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Ahhhhh the good old Premier League. With its ten fixtures featuring teams doing well and teams not doing so well facing each other. Nearly ten games down, nearly in a position to get a better idea of who will be excelling and who will need a miracle to survive again (hello, Sunderland).
Righto let’s have a look at how I did in Week 8 of the Premier League, remembering I get three points for a spot on prediction, one point for the right outcome and zero points for missing everything.
Chelsea 2-2 Leicester (0 points – actual score 3-0)
Arsenal 3-0 Swansea (1 point – actual score 3-2)
Bournemouth 2-0 Hull (1 point – actual score 6-1)
Man City 2-1 Everton (0 points – actual score 1-1)
Stoke 2-0 Sunderland (3 points)
West Brom 0-2 Tottenham (0 points – actual score 1-1)
Crystal Palace 2-1 West Ham (0 points – actual score 0-1)
Middlesbrough 1-1 Watford (0 points – actual score 0-1)
Southampton 1-0 Burnley (1 point – actual score 3-1)
Liverpool 3-2 Man Utd (0 points – actual score 0-0)
Six points in total from last week and again a lot of that down to one correct score with a large number of games not going in the outcome I expected at all. Indeed only a 40% rate of correct outcomes is not an indication towards the positive.
It’s time then to turn that around this week and see if the turnaround can start now in getting these outcomes spot on.
Bournemouth 1-2 Tottenham: Spurs are a crafty team. I mean that in a number of ways. One they are a team that puts a lot of craft in what they display. Effort and energy runs throughout the team. They’re also a clever team, when you have the likes of Alli, Eriksen and Lamela available they are not going to be easy to pin down. They are not many people’s favourites to win the league and that plays nicely into their hands as they still sit in the top four and the only unbeaten team in the league. The draw against West Brom has to be seen as a disappointment and although Bournemouth are riding the crest of a wave having seen to Hull in devastating fashion, Spurs will be looking to get back to winning ways. Sure Wilshire for Bournemouth will be only too happy to see Spurs slip up against the south coast side who are no easy team to play against, but Spurs will start the game as the team most likely to win.
Arsenal 3-1 Middlesbrough: Playing Ludogorets in the week was just the sort of game Arsenal could have done with to keep up their current winning momentum. The win against Swansea was a bit too close for comfort, so to have players excelling at the top of their game in showing their superiority in Europe must do much for morale. They have not been beaten since the start of the season, their football remains an attractive feature without overwhelmingly convincing anyone that they have hit their peak as yet. Another game at home against a lesser team is just the sort to get them into the right gear to further reinforce their credentials at the top of the table. Middlesbrough have not been doing too well of late and their fans have noticed that. It will be interesting to see how they approach this game, if they play their regular game they will be swatted aside by the superior side. If they can approach this with a lot more bite then there’s no reason why they can’t look to leave London with something. That’s not likely to happen, though.
Burnley 1-2 Everton: At this still early stage of the season, Koeman is just about doing enough to keep his development of Everton on track. They are not at their game as yet, but there are promising signs of progress here and there. They are a top half side and their results are reflecting that at the moment. In Burnley, they face a side who are likewise going about their season as should be expected. They are not wimps, they are not there to be taken for fun, Dyche has set up a team to battle and work hard throughout the 90 minutes. However, this is Burnley a team who looks like they belong to the Championship. They face an Everton side who are learning again to battle for whatever they can get on the pitch – if this continues they have every chance of finally clicking into what Koeman wants. If that happens during this match, a game that should have a draw written all over it will turn out the way the away side will prefer it.
Hull 1-1 Stoke: The gasps of relief at Stoke City were clearly audible for miles around. Finally they had won a game of football. At last they had collected three points in the league and a clean sheet to boot as well. You would think they could kick on from here and in facing another struggling side they could put in a battling performance and look to get three points. For Hull City are the epitome of a side on the slide, they are nothing like the team that gained so many plaudits for their impressive performances earlier on. To receive the thrashing at the hands of Bournemouth was not a good sign indeed. This on top of their other results of late which have been negative makes their situation very demoralising. So why am I predicting a draw, because after a thrashing like that anyone would go into the next game looking to recover from the shell-shock looking to just get on with being competitive in a game of football and be as defensive as it takes even at home so they do not face a repeat. In as much as the Potters want to hail Joe Allen for his impressive impact thus far, they have not been scoring goals for fun and away from home there’s little to suggest they can get on the scent of a goal-rush.
Leicester 2-2 Crystal Palace: Leicester no longer have the excuse of European excursions for any negative results in the league. In fact it’s almost as though their impressive performances in Europe galvanise them for the next match. Their away record has not been great, but looking at the teams they played, that’s understandable. They are enjoying home advantage more often than not. Even though a lot of teams have sussed out Vardy, it does not look as though they have sussed out completely how to stop Leicester from scoring. They will not retain the league this season but their efforts suggest they are not to be taken for granted at all. That means Crystal Palace do not stroll in as favourites in this match. Their last match, however, was an annoying defeat against a side out on their form. Pardew is not going to be accepting of that in a hurry and will expect a response. Actually these two clubs are not that far apart in terms of quality and ability, Leicester have elevated themselves with that trophy winning league campaign, but really and truly they are around the Crystal Palace level. Palace,meanwhile would love to spoil the party as Leicester enjoy winning again in the Champions League. I am going for a score that reflects a good old ding-dong.
Swansea 2-1 Watford: This Bob Bradley geezer, got an interesting introduction to the Premier League last weekend. He saw that his team has enough to even be a nuisance to the mighty Arsenal and he saw enough to say that Swansea are better than their league position suggests. There are worse teams in this league than Swansea and if Bradley believes in himself and the team this game gives a very good opportunity to show signs of what he’s planning to do. Meanwhile Watford are a rollercoaster team – win one week, lose the next week, etc. They are really having a ball at the expense of the fans in terms of a small matter of consistency. To be fair, though, they too are getting used to a new manager and being further ahead in the settling in period maybe in a position to cause problems to the home side. If they turn up in the mood to be disciplined and obstinate they might leave Wales with three points. The onus is on the home side to get the maximum available in this match and who is to say, this might happen.
West Ham 2-1 Sunderland: Finally West Ham have won a Premier League game. It’s a good time to win for them, it puts them in a better position. Now to translate that win to home form that their fans can be proud of. Sunderland. This season in particular, nothing seems to be going right for them. Nothing at all. They do not score enough goals, they are nowhere near winning games, they lack spark, imagination and creativity, they have little in the way of scary solidity. They do, however, still have Defoe who can still score goals in the Premier League and with west Ham being one of his former teams, there’s no reason why he wouldn’t want to nab one or two just to remind folks of his ability to do something that not a lot of English strikers are that good at in this moment. This is all, however, the art of making the most of a bad situation. Sunderland are not in a good place and there is little to suggest they have the nous to do anything about it. It is a matter, then, of whether or not Bilic can get his men ready and up for action in turning on a display that helps themselves to another three points and gets the Hammers going further in the right direction. It is possible for that to take place.
Liverpool 3-1 West Brom: It’s a measure of the progress Liverpool are making under Klopp that they left a match against Man United disappointed despite not losing or conceding a goal. A clean sheet for Liverpool these days is as rare as a goal-fest by a side managed by Tony Pulis. So the Anfield bunch have made good headway in their expectations. Now that this has not been met in the game against United, they will expect someone to suffer for that. A Tony Pulis side may not be known for its goalscoring threat, but it is known for its stubbornness and rigidity. If they won’t win they will make awkward for the other team to do the same. West Brom are a well drilled outfit more than capable of stifling the threats of many a Premier League opposition. They know they will not be the favourites as they go to Anfield, but that plays into their hands. They know they can make things even more awkward for the home side and if the natives get restless it could make things all the more anxious for the Reds. Klopp’s heavy metal football, however, has something of the relentless about it. The likes of Coutinho and Firmino will be sorely disappointed that they were not able to even score on Monday. That should be a driver for them to go and amend that issue. The class in the home side should be enough to see them to a home win.
Man City 3-1 Southampton: Can City go for a fifth game in a row without a win? Seriously? Can they? Come on, surely not. It’s interesting how when United went through a losing streak much pressure came on Mourinho, but with City going four games without a win Guardiola has been relatively immune to criticism. Yet here they are without a win in four and let’s face it, Southampton won’t turn up to the Etihad to lay down before the apparently awesome City. Southampton will be much heartened especially by the resolute displays of Celtic and Everton. It should instruct them that if they are prepared to work hard and upset the rhythm of City then there is every chance they can leave Manchester with something more than their ‘pride’. Southampton are not a bad outfit, but still don’t quite convince of being at the same level as they have been in the Pochettino and Koeman eras. That’s fine because they are learning the differences that Puel expects from them and they are a decent enough outfit not to approach this fixture petrified. However, as far as City are concerned, this is a game they really have to win. A draw at home against a side of the calibre of Southampton would be a serious backwards step for the Guardiola project. To be fair they have never failed to make efforts on goal in their recent streak of winless games. They remain a threat and surely that string of no wins has got to irk them, surely they will get on the pitch in front of their own fans and say the blip is over and previous service of thrashing teams out of sight can be resumed. Surely?
Chelsea 1-1 Man Utd: Anyone expecting goals galore from this game, probably didn’t pick up on who the two managers are for this game. It’s not ruling out a goal-fest – Costa is sccoring goals, Ibrahimovic will want to get back to scoring goals, Hazard will be a threat in this big game scenario, Rashford has got goals in him as well. Those players on the pitch certainly cannot rule out the possibility of a number of goals. Let’s be real, though. Mourinho proved at Anfield – not that he needed to – that he can construct a side, an approach and a performance that nullifies the attacking threat of any side. Playing away from home against a big side plays right into his hands. The onus is on the other side to be that bit more effective in creating and converting chances. Chelsea will then be aware of the responsibilities they have to make a significant impression on their season. As yet, however, Conte has not been able to establish that impression against the big teams. The shift to the 3-4-3 system may suit him a lot more and the players may be adapting to it a lot better as the Leicester victory may indicate, but in Mourinho, they more than anyone know they face a guy who can defeat them at their own game. I do not expect a game for the ages, but as someone who enjoys tactical battles this game is going to be an intriguing one.
This weekend’s fixture list has me feeling relatively confident of doing a lot better than the 6 points and 40% correct outcomes of late.
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden
There are different categories on Among Friends reflecting the diversity of interests that the blog covers. One of the most important areas is music. At present according to what has been effectively tagged, 1 in 3 of the entries on here will be about music. That’s a whole lot of music going on. So as we celebrate ten years of the blog it’s worth sharing ten of my favourite musical influences. These are not the greatest musical personalities of all time – Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna and the like will not feature on this list (although there are a few significant music types who will crop up.) More than anything music has appealed to me from my earliest memories of life and the list reflects the degree of influence a range of artists and creators have had on me over the year.
So here are my ten favourite music personalities. This list is not in any order and is always subject to change.
OK, so I said this list wouldn’t include big popular acts, but let’s face it there is still not a band in the history of popular music that is bigger in influence than The Beatles. Its over fifty years since their first major hit record and their music still has its effect. To be fair to this list I am including the individual careers of particular Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison. Two of these could well feature in their own right in this list for the huge influence they have had on my listening over the year.
As a group, though, I particularly found their material from Rubber Soul of great interest. Albums like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band and Abbey Road used to be staple listening for much of my late teenage years – and this was decades after they had split. The songwriting, the arrangements, the vocals, the way their albums were organised all of that captured my interest in a way that little else had done before in the music world. To know that these were the creations of the minds of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison made me in awe of them. They more than anyone else got me intrigued at the making of music from how to make a song to how to play instruments, to how to arrange vocals and all of the other stuff that makes the creative process so fascinating.
Then there was the story of the dynamics of the group – I say story, if there is ever a singular approach to telling their story. All the intrigue into why they wanted to get into the industry, why they stopped playing live concerts, what influences others had on them individually and as a group. The demise of the group and the squabbles and efforts for a reunion before Lennon was killed.
I remember hearing some Paul McCartney music at first and it was a friend who made the connection for me between him and the Beatles. Then I got into some of the solo stuff from the two other listed Beatles too. Nothing against Ringo, I just found the other guys had a more interesting set of songs. A lot of my appreciation for music comes from these four men from Liverpool and not to recognise that would be a crying shame.
When putting this list together I found it interesting to note the lack of many female personalities. I am not too fussed about that really, it’s just my tastes at the end of the day. Those that were the popular types of the day like your Madonna, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion and so forth just left me nonplussed. I acknowledged their capacity to gain a large following and their talent in whatever area to make the most of whatever it was they had, but for me, I just never found them of interest.
There is something about Chaka Khan, though. First thing the vocals. She can blast it out with the best of them – really yell and holler like she’s a siren and failure to acknowledge that could lead to your death. Her range, however, could also go soft and vulnerable in a very alluring manner. Not that she was singing you to bed, there was so much life in her songs that all that kind of stuff could wait.
Her versatility around different music styles is something underrated with her that I appreciated. I loved her in regular pop, I loved her in RnB, I loved her singing the blues, I loved her in jazz, even if she had to do some heavier rock material, it was water off a duck’s back to her. That liberating woman theme ‘I’m Every Woman’ is a song that typifies there are tunes that only she can sing and do the utmost justice whatever the efforts of the likes of the Mariah Carey-types, Mary J Blige-kinds and such. They don’t have to say they owe anything to Chaka, but whenever I hear her and them, she blows them away every time.
As a conveyor of music through her being, I find Chaka Khan to be one of the most charismatic, engaging, soulful and mesmerising vocalists ever. The power in her singing meant she could convey enough of her story through song, without really needing to go all biopic on her. I am glad that she has stood the test of time in terms of the various challenges that have attempted to ravage her. She more than most female music personalities gets my rating as a great influence.
This one was a bit weird for me too. Weird in the sense that there was nothing obvious that would lead me to pay attention to him. I had heard some of his stuff before I took more of an interest in him. The thing about some musical influences is their timing. When I heard him before, I did not pay him that much attention and never pursued the matter.
There was a time in my life, though, where his music took on a greater significance. There were the nature of the songs themselves. I regard them as fun, life-affirming or catchy songs. There are tracks like Roof Garden and Mornin’ that are as good as a family song as you’re going to come across. There are some tunes that I love like Easy which are so cool to me that years later I still love hearing them.
Then there are songs like I Will Be Here For You which have great value to me because of the time of life I was in when those songs came to me. They had profound meaning to me at a time when I could have done with those profound meanings! Then there’s Jarreau himself as a performer and vocalist. More than most he understands his voice as an instrument and so can play with it whether in vocalising or in scatting or otherwise having fun with it to bring across whatever he wants to bring across. To say he’s a master vocalist is an understatement. I hear him and I am unsure whether that level of talent could ever be passed on to anyone else, so unique is the gift.
There are no singers like him and that on top of everything else makes him my guy when it comes to acknowledging great singing talent.
Earth, Wind and Fire
The group dynamic in creating music is a fascinating one. It’s something to appreciate the talents of others and blend them together effectively over a number of years. Among the number of reasons why I grew to really love the music of Earth, Wind and Fire was because of that ability to produce music as a collective to such a high standard over a decent number of years.
Their approach of making music that made you think and dance at the same time was great. Their commitment to knowing what they do well and then continuing to do better for the best part of a decade in that golden era of the 70’s was nothing short of remarkable. Watching some of their concerts on video and listening to their music it strongly comes across as a team effort – the collective strength being greater than the sum of their individual parts. I loved the variety of sound environments they could evoke with their music, warm and intimate or large and expansive, they were just able to make the groove flow through different means and at their peak were simply the best music collective on the planet.
Their list of great tunes is not a short one: I defy anyone not to at least tap their feet to September. A track like After The Love Has Gone is a tune that couples smooch and dance to even though the content isn’t exactly that promising for a relationship. Another romantic track they excelled in was Can’t Hide Love – there’s a tune you can play this track and it will set the mood. Therein lies the great quality of EWF – their music could set the mood – you have a desire to get active and doing something, you slap on a tune like Serpentine Fire or Boogie Wonderland. You want to take things slow and easy and please your lover, then you get a piece like Reasons and defy that lover not to be putty in your hands! They didn’t need to be salacious in their suggestions. It wasn’t about celebrating the erotic to celebrate love. They may be heavily associated with the disco era, but they weren’t the cheesy aspects of that and they lead the way as well as beings true masters of the funk genre
Gaye was a massive influence in my appreciation of music. Massive. There was a time in my life where for a few brief years I was taken up with him as a personality and as a creative musical force. His story and the music he produced had me on tenterhooks and this was years after his death.
As with another Motown favourite that we’ll get to later, I particularly liked Marvin when he got to do his own stuff. When he began to stretch his own abilities and produced that landmark album What’s Going On, that is what really got my interest. He was no longer a part of a pop machine that produced on tap to a particular standard. Here was his own stuff, done his own way, expressing his inner anguishes of what he experienced and these he had written himself. That was gripping stuff to get my head around. His songwriting ability was outstanding, his appreciation for musicianship was on par. Of course, however, what makes Marvin Gaye stand out from his peers was his voice. What a voice. Undoubtedly one of the greatest singers of all time.
The conflicts that affected his life became more pronounced in the works he produced and that whole sensual/spiritual thing he worked out was truly fascinating to hear played out in his music. That he was infused with a gospel vibe and then got to bring in the best of rhythm and blues with that soul thing and came up with tracks that burned themselves in the memory. The way he put those backing vocals to be such a terrific audio accompaniment to his lead vocal got me scrambling to hear the tracks again and again. Even those backing vocals were never wasted, they were not just decoration, they enriched and heightened the listening experience whether in simplicity or interweaved complexity. The man was a master of his craft.
It is a tragedy that those challenges with drugs and the troubled soul that underpinned never lead him to stay on top of things. Yet Marvin Gaye has left a rich legacy for those who love music to consider.
Honourable mentions: George Martin, Paul Simon, Bill Champlin, Roberta Flack, James Taylor, Lalah Hathaway, Michael McDonald, David Bowie, Prince, Toto, Billy Joel, Minnie Riperton, Steely Dan, Lionel Richie, D’Angelo, Ella Fitzgerald, Jacob Collier and Elvis Costello.
C. L. J. Dryden
Here’s how things went as far as the predictions and outcomes for Week 7 were concerned. Remember it’s three points for getting it spot on, one point for just the correct outcome and zero points for getting it wrong.
Everton 2-1 Crystal Palace (0 points – actual score 1-1)
Swansea 1-3 Liverpool (1 point – actual score 1-2)
Hull 1-3 Chelsea (1 point – actual score 0-2)
Sunderland 1-1 West Brom (3 points)
Watford 2-1 Bournemouth (0 points – actual score 2-2)
West Ham 1-2 Middlesbrough (0 points – actual score 1-1)
Man Utd 2-0 Stoke (0 points – actual score 1-1)
Leicester 2-1 Southampton (0 points – actual score 0-0)
Tottenham 1-2 Man City (0 points – actual score 2-0)
Burnley 1-3 Arsenal (1 point – actual score 0-1)
Not a great week that – six points, half of which came from one match. Percentage of the games with correct outcomes only hitting 40%. Not a week to remember fondly at all.
