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