You have got to hand it to Arsenal. Apparently there is a mysterious aspect of humanity that watches on in awe and wonder at a tragedy taking place. Like how you stare at a vehicle crash both as it happens and afterwards. Arsenal are presenting that right before the watching public. If only someone had pointed out that they were heading in that direction …
There were other Premier League matches that took place over the weekend. I took the time to predict those scores so let’s see how I did. There are points at stake here, you know. Three points for a spot on prediction, one point for just the right outcome and zero points for getting it wrong.
Tottenham 3-1 Watford (1 point – actual score 4-0)
Man City 3-0 Hull City (1 point – actual score 3-1)
Middlesbrough 2-1 Burnley (0 points – actual score 0-0)
Stoke City 1-2 Liverpool (3 points)
West Brom 1-1 Southampton (0 points – actual score 0-1)
West Ham 1-2 Swansea (0 points – actual score 1-0)
Bournemouth 1-3 Chelsea (3 points)
Sunderland 1-2 Man Utd (1 point – actual score 0-3)
Everton 2-1 Leicester (1 point – actual score 4-2)
Crystal Palace 1-2 Arsenal (0 points – actual score 3-0)
On the one hand getting a 60% correct outcomes stat is only just above the average. On the other hand I finally hit the double figure! Happy with that. Especially getting two scores spot on. That’s a lot more like it.
So on that positive note let’s see if I can turn this into a run with the set of fixtures ahead.
Tottenham 3-1 Bournemouth: Jack Wilshere. Interesting player who is on loan at Bournemouth because Arsenal didn’t think he was good enough for their first team on a regular basis. In as much as Arsenal are dreadful, they were still right not to retain Wilshere, because although in fits and starts he has shown why he was highly rated by some, he has struggled overall to establish himself even at a club like Bournemouth. Now, however, he’s up against a club he has expressed partisan animosity towards. If there is ever a game he wants to show up and show off his abilities, this is it. He could contribute to putting a dent in Spurs’ aspirations. He could … but he won’t. Spurs are relentless at the moment, absolutely relentless. Arguably more relentless than champions elect Chelsea. They don’t mess around, they don’t treat teams lightly, they evidently train well and their teamwork ethos is outstanding. Bournemouth for all their pluck and effort won’t have enough to stop this machine. While the question marks will remain over the point of Jack Wilshere.
Crystal Palace 2-1 Leicester: Big Sam will be laughing to himself. Palace completely overwhelmed Arsenal on Monday. They dispatched them with ease. That performance and result in a stretch of overall positive results will make the former England manager very happy indeed. It gets better, though, because they come across a Leicester side who will be keen to be ready for the second leg of the Champions League quarter final against Atletico Madrid. Leicester are in a safer position than Crystal Palace and the home side will be keen to exploit any weaknesses in the visitors to strengthen their claim to retain their status in the top flight. This is why it’s difficult to see the away side coming away with anything other than a bad memory of the trip to the capital city.
Everton 3-0 Burnley: Sean Dyche has not built a side of pushovers. The Lancashire side can be relied on to make matters very difficult for any opponents they come across. That spirit is a large reason for their remarkable season which sees them virtually assured another season in the Premier League. That is an achievement worthy of applause. However, that has also been purely down to the points they picked up at home. Their travels have largely been abysmal where the results are concerned. They are a pain against teams who are better than them, but not enough of a pain to get much from their visits. They come across Everton at a time when the Toffees have genuine hopes of a top six finish. Koeman has not done what his predecessor did in his first season. As in he hasn’t wowed observers with a compelling brand of football, but what he has done is built an approach to the game that is more concerned with stability and balance. In Lukaku and Barkley they have two players on form who have it in them to boss around lesser teams. Burnley is a lesser team. Those turning up to Goodison Park should do so expecting the three points.
Stoke City 2-1 Hull City: Hull are playing better football than Stoke at the moment. Primarily because they are fighting for survival in the Premier League. Their team are tighter, better organised and capable of punching a little above his weight. They will need that in spades on their trips away to pick up the points necessary to give them hope. They face a Stoke side who aren’t doing well at the moment. Not poorly enough for any relegation concerns, but certainly underwhelming in comparison to where they have a reasonable expectation to be. When you finish in a position consistently it slowly raises the expectations. At present Stoke are not living up to that. For his own sake, Hughes has got to motivate this side to put in enough to pick up some points. This could be the game for that to begin to turn around.
Sunderland 1-2 West Ham: I wonder what it’s like to be a Sunderland fan. To turn up at the Stadium of Light and to see no light at all from your home team. To be managed by a guy who already set their stall out for a relegation scrap from the first few games of the season and whose manner has been so pessimistic it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. To see abject performance after pathetic performance with dismal result after awful result. Has their been any glimmer of hope this season? Has there been any indication that Sunderland have shoots of growth and positivity? If there has been, it has to be applauded for its invisibility. West Ham have not had a great season either, but in Sunderland even they can be relieved to know it could have been worse. If they can carry that relief into the right approach in this away fixture they could further establish Sunderland’s impending trip to the Championship.
Watford 1-1 Swansea City: The Swans have found this to be a very difficult season in the Premier League. Maybe their hardest. The managerial changes, the ownership change, the serious dips in form, the disappointing transfer activity, the underwhelming performances, the over reliance on Sigurdsson and the fans feeling a sense of betrayal at not being as involved as they hoped to be in the direction of their beloved club. Despite the best efforts of Clement there is a gnawing feeling that maybe Swansea just don’t have it in them to beat the drop. Watford have nothing to play for. They won’t get relegated, they won’t finish in the top half of the table, there’s no pride to play for outside the issue of winning a game of football. To be fair, though, they won’t roll over at home to any side. They don’t have a fortress, but they know Swansea are beneath them and should have enough in them to make sure the Welsh side stay there.
Southampton 2-3 Man City: A lot of attention has gone to the first season of Guardiola at City, but Puel’s first season at Southampton has escaped a great deal of scrutiny. He did well to guide the team to a cup final, but following good seasons under Koeman and Pochettino in the league Southampton are in a slightly worse position in the league. Maybe this is Southampton’s level, maybe the good run of league finishes really was overachieving. Maybe Puel is showing us the level Southampton really play at. This should be good news for the visitors. Not because a trip to St. Mary’s will be a breeze, but because if City turn up in the right frame of mind and impose their superior quality they should leave the coast with the three points. Southampton know, however, that City don’t always show up with the right frame of mind. Southampton should certainly know that they can disrupt their opponents and so frustrate the Citizens. That could make matters very intriguing. Yet this game should see Southampton knowing their place.
West Brom 1-1 Liverpool: Pulis will not be happy with the recent results. Beating Arsenal? Everyone beats Arsenal these days. Other than that, the Baggies have not really been putting in the performances and getting the results that would be satisfactory for him. That’s a good place for West Brom to be in, to be that disappointed. Now they face a Liverpool side who are notoriously suspect against inferior sides. Pulis would have seen the first half of Liverpool at Stoke and be encouraged. He will know how to knock them off their stride. He will know how to be disciplined and organised against the attacking threat of the Reds. He also knows that his side can put it about with set pieces against a Liverpool defence that appears to be contractually obliged not to keep a clean sheet. So Klopp’s side will show up at the Hawthorns and definitely have to up their game if they want to maintain their position in the top four.
Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea: Here is my wacky prediction of the fixtures this week. Chelsea will come to Old Trafford knowing the pressure is all on the home team. Pressure to compete for a top four finish. Pressure to deal with a difficult set of fixtures. Pressure to score goals. Pressure to finish off teams. Pressure from a moaning manager. Pressure all over the place. Compared to relative serenity from the team about to win the Premier League. Conte is not the type to take things for granted. His approach to each game has been immaculate even in the occasional defeat. He has maintained a first team that knows what is expected of them and can work together effectively both as a defensive unit and as an attacking threat. Chelsea don’t have European commitments and can fully focus on this game. They beat United at home and know they can beat them away. This should be a tight game and if anyone is likely to win it should definitely be the Champions elect. So United will win.
Middlesbrough 0-3 Arsenal: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Arsenal. Hmmmmmmm. This has been a poor season for them. They have not done well. In anything. All season long. Here, however, they should finally do something they have rarely done in the league lately – win. Arsenal are poor and pathetic in not dismissing their incumbent manager (by the way respect for Wenger does not exempt him from calling it as it is and it pathetic). Despite that they are playing Middlesbrough. Arsenal’s last win was against an awful West Ham side. Middlesbrough are worse than West Ham. However poor Arsenal are, they cannot leave this game with anything less than three points. This Boro side only have one side to look at who is worse than them and that side is Sunderland. Other than that, Boro cannot score enough goals at all and do not have the defence to prevent an average strike force piercing through. Don’t get me wrong, for entertainment purposes nothing would please me more than to see this pathetically run football club from North London fail to get the three points. I would be delighted. But this isn’t Crystal Palace, this is Middlesbrough. This is a win for Arsenal.
No doubt the match of the weekend is Mourinho hosting his old side before a crucial quarter final second leg. That match is one I am very interested to see. Otherwise, the car crash that is Arsenal’s season should experience some respite at one of the worst teams in the league. They should, but this is Arsenal … As ever …
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden
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
No sooner has the weekend’s games concluded than we’re set for another two days of league matches. Lovely for the fans, maybe not so lovely for the players as there is little recovery time before they go again. But that’s professional football, right?
Before we consider the fixtures today and tomorrow, let’s remind ourselves of how I got on with the weekend’s predictions and actual outcomes. Points are at stake – three points for getting it spot on; one point for just the correct outcome and zero points for getting it wrong.
Liverpool 2-1 Everton (1 point – actual score 3-1)
Burnley 1-1 Tottenham (0 points – actual score 0-2)
Chelsea 3-1 Crystal Palace (0 points – actual score 1-2)
Hull City 1-1 West Ham (0 points – actual score 2-1)
Leicester City 3-2 Stoke City (1 point – actual score 2-0)
Man Utd 2-1 West Brom (0 points – actual score 0-0)
Watford 3-1 Sunderland (1 point – actual score 1-0)
Southampton 2-1 Bournemouth (0 points – actual score 0-0)
Swansea 2-0 Middlesbrough (0 points – actual score 0-0)
Arsenal 2-2 Man City (3 points)
Got a predictions spot on, which is encouraging. But six points is underwhelming to say the least and as for the 40% rate of correct outcomes, the less said about that, the better. The games go on though, so let’s consider these fixtures.
Burnley 2-0 Stoke City
Leicester 3-1 Sunderland
Watford 0-0 West Brom
Man Utd 1-1 Everton
Arsenal 3-1 West Ham
Hull 2-0 Middlesbrough
Southampton 1-1 Crystal Palace
Swansea 1-2 Tottenham
Chelsea 3-2 Man City
Liverpool 2-1 Bournemouth
These games are getting harder to predict even if the table is settling into teams in their places. The Chelsea v City game should be intriguing, though. As for my predictions, let’s hope I can break into double figures before the end of the week.
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden
The international break is over and to make up for lost time, the league in its wisdom has two rounds of fixtures for the Premier League clubs in the space of the week. I am grateful for that. I missed Premier League football. International football is not really all that to me and in as much as Gareth Southgate looks to start his run as the permanent manager of the national team well, there is still something largely underwhelming about it all.
Thus we’re back to the domestic game. As we return to predicting fixtures, we need to have a look at how I did the last time I considered the games. There is a points system involved where should I predict a spot on scoreline I gain three points; if I get the right outcome alone, then i get a point and if I get everything wrong, I get nothing at all.
West Brom 1-2 Arsenal (0 points – actual score 3-1)
Crystal Palace 2-2 Watford (0 points – actual score 1-0)
Everton 3-1 Hull City (1 point – actual score 4-0)
Stoke City 0-2 Chelsea (1 point – actual score 1-2)
Sunderland 1-1 Burnley (1 point – actual score 0-0)
West Ham 3-1 Leicester (0 points – actual score 2-3)
Bournemouth 2-2 Swansea (0 points – actual score 2-0)
Middlesbrough 0-2 Man Utd (1 point – actual score 1-3)
Tottenham 2-1 Southampton (3 points)
Man City 2-2 Liverpool (1 point – actual score 1-1)
Hmmmmmmmmm … 8 points. It’s better than it has been in some weeks. It’s not hitting the sort of levels that I’ve reached before, but it’s slightly better. Not happy, but not miserable. In terms of the percentage of correct outcomes, again 60% is better than an average, but it’s not the target I set for myself when I make these predictions.
Therefore I head into this weekend’s fixtures determined to do better and so let’s consider what lies ahead with some predicting of scores.
Liverpool 2-1 Everton
Burnley 1-1 Tottenham
Chelsea 3-1 Crystal Palace
Hull City 1-1 West Ham
Leicester City 3-2 Stoke City
Man Utd 2-1 West Brom
Watford 3-1 Sunderland
Southampton 2-1 Bournemouth
Swansea 2-0 Middlesbrough
Arsenal 2-2 Man City
It’s a fascinating weekend of football action where the fortunes at the top and bottom of the table could still take another turn before the midweek action. The Merseyside derby is set to be one of the toughest for both sides in a number of years, the south-coast derby won’t be one to overlook either. Arsenal have some issues to resolve with a positive result against fellow top four challengers Man City. As to whether things will turn out the way I expect …
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden
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
Oh you can almost see the finishing line in sight now. The FA Cup is reaching its quarter final stage this weekend. We are inching ever closer to game 30 for the teams. Things are beginning to get ready for the final push for points and places. Meanwhile poor Arsenal have a week to forget quickly that is thankfully off the top talking point after the amazing comeback of Barcelona to win their tie against PSG after being four goals down in the away leg having not scored even one away goal AND conceding an away goal in their fixture this week. What an amazing tie and what a way for others to casually overlook Arsenal’s collapse to Bayern for the third game in a row.
The game goes on, though, and with the games in the league come the predictions, so let us first see how I got on with the last set of fixtures. Points as ever being three for a correct prediction, one point for just the right outcome and zero for nothing being right at all.
Man United 3-1 Bournemouth (0 points – actual score 1-1)
Leicester 2-2 Hull City (0 points – actual score 3-1)
Stoke City 1-0 Middlesbrough (1 point – actual score 2-0)
Swansea 2-1 Burnley (1 point – actual score 3-2)
Watford 2-1 Southampton (0 points – actual score 3-4)
West Brom 2-0 Crystal Palace (0 points – actual score 0-2)
Liverpool 2-2 Arsenal (0 points – actual score 3-1)
Tottenham 3-1 Everton (1 point – actual score 3-2)
Sunderland 1-4 Man City (1 point – actual score 0-2)
West Ham 0-2 Chelsea (1 point – actual score 1-2)
Yeesh. That was not a good set of result in line with my predictions – I may have scraped the 50% correct outcome figure, which is disappointing in itself, but to only get single points from those leaving an overall score of 5 points is pitiful to be fair. It’s not an Arsenal thrashing, but it is disappointing.
So let’s see if I can pick things up with the set of league fixtures that we are about to receive. This will cover the limited number of league fixtures so there won’t be that much to get wrong, surely.
Bournemouth 2-2 West Ham: Both teams have not had the greatest of runs at the moment and it’s hard to see which team will lift themselves most for the fixture. There is an argument to say the home side are in a better position to take advantage of their home comforts, yet West ham have been alright more often than not, so there’s little reason to count them out of this game.
Everton 2-1 West Brom: Of the two teams, Everton have the most to fight for. By that, I mean they have a higher league position to aspire to, whereas for West Brom, there is something about them that doesn’t strike me as being particularly aspirational for anything other than a comfortable league position. One they already have and might have gone to some way of explaining their defeat against Palace. This is a Pulis side, though so their should be a considerable degree of discomfort for the home side to impose their game. However Koeman has ambitions that should see the Toffeemen pull out the victor in a very tight game.
Hull City 1-1 Swansea: The Swans have made good steps forward under Clement, but they also know full well that they are not out of the woods just yet They need to pick up points and they need to be winning rather than losing these close encounters of the relegation kind. That will not be easy at all, because although the promising start of the new guy at Hull has subsided, they are still a relatively competent team in terms of making things difficult for the opponents. A win here will be a shot in the arm for their hopes of an incredulous escape. Not sure they will have enough to see it come about.
Liverpool 4-1 Burnley: Klopp does not strike me as the kind of guy who deals in revenge. He seems far too preoccupied with the preparation of his team and ensuring that everyone is ready to fire on all cylinders. It would not have escaped him, however, that Burnley were the first team to beat Liverpool in the league this season. It would not have escaped him either that the defeat came after they had bombarded the team and did everything but score. Question marks remain over Liverpool’s ability over teams in the lower half of the table, but with the poor away form of Burnley there is the promise of being able to win a game for change against the lesser teams for the home side.
Just the four games to consider this weekend, but a number of the teams nearer the bottom are in action so results could mean everything here. It’s all about if things will go in the favour of the teams that need it the most.
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden
Not much to get the pulses races in the world of football this week. Maybe the most important thing was the interesting decision of Luis Enrique to announce his departure from Barcelona at the end of the season. I don’t have a problem with the decision, it’s a good one to make especially if you are tired. Three years at the club, that’s not a bad run at all. I’m always intrigued at the timing of the announcement. How does that change the dynamic in the club and how do they rise to the occasion to be competitive?
That’s all going to come out in the wash. Meanwhile, here in England, there’s a full quota of Premier League football, which is good. Before we get that far, let’s review how I did in the eight games that took place last weekend. As ever the points system is exactly like the game itself – three points for a spot on prediction; one point for just the correct outcome and zero points for getting everything wrong.
Chelsea 4-1 Swansea (1 point – actual score 3-1)
Crystal Palace 0-0 Middlesbrough (0 points – actual score 1-0)
Everton 3-1 Sunderland (1 point – actual score 2-0)
Hull 2-0 Burnley (0 points – actual score 1-1)
West Brom 2-0 Bournemouth (1 point – actual score 2-1)
Watford 1-1 West Ham (3 points)
Tottenham 2-1 Stoke City (1 point – actual score 4-0)
Leicester 1-3 Liverpool (0 points – actual score 3-1)
Five correct outcomes, one glorious correct scoreline gives a total of 7 points, which is not shabby considering the number of games. Five out of eight is not a shabby return either for the correct versus incorrect. It’s not shabby. It could be better, but it’s not shabby.
Now to consider the next three days worth of Premier League football and see if Chelsea can further extend their lead at the top of the table.
Man Utd 3-1 Bournemouth
Leicester 2-2 Hull City
Stoke City 1-0 Middlesbrough
Swansea 2-1 Burnley
Watford 2-1 Southampton
West Brom 2-0 Crystal Palace
Liverpool 2-2 Arsenal
Tottenham 3-1 Everton
Sunderland 1-4 Man City
West Ham 0-2 Chelsea
No doubt the game at Anfield will be the one to watch this weekend. The result of that could do wonders for United who could be at least one place closer to the top four by the end of the weekend. Meanwhile
Let’s see how it goes
C. L. J. Dryden