Saturday, 24 September 2016

Arsenal v Chelsea Preview

Arsenal are going quite well in the league at the moment with three wins in a row and nine goals scored in those games. That's a pretty good return for a team who aren't playing a striker and only City have more goals than them in the opening five games of the season. Those three games were against teams they were expected to beat though and today's game will be a tougher task.

They face a Chelsea team who have 10 points from their opening five games too, but who have taken only one point from their last two games. They were beaten for the first time last week at home to Liverpool and drew away to Swansea in their previous game. Like Arsenal they have struggled to keep clean sheets and both teams have only managed one in their first five games.

On the face of it both teams are in a very similar position even if their results have gone the opposite way to each other. They both suffered their only defeat at home to Liverpool and both teams will be looking for three points to try to keep pace with a City team who have a 100% record so far. The loser of this game could find themselves eight points off the top of the table if City get the expected three points at Swansea and a draw would see them both seven points adrift.

There's a long season ahead, but it can't be a good thing to give a team like City a lead like that so early on. I'm not suggesting this is a must win game for both teams, but it's not far from it. There will be plenty of twists and turns to come, but Arsenal will want to continue their winning run and Chelsea will want go put a stop to their recent slide.

From a team selection perspective it looks like Arsene Wenger will more than likely go with the team that won 4-1 away to Hull last week. It seems to be his favoured starting line up at the moment despite £35 million new boy Granit Xhaka sitting on the bench. Xhaka came on late against Hull and scored a stunning goal and he got another one in the midweek EFL Cup victory away to Forest despite being bought more for his defensive qualities.

The team who played in that win at Forest did very well and showed that we have plenty of quality in reserve. As well as Xhaka's goal we got two from Lucas Perez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain chipped in with one also. Considering the boss made 11 changes from the win over Hull it shows the strength in depth we have and those players will all be anxious to get a chance in the first team.

I'm still not pushed on Alexis Sanchez playing as the central striker, but the boss seems determined to pursue the project and he did score twice last week. He probably should have had a hat trick as he missed a penalty too and we seem to be getting quite a few penalties this season. We have four already in our five league games and we only got two in 38 league games last season. It would be great if we improved our conversion rate with both Alexis and Theo Walcott missing their attempts and Santi Cazorla at least scoring both of his.

I think we will make enough chances today to have every chance of winning the game, but our hopes could well depend on how we defend as a team. We have had our run ins with Diego Costa as he has had in just about every game he plays. Our players cannot react to his provocation today and we just have to hope the referee will for once see what he gets up to and punish him appropriately. Chelsea won their first two games with late goals from Costa and he should have been sent off in both games before getting those goals.

I don't think it will be an open free flowing game with goals galore and a thrill a minute. To be honest I'm not too concerned what sort of game it is once Arsenal emerge victorious. They can do that, but it will require their best performance of the season so far and their first 90 minute performance too.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Predictions For Premier League Gameweek Six

It's that time of the week again when I attempt to predict the outcomes of the upcoming Premier League games. I did reasonably well last week with seven correct outcomes and three incorrect. It means I'm still on top of my predictions league as you can see from the table below, but it's still early days.

BadgesThis WeekPTS
 1 (1)  Michael Sheehy 2+75435
 2 (3)  Rutland Gooner 1+95410
 2 (2)  Karl-Yngve Lund 1+75410
 4 (4)  Wayne Hubbard +45295
 5 (6) sensisoccerworld +50245

Saturday September 24

Manchester United v Leicester City

12.30pm BST, Old Trafford, Manchester

United have lost their last two league games and they're struggling to score goals with only seven in five games. They need to turn things around quickly to keep pace with the teams above them. They will have to play a lot better than they have recently if they're going to take the three points.

At the moment Zlatan Ibrahimovic is by far the best of the United players to have for fantasy managers while Marcus Rashford might not be a bad outside bet.

Leicester have won two of their last three league games, but they lost to Liverpool in between those games. They have lost both of their away games and scored two goals in the process. Desite their poor away form I still think they will have a chance away to a United team who are struggling at the moment.

Islam Silmani made a real impact in his first game for Leicester while Jamie Vardy is doing well and Riyad Mahrez looks to be improving.

I think this will be a very close game and it might just end in a draw.

Prediction: 1-1

Bournemouth v Everton

3pm BST, Dean Court, Bournemouth 

Bournemouth were easily beaten away to City last week and it looks like they will struggle to match their form of last season. Their only win so far came at home to West Brom and no other team has scored less goals in their first five games. Anything they can get from this game would be a boost for them, but it won't be an easy task.

I can't see any Bournemouth players to interest fantasy managers at the moment.

Everton have had a great start to the season with 13 points from five games, but the fixture list has been good to them. They have won both of their away games so far and league leaders City are the only other team to have won all of their away games. They have won their last four league games in a row and will be favourites to make that five in a row in this game.

Romelu Lukaku looks like he might just be on a run which would benefit fantasy managers while Everton's defenders are doing quite well too.

I think Everton should be strong enough to take the points in this game despite their midweek EFL Cup setback.

Prediction: 1-3

Liverpool v Hull City

3pm BST, Anfield, Liverpool

Liverpool are looking very good at the moment with some very impressive scalps under their belts, but they did lose to Burnley. They haven't kept a clean sheet yet, but only City and Arsenal have scored more goals. They have only played one of their five games at home and will be looking to keep up the pressure on the teams above them with a win in this game.

Roberto Friminio, Phillippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane and Adam Llanana are all doing well for fantasy managers, but which one do you pick.

Hull lost 4-1 at home to Arsenal last week, but they had to play a lot of the game with 10 men. They took six points from their first two games, but have only taken one point in three games since then. They have only conceded one goal away from home so far, but that could change quite a lot in this game.

Robert Snodgrass has started the season very well and is still available at a very good price and Eldin Jakupovic has done well too.

I think Liverpool should win this game by at least a couple of goals.

Prediction: 3-1

Middlesbrough v Tottenham Hotspur 

3pm BST, Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough 

Boro led away to Everton last week, but ended up losing 3-1. They haven't won either of their home games yet and they have some tough games coming up. I still think they look the most likely of the newly promoted teams to stay up, but it will be a tough struggle for them.

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

Spurs won 1-0 at home to Sunderland last week and are one of three teams still unbeaten. They have only conceded only goal away from home so far and they have conceded less goals than any other team. A win in this game will keep them in the top three at worst and could even move them up to second.

With Harry Kane injured it could be Heung-Min Son, Christian Eriksen or Dele Alli along with the Spurs defenders who do the business for fantasy managers.

I think Boro will give Spurs a run for their money, but Spurs will win narrowly.

Prediction: 1-2

Stoke City v West Bromwich Albion 

3pm BST, Bet 365 Arena, Stoke

Stoke let in four goals yet again last week and they're rooted to the foot of the table with only one point. They have lost their last four games and conceded 13 goals in the process and they haven't kept a clean sheet yet. Mark Hughes will be feeling the pressure and they need to turn things around quickly or he could be out of a job.

I can't see any Stoke players to interest fantasy managers at the moment, but Marco Arnautovic could be worth a punt if they improve.

West Brom put four goals past West Ham last week and they had only managed two goals in their previous five games. There has been only two goals scored in their two away games and it's rare for their games to have as many goals as last week. They will fancy their chances at struggling Stoke if they can recreate anywhere near their attacking prowess from last week.

West Brom's defenders are always worth considering for fantasy managers with Ben Foster and Gareth McAuley the best of them while any more performances like last week's would make Nacer Chadli a must have.

Stoke need to get something out of this game to halt their slide and I think they might just manage a point.

Prediction: 1-1

Sunderland v Crystal Palace 

3pm BST, Stadium of Light, Sunderland 

Sunderland only conceded one goal in their defeat at Spurs last week, but it could have been a lot more. They have one point from five games and the only thing keeping them off the foot of the table is the even worse form of Stoke. No other team has scored less goals than Sunderland and they haven't kept a clean sheet in their five games either.

I can't see any Sunderland players to recommend to fantasy managers right now.

Palace seem to have been reborn since the arrival of Christian Benteke and they have won their last two league games. They had struggled to score goals, but they got six goals in those two games and the signs are very promising for them. A trip to struggling Sunderland could be just what they need to get their third league win in a row.

Benteke could be a good purchase for fantasy managers while the players supplying him such as Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha could be worth considering too.

I think Palace will continue their winning ways with a narrow victory in this game.

Prediction: 1-2

Swansea City v Manchester City

3pm BST, Liberty Stadium, Swansea 

Swansea lost away to Southampton last week and they have only taken one point from their last four games. They have a tough run of games coming up and could find themselves in the bottom three very soon. Anything they could get from this game would be s huge boost, but I can't see it happening. 

Leroy Fer has been the best of the Swansea players so far and Gylfi Sigurdsson is bound to do well too.

City are the only team with a 100% record and it looks like it's going to take a lot to stop them. They're the top scorers too, but they only managed to keep their first clean sheet in the 4-0 win against Bournemouth last week. This time last season they looked unstoppable, but that soon changed and I'm not so sure it will this season.

With Sergio Aguero back he's a must have for fantasy managers while Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling are looking pretty good too.

I can't see anything other than a comfortable City win in this game.

Prediction: 1-3

Arsenal v Chelsea

5.30pm BST, Emirates Stadium, London

Arsenal won 4-1 away to Hull last week and it was the first time since last December they had won three league games in a row. Only City have scored more goals than them, but they have conceded too many goals for their own good. This will be a big test for them and they need to do better in it than they did at home to Liverpool.

Alexis Sanchez has found some form and looks like a must have for fantasy managers again.

Chelsea lost at home to Liverpool last week and it was their first league defeat of the season. While they have scored plenty of goals they still haven't kept a clean sheet in their five league games. After losing to Liverpool last week they can't afford to lose to another one of the probable title contenders.

Diego Costa has been the best of the Chelsea players for fantasy managers and Eden Hazard hasn't done too badly either.

This looks like it's going to be a very close game and I think Arsenal should just edge it.

Prediction: 2-1

Sunday September 25

West Ham United v Southampton 

4pm BST, Olympic Stadium, London

West Ham let in four goals for the second game in a row last week when they lost 4-2 to West Brom. No other team in the bottom half of the table has scored more goals than West Ham, but only Stoke have conceded more goals. Slaven Bilic might not be feeling too much pressure at the moment, but that will change if they don't turn things around soon.

Michail Antonio has more goals than any other player and Dimitri Payet has more assists despite not playing many games and they're both must haves for fantasy managers at the moment.

Southampton got their first win of the season at home to Swansea last week. They have lost both of their away games so far and have struggled to score goals at home and away. A trip to a team who can't stop conceding goals might be just what they need to get back to back wins.

Dusan Tadic and Nathan Redmond look like the Southampton players most likely to score points for fantasy managers.

I think we could see a few goals in this game and it might just end in a high scoring draw.

Prediction: 2-2

Monday September 26

Burnley v Watford 

8pm BST, Turf Moor, Burnley 

Burnley lost 3-0 away to Leicester last week and they're moving quickly towards the wrong end of the table. If they're going to have any hope of staying up their home form will be crucial and they have taken four points from their three home games. They could have their work cut out against a free scoring Watford team who will be on a high after last week.

I can't see any Burnley players who might make a difference for fantasy managers at the moment.

Watford were impressive in beating United 3-1 last week and will look to build on that result. They haven't kept a clean sheet yet, but they have also scored in every game they have played. They're still unbeaten away from home and only three other teams have scored more goals than them.

Etienne Capoue has been more than impressive so far for fantasy managers while Roberto Pereyra, Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo aren't too bad either.

I think Watford will be too strong in attack for Burnley and should win by a couple of goals.

Prediction: 1-3

That's it for this week.

See you next week.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Arsenal's EFL Cup Game With Nottingham Forest Previewed

Arsenal stuttered at the start of the season, but they are slowly beginning to find some form. A couple of late goals put a nice 4-1 gloss on their win at Hiull on Saturday, but there's still a way to go before they are anywhere near their best. In a long season which could be anything from 50 to 60 games they've only just scratched the surface of the games they have to play.

They make the trip to Nottingham Forest tonight for a game in the least important of the four competitions they are in this season. The EFL Cup is little more than a distraction and an opportunity to give a run out to the fringe players in the first team squad. With that in mind I expect to see plenty of changes in the team to face Forest.

The only player who might return to the squad is Gabriel Paulista who has been injured since before the season began. The rest of the team should be made up of the players on the bench on Saturday and those who didn't make it to the bench. Arsenal should still be able to put out a fairly strong team though and one with every chance to progress to the next round of the competition.

The choice in goal is a straight one between David Ospina and Emilio Martinez with sense saying it should be Ospina who gets the nod. It looks like he's the first choice for our Champions League group games which might be the only reason he might sit this one out. Either way I think the goalkeeper's position is well covered.

In defence I imagine Rob Holding, Kieran Gibbs and maybe even Mathieu Debuchey will play and Gabriel too if he's fit. If Gabriel isn't quite ready to play I wouldn't be surprised to see Shkodran Mustafi play as the more games he gets the better. I've been impressed with him so far and it looks like we might finally have got the top quality central defender we need to play alongside Laurent Koscielny.

In midfield surely we have to see Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny get a run out. Xhaka has had to bide his time since joining, but his time has to come and the sooner the better for me. As for Elneny he seems to have dropped even further down the line and it's difficult to understand why. Of course there are still plenty of games to go and both Xhaka and Elneny will get plenty of chances to prove themselves, but I find it hard to understand why Xhaka in particular isn't one of the first names on the team sheet for every game. 

There are still four places to fill in the team after those players and I fully expect Lucas Perez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to take two of them with the other two quite possibly going to Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Chuba Akpom. It's a reasonably strong team and one which should have a chance against a Championship team. For me it's about the performance from those players on the night and avoiding injuries.

Last season we went out of the equivalent competition one round later after winning away to Spurs at this stage. We lost away to Sheffield Wednesday on a night to forget when we were well beaten and lost both Chamberlain and Theo Walcott to injuries. If the cost of progress is a couple of injuries this season I would choose elimination from a competition which has never been good to us.

I still have nightmares about the loss to Luton Town in the final in 1988 and I imagine older fans than me have less than fond memories of the 1969 final loss to Swindon Town. There was the 2007 final loss to Chelsea too, the 1968 loss to Leeds and who can forget that awful day against Birmingham in 2011. There were better days too, but not nearly as many as the bad ones.

It will certainly be good to see the fringe players get a run out, but it's never easy to judge a player by how he performs in a second string team. It's easier to judge a player when he gets his chance in a strong line up, but I would be pretty sure those in line to play Chelsea on Saturday will sit this one out. Maybe it's just me, but I would certainly take a defeat against Forest as long as we can take all three points off Chelsea.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Arsenal's Trip To Hull City Previewed

The games are coming thick and fast for Arsenal at the moment. They somehow managed to sneak a point away to PSG in the Champions League on Wednesday night and they're away again today when they face Hull City in the Premier League. It's a bit early to be saying this is a must win game, but anything other than a win world be a very disappointing result.

I'll try to keep my preview as brief as possible as I'm suffering from a bad cold as well as attempting to prepare for my youngest's 21st tonight. Usually I would go into what I think might be the starting team and my reasons for thinking so, but it's impossible to second guess Arsene Wenger at the moment. It almost seems like he's a picking the team to prove himself right rather than the best team for the game.

I still can't understand why Granit Xhaka isn't a permanent fixture in the team or how Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is keeping his place despite looking almost lost at times. From what the manager said yesterday Xhaka will eventually cement a place in the team, but it's almost as if he's saying the midfield wasn't crying out for a player of his quality. As for Chamberlain he looks like he's turning into the new Theo Walcott and it's nigh on impossible to justify his place in the team. Whatever it might do to his confidence, I think the good of the team and it's needs have to take preference and he has to be overlooked.

I'm also worried about the left side of our defence as team after team are targeting us on that side and getting some joy from it. Nacho Monreal isn't getting enough protection from whichever player plays wide right and opponents are taking advantage of it. It's blatantly obvious and needs to be dealt with post haste. 

Hull have started the season very well all things considered and have as many points as Arsenal from their first four games. For me it's a case of all hands to the pump and their lack of quality and numbers will catch up on them at some stage. We need to hit them hard and hit them fast and test their resources to the full. 

I have no doubt they will defend in depth with numbers and try to hit us on the break or from set pieces. It's a tactic we find difficult to deal with far too often and it could take patience to break them down. In games like this I think Olivier Giroud is the best choice of the players we have to play in the central striking role and he has to play if he's fit.

For me the trial of Alexis Sanchez in the striker's role hasn't worked and he's far better in a wide role. He's one of the best players in the Premier League and it makes perfect sense to play him in his best position. In s tight game like this he's far more likely to make the difference coming in from a wide role than playing centrally.

Having said all of that I still think we should beat Hull no matter what team is chosen. With the right attitude and commitment we should have too much for them and we just need to impose ourselves on the game. It's a very busy time of the season and results bring confidence and we quite simply need the three points.

We don't need to rest players for the Forest game on Tuesday night and we should play our strongest team. I know I said I wouldn't go into team selection, but it just can't be ignored I suppose.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.