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