outcome. However, they do recognize under-the-radar clubs well that oddsmakers over-look (Ajax last year, and RB Leipzig this year).

With that out of the way, barring some fringe contender making a Virgil van Dijk-esque January impact transfer, these are the only five teams (in order of likelihood) that can win this season’s Champions League.

Manchester City (+300)

More than anything else in the world, Manchester City’s ownership wants to violate Financial Fair Play regulations suppress human and women’s right win the Champions League.

It’s a priority. It’s not all that matters (winning Carabao Cups are adorably still a big deal to them), but it matters the most.

While all of the above is true, so is this: City have the most complete total squad in the world. Yeah, they’re the first $1B team. But they’ve spent that billion dollars wisely. The squad is so deep that the loss of star center-back Aymeric Laporte will only impact them against teams with heavy offensive weaponry like Liverpool, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich. It would take another Kevin de Bruyne injury AND either Sergio Aguero or Raheem Sterling to miss time to start dampening City’s chances.

Will City probably bottle in the quarters again? Yes. Regardless, even though they’re only Oasis’ and American band-wagoners’ favorite team, they should be UCL favorites.

Liverpool (+700)

They won it all last year. They made the finals the year before. Domestically, they only lost one game last season. This season, they’ve lost none.

Despite all of this, Liverpool are only third favorites at +700. Oddsmakers do realize Anfield is a fucking fortress, right?

Making three UCL finals in a row is difficult. Winning two in a row is even more so. But Real Madrid just did it. And they’re an abject disaster now. So why not Liverpool?

City may have the most talent top to bottom than any other club in the world, but Liverpool has the most cohesive and best starting XI. That XI is currently the fifth best team of all-time.

Ask any athlete or successful team: learning how to win is a thing. Once you do, winning becomes easier. It becomes a habit. And for the truly great teams, it begets a hunger for more winning.

That’s where Liverpool are at today. Doubt them at your own peril.

Bayern Munich (+1100)

Mostly a gut call here, but even in spite of adding Philippe Coutinho, Bayern feel like a giant ready to roar back this UCL campaign.

Their opening matchday draw is already a distant memory. They’re second in the Bundesliga with the best goal differential. They’re talented, ruthless, and clinical.

Bayern ran into the Liverpool buzzsaw last year in the Round of 16. A little better luck this go-around and they’re set for a major run.

Barcelona (+500)

Without Messi, things are a mess right now. Barca sit 8th in La Liga. They have a difficult group to navigate. They’ve blown huge aggregate leads going into Leg 2 showdowns in consecutive years. Their manager is suspect. However, if Messi is back and fully fit by October, Barcelona have the talent to breakthrough and win their first UCL since 2015.

Offensively, they’re going to be deadly. Watching Frenkie de Jong, Antoine Griezmann, Luis Suarez, and Messi carve up teams will be exhilarating. Their defense is vulnerable, but Marc-André ter Stegen covers up a lot of holes.

Barcelona’s kryptonite though will be from Premier League sides. If they have to face Manchester City or Liverpool at any stage, they’ll struggle (obv, everyone will). Even Messi recently admitted how difficult traveling to England can be in the Champions League.

It’s even more difficult when you have to travel there and face the two best teams in the world.

Still, Barca has been sooo close the past few years. A little luck can see them go all the way.

RB Leipzig (+5000)

Yep, we’re all in on RB Leipzig this year. They have the easiest group. They’re surging in the Bundesliga, currently at 100% and atop the table.

Their team is young but not too young. They’re hitting their primes at the right time. Led by Timo Werner, Marcel Sabitzer, and Yussuf Poulsen, RB Leipzig are dynamic, aggressive, and potent. This will be a fun team to watch.

A key for the energy drinks will be making it out of the group round in 1st. Despite being a Pot 4 team, they’re favored to do so. A favorable Round of 16 opponent could build momentum for a deep UCL run. Liverpool made the finals from Pot 4 and won it all from Pot 3. RB Leipzig are not Liverpool, but they are dangerous.

What about…

We’d be remiss not to at least mention a few other favorites and why they won’t win.

  • Atlético Madrid: We love the squad and think they’ll contend for a La Liga crown, but they’re a year away from serious Champions League contention.
  • PSG: Just too much drama and too leaky of a backline.
  • Juventus: We’re not sure they even make it out of the group round. Enough talent to make the quarters, not enough to win.
  • Real Madrid: Los Blancos have the talent but are utterly dysfunctional right now. Of all the teams on the outside, this is the one that could leap into the contenders group if they stabilize.
  • Tottenham: 🤣
  • Chelsea: 🤣🤣🤣

Where to Bet the Champions League in the US

In the US, you can legally bet on soccer online in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

For New Jersey, we recommend DraftKings Sportsbook NJ or FanDuel Sportsbook

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Liverpool vs Newcastle United Matchday 5 Preview (September 14, 2019)

Chops September 9, 2019

Who: Liverpool vs Newcastle
When: Saturday, September 14th @ 07:30 am ET
LineLiverpool -770 | Draw +750 | Newcastle +1900

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European domestic leagues are back in action this coming weekend! There are a number of exciting matchday 5 Premier League fixtures.

This is not one of them.

Liverpool vs Newcastle United Preview

The second-to-last matchday of 2018-19 saw Liverpool travel to Newcastle for a game all Reds fans were dreading. Liverpool were in an all-time epic title chase against FFP violating Manchester City. Any dropped points and the race was over.

Rafa Benitez had Newcastle playing decent football. Liverpool were in the middle of another deep Champions League run. While “mentality monsters,” they were still a tired squad.

The game went back and forth. Liverpool were tied 2-2 until the 86th minute when DIVOCK ORIGI HAPPENED. They squeaked out a narrow 3-2 victory.

Three days later, they defeated Barclona at Anfield 4-0  (watch it, seriously never gets old) en route to a Champions League title.

We usually don’t give so much exposition before a preview, but that’s because there’s not much to say about this game. Liverpool are the heaviest betting favorites in the Premier League this week (-770) and that’s actually decent value / worth a play.

Liverpool defeated Newcastle 4-0 at Anfield last season. Newcastle has a slightly better squad this go around, but a much worse manager. Steve Bruce has replaced Rafa. That’s like trading in your new BMW for a used RAV4.

Expect Jurgen Klopp to use this match as a tune up for the Reds’ first Champions League showdown the following week (away vs Napoli). They follow that with a potential challenge on Sunday the 22nd at Chelsea. Newcastle is actually the perfect opponent to implement tighter / more organized backline tactics while working out any new wrinkles for their Napoli and Chelsea matches.

Prediction

Klopp will have the lads coming out on their front foot. Expect the Reds to get up early, then rest two of the big three attacking options once the lead is secure in the second half. This would be a good match to bring on Rhian Brewster and / or Xherdan Shaqiri for some squad re-acclimation minutes.

Liverpool coasting to a 3-1 or 4-1 win sounds about right.

Where to Bet Premier League in the US

In the US, you can legally bet on soccer online in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

For New Jersey, we recommend DraftKings Sportsbook NJ or FanDuel Sportsbook

Can We Stop With the “Mo Salah Is Selfish” Nonsense Already?

Chops September 9, 2019

Mohamed Salah isn’t some abnormally selfish player. The latest, lamest and laziest click-baity soccer media narrative would have you believe otherwise, but it’s nonsense.

On Premier League matchday 4, Salah missed delivering a pass to teammate Sadio Mane that would’ve likely led to an easy goal. Mane erupted. Talking heads had their hot takes. And that should’ve been that.

But the “Mo Salah is selfish!” story still has legs. Time to bury this one.

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Selfish Salah sure does like to pass

While this article is by no means a “Salah vs Mane” piece — the whole “Salah is selfish” narrative started because of Sadio’s animated displeasure against his Egyptian teammate for failing to set him up with an easy goal.

While there is some validity in that one singular incident, let’s consider the following larger data points for perspective:

  • 2019 assists to date: Salah 2, Mane 1
  • 2018-19 assists: Salah 8, Mane 1
  • 2017-18 assists: Salah 10, Mane 7
  • 2016-17 assists: Salah 11 (with Roma), Mane 5

In the last full three season, Salah has tallied 16 more assists than, um, unselfish Mane.

But wait, there’s more!

Salah also has delivered more key passes than Mane the last three seasons. A key pass is the final pass or pass-cum-shot leading to the recipient taking a shot (regardless of the outcome of said shot).

Here are Salah vs Mane’s key passes (domestic play only) going back to 2016-17.

SeasonSalahMane
2018-191.81.3
2017-181.71.7
2016-171.91.6

But yeah, Salah is more selfish.

Remember last year when Salah gave up a penalty kick to Roberto Firmino so his Brazilian teammate could record a hat-trick? It almost made Jurgen Klopp cry because it was such an unselfish gesture. Salah would’ve secured sole possession of the Golden Boot last season had he taken and converted that penalty, by the way.

Time to end this moronic narrative

The reality is, Salah gets more unjust criticism than any elite player in Europe (save for maybe Raheem Sterling). From diving to being selfish to being a flash in the pan, all Salah has done is produced at uber-elite levels for four season now.

Also and somewhat overlooked, don’t you want your top goal scorer to be just a little bit selfish? Cristiano Ronaldo is accused of a lot of bad things — a lot of very, very bad things –but seldom do you hear him being labeled as selfish. He’s practically deified for how he goals to goal. His assist totals the past three full domestic seasons (8 with Juventus, and 5 and 6 his last two seasons with Real Madrid) also pale in comparison to Salah.

But Salah is selfish.

Enough.


UPDATE: Good to hear Robbie Fowler agrees.

 

Time to Admit What We All Know: Gregg Berhalter Isn’t the Right Coach for the USMNT

Chops September 7, 2019

Let’s face it, because deep down we all know it’s true: Gregg Berhalter isn’t the right coach to resurrect the USMNT. And the US program is doomed until they figure this out.

That doesn’t mean that Gregg Berhalter isn’t a decent human being. Or that he’s even a bad coach. But he’s not the right coach.

The USMNT lost 3-0 to Mexico on Friday night. Save for the first 20 minutes, it wasn’t even remotely close. Despite the game taking place in New Jersey, it was essentially a home match for Mexico. Their fans were as dominant as their squad.

There’s no momentum for the USMNT or its program. This is US Soccer Federation’s fault. They screwed this up. They lack vision. They’re a joke.

Gregg Berhalter should’ve never been hired

Berhalter fell ass backwards into this job. His coaching record prior to taking over as manager of the USMNT was mediocre at best.

He got the job because his brother, Jay Berhalter, is one of the Federation’s highest-ranking executives (Chief Commercial and Strategy Officer at the time of Jay’s hire). There’s no other reason. Berhalter wasn’t in demand anywhere else.

There was a better choice right under US Soccer’s nose: the man who coached Mexico to their thrashing of the Americans, Tata Martino.

Hiring Tata would’ve taken vision. It would’ve taken ambition. It wouldn’t taken everything that US men’s soccer lacks.

They lack everything that defines the US women’s program.

Confidence. Ambition. Vision. Guts.

While the women’s program dominates the world and draws massive crowds everywhere they play, the men can’t even deliver more fans to a match in their own country.

That’s what gutless nepotism gets you. It gets you a coach that when the US needed a goal to save face at the end of the game, he allows his best player, Christian Pulisic, to give a penalty shot to someone else (Josh Sargent). While Sargent has a promising career ahead both with country and club, Berhalter should’ve demanded Pulisic take that penalty. But that would require some Berhalter lacks.

There’s no shame losing to Mexico. They’re an elite team. They play with passion and pride.

It is a problem when you take steps backwards with nepotistic, bland hires. This was the worse loss the US has had against Mexico in a decade. It’s not going to get better. Not unless US Soccer recognizes they need to fundamentally change.

Premier League’s Best XI at the International Break

Chops September 5, 2019

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We’re a month into the 2019-20 Premier League season. Each club has played four games. While that’s still a relatively small sample size (9.5% of the schedule), there is enough data to go on and identify who has been the Premier League’s best XI so far.

First, the general criteria:

  • Goals are rare events. So counting numbers on goals and assists matter.
  • Overall ratings (WhoScored, Squawka, etc) will be considered heavily.
  • Team success matters. As much as we want to name Teemu Pukki to the squad (we’re clearly #teamteemu), Norwich sits in the relegation zone. Sorry, Puks.

Premier League best XI so far

To ensure we get the most deserving players in, we’re going with a 4-3-2-1. Here are the picks.

Premier League Best XI So Far

Goalkeeper: Hugo Lloris

Matchday 4 helped boost a few players onto this list. Hugo Lloris is one of them.

He’s statistically the best keeper in England so far this season. Against Arsenal and Manchester City, he met the eyeball test as well. Both of those matches Lloris deserved Man of the Match honors. He is the biggest reason Spurs drew City, outplaying Ederson and recording 8 saves.

Defenders: Emerson, Matip, van Dijk, Pereira

  • Emerson: He’s been Chelsea’s statistical best player this year and is giving Andy Robertson a run for “best left-back” status in the Premier League this season. The 25 year-old Italian is smack dab in his prime and is playing with pace and confidence. He’s been solid defensively, leading the Blues in tackles and interceptions per game.
  • Joel Matip: Liverpool’s best defender this season is obviously…Joel Matip? Believe it! Matip has thrived defensively since paired with Virgil van Dijk. He’s bumped promising Joe Gomez from starting XI consideration. His rangy limbs have disrupted many threats this campaign. And he’s added a goal to boot.
  • Virgil van Dijk: VVD is another player whose strong matchday 4 bumped him into this spot. The UEFA Player of the Year and likely Ballon D’or winner hasn’t been quite as absurdly good this year, but he’s still a beast. Yeah, he was dribbled past, but he’s still winning 5 aerials a game, drawing 1.5 offsides per game, making 4.8 clearances and 1.8 interceptions. Liverpool isn’t clean sheeting every other game, but without Alisson, van Dijk has still helped ensure Liverpool remain at 100% this campaign.
  • Ricardo Pereira: This almost went to Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who has been worth the price so far. However, the Manchester United record transferee only bests Pereira in one major defensive category (tackles, 6.5 to 5 per game). Leicester sits in third place right now, and Pereira has been a major reason for their success. Like Emerson on the left side, Pereira is 25 and thriving as he hits his prime. He’s a defensive machine, enthusiastic tackler, and a strong penetrator with the ball at his feet.

Midfielders: James Maddison, Kevin de Bruyne, Mo Salah

  • Kevin de Bruyne: KdB is the no-brainer of no-brainers on this list. With Eden Hazard out-of-shape and in Spain, a healthy de Bruyne is looking like the best player in the EPL this season. He’s just absurd. He has a goal and 5 assists. He’s making 4 key passes a game (which almost feels low if you’ve watched City). He’s firing crosses, long passes, short passes (36.5 per game), all at a high percentage (82%).
  • Mo Salah: Salah gets slotted into a midfield role here to make proper room for City’s prolific strikers. Salah looks in much finer form to start this season than last year. He’ll continue to climb the Golden Boot standings all season (he’s got 3 goals and 2 assists so far). He’s the center of gravity for Liverpool. His presence draws defenders away, creating space for Fimino and Mane to be brilliant. His work rate continues to improve as well.
  • James Maddison: The Foxes’ midfielder was the toughest and final addition. Leicester deserves lots of credit around the pitch for their start. Maddison has been the engine propelling the offense though. He’s like KdB-light, always on or around the ball when good things happen. Expect all of the usual suspects to come calling for Maddison this summer with $100M+ offers.

Forwards: Raheem Sterling, Roberto Firmino, Sergio Aguero

  • Roberto Firmino: This will be the best season of Roberto Firmino’s career. Enjoy it as much as he does. While Bobby is not the *best* player on Liverpool, but he’s their most important this season. Two goals, two assists, and creative flair unmatched on the squad. Has sometimes been their best offensive and defensive player at the same time. He’s also got the Liverpool fan’s belt as “favorite player” this year (it’s gone from Mo Salah to Robbo to Bobby).
  • Raheem Sterling: Operating at a new level. He’s been clinical with 5 goals. While he could still improve his defensive contributions, he’s just lethal in the final third.
  • Sergio Aguero: Still terrifying. Six goals and an assist. 86% successful pass rate. At 31, is this actually his best season?

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2019-20 UEFA Champions League Group Stage Predictions

Chops September 2, 2019

The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League groups are set. Just like we did last season, we’ll have our panel offer predictions on each round. Back again are Tyler Everett, Grace Robertson, and Carl Cort. 

For this article, we’ll each pick who we think will advance from each group, along with what team could surprise and what major team is vulnerable. We’ll track our predictions total for the entire season. The winner will get a mini Champions League trophy with their name etched into it because why not. 

Here we go.

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Group A Predictions: Who Advances?

Group A: PSG, Real Madrid, Galatasaray, Club Brugge

Chops: Not a lot of suspense in this one, PSG and Real Madrid.

Tyler: I don’t see PSG or RM doing much once they reach the knockout rounds, but I can’t see them not getting there.

Grace: This is as straightforward as it gets: PSG and Real Madrid. For the sake of fun I’ll throw in that PSG will finish top.

Carl: Galatasaray will shake things up a bit at the Telekom but when all said and done, PSG & RM will advance.

Group B Predictions: Who Advances?

Group B: Bayern Munich, Tottenham, Olympiakos, Red Star Belgrade

Chops: Bayern for sure. I really want to pick against Tottenham, but I just can’t get there. So Tottenham. 

Tyler: I’m off to a boring start here, but I like Bayern and Spurs.

Grace: Bayern and Spurs will be delighted here. I don’t see any surprises in this group.

Carl: I have little love for Spurs but they’ll advance alongside Bayern Munich 

Group C Predictions: Who Advances?

Group C: Manchester City, Shakhtar Donetsk, Atalanta, Dinamo

Chops: FFS with City and their draws already. It’s maddening. Shakhtar *should* really make it, but I’m siding with the oddsmakers and going with Atalanta as well. 

Tyler: Man City is a no-brainer, especially considering the rest of this group. And I’ll go with Atlanta as well, if for no other reason than because I want to see what the fuss is all about.

Grace: Man City top the group, that’s all but a given. After that, Atalanta play wonderful football and it would be terrific to see them succeed. Shakhtar is always a tough place to go with the amount of travel, but last season’s manager Paulo Fonseca has departed and I think he will be tough to replace, so Atalanta to finish second.

Carl: City will finish the group top with maximum points followed by Shakhtar Donetsk. I give Donetsk the edge over Atalanta due to the impact of travelling to Metalist Stadium along with their experience of UCL football.  

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Group D Predictions: Who Advances?

Group D: Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, Lokomotiv Moscow

Chops: I’m hearing a lot of love for Bayer Leverkusen. And for good reason. I’m going with Juventus and Atleti but here’s my bold prediction: if Bayer advances, it’ll be at Juve’s expense, not Atletico’s. 

