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Optimus trousers posted this 22 December 2017

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Optimus trousers posted this 22 December 2017

Sourced from BBC article

Premier League predictions: Lawro v singer-songwriter Craig David

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Swansea have taken only four points from their past 10 league matches - will their form improve against a resurgent Crystal Palace on Saturday now they have sacked manager Paul Clement?

BBC Sport football expert Mark Lawrenson says: "Whoever made the decision to sack Clement will be hoping for an upturn in performance from the Swansea players, in the same way they recovered to stay up last season.

"Judging from the way Palace have improved since Roy Hodgson replaced Frank de Boer in September, they are going to do exactly that.

"Palace did not have a goal, let alone a point, when Hodgson took charge - now look at them. They are a team that is really on the up."

Lawro is going for a 2-1 Palace win - do you agree? You can make your own predictions now, take on Lawro and other fans, create your own league and try to make it to the top of the table by playing the new-look BBC Sport Predictor game.

Lawro scored 60 points in week 18, which meant he slipped to 3,318th place out of more than 335,000 users.

He will be making a prediction for all 380 top-flight games this season, against a variety of guests.

David is a Southampton fan, who grew up watching them play at their former home, The Dell.

He told BBC Sport: "I saw some of the most amazing players come through at Southampton, and mostly get sold on to bigger clubs.

"It's a hard call on who is my all-time favourite Saints player. I mean we've had Alan Shearer, and Tim Flowers was a great goalkeeper but I'd say it has to be Matthew Le Tissier.

"Man, his touch, his goals - wow. When I say they were on a level with Lionel Messi, people say that is debatable but look at some of his free-kicks.

"Le Tissier's goal against Newcastle in 1993 is my favourite moment as a Southampton fan. The ball was played to him and he flicked it over one guy's head, then another and then, rather than blasting it into the back of the net, placed it.

"That was what Le Tissier pretty much represented. Just cool, classy, goals."

Of the current Saints players, Ryan Bertrand is among David's favourites.

"I have a bit of an affiliation with him anyway because I know his brother really well," David added. "But Ryan is a player I have been watching and following and he is doing fantastic.

"As a team, we always kind of hold a good place even if we are in transition after changing managers - but we still tend to sell some of our players a little bit too quickly."

A correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth 10 points. The exact score earns 40 points.

All kick-offs 15:00 GMT unless otherwise stated.

Arsenal will be looking at Liverpool and thinking 'we will create chances against this lot' - and Liverpool will be thinking exactly the same thing.

The past four meetings between these two teams have seen lots of goals and I don't think this one will be any different.

So, although I am going to go for a draw like I normally do in games like this, I think it will be a high-scoring one - and probably an eventful one too.

Craig's prediction: One of my managers, Matt Dodds, is a big Arsenal fan and he would go for a big Gunners win - but I am going to go for a draw. 1-1

Everton's results have picked up under Sam Allardyce but this represents his biggest test since he took charge.

Some people might question that and say well, what about the derby, but Allardyce knew that Liverpool would come at his side and he could plan for that.

There will be some expectation that his side get down the other end of the pitch more in this game and have more of a go, and I think they will be slightly more open than they were at Anfield.

Chelsea are without suspended striker Alvaro Morata, which will probably mean Blues boss Antonio Conte will play with a false number nine, and I still think they will be dangerous.

Craig's prediction: Everton doing well but Chelsea should still win this one. 1-2

It was only a few weeks ago that everyone was talking about what a good job Marco Silva was doing at Watford, and Everton wanted him as their new manager.

But it is just typical of the Premier League that, just when you think you have cracked it, then wallop - you get a smack in the face.

That has happened to the Hornets, who have taken only one point from their past five games, and seven from their past 10. Although they are still in the top half of the table, they are looking down at the moment, not up.

Brighton are four points behind them, and are probably in the position now where points in these sort of fixtures, at home, and what I would call winnable games, are extremely important.

The Seagulls missed a penalty against Burnley last week in another game like this, that meant they only got one point instead of three. I think they will get the win this time, though.

Craig's prediction: Watford are a good team but I think Brighton will bring that sort of south coast vibe, and beat them. 2-0

Bournemouth's defence kind of disappeared to allow Chelsea to score their last-gasp winner in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday, but that has been happening a lot this season.

Manchester City won again, on penalties against Leicester, in the same competition and it is hard to see the Cherries stopping them on Saturday.

Looking at City's games over the festive period after this one - Newcastle (away), Crystal Palace (away) and Watford (home), I don't see any slip-ups on the horizon for Pep Guardiola's side.

But I don't think it will matter if City do drop some points in the next couple of weeks, because I am pretty sure the same thing will happen to the teams immediately below them too.

Craig's prediction: Bournemouth are going to be doing a lot of defending. 3-0

I have been getting some stick from Huddersfield fans, because the Terriers are still waiting for me to predict a win for them this season.

They are bottom of the table based on my predictions - and I am not backing them to get three points this week, either.

I do think they will get something at St Mary's Stadium, though. Southampton have had just one win in nine and I think a point would be a decent return for Huddersfield.

Craig's prediction: I personally think Saints boss Mauricio Pellegrino is doing great. I mean he has arrived as our manager and has had to work out very quickly what the philosophy of the club is, and how it plays, and get the respect of the players as well.

Managers come and go, but we always seem to hold our own - I think there is a great spirit in the city of Southampton that makes that club great, because we have been down in League One and worked our way all the way back to the Premier League.

In terms of the game, I am going for a comfortable Southampton win. Huddersfield will score, but it will only be late on. 3-1

I felt a bit sorry for Stoke last week, with the way West Ham got their penalty for their first goal, but that is the kind of luck you get when you are near the bottom of the table.

Both of these sides are pretty desperate for a win - Potters boss Mark Hughes remains under pressure, while West Brom manager Alan Pardew is still waiting for his first victory.

So I am going to go for another draw. I think it will end up 1-1, and the game will not be a classic.

Craig's prediction: I think it will be a scrappy game with a lot of goals. 2-2

It appears that caretaker manager Leon Britton will be in charge of Swansea for this game, after Paul Clement was sacked on Wednesday.

This is the third year running that Swansea have sacked their manager in December, following Garry Monk in 2016 and Bob Bradley last year - so whoever gets the job permanently will probably be relieved if they see out the year.

Swansea used to be such a well-run club, but that is not the way you would describe them at the moment.

Everything that was good about them, including their passing game that they played whoever was in charge, seems to have disappeared.

Craig's prediction: I am going to go with Palace on this one. 0-2

West Ham are another team that have turned the corner.

They have to be a bit careful here, because Newcastle are on such a bad run - the Hammers cannot afford to think they can just turn up.

But I can understand why they are confident, because David Moyes has got his mojo back.

Watching him now, it reminds me of when he started out as a manager with Preston - that hunger and enthusiasm is back, his whole demeanour. He is on the warpath.

Newcastle are trying to strengthen, starting by trying to take Kenedy on loan from Chelsea. He would be a good addition, but they still need a centre-forward - and quickly.

Craig's prediction: This will definitely be a draw. 0-0

Tottenham got battered by Manchester City last week and they don't usually do well on the road against teams who are above them in the table.

Burnley have been on such a good run but they were probably relieved to get a point at Brighton last week, and I just wonder if the festive period might be hiccup time for the Clarets.

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho made lots of changes in his side's Carabao Cup defeat by Bristol City, and paid the price.

You cannot keep chopping and changing your team, because it makes it impossible to get any kind of rhythm.

City were a fantastic example of the Championship, especially in their approach. Instead of just sitting there and trying to pick United off, I thought they went for it.

Mourinho was mealy-mouthed afterwards, saying they had more luck than United. Whatever.

That defeat means United cannot retain any of the silverware they won last season - the Community Shield, League Cup and Europa League.

I don't think they are going to win the Premier League or the Champions League this season. So now, if Mourinho wants to win a trophy, they have obviously got to win the FA Cup.

So that definitely puts a little bit more pressure on them.

Leicester also lost out in midweek, going down to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup. I think they will make life difficult for Mourinho's side, but United will win.

Craig's prediction: You never know what Leicester are going to do, but I think United will take this one. 1-3

From last weekend's Premier League games, Lawro got six correct results, with no perfect scores, from 10 matches, for a total of 60 points.

He lost to actor and WWE star John Cena who got five correct results, including one perfect score, giving him a total of 80 points.

*Foster and Cram both provided predictions on week one, but only Foster's score contributes to the guest total.

**Anderson and Moeen both provided predictions on week nine, but only Anderson's score contributes to the guest total.

*Witter and Johnson both provided predictions on week 17, but only Johnson's score contributes to the guest total.

Lawro's worst score: 40 points (week four v Umenyiora and Bell, and week five v Non Stanford)

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Optimus trousers posted this 22 December 2017

Sourced from A tweet by SouthamptonFC tweet

@SouthamptonFC - Southampton FC

“I’ve waited to get my chance, got it and scored the goals.” ⚽️
Read our feature article with #SaintsFC's… https://twitter.com/i/web/status/943927464014819328

Retweets: 8

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Optimus trousers posted this 22 December 2017

Sourced from Daily Echo article

Saints coach Black resigns

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Black has been suffering the effects of injuries he sustained during his playing career, and has decided to take time out to try and get back to fitness.

Saints are mulling over their options in terms of whether to appoint a replacement, but are in no rush to do so.

Manager Mauricio Pellegrino brought two staff in with him, and with Dave Watson also at the club, as well as Alex Gross and a multitude of other coaches if required, there is certainly no need to rush an appointment.

Saints issued a statement on Black which read: “Southampton Football Club can today confirm that Eric Black has resigned from his position as Senior First Team Coach for personal reasons.

“Eric has been suffering the effects of previous back injuries sustained during his playing career, and has decided to address these issues now. Given this could mean a spell out of action, Eric feels the time is right to take a break from the game.

“Les Reed, Vice Chairman (Football) said: “Eric Black is a fine coach and a true professional who is popular with the players and staff and always gave 100 per cent to his job. Fortunately, his situation is not serious and we hope he will be back in a tracksuit at some point in the future.

"Everyone at Southampton wishes him a speedy recovery. I would also personally like to thank him for his diligent work during his time with the club.”

Black, a former Scottish international footballer, had to end his playing days early due to a chronic back problem before moving into management and coaching.

He has had spells at Motherwell, Coventry, Birmingham, Sunderland, Blackburn, Rotherham and Aston Villa, as well as with Saints and recently helped out the Scotland national team.

Black is highly thought of at St Mary’s, and stayed on at the club after Claude Puel’s departure due to his popularity amongst the players who were keen for him to remain.

The 54-year-old is understood to have been commuting from his home in the Midlands, which could not have helped his back issues, and feels the time is right to take steps to try and protect his long-term health.

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Optimus trousers posted this 22 December 2017

Sourced from Optimus trousers summary article summary

Summary of non-mainstream articles: 22/12/2017 08:40:08

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Optimus trousers posted this 22 December 2017

Sourced from A tweet by SouthamptonFC tweet

@SouthamptonFC - Southampton FC

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We'll be live later today as #SaintsFC boss Mauricio Pellegrino meets with the media to preview #HTAFC:

Retweets: 1

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Optimus trousers posted this 22 December 2017

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Summary of non-mainstream articles: 22/12/2017 10:41:08

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Optimus trousers posted this 22 December 2017

Sourced from A tweet by SouthamptonFC tweet

@SouthamptonFC - Southampton FC

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Optimus trousers posted this 22 December 2017

Sourced from Sky Sports article

Premier League in 2017: How the year unfolded in the top flight

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Check out our month-by-month account of the Premier League in 2017 - how much of this can you remember?

Off the field, one of the biggest transfers of the 2017 January transfer window involved Gabriel Jesus, who finalised his long-awaited move to Manchester City from Palmeiras. The £27m deal was sketched out on 3 August 2016 but was eventually completed on 19 January after the Brazil season had concluded.

Meanwhile, fellow Brazilian, Oscar, left Stamford Bridge for £60m to join Shanghai SIPG. This transfer shocked the world and many European clubs feared that Chinese teams may use their huge financial resources to go for their star names, while there were rumours Chelsea's Diego Costa had been unsettled by the potential of a move.

The transfer sagas involving players at Chelsea had a negative effect on their start to 2017 with Tottenham upsetting the eventual champions with a 2-0 win at White Hart Lane, when Dele Alli's brace confirmed Antonio Conte's side would miss out on a record-breaking 14th straight Premier League win. Elsewhere, Liverpool saw their momentum stall with a winless January.

Despite struggling down in sixth place in the league, Manchester United started 2017 by getting their hands on the first piece of silverware available, with a League Cup final win over Southampton. Jose Mourinho's side surrendered a 2-0 lead with Manolo Gabbiadini scoring twice for the Saints, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic had the last word, hitting the winner in the 87th minute.

