EPL

Premier League data dive: Relegation battlers claim big results

By Sports Desk March 18, 2023

Leeds United, Everton, Southampton and Leicester City all earned big results on Saturday in their efforts to beat the drop.

The Premier League's struggling sides were the big winners from the five matches to take place.

Leeds beat fellow relegation candidates Wolves 4-2, while Everton pegged back Chelsea twice at Stamford Bridge and Southampton came from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 with Tottenham.

Leicester, meanwhile, snatched a draw at Brentford, though 19th-placed Bournemouth lost 3-0 at Aston Villa.

Wolves 2-4 Leeds United: Six-goal thriller and two reds at Molineux

Leeds came out on top in an enthralling encounter at Molineux, with Javi Gracia's side claiming what could be a vital three points in their bid to survive this season.

Jack Harrison put them ahead early on, and he has now been directly involved in four goals (two goals, two assists) in his four Premier League games under Gracia, just one fewer than in his previous 21 matches under Jesse Marsch and Michael Skubala this season (five).

Luke Ayling netted his first league goal since doing so against Wolves exactly a year ago (March 18, 2022) to make it 2-0, with Rasmus Kristensen putting Leeds three ahead.

Their hopes of a comfortable win were dashed when Illan Meslier, on the day he became the youngest goalkeeper in Premier League history to reach 100 appearances, made a mistake that Jonny pounced on, volleying in from 41 yards. That is the furthest distance a player has scored from in the top flight since Wayne Rooney's 58-yard strike for Everton against West Ham in November 2017.

A deflected Matheus Cunha strike gave Wolves hope, but Jonny became the first Wolves player to both score and be sent off in any league game since September 2008. 

Julen Lopetegui was fuming that Wolves were not awarded a first-half penalty and that a foul was not given in the build-up to Rodrigo's late effort for Leeds, with Matheus Nunes then sent off even though he was on the substitutes' bench.

"I'm not waiting for [further apologies]. I just want them [the officials] to do their job," Lopetegui said.

Southampton 3-3 Tottenham: Conte left seething after Ward-Prowse seals comeback

Southampton came from two goals down to avoid defeat for a second time in the Premier League this season, with only Manchester City (P3 W2 D1) avoiding defeat having fallen two goals behind on more occasions this term.

Tottenham, who took the lead through Pedro Porro but saw it cancelled out by Che Adams, restored their advantage through Harry Kane – he has now scored nine headers in the league this season, equalling Duncan Ferguson's single-season record in the competition from 1997-98.

Ivan Perisic took Spurs' tally of Premier League scorers to 162, with only West Ham (164) having more different scorers in the competition's history, yet Theo Walcott pulled one back for Saints. The former Arsenal winger has more top-flight goal involvements (12) and goals (seven) against Tottenham than he does against any other opponent.

Yet Spurs conceded a 14th goal since the season restarted when Pape Sarr was deemed to have fouled Ainsley Maitland-Niles, and James Ward-Prowse converted the penalty. He has been involved in more Premier League goals against Tottenham than he has any other opponent (nine – five goals, four assists).

Brentford 1-1 Leicester City: Barnes holds the Bees

Brentford remain without a win against Leicester in the Premier League (P4 D2 L2). The Bees have not beaten the Foxes in the league since March 1953 (P8 D3 L5 since).

Leicester ended a run of four consecutive defeats in the Premier League but this was just the eighth point they have picked up in 2023 (P10 W2 D2 L6). Only Crystal Palace (five) have picked up fewer points since the turn of the year, while only Everton and Bournemouth (20 and 18 respectively) have conceded more goals in the competition this calendar year than Leicester's 17.

Only Ivan Toney (eight) has scored more home goals for Brentford in the Premier League this season than Mathias Jensen (five), whose goal was the Bees' 19th from a set-piece this term – more than any other side in the division.

Leicester scored from their only shot on target of the game. Harvey Barnes' goal was his ninth of the season – his joint-most in a single Premier League campaign (also nine in 2020-21).

Chelsea 2-2 Everton: Simms snatches huge point

Substitute Ellis Simms scored his first goal for Everton as Sean Dyche's team drew 2-2 at Stamford Bridge, twice coming from behind.

 

Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 28 Premier League home games against Everton (W15 D13), but the Toffees can take plenty of confidence from this result.

Joao Felix put Chelsea ahead with his first home goal for the Blues, but Abdoulaye Doucoure equalised from a corner; four of Everton's seven goals under Dyche have come from set-pieces.

Kai Havertz converted a spot-kick to restore Chelsea's lead. He has scored in three consecutive games for the Blues for the second time, previously doing so in March 2022.

However, Simms came on from the bench to earn a point for Everton. The Toffees have now had 13 different goalscorers in the competition this season, with only Arsenal, Chelsea and Leeds (14 each) having more.

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    Everton are up to 15th in the Premier League after their penalty for breaching the competition’s financial rules was reduced to six points on appeal, but they face the threat of further sanction with a second case still to be heard.

    An independent appeal board set aside the 10-point sanction originally imposed by a commission in November for breaching league profitability and sustainability rules (PSR), with the new reduced penalty lifting the Toffees’ points tally from 21 to 25.

    Everton said they were “satisfied” the appeal had resulted in a reduction in the points penalty, but the club are not wholly out of the woods and could have a further points sanction imposed in relation to a second PSR complaint which was laid on January 15.

    That one has to be completely concluded before June 1 – the date when promoted clubs receive their Premier League ‘shares’.

    It is also unclear whether the club may face compensation claims related to the first PSR breach. A ruling published at the time of the original 10-point penalty said five clubs – Burnley, Leeds, Leicester, Nottingham Forest and Southampton – had 28 days from written receipt of a copy of the decision against Everton to pursue a claim.

    None of those clubs confirmed whether they had pursued a claim when contacted by the PA news agency last week. One of them, Forest, have had a PSR complaint lodged against them since the original sanction was issued against Everton.

    The reduced six-point penalty for Everton relates to breaching PSR in the assessment period up to the 2021-22 season. The appeal board rejected seven grounds for mitigation put forward by Everton but did find the original commission made legal errors.

    The first of those was in relation to club representations to the Premier League in August 2022 over stadium debt, which the original commission said were “less than frank”.

    While the appeal board found these representations were “materially wrong”, it accepted that it had never been the Premier League’s case that this was anything other than an innocent mistake by Everton.

    Similarly, the appeal board said a breach of Premier League rule B.15, which requires clubs to act in utmost good faith, was never part of the original complaint against the club.

    “The first time rule B.15 appeared was in the commission’s decision,” the appeal board ruling stated.

    The appeal board also found it was wrong of the commission not to take into account available benchmarks for sanction, such as EFL guidelines.

    The appeal board revealed it considered other possible sanctions, such as a fine or a ban on registering players, but concluded a points deduction was warranted.

    “The unfair advantage achieved by a breach may include a financial advantage over other clubs, but it is most immediately a sporting advantage and consequently the sanction for breach can legitimately focus on sporting disadvantage,” the appeal board decision said.

    The reduction in penalty means Luton are now four points from safety in the Premier League, but their manager Rob Edwards accepted the issue was out of the Hatters’ hands.

    Forest drop to 17th, and their manager Nuno Espirito Santo said: “Regarding the hearing and the decision, we are waiting.

    “There are people in the club that are taking care of that. So these questions are not appropriate for me.”

    Everton released a statement following the publication of the revised sanction.

    “While the club is still digesting the appeal board’s decision, we are satisfied our appeal has resulted in a reduction in the points sanction,” the statement read.

    “We understand the appeal board considered the 10-point deduction originally imposed to be inappropriate when assessed against the available benchmarks of which the club made the commission aware, including the position under the relevant EFL regulations, and the nine-point deduction that is imposed under the Premier League’s own rules in the event of insolvency.

    “The club is also particularly pleased with the appeal board’s decision to overturn the original commission’s finding that the club failed to act in utmost good faith.

    “That decision, along with reducing the points deduction, was an incredibly important point of principle for the club on appeal. The club, therefore, feels vindicated in pursuing its appeal.”

    The club said they remain fully committed to co-operating with the Premier League in respect of the second complaint, which relates to a PSR breach in the assessment period up to the end of the 2022-23 season.

    If clubs breach PSRs in consecutive seasons, they can provide evidence and make submissions to the independent commission hearing their case that any crossover should be treated as a mitigating factor.

    Labour MP Ian Byrne, who tabled an early day motion in the House of Commons in response to the initial 10-point deduction, wrote on X: “I was proud to be able to take the fight against Everton’s disproportionate & unfair penalty to Parliament and am pleased to see their points deduction reduced today.”

  • Talking points ahead of the FA Cup fifth-round action Talking points ahead of the FA Cup fifth-round action

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    Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag cannot afford another defeat after Saturday’s late drama against Fulham, while Chelsea must respond to Sunday’s Carabao Cup loss to Liverpool.

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    United need a response

    Saturday’s stoppage-time home defeat to Fulham has put Manchester United under pressure going into Wednesday’s trip to Nottingham Forest. With a trip to the Etihad up next on Sunday, United need a positive result to avoid going into a derby amid another round of crisis talks at Old Trafford. With Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s buy-in now complete and an overhaul of football operations under way, the pressure on Erik ten Hag will only ramp up, and he cannot afford to see their only remaining hope of silverware this season come to an end.

    Liverpool to clear their hangovers

    There were emotional celebrations for Liverpool and their outgoing manager Jurgen Klopp after Virgil van Dijk’s header late in extra time won the Carabao Cup with a 1-0 win over Chelsea. Victory keeps Liverpool, top of the league by one point from Manchester City, alive in their bid for a quadruple as they remain among the favourites for both the FA Cup and the Europa League. Even with 120 minutes in their legs from Wembley, few would bet against them in a home tie against Championship Southampton.

    Chelsea to bounce back

    Mauricio Pochettino told his Chelsea players they needed to feel hurt by their Carabao Cup final loss, in which their performance in extra time prompted Gary Neville to call them “blue billion pound bottle jobs” on Sky Sports. Pochettino is yet to get a consistent tune out of his expensively-assembled squad, and Sunday’s defeat means the Argentinian has lost all three major finals he has reached while managing in England. The FA Cup offers an opportunity to put that right and their first opportunity to show a response comes on Wednesday, when they are favourites to see off Championship Leeds at Stamford Bridge.

    Guardiola looking forward to intense period

    As Manchester City return to Kenilworth Road to face Luton, where they had to come from behind to win 2-1 in the league in December, Pep Guardiola said he was relishing the decisive part of the season as his side look to replicate last season’s historic treble. Few would blame him given City’s enviable habit of reeling off long winning runs at this stage of a campaign. “Tomorrow is a final, like every game in Premier League and of course in Champions League,” Guardiola said. “The decisive part of the season is here ahead of us, in front of us, not far away, and we are going for it.”

    Newcastle seeking consistency

    Eddie Howe’s side slipped to ninth place with Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Arsenal, a mile off the sort of form that got them into the Champions League last term as a season best described as up and down continues. The best hope of returning to Europe next season may well lie with the FA Cup – a competition Newcastle are desperate to win to end their 55-year wait for major silverware. Although away from home, they should be firm favourites away to a Blackburn side still seeking a first win under new manager John Eustace. “This season can still be very special for us,” Howe said. “But we have to make it happen.”

  • We’re going for it: Pep Guardiola relishing crunch period as Man City eye titles We’re going for it: Pep Guardiola relishing crunch period as Man City eye titles

    Pep Guardiola is relishing the decisive phase of the season and has promised Manchester City are again “going for it”.

    The treble winners are in strong contention to repeat last season’s glories in the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.

    March will be a crucial month with a derby against Manchester United followed by clashes against title rivals Liverpool and Arsenal. They will also look to wrap up their place in the Champions League quarter-finals as they host FC Copenhagen leading 3-1 after the first leg of their last-16 tie.

    Prior to that comes an FA Cup fifth-round trip to Luton on Tuesday and Guardiola is looking forward to that and the coming weeks.

    The City manager said: “So after this game, February is over. Just two-and-a-half, three months to end of the season and we’ve arrived here still being there (in the competitions).

    “Tomorrow is a final, like every game in Premier League and of course in Champions League.

    “The decisive part of the season is here ahead of us, in front of us, not far away, and we are going for it.

    “It’s better to play for this than being 10th in the table and (having) no chance for that. The feeling is that if you lose – bye-bye. It’s so nice.

    “The problem is September, October – you see the expectations far, far away. In that moment you don’t think about any titles.

    “We don’t even now. I would say how we’ll define the end of March, beginning of April depends on what we have done this next month. Tomorrow and this month will (determine) our options.”

    City have close to a fully-fit squad for the trip to Kenilworth Road after Jack Grealish returned to the squad as an unused substitute at Bournemouth on Saturday following a groin injury.

    Defender Josko Gvardiol is now the team’s only notable absentee with an ankle problem and Guardiola is hopeful he will return soon.

    City needed to come from behind to beat relegation battlers Luton away in December and Guardiola is anticipating another tricky encounter.

    He said: “It will be even more difficult. We saw all the games played there against the top, top sides, and the reason why is clear – football goes in the direction Luton play, so, so aggressive.

    “It doesn’t matter if you are at top of the league, the bottom or in the middle, (they have) courage to play and face the challenge without any fear.

    “And after, it’s not just that. They have played direct channels but at the same time they have the ability. I think they’ve improved a lot since we met them there with their build-up play and the patterns are so clear.”

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