The 2018/2019 Premier League season is about to run down the final stretch. Some players have been showing they want to win and have what it takes to carry their team, while others look like they’re ready for the offseason.
Sadio Mané, 26, Liverpool
Sadio Mané, Liverpool’s 26-year-old versatile forward/winger, has been a dominant figure in recent games for Liverpool. Tied with his counterpart on the other wing, Mohamed Salah, they share a team-leading 17 goals in the league. In the Premier League this season, Liverpool boasts 70 goals. Mané has contributed to 24 percent of them. While the season, for Mané, has been stellar so far — his form is picking up even more.
In the past five games in all competitions for his club, the Senegalese international has seven goals. Five of those goals came in four Premier League matches and the other two are from their Champions League victory over Bayern Munich. The winger was also awarded two man-of-the-match awards in his two most recent appearances.
His recent success is no less thanks to the system that Klopp has implemented at Liverpool. Liverpool are great at counter attacking and fast paced attacks. Mané is arguably one of the fastest players in the league. With his speed and Liverpool’s counter attacking style, the combination is deadly. Mané swiftly takes the ball down the wings and cuts inside often, normally finding himself one-on-one with a defender around the box. Combined with quick dribbling, Mané creates enough space for himself to shoot, and putting it in the back of the net very often.
In all competitions, the Liverpool winger averages 2.2 shots per game with 1.7 successful dribbles. His conversion rate would be even higher, but he also hits the frame of the goal often. Three times he has hit the woodwork in his last three games.
Liverpool are in a very tight title race in the Premier League, leading Manchester City by two points but having played an extra game, and have just advanced to the next round of the Champions League. If Liverpool want to walk away with both trophies, players like Sadio Mané need to maintain their current form, which is nothing short of spectacular. Expect Mané to keep his stats in line with his averages this season, if not increasing them for the final stretch of the season.
James Ward-Prowse, 24, Southampton
Under new manager, Ralph Hasenhüttl, James Ward-Prowse seems like a brand new player. The versatile central midfielder is as energetic as ever, covering lots of ground every game. He is also more physical and scrappy than most may remember from his past 195 first team appearances since he debuted at 16 years old. He is not afraid to get stuck in on tackles anymore and is not often shifted off the ball when dribbling.
In the past four games, Southampton has won two, including a win against top-6 side Tottenham and, in a crushing manner, a lead thrown against Manchester United. Ward-Prowse has netted three goals in the past three games. Going back further, he has six goals in the past nine Premier League games.
In the most recent game, his team leading 89 percent pass completion rate helped his side overtake Tottenham 2-1 at St. Mary’s Stadium. He had two shots which led to a game winning goal from a set piece. In the game before that, a trip away to Manchester United, he scored yet another free kick that tied the game at 2-2 before the team eventually lost 2-3. Yet again, he had one of the highest pass completion rates on his team. Three games ago, in the 2-0 win against Fulham, Ward-Prowse netted yet another, keeping the theme of his high pass success rate.
With Ward-Prowse’s ability to pass and his excellent vision, his drive to press the opposition as demanded by the new manager’s system, and skill and accuracy of set pieces, he has earned himself a call up to the England squad. Southampton make the trip to Brighton for their next league game. While his team is not doing too hot overall, they are making a push down the final stretch to stay up in the league. If Ward-Prowse and Co. can continue to play as they have recently, expect to see them staying above water and possibly climbing up the table.
Raúl Jiménez, 27, Wolverhampton Wanderers (loan)
Raúl Jiménez has been fantastic for Wolverhampton Wanderers this season. The newly promoted Wolves spent the offseason searching for talent to upgrade their team who were champions of the English Championship. They stumbled upon Raúl Jiménez and managed to snap him up on loan from Portuguese side Benfica. Already scoring almost as many goals as in his 80 appearances at Benfica in under half the games, Jiménez has 12 goals and six assists in 30 games this season for the Wolves.
The Mexican international has seven goals and one assist in his last 10 games played, including two man-of-the-match honors. More recently of those ten games, he has three goals in three games including the one assist and one of the man-of-the-match awards.
With the Wolves counter attacking style, they like to play organized defense and sit deeper in their own half until they are able to win the ball where they quickly shift the ball to the flanks of the field and cross the ball to fit their strength of winning aerial duels. Being a 6-foot-2 forward, this tactic fits Jiménez perfectly. If the cross or counter is not heading down the wings, the forward is also great at hold up play and passing to teammates who are travelling up the field to support him. With an average of three shots per game and 1.2 key passes per game, Jiménez helps his team in the attack in all aspects.
Due to the Wolves tendency of sitting deep in their own half when they defend, Raúl Jiménez is often helping out on the defensive side of play as well. As a center-forward, the 27-year-old forward averages 0.8 tackles per game and 0.7 interceptions per game. This puts pressure on the other team and does not allow them to shift the ball along their defense as easily and can help start counter attacks higher up the field.
The forwards importance is evident in Wolves’ counter attacking system, helping his team to two wins and a draw in the last three games, winning against a newly-rejuvenated Manchester United and drawing a downward-spiraling Chelsea side. If Raúl Jiménez loses form, the Wolves may not find themselves as far up the table as they look to be heading for. Sitting in seventh place, the Wolves could end up in a European competition next season, but could be without Jiménez if they do not buy him out at the end of his loan from Benfica.
At the end of the day, whoever ends up with Raúl Jiménez will be very lucky.
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City, 10 games, 11 goals, 1 assist)
Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool, 5 games, 3 assists, 2 man-of-the-match)
Jamie Vardy (Leicester, 4 games, 4 goals, 1 assists, 1 man-of-the-match)
Son Heung-Min, 26, Tottenham
In their past five matches, Tottenham Hotspurs only have one win, a draw, and three losses. Two of those losses have come against bottom of the table teams and the other was to rivals Chelsea FC. In those five games, they scored four goals total, one per game they scored in. The lack of offense and creativity is hurting Tottenham’s champions league chances.
One would think after a couple weeks without star striker and team leading goalscorer Harry Kane returning to the lineup that offensive productivity would increase, not decrease; however, 26-year-old striker, Son Heung-Min has hit a dip in form.
Overall, Son is having a fantastic season — scoring 11 goals and assisting five times in his 18 starts and six substitute appearances; however, recent form has left his team struggling for goals and more importantly, points.
In his past five games his numbers have been lower than his season’s averages. Having one shot a game in his past five games is down from his season average of above two shots per game. He is also being dispossessed a lot more and having less success dribbling. Pass completion percentages are lower than his season’s average as well.
Could Harry Kane returning to the lineup be causing Son to have hit this dip in form? Son may have gotten used to the empty space left by Kane and now has to readjust once again. Could he and his teammates just be in a slump? Could he be lacking confidence?
Whatever the case, Son needs to find his creativeness and form quickly if he wants to play in the Champions League with Tottenham next season.
André Schürrle, 28, Fulham
Fulham have been having a less than stellar season in the Premier League thus far, only racking up 17 points in 31 games and having a -41 goal differential.
It is not new for a newly promoted team to struggle to stay up the following season. What is new, is spending a record amount of over $130m, being a newly promoted side and then getting relegated.
André Schürrle is one of the new boys brought in to fight for survival in the Premier League. For Fulham to pick up a player — who has played and impressed for sides like Bayer Leverkusen, Chelsea, Wolfsburg, Borussia Dortmund and is a German international player who was apart of the 2014 FIFA World Cup win, providing the assist in the final — they probably expected a much more offensively productive player.
The German World Cup winner has appeared in 24 games this season for Fulham, scoring six goals and having no assists. Even worse, he only has two goals in his past 10 games, or one in the most recent eight games. Taking 2.5 shots a game on average, and making only one key pass a game, his numbers should be giving him more goals and assists. He completes successfully dribbles past a defender only 0.9 average per game. He is dispossessed while trying to dribble on average 1.5 times a game. As a winger he only successfully crosses the ball on average of 0.4 times a game. Of an average of 23.2 completed passes a game, he has a 77.9 percent pass completion percentage.
If Fulham wish to stay up, it will be up to André Schürrle to step up and show why he was able to play for such prestigious clubs before and how he was apart of the World Cup winning German side. He needs to start being smarter and quicker on the ball as to not lose possession as much, all while creating chances for his team.
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