In the FA Cup, Lincoln City became the first non-league side in 103 years to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals by scoring an 89th-minute winner against Burnley at Turf Moor, while in the Premier League, a 3-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge ramped the pressure up on Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, whose soon-to-expire contract continued to inspire headlines.

However, the biggest league story of the month was surely the sacking of Claudio Ranieri by Leicester City, just nine months after leading the club to one of the most sensational - and unlikely - title wins in English football history. However, with the club in the midst of the worst-ever defence to a league title and just one place above the relegation zone, the owners installed Ranieri's assistant Craig Shakespeare as caretaker.

After five months in charge, Gareth Southgate lost his first England match with a 1-0 defeat in a friendly against Germany. The game will be remembered for Lukas Podolski's stunning goal in his last appearance for his country.

Domestically, Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham and Chelsea all reached the FA Cup semi-finals, with Arsenal drawing Manchester City and Tottenham drawing Chelsea. A lot was at stake for Arsenal and Manchester City as many deemed the FA Cup to be the only realistic chance of silverware either side could win in 2017.

In the league, top goal scorers Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku went head-to-head as Spurs took on Everton, with the Londoners coming out on top. Kane scored two goals to Lukaku's one, as Spurs beat Everton 3-2.

Arsenal's poor form in the league continued with four defeats in five games as they began to lose their grip on the top four, while at the bottom of the table, Middlesbrough's goal-scoring troubles continued. They only managed one league goal in over a month as they edged closer to relegation, while Sunderland were seven points from safety and the reality of Championship football in 2017/18 was playing on their fans' minds.

In the Champions League, English teams struggled. Arsenal lost 5-1 home and away to Bayern Munich, Manchester City lost to Monaco on away goals after drawing 6-6 on aggregate. But Leicester's European adventure continued, as they knocked out Sevilla to reach the quarter-finals.

The FA Cup finalists were confirmed, with Chelsea beating Tottenham 4-2 and Arsenal seeing off Manchester City 2-1 after extra time, setting up a repeat of the 2002 final, which Arsenal had won 2-0.

But Chelsea's hopes of a double took a dent when defeats to Crystal Palace and Manchester United saw their lead at the top of the table cut to four points, setting up a nervy final month of the campaign. Meanwhile, United set a club record by going 25 league games unbeaten, although they drew 12 of those games and remained adrift of the top four.

Swansea, Middlesbrough and Sunderland had all failed to win in April and news for Sunderland fans had gone from bad to worse. Their fate was confirmed on April 29 and they were relegated from the Premier League.

In Europe, Leicester's thrilling Champions League run eventually came to an end with a 2-1 aggregate defeat to Atletico Madrid.

Michy Batshuayi was the unlikely hero, confirming Chelsea's fifth Premier League title with a late winner at West Brom. John Terry led the Blues out for the final time on the last day of the season, ahead of the 5-1 win over Sunderland which took Chelsea to 93 points, the second highest tally by a Premier League team, behind their own 95-point haul in 2004/05. They also set a record for most wins in a single season, taking three points from 30 of their 38 games.

However, Chelsea were unable to complete the double, losing the FA Cup final to Arsenal 2-1. That much-needed FA Cup triumph for Wenger meant he had won the trophy a record seven times and twice in the past three years, easing the pressure on his position. Indeed, a new two-year contract extension for the Arsenal boss was announced four days after the final - despite the Gunners missing out on the top four and failing to qualify for the Champions League.

In the league, Chelsea relegated Middlesbrough before Crystal Palace relegated Hull, signalling boss Marco Silva's switch to Watford 13 days later. Harry Kane finished as the league's top scorer for the second season in a row, an achievement only matched by Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry and Ruud van Nistelrooy. He finished with 29 goals and pipped Lukaku to the golden boot after scoring seven goals in his final two games of the campaign.

Newcastle had beaten Brighton to the Championship title after defeating Barnsley 3-0 on the final day of the season, while Brighton conceded a last-minute equaliser against Aston Villa to draw 1-1 and finish second. Like Brighton, Huddersfield also booked their place in the Premier League for the first time, after beating Reading 4-3 on penalties in the Championship play-off final.

With the season over, clubs set about strengthening their squads, and Manchester City broke the world record for a goalkeeper when they signed Benfica's Ederson for £35m, surpassing the £32.6m Juventus spent on Gianluigi Buffon 16 years earlier.

City's rivals, Manchester United, made their first signing of the summer when they bought Victor Lindelof for £31m from Benfica. After strong rumours of Romelu Lukaku leaving, Everton then splashed out in June, spending a combined £53.6m on Jordan Pickford and Davy Klassen.

However, it was their neighbours Liverpool who arguably made the signing of the summer, with the purchase of Mohamed Salah for £34m.

On the field, there was youth success for England, with the U20s winning the World Cup and becoming the first English side at any level to become world champions since 1966. England's U21s weren't so fortunate, missing out on a place in the final of their European competition after losing to Germany in a penalty shootout.

Arsenal broke their transfer record for the first time in four years when they signed Alexandre Lacazette for £52.6m from Lyon at the start of July. The deal eclipsed the £42.5m they had spent on Mesut Ozil.

Everton's transfer haul continued as Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney re-joined his former side on July 9 on a free transfer. A day later Romelu Lukuku moved in the opposite direction for £75m, after months of speculation.

Manchester City's spending also went on, with Pep Guardiola paying out over £100m on full-backs, signing Danilo from Real Madrid for £26.5m before breaking the world record for a right-back and a left-back in signing Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy for £54 and £52m, respectively.

Amid complaints about the disruption the transfer window was causing in the opening weeks of the season, Premier League clubs voted in favour of ending the 2018 summer window before the 2018/19 campaign begins.

However, that didn't slow down the spending this time around, with Liverpool paying Arsenal £35m for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Chelsea spending £40m on Leicester's Danny Drinkwater and Tottenham forking out £23m for PSG's Serge Aurier on transfer deadline day.

Although the Premier League broke their previous transfer window spending record with a £1.47 billion outlay, it was PSG who smashed the world record for one player, when they paid £198m for Barcelona's Neymar. The French giants also signed Kylian Mbappe on loan with an option to buy for £166m next summer.

Amid a frantic window, the Premier League kicked off in style, with Arsenal beating Leicester 4-3 in a seven-goal thriller, before Lukaku, now the league's most expensive striker, netted twice on his Premier League debut for Manchester United at Old Trafford. Kane's August struggles returned, though, as he failed to score throughout the month.

After a perfect start to the season, Manchester United suffered a shock draw at Stoke in September, conceding for the first time in the new campaign in a 2-2 draw. But free-scoring Manchester City marched on, netting 17 goals in four games, including an impressive 1-0 win against champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Crystal Palace, who sacked new manager Frank de Boer after just 77 days and four league games in charge, broke an unwanted Premier League record by becoming the first team to lose their opening seven games in a row without scoring a single goal.

On the international stage, England qualified for the World Cup in Russia by winning their qualifying group with an undefeated record.

Crystal Palace recorded their first three points of the season with a shock 2-1 win against champions Chelsea at Selhurst Park on the same day Liverpool and Manchester United played out a goalless draw at Anfield. Meanwhile, Manchester City scored their 25th goal in eight games as they beat Stoke 7-2, opening up a two-point gap against their nearest rivals United.

Ronald Koeman was dismissed by Everton after a poor run, while Craig Shakespeare suffered the same fate as Leicester struggled to recapture the form they showed when he first took charge. Claude Puel took the reins at the King Power Stadium.

In the League Cup, Arsenal, Bournemouth, Bristol City, Leicester, Manchester United, Chelsea and West Ham all reached the quarter-finals. And there was further success for England's youth teams as they won their second youth World Cup in four months, with England's U17s this time prevailing with a 5-2 triumph over Spain.

Tottenham shocked back-to-back Champions League winners Real Madrid 3-1 at Wembley, confirming their place in the knockout phases for the first time since 2010/11. However, in the Premier League Pochettino's men began to slip off the pace, with a run of one win in six games stretching from late October to the start of December.

Underperforming West Ham and West Brom sacked their managers, Slaven Bilic and Tony Pulis, but Burnley continued to defy the odds and their critics, with their best start to a Premier League season seeing them move in and around the top four, as Arsenal became the latest team to lose to Guardiola's relentless Manchester City.

After securing their place to Russia 2018, England played in two friendlies against Germany and Brazil. With a handful of first-team regulars dropping out of the side due to injuries, Gareth Southgate handed out international debuts to Tammy Abraham, Joe Gomez, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Jordan Pickford and England drew both games 0-0.

The Premier League made history by becoming the first league to have five representatives in the Champions League knockout stages. Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham all topped their groups with Chelsea finishing as runners-up to Roma.

But City's dominance domestically was underlined this month when they broke the record for consecutive league wins in a season and stretched their lead at the top of the table with significant victories over Manchester United and Tottenham.

Further down the table, Everton's revival under new boss Sam Allardyce was almost immediate, while experienced British bosses David Moyes and Roy Hodgson began to turn around the fortunes of struggling West Ham and Crystal Palace. However, Swansea sacked Paul Clement after three wins in 18 games

Meanwhile, Bristol City stunned Manchester United to move into the Carabao Cup semi-finals alongside Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal, showing that, despite Chelsea and Man City's dominance in the league either side of the summer, football can still throw up plenty of surprises.

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Optimus trousers posted this 22 December 2017

Sourced from Daily Mail article

Who will go down in Premier League's most open relegation battle?

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While Manchester City run away with the Premier League title, things are far more complicated at the other end of the table.

Half of the division are bracing themselves for a survival scrap between now and May with only four points separating Southampton in 12th and West Brom in 19th.

Sportsmail take a look at the 10 clubs most in peril, assessing why they are in trouble, and what they need to escape...

One win in 10 Premier League games did for Paul Clement and the manager was shown the door this week after almost a year in charge.

They last won an away game at Crystal Palace on August 26 and goals are a problem - Swansea are the lowest scorers in the division with 10, and haven't scored more than once in a match since mid-October.

WHO IS TO BLAME?

The decision to wait until deadline day before selling Gylfi Sigurdsson looks strange as there wasn't time to replace his goals.

Top scorer Tammy Abraham only has five and hasn't netted in his last nine. Wilfried Bony was injured against Everton on Monday.

Saturday's home game against Crystal Palace is must-win with away games at Liverpool and Watford to follow before the New Year's Day visit of Spurs to the Liberty Stadium.

Swansea did well in the market last January to help stay up. A striker is top priority with Liverpool's Danny Ings and Vincent Aboubakar of Porto strongly linked.

Creativity has also been a problem, and West Brom's Nacer Chadli might be available. But it all depends on who will be at the helm with Ronald Koeman, Frank de Boer and Chris Wilder among the names touted for the position.

West Brom's run of 17 matches without a victory is an unwanted club record. They last won in August and Gareth Barry's consolation against Manchester United on Sunday was their first goal in four matches.

WHO IS TO BLAME?

Again, a change of ownership hasn't seemed to work. Former manager Tony Pulis wasn't overly-impressed with the work of his Chinese boss Guochuan Lai and appeared almost relieved to be sacked.

However others will say Pulis' negative style of play didn't help either.

Saturday's game at Stoke is the proverbial six-pointer. Home matches against Everton and Arsenal finish off 2017 and the new year begins with another tense one at West Ham.

Like Swansea, goals are needed, with Salomon Rondon, Hal Robson-Kanu and Jay Rodriguez having scored only twice each.

Another centre-half could also be on Alan Pardew's radar with the big clubs sniffing around Northern Ireland skipper Jonny Evans.

Eight defeats in nine matches tells a pretty demoralising story. Joint top-scorer Dwight Gayle has three goals, all of them in his last six matches, but all of them in defeats.

WHO IS TO BLAME?

Rafaelistas will put the blame squarely on owner Mike Ashley for lack of investment and not selling the club yet, though a deal with Amanda Staveley is said to be close.

Having said that, none of Rafa Benitez's signings in the summer have made a real impact.

The Toon will be targetting at least four points from their three remaining games in 2017; away to West Ham, home to Manchester City, home to Brighton. After that it's a humdinger at Stoke.

Benitez would probably love to sign six new players. Experience is important with Newcastle having one of the youngest squads in the division. It depends on the progress of Staveley's takeover.

'It always helps when you have information,' remarked a frustrated Benitez.

Stoke have lost five of their last six games and conceded 15 goals during that time.

They have the worst defensive record in the league and the worst goal difference, which may end up being crucial.

WHO IS TO BLAME?

Manager Mark Hughes was an outstanding striker so it's strange that he's not been able to fill that position properly.

Wilfried Bony was a flop on loan last season and Saido Berahino hasn't scored since signing in January. That said, it's their lack of defensive organisation that causes real alarm.

Although owner Peter Coates is among the most patient in football, Hughes needs to pick up results in their next games against West Brom and Huddersfield. A trip to Chelsea follows that followed by another six-pointer at home to Newcastle.

WHAT IS NEEDED IN JANUARY?

Stoke will try to offload Charlie Adam and Glen Johnson in January and add another midfielder to either provide creativity or sit with Darren Fletcher so Joe Allen can get further forward. A right-back would also be useful.

Three points from a possible 18 have put Eddie Howe's men right back in the danger zone after a 4-0 win against Huddersfield last month had them looking up the table.

WHO IS TO BLAME?

With Sean Dyche, Eddie Howe is the brightest English manager about but his record in the transfer market isn't as good as helping to develop players from within the club.

Asmir Begovic and Jermain Defoe haven't had the desired impact. Neither has £15million winger Jordon Ibe.

After a daunting trip to Manchester City on Saturday, Howe will target consecutive home games against Everton and West Ham, and a trip to Brighton to begin 2018.

WHAT IS NEEDED IN JANUARY?

The Cherries could be quieter than a lot of their relegation rivals. Callum Wilson's return from long-term injury along with Benik Afobe and Defoe means the goals should come, and they can also bring back Lewis Grabban from a loan spell in January if required.

The new-manager bounce from David Moyes took a little longer than Hammers fans would have wanted but they've taken seven points from the last nine, and haven't conceded against Chelsea, Arsenal and Stoke, who they beat 3-0 away at the weekend.

WHO IS TO BLAME?

West Ham often looks like an Eastenders soap opera with joint-chairmen David Sullivan and David Gold, and vice-chairman Karren Brady all leading characters.

A lack of defensive resilience is being addressed by Moyes.

The next three games are all against rivals at the bottom; Newcastle, Bournemouth and West Brom. The fixture after that is a Thursday night game against Spurs at Wembley, where they won in the Carabao Cup.

WHAT IS NEEDED IN JANUARY?

Ideally, Moyes wants creativity within the context of Premier League knowhow, with Arsenal's Jack Wilshere a target if he's available.

Sporting Lisbon's William Carvalho will be difficult to conclude in January but a genuine holding midfield player is something Moyes would welcome.

Crystal Palace's comeback after losing their first eight matches is incredible. They are unbeaten in seven matches under Roy Hodgson and last weekend's 3-0 win at Leicester was the best result yet.

WHO IS TO BLAME?

Chairman Steve Parrish would probably acknowledge his management switch from Sam Allardyce to Frank de Boer was too radical.

In Hodgson, he's got someone in charge with drive and experience, and he will try to balance a squad that didn't have a fit senior striker when he arrived.

Not the easiest for Palace. They will have to get something out of Swansea at the weekend because it's Arsenal and Manchester City after that, both at Selhurst Park, followed by a trip to Southampton

WHAT IS NEEDED IN JANUARY?

With 38-year-old Julian Speroni in goal, Hodgson would be interested in a new 'keeper because it's a lot to ask the veteran to keep going all season.

A striker would also be welcome though they will have long-term injury Connor Wickham returning. Turkey international Cenk Tosun is in the frame.

After an excellent start, reality has hit for newly-promoted Brighton. They haven't won in seven and even more worryingly their only goal in six matches came in a 5-1 thrashing by Liverpool.

Manager Chris Hughton was left rueing Glenn Murray's penalty miss in Saturday's 0-0 draw with Burnley.

WHO IS TO BLAME?

It's always hard for teams coming up from The Championship. Hughton has got Brighton organised and defensively set-up but maybe at the sacrifice of creating chances and scoring goals.

It's unlikely Hughton will want to change but he might have to.

It's no exaggeration that more than any other club, these four fixtures could make or break The Seagulls.

Three of them are winnable, against Watford, Newcastle and Bournemouth, if they don't win any, they'll be tipped for the drop. The other game on Boxing Day is a bonus fixture at Chelsea.

WHAT IS NEEDED IN JANUARY?

Like so many clubs at the bottom, Brighton would take a striker who guarantees them 10 goals between now and the end of the season.

Hughton likes Aleksandr Mitrovic who is out of favour at Newcastle, and is monitoring Khouma Babacar of Fiorentina.

It was galling for Saints fans to see former manager Claude Puel return to St Mary's a week ago and help Leicester thump his former club 4-1. Southampton have picked up only two points from five games.

WHO IS TO BLAME?

The decision to resist Liverpool's bid to sign Virgil van Dijk may have sapped energy.

Mauricio Pellegrino's tactics have been viewed as overly-negative, not least from Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.

The next four games offer contrasting hopes. Home matches against Huddersfield, on Saturday, and Crystal Palace are must-wins.

The two away games sandwiched in between at Tottenham and Manchster United look mightily awkward.

WHAT IS NEEDED IN JANUARY?

If Southampton do sell Van Dijk, they may want to make a signature signing, although a link with Barcelona striker Pablo Alcacer would surely be too ambitious.

Maybe Middlesbrough's Ben Gibson would be cover for Van Dijk at the back, with plenty of spare money left over.

A four-match losing snap has been ended with David Wagner's Terriers defeating Brighton and Watford in their last three games, a home defeat against Chelsea sandwiched in between.

WHO IS TO BLAME?

Huddersfield won't be blaming anyone, they have exceeded expectations. Wagner realised early in the summer that players with Premier Leauge knowhow would be too expensive for his club so he's gambled on the likes of Steve Mounie, Johan Lossl and Laurent Depoitre, and it's worked so far.

Huddersfield are above their next two opponents, Southampton and Stoke, but won't it stay that way if they end up losing both, particularly with Burnley and Leicester City up next.

WHAT IS NEEDED IN JANUARY?

Wagner will have been happy overall with his squad but an injury to Elias Kachunga at Watford on Saturday which could keep him out for three months means the German may ask his chairman to bankroll the signing of another forward.

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Optimus trousers posted this 22 December 2017

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Optimus trousers posted this 22 December 2017

Sourced from Southampton FC - Official Site article

Stat Pack: Saints vs Huddersfield

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  • Southampton have won their last three home matches against Huddersfield in all competitions, scoring 13 goals and conceding just once.

    • Saints have lost just one of their last 26 home Premier League games against newly promoted sides (W17 D8), losing 0-1 against Cardiff in April 2014.
  • Huddersfield’s last top-flight visit to Southampton is also the last time they won away from home against the Saints, winning 2-1 at the Dell in September 1971.

  • Southampton have won 10 and lost none of their last 11 home league games against sides from Yorkshire, since losing 2-1 to Sheffield United in February 2009.

    • 13% of Huddersfield’s Premier League goals this season have been own goals by the opposition (2/16); the highest such ratio in the division.

    • Huddersfield’s 4-1 win at Watford last weekend ended a run of seven consecutive away Premier League games without a goal (D1 L6). Both of their away victories in the Premier League have been by a three-goal margin (3-0 vs Crystal Palace).

    • Charlie Austin has had a hand in six goals in seven previous league appearances against the Terriers (four goals, two assists).

    • Laurent Depoitre has scored two goals and provided an assist in his last two Premier League games – this after netting just twice in his first 13 in the competition.

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Optimus trousers posted this 22 December 2017

Sourced from Daily Mail article

Southampton need to unite, says striker Charlie Austin

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Southampton players and fans must unite to help the Premier League club get more wins and improve their position in the standings, striker Charlie Austin has said.

The Saints have won just one of their last nine league games to drop to 12th position and are just three points ahead of 18th-placed Newcastle United following consecutive defeats to Leicester City and champions Chelsea.

One positive for the club has been Austin's form with the 28-year-old scoring four goals in Southampton's last six league games. The Englishman has urged fans to get behind the team as they push for positive results.

'We know we need to improve and a one-club mentality can be powerful for that,' Austin told the club's website southamptonfc.com.

'We need to do better, we know that because as you look at the table we need to be higher up. It doesn't take long, if you put together a few wins then you can be pushed right up there.

'I know the fans will think 'people are always saying this', but we do need to stick together because it is really important.'

Southampton have won just three of their 10 home games in the league this campaign and Austin believes the club must re-establish their dominance at St Mary's, starting with Saturday's match against 11th-placed Huddersfield Town.

'We need to get back to making St Mary's a fortress where teams come and they're worried, not coming to try and play their football.

'They need to worry about us and we know we've got quality in the team,' Austin added.

'We know results are massive and that changes the whole morale. We need to do that on Saturday against Huddersfield because when you win everybody is different.

'You come in on a Monday morning... feeling completely different.'

Meanwhile, Southampton's first team coach Eric Black has resigned to take a break and deal with the lasting effects of back injuries he sustained during his playing days.

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