Tyler: I’ve given Atleti too much love not to go with them here. Can’t wait to see how João Félix fares against the best player from his country. While Bayer Leverkusen wouldn’t shock me, I’m going with Atleti and Juve.

Grace: Bayer Leverkusen are a good team with a strong start to the season, but this is a horrible group. Juventus are a team in transition under Maurizio Sarri but have more quality than anyone here, while Atletico Madrid will join them in the knockout stages.

Carl: It’ll be very interesting to see Sarri’s impact at Juve. The talent they have will see them through the group stages sitting below Atletico. But it wouldn’t surprise me if Leverkusen ended up taking second spot. 

Group E Predictions: Who Advances?

Group E: Liverpool, Napoli, RB Salzburg, Genk

Chops: Liverpool obv. Napoli were an Alisson save away from advancing over Liverpool last year. They’re motivated. They deserve it. But life isn’t fair. RB Salzburg advance. 

Tyler: Liverpool wins this group comfortably. I swear I’ll pick something other than the chalk in one of these groups, but not this one: Napoli will join the Reds in the knockout rounds.

Grace: It’s tough for a team like Salzburg to go from easy domestic domination to having to be inferior at Anfield or the San Paolo, so this group could be too much. Liverpool and Napoli.

Carl: The only way Liverpool or Napoli do not advance in this group is if they don’t show up.

Group F Predictions: Who Advances?

Group F: Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, Slavia Praha

Chops: Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund. I’m way up on BVB this year both domestically and in the UCL. 

Tyler: Barcelona will make it through without much of an issue. I see Inter Milan/BVB as a coin flip, and I’m going to go with Inter — let’s see how Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku look under Antonio Conte.

Grace: Antonio Conte has arrived at Inter and as good as his sides often are, he has always struggled in the Champions League. Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund get through this one.

Carl: This is a hard one to call for second spot. I believe Barca top the group. But then you have two very organised teams in Dortmund and Inter. I’m going to go with my gut on this one and side with Inter.

Group G Predictions: Who Advances? 

Group G: Zenit St Petersburg, Benfica, Lyon, RB Leipzig

Chops: Zenit St Pete was in Pot 1 and have the worst odds of advancing in inarguably the weakest group. How is that acceptable? How does Russia get an auto-bid into Pot 1? Are they playing by “City rules” if you know what I mean? Anyway, RB Leipzig is destroying the Bundesliga right now. Oddsmakers like them too. They advance along with Lyon.

Tyler: Out of deference to Pot 1/UEFA, I’ll say Zenit. And they’ll be joined by RB Leipzig.

Grace: Lyon have sold some important players but I still think they have enough talent here. I’m pretty sold on the Nagelsmann project at RB Leipzig so they will join Lyon in the next round.

Carl: I’m pretty sure RB Leipzig make it through joined by Lyon. Zenit will be tough opposition but over the course of the group stage Lyon have enough quality in attack to take them through.

Group H Predictions: Who Advances? 

Group H: Chelsea, Ajax, Valencia, Lille

Chops: Chelsea makes it four Premier League teams in the round of 16 again. Ajax joins them.

Tyler: Ajax is going to go through despite being tested in both qualifying rounds. It’s between Chelsea and Valencia (I think it’s about 50-50), but I’ll go with what I want to see and pick Christian Pulisic and Chelsea.

Grace: Ajax and Chelsea. I’m not sure Valencia are all that. It’s a kind draw to a pretty flaky Chelsea team.

Carl: Ajax and Chelsea top this group. Chelsea are playing some decent football but are looking a little fragile at the back. I think they have enough to see by Lille and a struggling Valencia team. 

Prediction: Who could be this year’s Ajax?

Chops: Can I say Ajax? If not, then RB Leipzig. I’m not saying they’ll make the semis. But they could win some fans. 

Tyler: I don’t think there’s going to be another Ajax (especially if Ajax themselves aren’t a possible answer here), but how about Atalanta.

Grace: It’s probably Leipzig, but there doesn’t feel like a lot of romance in a club existing to market energy drinks, so I’ll say Atalanta.

Carl: If I had to call one it can only be Leipzig for me. But I don’t think there will be any surprises this year.

Prediction: Other than Zenit, which Pot 1 team is most vulnerable?

Chops: Chelsea is the weakest of the remaining Pot 1 teams. However, I think Juventus is vulnerable. Aleti and Bayer Leverkusen will make them earn every point. 

Tyler: I would consider PSG a hot mess, especially in this competition, even if I was convinced they’d be healthy and have Neymar. There’s a real chance they’re playing crucial games without Neymar, Kylian Mbappe or Edinson Cavani, meaning they could break their streak of heartbreaking losses in the knockout rounds by not even making it that far.

Grace: No one can figure out what is happening at Stamford Bridge, so Chelsea aren’t hugely strong right now. Otherwise, I kind of think Barcelona astonishingly are not that secure in their group.

Carl: I have a strong feeling that Juve will be pushed to the wire. As I said above, it wouldn’t surprise me if they exited the group stages.

2019-20 Europa League Title Odds: Manchester United, Perennial Europa Leaguers Arsenal Are Co-Favorites

Chops September 1, 2019

2019-20 Europa League title odds are out.

Not surprisingly, two Premier League teams are co-favorites. Manchester United, who currently sit 8th in the EPL table, are +400 to win the Europa League. Also at +400 are perennial Europa League participants Arsenal. The Gunners are to the Europa League what the LA Clippers used to be to the NBA Draft Lottery.

The third Premier League qualifier, Wolverhampton, have the sixth best odds to win at +2000.

2019-20 Europa League Title Odds

Here are Europa League title odds. Note: not all teams are listed as of yet. We’ll continue to update the table throughout the tournament.

Club + Odds
Manchester United +400Arsenal +400Sevilla +1400Roma +1700
Lazio +2000Wolves +2000Borussia Mönchengladbach +2200Eintracht Frankfurt +3000
VfL Wolfsburg +3300PSV Eindhoven +3300Sporting Lisbon +4000CSKA Moscow +5000
Espanyol +5000Beşiktaş +8000Feyenoord +8000Getafe +8000
Rennes +8000CS Braga +8000Saint-Etienne +8000Celtic +8000
Dynamo Kyiv +8000Rangers +10000Spartak Moscow +15000Standard de Liège +15000
Trabzonspor +15000Basel +15000Alkmaar +25000Copenhagen +30000
İstanbul Başakşehir +30000Brannn +50000Cracovia Kraków +50000Malmo +50000

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Any 2019-20 Europa League best bets?

To be fair, we’re not exactly experts on the AZ Alkmaar backline or Trabzonspor’s bench depth. So let’s focus on what we know.

In FiveThirtyEight’s Global Club Rankings, Manchester United (#17), Arsenal (#19), Porto (#20) and Sevilla (#21) are the top ranked clubs. That mostly mirrors the odds, though Roma, a historically relevant club, is listed favorably over Porto. Club Elo (at right) views Arsenal even more favorably.

Just a gut call here, but Manchester United has all of the “season in chaos” indicators that would signal a knockout round exit. Perennial Europa Leaguers Arsenal made the finals last year and have a strong enough squad to make another run. Their +400 is a fair price. Wolves will likely prioritize the Europa League this campaign, and they have a talented side. The +2000 on them is worth a look.

And if you’re just over the Premier League, always give Bundesliga squads consideration in these events. So Borussia Mönchengladbach (+2300) and Eintracht Frankfurt (+3000) could make some noise. Plus, it’s always fun to scream those club names out in faux-anger.

Where to Bet the Europa League in the US

In the US, you can legally bet on soccer in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

For New Jersey, we recommend DraftKings Sportsbook NJ or FanDuel Sportsbook.

2019-20 UEFA Champions League Golden Boot Odds: Who Will Score the Most Goals?

Chops September 1, 2019

The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League Group Stage is set. Matches begin September 17th & 18th. Liverpool look to defend their trophy by making it three finals in a row. Lionel Messi looks to put one final crowning achievement on his GOAT career with Barcelona. Manchester City just don’t want to bottle in the quarters three years in a row. Manchester United are in the Europa League and will be traveling 11,000+ miles. So with that out of the way: who will win the Golden Boot as top goal scorer in this year’s UCL?

Last year, Lionel Messi led all with 12. Robert Lewandowski was second with 8, which all came in the group stage.

2019-20 UEFA Champions League Golden Boot Odds

Unfortunately, Teemu Pukki is not participating in the Champions League this season. The good news is that opens up the possibility for someone else to win.

Lionel Messi Messi +600Cristiano Ronaldo +600Robert Lewandowski +1300
Mo Salah +1300Raheem Sterling +1300Sergio Aguero +1500
Karim Benzema +1700Kylian Mbappe +1700Neymar +1700
Eden Hazard +2000Antione Griezmann +2300Harry Kane +2300
Sadio Mane +2300Gabriel Jesus +3300Luis Suarez +3300
Edinson Cavani +4000Roberto Firmino +4000Joao Felix +4500
Timo Werner +4500Gareth Bale +5000Diego Costa +5000
Yussuf Poulsen +6000Son Heung-Min +6000Dusan Tadic +6000
Memphis Depay +7000Paulo Dybala +7000Lucas Moura +7000
Philippe Coutinho +8000Romelu Lukaku +8000Paco Alcaser +10000

UEFA Champions League Golden Boot winners by year this century

Soooo…Messi and Ronaldo are good at soccer, huh?

Golden Boot Best Bets

If you’re looking to make a Golden Boot prop bet, this isn’t too complicated: 1) pick Lionel Messi, 2) and then pick the top offensive option from a team you think will at least make the semifinals.

The bulk of the goals scored by the Golden Boot winner will come in the Group Stage. This makes sense as 1) unless the team makes the final, half of the games they’ll play are in the Group Stage, and 2) most group stage games are against the weakest competition of the tournament.

Let’s say you’re big on PSG’s chances this year and you think Kylian Mbappe is going to crush souls. It stands to reason that Mbappe will light up Club Brugge but might be more contained against Manchester City.

So the best advice (along with picking Messi): Find an elite goal scorer in a weak group. The only reason to go against Messi this season is his group draw is tough. There’s only one cupcake opponent (Slavia Prague), and maybe he gets rested for one leg against them.

With that in mind, give Manchester City a look. They (once again, somehow, wonder how?) ended up with the easiest group by far. Raheem Sterling is emerging as their top goal scoring option by a hair over Sergio Aguero. He’s less likely to miss time from injury too. Sterling is a solid choice to break-up the Messi-Ronaldo duopoly.

If you are concerned that City will bottle in the quarters again, the other player worth looking at is Robert Lewandowski at +1300. He historically destroys in the group stage and that +1300 is a good return if Bayern go deep (note: I’m not high on Bayern this year, but the Polish international is good for 6-8 group stage goals).

Liverpool distribute their goals fairly evenly now between Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, and Roberto Firmino. While Salah looks in good form this season, Mane is finishing. Neither are bad choices. However, they may cannibalize each other a bit.

But again, it’s simple: go with Messi, and find the back-up choice you believe is on a squad ready to make a run.

High Press Pod: UEFA Champions League Group Stage Draw Live Reaction, Plus Liverpool’s Bracket

Chops August 29, 2019

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The latest High Press Soccer Podcast is a fun one. Tyler Everett joins Chops for live reactions as the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League Group Draw unfolded. Who has it tough? Who has it easy? And what the hell was going on with Eric Cantona?

Listen below via Spreaker or subscribe and download at iTunes.

Topics covered include:

  • Tyler’s totally fair and balanced fandom of Ajax and their qualification (1:00)
  • Chops trying to explain to Tyler how the pots and the draw works (3:00)
  • Chops over-analyzing Alisson’s walking and gait as he received his UEFA Goalkeeper award (9:30)
  • The draw begins! What do we think? (10:00)
  • Going off on Manchester City getting another easy draw (27:00)
  • How bad Group G is (37:15)
  • Our picks for how advances (47:30)
  • Then Gluten Free Charles joins to talk Liverpool’s draw (50:20)

 

Listen to “High Press Pod Episode 22: UEFA Champions League Group Stage Draw Live Reaction + Liverpool’s Bracket” on Spreaker.

2019-20 UEFA Champions League Group Stage Pairings: Toughest and Easiest Paths

Chops August 29, 2019

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The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League Group Stage draw is all set. Club reps and players arrived in Monaco today for the draw and player awards.

Will Liverpool make it three finals in a row? Can Manchester City avoid bottling in the quarters again (we all know they’ll miraculously get the easiest draw through though)? Do Real Madrid and Bayern Munich re-establish their European dominance?

It all starts today.

Here are the pairings. Check back soon for our thoughts on the toughest and easiest groups. Expect a podcast on it all later today as well.

2019-20 UEFA Champions League Group Stage Draw

GroupPot 1Pot 2Pot 3Pot 4
Group APSGReal MadridClub BruggeGalatasaray
Group BBayern MunichTottenham Olympiacos Red Star Belgrade
Group CManchester CityShakhtar DonetskDinamoAtalanta
Group DJuventusAtletico MadridBayer LeverkusenLokomotiv Moscow
Group ELiverpoolNapoliRed Bull Salzburg Genk
Group FBarcelonaBorussia Dortmund Inter MilanSlavia Prague
Group GZenitBenficaLyonRB Leipzig
Group HChelseaAjaxValenciaLille

Toughest Group

With Barcelona, BVB, and Inter Milan in Group F, that’s an easy choice.

Easiest Group

I mean, FFS with City already. How do they always manage to get a cake walk? Oh, wait…

The “These games are only available on B/R Live for $2.99 group”

That’d be Group G.

The “If a group falls in the woods and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?”

That’s also Group G.

The “Wait this is an evenly matched secretly fun group”

That is Group H.

Burnley vs Liverpool Preview: Wait, Could the Clarets Give the Reds a Real Challenge?

Chops August 28, 2019

Who: Burnley vs Liverpool
When: Saturday, August 31st @ 12:30pm ET on NBC Sports
Where: Turf Moor
Line: Burnley +1000 | Draw +425 | Liverpool -335

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Liverpool, who sit alone atop the Premier League table, play 6th place Manchester City Tottenham Chelsea Arsenal Manchester United Burnley on Saturday.

Yes, Burnley at +1000 are heavy home underdogs. But with the game at Turf Moor, expect a physical match from Sam Dyche’s overachieving squad. They will make Liverpool earn every bit of those three points.

Burnley vs Liverpool Preview

Liverpool sit atop the table — the only club at 100% — with a record of 3-0-0. They’re second in point differential (-6 to City’s -7). However, xG has Liverpool massively over-performing this season (again 🙄). Their 6.54 xG is 2.46 better than their actual goals (9). They’ve been lucky on the other end too. Their xGA of 3.97 is almost a full goal more than they’ve given up.

So…can we all just admit that xG is an annoying stat that undervalues squads with elite finishers and goalkeeps? xG hates Liverpool as much as City’s ownership hates not suppressing human rights in their home country.

Regardless, a look at the data would suggest Liverpool is due for regression at some point (the same could’ve been said literally all of last season as well). Burnley is +2 gd, which is respectable for a squad tabbed as a potential relegation candidate four weeks ago.

Burnley pasted Southampton 3-0 at home on their opening day. They had a respectable 2-1 away loss to Arsenal, followed by an even more respectable 1-1 draw away at Wolverhampton. The squad is led by the surprising play of Ashley Barnes. The 29 year-old has been Pukki-esque this season, scoring four times. While Barnes did net 12 times last season, his overall quality of play so far is a complete outlier from his six previous campaign at Burnley.

That, my friends, is a leap.

While it’s easy to scream “small sample size!” that doesn’t tell the full story. It’s not necessarily that Barnes is finishing better than ever. He’s taking significantly more shots per game (4.3!) than his career average (1.8!!!). He’s been a beast on aerials as well, only losing one out 13 this campaign to date. Barnes has stepped up his quality. It might not be sustainable, but this will be his best overall year.

On the opposite side of the pitch, Nick Pope has been the statistically best goalkeeper so far this EPL season. Unlike Barnes, the 27 year-old isn’t having so much of an outlier season as he is an “in-his-prime-and-keeps-improving-kinda-year.”

So, Burnley are finding ways to get Barnes the ball in opportunistic spots and Pope has been cleaning up any messes.

How does Liverpool overcome this? Well…

Joel Matip has been Liverpool’s steadiest defender this season. Barnes has difficulty retaining possession, and Matip and Virgil van Dijk (along with Fabinho) are uniquely skilled at dispossessing. Also, Barnes won’t be able to bully his way into winning aerials against those two.

While the narrative of “shut down Barnes, win the game” is lazy and easy, it’s also at least partly true. However, Burnley’s Johann Gudmundsson and Dwight McNeil are also enjoying career-ish seasons. Along with Erik Pieters (who is doing his best Andy Robertson impression), they’re creating opportunities. Having said that, they’ve benefited from sloppy defending and unsustainable finishing on some of those chances.

Burnley’s goals this year haven’t come from the type of build up that you often see with Liverpool and Manchester City. To be fair, that shouldn’t be expected either. They don’t have the depth / quality. But they are creating opportunities. This isn’t a toothless attack.

Expect a busy day in Liverpool’s midfield. Hopefully it’s a “Good Gini” vs “Bad Gini” performance if Wijnaldum starts. Fabinho will be the key though. Liverpool will try to out-possess Burnley by a considerable margin (in part to take what will surely be a jacked up crowd out of it). If so, Fabinho will be the cog. Expect him to have the most touches and completed passes on the day. If Liverpool win, it may be due to Fabinho having a Man of the Match performance.

Burnley are poor at set piece defending, which is great news for Liverpool. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s service has been on point so far. His delivery could be the deciding factor in this one.

Prediction

Listen, I don’t feel good about this match. Actually quite concerned. If I was a totally impartial observer I’d likely say a 1-1 draw was in the works.

However, I’m far from impartial. I’ve seen every minute of every Liverpool game the past couple of years. Liverpool have won 12 Premier League games in a row though. And the Champions League. And the Super Cup. They just keep winning. Even when they’re having an off day. It’s in the fabric of their DNA now. So until they stop winning, I’m going to keep picking them to win.

Burnley will give them a scare. Expect a poorly defended through ball to Barnes or Gudmundsson to lead to a goal. Klopp though has another full week to implement tactical changes he needs, and the lads will be rested (unlike Burnley, who have a Wednesday FA Cup game against Sunderland). This feels like a match where Robbo gets his first assist of the year off some brilliant build-up. And then Liverpool find a way to win via converting a set piece or penalty from an overly aggressive take down of Salah / Mane in the box.

Liverpool 2-1.

 

Transfer Grade: Philippe Coutinho Loaned to Bayern Munich for €8.5M ($9.2M USD)

Chops August 22, 2019

Who: Philippe Coutinho
From Where: Barcelona
To Where: Bayern Munich
For How Much: €8.5m loan fee with €120m option to buy next summer 
Grade for Bayern: B+
Grade for Barcelona: D-

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Philippe Coutinho to Bayern Munich Overview

Last weekend, we wrote why Philippe Coutinho’s move to Barcelona was among the worst player-driven transfers ever.

Regardless, to be fair in actually grading the transfer, we needed a few days of perspective. Is Coutinho salvageable? Did Barcelona have any better options? Does this ultimately help or hurt their chances of landing Neymar?

Any way you slice it, that €142m Camp Nou shelled out for the little Brazilian is going to leave a mark.

Who is he?

Won’t spend too much time on this: when he was at Liverpool, Philippe Coutinho was one of the best attacking midfielders in the world. The 27 year-old Brazilian was sold to Barcelona in January 2018.

While there, he lost his form and place as a regular starter, and Liverpool went on to become one of the statistically best teams of all time.

Is the price fair?

For Bayern, if Coutinho can re-find his form, the €8.5m loan fee will be as big of a bargain as the €142m Barcelona paid was basically lighting money on fire.

What impact should we expect?

And in here lies the rub. Who knows.

The eye test showed that Coutinho for Barcelona, at least last year, wasn’t the same person he was in 2017-18. However, his counting stats and rating wasn’t that far off his career averages. Better put, he was an ok player. Unfortunately, an “ok player” isn’t the €142m world-beater Barcelona thought they bought. The fans turned on him and his confidence waned.

At the international level for his country though, Coutinho still performs at vintage levels. In six summer matches for Brazil, Coutinho tallied two goals and an assist and two Man of the Match honors.

So that creative, dynamic player is still in there.

The need for that player also exists at Bayern.

Bayern gave Coutinho the #10. That’s a good indication of where they expect him to play. James Rodriguez mostly filled that spot last season. If Coutinho is playing the #10 just off Robert Lewandowski, that’s at least a comparable to the one he played at Liverpool in 2017-18 when he enjoyed his best (half) year.

Coutinho was mostly used as a 10 with Roberto Firmino or Daniel Sturridge up top and Sadio Mane and Mo Salah flanking him. He averaged 1 g+a (7 goals, 6 assists) in his 13 domestic appearance before being transferred. He was even better in the Champions League, tallying 5 goals and 2 assists in four appearances.

While Niko Kovac could use Coutinho on the wing as well, Ivan Perisic,
Serge Gnabry, and Kingsley Coman are more likely regular options. Still, placing Coutinho on the left side and let him curl balls into Lewandowski to finish isn’t the worst idea either. Expect Kovac to tinker until he finds the best way to unlock the best version of Coutinho.

The Grades

Bayern Munich (B+): Was this a panic move after a lackluster draw to Hertha to start the season? Yeah, probably. But that doesn’t make it a bad move either.

Again, this is a low-risk, high-reward gamble. You take those kinds of gambles any time you can. Coutinho, at least internationally, still has shown flashes of his elite Liverpool days.

Not a fan of the option to buy price, especially as he’ll be 28 and only with 1-2 years of pure prime football left. But that’s a bridge Bayern will happily cross if this works out well.

Barcelona (D-): What a disaster.

Remove from the equation how little value they got out of their €142m or the lack of patience in at least trying to see if a Coutinho-Griezmann-Messi line could gel. If Barcelona are as desperate to bring Neymar back as it seems, and PSG were amenable to having Coutinho as part of the package, then w-t-f Barcelona?

Coutinho left Liverpool and watched his new team meltdown in epic fashion at his old home turf in the Champions League. How fitting for him if Bayern and Barcelona face off in this year’s UCL, only for him to have a starring role in a German victory? These narratives often have a funny way of playing out. Don’t be surprised if that happens.

Liverpool vs Arsenal Match Preview

Chops August 20, 2019

Who: Liverpool vs Arsenal
When: Saturday, August 24th @ 12:30 pm ET
LineLiverpool -200 | Draw +370 | Arsenal +480

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Here we are. Matchday 3. Only 2 teams haven’t dropped points: Liverpool and Arsenal. They play each other on Saturday. How perfect.

The two clubs have gotten to the same place in unexpected ways.

Liverpool, who led the Premier League last season in clean sheets and fewest goals conceded, lost their superstar ‘keeper Alisson in less than a half. Their stalwart defense has been leaky af. Their offense has picked up the slack, netting 6 times and leading them to a +4 goal differential.

Arsenal, whose defense in recent seasons has more leaks than the Trump White House, has only conceded once. Their “high-powered” offense has scored half as much as Liverpool. Their goal differential is half as good too.

Two Big 6 clubs with bigger ambitions. Sole possession atop the Premier League table is at stake. How will the game go?

Well, see, it’s at Anfield, soooo…

Liverpool vs Arsenal Preview

First, let’s start with the obvious: this year’s Arsenal is better than last season’s version. They’ve had another 365 to learn Unai Emery‘s system. They’ve upgraded their talent, notably on offense with Nicolas Pepe and Dani Ceballos, and on defense with the additions of Kieran Tierney and David Luiz.

Nobody is going to confuse Luiz with Virgil van Dijk (both in play and appearance). However, he’s a seasoned (i.e. old) pro who, if nothing else, means less minutes for Shkodran Mustafi (likely off to Roma) and Sokratis.

On the backline, Ainsley Maitland-Niles has been Arsenal’s best overall player so far this season. Luiz and Sokratis have been serviceable in the middle.

On offense, newcomer Ceballos has been as advertised. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is doing PEA things, scoring two of Arsenal’s three goals. Alexandre Lacazette was dangerous in his one appearance. Pepe is still being eased in (Ligue Ugh is no EPL).

However, they’ve played two relegation candidates in Burnley and Newcastle. Liverpool, at Anfield, is no Burnley or Newcastle.

Liverpool has been shaky defensively all preseason and through their two Cups and EPL games. It’s no longer a trend. It’s who they are for the moment.

However, the Reds have had a brutal stretch of games in August. Yeah, the Community Shield and UEFA Super Cup aren’t real trophies like the Champions League. But Manchester City and Chelsea certainly played like they mattered. And so did Liverpool.

A lot of minutes are on those legs the past two weeks. With the Cups, Jurgen Klopp has had little time to work out the kinks defensively and in the midfield. Liverpool will finally have a full week at Melwood to both rest their legs and tighten up their backline.

While both teams will look to be on their front foot, they’ll go about it differently.

As has been written ad nauseum, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson are the fulcrum (fulcri?) of Liverpool’s attack. They boom up the flanks and fire cross after cross, or dump to an attacker and overlap. Arsenal have attempted less than half the crosses as Liverpool so far this season (14 to 28) which makes sense given how well TAA and Robbo service. They are less direct as well, playing 52 long passes to Liverpool’s 64. Arsenal will look to build up with short passes.

Expect Liverpool’s midfield, which has been suspect the first two games, to be busy in support. Klopp will likely opt for Fabinho (most tackles on squad) and Gini Wijnaldum to support TAA and Robbo defensively. VVD will likely be paired with Joel Matip this game. Matip leads the team in clearances and is second behind VVD in tackles per game as well. They’re going to want to keep PEA and Lacazette from marauding in the middle and getting shots from within the 18. They’re deadly.

Look for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (who was stronger than given credit for vs Southampton) or Jordan Henderson (likely Hendo) to help drive the squad offensively from the midfield.

Ultimately though (HOT TAKE ALERT), Liverpool is powered by their attacking trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah. While Salah looked tired against Southampton, Mane and Firmino are in mid-season form. Expect all three to utterly gash Arsenal.

The Gunners will likely focus on Salah, who is being denied touches again this season but has a Messi-like pull on the field, opening opportunities for Mane and Bobby. That’ll be especially true this game. Mane should end up with a goal or two, as Arsenal concedes more opportunities from his side of the pitch. A TAA cross headed in by Mane seems like a given.

Verdict

This will be wild and loud. Liverpool have been gifted some unexpected dropped points from City, and Anfield will seize upon that and be in full force.

Klopp learns from his mistakes better than manager in the EPL. Don’t expect him to be conservative again against Big 6 clubs and drop points this season. He knows he can’t. Expect Liverpool to press like mad, force mistakes, and pounce. Also expect Liverpool’s backline to miscue once or twice and create a couple of chances for Arsenal.

It’ll be a wild but comfortable 4-2 type win for the Reds.

Finally, if you’re looking at any player props, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at +650 or Sadio Mane at +430 as first goal scorer are both strong options at DraftKings Sportsbook NJ.

Has a Transfer Ever Worked Out Worse for Anyone in the History of Transfers than Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona?

Chops August 17, 2019

So. Yeah. That saying about the grass being greener…

Philippe Coutinho has been loaned from Barcelona to Bayern Munich. His much maligned Camp Nou watch has come to an end.

For now.

Forever?

🤷‍♀️

Let’s look back at what may go down as one of the all-time most regrettable transfers that a player has wanted ever.

Philippe Coutinho at Liverpool

January 30th, 2013.

Philippe Coutinho joins Liverpool from Inter Milan for an absurdly low (in hindsight) £8.5 million transfer fee. He gradually begins to feature at Anfield. He quickly becomes a regular starter. By 2016-17, he’s among the EPL’s best midfielders, tallying 13 goals and 7 assists for the season.

Naturally, Barcelona comes calling. The siren’s song. The Catalans. Who could resist?

Liverpool convince Coutinho to stick around. Jurgen Klopp tells him if he stays at Anfield they’ll build a statue in his honor. Coutinho though wasn’t having it.

Still, he remains a pro’s pro. In 2017-18, Liverpool have one of the most exciting attacks in the Premier League and Coutinho is the engine.

Salah. Mane. Firmino. Coutinho. Unstoppable.

He tops his all-time WhoScored rating, pushing past 8.00 domestically and even better in the UCL.

Barcelona want him even more. The feeling is mutual. He’s sold.
£142million. Dream fulfilled.

So what happened was…

Except then Liverpool spend that Coutinho money on Virgil van Dijk. And they start tearing up the Champions League. Barcelona (without Coutinho) bow out in humiliating fashion to Roma.

Liverpool, having spent that Coutinho money on VVD, destroy Roma in the UCL semis and make the Champions League finals.

Still, it felt like both parties, Coutinho and Liverpool, were better off.

And then Liverpool spent that Coutinho money on fellow Brazilian Alisson. Not to mention fellow Brazilian Fabinho. And something magical happened. Faithful Kopites embraced this squad as no fan-base has celebrated their team before. Every week Anfield transformed into Whoville, with Scousers singing their “Fah who foraze!” (#YNWA) and turning soccer grinches into true believers.

Liverpool finished the 2018-19 Premier League season with the third highest domestic point total ever.

In Spain, Coutinho’s Barcelona won La Liga. However, Philippe was frequently booed by Camp Nou faithful. He was scorned. He wasn’t starting. Confidence lost. Form fallen. The wheels were falling off for Philippe.

And then the Champions League semis happened.

Barcelona enjoyed a xG anomaly by beating Liverpool 3-0 at Camp Nou in Leg 1.

With Manchester City bottling again in the UCL quarters, whoever won the Liverpool-Barca battle was going to be the presumptive champion of Europe.

Barcelona traveled to Liverpool for their presumed victory lap.

You know what happened next.

Coutinho watched his current club lose in the most memorable and celebratory (for Liverpool) and painful (for Barcelona) fashion imaginable. He watched from his old home turf. He watched as the fans who once showered him with love had moved on. They were better off without him. Coutinho returned to his new home to a showering of even louder boos.

That’s going to leave a mark…

We wrote at the time:

Just as an aside–has anyone had a worse transfer ever in the history of soccer than Coutinho? Like, that has to damage his psyche forever, right? You whine your way out of a great situation at Anfield, go to Barcelona and get booed off the pitch every game. You watch your former club get much better after you leave, then go on to lose a Champions League game in the most epic of spectacular meltdowns in front of the home crowd you spurned. And your former team goes on to win the biggest soccer competition in the world after embarrassing you on your old home field. It’s like he dumped a girl, but that girl became a super model overnight and dated the world’s biggest celebrity who is also hung like an elephant and then you were forced to watch them have sex right in front of you while her family stood behind you and laughed at you the whole time.

Except, it did kinda get worse.

Coutinho was exiled to Bayern Munich. Another team his old squad, Liverpool, exiled from the 2018-19 UCL.

Coutinho reportedly was open to returning to Anfield. It didn’t happen. Even though the Reds could use an attacking midfielder. Even though most Kopites would’ve begrudgingly welcomed the return.

The hits just keep on coming.

Maybe Coutinho finds his old spark and glory at Bayern. That would actually be a salvageable ending to this story. Sometime things don’t work out, and he didn’t do anything to deserve this downfall.

But sometimes, actually always, you should listen to Klopp. The grass in Spain is beautiful, but it’s not always as green.

Liverpool Starting XI and Player Ratings vs Chelsea – UEFA Super Cup

Chops August 14, 2019
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Will Liverpool claim (yet) another European trophy today? The Reds are in Istanbul, Turkey to take on Chelsea for the UEFA Super Cup. Here’s their starting XI and player ratings (which we’ll continue to update as the match goes on).

Liverpool Starting XI

Continuing a disturbing trend, Liverpool’s defense looks like 💩💩💩. Chelsea shredded them early. Christian Pulisic particularly looked good, assisting the opener and having one of his own called back.

Liverpool went to the half clearly the lesser team, trailing 1-0.

Subbing Roberto Firmino in at the half made an instant impact, as Liverpool quickly leveled 1-1. 

Mane put one through in extra time to give Liverpool the lead. Then a genuinely awful penalty called on Adrian leveled it 2-2 in extra time. 

Another ultimately meaningless Cup, another shootout. This time Liverpool wins it, 5-4 on pks!

Be sure to read our Chelsea UEFA Super Cup player ratings as well.

Liverpool Player Ratings

Manager

Jurgen Klopp (7) – Typing this before he makes half-time adjustments that take us to an eventual 4-1 win…but…if you’re not prioritizing other trophies, then why bother starting any of your key regulars???

The half-time addition of Roberto Firmino makes an instant difference, as Liverpool quickly leveled the game. Kept the squad’s collective head up after the Adrian penalty.

Gets bumped up a point for his joyful celebration.

Goalkeeper

Adrian (7.5) – It’s baptism by fire for Adrian. Challenged early but stood well. Came off line to stifle an attempt in the 32nd.

Proved capable throughout including extra time. HOWEVER, huge mistake in the 99th that lead to Chelsea tying pk. It was a weak penalty but a needless challenge. Actually, after watching the replays, that was a total dive and bullshit call against Adrian. Beyond lame.

Made a great deflection in the 113th to save a goal. Then saved a Mason Mount shot a few minutes later.

Saved the final pk to give Liverpool the win.

Defenders

Joe Gomez (7.5) – Gets the nod in place of Trent Alexander-Arnold. Was like TAA-light, doing well getting forward. Does well on recovery, helping shut down an attempt in the 33rd. Picked up defensive intensity in second half. Also well positioned to block a Pulisic shot in the 65th. Like what I’m seeing from the kid defensively. Active.

Virgil van Dijk (7) – Backline is shaky af early and constantly getting shredded. That’s in part on Big Virg getting them organized. Almost headed up the opener in the 29th with his big noggin.

Steadied in the second half, containing the constant threat of Pedro better.

Missed one off the woodwork in the 75th for a would-be winner. Got in the way of a would-be winner for Chelsea 6 minutes later.

Joel Matip (6.5) – Closed out Pedro to potentially help thwart a goal in the 22nd. Plastic Man-esque in interceptions / shut downs. Still, somewhat uneven. Mistakes followed by great moments, like his 105th minute Barkley stop.

Andy Robertson (6.5) – Would’ve liked Robbo to get some rest, but I’d also like us to win another trophy. Brilliant defending in the 21st to shutdown Pedro in the box. Seemed to run out of gas in the second half. Subbed out for TAA.

Midfielders

Jordan Henderson (5.5) – Set up the Mane bicycle kick in the 5th minute that should’ve been called a hand-ball on Chelsea. Unlucky to have a shot deflected in the second half but fumbled a great opportunity created by Salah.

Rightfully called for a yellow on a needless challenge in the 85th. Clearly fatigued by the end.

Fabinho (6) – Always feel good when he shows up on the starting sheet. Steady as always. A dispossession / tackling machine. However, Chelsea is shredding Liverpool on counters and Fabinho isn’t in his typical “right place right time” positioning.

Wonderful touch and lob pass / hockey assist on the leveling goal. Feeling it, blasted a shot wide a few minutes later off another Bobby pass.

Despite being fatigued at the end of extra time, nailed his pk.

James Milner (5) – Service on corners is spot on. Hurting the squad defensively. Better in second half but subbed off for Gini in the 64th.

Forwards

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (5) – Welcome back to the starting XI, Ox! Looks good early, almost setting up Salah for a goal in the 16th. Otherwise pretty quiet. Subbed off at the half for Bobby.

Sadio Mane (9) – Sweet bicycle attempt in the 5th that should’ve been called a hand-ball on Chelsea. Should’ve headed home a Milner corner in the 30th. Leveled the game with a frantic finish off a brilliant Firmino flick.

Mane put Liverpool ahead with a brace in the 95th minute off another gorgeous set up from Firmino. Subbed out in extra time for DIVOCK ORIGI.

Mohamed Salah (8) – Another one I’d like to see rest, but he also is like the Energizer bunny. He never seems tired. Was active early, a constant threat. A good opportunity just missed in the 16th. Dropped deeper in the first half to help support Liverpool’s struggling midfield and defense.

Beautiful pass to Hendo in the 54th that the captain fumbled. Just missed another key pass to Bobby a minute later. Passing particularly on point in the second half. Constantly found open space to drop dimes. Made his pk.

Substitutions

Roberto Firmino (10) – Came on after the half for Ox. Immediate impact with a beautiful flick to Mane for the leveler. His megger pass to Mane in extra time gave Liverpool the lead. Nailed his pk obv.

Georginio Wijnaldum (5) – Came in for Milner to provide some defensive support in the 64th. Mostly silent again save for some scrappy moments. Won a free kick🤷‍♀️

Trent Alexander-Arnold (5) – On to give Robbo a breather. Bad foul earned him a yellow. Made his pk.

Divock Origi (N/R) – Came on for Mane in extra time. Oddly, didn’t score. So unlike him. Barely made his pk.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Hard not to give it to Mane, but the entire game changed when Firmino came on. He assisted on the two Mane goals. Was brilliant. 

Premier League Betting Market Risers and Fallers After Matchday 1

Chops August 14, 2019
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While Manchester City and Liverpool cruised to expected and decisive wins on the Premier League‘s opening weekend, a few teams surprised. Which Premier League teams were betting market risers and fallers after matchday 1?

Risers

Manchester United’s throttling of Chelsea saw new money placed on the Red Devil’s title and top 4 odds.

United has seen their title odds go from +3300 to +2800 on DraftKings Sportsbook NJ. They’ve moved from top 4 even money (+100) to odds-on (-118). The improvement is more steep at FanDuel Sportsbook, where Man U jumped from +3800 to +2600 to hoist the EPL trophy (can you imagine reading that sentence just 7 years ago?)

On the other end up the spectrum, FOURTH PLACE BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION saw their relegation futures go from +180 to +300. They’re now the 7th most likely club–according to oddsmakers–to be relegated.

As for City and Liverpool? Slight bump for City (-200 to -230 on DK, -230 to -270 on FD) and downgrade for Liverpool (+275 from +250 on DK, no change on FD).

Fallers

So, Chelsea.

The Blues doubled their longness on the title, going from +3300 to +6600 (which seems awfully generous). Their top 4 chances moved from +110 to +225. Top 6 is still odds-on, but from -455 to only -250.

Not that West Ham was a serious title contender, but they un-improved from +50000 to +75000. Their top 6 odds took a hit from +1100 to +1600.

On the relegation side, it wasn’t Newcastle…poor, sweet, suffering Newcastle…but Crystal Palace that suffered the most after opening matchday. The Eagles went from +500 to +275 for a bottom 3 finish.

2019-20 Premier League Preview: Manchester City and Liverpool

Chops August 9, 2019

It’s all you really want to know. Who will win the Premier League this season? Liverpool or Manchester City?

There are plenty of reasons to like both.

Liverpool has shown a resilience to dig deep and capture trophies they fell just short of the year prior.

City violates FFP regulations, buys whoever they want, and win with a total lack of class. 

First, to recap:

Also be sure to check out our 2019-20 Premier League Predictions.

Manchester City 2019-20 Premier League Preview

Last Season: 1st in Premier League, the “Fourmidables”
Last Time Champions: 2018-19
Stadium: The Etihad
Nickname: City, Citizens, “Fourmidables” 
Manager: Pep Guardiola
Key Additions: Rodri, João Cancelo, Angelino, Zack Steffan (loaned)
Best Player: Legitimately hard to pick. If healthy Kevin de Bruyne. Otherwise, Raheem Sterling. Or Bernardo Silva. Or maybe Rodri now🤷‍♀️

Mohamed Salah dusts Ederson in the first of consecutive Champions League quarterfinal bottlings by Man City.

Manchester City won the domestic treble last season. They recorded the second highest point total in Premier League history with 98. And their squad only got stronger this summer. 

Moving on…

A bit of Manchester City history:

  • They really didn’t have one before 2008.

Why you should like Manchester City:

  •  

Manchester City betting odds: (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook NJ)

  • To win Premier League: -200
  • To finish top 4: -5000
  • To finish top 6: Off the board
  • Relegation: Off the board
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Manchester City Outlook:

City is either winning the Premier League again or finishing a very close second to Liverpool. Not a lot of intrigue here.

An argument could be made that the trophy they most covet is the one they don’t have: the Champions League. If they actually make it past the UCL quarterfinals this season, perhaps they shift their focus entirely to being European champs and take their foot off the gas domestically.

I don’t buy that argument. 

As the Community Shield showed, these two teams measure themselves against each other. Jurgen Klopp clearly owns real estate in that shiny little dome of Pep’s head. Neither of these teams are letting up. This will be a battle to the finish. 

Last season, City led the Premier League in possession (64%, Chelsea was second at 59.9%), shots per game (18), pass accuracy (89%), goals scored (95), xG, xGA and goal differential (72). They return almost entirely the same squad, but reloaded with some difference-making acquisitions too (Rodri in particular).

They’re well-positioned to threepeat. It’s a matter of hunger and prioritization, nothing more. 

Liverpool 2019-20 Premier League Preview

Last Season: 2nd in Premier League, European champions
Last Time Champions: 1989-90
Stadium: Anfield
Nickname: The Reds
Manager: Jurgen Klopp
Key Additions: 😒
Best Player: This is a team that plays beautiful soccer together and every piece is interconnected to make the sum greater than the parts. Having said that, Mo Salah.

Virgil van Dijk was the PFA Player of the Year last season and helped Liverpool keep 21 clean domestic sheets.

Liverpool finished the 2018-19 season with 97 points. That would’ve won the Premier League / first division every other year in its history except for two. Unfortunately, last season was one of those two.

Liverpool made zero summer additions. Literally not one. There’s an argument to be made for continuity. If you follow Liverpool’s social channels, this is a team that gets on well together. That certainly means something.

So does having depth to compete for seven trophies, which they’ll be doing this year.

A bit of Liverpool history:

  • They were founded in 1892.
  • Their 18 first division trophies are second best of all-time (behind Manchester United’s 20).
  • Their 6 Champions League trophies are the best among English teams. 
  • Other trophies include: 7 FA Cups, 8 League Cups, 3 UEFA Cups, and 3 UEFA Super Cups

Why you should like Liverpool:

Liverpool betting odds: (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook NJ)

  • To win Premier League: +275
  • To finish top 4: -1250
  • To finish top 6: -10000
  • Relegation: +500000
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Liverpool Outlook:

At this point, doubting Jurgen Klopp / FSG is like doubting Bill Belichick / Patriots. They’ve earned the benefit of the doubt. 

So…the fact that they didn’t buy anybody who will be on the first team this year shouldn’t raise any alarms or be cause for concern.

However…Klopp has also shown, time and again, that he’s capable of making mistakes and quickly learning from them and adjusting. He’s done it in-game many, many times. Don’t be surprised to see some January transfer activity.

Liverpool need one more attacking option. Yes, Rhian Brewster and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain look like they’re back and potential contributors. Maybe it’s one of them. Maybe it’s Naby Keita. Or maybe Nicolas Pepe would’ve made some more sense. Klopp will find someone if needed.

After Nathaniel Clyne went down with an ACL, a capable plug-and-play wingback should’ve been a priority. Kieran Tierney would’ve been perfect. Klopp will find someone else if needed. 

Then, there’s this:

They’re still a 3-to-1 shot of winning the EPL. As sporty cliche as it is, they now know how to win. This is a team that wants it.

If Liverpool stays healthy, they’ll give City all they can handle. Then it comes down to a little luck. Maybe this time, the 11 millimeters goes their way.

2019-20 Premier League Predictions: Who Wins Golden Boot? First Manager Sacked? And How Will Christian Pulisic Do?

Chops August 9, 2019
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Earlier this week, we made our 2019-20 Premier League title, top 4, and relegation predictions.

Now we’re going to take a look at some individual player and manager performance and prop bets for the season. Back again are site contributors Tyler Everett, ex-Newcastle forward Carl Cort, and Statsbomb writer and High Press Soccer contributor Grace Robertson

Who will win the Golden Boot for top Premier League goal scorer this year?

Odds from FanDuel Sportsbook: Harry Kane +350, Mohamed Salah +500,
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang +650, Sergio Aguero +650, Raheem Sterling +1600, Sadio Mane +1600, Jamie Vardy +1800, Alexandre Lacazette +2600, Gabriel Jesus +2900, Marcus Rashford +2900, Moise Kean +3400, Sebastien Haller +3400, Roberto Firmino +3400, Nicolas Pepe +4500

ChopsWell, if you look at the odds, it’s Harry Kane (+350), Mo Salah (+500), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (+650), Sergio Aguero (+650) and everyone else. 

Of those, while I think Harry Kane will be lights-out this year, how can you go against Mo Salah? He’s won it the past two seasons. He’s going to finish more chances this year than he did last year (although he couldn’t finish a sentence in the Community Shield). It’s hard not to like Mo.

It’s worth noting though if you’re looking for value, Raheem Sterling at +1600 is interesting and Nicolas Pepe at +4500 is crazy.
TylerWill Kane enjoy good enough health to be a more prolific scorer than he was a year ago? You would have to imagine so. Still, I think he’ll be closer to last year’s tally (17) than the numbers he posted in ‘16-17 (29) and ‘17-18 (30). With Son Heung-min and this team’s growing number of dangerous midfielders, there will be enough balance to prevent Kane from leading the EPL in goals. 

I’d probably lean toward Salah even if his and Kane’s odds were the same, so the fact that the payout is bigger if the Egyptian wins this race makes this an easy choice. Let’s say the Salah we should expect over the coming years is the average of last year (22) and his monster ‘17-18 (32) — that would be 27, which ought to be plenty.
GraceI tend to favour Salah on this front. After a perceived down year last time, I think he’ll find space a little easier to come by with opposing defenders not marking him quite so tightly. Aubameyang could easily score a lot of goals again. If you’re looking for an outside bet, I’ll take a swing and suggest Sebastien Haller (+3400).
CarlIt’s a close call for me between Sadio Mane and Aubameyang but I’m going to have to go with Mane through this campaign. Not that I think he’s the best out and out goal scorer in the league. But he is definitely one of the most dynamic attacking players surrounded by exceptional quality. 
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Who will be the first manager sacked?

Odds from various sites: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer +500, Roy Hodgson +600, Graham Potter +800, Steve Bruce +800, Marco Silva +1400, Sean Dyche +1600, Frank Lampard +1600

ChopsFirst, it’s hard to ignore OGS (+500) and Frank Lampard (+1600) if for no other reason than the instability of their organizations. Being a Chelsea manager is like being the drummer in Spinal Tap.

In OGS’ case, it would be a stunning admission of incompetence by management to sack him this soon. In Lampard’s case, because it’s a transitional year, and he’s a veritable Blues legend, Chelski will give him a full season.

