Barclays Premier League, Week 7
Champ Warren ’16
The past week was a great one to watch soccer, both in the Champions’ League and English domestic soccer. Jamie Vardy broke the consecutive goalscoring record with his strike against United, a fantastic achievement for a player who just a few years ago was playing in the 5th division, but unfortunately I don’t see any standout games in particular. As a result I haven’t chosen any must watch games, but there might be a few decent ones here and there.
Stoke City vs Manchester City (Saturday)
PREDICTION: Stoke 1-3 City
Stoke City enters this game off of an unlucky 2-0 loss to Sunderland in which captain Ryan Shawcross was sent off, arguably erroneously, for two yellow cards. Before the red, the team actually played relatively well and arguably looked better than Sunderland, but whether or not Shawcross’s red is rescinded will be a huge factor in Stoke’s ability to take a point from the game, in addition to Bojan’s return to the squad and Arnautovic’s decent form. City did very well to beat Southampton 3-1, with De Bruyne putting in yet another good performance with a goal and 2 assists. This was a huge test for the title challengers and one they passed with relative ease, looking in control the entire match. The team clearly misses Kompany, however, and it is unclear as of publishing whether or not the center half will be available for this clash. Either way, I would still expect a City win as they look to hold onto first place.
Arsenal vs Sunderland (Saturday)
PREDICTION: Arsenal 2-1 Sunderland
Arsenal had a pretty devastating weekend, losing both Koscielny and Sanchez to injury en route to a 1-1 draw against Norwich. Koscielny’s injury was basically just bad luck but that of Sanchez was not: Wenger knew the Chilean had a nock and was exhausted from the number of games he had played in such a short time but for whatever reason decided to play him anyway, but he payed the price in one of the worst possible times to do so. The infamous Christmas period is ahead, a time where teams need to have as healthy and fit a squad as possible to get through the extreme fixture congestion. This is a crucial time for Arsenal as they need to be picking up as many points as possible to contend for top spot, but such a mounting injury crisis only spells trouble for the Gunners. Despite their ever growing injury list, I still see Arsenal managing to barely get by this one, just clinching a 2-1 win.
Manchester United vs West Ham (Saturday)
PREDICTION: United 0-0 West Ham
I can’t stand watching Manchester United play. The Van Gaal style has essentially become Tiki Taka without the movement, forward passes, or goals. Despite making a drastic tactical change against Leicester, playing a 3-5-2, the end result was still the same. Rooney is static and isn’t creating many chances, Martial isn’t running in behind, or scoring for that matter, and all the midfield does is pass left and right for an hour and a half. It’s painful to watch, and although the team is managing to get by due to their exceptional defense, in my opinion they can’t keep playing like this if they want to continue to fight for 1st place. West Ham played very well against West Brom despite the injuries to their squad yet somehow only managed a 1-1 draw against the Baggies. Lanzini looks to doing decently as Payet’s temporary replacement, but an injury to Diafra Sakho is troubling as West Ham’s striker options are dwindling. I think this game will be a tight one and either team could potentially snatch a goal, but I’m going to go with a 0-0 draw.
Southampton vs Aston Villa (Saturday)
PREDICTION: Southampton 4-2 Villa
Southampton played City over the weekend and were soundly beaten 3-1. They didn’t necessarily play badly, more so City just played very well and when that happens a loss is almost expected. The team has played decently well besides thar game and I expect them to bounce back against bottom-of-the-league Villa, but a midweek clash against Liverpool in cup play could complicate things. Villa did exceptionally well to score two against a usually resolute Watford defense, but went away empty handed on the losing side of a 3-2 result. The team is certainly showing signs of improvement, but that was a game Villa really needed to win to give them a chance at getting out of last place. Given that they couldn’t get a draw against Watford, I don’t expect them to do any better against the Saints.
Swansea City vs Leicester (Saturday)
PREDICTION: Swansea 0-2 Leicester
Swansea disappointed again at the weekend, losing a hard fought game 1-0 to Liverpool. The Welsh side continues to look poor and struggled to hold any meaningful possession, particularly uncharacteristic for a side known for playing a fluid, possession-based game. They also failed to register a shot on target and their defense is shaky, so I don’t see much of a chance for them here. Swansea used to always thrive on their players’ confidence on the ball and a mentality that they could always win in the past few seasons, but with confidence being so low as this poor run of form continues their flaws continue to show themselves. Leicester on the other hand has continued their fantastic run of form by drawing Manchester United 1-1. Jamie Vardy scored his 11th consecutive BPL goal, breaking Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s 12 year old record and the team’s work rate especially in central midfield is second to none. One weakness as I have highlighted previously is their comparatively poor defense, which has conceded in 4 out of their last 5 games, but I don’t see them conceding to a lackluster Swansea side.
Watford vs Norwich (Saturday)
PREDICTION: Watford 2-0 Norwich
Watford managed to barely get away with all 3 points in a riveting 3-2 win in a tight affair against strugglers Aston Villa. Despite being dominated in possession by Aston Villa, Quique Sanchez Flores’ men did well to adapt to the situation and make the most of their opportunities. One noticeable difference, however, was that Watford let in 2 goals, unusual for a side which has become known for its sturdy defense. Another blow to the squad is first choice keeper Heurelho Gomes’ concussion. it is unclear whether it will rule him out of this fixture, and if it does it will be a big loss for the team. Norwich managed to stage an upset against Arsenal, managing to snag a point in a 1-1 draw. The Canaries were clearly helped when both Koscielny and Sanchez were forced off through injury, but to their credit worked hard throughout and grabbed a goal. They have defended far better lately, one of their biggest weaknesses this campaign, and look like they may have a decent chance of staying up. Despite this, however, I think Watford will respond to their poor defensive performance and stay tight at the back in this match, so I expect Watford will take all 3 points.
