Martin Laurence

Author's details

Name: Martin Laurence
Date registered: December 17, 2014
URL: http://www.theguardian.com/football/qpr

Latest posts

  1. Crystal Palace are in sparkling form. With their run-in, they need to be — March 29, 2017
  2. Will Tottenham finally finish above Arsenal in the Premier League this year? | Martin Laurence — March 21, 2017
  3. The five outsiders who deserve to be called up to the England squad — March 15, 2017
  4. Manolo Gabbiadini has Southampton scoring again. Now to bolster the defence — March 7, 2017
  5. Newcastle’s three away games in a week will shape the Championship title race — February 28, 2017

Author's posts listings

Mar 29

Crystal Palace are in sparkling form. With their run-in, they need to be

Mamadou Sakho has helped Crystal Palace win their last three games without conceding a goal. With 10 tough fixtures to come, they need him to keep it up

By Martin Laurence for WhoScored?, part of the Guardian Sport Network

What a difference a month makes. When Crystal Palace travelled to Middlesbrough at the end of February, they were three points adrift of their opponents and above bottom club Sunderland by virtue of goal difference alone. Three games, three clean sheets and three wins later, Sam Allardyce’s men are now out of the relegation zone, six points clear of Middlesbrough and eight in front of Sunderland. However, a look at their run-in suggests they may need every one of those points come the end of the season.

Palace have to face each of last season’s top eight in their remaining 10 games. Four of their five remaining away matches are at Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United – and the other is at Southampton, where Palace lost 4-1 last May. Palace are far from safe, sitting just four points above the relegation zone, but they have improved in recent weeks – thanks in large part to a January signing who is often under-appreciated.

Related: Mamadou Sakho puts drug test and Klopp behind him at Crystal Palace

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/who-scored-blog/2017/mar/29/crystal-palace-chelsea-premier-league-fixtures

Mar 21

Will Tottenham finally finish above Arsenal in the Premier League this year? | Martin Laurence

Arsenal are no worse than they were last season but Tottenham have improved again. Will Spurs finish above their rivals for the first time in 22 years?

By Martin Laurence for WhoScored?, part of the Guardian Sport Network

When Arsenal lost for a fourth time in five league games at West Brom on Saturday, Spurs fans sensed another opportunity to extend their lead over their local rivals. Arsenal’s 3-1 defeat reduced the pressure on Mauricio Pochettino’s team before their game against Southampton the following day, which they won 2-1 – their fourth victory in five league games – to establish a nine-point lead over Arsenal, who have now fallen to sixth in the table.

Arsenal have a game in hand on Tottenham but, given their current form and the overriding sense of uncertainty at the club, there is no guarantee that they will be able to reduce the gap. Aside from Manchester United’s win at Middlesbrough, it was an excellent weekend for Tottenham – if you accept that Chelsea are now out of reach at the top of the table.

Related: Sérgio Conceição turned Leicester down – and now he is turning Nantes around

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/who-scored-blog/2017/mar/21/tottenham-finish-above-arsenal-premier-league-season

Mar 15

The five outsiders who deserve to be called up to the England squad

Gareth Southgate should consider Jordan Pickford, Harry Maguire, Michael Keane, Ross Barkley and Nathan Redmond before posting his squad on ThursdayBy Martin Laurence for WhoScored?, part of the Guardian Sport NetworkGareth Southgate has a number of de…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/who-scored-blog/2017/mar/15/england-squad-gareth-southgate-five-outsiders

Mar 07

Manolo Gabbiadini has Southampton scoring again. Now to bolster the defence

Manolo Gabbiadini has become the first Southampton player to score in his first four games for the club. Their next job will be buying an equally poised defender

By Martin Laurence for WhoScored?, part of the Guardian Sport Network

Southampton went to Vicarage Road on Saturday and beat Watford 4-3, a scoreline that flattered the home team. Southampton were comfortably the better side. They dominated possession, with 62%, and were productive with it, hitting the target with 11 of their 20 shots. The victory marked only the second time – and the first since September – that they have recorded back-to-back league wins this season, after their 4-0 demolishing of Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

Scoring four goals at Watford was the perfect response to their disappointing League Cup final defeat to Manchester United – for which they received plenty of plaudits, most notably from José Mourinho. Southampton have struggled on the road recently – they lost away at Swansea, Burnley, Southampton in January – but the arrival of Manolo Gabbiadini on deadline day has emboldened the team.

Related: How Partizan Belgrade overcame QPR after losing the first-leg 6-2 at Highbury

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/who-scored-blog/2017/mar/07/manolo-gabbiadini-southampton-nathan-redmond

Feb 28

Newcastle’s three away games in a week will shape the Championship title race

In the next seven days Newcastle will travel to Brighton, Huddersfield and Reading to play the three clubs in the Championship with the best home records

By Martin Laurence for WhoScored?, part of the Guardian Sport Network

Newcastle were top of the Championship when they welcomed 20th-place Bristol City to St James’ Park on Saturday afternoon. With three tough away fixtures coming up after the visit of Lee Johnson’s team, the Newcastle players would have been looking for a simple afternoon’s work. It didn’t turn out that way.

Bristol City had taken just two points from the last 33 available on their travels, but they raced into a 2-0 lead within 21 minutes. Newcastle came back to secure a 2-2 draw but Rafa Benítez will consider it two points lost rather than one gained as his team looks forward to a week that could define their season.

Related: Brighton promotion would be bigger feat than taking Newcastle up, says Hughton

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/who-scored-blog/2017/feb/28/newcastle-championship-title-race-brighton-huddersfield-brighton

Feb 21

Champions League last-16: previews for the big midweek matches

A look forward to Bayer Leverkusen v Atlético Madrid and Manchester City v Monaco on Tuesday, plus Porto v Juventus and Sevilla v Leicester on Wednesday

By Martin Laurence for WhoScored?, part of the Guardian Sport Network

Eighth in the Bundesliga faces fourth in La Liga in what, on paper, looks like one of the more underwhelming ties of the round of 16. Atlético were considered one of the best teams on the continent at the start of the season – they had reached two of the last three Champions League finals after all – but Diego Simeone’s side have not lived up to their previous standards over the last six months. The manager squeezed every drop of quality out of a team that performed well above its means but perhaps he has taken them as far as they can go.

Related: Pep Guardiola a big fan of Monaco and wary of their Champions League threat

Related: Revitalised Samir Nasri comes up smiling in Sevilla’s latest reboot

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/who-scored-blog/2017/feb/21/champions-league-bayer-atletico-man-city-monaco-porto-juventus-sevilla-leicester

Feb 16

Aston Villa have not won a match in 2017. Are they in danger of another relegation? | Martin Laurence

Aston Villa have lost four games in a row and are now much closer to the relegation zone than the play-offs. Surely they couldn’t go down to League One?

By Martin Laurence for WhoScored?, part of the Guardian Sport Network

Three Championship clubs decided to replace their managers in the same week back in October. Cardiff City were second from bottom with only eight points from 11 games, so they brought in Neil Warnock to replace Paul Trollope. Derby County, who found themselves in 20th, having secured 10 points from 11 games, sacked Nigel Pearson and welcomed Steve McClaren back to the club. And Aston Villa, who were level on points with Derby but still had aspirations of a top-two finish, decided to wave goodbye to Roberto Di Matteo and bring in Steve Bruce.

All three clubs enjoyed immediate improvements. McClaren’s return to Derby proved to be an instant success, with the team winning eight of their next 10 league games. Warnock steadied the ship at Cardiff, who have won six of their nine matches in 2017 – including victories over Villa and Derby – as they have moved into the comfort of midtable.

Related: How to win the Premier League: steamroller everyone outside the top six

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/who-scored-blog/2017/feb/16/aston-villa-relegation-championship-steve-bruce-league-one

Feb 08

How to win the Premier League: steamroller everyone outside the top six

Chelsea’s nine-point lead was not built on victories against their closest rivals – but on their record of only dropping two points against the bottom 15 clubs

By Martin Laurence for WhoScored?, part of the Guardian Sport Network

The Premier League title race looks to be over. Chelsea effectively ended Arsenal’s slim chance of becoming champions on Saturday and Liverpool’s defeat to Hull means that only Tottenham and Manchester City are within 10 points of the leaders. Antonio Conte’s team dominated Arsenal at Stamford Bridge, securing some revenge for their 3-0 defeat at the Emirates earlier in the season, but they still don’t boast the best record of teams within the mini-league in the top six.

Given that matches between the top six are often billed as make or break, it poses the question of just how decisive these “big games” are in the title race. This season, it has been Chelsea’s record against teams below the top six that has set them apart. They have dropped just two points against teams from fifth downwards, with Swansea City the only club in the bottom 15 to have taken points from them. Since that 2-2 draw at the Liberty Stadium in September, Chelsea have played 12 games against teams outside the top six and won all of them.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/who-scored-blog/2017/feb/08/chelsea-premier-league-lead-by-title-rivals

Feb 02

The five Premier League clubs who are too reliant on one player for goals

Jermain Defoe has either scored or set up 70% of Sunderland’s goals this season, but he is not the only player carrying his team

By Martin Laurence for WhoScored?, part of the Guardian Sport Network

An over-reliance on one player is never a good thing but a number of Premier League clubs are going into the final stretch of the season with their hopes pinned firmly on one star man. That’s the case for most of the teams in the relegation battle – and one who hope to make the top four. Here are the five players who have either scored or set up at least half of their team’s goals this season.

Related: West Ham can afford to sell Dimitri Payet but they must keep Andy Carroll fit

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/who-scored-blog/2017/feb/02/premier-league-clubs-rely-one-player-sunderland-middlesbrough-manchester-united

Jan 25

West Ham can afford to sell Dimitri Payet but they must keep Andy Carroll fit

West Ham win more matches, score more goals and are a stronger defensive unit when Andy Carroll is in the team

By Martin Laurence for WhoScored?, part of the Guardian Sport Network

When Slaven Bilic confirmed that Dimitri Payet had expressed his desire to leave West Ham, the club’s fans were understandably devastated. Despite a drop off in form and an increasingly questionable attitude, the France international was still their most creative threat by far in the first half of the season – in fact, he played more key passes per game (4.1) than any other footballer in Europe’s top leagues.

Payet had signed a lucrative contract extension midway through his sensational debut campaign in London and supporters had every right to think he would be at the club for some time but, as speculation about a big-money move in the summer persisted, Bilic’s announcement became almost inevitable. The manager looked deflated by Payet’s decision – saying he was “angry” and “let down” – and the timing could not have been worse, with the news coming after a 5-0 drubbing at home to Manchester City, West Ham’s third defeat in a row.

Related: Claudio Bravo is not the only shot-stopper struggling in the Premier League

Related: West Ham’s striking failure: 32 signed in seven years and still no solution | Jacob Steinberg

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/who-scored-blog/2017/jan/25/west-ham-united-dimitri-payet-andy-carroll

Jan 17

Claudio Bravo is not the only shot-stopper struggling in the Premier League

The Manchester City goalkeeper faced four shots on target against Everton and saved none of them, but his poor record is part of a general decline in standards

By Martin Laurence for WhoScored?, part of the Guardian Sport Network

Manchester City were the third team to lose 4-0 in the Premier League this weekend but the result was particularly embarrassing for Claudio Bravo. While Swansea City goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski made four saves and was unfortunate to be beaten by two deflected goals against Arsenal and Ben Foster made a commendable eight saves at White Hart Lane against an utterly dominant Tottenham team, Bravo failed to produce a single stop against Everton. He faced four shots on target and conceded four goals. It was yet another afternoon to forget for a goalkeeper who has had enough time to adjust to the Premier League but has simply failed to do so.

The City defence should shoulder a large amount of the blame – and they have done so, no more so than John Stones – but Bravo has not instilled any confidence in his team-mates and Pep Guardiola’s attempts to switch to a ball-playing goalkeeper have not worked.

Related: Pep Guardiola to target new Manchester City goalkeeper in summer

Related: Transfer window: five players who should interest Premier League clubs

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/who-scored-blog/2017/jan/17/claudio-bravo-worst-goalkeeper-premier-league-manchester-city

Jan 03

Transfer window: five players who should interest Premier League clubs

Conor Hourihane could do a job for Sunderland or Middlesbrough and Manchester City should be bidding for Virgil van Dijk and Ederson Moraes

By Martin Laurence for WhoScored?, part of the Guardian Sport Network

It takes any goalkeeper time to readjust to a new league but Claudio Bravo’s first few months at Manchester City have been poor enough for a number of keepers to be linked with his position. If Pep Guardiola does want a change, Ederson Moraes could be a wise buy.

Related: Transfer window January 2017: all the latest moves and news – interactive

Related: Premier League: fans from all 20 clubs make their transfer window selections

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/who-scored-blog/2017/jan/03/transfer-window-five-players-who-should-interest-premier-league-clubs

Dec 21

Mesut Özil doesn’t track back but he wins possession more than you’d think

The Arsenal player doesn’t throw himself into tackles but he has a knack for winning the ball back high up the pitch and creating chances for team-mates

By Martin Laurence for WhoScored?, part of the Guardian Sport Network

Mesut Özil is public enemy No1 in the Premier League this week. For most players, a run of just two abject performances would usually go unnoticed but, rightly or wrongly, Özil has been thrust into the spotlight. Since his arrival from Real Madrid, Özil has come under scrutiny in England for his perceived lack of defensive workrate, but is it fair to blame Arsenal’s woes on their record signing?

While fans and pundits are quick criticise Özil, the fact that Wenger’s side struggle when he isn’t at the races does show how important he is to the team. As his manager would attest, Özil isn’t in the team to break up play in defensive positions but to create opportunities in the final third. If he’s doing neither, as was the case against Manchester City and Everton, there is a problem, but that hasn’t been the norm this season.

Related: Mesut Özil, the ghost in Arsenal’s machine, picks bad time for wan game

Related: Will England regret missing out on Wilfried Zaha if he plays for Ivory Coast?

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/who-scored-blog/2016/dec/21/mesut-ozil-arsenal-defence-alexis-sanchez-arsene-wenger

Dec 13

Will England regret missing out on Wilfried Zaha if he plays for Ivory Coast?

Wilfried Zaha put in another standout performance for Crystal Palace against Hull City at the weekend. Should Gareth Southgate try to intervene?

By Martin Laurence for WhoScored?, part of the Guardian Sport Network

On a weekend packed with goals and entertaining football, Jamie Vardy’s first hat-trick in the Premier League stole the headlines, but his wasn’t the only standout display. Wilfried Zaha made his mark in another six-goal thriller, between Hull and Crystal Palace.

The winger outfoxed Robert Snodgrass to earn a penalty, laid on the assist for Fraizer Campbell’s late equaliser and scored a sensational goal himself in between. His thunderous strike will be remembered, but Alan Pardew was right to be full of praise for the 24-year-old after the game. “Even take the goal out of the performance and you’ve got an outstanding display,” said the Palace boss. “How many English players, offensive players, would have done what he did today?”

Related: Reassessing Tony Pulis, a manager who has gone on the attack this season

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/who-scored-blog/2016/dec/13/wilfried-zaha-england-ivory-coast-crystal-palace

Dec 06

Reassessing Tony Pulis, a manager who has gone on the attack this season

West Brom scored 34 goals in 38 matches last season – fewer than Newcastle and Norwich – but now they are outscoring Manchester United and the champions

By Martin Laurence for WhoScored?, part of the Guardian Sport Network

The Premier League was billed as the “league of managers” in the summer. With Pep Guardiola and Antonio Conte arriving, José Mourinho returning, and Arsène Wenger, Jürgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino all fighting for the title, there was a sense that the men on the sidelines would steal the limelight from the players. While all of these glamorous names have become renowned for their particular approaches to the game, some of the less fashionable managers in the league are beginning to fight back against unfavourable perceptions.

Managers are generally seen as either offensively or defensively minded, with Tony Pulis perhaps the archetypal example of the latter group. He gained that reputation at Stoke City and, until recently, had only strengthened his status as a reactive coach at West Brom. However, while a favourable run of fixtures since the start of November has undoubtedly played its part, his players have been in freescoring form lately.

Related: Is playing in Europe a disadvantage for the continent’s top clubs?

Related: West Bromwich Albion’s ascent offers Tony Pulis chance for added value

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/who-scored-blog/2016/dec/06/tony-pulis-west-brom-stoke-city

Nov 29

Is playing in Europe a disadvantage for the continent’s top clubs?

The top two teams in the Premier League – and five of the top six in Germany – are not involved in European competitions. What does this trend mean?

By Martin Laurence for WhoScored?, part of the Guardian Sport Network

Christian Eriksen’s first league goal of the season (from his 40th shot no less) ended Chelsea’s run of six matches without conceding, but it couldn’t halt their winning streak. Top of the league following seven consecutive victories, Chelsea are unrecognisable from the team that played Tottenham 12 months ago.

Chelsea went to White Hart Lane a year ago today and their goalkeeper, Asmir Begovic, was the man of the match in a goalless draw that left them with 15 points from 14 games. So far this season they have won 31 points from 13 matches. The turnaround has been spectacular. Their goal difference was minus six a year ago; it is now plus 19. Chelsea were 16th when José Mourinho left the club in December, but, if they beat Manchester City at the Etihad on Saturday, they will move four points at the top of the table.

Related: Is the Premier League less predictable than other leagues? Not exactly

Related: How Monaco became the top goalscorers in Europe – without a prolific striker

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/who-scored-blog/2016/nov/29/chelsea-liverpool-premier-league-champions

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