Match Day 16 Premier League Predictions: Wingman’s Perplexing Play of the Week

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The Wingman is on a roll, as he lets loose on West Ham, lambasting the Premier League side for their latest managerial appointment.

David Moyes, the Wingman asserts, is going to drive the Hammers straight off the Premier League cliff. Or very close to it!

Moyes is still looking for his first Premier League victory as West Ham manager. This will most likely be the dour Scotsman’s last chance at a Premier League management job, and rightly so.

The Wingman believes Tottenham will get back to winning ways against Stoke this weekend. They haven’t won a league match in four and should rebound at Wembley.

In the surprise pick of the week, the Wingman goes with a draw in the Merseyside Derby. Everton are massive underdogs, but have played inspired football since Sam Allardyce arrived on the scene. He is known for inspiring struggling teams, while keeping an organized and disciplined defence. Everton will travel to Anfield and pull off a shocking result, walking away from Anfield with a share of the spoils.

If you like our jibe, please subscribe. Give us a like and comment too. Will Moyes run West Ham off the Premier League cliff are do they have too much talent to go down?

Why Canada Sports Betting? Because every player needs a wingman.

(Script and character idea creation by Newagejourno. Video production and editing by LTD EDN Productions.)

West Brom’s Gareth McAuley defying sands of time with career year

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Gareth McAuley is defying the sands of time. The 37-year-old is enjoying a career year at the heart of the Baggies defence.

Gareth McAuley, like a 21-year distilled bottle of Bushmills — the oldest of its kind — is getting better with age. He’s the oldest current outfield player in the Premier League.

Only 40-year-old keeper Shay Given, who has made five appearances for Stoke this season, is older. But unlike the retired Republic of Ireland international keeper, Gareth McAuley is a mainstay in West Brom’s first team.

Not only has he appeared in every West Brom match, he hasn’t missed a single minute of action. The ageless center back has played 2,610 minutes in 29 Premier League matches this season.

Only six other players, two of whom are goalkeepers, can make that claim.

From humble beginnings

McAuley had to scratch and claw for every opportunity. He started out with semi-professional outfit Linfield F.C. in 1996 when he was 16 years old. Based out of Belfast, McAuley played three seasons with Linfield before moving on loan to another Northern Irish semi-pro team, Ballyclare Comrades Football Club.

He stayed at Ballyclare Comrades for a season before roughing it up in the lower ranks of semi-professional Northern Irish Football League (NIFL) for an additional four seasons.

A chance to play professionally presented itself in 2004. McAuley, at 24 years of age, was on his way to play for League Two Lincoln City F.C.

McAuley paid his dues and grafted it out in the lower leagues for the better part of a decade. Then-Champioship side Leicester came calling in 2006. He had climbed the ladder all the way to the second tier of English soccer and was one step away from fulfilling his ultimate goal, to play in the Premier League.

In 2011, after 15 arduous, battle-tested years, he achieved Premier League status. West Brom were keen on McAuley, who was 31 years old at the time.

A perfect fit for a Tony Pulis team

STRATFORD, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 11: Gareth McAuley of West Bromwich Albion celebrates scoring their second goal to make it 2-2 during the Premier League match between West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion at London Stadium on February 11, 2017 in Stratford, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Tony Pulis builds his team around solid, strong and robust defensive players. He usually veers away from the flashy, creative types, worrying first about solidifying things at the back.

Pulis’ management style has been stigmatized in inner circles across the Premier League, but West Brom are one of the toughest teams to play against because of his conservative, yet effective tactics.

McAuley fits into his manager’s mantra perfectly. Strong, stoic, defensively sound and deadly at getting on the end of set pieces, the Northern Irishman is tailor fitted for West Brom. He’s also a boisterous leader, pulling the strings at the back through unwavering verbal communication.

McAuley accomplishing the implausible

One starts to run out of superlatives to describe how implausible, yet impressive a season McAuley is having.

The consummate professional isn’t merely playing sound, beastly defense.

He leads all other Premier League defenders with six goals, two ahead of Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso. Four of McAuley’s six goals have come from headers off of set pieces, which, I can speculate, is exactly what his crafty manager envisioned all along.

McAuley wasn’t always so prolific in front of goal. The defensive specialist has scored only 15 goals in 187 top flight appearances. Yet he’s managed a goal every five matches so far during the current campaign.

Compare that to a goal per every 18 games in previous seasons and you get a better sense of just how astonishing the 2016-17 season has become for McAuley.

And there’s still nine games left.

If he continues to defy nature and prolongs this rich vein of form into the 2017-18 season, I might soon question whether the Curious Case of Benjamin Button is indeed a fictional tale.

(This piece was originally featured on Fansided)

N’Golo Kante: Chelsea – and the Premier League’s – unglamorous MVP

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N’Golo Kante, not Diego Costa or Eden Hazard, is the main reason Chelsea are cruising to the Premier League title this season.

Kante is Chelsea’s most valuable player.

That might, in some quarters, be a controversial statement, but not if you truly understand what it takes to win the Premier League. Too often we’re fed a litany of offensive statistics, players often characterized and evaluated by supporters’ insatiable thirst for goals, assists and other tangible attacking numbers. The providers of which are usually of the highest profile.

Many think Diego Costa, who has 15 goals and five assists in 23 appearances, is Chelsea’s most important player. Others probably vote for Eden Hazard, the diminutive maestro who, with 10 goals and three assists, has awakened from last season’s slumber with unbridled fury.

Those are definitely Chelsea’s high-profile, showcase players but neither superstar is their most valuable player.

Kante: Chelsea’s bedrock

That honor goes to Kante, Chelsea’s bedrock and glue. For without him, things could come unstuck.

Resembling Claude Makelele, one of Chelsea’s greatest defensive midfielders, Kante expertly patrols and covers the pitch. His exquisite positioning is matched only by his insatiable energy. Like his French counterpart of the previous generation, Kante is one of the few true defensive midfield puritans.

Kante gets a lot of credit for the job he does on a weekly basis, but the plaudits he receives still pale in comparison to what he deserves.

The Premier League, no matter what fans of Serie A, La Liga and the Bundesliga will have you believe, is by far the toughest soccer title to win in Europe. The Premier League offers no easy games, a fact further compounded by the long, grueling English winter.

While on paper goals decide games, it’s actually the hard graft, the endless tracking back and the thankless task of breaking up passes in the heart of midfield that decides many matches, especially those tough away fixtures in the dead of winter.

Kante goes to war every week for Chelsea, never taking a game off. He inspires a greater collective work ethic from those around him. His unwavering will, dedication and devotion to the cause spreads throughout the team like an airborne contagion.

Do the stats back up the claim?

The 25-year-old workhorse has lost only six of his 60 Premier League appearances. Of those 60 appearances, 41 have ended in victory. He has won one more Premier League game since August 2015 than Sunderland have in the last five seasons.

His single goal this season is completely inconsequential in the grand scheme of things as Kante brings countless intangibles to the pitch. But much of his impressive play can be quantified, too.

Kante has completed 1,471 passes, fifth most in the top flight. That equates to over 61 passes per match, 12 more than Hazard. Of course Hazard does a lot more running with the ball at his feet, but the stat still demonstrates the enormity of Kante’s influence.

The Frenchman’s best attribute is unquestionably his tackling ability. The man is as fierce as he is precise. Kante’s 86 tackles rank him third behind Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson (88) and Everton’s Idrissa Gueye (95).

The tower of strength has 55 interceptions thus far, putting him ninth in that category. Keep in mind that it’s not easy to accumulate interceptions when your team is usually in possession of the ball.

Leicester, a team lost without Kante

Look at Leicester’s catastrophic fall from grace if you need more evidence. There are many factors causing the Foxes’ free fall, none of which are more crucial than Kante’s summer departure. He protected Wes Morgan and Robert Huth like a grizzly bear protects her cubs.

It’s now open season on Huth and Morgan, the center-back partnership being cruelly exposed.

It looks like, as a collective unit, Leicester have lost their desire to win. That, at least partly, is also down to Kante’s exit. There is nobody to cover the kind of ground Kante does.

Claudio Ranieri hasn’t been able to figure out how to cope with the crater-size hole left by Kante’s exit. It’s like the Foxes’ spine has been severed, leaving Leicester helplessly paralyzed.

He does the work of two players and is worth his weight in gold.

Kante, along with many of the usual culprits — Costa, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Alexis Sanchez and Kevin De Bryune — is a leading contender for the Premier League’s Player of the Year Award.

Let’s, for a moment, put aside our pre-disposed propensity to award goal-scoring, assist-getting, highlight-reel players and thank a player with a thankless job.

Kante is on the verge of becoming the first player to win consecutive titles with different clubs. If Chelsea hold on to their lead atop the table and win the Premier League, it will be in large part due to Kante’s contribution.

Don’t you think it’s high time a no-nonsense warrior with an innate ability to help his team win is awarded the Premier League’s highest personal honor?

This piece was originally featured on Fansided.Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images.