West Brom vs Spurs (Saturday)
PREDICTION: Brom 0-1 Spurs
West Brom somehow stole a point from West Ham over the weekend in a game where they arguably should have been beaten by 2 or 3 goals. Myhill was beaten by a superb Mauro Zarate freekick, one of the best I’ve seen in a long time, but otherwise was solid when called upon, denying several good opportunities for West Ham to score and put the game to bed. Rondon and Rickie Lambert played well up top and both teams could have won towards the end, but this game showed that West Brom are not a team that will roll over and take a loss, making the task for Spurs a difficult one. Spurs played out a boring 0-0 draw in a game that reeked of Jose Mourinho. Chelsea came with a game plan of getting a draw and as a result played a defensive line, flooded central midfield, and did not commit many players forward. As a result Spurs were forced to play slow buildup and work the ball out wide, leading to very few chances for both teams. A draw was a fair result in the end, but the absence of Dele Alli was noticeable as Ryan Mason did not have the best of games. West Brom will be a similar challenge as Tony Pulis is known for his direct, defensive style, but I’m confident that with Alli’s return and Pochettino hopefully learning from the Chelsea game that Spurs will come away with all 3 points.
Chelsea vs Bournemouth (Saturday)
PREDICTION: Chelsea 1-0 Bournemouth
As I mentioned previously Chelsea played a typical Chelsea game: defending deep and flooding the midfield. Hazard played as the lone striker against Spurs and looked good, Willian had some world class deliveries from set pieces, and Oscar took his chance and played well in the number 10 spot. Costa was notably dropped in this game after a falling out with Mourinho and looks to be staying there as of right now, which could prove to be a good move in the long run. Overall Chelsea are improving with every game and, as Mourinho put it, their game against Spurs was their best of the season, so I think they have finally turned a corner and their results will begin to improve. Bournemouth played a thrilling 3-3 draw with Everton in which they came from 2-0 down to make it 2-2, conceded in added time to make it 3-2, but responded by going up the other end and making it 3-3 in the 98th minute. The team showed a very admirable fighting spirit to keep working hard even when all hope was seemingly lost, something that should prove to be crucial in their efforts to avoid the drop this season, but I think Chelsea’s quality will come out on top.
Newcastle vs Liverpool (Sunday)
PREDICTION: Newcastle 0-4 Liverpool
Newcastle continued their poor run of form last weekend, getting smashed 5-1 by former manager Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace. Newcastle scored first as Cisse headed in a cross from Janmaat, but Palace immediately responded, scoring 2 in quick succession. After that Newcastle did what Newcastle do best- lose by a lot. The team completely rolled over and there continues to be next to no belief or passion in the squad, a theme that has continued for many years now. If they continue to play like that Newcastle could easily be relegated, and I don’t expect much to change performance-wise in this match. Liverpool narrowly beat Swansea 1-0 via a James Milner penalty but looked the better team for large portions of the game. Klopp reverted back to his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, bringing in Benteke and dropping Firmino to the #10 role due to Coutinho’s absence. I don’t personally think they play as well in a 4-2-3-1 as of now at least especially when Lallana plays out wide, but they are still decently effective and I don’t expect Klopp to change. There are a few flaws in the starting 11, the most obvious named Dejan Lovren, but I think Liverpool will make easy work of a Newcastle team that could remain in the relegation zone for the foreseeable future if things don’t change soon.
Everton vs Palace (Monday)
PREDICTION: Everton 2-1 Palace
As mentioned earlier, Everton took a point against Bournemouth in an emphatic 3-3 draw, a game that they had the chance to win and really should have. They were 2-0 up early on in the first half and looked to be in the driver’s seat, but they got complacent and let conceded 2. Kone scored in stoppage time to seemingly win it for the Toffees, but once again Everton’s defense proved to be their downfall as Stanislas equalized with seconds to go. Pundits have touted Everton as a potential Europa League or even Champions’ League challenger, especially given the form of Deulofeu, Lukaku, etc, but for me this game proved why they won’t make it past 6th place. Despite their shortcoming, however, I expect them to bounce back and look to avenge that poor result against Palace, who beat Newcastle 5-1 at the weekend. I criticized Palace for their lack of goal scorers in the past weeks and although some may point to this as evidence that they do have the players to score with consistency, it’s worth noting they were playing against Newcastle, a team that can make just about any opponent look world class. There are still weaknesses in the squad, mainly the lack of a quality out-and-out striker that can both hold up the ball and score goals, but for me Cabaye needs to be encouraged to play higher up the field. He has been playing so deep next to McArthur that he almost never gets the ball in a scoring position, so as a result his potential impact on matches has been limited. For me, Palace will put up a good fight against Everton and may manage to steal a point or 3 if they’re lucky, but I think Everton will bounce back and narrowly win this one.