So let’s see if I can get it better as I consider the predictions for Week 8 of the Premier League.
Chelsea 2-2 Leicester
Arsenal 3-0 Swansea
Bournemouth 2-0 Hull
Man City 2-1 Everton
Stoke 2-0 Sunderland
West Brom 0-2 Tottenham
Crystal Palace 2-1 West Ham
Middlesbrough 1-1 Watford
Southampton 1-0 Burnley
Liverpool 3-2 Man Utd
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden
Football is the sport I love the most. For over 30 years it has been the source of much highs and lows. Through it all it has always provided a talking point and much to evoke emotions.
One of the things I enjoyed thinking about in the run up to this series of tens to celebrate ten years of Among Friends is who would be featured on a list of ten of my favourite football personalities. At first it was going to be footballers themselves, but as I thought about it there were other figures that featured in my enjoyment of the game that were not footballers. I was thinking mostly about the managers. There are the media personalities who make the watching of the game fascinating – worthwhile mentions include Des Lynam, John Motson and others – but for the time being I just left it to the players and managers.
Also considering this list I wasn’t so much interested in the best players or managers. Success certainly helped, but really and truly these characters intrigued me by how they engaged with the game. Early on in my interest, I used to read up and study a lot about some of the characters I may never have seen live in action. Stories about them and their achievements elevated them in my eyes and made what they did of far greater interest than a lot of what passes for greatness today. As a result, it should come as no surprise that there are few names that are active in the game today in this list. That’s not to suggest that those were the days and it was so much better then, it’s just a personal reflection on how I found those characters fascinating.
So here are my ten favourite football personalities. This list is not in any order and is always subject to change.
Here is a good example of how this is a list of my favourites versus my perception of who the best is. If this was about who the best is, Kenny Dalglish would win that award all the time. I got into the game as KK had left the game. It was before he got into management and he was enjoying retirement in Spain. What I studied and discovered about Keegan made him a far more intriguing personality that Dalglish.
He was a great example of greatness and tragedy. He made the most of his quality of grafting and learning to establish himself as one of the best footballers of his generation. Certainly for almost a decade he was England’s best player. The whole heart on a sleeve thing was endearing. The success he got at Liverpool and then choosing to do something different and go abroad was intriguing. Then to return of all places to Southampton to leave his Mighty Mouse imprint there before finishing as the king of St James Park at Newcastle is just a story that was something that endeared me to him a lot.
Then of course there was that whole run as a manager at Newcastle United. As in the first time – not that second time. In fact much of anything he did in management after that Newcastle run is pretty forgettable. But there’s enough in that first run to make the legend of Kevin Keegan even bigger. The swashbuckling teams; the demand for more in the kitty to get better players; the rise to the Premier League; the agonising fight for the title; selling Cole; buying Shearer before that walk out. Beautiful stuff from a mesmerising football personality.
This guy is the key reason why this is not a list about footballers. I recognise great managers. It’s been a privilege watching some managers achieve amazing accomplishments in the game from what Sacchi and Capello did with that AC Milan team of the late ’80’s and early 90’s to what Ferguson did with United for a golden period and the achievements of Wenger with Arsenal in the domestic game for the first 8 years of his run. The Guardiola revolution and his aura from Barcelona to Man City via Bayern Munich is a recent phenomenon worthy of anyone’s consideration. It’s been great, but there was great and then there’s Mourinho.
It’s not because his style of football has been the best – that’s not been the case. It’s not because he’s been the most successful manager of all time – that is not the case. It’s not because he’s a charming, modest, self-effacing type – that is not the case.
It is because with him there is a whirlwind of intrigue about what he will do, how he will do it and what it will produce. Why that has been fascinating for me is that he was the first person to really upset the hierarchy of the Arsenal/United duopoly that dominated English football at the end of the last and the beginning of this century. Not only that but he did it his own way cultivating a win mentality that catapulted Chelsea from potential to probable. When he came, they hoped to win something, when he left they took it as their birthright to win. His capacity to win there and everywhere else subsequently made him compelling viewing.
As I mentioned earlier, he is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I have loved watching his story develop and I am not a Porto, Chelsea, Inter, Real Madrid or United fan.
How do you play football. Growing up in England it seemed like the key to be acceptable playing football was to have the ability to run around a lot. There wasn’t much in the way of intelligence when it came to playing and winning the game. It explained a lot as to why England didn’t win anything after 1966. It was into this that I came across the playing career in the ’60’s and 70’s of Der Kaiser – Franz Beckenbauer.
Personally, whenever I played the game I always wanted to be Der Kaiser. Playing sweeper that way was cool. Here was a player who was smart. Here was a guy who knew that the best way to play the game was not about running around, it was about playing smart. There were the occasional running involved, but it wasn’t all over the place. He timed it well, he did it when necessary. He knew when to pass it short or long. His defensive play was not about physical aggression. He played with style and class.
That was great and then to cap it all off, the guy won. He won everything. That just took it to another level for me as far as him as a personality was concerned – he was a great player, he was an influential leader and he won everything. Was he arrogant – probably. Did he come off as aloof sometimes – possibly. The thing about it though is that it’s not boasting when you’re actually right.
His managerial stuff wasn’t all that interesting to me, but his desire to stay in the game and then become such a heavy figure behind the scenes of German football and especially at Bayern Munich was a big deal. Beckenbauer personified the pinnacle of the game in its intelligence and efficiency on and off the pitch.
The AC Milan that swept all before them in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s coincided with an interest in Italian football that I had never experienced before. I was vaguely aware of Graeme Souness having played for Sampdoria, but I wasn’t that clued up on Italian. Then Paul Gascoigne went to Lazio and Channel 4 jumped all over the Football Italia craze and I got to enjoy a lot of Italian football, which was very different to English football. The pace was different, the style of players was different. They played the game a lot more methodically.
I was fascinated by that and AC Milan were my team. More than any other player over the last three decades that defined AC Milan was Paolo Maldini. If I was a Man Utd fan it would be Ryan Giggs on this list, but I’m not and to be honest as much as I admire Giggs, it’s Maldini I really respect highly for his longevity at a big club. That and his execution of the art of defending was masterful to watch both at left back and centre back. It was that versatility and unruffled nature at the back that made me sit up and pay attention. Franco Baresi was a great defender and it came across as if Maldini studied the guy carefully and then adapted his street-smart ways to his own silky smooth ways. There was something graceful and effortless in his displays.
His style of captaincy too was one of the ways that I appreciated the model of leading by example. Where others in this country like Tony Adams, Roy Keane and Terry Butcher really let their authority tell with a glance, a verbal barrage as well as their gutsy style, Maldini was a leader of men who was consummately composed in possession and focused out of it. Watching his performances really made me wonder why this country didn’t learn from his style of defending that was as much about positioning and timing as it was about knowing how much you could clatter into the attacking player.
What is the game of football all about? Two teams face each other with the aim of scoring more goals than the opposition. That required a solid defence to stop goals going in and a prolific front line that would put the goals in at the other end of the pitch. In between that there was the issue of regaining possession of the ball and using it wisely to maximise opportunities to score goals.
In the late 1980’s the method of going about this task in England was rather dour and glum. Some proposed the best way to go about scoring goals was to hoof the ball as close to the opposition penalty as possible with as little tact and intelligence as possible. In the midst of all that as my interest in the game was growing there emerged a player of finesse, flair, intelligence and cunning that blew away all those notions of success in the game. Sure, Liverpool were already a top side when John Barnes joined them, but when they added Barnes to the mix they went up another level in terms of style, guile, excitement and entertainment.
Mesmerising runs past defenders, sweet curling shots from all angles nestling in the opposition net, beautifully timed passes dissecting defences and giving chances to his colleagues further forward. Barnes on the pitch meant the game was a must see. Even on the worst sort of pitches, this player could turn something on and make a chance out of nothing. It remains one of the great tragedies of the game that the national side could never get the best out of him in the same way Liverpool managed it. This was because Dalglish was canny enough to know that there’s no point chaining this guy to just go down the wing and cross it in. The Liverpool team may not have been exactly completely dependent on Barnes with some other outstanding players in the side, but Barnes was sure nuff the jewel in the crown. If you man-marked him, he would relish the challenge and take the man all over the pitch tiring him out before half-time. If you put two men on him, that released another talented colleague to wander into the space he created. If you zonally marked him he could turn on the pace and trickery to turn that upside down.
I don’t think I’ve come across a better player that I enjoyed watching more than Barnes in the English game. Possibly only Suarez would be a competitor for that title at Liverpool, but even then there was something about Barnes that made him someone I loved to watch even more. It is a pity his quality at his peak was never displayed on the European stage, but there’s enough of a love I have for him in his domestic displays to ensure he remains one of my favourite players. He and one other player did more than anyone else to get me interested in the game by how I watched them play.
So John Barnes was one of two players that got me interested in football more than anyone else. That other player I still argue is one of the most underrated players in the game. Peter Beardsley played the sort of game that really captured my interest. Here was a striker who was at his best doing the dirty work and emerging with a shot or a pass that could turn a game on its head.
Game intelligence is not something that English players were particularly known for at any time over my time observing the game. It was all about the stamina, the strength, the effort, the running and so on. That left them open for cannier sides to just pick them off and beat them mentally. Beardsley, though, he had his head on. He could see the game, pick up the ball in any position and know instinctively when to kill off a match, when to step up the pace, when to drive the game forward, when to stop the momentum of the other side. His off the ball movement was a delight to see, here’s a player who truly appreciated that it wasn’t always about just running, it was about how you could disrupt the other team’s best laid plans and in so doing open the game up for a team-mate to exploit the chaos.
Technically superb, tactically excellent, as for longevity it remains one of the biggest mistakes Souness ever made to sell Beardsley when he did because he would go on to perform at the highest level for years to go both at Everton and particularly at Newcastle United.
It still baffles me why people refer to how he looks as though that’s the key thing to be aware of in a game of football. I was far more interested in the beauty of the game he played and the joy it gave me to watch him once more take a lost cause and go looking for a winning response. What’s also the measure of the man and relates a lot to why he was so underrated is the work he did in the background to lay on the plate the headline-making efforts for others. That’s why players like John Aldridge and Gary Lineker scored so many goals and were made to look so good. Beardsley made me take comfort in knowing the game is not about the great saves and the great goals scored – it was as much about the creator of all of that.
These ten figures left a substantial imprint on my enjoyment of the game. They greatly influenced what the game means and how it can be enjoyed for me today.
C. L. J. Dryden
In October 2006, the first post was published on Among Friends and since then there have been over 1000 posts on a range of topics that’s good for sharing … Among Friends.
To celebrate this there are going to be a series of blogs on tens. Look out for lists of ten on issues including football, TV, music, movies and funny stuff.
Meanwhile, thank you for reading AF over the years – here’s to hopefully more great stuff to share Among Friends.
C. L. J. Dryden
While talk of corruption in the game continues to dominate the headlines this week, the game goes on. Just when we thought it was safe to think there wouldn’t be any disruption to our enjoyment of the football, another international break is about to hit us. Thankfully before then we have another week of Premier League football. That means I can get round to predicting how the games will be played. First, however, let us look back on how I did in week 6.
Man Utd 2-1 Leicester (1 point – actual score 4-1)
Bournemouth 1-2 Everton (0 points – actual score 1-0)
Liverpool 4-1 Hull (1 point – actual score 5-1)
Middlesbrough 1-2 Tottenham (3 points)
Stoke 1-1 West Brom (3 points)
Sunderland 1-2 Crystal Palace (1 point – actual score 2-3)
Swansea 0-3 Man City (1 point – actual score 1-3)
Arsenal 2-2 Chelsea (0 points – actual score 3-0
West Ham 1-1 Southampton (0 points – actual score 0-3)
Burnley 1-2 Watford (0 points – actual score 2-0)
In terms of the points that was very pleasing as I accrued ten points, more than last week or the week before. Regarding the percentage of correct outcomes the percentage was 60% for the third week in a row. That is to say when it comes to this predicting gig I get more right outcomes than not, without being strong enough to be considered class.
Still, that was then and this is now, so as the clubs get ready to face each other over the weekend let’s consider predictions for Week 7 of the Premier League.
Everton 2-1 Crystal Palace: Alan Pardew’s name has once more been very loosely linked the vacancy at the top of the national game. His stock is on the rise with a number of good results in the start of the season so far. The team are not dominating games and dispatching all before them, but their return from two goals down to beat Sunderland last week showed a grit and determination about them that should be reason for optimism. When I look at Everton it is very clear that Koeman is taking his time to implement his vision of how the team should play. They are still very much a work in progress. They are at Goodison, though and so they will be eager to put some recent disappointments behind them and get back on the course of winning games. There is a good argument to suggest that this is the toughest test Palace have faced so far this season, I just don’t see them passing it on this occasion.
Swansea 1-3 Liverpool: Swansea are not new to the Premier League, but such is their turnover of managers of late and such is their unconvincing style in the last few years that they still come off as plucky upstarts looking to do a new thing with the big boys. Sure they are gallant and noble in their efforts and their team displays can make things awkward for bigger opponents, but they are not convincing anyone that they won’t do much more than plug away at staying competitive in matches and looking to retain their Premier League status. That should be repeated in this game against Liverpool. The Reds are on a spot of good form at present. The way they dispatched of Hull and Leicester in recent games gives the impression they are on the way to learning how to deal with the lesser teams. Of course, there is the current ongoing rule that they will concede at least once. For the good of their own efforts to gain a top four spot, though, they have to turn up to this match and leave with the three points – recent evidence suggests that they have the attacking threat to do so.
Hull 1-3 Chelsea: After a bright few opening games, reality is starting to hit Hull City like a ton of bricks. They are by no means a bunch of losers as far as their effort is concerned. Yet the reason why this is called the Premier League is because it’s a lot more than effort that allows you to succeed. Having said that, although there is a certain Premier League quality that allows you to succeed, Chelsea are having to learn again that effort is still required. Losing to Liverpool and being humiliated by Arsenal in recent games is hammering home the point that effort is needed and Chelsea have been surprisingly lacking in this area. Conte does not appear to be the kind of boss to let things like that slip. In Hull they have an opportunity to get back on track where adding effort to their undoubted quality is concerned. That is not to suggest that this is an easy game for Chelsea at all, but one thing they have going for them is the persistent menace of Costa. Even though he didn’t score against Arsenal, he was still a nuisance. He has the scoring in his veins at the moment and if the backing crew can get their act in order, they may be able to leave Humberside with all three points.
Sunderland 1-1 West Brom: Believe it or not, this is a game Sunderland can genuinely win. Losing the two goal lead in their last match should be a wake up call for them. It should, however, also assure them that they are capable of getting into a two goal lead, which is odd for Sunderland. If they learn their lessons from that last match and can grow in some sort of confidence they can definitely win this game. It is possible. Tony Pulis, however, has not made his West Brom side one that can be beaten easily. No Pulis team is really there to be beaten easily. Away from home too, West Brom love nothing better than to quiet the home side down by squashing any efforts on goal. If they concede they will still make things difficult for the opposition and as Stoke know, they do have it in them to get back in a match and leave with a point. That is exactly what I believe will happen in a game that will not be one for the purists, it won’t be the feature match in the highlights shows later on.
Watford 2-1 Bournemouth: Here is an interesting game. Both teams have been in the Premier League for two seasons on the trot. Both of these teams also look like Championship sides grateful for the opportunity to be playing in the Premier League. As they face each other though they have the chance to make a mark on the league and let others know they are capable of truly mixing it with the bigger clubs. Bournemouth appear to be the ones better equipped and the loan signing of Jack Wilshere has been encouraging. Beating Everton has reinforced that confidence and they enter this match with optimism especially after the Hornets were buzzed off pretty competently in their game against Burnley last Monday. The thing about these two teams, though, is that they know their previous matches won’t indicate how this game will end up. The last time they played at Vicarage Road they beat a good Manchester United. They will want to return to that spirit as they play again at home and with that desire even a Bournemouth caught up in the fuss made over their boss touted as a contender to be the next England manager. The side from the south coast will not be taking this game for granted at all, but the home side may just nick it in the end.
West Ham 1-2 Middlesbrough: In recent weeks I have been of the impression that the Hammers can turn the corner. They have played against teams they really should have beaten and ended up losing, sometimes in the most pitiful ways. This could be the game where they turn the corner. They could do something different, they could have a different approach, their manager-permitted team-bonding night out might just do the trick and they can actually turn their home ground into the advantage it really should be. That could all happen. Seriously, though, who am I kidding? Middlesbrough must surely have seen the videos of the recent games and be heartened. If they put in the effort that they have so far in the league and if the likes of Negredo rediscover their scoring touch then they should have every confidence of going to London and returning to Teeside with the victory. This is not to suggest West Ham are a soft touch, but it does recognise mountain West Ham have to climb mentally more than anything else to turn around their current shocking form.
Man Utd 2-0 Stoke: Sometimes going away from home takes the pressure off a tough run. Stoke City have a tough run, they will turn up at Old Trafford knowing full well they are not the favourites to win it. The pressure, to a degree, will be off them. That could work in their favour. Former fan favourite Mark Hughes will return to the club he knows well and have a point to prove to himself that he is still a competent manager able to put a team out that can get a result when the pressure is on the other side. Mourinho, meanwhile, has won three games in a row which is a good thing. The way he won two of those matches, however, has been unconvincing. They are still a team looking for their best line up and their best performances. Should Rooney be in the team, should he be out? Where does Pogba play best? Is this where Rashford starts again? What is the best formation and system for the players available? These questions rumble on as the home crowd patiently waits for the real Manchester United to stand up and make itself strong. Though this will not be that match, it should act as a good indicator before the international break that they still mean business in picking up the three points.
Leicester 2-1 Southampton: Both teams are recovering from European exertions and creditable performances and results. So to a degree both of them start at the same level and should be considered on what they have to offer. Southampton showed against West Ham that they can offer goals to be scored. They are ticking over fairly competently in the league, not great form, but not relegation form either. As with other new managers in the league, Puel is not looking at his finished product and they have some weaknesses. Ranieri, meanwhile, knows his team very well. He is not happy at the way they lost their last two games and now back at their home he will be keen to see his side apply themselves well against opposition that they are capable of beating. There is room for hope where they are concerned because even though Vardy has been a bit dry on the goals front, at least the man Slimani hasn’t forgotten that aspect of his trade. It will not be a demolition job, but the Premier League Champions can use this match to remind folks why they are the champions.
Tottenham 1-2 Man City: This is a test. It will be the second of the week for Manchester City. They ended their run of consecutive wins when they came back three times at Parkhead to snatch a draw. Their league form, however, is relentless. This, however, is truly their biggest test to date. Bigger than United. Where Spurs are concerned, City are now playing a team that is accustomed to the demands of the pressing game. In Spurs, City are facing a side that have a commitment to a style of play that has made them more than competitive against the top teams. This really should be the game of the weekend as City could possibly face dropping their first points of the season. Much has been made about the absence of De Bruyne, but the real concern as far as City go should be their defence. Conceding three goals against Celtic is nothing to gloss over. Spurs have a decent attack and creative force who work hard for each other. City will need to be at their best to get through this latest challenge. What City have as their ace in the hole and the reason that should see them over the line in possibly collecting another three points is the most prolific striker in English football. Aguerro can do the business. He’ll certainly need to do it if the love-in for Guardiola is to continue unabated.
Burnley 1-3 Arsenal: Watford and Liverpool have visited Turf Moor and left empty-handed. Dyche has a fair few points under his belt now which he wouldn’t necessarily have thought he would have at this stage of the season. As he hoped Burnley are playing competitively, their efforts are not in question, their passion is not in doubt. This is all going to be of great help when it comes to the opponents. Wenger is enjoying himself at the moment. A good win in the Champions League followed a very good win in the league against Chelsea a team he hasn’t beaten in a while. They are doing very well and everyone at the Emirates has a reason to have a smile on their face. This is all happening as they still deal with a couple of niggling injuries to important players. As they roll up to Lancashire they go confident in the knowledge that they can defeat the side. It is possible that the home side could burst a bubble for the Londoners, they could nick something out of nowhere. It would be a surprise, though.
Seven weeks in and I am still enjoying this prediction business. This week is going to be an interesting week as teams look to put in a good performance before the break. I remain confident again of finally breaking the run of 6/10 correct outcomes and hitting the seven, maybe even eight correct outcomes mark. What makes the prediction deal all the more intriguing now is the matter of if I want more points through correct scorelines or more correct outcomes. On this week I would like an improvement on both. Asking a bit much? Ahhh might as well be ambitious about these things.
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden
Premier League teams are about to start their sixth game of the season. It is not too early for football analysts, pundits and einsteins to be giving the benefit of their considerable ignorance already as to how things are going. Certain clubs are doomed already. Certain managers are scheduled for the chop already. Certain teams are destined to dominate already. Certain teams are title contenders already.
There are 38 league games and after six folks are reaching conclusions. Don’t get me wrong, I acknowledge the need to report on what’s happening. Nothing wrong with that. Yet because this game has so many opinions and because of the culture of football both among fans and among the media then reporting is not enough and thus the incredulous and ridiculous.
Meanwhile in the world of predicting Premier League scorelines the thinking was after five games although things were not set in stone, there would be a rhythm to guessing how things would proceed. So let’s see how my predictions fared from last week. As ever I will gain a glorious three points if I get the correct scoreline. There will be a solitary point should I get the correct outcome alone. I will end up with zero if the outcome I guessed was wrong. A suggestion has also been made that boost my spirits I also consider the percentage of game outcomes I get correct and with their typically being ten games in a Premier League week, it should make things a little easier to make a percentage of it. Let’s apply that to my predictions from last week:
Chelsea 2-2 Liverpool (0 points – actual score 1-2)
Hull 1-3 Arsenal (1 point – actual score 1-4)
Leicester 2-1 Burnley (1 point – actual score 3-0)
Man City 3-0 Bournemouth (1 point – actual score 4-0)
West Brom 1-1 West Ham (0 points – actual score 4-2)
Everton 2-1 Middlesbrough (1 point – actual score 3-1)
Watford 1-3 Man Utd (0 points – actual score 3-1)
Crystal Palace 2-1 Stoke City (1 point – actual score 4-1)
Southampton 1-1 Swansea (0 points – actual score 1-0)
Tottenham 3-0 Sunderland (1 point – actual score 1-0)
What a week for the predictions! No correct scorelines which is disappointing especially considering how a lot of the games saw me miss out on correct scores by a single goal. Hence the six points for the week of predictions. Percentage wise however I got a 60%, which is a pass mark and one that I am not displeased with. Of the four games that I got wrong two were genuine surprises namely West Ham getting done over at West Brom and Watford doing the job against United.
Still that was the week that was. Time to consider that which is ahead as we take a butchers at week 6 of the Premier League.
Man Utd 2-1 Leicester: Claudio Ranieiri is a canny character. The only pressure surrounding Leicester City is on how reporters can get the balance between the ‘fairytale’ story ending and reality hitting without being too harsh on last season’s Champions. The boss is not under any pressure at all and neither are his players. As a result they have a very real chance of going away from home and getting something against a United side that has come in for a great deal of criticism because of the run of three defeats in a week. There is something about Mourinho and this Manchester United side in development, however, that suggests they will look to build on the win against Northampton in midweek and establish themselves once more as a team worth talking about for the right reasons with a win. It will not be easy at all, but I suggest a home win is more than in order.
Bournemouth 1-2 Everton: Koeman is not a happy guy. He sent out a team in the week that he had confidence in progressing in the league cup. That they slipped up at home to Norwich was not something that made Koeman happy at all. Now this is a guy who even in their unbeaten start to the season had not expressed that degree of pleasure with what he was seeing. Someone will have to suffer for that. Eddie Howe will look forward to that with all the delight of a man going to the dentist for an extraction or three. Having been dismantled with relative ease by Guardiola’s City, it’s not the best time to be meeting an unhappy Koeman side. Sure Bournemouth have their own cup exit embarrassment to get over, but of the two sides, the way Koeman hones his team is going to have the greater threat and thus greater likelihood of taking the three points.
Liverpool 4-1 Hull: In the two last rounds of predictions I have been cautious in expecting a Liverpool draw. Leicester and Chelsea are not games you predict a win on with overwhelming confidence. Yet here are the Reds with six points from those games giving them a tremendous lift. Now is the test of their consistency. Now is the time to see if they can turn on the style to a side far less regarded than those two blue clubs. Mike Phelan is still riding a wave of good-will as he does his best with this still rather depleted Hull side. He is under no pressure really and will set up his side to remain competitive and niggle at this home side. There are still possible weaknesses that could be exploited in this Liverpool side and things could go the way of the opponents. For all that though those who turn up wearing red at Anfield will go there expecting a home win and a comfortable and dominating one at that. This is not an unreasonable expectation.
Middlesbrough 1-2 Tottenham: I have a lot of time for Karanka. He’s done well to take Boro to the Premier League. The side he puts out is competitive and in it for the scrap for the whole 90+ minutes. Boro, however, are a side that recognise their limitations. They are not as good as the big boys and so have to organise in the light of that. This game against Spurs is such an example of their organisation being required to come into play. Even without Kane, Spurs will be a menace. This game will thus hinge on how successful Boro are in battling. Pochettino will be eager to get his team continuing the relatively decent league form they have at present which still sees them unbeaten so far. He will be more than aware of the stern test his lads will face, but these are the games where he will see if the squad he has developed really has the chops to deal with the challenge. I won’t be surprised if there is a draw emerging from this game, but I will be surprised if Boro manage to leave the match with all the points. There should be enough quality in this Spurs squad to clinch this game.
Stoke 1-1 West Brom: I did a double take when I saw the score from the Hawthorns last week. Winning a game is something already for West Brom. Beating the Hammers is also a notable achievement too. Scoring four goals, though. West Brom. Scoring four goals. In a single game. I thought I had entered the Twilight Zone. The West Ham defence, however, might be regarded as airtight compared to how the Stoke City have fared thus far in the league. The mood at Stoke City is not buoyant at all, but that’s what consecutive defeats will do as well as conceding four goals in four games already. So you wouldn’t be out of line to expect Tony Pulis to be rubbing his hands in anticipation of adding to the grief at his old club. This is, however, a Tony Pulis West Bromwich Albion side. Scoring four at home is a freak accident. They are now travelling. They will do well to score at all. Stoke City will likewise be keen to at least do better in that department. It will not go well with the home fans if they should suffer another defeat, so I cansee this game ending in points shared.
Sunderland 1-2 Crystal Palace: It’s the second time Palace would have travelled to the North East already. The last time they left a competitive game against Boro with all three points. Sunderland are not as good as Boro at all. To be fair Moyes is still getting his ideas across and building a side that is more in line with his plan for them. He’s doing that whilst engaging in a relegation battle. That’s a tough task to take. Pardew at Palace, meanwhile, is having a good time of it. They will have every right to pop into the Stadium of Light and leave with all the points in the bag, especially if their star players turn on the style. They have the goals in them, they have the creativity in them and they are sufficiently defensively sound to be confident of leaving the North East with another set of three points. Is there any hope for Sunderland at all? Well yes, of course there is. Their manager is competent and in Jermain Defoe they have one of the best poachers in the game. If they feed him on the break and if they can work together at the back they could emerge with something. I don’t predict it, though.
Swansea 0-3 Man City: It’s a little disrespectful for reports to buzz around Swansea about Giggs being considered to take on the head coach position. The caveat that the owners want to give Guidolin a bit more of a chance in the role is no optimistic thumbs up if they are already considering replacements. That is hardly going to help the lads of the Liberty Stadium as their next opponents stroll into town. Especially when those next opponents happen to be the apparently unassailable Manchester City. The love-in for the Citizens is almost total. De Bruyne is considered to be at the level below Messi and is enjoying his football. City didn’t do themselves justice in their league cup match and so will be more than happy to leave their mark in Wales in collecting their three points for the love-in to continue. Swansea are not a poor side at all and their Premier League pedigree of late does not make them easy fare for City, but you look at that Swansea side and match them up against that City side even without Kompany and Aguerro and it will be an upset for City not to leave with the three points.
Arsenal 2-2 Chelsea: This is definitely the hardest game to predict of the set this week. These are two top sides and yet with both the result will depend on the answer to the question – which Arsenal/Chelsea side will turn up? Chelsea are a work in progress in the Conte regime. They are actually more than capable of being savvy in their defensive work. Hazard and Willian can provide the bullets for an in-form Costa to be the headache for the opposition. That is possible and if Conte thinks it’s worthwhile he may allow Fabregas to have a go against his old team and mix things up creatively in the middle of the park. Yet this is the week and time when Arsenal pay tribute to 20 years of Wenger at the helm. This is an Arsenal side that are finding some sort of form after a stuttering start to the season. They have options in midfield, their defence has cover and they have credible and quality options in goal. There’s a hint of goalscoring options as well. Above all that, though, this is Chelsea – they have been a thorn in the side of Wenger in recent years. Arsenal are not being spoken of in the same way other top teams are for the title. That cannot be allowed to last and what better way to establish true title credentials than beating a team that want to have title credentials. That’s the desire. That’s the plan. That’s the goal. Not that it will work out that way, though, because in as much as this is Arsenal, this is also an Arsenal that have been consistent in lacking the necessarily killer instinct and that clinical touch that makes proper winners of titles that matter for clubs of their size.
West Ham 1-1 Southampton: Poor West Ham. They cannot catch a break at all. Concede four goals at home to Watford, then go and concede four goals away at West Brom. Thankfully the team they face now does not have a name beginning with ‘W’. That’s about as far as the good news goes for them. It is really down to them to be hitting the standards they set last season or at least making progress in that direction. Southampton might sniff a chance for them to pile on the misery. There’s something about Puel’s side, however, that suggests that they have not quite hit their stride as a team that can come away from home and do a job to leave with the three points. You may wonder in the light of their current goal bonanza games of late why I haven’t predicted such a goalfest for a game featuring West Ham. That is purely on the belief that Bilic will not want that kind of madness and nonsense happening again. Sure if Watford and West Brom can score four against them that should give Southampton hope, but they would be wise to not go gung-ho into this match with that thinking.
Burnley 1-2 Watford: Monday Night Football is an invitation for viewers to enjoy Premier League football to take the edge off the Monday morning feeling. Whoever thought scheduling Burnley against Watford as the fixture to do that on this occasion must have none they were on a hiding to nothing. They have got to know that. I wouldn’t be surprised if more people were interested in the Championship match of Newcastle taking on Aston Villa earlier in the weekend. Yet here it is. A Burnley side that knows it’s on borrowed time in the Premier League against a Watford side who are on a high after putting Man Utd in their place last weekend. Burnley, however, will see this home game as one of those they have to do well in if they are to buck the expectations of most that their stay in the league is for one season only. Dyche certainly won’t be too perturbed at the result of his opponents, he will have faith that his side can do their home fans proud. As well he should because the Watford side that show up will not be allowed to think this is the same sort of challenge as their last one. So it will be interesting to see if the Hornets can come so far up the country and leave with the points. Really and truly I wouldn’t be surprised if this turned out to be the bore draw that it screams on paper. There is a little twinkle in me, however, that leads me to just edge it to the away side.
This week’s set of fixtures is not that straightforward to pin down. Some should be certainties, but there’s always that room for an upset or other surprise result. It would be good, however, to get at least one correct scoreline on this run of predictions. It’s possible and I can see as many as four correct scorelines emerging from this set – but that’s with my super optimistic perspective hat on. I would appreciate getting more than the six points average thus far.
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden