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