Reshaping Arsenal: Life after Alexis Sanchez
The much bigger change waiting to happen at Arsenal
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The English Premier League has officially reached the halfway mark with 19 games played. Manchester City now owns a 13-point advantage at the top of the table after the chasing pack ended up going winless at the weekend. Here are the main talking points from Gameweek 19.
1. Kane is chasing history
Tottenham are back in the top-six after Harry Kane's hat trick put them past Burnley 3-0. It was his fifth Premier League game with at least three goals in 2017, and he's now equaled Alan Shearer's record for most goals in a calendar year. He'll be chasing history in the final match of 2017. Though, he already has the edge over Shearer.
Shearer scored 36 goals in 42 Premier League games in 1995 for Blackburn Rovers, while Kane has hit 36 in only 35 games.
Kane also has the chance to end up as the most prolific scorer among all top European leagues, having so far scored 53 in all competitions, including internationals.
Southampton will be Tottenham's final opponent this year as Gameweek 20 kicks off at Wembley on Tuesday. Kane scored against the Saints last season at St. Mary's, but he actually doesn't have a very good record against them - only two goals in nine games across all competitions.
Still, you'd expect the record to fall. Southampton has gone ten games without a clean sheet and their form has taken a turn for the worse recently with a 6-match winless run.
2. Austin single-handedly keeping Southampton away from the relegation dogfight
Talking about Southampton, only Swansea and West Brom have won fewer games this season, but the Saints have managed to stay away from the relegation fight. At least for now. Mostly thanks to Charlie Austin.
Austin made it five goals in his last five Premier League starts when he opened the scoring in a 1-1 draw against Huddersfield. He made it six for the whole season with a nice headed finish.
What he did to Huddersfield goalkeeper Jonas Lössl wasn't nice at all, though.
Austin and Southampton boss Mauricio Pellegrino both said after the game that there wasn't any intent, but the replays speak a different story. The 28-year-old striker could face a lengthy ban for his actions.
Southampton will be in big trouble without Austin. He has scored five of the team's last nine goals. And if Austin doesn't get suspended, he'll still likely miss out from the next few matches as a hamstring injury forced him off early against Huddersfield.
Without Austin's contributions, Southampton probably would be in the relegation zone already, and with Tottenham and Manchester United next on the fixtures list, they could be in the bottom three sooner rather than later.
Pellegrino badly needs to sign a striker in January. The team has failed to score in nearly half (17) of their 38 league matches this calendar year.
3. Everton's “baffling” defending suddenly world class
Everton's rise under Sam Allardyce continued with a 0-0 draw at home against Chelsea. Eden Hazard had another wonderful outing as he linked up well with Pedro and Willian, but the Blues ended up drawing blanks.
The Toffees now have four clean sheets in six league games since Big Sam was announced as manager. They only had one in the previous 13 outings. After a recent 1-0 win over Newcastle, Allardyce called Everton's early season defending baffling. They have done a complete 360 with him
Everton was in a tough spot against Chelsea. Ashley Williams and Mason Holgate had formed the main central defensive partnership during Allardyce's time at the club, but the duo was ruled out from the match with flu symptoms. The same happened to Wayne Rooney.
As expected, without Rooney, the Everton attack looked lifeless, but the mixed defensive line coped surprisingly well against Chelsea. Michael Keane and Phil Jagielka both hadn't started a game since a shocking 4-1 loss to Southampton. Jagielka ended up having a standout performance, which included two goalline clearances.
Jagielka also made multiple blocks and the team as a whole, recorded eight blocks in the game. Chelsea ended up without a goal, even though they had 25 shots in the match. Superb is now the word to describe Everton's defending, not baffling.
4. Pascal Gross is the signing of the season
Mo Salah bagged another goal for Liverpool and he's now up to 15 for the season, which is an incredible return with only half of the season played. He's been a wonderful signing for the Reds, but not the signing of the season, as many have said.
Brighton's Pascal Gross is the best summer signing. Firstly, because he cost only about £3 million and secondly, without him it would likely be a miserable debut season for the club in the league.
The 26-year-old German has been a bit quiet in recent weeks and it's no surprise that the team's form has suffered as well, but he helped them get back on track, scoring the winner in a 1-0 result against Watford. They had gone seven games without a win before Gross' clever finish. (click on the image for the video)
Gross has now been involved in nine (four goals, five assists) of Brighton's 16 goals. That's four more than any other player on the team.
The former Ingolstadt player created the most scoring chances in the Bundesliga last season and it hasn't taken him any time to adapt to life in England. You could even make a case for him to win the Player of the Year award.
However, if Gross gets shut down by the opponents like it's happened a lot recently, or even worse, gets injured, then what for Brighton? They are currently sitting pretty at 12th and on 21 points, but the second half of the season could be much tougher if Gross' form dips.
5. Mark Hughes buys himself some time, but likely not much
Following Paul Clement's departure from Swansea on Wednesday, there have been six sacking this season in the Premier League. We looked awfully close to a seventh one before this weekend's action as Mark Hughes is under huge pressure at Stoke. A 3-1 win over West Brom takes some of the pressure off, but he likely won't remain at the club for much longer.
Stoke has been a consistent top ten side in the league, but they took a step back last season with a 13th place finish and things don't look good this year either. The side is currently 14th and owns the worst defensive record in the league with 40 goals conceded. They have won only two of the last nine matches, against Swansea and WBA, who make up the bottom two.
Chelsea and Man United are among the next four opponents for Stoke. A pretty tough way to finish off the old year and bring in the new. Visiting Huddersfield won't be easy either - they have lost only three times at home all season - and meeting Newcastle on New Year's Day could be difficult as well after the Magpies ended a lengthy winless run.
Hughes has pretty much failed as Stoke boss. He was hired to bring in a more attractive style of football, but there basically hasn't been any progress at all. They are averaging 44 per cent of possession this season, better only than West Brom (42) and the average number of passes in a match is 347.1. The number was only slightly lower during Tony Pulis' last season at the club (333.5).