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Focus of news this week has been on the sad emergence of abuse among footballers in their youth. This puts a distinctly unsavoury light on the way of the world of football where even there things can be perpetuated with little to nothing in the way of recrimination because of the system. Sure, the FA can talk about steps that have been made in recent years to challenge the culture and ensure safeguarding is a high priority, yet there is a gloom that’s cast on the sport in the light of those revelations.
Here’s hoping, however, that the greater aspect of the sport will shine through this particular disturbing phase. Never disregarding the real hurt and pain that takes place, let’s hope the game itself can assert itself as a sport of competition and enjoymentabove any darker elements.
As for me, it’s once more time to look at how I did in week 13 of the Premier League fixtures. The scoring system sees three points for hitting the bullseye of a correct scoreline. There’s one point if I miss the bullseye but it the board in getting the correct outcome. There’s absolutely nothing but shame and sadness if the prediction misses everything completely and nearly hits that picture of your Mum above the board.
Burnley 1-3 Man City (1 point – actual score 1-2)
Hull City 1-2 West Brom (0 points – actual score 1-1)
Leicester 1-1 Middlesbrough (1 point – actual score 2-2)
Liverpool 4-1 Sunderland (1 point – actual score 2-0)
Swansea 2-1 Crystal Palace (1 point – actual score 5-4)
Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham (3 points)
Watford 2-1 Stoke City (0 points – actual score 0-1)
Arsenal 3-1 Bournemouth (3 points)
Man Utd 3-1 West Ham (0 points – actual score 1-1)
Southampton 1-1 Everton (0 points – actual score 1-0)
Another fairly mixed bag of results this week, but I’m particularly pleased that I got a 60% correct outcome scoreline this week. That’s over the average and that’s good. Points collection wise, it’s beautiful to get two correct scorelines which means that I hit the double figures with 10 points. that’s fairly pleasing this week and a good basis on which to consider what happens from here.
It’s weekk 14 now and to a degree last week’s results won’t be a great help to indicate how things may emerge. Yet looking at the league table and seeing a clear gap marking out the top six from the rest, that is a good help in checking how things might turn out this week. On that score here are the predictions for this week’s fixtures.
Man City 1-2 Chelsea: This is undoubtedly the game of the season. The league table informs you that this is third place taking on those currently leading in the league. I’m sure Liverpool fans won’t think it’s unfair to say, though, that these two are the legitimate favourites for the title, because unlike the Reds, these two have a recent history of winningthe competition. This is a tasty fixture pitting the two best clubs in the leagues against each other. Conte keeps on rolloing out the wins. Their comeback win against Spurs last week showed their capacity to win without playing well against a team that are credible challengers. To get that win will be hugely encouraging to those from Stamford Bridge, it’s a good basis in which to enter this game. What works in their favour as well is that the onus is not on them to go out and dominate possession to win. Guardiola’s City are not the finished article as yet – despite the investment in the squad, settling process at the Etihad is definitely very different for City. They have picked up some vital wins of late that have shown they have the mettle to get these results against teams they should be beating without ever going into top gear. The best is definitely yet to come from City as they work through their new regime. It’s a fair argument to say that in Chelsea they face their toughest oppnents to date. Defeating them will not be easy at all as all over the pitch the Blues from the capital seem to have sufficient quality to pose a threat to the opponents whilst having the wherewithal to take on the barrage that City might throw at them. It’s because of that largely that I see this game ending in something other than a draw.
Crystal Palace 2-2 Southampton: There are certain people you don’t want to be at the moment and Alan Pardew is one of them. Being on a losing streak is one thing, continuing that losing streak is a worse thing and the manner in which that streak was maintained isthe worst of them all. Add to that the small issue of getting beat by the team that had previously been a strong contender for worst team in the Premier League. That title now, however, looks to be leaving Wales to find its new home at Selhurst Park. Nope, you don’t want to be Alan Pardew at this time as some journalists are counting down the days before he finally becomes a recipient of a P45. What makes matters worse for him is the collection of players at his disposal look to be playing less than the sum of their parts. You look at the squad and you’re not surprised that they score four goals last weekend. But conceding five? That’s just not what this squad look capable of and making that all the worse is that they now face Southampton who are feeling good in the light of two wins.What goes in their favour as well is that their recent win – with eight players changed from the previous match – they were in the capital city beating of all teams, Arsenal. There will be something in the heads of some in the Saints’ dressing room that says if they can beat the Gunners away from home then Crystal Palace should be a walkover. I can certainly see how that thought would be rumbling among other things. Puel has the Saints playing a brand of football that, importantly, is hard to break down. These factors considered, it would be easy to go for an away win that plunges the reign of Pardew ever close to its end. It might end up that way, but there’s something in me that thinks Pardew will may get a slither of hope. How long that slither will last is another thing, but against the odds, on this match I reckon can leave with a point.
Stoke City 2-1 Burnley: A bit like this predictions business, Stoke are suffering from inconsistency. Good result one week, bad result the next. Good performance one week, poor performance the next. Stoke don’t look as threatened by relegation as they did a month or so ago. They need to be kicking it up a level, though, if they want to make good their desire to hit the top half and stay there. Thankfully for them they come across a Burnley who are very obstinate at home, but do not have the greatest away record. In fact if their away record was merely mediocre it would be an improvement they would accept. This is not a side to be taken lightly, though and Stoke City have hardly been all conquering at home. If City decide to have an off day then there might be enough in the engine for Burnley to come away with three points. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility. That’s not where this prediction is going, though. This prediction is about looking at the two teams and noticing that in as much as the away side has a tenacity and determination that is seeing them doing marginally better than they were last time in the Premier League, they are still not quite at that level to be assured in surviving a relegation battle. Meanwhile Stoke don’t look that poor enough to get embroiled in that relegation struggle. That reality has to see the home side take matters into their own hands and do what’s necessary to see the Potters come out of the contest with all the points and a platform for positivity.
Sunderland 1-2 Leicester City: Apparently the Leicester fans have resorted to booing their side. That is so bizarre. They must know why they are booing their side. Maybe they’re not happy with the quality of performance they are seeing. Yet to boo the side that miraculously won them the Premier League just seems so odd. Things surely aren’t that bad. Yet this must be what happens when you spoil your own with a trophy of that magnitude. Good thing for Leicester, then that this game sees them play away from home. Some respite from the spoiled lot. What a splendid place to go away from home too. Sunderland got exactly what they deserved at Anfield whatever comments their manager might state to suggest otherwise. The Black Cats came to stop a massacre and so received just a quick beating which merits them nothing. They will be heartened, however, to see they are playing hosts to a team out of sorts in terms of Premier League form. That makes predicting the result of this match very difficult indeed. The factor that swings it towards the away side on this occasion is the quality that Leicester have at their disposal. Yeah, they have their final group game in the Champions League coming up, but that’s not as much a priority at the moment. This match is crucial for them. They do need to get another three points on the board just for their sense of safety. They do have enough to get the predicted win, but that does not rule out at all the likelihood of the home side turning up and actually taking the game by the scruff of the neck and not letting go until the final whistle.
Tottenham 3-1 Swansea City: Bob Bradley is not a fool. The win last weekend was necessary and welcomed. The character to get that win having given up a lead was remarkable and roomto be very optimistic. It is, however, just one win. Just three points. Those three points will matter little if they go for another spell without winning. That might prove to be difficult when they consider this match. Spurs are still hurting after a disappointing run of form that saw them knocked out of the Champions League and meekly surrender a lead to Chelsea. Pochettino is not exhibiting anything that suggests he is feeling under pressure, but something must be done about the form of late. If they can maintain the quality of play in that first half against Chelsea they will scare a lot of teams. If they can reproduce the style that put Man City on its derriere then they can reignite hopes among the White Hart faithful that winning the title is something truly worth aspiring to. They won’t take their opponents lightly, Spurs are one of those sides that are well drilled on the press and have a team ethic that would scorn pride and arrogance in any form. If they are about that kind of thinking when they face Swansea, the Welsh side could be in for a torrid time.
West Brom 1-1 Watford: Watford Head Coach, Mazzari, was not pleased after their home defeat to Stoke City in their last outing. Not just losing but the manner of the loss irked the boss. He was not having it and there’s something about the approach to the game in the Premier League that gives the strong impression that he will be expecting his side to do a lot better at the Hawthorns. It must be satisfying for Watford fans to know this is the level of expectation when they go on the pitch. That demand should drive them on to once more do enough to finish the season as a Premier League outfit. Tony Pulis has not had a good week for personal financial reasons. He will not let that affect him, though, as he applies himself to the taskat hand. The draw away at Hull was much more like the West Bromwe expect after that blip four goal display against Burnley. I don’t expect them to score four against Watford. They have enough among their squad to make this home match something for which their fans can be somewhat hopeful of getting all three points. The hesitation remains around the fact that this is a Tony Pulis side, one that typically just plays hard to beat and hope for the best at the other end of the pitch.
West Ham 1-2 Arsenal: The vibes around West Ham do not appear all that good. They did well to draw with Man Utd in the league in that fixture, but then went on to lose comprehensively to the same side in the EFL Cup. Results and performances like that can have a negative effect and the Hammers could definitely do with avoiding negative effects. It’s not the best time to be playing Arsenal either who were also dumped out of the Cup. The Gunners will delight in knowing two of their closest rivals face each other which indicates they could have an opening to make their way up the table and sniffing the top spot. To do that, however, they have to get this game right. The disappointment of the ease with which they were knocked out will provide them with a test to see if they can really let that frustration out on the next opponent. Nothing can be put down to fatigue as key players were rested. They have an opportunity to put a marker on their season having escaped November without losing in the league. They face a side who is not at all that comfortable in their new home, but this is a London derby and if Bilic can motivate the side and look to be solid they can do something against the Gunners. The thinking is, though, that the away should have too much for them on this occasion.
Bournemouth 2-3 Liverpool: Along with Arsenal, Liverpool will be looking forward to the fact that the two teams immediately around them face each other with dropped points on any side being a positive for them to either gain on the top or draw away from the one behind. They just have to beat Bournemouth to do that. That is all they have to do. That is not as easy as it is written, though. Eddie Howe has built a side who not only play ‘attractive’ football, this team can make things awkward for the bigger teams. They have it in them to get a result from this match and they certainly won’t allow the tag of underdog to be anything to them. They will not be intimidated by Liverpool. They have seen the weaknesses the Reds have. They can sense a susceptible side to the team they face and they can take heart from the example Burnley have shown in taking chances, stifling the Reds and comingup trumps. What makes their task all the easier is seeing their opponents with a star player missing. Coutinho’s loss to Liverpool has got some tongues wagging as to whether this will be the start of seeing the wheels fall off the league challenge. Will they suffer from the lack of creative options in the final third? Where will that spark and magic come from and without that can they still get results? Bournemouth might scent a hint of something they can do to really upset the current title challengers. That does not, however, negate the fact that it is the away side who go into this match as favourites because they have the quality to pull off a win. No doubt, however, it will not be easy.
Everton 1-2 Man United: Both of these teams cannot say they are having their desired season. United’s travails are well documented. Of course small things like performances mean little for a club of the size and expectation of United. All that matters is their presence among the title contenders and they are conspicuous by their absence from the title scene. There are some fans who are bothered that they appear to put it in for cup competitions but aren’t doing much in the league. The pressure remains on Mourinho to make the team selections that gives fans the impression they can go and win the game in the league. While the pressure is on him, his counterpart at Goodison Park is not having an easy time of it. It’s hardly the honeymoon season for Koeman. There is a degree of patience that they can offer, but when the performances and results are not obviously improving then it is little wonder that Evertonians are a little nervous at the moment. Having won only one game in the last eight and with November being a month not to remember the situation for the Toffees is very simple – they need a win. Can they beat United? Of course they can – of course it’s possible. Yet United have played better than Everton overall. United have a much better team than Everton. There’s a good argument to suggest United have a better manager as well. All of those factors point to a tough time for the home team. For that to be realised, though, United must be careful to be a lot more clinical. If they can perform have they have been over the last six weeks and turn their chances into goals Everton will not have a prayer.
Middlesbrough 2-0 Hull: This is a Championship game. Come on. Let’s be real here. Hull are a Premier League club in name only. Middlesbrough have just come up and so have to play whatever they can to succeed in just staying up. The natural habitat for both sides is in the league below. That’s not being harsh and judgemental, that is simply saying it as I see it. Nevertheless these are teams playing in the Premier League in the hope of gaining enough points to stay in that privileged position. Of the two there’s little between them quality wise. No players roll off the tongue in terms of outstanding, mouthwatering quality. The managers are similarly nondescript. Hull, however, have been marginally worse than Boro this season. It will be an enormous achievement for this collection of players to avoid relegation. That will not start in this game. They will turn up and be as competitive as they can. If they keep their shape and not lose heart through the game, there’s every reason to believe they can quiet the home crowd, work their way into the match and look to get something.from this game. Karanka, however, will be keen to make the most of the home advantage and he is the slightly better manager in a slightly better team that can hope to get a result that leaves them in a slightly better position than their opponents.
There are one or two matches to give a miss this weekend. There are a couple of crackers though that make the Premier League worthy of its name. The ongoing drama of the teams and their desire to go for the title or escape relegation make this weekend’s action overall worth the watch. Regarding the predictions, there have been a few weeks where I have got two correct scorelines, there is the strong desire clinch the hat-trick or more as well as maintain the 50% or over correct outcome record. Its possible, as to whether it will be realised …
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden
There is a world outside football.
It’s something worth reminding myself about because sometimes the whole world of football can be so self-absorbed. One result can change the way someone approaches their entire weekend. The cat gets it if they lose, the wife gets the new pair of shoes if they win, no one gets anything for a draw. We’re at the stage now of being virtually one third of the way through the league campaign. Excuses about still settling in and all of that are beginning to wear a little thin. Results and performances are beginning to take on a more important spin. In that mix it’s time to consider how the teams are doing in the Premier League and consider what they’re likely to do in this weekend’s schedule of fixtures.
First, as ever, let’s see how I did with this predicting thing on the last week’s set of games. Making the exercise all the more worthwhile the points system operates exactly the footie. Three points for a correct scoreline – cos that right there’s a win. One point for a correct outcome – it’s not all right, but it’s not all wrong, so a draw all round. Zero points for getting nothing right at all.
Manchester United 1-1 Arsenal (3 points)
Crystal Palace 1-3 Man City (1 point – actual score 1-2)
Everton 2-0 Swansea (0 points – actual score 1-1)
Southampton 2-3 Liverpool (0 points – actual score 0-0)
Stoke City 2-1 Bournemouth (0 points – actual score 0-1)
Sunderland 1-1 Hull City (0 points – actual score 3-0)
Watford 2-1 Leicester City (3 points)
Tottenham 2-1 West Ham (1 point – actual score 3-2)
Middlesbrough 1-3 Chelsea (1 point – actual score 0-1)
West Brom 1-1 Burnley (0 points – actual score 4-0)
Hmmmmmmmmm … Even split in terms of the correct outcome predictions. That’s an improvement on last week, but I prefer to be doing a little better. Two correct scorelines, however gives a better outlook on the scores with a much better collection of 9 points. It’s been a while since I hit those heady heights! Promising times.
Never resting on the laurels, though, it’s time to have a look at Week 13. It’s one thing to be recovering from the international break, but now there’s the delicious complication both of teams recovering from Europe, teams preparing for Cup matches and teams with the luxury of having nothing to do except stay in the Premier League. That makes this weekend’s fixtures an interesting set to predict.
Burnley 1-3 Man City: Burnley got thrashed at West Brom. I didn’t see that coming. I hear Dyche with his whole palaver of never doing well at The Hawthorns, but seriously, not that kind of result. Burnley have been a credit to themselves more often than not. They have certainly done well at home. The two losses they suffered were against Arsenal and an early loss to Swansea. They have played and beaten Crystal Palace, Everton and Liverpool at Turf Moor. That’s giving the impression of a stronger approach to their home matches. However it’s no sign of home relief to see that their opponents are Man City. City must see this match as an opportunity to impose themselves in the race for the title. Burnley are a side they must see as their inferior and then play to their standard of quality to win thematch and prove that to be the case. They would have seen enough in the games Burnley have played at home to see how they should be dismissing this Burnley side. They are not a surprise package anymore. There are pundits who are giving grace to Guardiola in his first team in the Premier League. They are suggesting it is still taking time for him to get his team used to his system. That kind of explanation won’t wash, however, if they fail to get three points in this match. Sure, Burnley will enjoy their position as underdogs, they can go about their business of setting themselves to be aggressive, competitive and making life difficult for their opponents. They can do what they need to do to make life tough and maybe they will. Beating Liverpool is one thing, can they beat genuine world class players like De Bruyne and Aguerro? Really? Well, that’s not what this prediction suggests.
Hull City 1-2 West Brom: Hull are not bottom of the Premier League. That must be a consolation of some sort for them. Not much of one, but it must be of some comfort. Probably. There is at least one team – and maybe just the one – who is worse off than them. Just when they thought they could turn their season around by beating Southampton at home, they go and lose to Sunderland. Let’s say that again. They go and lost to Sunderland. Sunderland. Not only did they lose to Sunderland, they left with a scoreline that made the Black Cats look like world-beaters. That is not a good sign. Nevertheless their home form is not as abysmal as their away form. They can at least look forward to this home fixture and know that they are not playing a top team. In West Brom they are playing a side who have their ambitions well and truly established – do not get relegated. Simple stuff. Where that’s concerned they have the ideal manager who can achieve that desire. There must be people in the area of West Bromwich who are still rubbing their eyes in disbelief at the scoreline after their match on Monday. If there was a fan who genuinely believed that team had four goals in them in a single competitive match of Premier League football he has taken faith in the side to delusional levels. Yet, so much for the delusion. It happened. They scored four goals. That could happen in this match because Hull are a lot worse than Burnley. It could happen. But it won’t. They’re away from home, they’re facing a hurting side, they are managed by Tony Pulis. All of those add up to them taking a far more conservative approach in this match. Hull won’t want to lose this match and it wouldn’t surprise me if they did emerge with a point or maybe more. It would be typical of this season for that to be the outcome. Yet I go by what I believe will happen and West Brom have it in their locker to win this game.
