Premier League Rounds 18 & 19: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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The Good

Sexy Stoke is in full effect

Stoke City started this season with sky high expectations due to the reputations of the players they were signing to the club. They brought in players who were playing at levels of competition Stoke City are not accustomed to signing, though they have been doing this sort of thing for a couple of years now (i.e. Bojan from Barcelona).

Philipp Wollscheid from Bayer Leverkusen, Joselu from Hannover 96, Marco van Ginkel from Chelsea, Glenn Johnson from Liverpool and Ibrahim Afellay from FC Porto (formerly of Barcelona).

No signing was more indicative of Stoke City’s rise in stature and ambition, or of the impact of the influx of television money into the Premier League than Xherdan Shaqiri’s transfer from Inter Milan (formerly of Bayern Munich).

Shaqiri is a supremely gifted playmaker and winger who was earmarked by Bayern Munich to be the replacement for Franck Ribery or Arjen Robben.

The timing did not work out as Shaqiri was not seeing enough playing time to further his development, but the fact that Bayern tabbed him as an heir apparent is one indicator of his talent level.

Not to mention that he is a key player for a very good Switzerland National Team.

Much like his club, Shaqiri started the season slowly. Stoke City stumbled out of the gates and it was hard to figure out what was wrong. Perhaps they just needed time to mesh and gel with some of the new acquisitions.

Shaqiri is still averaging just a 6.95 match rating this season, but he notched two goals in Stoke’s thrilling 4-3 victory against Everton on Monday.

He did not have the best of games against Manchester United and Crystal Palace, but he scored twice during their win against Manchester City a few rounds ago.

He is starting to understand how to play with his teammates and Stoke City are beginning to understand how to work with their considerable talent.

The Potters were winless through their first six Premier League games this season. Stoke City are 8-2-3 in the 13 fixtures since that winless start to the season and find themselves just two points behind fifth place in the Premier League.

Bojan also endured a slow start to the season and has caught fire as of late. In four of his previous five fixtures Bojan has managed to secure a rating of 7.23 or higher.

Three of them featured a match rating of 7.55 or higher and he has contributed to a goal in each of the last three matches.

The enigmatic Marko Arnautovic is playing some of the best football of his career while Wollscheid has proven to be a shrewd pickup.

Stoke City take on West Brom and Liverpool in their next two rapid fire holiday fixtures and will like their chances to gain a decent amount of points from the two.

Speaking of ….


Jurgen Klopp’s Reds managed to put aside their three match Premier League winless streak and take down Leicester City, who are tied for top of the table with Arsenal.

It was a game that showed a flash of their potential under Klopp, but it also displayed several of the warts present in their game that often times prevents them from taking the steps required to be a legitimate threat for a top four position in the Premier League.

They dominated Leicester City.

They controlled the game for large stretches and still ended up defending for their lives in the end because they could not put Leicester City away earlier.

On the bright side, though, they thoroughly deserved to win the match and it was impressive that they were able to stifle a side that had not been held scoreless all season.

Klopp is making progress with Liverpool, but they must not follow up good wins against Leicester City and Sunderland.

While they only won 1-0 against the Black Cats, the good part is that they were able to keep yet another clean sheet.

By gaining all six points, Liverpool are now level on points with Manchester United and just five points behind Tottenham for fourth place.

The Reds will be tested during their next several fixtures, though, and if progress has truly been made then they must find a way to navigate this stretch of fixtures and still be in the fight for top four by the end of it.

Their next few Premier League fixtures are: West Ham away, Arsenal home, Manchester United home and Norwich City away.

West Ham are feisty and already dismantled Liverpool at Anfield, while Norwich City are playing much better of late than they were earlier in the season.

Manchester United have had their way with Liverpool in recent season and Arsenal can be extremely tough when they are focused on the task at hand.

This was a good start for Liverpool, but they must continue to work on their game  if they want to be serious contenders for top four.


Don’t look now, but Spurs are making a real push to be title contenders. What makes this astounding is that Spurs are the youngest team in the Premier League.

Mauricio Pochettino has Tottenham playing great football and they are in the thick of the race for the Premier League title.

Take a look at their top players and their ages (match ratings from

Harry Kane, 22, 7.44 match rating

Christian Eriksen, 23, 7.31 match rating

Dele Alli, 19, 7.26 match rating

Erik Lamela, 23, 7.14 match rating

Kyle Walker, 25, 7.12 match rating

Eric Dier, 21, 7.12 match rating

They have a great young core of players, and there are other talented young players in the first team that are not quite as advanced as the likes of Alli, but they provide depth.

If they can keep this group of players together and supplement their squad’s weaknesses with shrewd buys in the transfer windows, then Tottenham could become a force to be reckoned with in the Premier League for years to come.

Tottenham picked up impressive wins against Norwich City (3-0) and Watford (2-1). Both of those sides had been playing good football lately and Spurs will be pleased they were able to pick up all six points.

Spurs have some tricky fixtures coming up and will need to continue to improve their game if they are to stay in the race for the title.

Their next few Premier League matches are Everton (away), Leicester City (home), Sunderland (home) and Crystal Palace (away).

The Leicester City match pops out as one where Tottenham could make a statement of intent that they are serious about fighting for the league title.

We shall see how Tottenham’s young side handle their place in the top four and the increased scrutiny that accompanies growing expectations.

Next: The Bad