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.
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?
The Reds vs Gunners is by far the best fixture on this weekend’s slate. However, there are a number of games that are important as teams try not to let their season derail or prove they’re no fluke.
2019-20 Premier League Matchday 3 Odds
|Aston Villa +225||Draw +250||Everton +120|
|Norwich +290||Draw +290||Chelsea -115|
|Brighton +143||Draw +215||Southampton +210|
|Manchester United -278||Draw +400||Crystal Palace +800|
|Sheffield United +245||Draw +220||Leicester +123|
|Watford +115||Draw +245||West Ham +240|
|Liverpool -200||Draw +370||Arsenal +480|
|Bournemouth +1200||Draw +600||Manchester City -500|
|Tottenham -400||Draw +510||Newcastle +1100|
|Wolves -121||Draw +235||Burnely +390|
Odds & Ends
- Are we already into “must win” territory with Chelsea? Norwich aren’t terrible. They create opportunities. Teemu Pukki finishes them. How loud does #LampardOut get if the Blues don’t win?
- Speaking of Teemu Pukki, he’s only got fourth best odds (+480) as the first goal scorer in Norwich vs Chelsea at DraftKings Sportsbook NJ. Norwich is at home. We’re #teamteemu at HPS. Worth a look.
- Another team that needs a win: West Ham. Pellegrini’s side was run over by Manchester City in the opener, and drew Brighton last week. West Ham was supposed to be a stealthy contender for the top 6 at best, and a solid mid-table squad at worst. A road loss to current bottom-feeder Watford would raise a lot of concerns among Hammers faithful.
- Expect Liverpool vs Arsenal to be an open, attack-orientated game. Especially early, as Anfield will be rocking. The +155 for a goal in under 14:59 is a decent play.
- If Leicester City is for real, they need to handle Sheffield on the road. But is it too soon to ask: what if The Blades are for real? They drew a decent Bournemouth squad on the road. They shut out Palace (with Zaha) at home. We’ll know a lot about these two squads by Saturday afternoon.
It wasn’t that long ago that the English Premier League was an embarrassment in European competition.
Chelsea’s UEFA Champions League title in 2012 seemed to represent the last time an English club could seriously be counted as among Europe’s best. From 2013 until 2017, just 4 of the 40 quarter final places given out in the tournament were taken by Premier League clubs. Just 2 of those 4 then made it up to the semi finals, with neither making it to the final. English football just couldn’t compete at the highest level. It was no fluke.
Anyone who watched a lot of Premier League games in those years compared to La Liga, the Bundesliga and Serie A could see the problems. There were good players at the top English sides, yes, but the teams were almost purely reliant on individual attacking quality.
Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City had the wonderful talents of Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero in full flow, but left huge spaces in behind for teams to exploit on the counter. Liverpool’s sparkling 2013-14 side was really all about the star qualities of Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and, yes, most of all, Luis Suarez. When Suarez left and Sturridge got injured, it all fell apart because there was no real tactical idea to fall back on.
Leicester City’s miracle 2016 Premier League title win was an astounding, historic achievement. There can be no doubts of that. But it also spoke to how poor the bigger, richer English teams were at the time.
Meanwhile, sides in other European countries were doing it differently.
The 2013 Champions League final featured a Borussia Dortmund team managed by Jurgen Klopp that were nothing if not cohesive, putting together fluid attacking transitions plus a structured aggression without the ball that was tactically far ahead of anything happening in England.
Their opponents, Bayern Munich, had many of the same traits and were about to be transformed by Pep Guardiola’s possession football, while the principles of the Catalan’s philosophy remained intact back in Barcelona.
Atletico Madrid were learning the value of compact, difficult to break down, football under Diego Simeone.
The top European sides generally didn’t have better players than England’s elite, but they were better structured, better organized, and above all, better coached.
How England solved their problem
As always, the English teams looked at the problem and decided the solution was to throw money at it. Except this time, the cash was spent on the managers rather than just the players.
Tottenham made the bold call to bring in Mauricio Pochettino after his great work at Southampton. Liverpool went big in attracting Klopp, while Manchester City went for the most respected coach in the game with Pep Guardiola. Chelsea and Manchester United went for stricter defensive stalwarts in Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho (which didn’t go quite so well, but the idea was solid).
No longer were the English clubs set to be the least cohesive sides in Europe. These were managers with clear ideas about what their teams were going to do, with visions, with philosophies.
The effect was huge.
After Leicester and Southampton broke the party in 2015/16, the big six clubs returned to the top six Premier League positions the following year. They’ve remained there ever since, with the gap to seventh hitting on average 9 points in the past three years.
Success in Europe came soon after.
Manchester United became the first English team to win a European trophy in four years when they lifted the Europa League trophy in 2017. In the big one, the Champions League, Liverpool were the first Premier League side to reach the final in 2017 since Chelsea won the thing in 2012. The English resurgence had begun. But no one could have expected what happened last season.
Two European finals. Four teams. All English. None of the four teams being the actual club that won the Premier League. Any doubts that England had the best football around were put to bed.
This has sparked a reaction on the continent. The four sides that dominated the later rounds of the Champions League for most of this decade, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus, have spent big this summer. Really big. And if the various reports are believed about Neymar, the two Spanish clubs are both attempting to go even bigger. So how are they looking?
Madrid were certainly the team of this group most in need of a revamp. Last summer saw the club sell Cristiano Ronaldo and buy no major attackers. Their eventual third place La Liga finish had a strong “well what were you expecting?” vibe to it.
So they went hard on fixing that.
Eden Hazard was the biggest name arrival, with the €100 million ($111m) signing from Chelsea replacing Ronaldo as the biggest brand name at the club. Stylistically, he’s rather different. When you strip out penalties, his best ever goal scoring return in a league campaign was 14, so he’s not going to be an abnormal contributor there. What he does offer is the best ability at carrying the ball into dangerous areas of anyone not named Lionel Messi. His 4.2 dribbles per 90 are outstanding, and he’s not just taking the ball to the byline. If you need a guy to pick the ball up and just single-handedly generate attacking moves, Hazard’s your guy. Only thing is you’ll want someone else to get on the end of a few chances.
Thankfully, Real have that covered now, too. Luka Jovic has arrived from Eintracht Frankfurt for €60m ($67m) in what may be an excellent deal. The one thing Jovic does to a high level is get shots away, 3.9 per 90 and overwhelmingly from decent positions. With the Luka Modric/Toni Kross axis alongside Hazard working the ball into great positions, Jovic should be able to get on the end of plenty of chances. His link up play is probably still a touch rusty, but at 21 he has plenty of time to fix that.
There are some fairly astonishing rumours that Zinedine Zidane doesn’t want him at the club and is already looking to send him on loan, but for now let’s trust that this is the ever unreliable Madrid newspapers doing their thing.
Elsewhere, Real have Eder Militao and Ferland Mendy coming to give some much needed youth to the back four as Sergio Ramos and Marcelo age out of the side. This probably won’t have a huge immediate impact, but long term they look like two really good replacements.
Barcelona haven’t quite gone as big as Real, though they were starting from a stronger position. That could change if they manage to get the Neymar deal over the line.
As it stands, the club have already signed one of the biggest name attackers in the world with Antoine Griezmann. Personally, I’m slightly skeptical that the Frenchman will offer quite as much to Barca as he did for Atletico Madrid. Of his 15 goals last season, three were from penalties and another three were direct free kicks. At the Camp Nou, Messi will be on set piece duties. Still, though, he should offer a threat out wide in terms of running in behind, whereas Philippe Coutinho last season continually wanted to receive the ball and Barca thus had a hard time stretching the play.
Arguably more exciting is Frenkie de Jong. Most evident in the Pep Guardiola era but dating back long before then, Barcelona are a club so often defined by technical central midfielders. De Jong is both every bit the classic Barca midfielder and also an ideal fit for the modern game. His 91% passing accuracy comes not because he makes safe choices, he’s constantly moving the ball forward, but because he’s so intelligent about being difficult to win the ball off of. The modern midfielder needs to be ever more adept at resisting the opposition press. He should be able to find space when it seems like you’re surrounded. No one out there does this as well as De Jong. The Catalan side could have an absolute gem in their midfield for the next decade.
Heading across the Mediterranean into Italy, no top club has shaken things up this summer more than Juventus, though we don’t have any idea what the final team will look like.
Central to all of this is new manager Maurizio Sarri. Juventus as a club, not just under Max Allegri but really for their entire history, have been defined against the idea that anything but the result matters. Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan side brought an exciting, high pressing game to Italy but Juve stood firm, believing in the traditions of defending deep, putting bodies on the line, and scraping a 1-0 win. This will all change with Sarri. He is a true believer in the possession game he coached so successfully at Napoli and to mixed success at Chelsea. Sarri’s approach will be different from anything we’ve seen from this Juve squad, so an overhaul has been needed.
Defensively, the side need to be playing a much higher line with centre backs more comfortable on the ball, so it’s not a surprise to see Matthijs de Ligt make the move to Turin. De Ligt looked like one of the outstanding defenders in Europe last season and should be a good fit for Sarriball, with age still well on his side at 19. Merih Demiral is a little less of a sure thing in the same role, but still looks a smart pickup. Danilo at right back feels harder to parse, with the 28 year old never totally convincing at Manchester City, but he should still be able to do a job.
Higher up the pitch, the aim seems to be to blend technical quality with the more robust profile Juve need to transition to a high pressing style, or at least one that isn’t constantly getting exposed. Adrien Rabiot on a free from PSG looks ideal for this as a player who does just about everything in midfield, winning the ball aggressively but also offering excellent playmaking qualities. Aaron Ramsey has a bit of this as well, and can offer more in terms of goals and assists. However, his frequent injury problems could be a real concern here. The club have a huge volume of players now, but a manager who tends to barely rotate and frustrates players on the fringes of his plans. It feels like it’s a year of retooling for the Serie A champions.
Last but not least, Bayern seem stuck between relying on solid veteran players and trying to bring in a younger side.
They have really freshened things up in only one place: at the back. Lucas Hernandez is a left footed centre back comfortable on the ball who can shuffle along to the left back spot if David Alaba is unavailable. It’s hard to imagine he won’t be an important player for many years in Bavaria. Benjamin Pavard is broadly the same player, but right footed. This also looks a good piece of business. What they have failed to do, though, is reboot the attack. Ivan “we couldn’t get Leroy Sane in so here’s a short term fix” Perišić has arrived but he’s hardly a huge upgrade on what they have. James Rodriguez, frequently an important creative spark, has left without a replacement.
It doesn’t seem as though Bayern have any idea what they want to be, and as such, it’s hard to imagine them really challenging for the Champions League title this season. The problems that existed for Bayern last season just haven’t been really addressed.
Have they done enough?
While these teams have all added useful players, they have not learned the most important lesson from the English clubs’ return to the top. Your side needs to be cohesive. You will achieve more with a clear idea of how you want to play and a coach who can implement a specific philosophy. Juventus, in fairness, have hired someone to do this, but it will be a long adjustment process. Barcelona arguably get to cheat this with Messi still around, but the others certainly don’t. Maybe the Argentine’s individual quality delivers Barca the Champions League title once more, but in all probability, England still feels like the most likely home for major European trophies.
Who: Manchester City vs Tottenham
When: Saturday, August 17th @ 12:30 pm ET on NBC Sports
Where: The Etihad
Line: Manchester City -286 | Draw +450 | Tottenham +700
Well, the Premier League title defense got off to the perfect start for Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s side crushed West Ham United 5-0 to kick-off their campaign, which doesn’t really seem surprising if you see they’ve scored 22 goals at the London Stadium in recent years.
Going by their untouchable dominance, there aren’t many to stop their annihilation. However, UEFA Champions League finalists Tottenham Hotspur could have something else in mind Mauricio Pochettino’s side threw the proverbial kitchen sink at Aston Villa, with their relentless attacking nature proving they’re capable of blowing away any side. Tread carefully, Pep Guardiola.
Manchester City Likely XI:
Ederson, Cancelo, Stones, Laporte, Zinchenko, Rodri, De Bruyne, Bernardo, Mahrez, Sterling, Aguero.
It’s probably affirmative towards their unbelievable depth that even without regular starters like Sergio Aguero or Bernardo Silva that City destroyed West Ham. Both players should start at the Etihad Stadium knowing their comfort at home. New signing Joao Cancelo made the bench on Saturday, but should get his debut to weave his magic against Spurs.
Tottenham Hotspur Likely XI:
Lloris, Walker-Peters, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose, Ndombele, Sissoko, Eriksen, Son, Kane, Moura.
Tottenham Hotspur’s newest signing Tanguy Ndombele had a dream debut against Villa. Now, he’ll be expected to prove his mettle against the daunting Man City. Spurs’ other signings Ryan Sessegnon, Giovani Lo Celso are still being phased in, while Dele Alli is still injured. However, Heung-Min Son should draft back in after serving his suspension, as should the influential Christian Eriksen.
Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur Match Preview
Going by the attacking intensity both sides displayed in Matchday 1, this should be an end-to-end encounter. Of course, overruling the champions at their own yard is no joke, but Mauricio Pochettino’s sides’ fearlessness could result in a feisty encounter.
However, City love breaking spirits. With RaheemSterling scoring, Mahrez assisting and De Bruyne dominating the midfield, the champions look just as good (if not better) as last season. With Aguero’s as well as Bernardo Silva’s introduction, the lethality meter will spike up.
Considering they netted 57 goals (more than 3 per game) at home last season, City’s impenetrable home rule should continue through this season. However, John Stones’ uneasy moments in defense last week raised questions. Guardiola needs to fix that to neutralize Harry Kane and co.
Tottenham are looking a more menacing unit this season. They attempted 24 shots against Aston Villa in an absolute unrelenting approach. With Tanguy Ndombele’s dynamic presence in midfield, Spurs’ fluidity in possession has been amplified. Harry’s Kane’s scoring early, Christian Eriksen’s assisting while Lucas Moura and Son remain persisting threats.
While both sets of wing-backs are crucial with their contribution on both sides of the field and center-backs vital to contain the onslaught, the real battle will be in midfield. As Spurs’ defensively solid, bullish trio take on City’s possession masters, sparks are bound to blow over.
Whoever dominates the midfield or breaks their opponents’ line should come out victorious. Of course, City also have revenge on their mind after the Champions League elimination earlier this year, so they’ll be out for blood like thirsty hounds.
This should be a thrilling, open encounter between two unflinching teams, producing plenty of goals. However, I don’t see Spurs unsettling City this early at the Etihad and Pep’s side should get another decisive win to retain their top spot.
Soooo…who all had Brighton & Hove Albion in a UCL spot after matchday 1 of the Premier League?
Or Chelsea in relegation? If our math skills are correct, Chelsea is on pace for 0 points and a -152 goal differential.
Things will start normalizing this week. Here are the lines.
2019-20 Premier League Matchday 2 Odds
Some really interesting games this week. As always, if you need a refresher, please read how to bet the Premier League in the US. If you live in New Jersey or Pennsylvania, you can bet soccer online. Home team listed first.
|Saturday, August 17th|
|Arsenal -360||Draw +450||Burnley +1050|
|Aston Villa +135||Draw +240||Bournemouth +200|
|Brighton +155||Draw +220||West Ham +200|
|Everton -139||Draw +290||Watford +375|
|Norwich +120||Draw +240||Newcastle +230|
|Southampton +675||Draw +375||Liverpool -245|
|Manchester City -286||Draw +450||Tottenham +700|
|Sunday, August 18th|
|Sheffield +150||Draw +220||Crystal Palace +200|
|Chelsea -134||Draw +260||Leicester City +400|
|Monday, August 19th|
|Wolves +245||Draw +240||Manchester United +115|
Odds & Ends
- Matchday 2 certainly isn’t a make or break for West Ham. They’re not getting relegated. But any hope of a top 6 run takes a major hit if they go two weeks with zero points. Can Brighton really earn 6 points after two weeks?
- Newcastle wasn’t that bad matchday 1. Should their odds be that long on the road against Norwich? Actually scratch that. Yeah they should. But still.
- The marquee match-up for the week is obviously Manchester City vs Tottenham. Spurs are +700. Seems about right. But this will be an indicator as to how good Spurs actually are this season.
- Chelsea. Ouch. Now Leicester comes for a visit. Things could go off the rails quickly for Frank Lampard if the Foxes steal 3 points.
- Manchester United +115 on the road against Wolves? Feels like an overreaction to matchday 1. Wolves at +245 feels like a bargain.
In thinking about the Aaron Long transfer saga, I came upon an interesting question: How many MLS players could step into the Premier League right now and handle themselves? I’m sure Long could. We’ve seen players like Miguel Almiron and DeAndre Yedlin do it.
But MLS is obviously a few ticks lower in quality than the Premier League. MLS is more physical, focused less on passing and a bit more on athleticism. The primary difference between MLS and top leagues is the speed of play, and how fast the ball moves. Top players think the game at a higher level and possess the ball skills required to execute their ideas.
The key for any player from a lower-level league entering the Premier League is finding a way to hang in with the increased pace. Not every star in MLS would be capable of stepping into the EPL. Houston’s Alberth Elis, for example, has a good scoring record for the Dynamo and can run past players anywhere, but he struggles to stay consistent and isn’t much of a passer. Elis’s abilities off the dribble, while at times effective in MLS, are based less on ball skills and more on pure acceleration.
There are plenty of MLS players who could do well in the Premier League, though. To complete this thought exercise, let’s go position-by-position.
I’ve listed 22 players who I am fully confident in, plus numerous others who I’m a bit more skeptical about, but who are still worth mentioning.
— Stefan Frei, Seattle Sounders
Frei will have to play for a lower-table team that doesn’t keep a ton of possession, because his passing skills are not really at PL level. But he rarely makes errors and can make big saves.
A lot of the players on this list are here because they could play well in theory if plopped in England. But only a few might actually be candidates for transfers. Frei is 33. He’s not going to the Premier League any time soon.
Any others? Brad Guzan and Tim Howard used to play in the PL, but they’ve both declined in the years since they left. Tim Melia from 2017 could do it, though he hasn’t been as good in the last couple of years. You could talk me into Luis Robles. Outside of that, I’m not willing to put any other keepers here. Maybe a guy like Maxime Crepeau or Jesse Gonzalez develops.
Zack Steffen, of course, was transferred to Manchester City this summer and is now on loan at Fortuna Dusseldorf in the Bundesliga.
— Aaron Long, New York Red Bulls
— Walker Zimmerman, LAFC
— Ike Opara, Minnesota United
— Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez, Atlanta United
Long and Zimmerman are consistent US national teamers. Zimmerman is the runaway favorite for the Defender of the Year award.
Opara can pass and is the best in MLS at defending in space. His ranginess would be very useful in the Premier League. Gonzalez-Pirez has a stronger build than Opara and can muscle players off the ball. LGP can dribble and take his space, too — if he were to play in the Premier League, his manager would have to make sure he doesn’t go rogue on dribbling exhibitions too often.
Any others? Philly’s Jack Elliott almost ended up on this list. He’s played every minute for the Union this season and has continued to excel.
TFC’s Laurent Ciman used to be a Belgian national teamer, so a few years ago he could have played well in the Premier League. (He is worse now.) Graham Zusi and Matt Besler could have in their primes, but Zusi only converted to right back a couple of years ago. Matt Hedges is a borderline pick.
— Julian Gressel, Atlanta United
— Paxton Pomykal, FC Dallas
— Eduard Atuesta, LAFC
— Maxi Moralez, NYCFC
— Alejandro Bedoya, Philadelphia Union
— Diego Valeri, Portland Timbers
— Diego Chara, Portland Timbers
— Nicolas Lodeiro, Seattle Sounders
— Alejandro Pozuelo, Toronto FC
There are a lot of good players on this list, many of them attackers. Gressel is best as a wingback — that’s the job I’d love to see him do in the Premier League — but can play pretty much anywhere in the midfield. Chara is still the best d-mid in MLS, and Atuesta is elite as a ball-mover and ground-coverer for LAFC.
Bedoya has been very good as a diamond shuttler in Philly. He was the one who required the most thought on this list, but watching him in the Union’s win over D.C. United last weekend convinced me that he deserves to be here. Pomykal is young (19) and will probably be transferred to a top league sooner rather than later. His field vision is his best asset.
Lodeiro, Moralez, and Pozuelo are game-changers as forward-thinking midfielders. Lodeiro — a World Cup vet with Uruguay — and Moralez might be the two most important players in the entire league, based on how much their teams need them. Valeri is a bit older now, but he remains a cerebral player.
Anyone else? Michael Bradley was the biggest snub here. The 2017 version of him would play well in the Premier League, but I found it hard to look at Toronto FC this year and put MB on this list.
Cristian Roldan, Alex Ring, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Latif Blessing, Sebastian Mendez, Sebastian Blanco, Darlington Nagbe, Jamiro Monteiro, and Jackson Yueill were all contenders. I really thought about putting Kaye and Ring on there. They are very close. I’d still be confident in them if they showed up in the starting lineup of Bournemouth.
Pity Martinez and Ezequiel Barco are not there yet.
If we could bring back 2017 Jonathan Osorio, he would be a shoo-in here. (Sensing a theme with TFC players?)
Josef Martinez, Atlanta United
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, LA Galaxy
Carlos Vela, LAFC
Diego Rossi, LAFC
Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC
Wayne Rooney, D.C. United
Out of these players, I waffled only on Rossi. I still want to see him create stuff without Vela doing everything, but if Rossi walked into a team with one or two other very good attackers, he is the perfect complement.
Zlatan and Vela are obvious. Rooney is older, but still very good. Josef is undersized, but he is persistent, and goal-scoring translates. He puts himself in good positions and he finishes his chances. Jozy Altidore is evidently not undersized, and he’s been a stud of late for TFC. I know he had a not great stint for Sunderland in 2013-2014, but I think he’s too good not to be here. In a better situation, he would score goals.
Anyone else? Similar to Josef, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Chris Wondolowski are good enough as scorers and poachers to succeed basically anywhere. BWP and Wondo are getting older, though, so I decided to leave them off.
Mauro Manotas deserves a shout here. He could have a future in a good league. Ignacio Piatti would have been amazing a few years ago in the PL, and even now he could be effective. Portland’s Brian Fernandez was close, though his recent cold spell was enough to exclude him.
Here’s the final XI:
We’re back with another High Press Pod! This episode finishes our Premier League previews by looking at teams 10 – 1.
Did Liverpool do enough to overtake Manchester City? Who is most likely to crack the top 6? Tyler Everett joins Chops to discuss.
This is part projecting, part looking back to who were the class of the previous campaign.
2019-20 Premier League Best XI
Not surprisingly, Liverpool and Manchester City make the bulk of the list.
Alisson: Well, when we made this, Alisson was fit and healthy. He went down before half with an apparent leg injury. If he’s out for an extended period of time, this spot goes to Ederson. If not, Alisson led the EPL in clean sheets and starts ahead of Ederson on the Brazilian team. He gets the nod.
Andy Robertson: With apologies to Lucas Digne, Robbo is the best left-back in the EPL and arguably the world. The way he powers the Liverpool attack is unlike anyone else in the league.
Aymeric Laporte: At 25, the Frenchman is just entering his prime. With so much attention paid to City’s attack, it’s easy to overlook how stingy their defense is. City only gave up 23 goals last year (1 more than Liverpool) and Laporte’s steady influence and organization was a major reason why.
Virgil van Dijk: No explanation needed. Y’all get it.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: Just copy+paste the Robbo paragraph and search+replace Robbo with TAA.
Bernardo Silva: At 24, the Portguese midfielder is entering his prime. He tallied 7 goals and 7 assists, doing it all for City last season. Expect an even better year from Silva.
Kevin de Bruyne: If healthy, KdB supplants Eden Hazard as the Premier League’s most skilled all-around player.
Felipe Anderson: Maybe a surprise to some, but Anderson does it all for a West Ham team that should make a top 6 run this year. He’ll make a devestating pair with his new do-it-all partner Sebastien Haller.
Raheem Sterling: A little over-rated of a season in 2018-19, but he’s unquestionably one of the best attacking players in the league. Expect 15+ goals and 10+ assists from T-Rex this season.
Harry Kane: Always a Golden Boot threat, there’s no more natural striker in the Premier League. If healthy, he’s a lock for 20+ goals.
Mo Salah: A genuinely under-rated season in 2018-19, expect Salah to deliver 25+ goals and 8-10 assists.
The 2019-20 Premier League schedule kicks off one month from today!
With that in mind, let’s take a look at matchday 1 betting odds.
Premier League Matchday 1 Odds
|Friday, Aug 09, 3pm ET||Liverpool -670||Draw +700||Norwich City +1900|
|Saturday, Aug 10, 7:30am ET||West Ham +900||Draw +480||Manchester City -345|
|Saturday, Aug 10, 10am ET||Bournemouth -112||Draw +275||Sheffield United +295|
|Saturday, Aug 10, 10am ET||Burnley +160||Draw +225||Southampton +285|
|Saturday, Aug 10, 10am ET||Crystal Palace +170||Draw +225||Everton +175|
|Saturday, Aug 10, 10am ET||Leicester +135||Draw +225||Wolves +220|
|Saturday, Aug 10, 10am ET||Watford -110||Draw +235||Brighton +340|
|Saturday, Aug 10, 12:30pm ET||Tottenham -385||Draw +460||Aston Villa +1200|
|Sunday, Aug 11, 9am ET||Newcastle +265||Draw +265||Arsenal +100|
|Sunday, Aug 11, 11:30am ET||Manchester United +125||Draw +230||Chelsea +230|
Odds & Ends
Note, this post was written on July 09, 2019. There are still summer transfers to come that may impact these lines. We’ll update this portion of the article closer towards matchday 1.
- Champions League winner Liverpool ushers in the new season at home against promoted Norwich City. With the game at Anfield, they’re the heaviest favorite of the week. The 3-0 correct score prop bet (+525) and 4-0 (+750) are worth looking at more closely.
- The next couple of bullets have the caveat of “let’s see how transfers impact these lines,” but we’re high on teams looking to punch through the Big 6 this season. So Everton (+175) as the slightest of underdogs away at Palace is interesting.
- Same for Wolves (+220) at Leicester City.
- Southampton feels like a mid-table team this campaign. That +285 away against Burnley is appealing.
- This may change depending on the manager selection but Newcastle at home (+265) could catch an Arsenal squad (+100) that is potentially on the decline.
The start of the Premier League is just days away.
Every year, new starts emerge and shine.
As we’ve seen with Trent-Alexander Arnold, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling’s rise, players are starting to spike at a young age. There’s just no fear or unnerving them anymore. The managers’ encouragement has allowed youngsters to make their breakthrough very early in their careers.
Here are six young players ready for their moment to breakthrough this year.
Termed as the “next Frank Lampard”, I don’t think Mason Mount is his manager’s second-coming. He’s a dynamic midfielder in his own right. An industrious figure looking to regain possession while not being shy of putting in challenges, the 20-year-old’s clever work going forward should also please Chelsea fans.
Mount had an exciting season under Lampard at Derby County, scoring 11 goals. He’s already contributed to a few in preseason, looking well synchronized with Christian Pulisic and co. With his tendency to pop up goals or wander into promising positions towards creating chances, I feel the 20-year-old can be Chelsea’s secret weapon.
Reiss Nelson is perhaps the most talented youngster to come out of Arsenal’s academy in recent times. He’s proven his mettle in the Bundesliga, having a profitable campaign at Hoffenheim with 7 goals in just 630 minutes. Nelson has an electric presence, which suits his sizzling knack of running rings around defenders.
Just ask the Bundesliga players he tormented. He really suits Unai Emery’s fast-pace attacking style, under which he impressed in pre-season. Nelson’s got the pedigree to create chaos in the Premier League with his irresistible trickery. Is he ready for the big leagues? I think he is and if Emery allows him to express himself, the 19-year-old will be a breath of fresh air.
The latest addition to the marquee Premier League youngsters list, Everton’s big summer transfer Moise Kean earned quite the reputation back in Italy. Coming through seven-time reigning Italian champions Juventus’ youth system, he’s almost like the second coming of Didier Drogba. The youngster likes to have fun outside the pitch but means business inside it.
Considering he netted 6 goals in only 13 appearances in his first senior season, he’s bound to get better. The 19-year-old’s a fox in the box, pouncing on chances to score with conviction. Everton probably has their Romelu Lukaku replacement finally. Kean is on the rise as a potential top-quality striker who, for me, will outscore many others in the blue side of Merseyside.
Among the positives from Manchester United’s perfect pre-season campaign was Mason Greenwood’s emergence. Perhaps the most unique striker they’ve had since Zlatan, the 17-year-old’s outplayed those well above his age-grade. Not only did he net his first senior goals in their pre-season tour, but Greenwood’s composure in goal-scoring positions and lethal finishing touch encouraged bright signs.
He’s still raw in some physical aspects, but makes do with his technical expertise in sliding past defenders. It’s looking doubtful United will sign another striker if/when Lukaku leaves. So rather than shifting midfielders/wingers into the centre, I feel Greenwood could produce timely goals when exposed to Premier League soccer regularly.
Liverpool won’t be changing their world-class attacking trio anytime soon. However, that wouldn’t restrict Jurgen Klopp from giving opportunities to youngsters, something he’s done for years. Rhian Brewster’s time has come to shine. The 19-year-old took full advantage of the pre-season, scoring many goals, while also impressing in Liverpool’s less-than-joyful US tour.
He was among the more impressive players from pre-season, with his ability to warp past defenders as well as bang in emphatic goals benefiting his reputation. Brewster’s surprisingly quick, has a bag of tricks in his arsenal and is hard-working, ticking the boxes for being a Klopp favourite. Liverpool have a long season ahead to finally claim the Premier League. A clinical striker like Brewster should, I think, be their ace-in-the-hole.
At 19 years old, Phil Foden is already a domestic treble winner with Manchester City. But if anyone thinks we’ve seen the best of him, they are very mistaken. He only netted that one goal last season (an important one in the title race), but there’s still loads for him to score. Described by Pep Guardiola as the most talented player he’s ever worked with, Foden’s about to unload tricks people have rarely seen yet.
He’s pacy with the ball, but it’s his incisive passing along with a knack for popping up in prime positions which makes him hard to track. Now a year older, the youngster knows the Premier League inside out. If Pep gives him more than 10-15 minutes of game-time regularly, I feel he’s about to have his breakthrough season very soon.
For the next week, High Press Soccer will preview all of the teams in Europe’s most competitive domestic league. We’ll split the previews into the following:
- Welcome Back! – this year’s promoted teams.
- See You Later! – teams most likely to be relegated.
- Flotsam and Jetsam – the middle class, mid-table teams whose sole purpose to exist is to simply exist.
- Big 6 Challengers – the handful of teams who may break the Big 6’s stranglehold on European soccer.
- The Post Where We Discuss Manchester United and Chelsea – have they done enough to stay in the top 6?
- The Post Where We Discuss Arsenal & Tottenham Hotspur: are they the clear third and fourth place teams?
- Manchester City: Will they threepeat?
- Liverpool: Will they finally win the Premier League?
Still with us? Good!
This first edition is our Welcome Back! Let’s take a look at Aston Villa, Norwich City, and Sheffield United.
Aston Villa 2019-20 Premier League Preview
Last Season: 5th in Championship, won EPL playoff
Last time in Premier League: 2015-16
Stadium: Villa Park
Manager: Dean Smith
Key Additions: Wesley, Tyrone Mings, Douglas Luiz, Matt Targett, Ezri Konsa, Marvelous Nakamba, Trezeguet, Anwar El Ghazi, Tom Heaton, Bjorn Engels, Jota, Kortney Hause
Best Player: Jack Grealish (though watch out for Wesley)
Aston Villa has a more storied history than, say, FFP violating Manchester City. Unfortunately for Aston Villa, an oil rich nation that is renown for their human rights suppression didn’t buy them and pump billions into the club.
Having said that–Aston Villa has spent a lot of money this summer. They saw what Fulham did last year and said, “hold my beer.” Do you know what English club has the total highest spend on players this summer? Aston Villa!
For their sake, let’s hope their summer spending has more of a 2018 Wolverhampton impact than a Fulham one.
A bit of Aston Villa history:
- The club was founded in November 1874. That’s ONE HUNDRED FORTY-FOUR YEARS AGO.
- They have 7 English first division titles, the last being in 1980-81.
- The Villains have 7 FA Cup titles, the last being 1956-57.
- They have 5 league cups, the last being 1995-96.
- They have 1 European / Champions League title in 1981-82.
Why you should like Aston Villa:
- Hands down, they have the best nickname in the Premier League (“The Villains”)
- They actually are a historic club with a real history, unlike some clubs we know.
- They clearly went all-in this season in an attempt not just to stay promoted, but to thrive.
- They have a player named Marvelous Nakamba.
Aston Villa betting odds: (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook NJ)
- To win Premier League: +100000
- To finish top 4: +15000
- To finish top 6: +4000
- Relegation: +200
Aston Villa Outlook:
It’s easy to appreciate Aston Villa’s ambition. They have spent $169.4M USD (£139m) this summer! That’s more than any other Premier League club to date.
As noted earlier in this section, will they be this year’s Fulham or Wolverhampton?
Split the difference. Expect a respectable 11-14th place finish for the Villains.
Norwich City 2019-20 Premier League Preview
Last Season: 1st in Championship
Last time in Premier League: 2015-16
Stadium: Carrow Road
Nickname: The Canaries
Manager: Daniel Farke
Key Additions: Erm, Ralf Fährmann?
Best Player: Emiliano Buendía (though Teemu Pukki would beg to differ)
Aston Villa spent the most money this summer, Norwich City spent the least.
That’s ok, as they may not need to spend that much to compete. They were the best team in the Championship last year. They have some dynamic players. However, they could use some more, especially if they want to avoid relegation.
A bit of Norwich City history:
- They formed in 1902.
- While they’ve never won the top division, they’ve won the League Cup 2 times (1962, 1985).
- They’ve won the Championship 4 times🤷♂️
Why you should like Norwich City:
- They have the oldest football chant in the world, On the Ball City (although it’s no You’ll Never Walk Along).
- Their interesting yellow / green fade is at least cooler than Manchester City’s lame attempt to copy it with their third kit.
Norwich City betting odds: (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook NJ)
- To win Premier League: +200000
- To finish top 4: +40000
- To finish top 6: +10000
- Relegation: -107
Norwich City Outlook:
If you’re one of Norwich City’s 27,244 fans, are you just excited to be promoted? Or are you frustrated as hell that a talented, exciting team did literally nothing to get better after getting promoted into the best domestic league in the world?
Norwich starts the season against Liverpool at Anfield. Welcome back! It could be a long year. They’ll be around the relegation zone all season and may find themselves quickly back down in the Championship.
Sheffield United 2019-20 Premier League Preview
Last Season: 2nd in Championship
Last time in Premier League: 2006-07
Stadium: Brammal Lane
Nickname: The Blades
Manager: Chris Wilder
Key Additions: Oliver McBurnie, Lys Mousset, Callum Robinson, Luke Freeman
Best Player: Oliver Norwood (though new addition Oliver McBurnie could be)
Don’t get too familar or attached to The Blades. Unlike House Bolton, their knives may not be that sharp. This could be a short stay in the top flight.
A bit of Sheffield United history:
- They were founded in 1889.
- They won the first ever First Division title in 1898.
- Not sure if this is a good thing, but they’re the only club to have won all 4 divisions of English football.
- In 2013, they were bought by wealthy Saudis (the House of Saud).
Why you should like Sheffield United:
- The Blades is a badass nickname. As alluded to above, it sounds like House Bolton’s club.
- On the GoT tip, actor Sean Bean (Ned Stark!) is a fan.
- Their two best players are named Oliver. That’s British af.
Sheffield United betting odds: (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook NJ)
- To win Premier League: +200000
- To finish top 4: +50000
- To finish top 6: +15000
- Relegation: -150
Sheffield United Outlook:
No reason to sugarcoat this: it’s not good.
Oddsmakers peg them as the worst team in the Premier League. They’re the least likely to win the EPL, finish in the top 4 or top 6. Their squad is the least valuable in the Premier League. There’s a strong correlation between overall team value and eventual finish. Norwich City, who bought one player this summer, is valued more.
This is going to be a brief stay in the Premier League unless their Saudi owners invest some money quickly.
The FA Community Shield is a match (with a trophy!) that takes place before the Premier League schedule begins each year. The game pits the previous season’s Premier League and FA Cup champs against each other.
When is the FA Community Shield?
The game takes place this Sunday, August 4th at 10am ET. It’s on a neutral field at Wembley Stadium in London.
The game can be viewed on ESPN+ in America.
FA Community Shield Odds
Not surprising, but Manchester City are favored to win the Community Shield for a second consecutive year.
However, their odds have dropped this week. City were odds on favorites at one point (around -115 / -125 range). After Liverpool’s impressive showing against Lyon in a Wednesday friendly, City move closer to even odds.
|Liverpool +250||Draw +260||Manchester City +105|
Should you care about the Community Shield?
That’s up to you.
City will care. As the perennial “look at us! we deserve respect!” club, City touts any trophy they can. After winning the domestic treble last year (and after after singing a song mocking Hillsborough victims), City adorably tweeted out a graphic claiming FOUR domestic trophies. The extra trophy? Their Community Shield. They even called themselves the Fourmidables.🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣 Awwwwwwwwwwwwww. Someone in their marketing department thought “Fourmidables” would stick like “fetch.”
Liverpool, a club with an actual history and without an inferiority complex, will compete hard but not tout a Community Shield trophy in their 2020 presser.
We’re one month away from the first full matchday of the 2019-20 Premier League schedule.
Yesterday, we looked at Premier League matchday 1 odds. Today, we’ll take a quick look at which teams can win the 2019-20 Premier League trophy. We’ll do a deeper dive into this in early August once summer transfers are complete.
Further, in the coming weeks we’ll take a more in-depth look at:
- All Premier League teams heading into the season
- What clubs can challenge for a top 6 spot
- What clubs are top relegation candidates
- What Championship League teams are most likely to be promoted
Can any team challenge Manchester City or Liverpool for the title?
Not even Tottenham?
Spurs don’t get enough credit for how they develop talent. They have an elite manager in Mauricio Pochettino. Tottenham have elite level players. They’ve added their recent record transfer Tanguy Ndombele. Christian Eriksen hasn’t left yet. Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, and Dele Alli are still there.
Notice I haven’t mentioned a defender yet?
Spurs is a fairly WYSIWYG squad. We know they’ll be well coached. We know they’re a threat to win any game. They’ll make it to the Champions League knockout rounds. They will snugly finish third in the Premier League. This isn’t complicated.
What about Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal?
They seriously have no chance?
Chelsea just shit-canned a coach who guided them to a Europa League title and top 4 finish. They’re under a transfer ban. They lost their best player. Frank Lampard, their new coach, is unproven. Or maybe not even good. He didn’t exactly have his iPhone ringing off the hook this off-season. Chelsea is the model of organizational instability. They’re taking a step back.
Arsenal appears to be adding nobody of note to a squad that didn’t crack the top 4 last year. And they lost their best midfielder.
Manchester United I actually think are making smart moves, acquiring young players with upside and heart like Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. They need another 5 of those moves and a couple of years of growth to start challenging again. As the saying goes, they’re two years away from being two years away.
So, it’s really already down to Manchester City and Liverpool for the 2019-20 Premier League title?
The chasm between City and Liverpool and everyone else is enormous.
First, let’s look at what betting markets say.
The next closest odds? Tottenham at +1600.
It’s the same general odds over at FanDuel Sportsbook NJ as well.
Further, Liverpool and Manchester City just ended last season as two of the statistically best 8 teams of all time. According to ClubElo, last year’s Liverpool was actually better than City, peaking as the sixth best team ever in the history of freaking soccer.
With apologies to Vincent Kompany, neither squad lost any players of note. Financial fair play rule breaking City added high-priced Rodri to their team. They’ll likely break more rules to buy players they shouldn’t be allowed to buy. That’s how City rolls.
Liverpool get Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez back full time and expect growth from elite youngsters like Rhian Brewster. And they’re going to win 17-18 games at Anfield. They’re good.
One of these two teams is winning the Premier League. It’s a given. Just accept it and move on.
Who will it be? We’ll examine who has the best chance later this month.
Welcome to the first High Press Soccer Premier League XI.
At the end of each season, we’ll take a look at major domestic leagues / cups and parse through the data, player voting, and weigh it against the general context of the year to determine the best XI and reserves. This year will only be the EPL and Champions League, but we’ll expand next year to cover La Liga, Bundesliga, and Serie A (we’ll just copy+paste PGS’s line-up for Ligue 1).
How the 2018-19 Premier League starting XI was determined
The XI (and reserves, 18 total) were determined based on:
- Statistical output: Analytics and data matter.
- Importance to team performance: Analytics and data don’t measure context. Did Lukasz Fabianski change West Ham’s season more than Alisson Becker did for Liverpool? Was their degree of difficulty the same?
- PFA voting: While the pros definitely got a few spots wrong (mostly due to recency bias on a few streaking players), in general it’s easier to provide weight to their opinions since, you know, they actually play the game against these guys. That’s important.
- Overall player value: A free market is a good indicator on something or someone’s overall value. It often doesn’t account for factors such as injuries, but it serves as a good measure for who is worth the most at their respective positions.
To those bullets, here are the points we mostly used as reference.
Transfermarkt Value: As stated above, a free market is usually a solid indicator of a player’s value, no? The one issue here is it doesn’t account for injuries that limited playing time (Harry Kane) or someone having a down year due to a new coach casting him in a ill-fitting role (N’Golo Kante).
Regardless, here’s transfermarkt’s top XI:
Mostly looks good, although it’s hard to argue that David de Gea would attract more interest today than Alisson Becker or Ederson.
Soccer Analytics: For this, we’re using WhoScored. Overall captures most of the key data points need to paint a full picture of a player’s season. As written above though, it doesn’t provide context. We’ll dive into the specifics of that point once we get to the selections.
PFA Voting: Again, players know. They always know. However, a few selections show recency bias from the time when voting took place. Raheem Sterling (who had an awesome year) and Paul Pogba were peaking at the time of the voting. Mo Salah was slumping. Over the course of a full season, and particularly at the close, was Sterling better than Salah? Was Pogba better than Hazard?
HPS Starting XI and Reserves
With all of that out of the way, here’s our first Premier League seasonal team. In the coming years, we’ll continue to refine the methodology and team selection.
To keep things simple, we use a 4-3-3 formation. Since the starting XI is made up entirely of Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Chelsea players, they get a blended red/blue kit.
Let’s start between the sticks.
Goalkeeper: Alisson. Won the Golden Glove award as he led the Premier League with 21 clean sheets. Statistically, West Ham’s Lukasz Fabianski rated as the league’s best goalkeeper, but this is where context comes into play. Alisson was the final piece that turned Liverpool into a rollercoastery offensive juggernaut to one of the most well-balanced teams in the world. He faced and saved less shots than Fabianski, but he made huge saves all year when it mattered most. He did so without missing a minute of Premier League play and while shouldering the pressures of a Champions League Finals fun. It was close, but Alisson gets the edge.
Right-Back: Trent Alexander-Arnold. This came down to splitting hairs between the best defensive right-back (break-out Crystal Palace youngster Aaron Wan-Bissaka) and an offensive juggernaut in TAA. Wan-Bissaka
was second in the EPL in successful tackles and crosses blocked. TAA was third in the Premier League in assists (12) and first on his team. He also improved defensively as the year progressed. Again, context here. TAA and his left-wingback partner Andy Robertson were often the fulcrums of Liverpool’s attack. With a lack of attacking midfielders, they provided the spark that ignites the Reds’ frontline trio.
Center-Back: Virgil van Dijk. Easiest selection on the board. VVD was a monster all year and won the PFA vote as well. A constant stable presence that anchored the league’s best overall backline.
Center-Back: Aymeric Laporte. Anchored the league’s second best defense (only 1 goal conceded more than Liverpool). A fantastic passer (92.3% success rate) who chipped in three domestic goals and assists this year. At 24, still has room to improve. When VVD ages out in a few years, Laporte will be the league’s best center-back.
Left-Back: Andrew Robertson. Same dilemma as with right-back. Lucas Digne was sensational all year for Everton. Robertson though was a non-stop motor for Liverpool who, along with TAA, provided their potent attack from the back. Robbo had 11 assists for the year (Digne tallied 4 goals and 4 assists). He outpaced Digne in tackles, interceptions, and dribbles per game as well. The clincher, fairly or unfairly, was how Robertson compared directly to established “world’s greatest left-back” Jordi Alba in the Champions League semis. Robertson was more effective overall, particularly in Leg 2. Advantage, Robbo.
Right-Mid: Paul Pogba. Admittedly, this is the one we went back and forth with the most. Christian Eriksen and Bernardo Silva (and the always underrated Son Heung-min) got consideration for this spot, but advanced stats and player voting liked Pogba’s uneven season. He tallied 13 goals, 50 created chances and 21 xG-xA. United were at their best when Pogba was at his–and they would’ve likely fallen out of the top 6 if not for his mid-season resurgence. Bernardo Silva was just a tick less productive in fewer minutes (and games) played. This is Pogba, barely, in the hardest spot we had to fill.
Center-Mid: Fernandinho. Similarly to Pogba, City were at their best when
the 34 year-old Fernandinho was on the pitch. They only dropped 8 points in the 29 games he played. Players and analytics agreed he was among the best XI for the year on arguably the best assembled squad of all time.
Left-Mid: Eden Hazard. We’re not sure whether or not PFA voting was some sort of meta-game on Hazard (“if we don’t vote for him and he thinks we don’t respect him, maybe he’ll leave…”). What we know with certainty is, when fit, Hazard is unarguably one of the three best players in England. WhoScored ranked him #1 this year. He tallied the most combined goals and assist in the league with 31 (16 goals, 15 assists). His likely departure will set Chelsea back for some time. Players like Hazard don’t come around often.
Left-Forward: Mohamed Salah. Terrible year. Golden Boot winner. Second in the EPL in goals+assists. First in EPL in team points created from goals. Second highest seasonal player rating on WhoScored in EPL. Just a terrible, awful year. Orrrrrr…Salah finished fewer of his opportunities than his record-setting 2017-18 campaign, but was Liverpool’s most important offensive players and, along with Hazard, a massive glaring oversight in the PFA voting. Along with Harry Kane, Kevin de Bruyne, and Eden Hazard, he carries the highest transfermarkt price tag in the league. Salah is among the global elite.
Center-Forward: Sergio Aguero. Unless you’re a [bandwagon] City fan, nobody is as terrifying around the ball as Aguero in the Premier League. He’s always a threat, always finds the angle, and finishes at an elite goals/minute clip (best in the Premier League among regular starters). With Kane injured much of the year, there’s not much to debate on this one.
Right-Forward: Raheem Sterling. This was the second most difficult decision. Choosing Sterling means no Sadio Mane. It’s impossible to ignore what the co-Golden Boot winner Mane meant to the Liverpool attack (particularly when Salah was in poor form, Mane stepped up). However, Sterling’s advanced stats were better, he finished second in voting among his peers for the PFA award, and he tallied more goals+assists than Mane (27 to 23) on one of England’s all-time best offensive teams.
Lukasz Fabianski, Sadio Mane, Lucas Digne, Fabian Schar, Christian Eriksen, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bernardo Silva
Near misses: Son Heung-min and Leroy Sane were tough to overlook and will likely at least make the reserves by next year. Felipe Anderson also considered.
Just a few words on the reserves:
- Lukasz Fabianski: Best analytically between the sticks.
- Sadio Mane: A handful more assists he would’ve edged Sterling. Felt like he got stronger and faster as the year progressed.
- Lucas Digne: A complete LB.
- Fabian Schar: Crazy good value on this Newcastle player. Expect teams like Manchester United to be all over him next year.
- Christian Eriksen: Almost immediately regretting putting Pogba in over him. Pogba’s numbers just better.
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: Co-Golden Boot winner and really shined for Arsenal in Europa League.
- Bernardo Silva: Will be in the XI next year.
Latest High Press Pod is live for streaming and download.
At 7 minutes, contributing writer Harrison Hamm joins to discuss the Luciano Acosta transfer rumors.
Finally at 20:30 contributing writer Peter Nolan joins to cover a host of topics, ranging from MLS expansion to 30 teams, MLS club training compensation, Chris Armas – Thierry Henry coaching rumors, the Kaku suspension and general New York Red Bulls and NYCFC updates.
Audio comes in a little hot the first six minutes and smooths out after that.Listen to “High Press Pod Episode 3 (04/25/19)” on Spreaker.
It took him just 7 seconds to find the back of the net against Watford. Long scored by deflecting a sloppy clearance from Watford defender Craig Cathcart and capitalizing on a 1vs1 against goalkeeper Greg Foster.
Long’s goal beat the previous record of 9.82 seconds held by Ledley King of Tottenham back in 2000.
As for the rest of the game, Andre Gray leveled Watford 1-1 in the 90th minute. So yes, the first goal and the last goal were scored 90 minutes apart.
Shane Long scoring this season
The 32 year-old Irishman has made 21 Premier League appearances for Southampton this season, scoring three times, all in much slower fashion than 7 seconds.
Hes’ been with the Saints since 2014-15. His best year with them was the ’15-16 season when he found the back of the net 10 times.
Two UEFA Champions League spots up for grabs. Four teams competing for those final two spots.
Not one of those four teams won their game this matchweek.
Chelsea was the latest to crap the proverbial bed, tying Burnley (at Stamford Bridge!) 2-2. They clearly felt the pressure, with a bit of a meltdown and mini-melee with Burnley at the end where Maurizio Sarri was actually sent off.
The point does move Chelsea into fourth, tied on points with Tottenham (who have a game in hand) but behind on goal differential.
Top 4 Probabilities and Odds
BetStars NJ quickly updated top 4 futures, now dropping Chelsea and bumping up Arsenal.
|Tottenham -800||Arsenal -188|
|Chelsea +130||Manchester United +400|
Interestingly, United jumped from +700 to +400.
Arsenal improved their UCL probability 54% to 66%.
Chelsea’s draw though gives Manchester United a glimmer of hope for a top 4 finish.
Of course for that to happen, United have to beat City on Wednesday. Public money is coming in on City, as they’ve moved from +550 to +600 on
FanDuel Sportsbook NJ over the past 24 hours. Expect a spirited performance from United though after being depants by Everton on Sunday.
If nothing else, it’ll be an interesting final few weeks.
It’s Premier League Matchday 35. While relegation is basically settled and determined, the league title and UCL qualification is up for grabs. There’s only one genuine marquee match-up, but almost every game matters.
For that marquee match-up, Tottenham visits Manchester City, playing them for what will be the third time in 11 days. If City don’t drop any points in their next two games (home against Tottenham and away vs Manchester United), they’ll win the Premier League title again. Draw one of those games, andLiverpool likely takes it.
Matchday 35 Betting Lines Preview
All listed odds from April 16 on FanDuel Sportsbook NJ.
|Manchester City -350||Draw +480||Tottenham +750|
|Wolves -130||Draw +240||Brighton +420|
|Bournemouth -160||Draw +320||Fulham +400|
|West Ham +230||Draw +240||Leicester+120|
|Huddersfield +350||Draw +290||Watford -140|
|Newcastle +140||Draw +210||Southampton +210|
|Everton +210||Draw +240||Manchester United +125|
|Arsenal -200||Draw +330||Crystal Palace +550|
|Cardiff City +1200||Draw +550||Liverpool -550|
|Chelsea -490||Draw +410||Burnley +1000|
Odds & Ends
- Tottenham is third in the Premier League and having one of the greatest seasons in their history and they’re +750! And it’s hard to disagree with it! This is actually one of the trickier lines as the result may have a lot do to with what happens in their Champions League Quarterfinals Leg 2 outcome. Maybe Spurs win Leg 2 and they take their foot off the pedal here. Or maybe Spurs get annihilated in Leg 2 and exact some revenge at the Etihad. Or maybe both games are a dogfight since Spurs are still nowhere guaranteed of a top 4 finish. Fascinating game. Huge implications.
- Should Manchester United be +125 away to Everton? Have you seen Man U since OGS was named permanent manager? That +210 for the Toffees is worth a look.
Premier League Matchday 34 is full of high stakes fixtures. Liverpool and Manchester City have challenging match-ups. And save for Tottenham, none of the four teams vying for the remaining two UCL spots have cakewalks.
Every game matters this weekend. Here’s how the oddsmakers see them.
Matchday 34 Betting Lines Preview
|Leicester City -137||Draw +270||Newcastle United +400|
|Tottenham -650||Draw +650||Huddersfield +1800|
|Brighton Hove +130||Draw +230||Bournemouth +215|
|Burnley -105||Draw +235||Cardiff +320|
|Fulham +340||Draw +275||Everton -125|
|Southampton +160||Draw +210||Wolves +190|
|Manchester United -225||Draw +370||West Ham +650|
|Crystal Palace +900||Draw +425||Manchester City -333|
|Liverpool -162||Draw +300||Chelsea +425|
|Watford +225||Draw +260||Arsenal +115|
Odds & Ends
- Have you seen the Premier League table? Spots 3-6 are tightly bunched af. Chelsea (66 pts, 23 gd), Tottenham (64 pts, 26 gd), Arsenal (63 pts, 25 gd), and Manchester United (61 pts, 18 gd) are separated by razor thin margins. Chelsea have played one more game, but are three clear of fifth place Arsenal, but still have to play Liverpool (this week), Manchester United, and FA Cup finals participant TURN DOWN FOR WATFORD. Regardless, FiveThirtyEight give them a 52% chance of UCL qualification. Arsenal is at 50%. Man U is bringing up the rear at 19%.
- Liverpool are unbeaten at home since since The Beatles played the Cavern Club (seriously look it up). They’re surprisingly short home favorites at -162 given their fortressing of Anfield and ability to repeatedly pull last minute horseshoes from their rear.
- Last week, we called the Wolves – Manchester United game as a potential value play, saying the Red Devils may be due for an emotional letdown after the hiring of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. This week United is somewhat reeling. Look at the West Ham draw or outright numbers there.
- Finally, Wolverhampton is a weekly (and gamely) roller-coaster. Southampton is in decent form. That +160 for the Saints at home is worth a longer look.
Premier League Matchday 33 kicks off on Tuesday with one of the better games on the slate, as Wolverhampton host Manchester United.
In between Tuesdays games (Watford also hosts Fulham), some straggler games from Matchday 27 (Chelsea vs. Brighton) and Matchday 31 (Tottenham host Crystal Palace) take place. Manchester City also vie to overtake pole position in the Premier League on Wednesday in their Matchday 33 fixture against Cardiff City.
Matchday 33 Betting Lines Preview
All listed odds from March 31 on BetStars NJ.
|Wolverhampton +290||Draw +235||Manchester United +100|
|Watford -150||Draw +300||Fulham +400|
|Manchester City -1600||Draw +1100||Cardiff +3500|
|Southampton +650||Draw +350||Liverpool -225|
|Bournemouth +110||Draw +250||Burnley +245|
|Huddersfield Town +375||Draw +260||Leicester City-133|
|Newcastle United +155||Draw +210||Crystal Palace +195|
|Everton +220||Draw +260||Arsenal +115|
|Chelsea -250||Draw +380||West Ham +700|
Odds & Ends
- Current league leaders Liverpool travel to Southampton on Friday April 5th. This game is no given for the Reds. Southampton have three wins in their last five. While they’re five clear of relegation, they’re fighting to stay clear of the bottom three.
- Manchester City, on the other hand, look to regain their status atop the table with what looks like a tap in against Cardiff. FiveThirtyEight gives Cardiff less than a 1% chance to win and oddsmaker agree, listing them at an impossibly long +3500.
- The Wolverhampton +290 line is interesting. They’re at home. Manchester United may be due for an emotional letdown after making the wise hire of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. You could do worse than the +290 or +235 for the draw.
- And Huddersfield Town continue their march to the most losses in Premier League history. Leicester City find themselves as a road favorite, though FiveThirtyEight give Huddersfield a 29% shot at winning.