Mon. Oct 14th, 2019

Hot or Not: Premier League

With no one new being able to enter the top six, and no one able to drop into the relegation zone, the focus shifts to the battle for first place, as well as the mix of third through sixth place battling to claim a top four spot for automatic qualification to Champions League next season. Elsewhere, teams are playing for pride.

Hot:

Jamie Vardy, 32, Leicester City

Jamie Vardy has a ridiculous goal-scoring record against top six sides since his record breaking season in Leicester City’s title run in 2015/16. He has eight goals against Arsenal, seven goals against Liverpool, five against Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspurs, and four against Chelsea. Most strikers do not have anywhere near as many goals against the top six as Vardy does. He doesn’t just score against top six sides though, he consistently scores against anyone and everyone in the league.  So far in the 2018/19 season, Jamie Vardy has 18 goals and four assists in 32 appearances, along with three man-of-the-match awards.

Jamie Vardy uses his speed and confidence to attempt ambitious shots that often catch the defense and goalkeeper out of position and surprised. Vardy averages 2.4 shots per game, so he has a pretty good conversion rate. Due to his immense speed, Vardy is a major threat on the counter attack. He uses his speed to push the ball past opponents and is direct when running towards the goal. He also is good in the air, winning an average of 2 aerial duels per game.

More recently, he has scored 10 goals in the past 10 games, with an assist and two man-of-the-match awards to with. Of those ten games, he has helped his team to six wins, three wins and one draw. Most notable games are his performance against Arsenal, where Leicester beat Arsenal 3-0 at home, and Jamie Vardy scored two of those goals and won man-of-the-match; Leicester’s 3-1 victory over Fullham, where Vardy scored two goals, provided an assist and won man-of-the-match; and a 2-0 victory over Bournemouth, where Vardy scored one of the two goals to help secure the victory.

Vardy has two games left this season, one against Manchester City, where he and Leicester City will attempt to beat Manchester City and knock them off the top spot and the other game is against Chelsea, where Vardy will look to continue scoring against the top six side that he has the least goals scored against. Will Jamie Vardy be able to continue his run of form and grant Liverpool a league title by beating Manchester City?

Raheem Sterling, 24, Manchester City

Manchester City’s 24-year-old speed merchant has evolved as a player under Pep Guardiola. Raheem Sterling has added or improved upon finishing, passing and crossing since his Liverpool days. With 17 goals and 10 assists in 32 league appearances and getting himself 8 man-of-the-match awards, it is hard to deny he has been one of the best players in the league this season. He was awarded PFA Young Player of the Year recently.

In his past 10 games in all competitions, he has eight goals and two assists, as well as two man-of-the-match awards. Pep Guardiola has Sterling playing a quick, short passing game. Sterling will combine with his teammates around the box until there is an opportunity for Sterling to use his speed and cut inside from the wing, dribbling past his opposition and shooting to score or finding an open teammate to tap it in.

In the Premier League this season, Sterling averages 2.3 shots per game, and 2.5 dribbles per game. He is very lethal around the front of the goal. He averages 37.3 passes per game with an 85.8 pass completion percentage, and on average two of those passes are key passes that lead to a goal scoring opportunity.

Manchester City, if and when they lose the ball, like to win it back immediately as well, so they implement a high pressure system where even the forwards must close down defender high up the field. Sterling uses his speed to close down gaps and rush defenders to make a pass. On average, Sterling is able to have one tackle per game and 0.5 interceptions per game, which is good for a forward or winger.

With two remaining games in the Premier League left, and Liverpool right behind them, there is no room for error. Manchester City host Leicester on May 6th and travel to Brighton on the decision day on May 12th. Both are must win games if they wish to retain the title, and Sterling will play a big role in both games as he is one of the main offensive outlets on Manchester City’s squad.

Heating Up:

Shane Long(Southampton , 5 games, 4 goals, 1 man-of-the-match award)

Ayoze Perez (Newcastle United, 10 games, 8 assists, 2 man-of-the-match awards)(slight injury, so may be out for some time; otherwise, HOT)

James Maddison(Leicester, 10 games, 2 goals, 3 assists, 2 man-of-the-match awards)

Not:

Jack Stephens, 25, Southampton

Jack Stephens was a highly rated youngster at Southampton, and was brought into the first team in 2016/17. While he has not been terrible, he hasn’t been stellar either. The center back has not been good at holding on to the ball, passing, or successful tackles this season.

More recently, he has had some poor performances, with many errors leading to shots or errors leading to goals, costing his team valuable points. Southampton has four wins, four draws and two losses in their last ten games that Jack Stephens has played in. Of those draws and losses, Southampton lead the game in three of them, only to lose the lead later in the game due to defender errors, with many fans quick to point at Jack Stephens to blame. Whether he is a scapegoat or not, many imagine that a better center back would’ve been able to help his team hold the lead on many different occasions.

Jack Stephens averages 1.1 tackles per game, which ranks him 15th on the team in tackles per game, with only Maya Yoshida being the only defensive player with less tackles than him; however,  Maya Yoshida is second on the team for interceptions per game, where Jack Stephens ranks ninth on the team, but still behind all of the other center backs on the squad.

Southampton were fighting off relegation until their last game where they got an important point to distance themselves enough to secure safety, so the next two games are chances for fringe players or youth players to step up and show they deserve a spot on the roster next season, and as of now, Jack Stephens is looking like he will be replaced.

David de Gea, 28, Manchester United

Ever since the World Cup, David de Gea has not looked like his old self. For a span of time, he was once considered the best goalie in the world, if not – top three. Now, he seems to have lost all confidence and is making costly errors between the posts. Manchester United have conceded 51 goals this season, the most out of the top nine teams, and the most Manchester United has conceded since 1978/79 season.

While it is not all of De Gea’s fault, there have been some questionable decision making and costly slip ups that have lead to goals. De Gea has made 118 saves this year, has 12 catches, two sweeper clearances, and has kept seven clean sheets. He has four errors leading to a goal this season. As a comparison, last season De Gea had 115 saves, 10 catches, six sweeper clearances and 18 clean sheets. He only conceded 28 goals last season and had zero errors leading to a goal.

Manchester United have lost seven of their last ten games, winning only two and drawing one. They have two remaining games on the season, and are fighting for a top six spot. They currently sit in the sixth position, so they will need slip ups from the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham if they wish to move up, while getting results in their last two matches against already-relegated sides Huddersfield and Cardiff. Despite being relegated already, neither team will go down without a fight as players and managers of both of those teams are fighting to stay on the team and be ready to fight in the Championship to gain promotion back into the Premier League.

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