After a short break for International games the EPL returns for all you guys and gals out there. After 11 weeks Chelsea lead the way and have yet to lose a game, but the EPL is always full of surprises so perhaps Week 12 will be the week they finally slip up.
Elsewhere, Man City entertain Swansea, Liverpool return to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace where they famously drew 3-3 last season, and there is also the small matter of Arsenal v Manchester United, which has produced some memorable moments down the years.
Only a third of EPL English
English players make up just over a third of the EPL according to a survey conducting by the BBC.
The State of the Game study found that English players played 36.01% of total playing time, that figure was a rise on last year’s figure which was 32.36%. However, the rise was attributed to new promoted Burnley, who has used just one non-UK player this season.
In fact, if you take Burnley out of the equation the amount of time English players are getting on the field is the same as last year, but at the top clubs it is falling.
Six months ago FA chairman Gregory Dyke announced plans to get more English players playing in the EPL, while the Professional Players Association chief Gordon Taylor believes every club should be made to field at least three homegrown players.
- Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham and champions Manchester City used the most non-UK players in the EPL.
- Argentines were the big movers, up to the third most represented non-UK country after France and Spain, and now outnumber Welsh players in the Premier League.
- 33 of the 44 new signings made by last season’s top eight clubs were foreign.
- A quarter of the 373 foreign players in the EPL played fewer than 10 games last season.
- Burnley used the most English players (13) while Chelsea, Stoke and Man City each used the least (three).
- In 2013-14 just five English players took part in all 38 matches.
Can the EPL learn from the Germans?
Study group the CIES Football Observatory last week reported that the ratio of foreign players in the German Bundesliga is 43.5% compared to the EPL, which is 55.07% non-UK and 63.92% non-English.
In 2002, Germany overhauled their youth system, which many view as a key factor in helping them create the talent to win the 2014 World Cup.
Lutz Pfannenstiel, first-team scout at Bundesliga club Hoffenheim, said: “We were like other European countries, signing foreigners for the sake of it. When we restructured we decided as a country to go for young players and if possible German.
“Now any player from another country has to be absolutely outstanding. We no longer see the point in taking a player we can maybe find at the same level in Germany.”
Football fans against more Televised games
The Football Supporters Association is against televising more live EPL games and especially any 3pm kick-offs, according to chairman Malcolm Clarke.
Ofcom, who is the UK government – approved regulatory and competition authority for the broadcasting, telecommunications and postal industries of the United Kingdom, is currently investigating the selling of TV rights in the UK following a complaint by Virgin Media.
At present, live games cannot be shown in England between 14:45 GMT and 17:15 GMT.
Virgin argues fewer games are available for live viewing in the UK than other countries and customer are paying inflated prices for those games. However, Clarke believes more games on television will have a detrimental effect on the game in the UK and provide little benefit for fans.
“Most fans think we’ve probably reached television saturation point and it’s not in the game’s interests to increase the number even further,” said Clarke.
“A 3pm kick-off on Saturday is part of the tradition of English football. We’ve lost some of that with the number of games that are now being moved, which many fans are unhappy about.
“But if it goes a step further so that you have got live television games up against the normal 3pm kick-off, it could have a very adverse effect on gates lower down the leagues and we would be opposed to that.”
Clarke added: “We’ve seen no evidence so far that increased media rights benefit the ordinary fan, either sitting at home watching a game on television or going to the matches.
“It has benefitted owners, highly paid executives, players and agents but not us.”
Arsenal tried to sign Messi as teenager
Arsene Wenger has confirmed he tried to sign Lionel Messi from Barcelona as a teenager.
Wenger revealed he had hoped to sign Messi, Gerrard Pique and Cesc Fabregas as part of a treble swoop.
Wenger said: “We wanted to take Fabregas, Messi and Pique. It worked only for Fabregas.”
Fabregas joined Arsenal and spent eight years with the Gunners before returning to Barcelona in 2011, while Pique joined Manchester United in 2004 before returning to Barca in 2008.
Messi, who was 15 at the time, is reported to have turned down a move to Arsenal after the Gunners refused to buy an apartment for his parents. The Argentine forward has since gone on to score 250 goals for the senior Barcelona team, breaking all types of record and is regarded by many as one of the greatest players of all time.
However, Wenger laughed off such suggestions and cited that had a deal been made it still may not have gone through, as Messi would have required a work permit.
Wenger added: “I think in the end he was not so keen to move.”
“It was not completely down to a flat in the end. It was down to the fact that Messi was comfortable at Barcelona.”
|Liverpool v Chelsea||1-2||0-2||1-1||1-3||1-3|
|Burnley v Hull||1-0||0-2||0-0||1-1||1-1|
|Man Utd v Crystal Palace||1-0||3-1||4-1||4-0||4-0|
|Southampton v Leicester||2-0||3-0||2-0||3-0||2-1|
|West Ham v Aston Villa||0-0||2-0||3-0||2-1||3-1|
|QPR v Man City||2-2||0-2||1-2||0-4||2-2|
|Sunderland v Everton||1-1||1-2||1-1||1-2||1-2|
|Tottenham v Stoke||1-2||1-0||2-0||2-1||2-0|
|West Brom v Newcastle||0-2||2-2||1-1||1-3||1-1|
|Swansea v Arsenal||2-1||1-2||2-3||2-2||2-1|
A correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth ONE point. Getting the exact score correct earns THREE points.
|Chelsea v West Brom||2-0|
|Everton v West Ham||2-1|
|Leicester v Sunderland||1-1|
|Man City v Swansea||3-0|
|Newcastle v QPR||2-1|
|Stoke v Burnley||2-0|
|Arsenal v Man Utd||2-2|
|Crystal Palace v Liverpool||1-1|
|Hull v Tottenham||1-0|
|Aston Villa v Southampton||0-1|
Chelsea v West Brom
Chelsea maintained their lead at the top of the EPL with a good 2-1 win away to Liverpool. The Blues trailed Liverpool for a while, but showed their quality and character to draw level and then take the lead, and were comfortable winners in the end—though Liverpool should have had a penalty late on after Gary Cahill clearly saved a Steven Gerrard shot with his arm in the box.
West Brom lost 2-0 at home to Newcastle in their last EPL game and will be hoping to bounce back with a good performance against Chelsea. The Baggies came close to winning at the Bridge last season, only for Chelsea to get a controversial last minute penalty to spare their blushes. However, Chelsea are a much improved side compared to last season, so West Brom have their work cut out.
Chelsea welcome back Andre Shurrle after a recent illness, while Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas could also feature for the Blues despite missing international duty with Spain due to hamstring injuries.
Craig Gardner could feature for West Brom after serving a ban, but Jonas Olsson and Sebastien Pocognoli are likely to remain out with Achilles and hamstring injuries respectively.
West Brom ended a run of eight successive defeats with a 2-2 draw at Chelsea in February, though they were left fuming when Chelsea were awarded a last-gasp penalty after Ramires appeared to dive in the box.
That would have been the Baggies’ first win at Stamford Bridge since 1978, but they face tough task this season as Chelsea are the only English professional soccer team to have won all of their home games in the league this season.
West Brom have improved this season, but so have Chelsea and I expect them to win this game comfortably.
Man City v Swansea
Man City came from behind twice to salvage a draw against EPL strugglers QPR. Queen Park Rangers played really well and could have put the game out of sight if it were not for the performance of keeper Joe Hart, who made a couple of great saves. But City really had Sergio Aguero to thank, as he scored two breathtaking goals.
The Argentine striker is currently the best striker in the EPL with nine goals in his last six games and is currently carrying City, but he can’t do it all alone and if he gets injured City could struggle—Aguero has scored 12 of City’s 22 goals this season, no other player has more than 2.
Swansea recorded a fine 2-1 victory over Arsenal in their last game to continue their good start to the season. The Swans were trailing the Gunners, but showed their quality to battle back and win the game. Summer signing Jefferson Montero was the man of the match and showed he has the pace down the wings to trouble any defense in the division.
Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany is fit ahead of schedule and should feature against Swansea. Eliaquim Mangala has also overcome a knock, but Edin Dzeko and Aleksandar Kolarov are both expected to be out until next month with calf injuries.
Swansea midfielder Jonjo Shelvey is available after a one-match ban, while the Swans are also hopeful of Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge returning after injury. However, defender Federico Fernandez is definitely out with a calf problem.
Swansea is playing well and will be confident of getting a result against a City team that is not playing well. However, City has won all three of their EPL meetings against Swansea at the Etihad without conceding a goal—in fact, Swansea’s last win at Manchester City was way back in 1951 when they won 2-1—and I expect City to win this game without trouble.
Arsenal v Manchester United
Saturday’s EPL action draws to a close with a Blockbuster of a game as two of the EPL’s most successful teams lock horns. These two sides have dominated the EPL down the years, but both sides have struggled so far this campaign and will want to hit some form before they head into the hectic Christmas schedule.
Arsenal lost away to Swansea to continue their stuttering start to the season. The Gunners took the lead against the Swans before losing and have now dropped a league-high nine points from winning positions this season—as many as they did in the whole of 2013-14. The only positive Arsenal could take from the game was the performance of Alexis Sanchez, who scored for the sixth time in four games.
Manchester United bounced back from defeat against neighbors Man City with a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace. The Red Devils brought Michael Carrick and Marouane Felliani into the midfield and while they may have looked more solid defensively, they were nowhere near as good an attacking threat, and if they play the same against Arsenal they will really struggle.
Arsenal striker Oliver Giroud has recovered from a broken leg ahead of schedule and could feature against Manchester United.
Captain Mikel Arteta returns from a hamstring injury, but Danny Welbeck is a doubt with a similar problem and Theo Walcott could miss out with a groin injury.
Daley Blind has joined Manchester United’s lengthy injury list, while Radamel Falcao still isn’t ready to make his comeback.
Luke Shaw, Michael Carrick, Angel Di Maria and David De Gea all picked up knocks whilst on international duty, but should be fine to face Arsenal.
Manchester United have a good recent record against Arsenal, losing just once in their last 14 games against the Gunners in all competitions (W10 D3 L1). In fact, Arsenal has lost to Manchester United 20 times in the Premier League, more than they have against any other team.
However, The Red Devils are not the team they used to be and have yet to win a game away from home this season. Both teams are struggling with injuries in defense and do not really have the personnel to play defensive soccer, so we should be in for an open game with lots of goals.
The injury to Blind is a big blow for United and could tip the game in Arsenal’s favor, but I think the game will end in a draw.
Crystal Palace v Liverpool
This game will bring back unhappy memories for Liverpool and their fans. With 11-minutes left to play in last season’s game, Liverpool were 3-0 up and looking to add more goals as they tried to reduce the goal difference gap between themselves and Man City. However, Liverpool’s rush to get the ball after scoring their third goal seemed to incense the Palace players and it was the Eagles that managed to bang in the goals, scoring three times to end the game in a 3-3 draw.
That draw all but ended Liverpool’s dreams of winning the League, with striker Luis Suarez leaving the field in tears.
Palace lost away to Manchester United last week and didn’t really offer much resistance allowing United to have over 70% of possession. Nevertheless, they only lost 1-0 and the game could have been a lot different had former United player Frazier Campbell done better when clean through on goal.
Liverpool lost 2-1 to Chelsea last week to continue they poor run—the Reds are now without a win in their last three games. The Reds once again looked to be lacking ideas in attack and really are missing the presence of Daniel Sturridge up top. But they will have to find a solution soon, as the England forward suffered another setback and is set to be out for another six-weeks.
Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak returns from suspension but he and Yannick Bolasie will be assessed following long-haul flights while on international duty.
Liverpool could start summer signing Rickie Lambert with fellow forward Mario Balotelli suffering a small hamstring problem.
Crystal Palace is unbeaten in their last five league and Cup meeting against Liverpool at Selhurst Park, though they have only won one of ten meetings against the Reds in the EPL.
Liverpool are really struggling for goals at the moment and are not particularly defending well either, which is not a good combination. Palace seem to lack the intensity they had under former manager Tony Pulis, but are still a tough side to beat and will give Liverpool a good game on Sunday. If Liverpool had Daniel Sturridge fit and playing I would back them to win this comfortably, but without him I can see them struggling.