Leicester 1-1 Middlesbrough: I am going to go out on a limb here and make an astounding and astonishing season prediction. Leicester City will not win the league. Take it in. Go on. Ponder that carefully. Their form in the league this season has made me question if they ever were really the Premier League Champions last season. It’s why I felt particularly pleased to have correctly predicted their defeat to Watford in their previous league fixture. This was no surprise. Their league form has been poor for champions. In fact it wouldn’t have been that impressive if they had their typical season. Sure, give them the excuse of the Champions League and new players acclimatising to things, yet it’s their established players, the so called ‘stars’ who are not showing up enough in the league. Don’t believe me, remind me how many goals has Jamie Vardy got this season so far? Is he too busy recovering from his party? Middlesbrough will not take this match for granted at all. It’s away from home against a team who do know how to get results at their own ground. Boro are not in any position to feel they are comfortable in the league. They need to approach this match with the same level of a desire to work hard in the matches as a team. That approach in time past has worked well for them. It’s a strategy that will cause their opponents significant inconvenience. If they can also grab a goal or two there’s no reason why they can’t dare to dream about leaving the Midlands with something to be pleased with.
Liverpool 4-1 Sunderland: There are several ways to consider this match. One way is to be optimistic for Sunderland. They are riding the crest of a mini-wave where they have won two games in a row. That might not mean anything for big clubs, but for a relegation struggle those six points are priceless. That is momentum, that is a run, that is something to be motivated by. That is something that you can take into the next game to build a degree of confidence. They can do with all the confidence they can get for that next game because it sees them visit a ground where the last game played saw seven goals … six of them scored by the home team. Speaking of which, the Southampton result would have been as a positive last season. In fact getting a clean sheet for Liverpool is hailed as something to be applauded in a team where the defence gets the most criticism. Yet, what has made Liverpool being talked of as title contenders is their capacity to score goals and failing to do so was a bit odd for the team that has flourished in that area. In David Moyes they face a manager more than accustomed to the Reds. He will know them well as both a former Everton and Manchester United manager. Sure, his professional thing will be just about looking to win another game. Behind that, though, there’s that degree of wanting to get one over on a pain of an adversary. He will be desperate to keep the run going and giving his chances of a relegation rescue a massive boost. There’s a greater thought, however, that says that Liverpool will be annoyed at not scoring last week. An annoyance that they will look to take out on a team that may turn up to defend in numbers but won’t find an attacking force as toothless as Hull.
Swansea 2-1 Crystal Palace: Each week of fixtures features ten matches. Of those ten matches, there are games that are just too hard to predict even the outcome. This is among the hardest of the weekend’s games. Primarily because both teams are doing poorly. Swansea are now the worst team in the Premier League and there’s little to suggest that this is an unfair position to be in. It’s hard to believe this is a team that had done so well under the managerial leadership of the likes Rodgers, Martinez and Laudrup. The drop in their results and performances has even made the reign of Monk look better than it was – that’s not a knock against Monk, it’s just to say that they have fallen a long way since he left. In as much as the argument of still settling in is not as appropriate to the likes of Klopp and Mourinho, Bob Bradley certainly has a case to make. He is still in the early phases of his time at the club. Yet it’s quite clear that there has been little evidence of a honeymoon period or a boost from the new guy in charge. In fact the real concern is that there’s little evidence that the team are going to climb out of their current fate. They don’t appear to be giving any signs that they are going to do anything but fail to win. That’s not good. Then we come across Alan Pardew at Crystal Palace. The form of Palace would be odd if it wasn’t for the fact that they are managed by Alan Pardew who seems to make a career of a good start and a poor finish. I gather he’s not in the running for the title of greatest Newcastle United manager of all time because of his inability to get the best out of what he had. Likewise West Ham fans might argue the same thing. Now at Palace the team are in a run where they are finding wins hard to come by. This shouldn’t be the case for a side with the quality they have. This is a game I would normally say Palace have a very good chance of winning, but on this occasion despite everything that would suggest otherwise, I am actually saying Bradley could be celebrating his first win at Swansea.
Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham: This has got to be the match of the weekend. They are teams who are in a position to say they are fighting for the title. There’s the league leaders taking on the only team in the table that are still unbeaten. It’s a London derby. There’s no love lost between Chelsea and Spurs especially recalling their last league encounter which was the game that saw Leicester clinch the title and marked some ugly confrontations between the players. Chelsea took pleasure in stopping their London rivals in their tracks. Spurs aren’t the sort to be looking for revenge. There’s something about Pochettino that doesn’t make him out to be the sort who holds a grudge in this sense. He just seems more interested in seeing his side play as well as they can and get the results he knows they can get. They are already coming off a London derby that saw them pluck a win from the clutches of defeat against West Ham. However, after that, they crashed out of the Champions League and this match will be to see how they will respond to that. With Kane back they seem more confident in getting goals scored. They will need that too because this Chelsea team seem to be very, very reluctant in conceding goals. Very reluctant indeed. Their clean sheet record in recent matches is the kind of run that portrays a solidity that teams will struggle to penetrate. Spurs are as good as any side when it comes to being a threat on goal – though Kane needs to be on form. Chelsea are top of the league, however, because their entire team is running smoothly. Defensively they are strong and they are clinical going forward. Not just clinical but dynamic. The system Conte has them playing at a better level than they’ve played since Mourinho … the first reign of Mourinho. It’s why they are title contenders and more likely to win than Spurs, which this game will go a long way to indicating if they emerge from this battle with the win I believe they will get.
Watford 2-1 Stoke City: Just when the Potters thought it was safe to think they would carry on their positive run, they manage to lose to an out of form Bournemouth at home. That was such an odd result. Not just to lose, but to deserve to lose too. That’t not in the script for Hughes in his bid to get his side approaching the top half of the table. He will be keen to call that a blip and put that to bed in the next match and to be fair they have the players to do that. They have a system that can do that and if they play to their potential this match will be one they can quite conceivably see themselves missing. Why I don’t think that will work out in this match is their opposition. Don’t get it twisted, Leicester losing to Watford was no shock. Walter Mazzari has seamlessly moved to Vicarage Road and established a style of play that will keep them competing in the Premier League. They beat Leicester because they could take their home advantage and make it count and hassle and pressure the opposition when they needed to. That’s something that can be a real nuisance to any opposition and there’s nothing in the locker of Stoke City to suggest they are going to be different. Thus the home side should feel they can raise their game to meet the demand of who they are facing and give their fans a lift again by collecting another three points. That’s not to say that Stoke will make it easy at all and I can understand why some might look at a score draw for this game. There’s something about Watford, though, that leads me to think they have enough to get the three points.
Arsenal 3-1 Bournemouth: They play the game the right way. They play it along the ground. They are principled managers of the beautiful game. All of that kind of jazz will be played out as they two sides meet each other this weekend. Eddie Howe is touted as the bright hope for English management. He is linked with the England job and the Arsenal job at some point in the future. After all, when he was considering which club to join on loan, Jack Wilshere plumped for the club on the south coast. Since then he’s been hailing up Howe’s credentials. All of that, however, does not detract from what remains the fact that Bournemouth are a club plying their trade in the Premier League not because they are a Premier League club, but because they have played better than a number of teams to get to the top league and stay there. Their stay in the Premier League, however, is by no means guaranteed. The inconsistent start to the season indicates that they are still having a season where success is measured by staying in the league. Their passing on the ground lovely football is all well and good, but in Arsenal they face a team who do it a lot better. So they have to find a way to combat that as well as be fierce and competitive in this match. Meanwhile Arsenal’s performances of late have not been that impressive, despite still not being beaten in the league for a while. Drawing their last three games has seen some discontent rumble among their fans as they sense a whiff of Arsenal not living up to the standards by which they believe the club should be measured. They go into this game, then, knowing that first a win is a must and then to have a good performance will also help to get things back on track where the club are concerned. The home team should really have the quality to get the necessary result, but if a combustible Bournemouth show up they could well spoil that plan.
Man Utd 3-1 West Ham: The Hammers were left with nothing at White Hart Lane having put up a spirited display for the vast majority of the match. The performance displayed the raw material of a team that should not be talked of in terms of relegation battlers. It is still bizarre seeing them at this end of the table, not just because of last season, but looking at the team on its own merits, it is just odd that they are in the position they are. Yet, that’s where they are. To get out of there they cannot depend on luck and all that stuff, they have to continue to battle and scrap for every point they can get. They arrive at Old Trafford, however, at the wrong time. For the grief that Mourinho has received for recent results, the performances have genuinely merited far more than the outcomes have implied. Still, saying who they should have beaten from Arsenal to Burnley to Stoke does not put any more points on the board. And points on the board is what they desperately need. So we have the clash of two teams who really do need those three points. Where this is concerned, however, the home side find themselves having the advantage. Not just home territory, but the result in the Europa League reminded them that they were more than capable of doing that thing that helps them get those points. Four different scorers and plenty of others desperate and eager to score means that this home match could be the time where all those chances begin to be converted more often than not. With players beginning to come into form it bodes well for United from the Manchester perspective. This is not a clear cut thing, though. Bilic will not be rolling up to Old Trafford in any way deterred or intimidated by the team he’s facing. He knows that he has players in his team who can present a stubborn resistance. Plus if Payet shows up to produce his bag of tricks then they can emerge from this encounter leaving the home side frustrated again.
Southampton 1-1 Everton: Welcome back Ronald Koeman! Thank you for all that you’ve done. Please accept our love and best wishes as you continue in your management profession. The red carpet is as likely to be rolled out for Koeman by the Saints fans as a warm welcome would be offered to Wayne Rooney at Anfield. This is not going to be all that pretty and that’s not just because of a hostile reception (in as much as Saints fans do hostile). These two teams are still working their way into a rhythm for the season. They know they are not going to get relegated, but their ambitions are to finish securely in the top half of the table. Where that’s concerned they could do a bit more to convince themselves. For the Hampshire side, it’s to a degree understandable. They have adjusted fairly well to another ransacking of their key personnel. They are doing their best to adjust to the Europa League commitments. All of that gives Puel little time to truly place his mark, but he’s doing a fairly decent job. They did well to stop Liverpool from scoring in their last league match. This Merseyside team is not as prolific as their red neighbours, but in Romelu Lukaku they have a striker who is keen to score goals whenever he can. Everton, though, don’t have European excuses and their new manager was initially a welcome alternative to the last guy. Yet of late they have hit a little sticky patch both in terms of results and performances. What Koeman could do without is having to deal with smug South coast fans rubbing it in about how he has left for a worse team. Of course his professional approach says he treats this as any other game. Beneath that, though, there is the need to let his former employers know that he actually has taken a step in the right direction with a club more on the up. Historically Everton have the richer tradition, but all of that means nothing if a result cannot be garnered.
There’s a lot of tasty matches on the fixture list this weekend. I am in no way suggesting I am going to hit the big time with this set of predictions, but of late I’ve done well with correct scorelines and here’s to hoping I can get three or maybe even four spot on. It’s a really good time to be enjoying Premier League football.
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden
I really enjoyed watching this. It makes me so grateful that cars do not operate as planes, especially with the babies!
C. L. J. Dryden
International football, then. Yeah. Anyway. That’s that done for the time being.
Moving swiftly on. The Premier League returns, thankfully. Lots to get the teeth into as we consider the games ahead. Before that happens, though, it’s with a touch of nervousness that I consider how the previous set of Premier League predictions turned out. There’s a points system at work which goes as follows: three glorious points for a correct scoreline; one acceptable point for a correct outcome alone; for getting it completely wrong there is absolutely nothing.
Bournemouth 3-1 Sunderland (0 points – actual score 1-2)
Burnley 1-2 Crystal Palace (0 points – actual score 3-2)
Man City 3-0 Middlesbrough (0 points – actual score 1-1)
West Ham 1-1 Stoke (3 points)
Chelsea 2-1 Everton (1 point – actual score 5-0)
Arsenal 2-0 Tottenham (0 points – actual score 1-1)
Hull 1-2 Southampton (0 points – actual score 2-1)
Liverpool 3-1 Watford (1 point – actual score 6-1)
Swansea 1-3 Man Utd (3 points)
Leicester 2-1 West Brom (0 points – actual score 1-2)
It’s a bit odd looking at it. 8 points – that’s exactly the same point total that I got the last time. That collection of points is decent. But the percentage of correct outcomes – 4/10 – that’s not good. I predict to give some leeway for a game or two, but six incorrect outcomes is not too impressive. But still – Hull and Sunderland winning – come on, really? Will wonders ever cease. It was sweet getting two spot on predictions, though. Ahhhhh yeah, when it hits that sweet spot, it makes the whole predicting thing worthwhile.
Onto Week 12 now. Predicting these will be interesting because there’s something about the international break that does something to the momentum of the clubs. Especially with those two poor clubs getting surprising wins it just shakes things up a little. It’s not going to be as straightforward to see how it will go because any previous momentum is not obliged to continue. For all that, though, I will continue with these here predictions.
Man Utd 1-1 Arsenal: This is an intriguing match for so many reasons. The Mourinho-Wenger thing. United needing to get back in the Premier League race. Arsenal not having the greatest record at Old Trafford in recent years. Both teams potentially missing a number of key players. How will Mourinho approach the game at home? How can Wenger get one over on the interminable rival who appears to have been the polar opposite for so long? There is something about the Arsenal way under Wenger that doesn’t give itself over to conservative football. If you have the players that he has at his disposal it is clear that their prime prerogative is to score goals to win games. Since their defeat in the first league game of the season, more often than not, Arsenal have been successful at winning league games. They have not been beaten since August. They are two points off the top of the league and their run has seen them face a North London derby and be disappointed at only picking up a point. That is the sign of a side who are not treating things lightly at all. Meanwhile at Old Trafford things have not been going as well. A number of comments made by Mourinho of late have given the impression that the problems at United are not surface issues. Fans have expressed concerns about the state of the club already. Yet Mourinho has something over Wenger, he knows how to get under his skin more with the way his team plays than with any sort of media hype or interaction. United will certainly miss Bailly, but there is enough tactical nous and strength in them to rise to the challenge of the Gunners. This will not be an easy game for either side, hence the impression that this might turn out to be a draw.
Crystal Palace 1-3 Man City: The games before this break would not have put Pardew in the best of moods. Looking at this fixture would not have brightened his mood much either. Yet, this is a Premier League game against Guardiola and you can imagine the bravura would have got a hold of him. He will see this as a chance to rub shoulders with the very best and look to pull one over the much vaunted Spaniard. To do that, however, he is aware that Palace will have to play a lot better than they have in recent games. A lot better. Concentration for the whole game will be essential so that they do not mess up as they did against Burnley having fought back to get on equal terms having been two goals down. They will have to raise their game and keep it raised to stand any chance against City. As for Guardiola he will be keen to get his side back to winning ways in the league. It was not the plan to follow the impressive defeat of Barcelona with dropping two points against Middlesbrough. These are the sort of games that City would be expected to win with this squad, so now this away trip gives them a good opportunity to reassert their credentials as the favourites to clinch the league trophy that has not decorated their cupboard for nearly three years. What works in City’s favour is the quality available in the key positions. The likes of Sterling, Aguerro and De Bruyne would be a nightmare for any team and now with Gundogan showing his worth to the team with some positive displays the threat is all the more magnified. It will be difficult for a Palace defence that has conceded seven goals in the last two matches to resist that barrage of power. This being a home game, it’s not for Palace to just put ten men behind the ball and hope for the best. In those circumstances City should let their superiority show in the final result.
Everton 2-0 Swansea City: Bob Bradley’s introduction to the Premier League has not been pleasant. Swansea were not doing that well in any case, but they have not shown that many promising signs of improvement in the games since the new man has arrived. Their league tally after eleven games is five points – three of those was in their only win of the season that happened all the way back in August. In their own way the Swans have been in a competition with Hull and Sunderland to see who can be the poorest team in the division. No doubt, however, Bradley will be doing his utmost to prepare his team for the trip to Merseyside for a clash with the blue half. His challenge is relatively straightforward – his side need to start scoring goals and stop conceding them and if they should continue to concede they should at least give themselves a fighting chance by scoring at least as many goals as they concede. You might have observed that what has been asked of them are the basics of the game of football and it is to their basics Swansea must reach to give hope to their fans. Koeman at Everton won’t take this game for granted, though. His own side are still stuttering with inconsistent results and performances. With talk going around about his desire to reinforce the playing staff that’s got to act as a motivator of sorts to get his bunch living up to what he requires of them. This is a very good game for players to prove to the boss that they are more than able to get the win and the performance to match. It is also a good way of completing the expunging of any residue from their previous league match which significantly dented their goal difference.
Southampton 2-3 Liverpool: Overall the Saints shouldn’t be too disappointed with their first ten or so games in the Premier League. As they have done in seasons past they have dealt with the departures and brought savvy both in management and playing staff. Puel has got the hang of this league and should have a better idea of how to go about his business. The last result against Hull will a little annoying though, especially having taken the lead against a team that remains a favourite to return to the Championship. Their next match, though, gives them a completely different challenge. From relegation favourites tehy now face a team currently sitting at the top of the table. There’s something about Puel that gives the impression he actually prefers being the underdog. There’s something about the man that gives the impression he would have studied Liverpool carefully and be able to cannily spot the weaknesses and have a plan to exploit them. They are in a position to pull off a win that won’t be a shock because the team ethos makes them capable of such. For Liverpool this match is their toughest since United visited them at Anfield. Yet there’s something about old boys returning to clubs to haunt them and in Lovren, Lallana and Mane the Reds have ghosts of the Saints past to put them some serious haunting. Beyond these three there should be enough quality in Liverpool to see them absorb the best that the occupiers of St. Mary’s can throw at them. Of course the Reds won’t keep a clean sheet – their actual defence isn’t awful, but it appears as though it’s part of Klopp’s entertainment deal to keep things lively by giving the opposition a fighting chance. Having given that chance, although they have a lot of internationals returning from across the world, Klopp will only be too keen to keep the good run going.
Stoke City 2-1 Bournemouth: Mark Hughes must be chuckling to himself. A month or two ago people were questioning his position. Was he the right man? Was he to blame for the very poor start Stoke had to the season? Now the team are unbeaten six Premier League games. A run that has seen them go from bottom of the table to 12th place a mere six points away from a top 8 place. To say the pressure’s off him would be an understatement. He would suggest they are a lot closer to where they should be in the league and the results and performances would support him in that assertion. Refreshed from the international break, his hope would surely be that they can make the most of the run in this home fixture. For in Bournemouth they face a side who have had a peculiar run of late. They have only won one of their last five matches – the thrashing of Hull. Yet that result seems a vague memore now and particularly compounded from their last result where inexplicably in a home game against the worse team in the league they managed to lose. Losing to Sunderland – people were wondering who on earth would let Sunderland beat them and Eddie Howe’s team won that unenviable prize. This is a run of form now that Howe will want to arrest quickly. No point in Jack Wilshere being happy playing first team football again if that football is not winning games or picking up points. This trip to Stoke-on-Trent won’t be an easy one for the team from the South coast. They know it’s important to emerge with something because after Stoke they then face Arsenal and Liverpool so any hopes of things getting any easier will go flying out of the window. They could do with a good performance and a creditable result to at least give them some foundation on which to face those two heavyweight clashes. Stoke, however, will have every right to fancy their chances.
Sunderland 1-1 Hull City: United v Arsenal arguably the game of the weekend. Two heavyweights coming to blows. As that’s the case then this fixture might be considered the lightweight encounter. Much as Swansea may be competing to be the worst team in the league this season, Sunderland and Hull City have cornered that market. Sunderland have been consistently dross. Hull’s fall from a good start has been a plummet so drastic that it really has reassured everyone who thought they would only be making a brief sojourn in the Premier League. Both teams won in their last run outs. A win can do the club the world of good. You can see both Moyes and Phelan going into the international break in a better frame of mind. They are realistic enough to know that the result doesn’t change their situation where the table is concerned. It doesn’t change the fact that they are in a relegation scrap. What it does, however, is remind players that when they are capable of, you know, actually winning a game of football. There’s something about meeting each other as well that eases their minds from the stress of facing a potential pummelling by a mid table or top of the table side. It will raise the competitive juices ever so slightly in both squads to know that they are facing a team they both believe they can beat. The onus will certainly be on the home side – first because they are the home side and secondly because Sunderland are far better at this relegation scrap than Hull. There’s a valid argument to suggest that the Wearside team should see themselves as slightly superior to their Humberside opponents. Moyes is certainly a more experienced manager than Phelan and will want to apply that to making the most of the advantage. For all that, though, these two sides areat the bottom of the table for a reason. The combination of overall mediocrity between the two should not make this a classic for the ages.
Watford 2-1 Leicester City: Leicester City are the Premier League Champions. Did you know that? Yeah they won it in the 2015-16 season, surprising all of the football world. It was an amazing achievement. They have continued the fairytale with a Champions League run that at present sees them on the verge of qualifying for the knockout stages of the illustrious European tournament. It’s all going swimmingly … except in the Premier League that apparently they won. There are two points separating Leicester and the bottom three. That’s no fluke. Whatever else you call it, this is not a good start to the defence of their title. This was typified in the way they managed to lose a home match to West Brom in their last league outing. Leicester didn’t use to be that loose and easy at home. Against West Brom too- that just wasn’t right. Yet here they are in a league position that would be what you would you usually expect from Leicester, but not with this team that did so well to win the league. Their plight in the league is well personified in the form of Jamie Vardy. He was the hottest thing a few months ago, but now when England strikers are being talked about he’s an afterthought. Still, as hurt as Leicester must be due to their league form, they are not smarting as much as their hosts. Watford were doing really well up until meeting Liverpool at Anfield. Getting beat at Liverpool is no disgrace, but conceding six goals … So Mazzari will be very keen to move on from that and get that out of the system as quickly as possible. He has done well to marshall this collection of players to maintain a team ethos that has seen them well more often than not. They can certainly turn on the stuff at home and the familiarity of Vicarage Road will given them a basis to look at this as a match not against the Premier League Champions but a group of players who are looking more like their mid-table to lower table selves. They’ll look at this as a chance to get three points and I don’t blame them.
Tottenham 2-1 West Ham: These two London clubs had a good season last season. They did better than they hoped. When you do better than you hoped it understandably raises expectations. So this season both clubs had higher aspirations. West Ham had those higher aspirations going into a new stadium and thus far have not done much to live up to those aspirations. so it will come as some relief that the pressure won’t be on them in this away fixture. They won’t be lying down to anyone, they certainly don’t want to get beat by a London opponent, especially Spurs, but they go to this match knowing they are not the favourites to win. With that in mind they can go out and stifle the attacking threat that Spurs have, keep the home crowd quiet and then look to leave with something, perhaps a point and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility for them to nick a win. What helps them is how poor Spurs have been in scoring lately. At the beginnning of October they had that famous victory over City by two goals without reply. Since then Spurs have failed to score more than once in a game. Sure they can boast the only unbeaten run in the league, but that is not doing them any favours while their opponents around them are collecting more three points than they are. Getting Kane back from international duty early to carry on with the match fitness work will be a huge help. They can feel confident that if they can keep him ready for the match they should be in with a shout of changing that scoring record around. West Ham won’t be easy opponents at all, they will be eager to spoil any sense of an uplift in Spurs, but Pochettino has a well-drilled system going on with his team. They can pick up a valuable three points in this tie as long as they can impose their usual game.
Middlesbrough 1-3 Chelsea: Boro are no easy team to face. They have not been beaten in their last three matches. Of those three games two of their opponents were Man City and Arsenal. That’s not too shabby for the side promoted from the Championship. They have got some very impressive results with impressive defensive discipline. There’s a spirit developed at the club that bodes well for their chances of staying in the Premier League this season if they maintain this trajectory. They face their toughest test yet, however, in a Chelsea side who arguably are in better form than Arsenal or City. The transformation of Chelsea in recent games means their position in second place is fully deserved. Their deconstruction of Everton in their last outing was but a taste of what their capacity. As their fans drooled over the performance and victory their hopes have been raised and Conte is only fuelling that with his considered approach to the squad. No team has as yet been able to combat the new formation Conte has introduced. There’s solidity in defence, mesmerising pace and skill going forward and in Costa a man who is hungry to score goals. No one would fault Boro if they just looked to put a defence together that can deal with the threats around the pitch. Yet this is easier said than done. Everton found out that it’s one thing mimicking a formation, but it’s to have the players and the style to combat it that makes the difference. Boro should be wary of that as a response. Chelsea, however, will do well not to see this game as simply something they should just take for granted as a win. If they put their professional heads on and treat their opponents with the due respect the win that is predicted will come to pass.
West Brom 1-1 Burnley: Burnley Football Club are in the top half of the table. No. Seriously. They are. Ninth place. Look – it’s right there. Top half. Above the Premier League Champions. That looks good. Then you consider that they are four points away from the relegation places and that gives you the indication of where they are in the league. No room to think they’ve achieved anything yet. Yet at this stage they should be pleased to be doing a lot better than they did the last time they were in the Premier League. They are where they are through hard graft, commitment to the cause and working out that the total is far greater than the sum of their parts when they all chip in to do their task. So it’s with that positive and optimistic outlook that they arrive at the Hawthorns for Monday Night Football. Tony Pulis sees his side only a point behind their opponents and so should feel that his team are going as well as you’d expect them to go. They are not a threat to the teams better than them, they are not threatened by teams around them. Their Premier League arrangement seems to be working for them and in Tony Pulis they have the right man to keep things ticking over that way. They won’t be threatened by Burnley and with it taking place on their own territory they should be relatively confident that they could collect all three points. You know how it is, though, when you have two teams that are hard working, honest, diligent sorts with little in the way of creativity and flair then the result can look to be veering one way.
This week’s fixtures are not easy at all and as you can tell I don’t see that much in the way of goal-fests taking place in these matches. I have been wrong before, though, yet on this occasion I as ever hope I’m right more than I’m wrong – getting more than two correct scorelines will also be pretty sweet!
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden
The good news – it’s another week of Premier League football. The bad news this takes place before yet another international break. Thankfully, however, it’s the last international break of the year and then we can get into domestic football until next February or March.
Before we consider this week’s worth of matches, it’s worth seeing if as I hoped I exceeded the measly two points collected from week 9, in last week’s action. It’s always worth going through the scoring system – three points for the correct scoreline, one point for the right outcome and diddly squat for getting it all wrong.
Sunderland 0-3 Arsenal (1 point – actual score 1-4)
Man Utd 2-1 Burnley (0 points – actual score 0-0)
Middlesbrough 1-1 Bournemouth (0 points – actual score 2-0)
Tottenham 1-1 Leicester (3 points)
Watford 2-0 Hull (1 point – actual score 1-0)
West Brom 1-3 Man City (1 point – actual score 0-4)
Crystal Palace 2-2 Liverpool (0 points – actual score 2-4)
Everton 1-1 West Ham (0 points – actual score 2-0)
Southampton 1-2 Chelsea (1 point – actual score 0-2)
Stoke 2-1 Swansea (1 point – actual score 3-1)
Well it certainly wasn’t two points was it, eh? 8 points is a very good collection for the week and getting a 60% correct outcome in the games was a pleasing response to 20%. When you consider I was cautious about Liverpool and United really should have thrashed Burnley out of sight that could have easily gone up to an 80% rate. Still, it’s back to business as far as the prediction thing goes for me.
Now, it’s time to see how it goes in considering this week’s worth of matches.
Bournemouth 3-1 Sunderland: “There are no easy games in the Premier League.” This is the mantra that all Premier League managers are obliged to repeat to themselves and intimate at every pre-match press conference. But then there’s Sunderland. I am not saying they are pushovers, neither am I suggesting they are a bunch of perpetual losers. What I am saying is that Bournemouth fans will look at this game taking place at home and expect a win. They are not the only ones. David Moyes must be wondering what he has done to deserve the side he manages. It is great example of the term ‘thankless task’. Being record breakers for having the lowest points tally after ten games is not the sort of record you want on your CV. They go to the Vitality Stadium hoping to do something … and really and truly it’s difficult to see how they are going to achieve that. No obvious change in their team, no obvious change in their approach, no obvious way of seeing how they can do what is necessary to leave the south coast with anything more than another result that sees them rooted to the bottom of the Premier League. That is not to say Bournemouth can take the game for granted, but the way Eddie Howe goes about his business, it’s unlikely they will approach this game with any complacency, especially coming off a disappointing result in their last game.
Burnley 1-2 Crystal Palace: This is an interesting match. An interesting match in terms of considering who could possibly win it, not necessarily an interesting match in terms of being interesting to watch. Burnley have made a better start to their season than most would have expected collecting seven points from Liverpool, Everton and Manchester United the first two were maximum points from home games. That means Crystal Palace arrive at Turf Moor knowing that a win is going to be a tough task. The home side should be very confident going into this game unbeaten in the last two league matches and playing well. The Dyche approach shows they have learnt well from the exertions of their previous season in the Premier League and on their current trajectory there’s no reason why they cannot believe that they can make a good fist of staying in the league this season. So why on earth am I suggesting that Crystal Palace is going to leave the North with three points? Surely they should be grateful to be emerging from this match with a point at a very hard place to play football thus far this season. There’s something about this predicting thing, however, where I look to buck the trend. Palace are not in a good run of form of late, but will be all the more eager to turn that around. They have the attacking threat to be able to get goals and have already won up North. They can do it and maybe this is the game to do it. That’s the main thrust behind believing Palace will do what the Merseyside teams have failed to do.
Man City 3-0 Middlesbrough: Insufferable. That colleague at work who got a win on the lottery. The woman who got to see her favourite niece and wants to let you know just how cute she is. And Manchester City fans telling you how they beat the greatest team ever. Don’t tell them that Barcelona had key injuries in defence. Don’t tell them that Barcelona could afford to take it easy on a match like this because they knew they would bring it when its needed. Just listen to them harp about how great they are and how Guardiola is their man to lead them to the promised land of Champions League as well as Premier League glory. Back in the real world, though, Pep will be more than aware that he cannot afford to take anything for granted as they host the team from Teeside. Boro will certainly not be coming to lay down and be trounced on by the likes of Aguerro, Gundogan and De Bruyne. They will provide stiff competition knowing full well that they are not the favourites for this match. They will come prepared to stifle the opponents play and hope for any counter attacks they can muster. They will put up a fight, there is little doubt about that. They will certainly need to do so. Yet for all the fight they can come up with, you have to say those names again – Aguerro, Gundogan and De Bruyne – also consider a return to form of Sterling and there is a defender’s nightmare to contemplate. City still are not convincing in their defensive displays, but when you have the ball and press as quickly as they do without it, there might be enough to spare them that aggravation on this occasion. The home fans who are currently insufferable will be looking for more reason to continue to be insufferable and I don’t see Boro stopping them.
West Ham 1-1 Stoke: The Potters are happy. Three wins on the bounce. They’re on the up and they’re playing with confidence and competence with results that back that up. Hughes rightly sees them as a team that’s meant to be in the top half of the table, so their points collection in recent games will give them hope going forward. Meanwhile West Ham are still kind of slumbering around the lower half of the table. They need to hit their own run of form that sees them winning more games than not winning. There’s little doubt looking at the manager and players, that they too will see themselves as a team that should be a lot higher up the table. The troubles they are having with their home ground is continuing to get headlines and the grumbling doesn’t appear to be subsiding any time soon. That is not the sort of set up you want as you prepare for the arrival of an in form side. The onus is on the home side to press forward, the onus is on the home side to be getting the chances. Hughes will know that to a large degree the pressure is more on Bilic than it is on him. That will suit the Welshman down to the ground. He has developed a team that prides itself on its robust nature so they won’t be easy to face. There be goals in them there Potters from somewhere and that’s just as well with the injuries and suspensions they carry with them. It’s for that factor that I reckon this match will end in a score draw, which will certainly favour the away side than it will those who are forever blowing bubbles.
Chelsea 2-1 Everton: This is one of the tough matches to predict. Sure, Chelsea are doing well in the league at the moment. Their dismantling of United and beating Southampton away gives them a great deal of confidence. The way they’re playing at the moment makes them a threat going forward and solid as a rock in defence. The players are buying into the manager and their performances are proving that. Matic who was criticised last season, is doing well this season. Cahill was having a nightmare earlier this season, but now looks assured. Some say that this system is suiting Luiz because he has two other defenders around him, but I would say the weak link has been Cahill who is reassured by the solidity of the defensive make up. That’s all without looking at how well their attack has been doing. Pedro has been something of an unsung hero in recent matches, but it’s tough to get room for attention when Hazard is picking up the form that got him Player of the Year a while back and Costa is a menacing beast up front ever likely to score a goal or two. That can appear somewhat daunting a task for Everton. There’s reasons to believe, though, that Koeman will not be afraid of this challenge. At this stage of the building work he’s doing at Everton, he will know what is expected of him and how to approach this game. He is no mug when it comes to Premier League football. At least in Gueye and Barry in front of Williams and Jagielka he has a platform from which to establish a defence to limit the chances his opponents get. If Bolasie hits his stride and Lukaku looks up for giving his old team a fright then there’s a possibility that they could do well at Stamford Bridge. This will not be the thrashing that Chelsea handed to United, expect it to be a much tougher game. This Conte character is clever, though and he has enough of what it takes to have the edge in how his team will approach this game.
Arsenal 2-0 Tottenham: This is the game of the weekend. The North London derby where the stakes are higher than they have been in recent seasons. Spurs enter this match looking to get back on track with the thing called winning a game of football having failed to have done so in the last couple of matches. They also could do with a win to close the gap on the side that are currently flying high at the top of the table only on goal difference yielding to City. That win would give Spurs a massive boost going into the international break. You look at their side and despite the lack of Kane this team are well drilled and disciplined and have good performances in them. They are not a poor side overnight and they remain the only side yet to suffer defeat in the Premier League this season. I would say, though, that the favourites will be the home team. There’s an argument to be made that Arsenal are the form team in the Premier League. They have players on form all over the pitch. They can feel more than confident of winning this match. If they hit top gear they could be unstoppable. It will be said that issues of form will go out of the window because this is a local derby and all that, but Spurs are struggling to score goals and Wenger won’t have to do much to motivate his players to live up to the occasion. This is why I see this being a home win and the only thing that would stop that from happening is if Arsenal somehow played underneath themselves. It’s not impossible, but this is Arsenal at home, Ozil is still getting plaudits for his wonders, people are getting used to Sanchez getting used to playing up front. There’s a steel to Arsenal so far that sees them winning games when it doesn’t always look as though they should. So this will be theirs to lose over anything else.
Hull 1-2 Southampton: Sunderland are the worst team in the Premier League. No doubt about that. Yet there is a team that has an even worse goal difference than them. That team are Hull City. When I think about Sunderland I shake my head and chuckle. When I think about Hull City, I shrug my shoulders and then shake my head and chuckle. After all, before the start of the season what were we saying about them? Weren’t they the favourites to get relegated? So why is it any wonder that they find themselves third from bottom. That’s Hull actually doing well all things considered. What is it about Hull that makes them so … incapable of winning games of Premier League football? The defence? The midfield? The attack? The manager? The lack of effective transfers to boost the team? All the above? Whatever it is will be coming face to face with a Southampton side that will be a little disappointed to have lost to Chelsea in their previous match. This is a Southampton side that have been doing well this season so far in the league. Not setting the world on fire by any means, but they’re doing alright. They will want to get back to doing alright and they face almost the perfect team to help them do that. Of course the perfect team would have been Sunderland, but Hull City are the kind of side who are generous enough to let the Saints leave with three points. This is not a gimme, though and the Saints will need to get into proper gear and remain disciplined in exploiting the weaknesses of their opponents to truly have returned to doing alright in the league. What’s that? Am I ruling out Hull City? Am I saying they have no chance? No, that is not what I am saying. This is the Premier League, they can win it, it’s possible. It’s just that they won’t.
Liverpool 3-1 Watford: Have you noticed where Watford are in the league? They are up in 7th place! They are only looking up to see City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs and Everton. That’s not too shabby at all. They’ve kinda crept up into that position really, but it’s no fluke. The table doesn’t lie. They have worked hard to accrue the point that sees them where they are in the table and they will feel they can continue in similar manner to once more reaffirm their place in the Premier League for another season. Now if you had said something like that at the start of the season there may have been one or two raised eyebrows at such confidence. Yet Mazzari has done a tremendous job getting into the Premier League and adjusting so quickly and so well. All that good will and positive opening ten games will now be put to arguably their biggest test of the season so far. For something unusual is happening at Anfield. The argument was that it was against the lesser teams that Liverpool would struggle after going unbeaten against United, Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea. Yet the only team they have failed to beat outside those top teams is Burnley and that defeat looks more and more like a blip as they collect three points from lesser team after so called lesser team. The win against Crystal Palace last week should not be underestimated. That win away from home against a side they have struggle against n time past, continues their very impressive run in the league this season. An impressive run that few people would have expected of a side considered to be so inconsistent. Any football fan observing this will understand then that feeling in the back of the mind that there’s a slip up coming, the run has to come to an end at some point, the bubble has to be burst eventually and it would be typical of Liverpool to do that at home against a Warford side that some would suggest is meant to be among those lesser teams that Liverpool struggle to put away. With that feeling in mind, however, there is still the reality that says Liverpool go into this match as favourites. Sure that means the pressure is off the visiting team and they can afford to play as stifling a game as they like to keep the home fans quiet. Yet Liverpool have in their ranks players who can turn a game around in a second. They also have a defence that can concede in a second too. Yet the feeling is as much they may concede they still will tend to score more than they concede and Watford may not be the team to stop that run.
Swansea 1-3 Man Utd: Do you know the worse football fan to be in the Premier League at the moment? It’s not Leicester even though the Champions are off the pace. It’s not Hull or Sunderland even though their form is awful at present. No, the worse football fan to be at the moment is a Manchester United fan. Few fans would have demanded a Premier League title as a given in Mourinho’s first season, but they certainly felt a top four place was a more than reasonable expectation. Yet they’re looking up at Watford among other teams at the moment. Ibrahimovic was meant to be scoring the goals. Pogba was meant to dominate from midfield. Mkhitaryan was meant toe be on the pitch playing. All of those things have yet to truly materialise especially in recent games. They are on the second turgid run of form already this season where they have only won one of their last four games. Commentators are saying they lack confidence, observers are questioning if the manager knows his best team and system, the pundits are lining up to give the benefit of their opinion as to why it’s all going so wrong. Fans are wondering why the young players aren’t given more playing time. It is not a good place to be being a Man Utd fan at this moment. What they don’t really need while all this is happening is a trip to Wales to face a Swansea side who are getting used to new management with Bob Bradley. They don’t need it primarily because the man Bradley is all the more impatient to see his side turn up and perform and produce a winning performance. He’s desperate to do it. He has the swagger and confidence in himself to believe he can do it and just like Watford, he will believe he has the blueprint to collect a scalp in the out of form United side. When considered in this light, the score I am predicting may appear somewhat odd. Here’s the thinking though. For all the mourning and bewailing taking place about United at the moment, there have been more than enough signs that they are capable of turning a game in their favour. That Burnley result on last time out in the league was just bizarre. In any other match of that sort United would have run out comfortable winners. That is to say they have it in them, its just for that which is within to finally manifest itself in a game where they return with three points. That is this game. It won’t necessarily be pretty to watch, but Mourinho still know how to do the ugly well to emerge with three points and that is all that matters at the club at this time. They will do it, because they don’t want to make matters worse for themselves by seeing the insufferable City fans gloat at them from the top of the tree as the international break looms.
Leicester 2-1 West Brom: Leicester didn’t have the best of times in Europe, only managing to get a draw against Copenhagen when their form might have suggested they could have done a bit better. But hey, they’re yet to be defeated in Europe and that’s a positive thing. Their league form? Not as positive. Things have been a little better of late, they won two of their four league matches and drew another one, but it’s a fairly underwhelming defence of their title. Nevertheless Ranieiri still has a squad that is capable of getting a draw against a tough Spurs side and their last home match saw them comfortably beat Palace. Despite the injury to Schmeichel, City will go into their next league match feeling as though they are the favourites. They will feel that way because their opponents are stubborn old West Brom who are not exactly on the up. They have not won in five league games and they have lost their last two games. Now sure those two were against City and Liverpool, but it is a losing streak and getting out of a losing streak is not looking that much more likely when your next game is away at the Premier League Champions. We know Pulis will be keen to see his side retain some defensive solidity. We know West Brom won’t be that easy to beat. Yet we also know that West Brom are hardly oozing with goals from all corners and they won’t be the hardest side Leicester will face this season. This will not go down as the game of the year and it will not be competing for game of the weekend either. That won’t matter to Pulis as long as his side can follow orders, take on the training that they’ve been drilled on all week and then make life extremely difficult for their hosts. If they can do that to a side who are recovering from their latest European adventure then they can have hope of getting something from the match. What’s more likely, however, is that Ranieiri will look to lift his side one more time before the international break to do something pleasing to the team.
I am going to miss domestic football for the international fortnight, but before that is set before me, I hope I can see perhaps even more improvement on the scoring for this week’s predictions. These matches are not straightforward, but I can feel confident about at least getting one or two more correct outcomes from the games this weekend.
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden
This week sees the teams in the Premier League play their tenth league fixture. Not far off getting a third of the way through the campaign. It’s a good mix of home and away games played to give them a good view of how their season may pan out. So positive results for the teams this week can go a long way to improving their perspectives going forward.
As far as this predictions gig goes, it will also be a good chance to review how things have gone so far. Before we look at the coming week’s fixtures, let’s have a look back – if I dare – at how my predictions actually turned out from week 9. As ever I get three delicious points if I get the correct scoreline. I satisfy myself with a solitary point if I only get the right outcome. As for missing both, then I end up with zilch.
Bournemouth 1-2 Tottenham (0 points – actual score 0-0)
Arsenal 3-1 Middlesbrough (0 points – actual score 0-0)
Burnley 1-2 Everton (0 points – actual score 2-1)
Hull 1-1 Stoke (0 points – actual score 0-2)
Leicester 2-2 Crystal Palace (0 points – actual score 3-1)
Swansea 2-1 Watford (0 points – actual score 0-0)
West Ham 2-1 Sunderland (1 point – actual score 1-0)
Liverpool 3-1 West Brom (1 point – actual score 2-1)
Man City 3-1 Southampton (0 points – actual score 1-1)
Chelsea 1-1 Man Utd (0 points – actual score 4-0)
I like couples. I’m a happily married man and a better man for being a part of a couple. Yet when it comes to winning two points out of a possible 30 that is not a good week. Only two correct outcomes from ten is also an abysmal rating. The thing is, it was not a freak week of results. The only result that was genuinely surprising was Burnley beating Everton. Chelsea thumping United wasn’t expected, but a win wasn’t unusual. To be so wrong with so many outcomes was bitterly disappointing.
Yet we cannot allow such weeks to put us off the challenge. A good thing about hitting such a low is that things cannot get worse than this. I believe in my ability to suss out a game of football in the Premier League. These things happen and previous weeks have shown I am more than capable of getting correct outcomes. So it is onwards and definitely upwards (he says in hope) as we consider this week’s fixtures.
Sunderland 0-3 Arsenal: Sunderland. Come on. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the Stadium of Light could be rocking to the beat of ecstatic fans after a famous victory against the Gunners. But seriously. Come on. This is a team that appears allergic to scoring goals. This is a team that appears generous in giving others a chance to score against them. Some are making an argument that there have been worse teams in Premier League history, but even that discussion goes to show just how poor this team is. This is not helped by a manager who from the start wrote off his side as being in a relegation scrap from the start. As with other new managers at clubs, it takes a while for him to embed his plans and the like and he is still within this grace limit. Though the signs are not good for the team from Wearside. That will not be helped by a refreshed Arsenal side who were able to make progress in the EFL Cup without affecting their first team regulars. This is an Arsenal team on a good run of form, they have not tasted defeat in weeks. They are on the up. They can score goals even if they don’t believe in playing a striker who is a striker. They can certainly score goals against this Sunderland side. It may not be a thrashing, but it should be a comfortable three points for the away side.
Man Utd 2-1 Burnley: What is Mourinho’s best side? Should they play a team with Carrick, Rashford, Mata, Pogba, Herrera and Ibrahimovic? Should this team be featuring the likes of Mkhitaryn and Martial? What are they going to do with their defence with the immense Bailly injured? It’s clear that this United team have not got into their rhythm as yet. Mourinho is still working things out and the results reflect that. This game, however, presents them with the perfect opportunity to make progress. Burnley are no walkovers. They take their game seriously and as Everton and Liverpool have found out recently, they can beat the big boys on their day. They turn up to Old Trafford quietly confident of being able to put the effort in and hopefully leave the Theatre of Dreams with a point and maybe more. That could happen, their team ethos is good and they work really hard. One reason why I do not think that will happen is that Manchester United are six points behind the league leaders at the moment. They do not want that gap to widen at all. They are a better side than Burnley. Mourinho prides himself on winning at home. There’s also a niggling issue with Ibrahimovic having been off the goalscoring track of late. There’s a game where that needs to be sorted and this could well be the game. United have a thrashing in them, but Burnley won’t roll over and allow it. It should be a home win, though.
Middlesbrough 1-1 Bournemouth: I would be very surprised indeed if this game was the first to be shown on a highlights programme of the Premier League fixtures this weekend. I would also be very surprised if this was a goalsfest. Not to say it’s got a bore draw written all over it, but it’s worth remembering this was a Championship game not so long ago. These two are hardly Premier League mainstays and they have a desire to ensure they maintain their league status this season. Boro might well have got a creditable draw at the Emirates in their last outing, but they know to truly survive they have to win this game. Their form beforehand was not what they desired and particularly in front of their home fans, they are keen to make amends. In Bournemouth, however, they face a side who are much on the up. They have been battling well in games lately and with a thrashing of Hull and a good draw to Spurs they are in a good position. Eddie Howe’s side play a progressive brand of football and that should make them hard to beat against a team they see as slightly inferior. It’s away from home, though, so as ever they have to focus on ensuring they are not going to be beaten. On that basis there’s every reason to believe they can do something useful in this match. It also suggests that this game may just end up in a draw, thus ensuring they won’t quite be the first pick for the highlights producers this weekend.
Tottenham 1-1 Leicester: Spurs, eh. They have lost their first domestic game of the season at Anfield in the EFL Cup. Sure it was a weakened selection, but it is still a defeat. More of a concern for them is the fact that they have not been scoring many goals of late. The likes of Son and Janssen were thought to be enough cover for Kane, but that’s not really working out as yet. That has got to be a concern as they face the league champions. Not that Leicester are playing like a team to be feared when it comes to their league form at the moment. Rainieiri may well refer to the Foxes returning to their ‘philosophy’ in beating Crystal Palace, but in Spurs they face yet another big team away from home. They have not had to bother about league cup action, they are rested and focused, their top players should be up for this challenge. One player in particular, Vardy, has yet to really show up this season. If he starts, this would be a good place to start and show that last season wasn’t a one season wonder. With Spurs having to do without an important central defender in Alderweireld, it could be an opportunity to exploit, if he turns up. This will be a very difficult match for both sides and it is fair to suggest both sides need a win. The home team have the strength to get back to winning ways, but I also think Claudio will want to see his lads show up and make things very difficult for the White Hart Lane faithful.
Watford 2-0 Hull: There isn’t a worse team in the Premier League than Sunderland, they are losing games like it’s their calling in life. Having said that, Hull City are doing their best to challenge them to that unenviable status. Maybe there was a degree of sympathy that made me think they could get a point at home to Stoke City. Any sympathy expressed then was snuffed out as the Tigers cowered like pussy cats to lose to the Potters. Now they have to go all the way down to Vicarage Road and somehow look to see if they can pick up their season again. In Watford they face a team who could well give them three points – they are not invincible even at home. So there’s hope for the … nah not really. Watford may not convince all the time but there is something in Mazzari that gives me the impression that he will not want to look this gift horse in the mouth. He will want the Hornets to fly like a butterfly and sting like a bee all over the beleaguered opponents. Having got a decent point in the last match at Swansea, he will want to reinforce those credentials with a tough defence being the springboard to send the home fans happy. There’s little about their opponents that gives the impression he will be disappointed.
West Brom 1-3 Man City: Around this time last week, I questioned whether City could really go that long without winning a game. A week and two games later they are showing they are more than capable of just that. Kompany is not fit at all, regardless of the games he gets. Aguerro seems to be out of sorts. Even De Bruyne has lost a little steam from recent games. No one is hailing the form of Sterling anymore. Their defence is not that much of a scare to teams these days. They remain at the top of the table, but from the blistering start they have made they are more than susceptible at the moment. West Brom are licking their wounds from a defeat at Anfield. It might have been a little disappointing following their noble point against Spurs at home, but the thing about the Baggies is they kind of know their place. They are not going to win the league this season. They are not going to finish in the top six. They know that what they have to offer is the sort of grit and determination to be a real bugbear to anyone they come across. In Pulis they have a coach who knows how to drill into his teams the necessary work ethic to be a thorn in the side of the most accomplished teams. So it would be only right and fitting in the light of these circumstances to predict a draw. Guardiola has not faced an opponent like Pulis before – this is a whole new ball game for him and this should be a stern test. So why have I plumped for an away win? Because there is something in me that says that a man of Guardiola’s calibre with a team of City’s quality should find going this amount of time without a win simply unacceptable and now is the time to do something about it. It won’t be an easy win at all, but win they must. Right?
Crystal Palace 2-2 Liverpool: Be in no doubt, I believe in Jurgen Klopp. His project at Anfield in just over a year has thus far seen improvement in the squad and the team. They can score goals and they come from a variety of sources. The Palace defence is not the hardest they have faced, so they should approach this match with some confidence that they can keep the scoring flowing. The win against Spurs in midweek with an entire team overhaul would act as something tremendously encouraging to the visitors meaning that the likes of Coutinho and Firmino are ready to return and make their impact on this match. Palace’s season is marked by inconsistency, but they will not be underestimated when it comes to Liverpool. Their record against the Reds at Selhurst Park is not a bad at all in recent years. The good time vibes at Liverpool might want to continue but few teams are better at popping their party balloons than Palace. Heightening those chances of a spoiling atmosphere is the presence of Christian Benteke. His stint at Anfield involved goals, but nowhere near the amount that was expected. That and the sense that Klopp did not appear to see him fitting in his plans is enough of a motive to want to give him a taste of what he’s missing. This is a tough test for the Anfield side and it will require a great deal of resilience, patience and quality to overcome this Palace side and maintain their positive start to the season. On this occasion, however, they may not have quite enough to come out as clear winners.
Everton 1-1 West Ham: In the back of his mind, Koeman must still be baffled as to how his side lost at Turf Moor last Saturday. He must be sitting there scratching his head looking to figure out just how they left without a point. As with some other managers, Koeman can afford to put it down to his side still getting accustomed to him and his new style and likewise him getting used to what his team can do both positively and negatively. It will still be annoying to him, though. With that being the case he will demand a response from his side. Nothing less than a win would satisfy the boss in this home game. West Ham did not have the best starts to the season by any stretch of the imagination. They are not playing that much better at the moment, but the results have certainly picked up. Indeed their mini-winning streak will give them a great deal of confidence coming into this match. They have sufficient in their personnel to be aware of the threats their opponents offer and although they are not scoring a lot of goals at the moment, they still have enough to pose a problem for the Toffees. This is what makes the game so tight to call. The home side should really feel confident of winning this game, but it’s not unusual for that to be reason for the opposing side to look to quiet the home side by stifling their energy and any momentum they want to pick up. It’s one of the more intriguing match-ups of the weekend, which is why I am plumping for honours shared in this game.
Southampton 1-2 Chelsea: The euphoria that surrounded Stamford Bridge after the home side thrashed Man United 4-0 on Sunday was palpable. Even the loss to West Ham in midweek has not done much to dampen the optimism regarding what Conte is doing with the Blues. The 3-4-3 formation is looking to be a good one for the players at his disposal. They are well drilled to protect when they need to and burst forward as the occasion arises. Hazard and Costa are running into form at a good time in the season. There are reasons to be cheerful if you support the West London team and pundits are saying in the light of the recent league win that Conte is more than capable of getting this team into a top four finish and maybe something more. That will in no way phase or intimidate Puel’s side who are unbeaten in the league since early September. Though many again predicted they would suffer after managerial and player upheaval once again the Saints confound those concerns with a decent run of results that sees them comfortably in the top half of the table. Puel has got accustomed to the Premier League in quick time, arguably better than a number of other new managers at clubs. The draw they got at the Etihad last week was not a surprise to them. The team ethic of the side is as established as it has been in previous managers and they should approach this game with the belief that the Chelsea side they face are not as good as the City side they were able to nullify. The difference in this match, though, is that Conte is developing a practice with his side that can absorb whatever a side throws at them when they play away from home. Their defensive discipline and the thrust of their attacks on their day can see them clinch the three points as should be the case in this Sunday’s match.
Stoke 2-1 Swansea: Mark Hughes is not bragging at the moment, but he can feel quietly contented at the way recent results have gone in their favour. Although their position in the table rightly prevents them from seeing themselves as out of the woods just yet, they are on an upward trajectory. Bob Bradley, meanwhile, is still getting used to the Premier League, it’s still very early days for him and his side to get used to each other. This trip to Staffordshire will not be one they will be relishing either. Hughes is hoping that this will be the game that sees his loan signing Bony start scoring and it would be fitting for him to get back in the habit against a side he played for and did the business more regularly. If Stoke can keep their positive momentum going with contributions from players who have yet to hit top gear as well as getting good performances from the impressive Bojan and Allen then they have reason to look forward to this match. There are glimpses, however, in the matches so far under the new boss that Swansea have little reason to worry. It will not be a Monday Night Football classic, but this game has the ingredients for a relatively enjoyable Premier League fixture. Those ingredients also indicate that Stoke may be well in a position to have their cake and eat it.
Ten fixtures for the tenth game of the league campaign thus far. I am confident of doing a lot better than I did last week where the predictions are concerned. There is no stand out must-watch game, but there are plenty of interesting contests that could go either way.
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden