There may not have been that much in the way of Premier League football over the weekend, but there was still enough intriguing football over the week to keep the appetite satiated. Leicester City are England’s last hope in the Champions League as Manchester City manage to lose their tie on away goals because of their shocking approach to defending. Meanwhile their neighbours crash out of the FA Cup because of their specific targeting of Hazard and a referee intent to show everyone who the boss was. Hey ho, such is life in this funny old game.
With an international break almost upon us, there is enough time to consider the upcoming fixtures in the Premier League which is back up to full strength even if not all the teams in it are. Before that, let’s look back on what I thought would happen in the few league matches of last weekend and what actually happened. Points are at stake with these predictions – three points for a correct scoreline; one point for the correct outcome and zero points for getting everything wrong.
Bournemouth 2-2 West Ham (0 points – actual score 3-2)
Everton 2-1 West Brom (1 point – actual score 3-0)
Hull City 1-1 Swansea (0 points – actual score 2-1)
Liverpool 4-1 Burnley (1 point – actual score 2-1)
Two points is measly, especially when there was a potential 12 available. The fifty percent split in getting the right outcomes for two of the four is no consolation really. It’s another of those weeks where I just need to swallow the bitter pill of disappointment and take a lie down. Then get up again and see if I can put something better for the upcoming weekend’s action.
West Brom 1-2 Arsenal: You know I really want to predict a defeat for Arsenal. I really do. No club in the Premier League infuriates me like Arsenal. They are patently capable of being a successful trophy winning football team, but refuse to be that. Yet they are what they are and now that there’s no pressure on them to achieve that much, this is when they will start playing the necessarily clinical football. Sure they have a semi-final in the FA Cup, but that’s a chump’s game these days. Yeah they have a top four fight on their hands, but that’s a fight they don’t know how to lose. Wenger has them geared for that. Meanwhile their opponents are beginning to betray all the signs of a club who knows their job is done. West Brom know they won’t get relegated. They even know that at worst they’ll finish in the upper end of the second half of the table. They will enter this match wanting to be competitive in front of their home crowd. Pulis would love to get one over on Wenger with their contrasting football styles and Wenger’s open distaste for the ‘efficient’ methods of his counterpart. The home crowd won’t be that awed by the visitors whose form in recent weeks in games that matter has been appalling. Yet Arsenal should still have enough to pull a win out of the hat of this lunchtime kick-off.
Crystal Palace 2-2 Watford: Allardyce knows full well that Palace are nowhere near out of the woods yet. Some of their recent results have eased them above the drop zone, but with Hull beating Swansea the gap between Palace and the bottom three is miniscule. The onus will be on them to show up and be brave enough to go for goals and strong enough to resist conceding. It’s pretty silly looking at the playing personnel and reaching that conclusion, but there we are. Meanwhile Watford still need to be very careful of slipping into that mess of a fight for survival. There’s no evidence that their football has really improved since last season, but then again the football last season was good enough to keep them up which is still what the Hornets should be grateful for. There is little to suggest the visitors will have much to be able to get a win at Selhurst Park., but being who they are, they may still have a sting in the tail where this fixture is concerned. They might just well prove to be a frustrating thorn in the side of the London team.
Everton 3-1 Hull City: Koeman’s first season in charge of Everton is going fairly well. Nothing breathtaking as it was when Martinez had a dazzling season in charge a few seasons ago. It’s steady progress. There is clear evidence of that. They are at the right end of the table, looking to see if they can pounce on any sign of weakness from the top six clubs. They are staying in the hunt. Not the best time to hear their top striker suggest that there’s not enough at the club to get him to commit to a contract extension. Hull City could take advantage of that. They certainly know there’s much to play for in going for the three points. It could be another priceless step in the right direction as far as this team is concerned. There is something about their commitment and organisation that suggests they are no way going to come to Goodison Park just to make up the numbers. Yet there is also something about the way Koeman wants this Everton side to play that indicates this tie will come to the quality on display and should it come to that the home side should have enough to wrap up all the points on offer.
Stoke City 0-2 Chelsea: Stoke are a strange team. Once they were just happy to be in the Premier League, but that was a fair few seasons ago. They are an established Premier League side and the question becomes one of what next. They don’t have the resources of the top six, so their next thing is midtable security, but they have been hitting that average comfortably for the last few seasons too. So they’re in an odd place. So fans may well criticise some of the decisions that Hughes has made regarding team selection and recruitment, but there is a legitimate question of who could come to the club and really do better? Not that those questions will in any way bother Chelsea who are far more concerned with continuing their relentless drive for the Premier League title. This game won’t be a walkover for them because playing Stoke in the Potteries is never easy. Yet the abundant quality throughout this team from back to front should assure the victory.
Sunderland 1-1 Burnley: It’s almost like a prerequisite for Burnley away from home. Play well, be tight, give everything, unsettle the opposition and still come away with nothing. Their last game away from home played to type. This fixture, however, gives them a real chance for something more. Sunderland are looking increasingly likely to get relegated. Even the recent return of Defoe to the England squad does nothing to get rid of that sense of the inevitable. They might take courage from Burnley’s away form, but that will be cold comfort if they don’t convert their chances and win this game. Three points would be more welcome for the home side than the visitors, but I think Dyche has enough about him to eek out a more positive result.
West Ham 3-1 Leicester City:
Bournemouth 2-2 Swansea City:
Middlesbrough 0-2 Man Utd:
Tottenham 2-1 Southampton:
Man City 2-2 Liverpool:
The weekend’s football isn’t looking that bad especially with the big game at the Etihad. The scores are not actually that straightforward to predict especially with a number of clubs having a lot to fight for in escaping from the clutches of the relegation zone. Yet I remain confident for a decent turnout of points. As ever …
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden