English Premier League Says Goodbye To Norwich, But Who Else?
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Even as the English Premier League winds down, the race for Europe and league survival is far from over. The desperation increases and the search for heroes reaches a tipping point, we are able to kick back and enjoy the fall out from their efforts.
Leicester City is imploding right now, and it’s a huge shock after some of their plays and results earlier in the season. Manchester United march on to Champions League football and – oh boy – did I get it wrong about Sheffield United. They pummeled Chelsea 3-0 and are getting all the plaudits, and rightly so.
Norwich City’s fate was confirmed as they were put to the sword by West Ham United. The Canaries will be playing Championship football come September. They tried their best to play an attractive style of football, and you have to commend manager, Daniel Farke for sticking to his guns for style and philosophy; but at the same time, it was his undoing. I’ll be interested to see if he’s still in charge come next season.
Arsenal v. Liverpool
Wednesday sees a 1:15 p.m. kick-off between Arsenal and Liverpool, which you can stream for free on peacocktv.com.
Note: all of Wednesday’s games will be available this same way.
Even as Arsenal sit ninth and are on the outside looking in when it comes to European places, I still think they’re heading in the right direction under Mikel Arteta. They certainly had some very good moments in the North London derby loss. If you’ve not seen Alexandre Lacazette’s thunderous opener then you need to look it up immediately. However, the same issues of mental lapses and defensive mishaps are still hampering them. These issues have become such a regular occurrence with Arsenal that it feels cruel to keep going on about the same thing but the club must address these issues in the transfer window because for all the good that you can see happening at Arsenal, with ball movement and goals, their defensive structure cannot support a team that has top-four desires. I’m not preaching anything to you Gunners fans that you haven’t seen with your own eyes.
Liverpool comes into the Emirates Stadium a little bit frustrated, as they were looking to win their remaining league fixtures at home and claim another EPL record, however, they still have other records they can go for. Despite the disappointment of missing this record, the club played some of their best football of the season against Burnley on Saturday. The resolute Clarets bent but did not break, thanks to some good defending and an outstanding performance from the goalkeeper, Nick Pope.
Without captain Jordan Henderson, Liverpool struggled to maintain their tempo for the entire 90 minutes, but we saw youngsters, Neco Williams and Curtis Jones gain vital game time and prove that Liverpool might not have to invest so heavily as some might think to defend their title.
Roberto Firmino has come under scrutiny since Christmas, as his goal return has dropped off sharply, but he’s a fan of playing against Arsenal with eight goals against them in his career, so I’m hoping this kicks up his momentum and my word he needs a goal…even if he provides so much more.
The main focus on both teams will be the two players chasing Jamie Vardy in the race for the golden boot, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sitting on 20 goals and Mohamed Salah on 19 goals, as both are potential match winners. (Note: Southampton player Danny Ings is also in the golden boot race with 19 goals.)
However, its Liverpool’s attacking threat that might catch Arsenal out, even if it has been a little hit and miss since the restart. I expect both teams to move the ball quickly, so much so that it will be a really good watch. Because of the loss against Spurs, how Arsenal play on Wednesday will show what they are made of; and the frustration the Reds faced against Burnley will likely propel them forward again. All this analysis means is that we’re in for an attacking treat.
With Arsenal’s hopes for Europe slipping away, and the potential of breaking records for Liverpool, I give the Reds a psychological advantage, and with that, a victory.
Prediction: 2-0, Liverpool
Leicester City v. Sheffield United
Thursday’s matchup is an absolute belter. You can catch the 11:00 a.m. kick off on NBCSN.
With Leicester getting an absolute hammering on Sunday against relegation-threatened Bournemouth, it is a make or break for the Foxes. With themselves, Chelsea, Man United, Wolves and their opponents Sheffield United all pushing for the top four finishes.
Thankfully for Leicester, they still have a firing Jamie Vardy (23). Even if everything else is falling apart, they still have a chance. For as good as Leicester were the first half of the season, they’ve been equally disappointing since the new year. In truth, they were probably punching a little above their weight, what with the teams they’re surrounded by; but, being in the position they were in only makes this more disappointing. The squad is certainly good enough, and so you start to make sideways glances at the manager. A manager who will continue to try and get his teams’ to play attractive soccer, but who has always had issues when it comes to defensive organization.
Again, first half of the season, defensively they were pretty good, but the back to back losses at the end of December against Man City and Liverpool seemed to damage them and they haven’t bounced back fully since.
Sheffield United come into The King Power Stadium full of confidence. Whilst there is nothing flashy about the Blades, they are tough and robust. I doubted them against Chelsea and I stand by that. Chelsea’s midfield should have overpowered them, but what you witnessed was a United team who had figured out its opponent. I’m expecting the same in this game. The technical ability is with Leicester, but the heart and desire of this Sheffield United team is hard to replicate.
Sheffield’s core is made up of players that have played the majority of their careers in the lower divisions, and they pay like they’re savoring every moment. David McGoldrick’s post-game interview was the highlight for me, even over the brace he scored against Chelsea. The fact he was let go by Ipswich Town at the end of 17/18 season, signed with United after a trial period, won player of the season in the promotion season and now has been a solid performer in their first season back in the EPL is a testament to not only himself but what players are willing to do to play for Chris Wilder, a man that has coached in the lower divisions the majority of his career.
This team will score goals, make it difficult for you to score on them, whilst working their socks off in the middle of the park. Their intensity will be too much for Leicester, who are left scratching their heads about how to get things right before they’re out of Europe completely.
Prediction: 2-1, United
More to follow on Friday…Wear your masks, Utah!
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