To me, it comes down to Roy Hodgson and Steve Bruce. I’m leaning towards Hodgson. Palace feels set up to fail early on, and Hodgson will pay the price. 
TylerI think there’s a good reason OGS is +500 here. There are a million ways this ManU season can go wrong, and the good feelings OGS engendered last spring will be distant memories if this team struggles for more than a week or two. Though managing Chelsea is always dicey, no matter who you are, I think a coaching change is more likely in Manchester than in west London.
GraceIs Solskjaer that bad? I mean, he’s not great. But the club have emotionally invested a lot in him and, while they didn’t get everything done that they wanted, it looks a stronger squad to me right now than last season. I don’t see anything brilliant happening at Man Utd, but I think he holds on for a while.

Elsewhere I think Marco Silva isn’t as safe as some perceive him to be. We saw it two years ago that Everton were not afraid to sack Ronald Koeman after spending big and not seeing instant results. It wouldn’t shock me if the same thing happened again.
CarlI have to agree with you on this one Chops. It seems as though Newcastle have accepted mediocrity and this fact will keep Steve Bruce in the Job longer than he should be. Hodgson will be the first to see the door! 

Which new transfer will have the greatest impact on his team?

ChopsI want to go with Nicholas Pepe, and not just because he’s on my fantasy team. However, scoring goals wasn’t Arsenal’s biggest issue last year. Pepe will have a solid year and contribute to Arsenal’s top 4 run, but his exact impact may be harder to quantify. 

However, I’m on Sébastien Haller’s corner. He’s in his prime. He fills a need for the Hammers. If West Ham are sniffing around the top 6 in April as I suspect they will be, we’ll all be talking about Haller’s impact.
TylerI like both Pepe and Haller a lot — and expect big seasons from both — but I’m going to go with … Christian Pulisic? As bullish as I am on our USMNT’s own, not quite. For me, it’s Tanguy Ndombele at Tottenham. There’s a reason he was as coveted as just about anyone this summer, and I think he’ll turn heads. I’m buying the hype on the 22-year-old, who will quickly blossom under Pochettino.
GraceIt’s gotta be Ndombele for me. Spurs were a mess in midfield last season and played their best stuff by often bypassing it altogether. In order to rejuvenate that area of the pitch, they needed someone who could do a bit of everything, and they got exactly the man they needed in the Frenchman.

In terms of others to make a big impact, it’s a sink or swim move, but I think Pablo Fornals could do really well for West Ham. The Spaniard is a perfect Manuel Pellegrini player and can fill the kind of role that David Silva played on his Man City team. It could be a disaster and he’ll be back to Spain in a year. Or it could really work and he’ll make a move to a top 6 club.
CarlI still believe Arsenal will surprise the league this season. What brings me to this conclusion is the addition of Nicolas Pepe, who I think will have a huge impact on their success  and the greatest impact of the new transfers.

What do you think Christian Pulisic’s total goal and total assists will be for the season?

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Odds from FanDuel — Goals: Over 9.5 (-134), Over 12.5 (+320) | Assists Over 9.5 (-223), Over 12.5 (+200)

Also read: Christian Pulisic prop bets

ChopsWow. So oddsmakers are bullish on Pulisic’s impact this year. He’s odds-on for at least 10 goals and 10 assists. If he hits those marks, he’d be the new answer for “biggest impact player.”

I like Pulisic, he’s looked great in preseason. But can we temper our expectations on him a bit? Kid is 20. The good news for him is he’ll have plenty of opportunity in Lampard’s offense. Let’s keep in mind though he wasn’t regularly starting for BVB last season. The Premier League is a different beast than the Bundesliga. 

Pulisic: 7 goals, 11 assists (which would be a fantastic debut season)
TylerI’m with Chops. As excited as I am to watch him, 10 goals and 10 assists would be a pleasant surprise. As we discussed on the most recent High Press Pod (LINK IF POSSIBLE), I think the O/U on goals should have been more like 8 or 8.5. In that case, I would have bet the over. And I’ll say he comes as close as he can to 9.5 assists without actually hitting it.

Pulisic: 9 goals, 9 assists.
GraceHe’s clearly a really talented kid and I don’t have too many doubts that he’ll be an excellent signing for Chelsea in the long term. But if we’re talking right now, it could be a tough long season for Pulisic. Chelsea could be a mess this year, and he’s got a brutal spot in filling Eden Hazard’s shoes. I’m going for 7 each, which would still be the most he’s had in his career.
CarlPulisic is an exciting player to watch. He seems to play with no fear and possess the capabilities of beating players. With that being said I just don’t think he’s going to have a significant impact on the league this season. Firstly he’s still 20 years old, lacking experience and going into a club in transition. Secondly this is the Premier League!! Nothing he’s experienced before can come close. I do think he’s one for the future but for me this season is too soon.

2019-20 Premier League Preview: Tottenham and Arsenal

Chops August 8, 2019

We’re nearing the end of our 2019-20 Premier League previews. Today’s focus is on the High Press Soccer consensus 3rd and 4th place clubs, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.

First, to recap:

Also be sure to check out our 2019-20 Premier League Predictions.

Alright, here’s a rundown of Tottenham and Arsenal’s odds and outlook.

Arsenal 2019-20 Premier League Preview

Last Season: 5th in Premier League
Last Time Champions: 2003-04
Stadium: Emirates Stadium
Nickname: The Gunners
Manager: Unai Emery
Key Additions: Nicolas Pepe, Kieran Tierney, Dani Ceballos, David Luiz, William Saliba (though loaned back to St. Etienne)
Best Player: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Can Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang challenge for the Golden Boot again?

Yeah, so, Arsenal. They really turned their summer around, right?

The Gunners were already giddy about their upcoming season after snagging Ligue 1 stars Nicolas Pepe from Lille and William Saliba from St. Etienne (he won’t be joining until next year). Their defense was still pourous, but they were going to score enough that it didn’t matter.

Then at the deadline, they pull off a coup, securing David Luiz from Chelsea and Kieran Tierney from Celtic.

While that’s still not enough to challenge Manchester City or Liverpool for a title, it should be enough to firmly plant their flag in the top 4. 

A bit of Arsenal history:

  • They were founded in 1886.
  • They’ve been consecutively in England’s first division longer than any other team.
  • Arsenal has won the first division 13 times (the last being 2003-04).
  • That season Arsenal did not lose a game in the Premier League (the Invincibles year).
  • They also hold the record for most consecutive matches without a loss (49).
  • They’ve won the League Cup twice.
  • Their 13 FA Cups is a record.
  • They have 1 European title (1993-94). 

Why you should like Arsenal:

  • The Gunners is a pretty badass nickname. That wouldn’t fly in America (see: Bullets)
  • This will be an exciting squad. They’re going to score. 

Arsenal betting odds: (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook NJ)

  • To win Premier League: +5000
  • To finish top 4: +125
  • To finish top 6: -400
  • Relegation: +100000
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Arsenal Outlook:

Of the big 6 teams, Arsenal was the surprise club of the summer. Early reports indicated they’d have a meager transfer budget. Then they spent $163M.

Their purchases were both splashy (Pepe) and opportunistic (Luiz).

This team will score. Emery will get them properly organized. And on the deadline day, they’ve improved their backline–which was easily their biggest weakness.

Arsenal still have the worst odds of the big 6 for a top 4 spot (+125). That’s absolutely worth a look. This team is for real.

Tottenham Hotspur 2019-20 Premier League Preview

Last Season: 4th in Premier League
Last Time Champion: 1960-61
Stadium: Wembley Stadium
Nickname: Spurs
Manager: Mauricio Pochettino
Key Additions: Tanguy Ndombele, Ryan Sessegnon, Giovani Lo Celso
Best Player: Harry Kane

With some new additions around him finally, expect Harry Kane to do some damage.

Tottenham’s 2019 was uneven at best. They were 11th in Premier League points from January on, but gutted their way to a Champions League final. 

Their lack of depth hurt them considerable down the stretch, as Harry Kane and Heung-min Son both missed chunks of time. 

After two summers with no transfer activity, Spurs went for it this year. New additions Tanguy Ndombele, Ryan Sessegnon, and Giovani Lo Celso are impact players. Are they enough for Spurs to challenge for their first ever Premier League title?

A bit of Spurs history:

  • The club was founded in 1882.
  • They have two first division titles, the last being 1960-61. 
  • Spurs have won the FA Cup 8 times (1990-91 being the last) and League Cup 4 times (2007-08 being the last).
  • Their sole European title was in the 1961-62 season.
  • Wolves claim 2 League Cups, with the last coming in 1979-80.

Why you should like Spurs:

  • Because there’s no reason not to like them? They’re like vanilla ice cream. It’s rarely someone’s favorite flavor, but nobody hates vanilla ice cream either. 
  • Mauricio Pochettino is a helluva manager. 
  • Son is a helluva player to watch. 
  • Harry Kane likes the Patriots. He wants to kick field goals in the NFL one day.

Spurs betting odds: (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook NJ)

  • To win Premier League: +1800
  • To finish top 4: -200
  • To finish top 6: -1000
  • Relegation: +200000
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Spurs Outlook:

Even had Spurs not made any purchases this summer, they’d be a consensus top 4 team. With their additions, this could be the strongest Spurs team we’ve seen since…well, 2016-17.

That team was fantastic, ending the season with 86 points and a second place finish. With so much depth in the Premier League this season, and considering the strength of Liverpool and Manchester City, it’ll be hard for Spurs to hit the upper 80’s. However, the squad itself may be better than the ’16-17 version. 

Spurs are capable of beating anyone on any day. They’re safely a top 4 team. They’ll be awesome. Yet…they’ll still be a tick below Liverpool and City. 

 

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