Two league games in a week saw some interesting results that saw progress really more in the middle of the table than the top or the bottom. Still, at least it was Premier League football and not international football for which I am grateful.
Now another set of Premier League fixtures to consider is upon us. So more to dive into where the predictions are concerned. But first, there are the midweek fixtures to review considering how my predictions worked out. Points are at stake, three gained for getting the prediction spot on, one point for just the right outcome and nothing for nothing.
Burnley 2-0 Stoke City (1 point – actual score 1-0)
Leicester 3-1 Sunderland (1 point – actual score 2-0)
Watford 0-0 West Brom (0 points – actual score 2-0)
Man Utd 1-1 Everton (3 points)
Arsenal 3-1 West Ham (1 point – actual score 3-0)
Hull 2-0 Middlesbrough (1 point – actual score 4-2)
Southampton 1-1 Crystal Palace (0 points – actual score 3-1)
Swansea 1-2 Tottenham (1 point – actual score 1-3)
Chelsea 3-2 Man City (1 point – actual score 2-1)
Liverpool 2-1 Bournemouth (0 points – actual score 2-2)
I got 9 points from this set of fixtures, but I am not too disappointed. 70% correct outcomes is cool with me and then nabbing a spot on prediction is sweet. It’s not quite the double figures I planned for, but I am closer and some of the actual scores were just a goal away from being spot on. Nevertheless, such is the nature of the game. I persist.
With that in mind, here are my predictions for the coming weekend’s schedule of games.
Tottenham 3-1 Watford: This is not all that straightforward to predict. It would be foolhardy of Spurs to believe that turning up with their home record will be enough to pick up the three points. This, however, is why I am a fan of Pochettino. His side might be growing in learning from their European experiences, but domestically they are carving out a niche for themselves as effective, disciplined and clinical when they need to be. Their approach to home games is the great example of that. It’s not that they strike fear into their opponents, it is more about the mentality that is relentless and remorseless. That was evident in their last game where Swansea crumbled at the hands of a Spurs side that evidently didn’t get the memo that they were supposed to struggle without Kane. Watford aren’t pushovers, they too weren’t paying attention to the negative press that has been surrounding the club with speculation over the manager’s future, picking up six points from their last two games. When it comes to it, though, Spurs should have too much team quality for the Hertfordshire side.
Man City 3-0 Hull City: I get the impression that unlike at least one of their competitors in the same area of the league, Hull are not going to be relegated without a fight. Silva’s impact on the club has been largely impressive. His approach to a team ethos that makes life difficult for the opponents has given them faint hope that they can battle to the end of the season to escape. Don’t get it twisted, though, this squad is not good enough to stay in the Premier League. Plucky workers now working with pluck in a more organised and disciplined way than before. That should work against their competitors in the lower reaches of the table, but not at the Etihad. Guardiola’s first season in England will be one from which he has learnt a great deal. That should be helpful for him in preparing in the summer. In all the ups and downs, though, what has not been in doubt is his commitment to playing attacking football. That commitment with the multi-million pounds worth of attacking threat should overwhelm their opposition sufficiently to strengthen their claim to a top four finish.
Middlesbrough 2-1 Burnley: One of the reasons why I am unlikely to get 100% correct outcomes in a week is because every now and then I look at a fixture and take a left field swing at predicting it. This is such a fixture. The safe position to take considering Boro’s awful form and Burnley’s awful away record would be a dull goalless draw. If it turns out that way, you can say that’s what I thought would happen anyway. Likewise if there was going to be a winner, you would expect Burnley to finally collect three points in the road because of just how poor Boro have been of late. So if Burnley eek out the win then you can say that’s what I thought would happen anyway. However, as you will see, I have actually gone for a home win as my actual prediction. Why? Just because I have a hunch that Boro can upset the form book on this one occasion. Hey, if the lads from the home side accomplish it, you can say that’s what I thought would happen anyway.
Stoke City 1-2 Liverpool: Stoke City’s bid to finish higher than they have in seasons past has been derailed lately. No, they won’t get dragged into a relegation scrap, but their form and results of late has let some fans once more murmur that perhaps Hughes has taken the club as far as he can and it’s worth looking elsewhere for someone to help the club progress. Before the Potters get too down, however, they can look forward to this fixture with some hope. Liverpool have not always had pleasant memories of games away at Stoke in the league. They enter this one with some significant absentees like Henderson, Lallana and most disturbing of all, Mane. Statisticians have rolled out the fact that this season Liverpool have not won a league game without Mane. There is ample reason for the home side to take comfort from things like this. Yet I still believe and expect Liverpool to win the game. This is not a left field, blind prediction, the Liverpool style of play is better than Stoke and although there is the blather about Liverpool struggling against lesser teams, Stoke at home cannot afford to play a game of soaking up pressure to hit and hope on the break.
West Brom 1-1 Southampton: Motivation is a critical ingredient in sport. Those who excel in it tend to be successful in the game of football. The hardest thing to motivate in football is a mid-table side facing another mid-table side. To assist them concepts like ‘playing for the fans’ and ‘playing for the pride of the shirt’ can be wheeled out for whatever good it does. Neither Pulis or Puel, however, convey the sense of excelling in the art of motivation. Organisation maybe, but not motivation. That’s why I reckon that this meeting of the mid-table sides will meander into an ultimately meaningless morass of mediocrity as reflected in the scoreline prediction. Sure, if the visitors take to long to get into the game the Baggies could collect all three points. I just think that won’t be the case.
West Ham 1-2 Swansea: The Hammers should never be in the position they’re in. Did they slightly over achieve last season? Maybe. But their move to the new stadium was because they are a proper Premier League outfit and it was not unreasonable to expect them to be doing well and by well that is a top half finish to the season. Yet now they are talking about a relegation struggle. Simply not good enough. There is no reason to believe they can turn this around either with a change of manager now. It is for them to get their act together enough to stay in the Premier League for next season and then review things in the summer. Swansea, meanwhile, have been in the relegation battle for most of the season and Clement’s approach has, overall, been far more effective in getting the Swans to take the games seriously. That approach can very well see them making the most of the club in disarray.
Bournemouth 1-3 Chelsea: It is a successful season for Bournemouth to retain their status in the Premier League. The level of collapse required by them and the upsurge in form required by those below them is just not going to happen. Mission accomplished. Does that mean they are going to do a Southampton or West Brom and meander through the rest of the season finding it hard to get pumped to put in 100%? Yep. Of course they won’t say that. Of course they won’t be allowed to think that. Of course their professionalism will lead them to give all the noises of taking each game as it comes and doing their best to finish as high up as they can. I am not questioning that. I am simply stating that with the mission accomplished it will be hard to get motivated to hit the heights. Chelsea will challenge them to do that, but they won’t be able to rise to the challenge because the visitors have a lot more to play for in asserting their dominance at the top of the league.
Sunderland 1-2 Man Utd: Wouldn’t it be great to get one over on the club that sacked you? That would be terrific. They didn’t give you the time to build what you believe would have been the continuation of the winning dynasty. They passed it on to the ‘bigger’ names who haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory. Even the latest guy has been unbeaten in the league for 20 games and still can’t get above 6th place having spent hundreds of millions already. It would be great to really show them up and prove them wrong. That might be great, until you remember your name is David Moyes and you are the manager of the worst team in the league facing a United side that for all its failings just doesn’t know how to lose whatever the league game. United could do with a win. United should get the win. Simply because Sunderland are just not good enough.
Everton 2-1 Leicester: Look at the prediction. Odd isn’t it. Leicester are the form team of the moment. Shakespeare has won every game he’s managed in the league. Leicester who were talked about as possible relegation candidates are now well on their way to possibly finishing in the top half of the league. The more they win, the more the owners come across as having done the right thing to sack Ranieiri and the more questions rise about if Ranieiri was the problem after all. Either way, the Foxes go into this game full of confidence. Everton don’t. Two league games over the last week only emerging with one point. Both performances full of disappointment. But at least they are now playing a team who are not better than them. At least now they can impose their game on their opponents. At least now they are at home and can make the most of that advantage. It’s on that premise that I reckon they can get the win this game.
Crystal Palace 1-2 Arsenal: Big Sam Allardyce has not yet secured Palace as a Premier League football club for the 2017-18 season. It is a matter of time and winning a few more games. Beating Chelsea should have been the platform to confirm things earlier, but typically Palace went and lost their next game which they should have obviously done better in. Now they are back home, they could use it to really prove the defeat to be a blip. They could approach this game as one in which they could not just make a bid to confirm their safety, but also hint towards how much better things could be in years ahead. Arsenal can be beaten. One win in five is not anything to get excited about. They are still mentally frail and the club doesn’t appear to be giving the impression they know where they are going from this season onwards. Yet the win against West Ham would have done them the world of good. They will need to fight, though. They will not be able to rely on playing a poor side as they were able to in the game against the tepid Hammers. The pressure is not so much on them, though. They can play to their level and actually win. It’s possible.
This is an interesting set of fixtures. No clear blockbusters to get excited about, but with every point dropped being criticised and every point gained being lauded with the end a matter of weeks away, these results will fascinate. Will this weekend work out as I predicted? Will there be more slip ups? You know what I say,
Let’s see how it goes.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden