This week sees the teams in the Premier League play their tenth league fixture. Not far off getting a third of the way through the campaign. It’s a good mix of home and away games played to give them a good view of how their season may pan out. So positive results for the teams this week can go a long way to improving their perspectives going forward.
As far as this predictions gig goes, it will also be a good chance to review how things have gone so far. Before we look at the coming week’s fixtures, let’s have a look back – if I dare – at how my predictions actually turned out from week 9. As ever I get three delicious points if I get the correct scoreline. I satisfy myself with a solitary point if I only get the right outcome. As for missing both, then I end up with zilch.
Bournemouth 1-2 Tottenham (0 points – actual score 0-0)
Arsenal 3-1 Middlesbrough (0 points – actual score 0-0)
Burnley 1-2 Everton (0 points – actual score 2-1)
Hull 1-1 Stoke (0 points – actual score 0-2)
Leicester 2-2 Crystal Palace (0 points – actual score 3-1)
Swansea 2-1 Watford (0 points – actual score 0-0)
West Ham 2-1 Sunderland (1 point – actual score 1-0)
Liverpool 3-1 West Brom (1 point – actual score 2-1)
Man City 3-1 Southampton (0 points – actual score 1-1)
Chelsea 1-1 Man Utd (0 points – actual score 4-0)
I like couples. I’m a happily married man and a better man for being a part of a couple. Yet when it comes to winning two points out of a possible 30 that is not a good week. Only two correct outcomes from ten is also an abysmal rating. The thing is, it was not a freak week of results. The only result that was genuinely surprising was Burnley beating Everton. Chelsea thumping United wasn’t expected, but a win wasn’t unusual. To be so wrong with so many outcomes was bitterly disappointing.
Yet we cannot allow such weeks to put us off the challenge. A good thing about hitting such a low is that things cannot get worse than this. I believe in my ability to suss out a game of football in the Premier League. These things happen and previous weeks have shown I am more than capable of getting correct outcomes. So it is onwards and definitely upwards (he says in hope) as we consider this week’s fixtures.
Sunderland 0-3 Arsenal: Sunderland. Come on. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the Stadium of Light could be rocking to the beat of ecstatic fans after a famous victory against the Gunners. But seriously. Come on. This is a team that appears allergic to scoring goals. This is a team that appears generous in giving others a chance to score against them. Some are making an argument that there have been worse teams in Premier League history, but even that discussion goes to show just how poor this team is. This is not helped by a manager who from the start wrote off his side as being in a relegation scrap from the start. As with other new managers at clubs, it takes a while for him to embed his plans and the like and he is still within this grace limit. Though the signs are not good for the team from Wearside. That will not be helped by a refreshed Arsenal side who were able to make progress in the EFL Cup without affecting their first team regulars. This is an Arsenal team on a good run of form, they have not tasted defeat in weeks. They are on the up. They can score goals even if they don’t believe in playing a striker who is a striker. They can certainly score goals against this Sunderland side. It may not be a thrashing, but it should be a comfortable three points for the away side.
Man Utd 2-1 Burnley: What is Mourinho’s best side? Should they play a team with Carrick, Rashford, Mata, Pogba, Herrera and Ibrahimovic? Should this team be featuring the likes of Mkhitaryn and Martial? What are they going to do with their defence with the immense Bailly injured? It’s clear that this United team have not got into their rhythm as yet. Mourinho is still working things out and the results reflect that. This game, however, presents them with the perfect opportunity to make progress. Burnley are no walkovers. They take their game seriously and as Everton and Liverpool have found out recently, they can beat the big boys on their day. They turn up to Old Trafford quietly confident of being able to put the effort in and hopefully leave the Theatre of Dreams with a point and maybe more. That could happen, their team ethos is good and they work really hard. One reason why I do not think that will happen is that Manchester United are six points behind the league leaders at the moment. They do not want that gap to widen at all. They are a better side than Burnley. Mourinho prides himself on winning at home. There’s also a niggling issue with Ibrahimovic having been off the goalscoring track of late. There’s a game where that needs to be sorted and this could well be the game. United have a thrashing in them, but Burnley won’t roll over and allow it. It should be a home win, though.
Middlesbrough 1-1 Bournemouth: I would be very surprised indeed if this game was the first to be shown on a highlights programme of the Premier League fixtures this weekend. I would also be very surprised if this was a goalsfest. Not to say it’s got a bore draw written all over it, but it’s worth remembering this was a Championship game not so long ago. These two are hardly Premier League mainstays and they have a desire to ensure they maintain their league status this season. Boro might well have got a creditable draw at the Emirates in their last outing, but they know to truly survive they have to win this game. Their form beforehand was not what they desired and particularly in front of their home fans, they are keen to make amends. In Bournemouth, however, they face a side who are much on the up. They have been battling well in games lately and with a thrashing of Hull and a good draw to Spurs they are in a good position. Eddie Howe’s side play a progressive brand of football and that should make them hard to beat against a team they see as slightly inferior. It’s away from home, though, so as ever they have to focus on ensuring they are not going to be beaten. On that basis there’s every reason to believe they can do something useful in this match. It also suggests that this game may just end up in a draw, thus ensuring they won’t quite be the first pick for the highlights producers this weekend.
Tottenham 1-1 Leicester: Spurs, eh. They have lost their first domestic game of the season at Anfield in the EFL Cup. Sure it was a weakened selection, but it is still a defeat. More of a concern for them is the fact that they have not been scoring many goals of late. The likes of Son and Janssen were thought to be enough cover for Kane, but that’s not really working out as yet. That has got to be a concern as they face the league champions. Not that Leicester are playing like a team to be feared when it comes to their league form at the moment. Rainieiri may well refer to the Foxes returning to their ‘philosophy’ in beating Crystal Palace, but in Spurs they face yet another big team away from home. They have not had to bother about league cup action, they are rested and focused, their top players should be up for this challenge. One player in particular, Vardy, has yet to really show up this season. If he starts, this would be a good place to start and show that last season wasn’t a one season wonder. With Spurs having to do without an important central defender in Alderweireld, it could be an opportunity to exploit, if he turns up. This will be a very difficult match for both sides and it is fair to suggest both sides need a win. The home team have the strength to get back to winning ways, but I also think Claudio will want to see his lads show up and make things very difficult for the White Hart Lane faithful.
Watford 2-0 Hull: There isn’t a worse team in the Premier League than Sunderland, they are losing games like it’s their calling in life. Having said that, Hull City are doing their best to challenge them to that unenviable status. Maybe there was a degree of sympathy that made me think they could get a point at home to Stoke City. Any sympathy expressed then was snuffed out as the Tigers cowered like pussy cats to lose to the Potters. Now they have to go all the way down to Vicarage Road and somehow look to see if they can pick up their season again. In Watford they face a team who could well give them three points – they are not invincible even at home. So there’s hope for the … nah not really. Watford may not convince all the time but there is something in Mazzari that gives me the impression that he will not want to look this gift horse in the mouth. He will want the Hornets to fly like a butterfly and sting like a bee all over the beleaguered opponents. Having got a decent point in the last match at Swansea, he will want to reinforce those credentials with a tough defence being the springboard to send the home fans happy. There’s little about their opponents that gives the impression he will be disappointed.
West Brom 1-3 Man City: Around this time last week, I questioned whether City could really go that long without winning a game. A week and two games later they are showing they are more than capable of just that. Kompany is not fit at all, regardless of the games he gets. Aguerro seems to be out of sorts. Even De Bruyne has lost a little steam from recent games. No one is hailing the form of Sterling anymore. Their defence is not that much of a scare to teams these days. They remain at the top of the table, but from the blistering start they have made they are more than susceptible at the moment. West Brom are licking their wounds from a defeat at Anfield. It might have been a little disappointing following their noble point against Spurs at home, but the thing about the Baggies is they kind of know their place. They are not going to win the league this season. They are not going to finish in the top six. They know that what they have to offer is the sort of grit and determination to be a real bugbear to anyone they come across. In Pulis they have a coach who knows how to drill into his teams the necessary work ethic to be a thorn in the side of the most accomplished teams. So it would be only right and fitting in the light of these circumstances to predict a draw. Guardiola has not faced an opponent like Pulis before – this is a whole new ball game for him and this should be a stern test. So why have I plumped for an away win? Because there is something in me that says that a man of Guardiola’s calibre with a team of City’s quality should find going this amount of time without a win simply unacceptable and now is the time to do something about it. It won’t be an easy win at all, but win they must. Right?
Crystal Palace 2-2 Liverpool: Be in no doubt, I believe in Jurgen Klopp. His project at Anfield in just over a year has thus far seen improvement in the squad and the team. They can score goals and they come from a variety of sources. The Palace defence is not the hardest they have faced, so they should approach this match with some confidence that they can keep the scoring flowing. The win against Spurs in midweek with an entire team overhaul would act as something tremendously encouraging to the visitors meaning that the likes of Coutinho and Firmino are ready to return and make their impact on this match. Palace’s season is marked by inconsistency, but they will not be underestimated when it comes to Liverpool. Their record against the Reds at Selhurst Park is not a bad at all in recent years. The good time vibes at Liverpool might want to continue but few teams are better at popping their party balloons than Palace. Heightening those chances of a spoiling atmosphere is the presence of Christian Benteke. His stint at Anfield involved goals, but nowhere near the amount that was expected. That and the sense that Klopp did not appear to see him fitting in his plans is enough of a motive to want to give him a taste of what he’s missing. This is a tough test for the Anfield side and it will require a great deal of resilience, patience and quality to overcome this Palace side and maintain their positive start to the season. On this occasion, however, they may not have quite enough to come out as clear winners.
Everton 1-1 West Ham: In the back of his mind, Koeman must still be baffled as to how his side lost at Turf Moor last Saturday. He must be sitting there scratching his head looking to figure out just how they left without a point. As with some other managers, Koeman can afford to put it down to his side still getting accustomed to him and his new style and likewise him getting used to what his team can do both positively and negatively. It will still be annoying to him, though. With that being the case he will demand a response from his side. Nothing less than a win would satisfy the boss in this home game. West Ham did not have the best starts to the season by any stretch of the imagination. They are not playing that much better at the moment, but the results have certainly picked up. Indeed their mini-winning streak will give them a great deal of confidence coming into this match. They have sufficient in their personnel to be aware of the threats their opponents offer and although they are not scoring a lot of goals at the moment, they still have enough to pose a problem for the Toffees. This is what makes the game so tight to call. The home side should really feel confident of winning this game, but it’s not unusual for that to be reason for the opposing side to look to quiet the home side by stifling their energy and any momentum they want to pick up. It’s one of the more intriguing match-ups of the weekend, which is why I am plumping for honours shared in this game.
Southampton 1-2 Chelsea: The euphoria that surrounded Stamford Bridge after the home side thrashed Man United 4-0 on Sunday was palpable. Even the loss to West Ham in midweek has not done much to dampen the optimism regarding what Conte is doing with the Blues. The 3-4-3 formation is looking to be a good one for the players at his disposal. They are well drilled to protect when they need to and burst forward as the occasion arises. Hazard and Costa are running into form at a good time in the season. There are reasons to be cheerful if you support the West London team and pundits are saying in the light of the recent league win that Conte is more than capable of getting this team into a top four finish and maybe something more. That will in no way phase or intimidate Puel’s side who are unbeaten in the league since early September. Though many again predicted they would suffer after managerial and player upheaval once again the Saints confound those concerns with a decent run of results that sees them comfortably in the top half of the table. Puel has got accustomed to the Premier League in quick time, arguably better than a number of other new managers at clubs. The draw they got at the Etihad last week was not a surprise to them. The team ethic of the side is as established as it has been in previous managers and they should approach this game with the belief that the Chelsea side they face are not as good as the City side they were able to nullify. The difference in this match, though, is that Conte is developing a practice with his side that can absorb whatever a side throws at them when they play away from home. Their defensive discipline and the thrust of their attacks on their day can see them clinch the three points as should be the case in this Sunday’s match.
Stoke 2-1 Swansea: Mark Hughes is not bragging at the moment, but he can feel quietly contented at the way recent results have gone in their favour. Although their position in the table rightly prevents them from seeing themselves as out of the woods just yet, they are on an upward trajectory. Bob Bradley, meanwhile, is still getting used to the Premier League, it’s still very early days for him and his side to get used to each other. This trip to Staffordshire will not be one they will be relishing either. Hughes is hoping that this will be the game that sees his loan signing Bony start scoring and it would be fitting for him to get back in the habit against a side he played for and did the business more regularly. If Stoke can keep their positive momentum going with contributions from players who have yet to hit top gear as well as getting good performances from the impressive Bojan and Allen then they have reason to look forward to this match. There are glimpses, however, in the matches so far under the new boss that Swansea have little reason to worry. It will not be a Monday Night Football classic, but this game has the ingredients for a relatively enjoyable Premier League fixture. Those ingredients also indicate that Stoke may be well in a position to have their cake and eat it.
Ten fixtures for the tenth game of the league campaign thus far. I am confident of doing a lot better than I did last week where the predictions are concerned. There is no stand out must-watch game, but there are plenty of interesting contests that could go either way.
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden