Saturday, 22 October 2016

Arsenal v Middlesbrough Preview And Confirmed Arsenal Lineup

Arsenal just can't stop winning at the moment and that's a pretty handy habit to have. They have won their last six league games to move level on points with City at the top of the table with a couple of favourable games to come before the pressure of some bigger games. They play Middlesbrough at home today and then next Saturday they travel to Sunderland and six points can and should be attained from those two games.

If they can go into the games against Spurs and United on the back of eight consecutive wins it will give them plenty of confidence as well as a little bit of a cushion in case things don't go their way. I'm not saying I think they will lose those games, but they tend to be very close affairs and sometimes the outcome can be decided by matters which cannot be controlled. If they win the games against Boro and Sunderland I would in fact be very confident of them taking at least four points from the games against Spurs and United which would be more than acceptable.

Of course other factors will come into play too such as an EFL Cup game, a Champions League game and a dreaded international break. The squad still hasn't been affected too badly by injuries, but we have Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud, Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck among others who are currently unavailable. While we can do without further injuries we are coping very well without those four players and the available squad still has plenty of depth.

The league season is very long and always has it's twists and turns, but I haven't seen anything yet to suggest there is any team who Arsenal cannot match in a head to head situation or over the entire season either. The problems could come if or when results go against them and they ability to overcome a couple of bad results in the past leaves them open to questions on how they might cope this season. We are constantly told of the team's mental strength and we will see if there is any truth in it at some stage I have no doubt.

As for Boro there is very little expected of them today after an awful run of results has seen them take only one point from their last five games. They will take some encouragement from Swansea running Arsenal close last week though and of course Arsenal had to play a midweek game too. Watching Arsenal destroy Ludogorets 6-0 on Wednesday night won't have done Boro's confidence too much good, but they won't be easy to break down. 

They have done better on their travels than they have at home and they will follow the tried and trusted method away to Arsenal of shutting up shop and looking for something on the break or from a set piece. It's the sort of game Arsenal struggle in sometimes, but I think the attacking flair currently on show from Arsenal will be too much for Boro.

The team is almost the same as it was last Saturday with the exception of a change in the midfield duo. Granit Xhaka missed out after his red card against Swansea of course and it looks like Santi Cazorla hasn't recovered in time from the knock he picked up in midweek. They are replaced by Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny who will both be eager to take the chance to show what they can do.

Coquelin in particular will hope to move ahead of Xhaka in the pecking order again after losing his place due to injury. Elneny will do well to oust a fully fit Cazorla from the team, but he is certainly a more than capable replacement today. It will be interesting to see how they work together with Coquelin doing most of the tackling and Elneny trying to set the tempo for the team.

It's still a team who are on paper far too good for Boro and should be looking to win by a couple of goals at least. If players like Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott can continue to terrorize defenders Boro will be in for s very busy afternoon. I think they will do just that and get their seventh league win on the bounce.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Predictions For Premier League Gameweek Nine

It's that time of the week again when I attempt to predict the outcomes of the upcoming Premier League games. I didn't do too well last week with four correct predictions and six incorrect, but it wasn't the best week for a lot of others too. I'm still on top of my predictions league as you can see from the table below and I'm beginning to believe I have a chance of retaining my title.

NameBadgesThis WeekPTS
 1 (1)  Michael Sheehy 4+30705
 2 (2)  Rutland Gooner 2+30580
 3 (4)  Karl-Yngve Lund 2+85520
 4 (3) sensisoccerworld 1-35460
 5 (5)  Wayne Hubbard +5410

Saturday October 22

Bournemouth v Tottenham Hotspur

12.30pm BST, Dean Court, Bournemouth 

Bournemouth thrashed Hull last week and they're looking better with each game they play. No other team has won more home games than Bournemouth with only Arsenal and City scoring more goals at home. They have taken 10 points from their last five games with the only defeat in those games coming away to City.

Junior Stanislas did exceptionally well for fantasy managers last week while Calum Wilson and possibly even the Bournemouth defenders are worth considering.

Spurs left it late last week, but they rescued a point away to West Brom to remain the only unbeaten team in the league. They're one of the two teams unbeaten away from home with only Liverpool and City scoring more goals on the road. Despite being the only team unbeaten so far they're still a point behind the leaders and they have four clean sheets in their opening eight games.

Dele Alli looks to have gotten in to his stride and the Spurs defenders are doing very well for fantasy managers too.

I think Bournemouth will push Spurs quite hard, but their defence might let them down in the end.

Prediction: 1-3

Arsenal v Middlesbrough 

3pm BST, Emirates Stadium, London

Arsenal were far from convincing at home to Swansea last week, but they managed to hold on for their sixth league win in a row. They have won their last three home games and have scored more home goals than any other team, but they have also conceded a lot of goals at home. They will go to the top of the table before City play if they win this game and it's an opportunity they can't afford to pass up.

Theo Walcott, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are all doing very well for fantasy managers and the Arsenal defenders aren't doing too badly either.

Boro lost yet again last week when they went down 1-0 at home to Wafford and they're almost in freefall. They have taken five of their seven points away from home and have only lost one game on their travels. They have only taken one point in their last five games with only Sunderland and Burnley scoring less goals.

Boro players aren't exactly setting the world alight for fantasy managers at the moment.

Arsenal are on a great run at the moment and I expect that winning run to continue in this game.

Prediction: 2-0

Burnley v Everton 

3pm BST, Turf Moor, Burnley

Burnley lost 3-1 away to Sunderland last week, but they have saved their best performances for their home games. They have taken all seven of their points so far at home with only three other teams conceding less goals at home. No other team has scored less goals than them though and they will have to continue their good home form if they are to have any chance of staying up.

I can't see any Burnley players showing enough consistency to interest fantasy managers.

Everton got a very good point away to City last week and they're only four points off the top of the table. They have only lost once in their four away games with only Arsenal conceding less goals away from home. After a very good start to the season they have only taken two points from their last three games, but this game offers them the chance to stop that run.

Romelu Lukaku has hit some form and looks like a very good buy for fantasy managers at the moment.

I think this will be a very close game and it might just end with the spoils shared.

Prediction: 1-1

Hull City v Stoke City

3pm BST, KCOM Stadium, Hull

Hull were thrashed away to Bournemouth last week and they're now only one point above the drop zone. They have lost three of their four home games with no other team scoring less goals at home and only the bottom three conceding more on their own patch. They have lost their last four league games and conceded 17 goals in the process.

Robert Snodgrass has been by far the best of the bunch in the Hull team for fantasy managers.

Stoke finally got their first win of the season at home to Sunderland last week, buy they're still in the relegation zone. They have yet to win away from home with only Burnley and Sunderland scoring less goals away from home. Despite only getting their first win last week they are unbeaten in three games and they have a run of games coming up where they can get some points to move up the table.

Marco Arnautovic still looks like a pretty good purchase for fantasy managers while Joe Allen is on fire at the moment.

I think Stoke will build on their win last week and win this game narrowly.

Prediction: 1-2

Leicester City v Crystal Palace

3pm BST, King Power Stadium, Leicester

Leicester were well beaten yet again last week and they're only two points above the relegation zone. They are unbeaten at home though and no other team has conceded less goals on their own patch. Things are going well for them in their Champions League group, but they need to improve their league form quickly.

The Leicester defenders have done well at home, but none of their players have done particularly well for fantasy managers.

Palace lost at home to West Ham last week to put an end to a very good run. They have only lost one of their away games and have taken more points on the road than they have done at home. They had taken 11 points from five games before losing last week, but they haven't managed a clean sheet yet this season.

Christian Benteke has been the outstanding Palace player for fantasy managers recently although he would do better if he didn't miss penalties.

I think Palace will give Leicester a very tough test, but Leicester will just about manage a win.

Prediction: 2-1

Swansea City v Watford 

3pm BST, Liberty Stadium, Swansea

Swansea very nearly got a point away to Arsenal last week, but they ended up losing 3-2 to drop back to second last in the league. They have only taken one point from their four home games and no other team has conceded more goals at home. They have only taken one point in seven games since winning on the opening day and they need to turn things around quickly.

Despite Swansea's problems Leroy Fer and Gylfi Sigurdsson still look fairly good for fantasy managers.

Watford put an end to their recent poor run by winning away to Boro last week. They have only lost one of their four away games and have taken more points on the road than they have at home. The clean sheet at Boro last week was their first of the season, but only four other teams have scored more goals than Watford.

Etienne Capoue started the season very well for fantasy managers, but has slowed up recently while Troy Deeney is a little more consistent at least.

This game could go either way and I think it will probably end in a draw.

Prediction: 2-2

West Ham United v Sunderland 

3pm BST, London Stadium, London 

West Ham got their first win in six league games away to Palace last week and moved out of the bottom three as a result. They have only won once at home so far and only two other teams have scored less goals at home. The win last week was their first win in six games and their only two clean sheets came in their only two wins so far.

Dimitri Payet is the best long term fantasy choice in the West Ham team with Michail Antonio and Manuel Lanzini worth considering too.

Sunderland lost away to fellow strugglers Stoke last week and they're the only team without a win to their name. They have only taken one point at home and no other team has conceded more goals on their own patch. If their form doesn't improve David Moyes could be in trouble and the rumours of a Sam Allardyce return are already starting.

I can't see any Sunderland players worth considering for fantasy managers.

I think West Ham should be good enough to get their second win in a row in this game.

Prediction: 3-1

Liverpool v West Bromwich Albion

5.30pm BST, Anfield, Liverpool

Liverpool had the chance to join City and Arsenal at the top of the table, but they could only draw 0-0 at home to United on Monday night. They have played less home games than any other team, but only the top two have scored more goals at home. That draw with United was their first clean sheet of the season and Watford are the only team in the top half of the table to have conceded more goals.

Phillippe Coutinho, Roberto Frimino, Adam Lallana and Sadio Mane are all doing well for fantasy managers and James Milner isn't doing too badly either as he is taking Liverpool's penalties.

West Brom almost won at home to Spurs last week, but they had to settle for a point in the end. They have only lost once away from home and only Arsenal have a better defensive record on the road while only two other teams have scored less goals on their travels. They have drawn each of their last three games 1-1 and only three other teams have a better defensive record than them to date.

Nacer Chadli looks like the West Brom player fantasy managers should be interested in.

I think Liverpool's attacking prowess should see them win this game with a couple of goals to spare.

Prediction: 3-1

Sunday October 23

Man City v Southampton 

1.30pm BST, Etihad Stadium, Manchester

City could only draw at home to Everton last week and they haven't won in their last four games in all competitions. No other team has taken more points at home than City with only Arsenal scoring more goals at home. They have only managed one clean sheet so far despite winning their first six games and they have only taken one point from their last two games.

Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne are all among the very best performers for fantasy managers.

Southampton won at home to Boro last week to continue their current good run. They have only won once away from home so far and there hasn't been too many goals from either side in those games. They have taken 10 points from their last four games and they kept clean sheets in three of those games.

Charlie Austin, Dusan Tadic and Nathan Redmond are all performing well for fantasy managers right now and the Southampton defenders aren't doing too badly either.

Southampton aren't going to make things easy for City, but I think City will just sneak a win.

Prediction: 2-1

Chelsea v Manchester United

4pm BST, Stamford Bridge, London

Chelsea looked good in their 2-0 win at home to Leicester last week, but Leicester are far from impressive on their travels. They have won three of their four home games with only two teams scoring more at home and only three teams conceding less. After a dodgy run they have won their last two games and kept clean sheets in both of them too.

Diego Costa looks like a must have for fantasy managers right now with Eden Hazard doing well and the Chelsea defenders might just be on the up too.

United parked the bus at Liverpool on Monday night and came away with a scoreless draw. They have taken as many points on the road as they have at home, but they have struggled for goals away from home. They have drawn their last two games and the clean sheet against Liverpool was their third one in their eight league games.

None of the United players are exactly burning things up for fantasy managers and it's not easy to know which ones to opt for.

This is a really tough game to call and I think the chances are it will end in a draw.

Prediction: 1-1

That's it for this week.

See you next week.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Arsenal v Ludogorets Preview And Confirmed Arsenal Lineup

It's Champions League action for Arsenal again tonight when Ludogorets come calling. As the group stands it's nicely set up for Arsenal and PSG to qualify for the knockout stages as long as they can win home and away against Ludogorets and Basel respectively. If both of them do the double they will be through and it will be just a matter of who finishes on top of the group.

I'm certainly not dismissing the challenge posed by either Ludogorets or Basel, but teams with the quality of Arsenal and PSG should be overcoming them without too much difficulty. Arsenal had too much for Basel a few weeks ago and should have beaten them by more than two goals and it should be the same case tonight. Arsenal's biggest enemy could well be themselves as they showed against Swansea last Saturday.

In that game they were 2-0 up and looking quite comfortable when they inexcusably went to sleep. Swansea came back into the game before Arsenal restored their two goal lead and then made the very same mistake again. They just about managed to get away with a 3-2 win, but they could easily have ended up sharing the points.

The most worrying aspects for me were the roasting Nacho Monreal took in the second half in particular and the lapses from Granit Xhaka. Despite Monreal being seen as in the best form of his career I really am not too sure that he is as good as he's perceived. As for Xhaka I'm sure he still needs more time to adapt to English football and Saturday will have been a real learning experience for him.

What Arsenal need to do today is keep their concentration from first minute to last and maybe put away a few more of the very good chances which come their way. I would be very surprised if they didn't win by at least two goals, but the players can't go into the game with that attitude. They need to approach it as seriously as they did the game against Basel and do everything in their power to move into a really healthy position in the group.

When it comes to the crunch in the group it could come down to how Arsenal and PSG do against the other two teams and Arsenal have the chance to put down a marker tonight. I have no doubt that the return trip to Bulgaria will be a tougher task, but Arsenal need to hammer home their advantage on their own ground. 

Arsene Wenger has gone with four changes from the team which started against Swansea. David Ospina continues in goal for the Champions League games and who could deny him his place after his heroics in the 1-1 draw in Paris. I haven't been his biggest fan, but he more than proved his worth and his value as a top class reserve keeper in that game.

In defence Kieran Gibbs comes in for Monreal and you can't deny that he deserves a chance. As I said already I'm a little worried about Monreal and it has to be good to see how Gibbs will perform. He has been a perfect professional in his attitude to bring out of the team for so long now and he always gives his all when he gets a chance.

In midfield Francis Coquelin comes in for Xhaka as he makes his return from injury. The boss is very fond of his partnership with Santi Cazorla and I assume Coquelin could do with some game time seeming as Xhaka is now suspended for the next three domestic games. Where that leaves Mohamed Elneny is anybody's guess, but maybe that's one of the benefits of having a strong squad.

The final change is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain coming in for Alex Iwobi and he's a player with something to prove. I thought he looked good in the few minutes he got on Saturday and hopefully he can take this chance a little better than he has done with others in the last while. There's no doubting his talent and it's hard to know where it all goes wrong for him all too often.

It's certainly a strong enough team to do what needs to be done tonight and I think they will do just that. Hopefully they will be a lot more focused than they were on Saturday and take the good chances that come their way. I think they will win by at least two goals and if they can keep up the pressure from first to last minute maybe even more.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Arsenal v Swansea City Preview

The Premier League returns tomorrow and Arsenal play at home to Swansea at the traditional time of 3pm on a Saturday afternoon.  It's fairly rare for Arsenal to play at 3 on a Saturday because more often than not their game is moved to facilitate TV. The fact this game hasn't been moved gives us an idea about the opposition and how Arsenal are expected to beat them.

Arsenal are rarely shown on TV at home to the Premier League's lesser lights, but their away games against them are quite regularly scheduled for screening. I suppose the bigger teams are more likely to lose these games on their travels and of course that's what everybody bar the supporters of the losing team wants to see. It might explain why the home game against Middlesbrough next week is a 3pm kick off too, but the trip to Sunderland the following week will be on TV at the earlier time of 12.30.

On the face of it they are three games against struggling teams where Arsenal should be taking all nine points. Swansea have proved a stumbling block in the past while both Boro and Sunderland will try to repel Arsenal, but three wins really are a must if the team are going to challenge for the league. After those games the fixtures get decidedly tougher and it would be great to go into games against Spurs and United on a run of eight consecutive league wins.

As it is that run stands at five wins and the slow start in the opening two games is a distant memory. With City losing to Spurs it has become very tight at the top of the table and Arsenal are only two points behind them. There's a long way to go, but it certainly looks promising at the moment.

From a team selection point there won't be too many changes from the team who just about won away to Burnley last time out. Francis Coquelin is fit to return after picking up a knock in the 3-0 win over Chelsea, but I think Granit Xhaka will keep his place. It doesn't look like we have picked up any injuries in the international break, but there may be one or two players who need to start from the bench after their exertions for their countries.

Alexis Sanchez is the player most likely to miss out having played for Chile away to Peru on Wednesday night. The time difference and flight back would have seen him return on Friday I imagine and it probably makes sense for him to be on the bench to start. He did mange to score twice in that game in a 4-3 win and there aren't too many options in his central striking role.

With Olivier Giroud still injured and Lucas Perez not quite back to full fitness we could see Theo Walcott deployed in that position. Walcott has done very well so far this season on the right and hopefully he can continue that form if he has to play centrally. Alexis suffered from being overplayed last season and we can't allow that to happen again this season. Hopefully he won't have to come on to rescue us and we can get the job done without him.

Arsenal have had their problems at home to teams who shut up shop and no doubt Swansea will try to do just that. They have a very good record at the Emirates with 10 points from their five games there since their promotion to the Premier League. It's been a nightmare to watch Arsenal at home to them in the main and it's something we have to put right.

It took a long time to break Burnley down in the last game and we were more than a little lucky to sneak a win in the end. We might need to be patient and we might have to bide our time, but getting the three points is absolutely vital. A little bit of revenge for all the points Swansea have taken at our ground would be nice and I think we will get it, but it won't be easy.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.