Saturday, 18 November 2017

Arsenal v Spurs: NLD Preview

With the international break over its back to serious football and it doesn't get much more serious for Arsenal than the North London derby. Spurs come to the Emirates today with the world and media in love with them and believing they are the greatest thing since sliced bread. If you were to believe all that you could read about them then Arsenal don't have a hope today.

As good as Spurs are supposed to be you would struggle to remember when they last won a trophy and if memory serves me correctly they haven't won a serious trophy in over 20 years. They may have finished second in the Premier League last season, but they were never going to win it and they bottled it the previous season when they actually looked like they had a chance. Even this season they're already eight points behind City at the top of the table and they're not going to win the league.

Of course they are four points ahead of Arsenal, but when you consider how badly our season is supposed to be going that's not an awful lot. Where that gap stands after today is the question though as a defeat for Arsenal would make it seven points, but a win would put them within a point of Spurs. I suppose it's all about expectations and the expectations are for Arsenal to do an awful lot better than Spurs.

Those expectations have been built on the tenure of Arsene Wenger and also on our history stretching back over so many years. We have won the league six times since Spurs last won it and that was thankfully before I was born despite me being in my early fifties. They just don't have the history that we have and they're trying to become the big club we have always been.

Now that we've established that history is on our side we need to get the present on our side too. There is no doubt that Spurs are playing a lot better than us at the moment and have some very good players too. If one report I read yesterday is to be believed Alexis Sanchez is the only player in our team who would get into their team.

When they play well they are a good team, but I can't say I've been overly impressed with them in the league this season. They have struggled at home in particular with so many teams seeming to rise to the occasion when they visit Spurs temporary home of Wembley. Most teams never get a chance to play at Wembley and they seem to be relishing the chance to play there when they get it.

They have a good record away from home though with four wins out of five and only the defeat at United in their last away game to spoil a perfect record. It was their home form which saw them finish above us for the first time in over 20 years last season and if that doesn't improve they might struggle to do so this season. Those four away wins came at Newcastle, Everton, West Ham and Huddersfield and they lost their only serious test in that game at United.

Of course Arsenal's home record this season is second to none with five wins out of five, but again those games weren't against the Premier League high flyers. Today is their first real test at home and it's a huge game for both clubs. I think it's an even bigger game for Arsenal because they are at home and they really need to take all three points.

A draw wouldn't be a bad result on the face of it, but a win would put us only one point behind them despite them being the greatest team ever. It would also put us right back in the fight for a top four place and with City already so far ahead of everyone else all places right up to second are there to play for. If our confidence is to improve this is the sort of game we need to win and win well.

It's been a while since Arsenal came out in a home game and blew the opposition away, but the home wins against Chelsea and United in the last couple of seasons are the performances we are looking for today. We can't approach this game in a half hearted manner and hand Spurs a lead before we realise we have to raise the level of our game. That seeems to happen far too often for my liking and every player has to be totally switched on from the first minute today.

Having said that the manager has to get his team selection right and that has to start with Alexandre Lacazette being in the starting 11. I still cannot understand how our record signing, top scorer and first choice striker could be left on the bench away to both Liverpool and City. If we're going to win games we need to score goals and usually playing your best players is a huge help.

I don't think we will see too many surprises in the team today and I would be very surprised if the manager abandoned his favored three central defenders. Personally I would prefer to see an extra man in midfield to protect the defence and try to gain some supremacy in an area where we have struggled this season. We give the ball away in front of our defence far too often and Spurs have all the tools to benefit if we do that today.

We have players who can hurt them too and maybe it's time for Alexis and Mesut Ozil to step up and let their seasons really kick off. Besides the 5-2 win at Everton we haven't really clicked in attack, but the two of them along with Lacazette are more than capable of making and scoring the goals to beat any team. We need big games from Alexis and Ozil because we just haven't got the best out of them so far this season. 

As always the first goal will be crucial and it could go badly for us if Spurs score first. If we leave ourselves open at the back they have the tools to take advantage of us and we have to do all we can to make sure they don't score first. If it means playing clever and taking one for the team then it's something we have to do because they are so good at doing just that.

We've already seen other teams like City in our last game using rotational fouling on Alexis and Ozil to stop us before an attack gets going and Spurs are the kings of rotational fouling. It's not a pretty part of the game, but it's a realistic approach we don't seem to adopt often enough. I would gladly take a red card and suspension to follow for any of our players if it's in the cause of a victory.

If we're going to do that our decision making in attacking positions has to improve. We all know Alexis will give the ball away ad nauseam, but against City both Aaron Ramsey and Alex Iwobi kept making the wrong decisions at crucial times. When we have the chance to get in behind the opposition players need to make quicker decisions at those crucial moments.

For some strange reason I'm not overly worried about today and I have a feeling we're at least not going to lose. If we play as well as we are capable of I think we can win and I hope it can be a catalyst for the rest of the season if we do. 

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Predictions For Premier League Gameweek 12

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 time out with only three correct outcomes and seven incorrect which leaves me perched just a few places above the foot of my predictions league. Here's a look at how the top five in that league stands.

NAMETHIS WEEKPOINTS
 1 (2) Dr_AFHMK
4
885
 2 (1) JediKnut
3

+50
835
 3 (4) Wild Things
3

+75
785
 4 (5) Brisbane City FC
4

+80
760
 5 (6) Midotamimi
3

+90
750








Saturday November 18

Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur

12.30pm GMT, Emirates Stadium, London

Arsenal lost 3-1 away to City last time out and they dropped back to sixth place. They are one of only two teams with a 100% record at home with only the two Manchester teams scoring more home goals and only three teams conceding less. They have taken 16 points from their last eight games, but they haven't kept a clean sheet in four and only three teams have scored more goals.

Aaron Ramsey seems to be the Arsenal player most likely to offer value to fantasy managers at the moment with Alexandre Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac worth considering too.

Spurs just about managed to win 1-0 at home to Palace in their last game, but those three points moved them level on points with second placed United. They have won four of their five away games with only City scoring more away goals and no other team conceding less goals on their travels. They have won five of their last six games and have kept a clean sheet in six of their 11 games with only United conceding less goals.

Harry Kane looks like a must have for fantasy managers, but he has failed to score in six of the 10 games he has played while Christian Eriksen and all of the Spurs defenders are pretty good bets too and it's hard to ignore Dele Alli if he's passed fit to play.

This is a big game for both teams and one which Arsenal really need to win and I think they might just about do so.

Prediction: 2-1

Bournemouth v Huddersfield Town

3pm GMT, Dean Court, Bournemouth

Bournemouth got a very important win away to Newcastle in their last game to move them out of the bottom three. They have only won once in five home games and no other team has scored less goals at home. They have won two of their last three games, but only Palace have scored less goals so far.

Despite moving out of the bottom three it's still not easy to see any Bournemouth players who might make a difference for fantasy managers.

Huddersfield won 1-0 at home to West Brom in their last game to move into the top half of the table. They have only won once in five away games and that was in their first away game with only Palace and Everton scoring less away goals. They have won two of their last three games, but they have failed to score in six of their 11 games and only three teams have scored less goals.

I still don't think there are any Huddersfield players for fantasy managers to consider.

Both teams could do with the three points in this game and the chances are Bournemouth will get a narrow win.

Prediction: 1-0

Burnley v Swansea City

3pm GMT, Turf Moor, Burnley

Burnley won 1-0 away to Southampton last time out and they're only behind fifth placed Liverpool on goal difference. They have only lost one of their five home games with only United and Liverpool conceding less goals at home, but no other team scored less goals at home. They have only lost once in their last nine games and they have kept a clean sheet in four of their last six games.

The Burnley defenders and goalkeeper are doing very well for fantasy managers at the moment and they're available at very good prices.

Swansea lost 1-0 at home to Brighton in their last game and only Palace are below them at the bottom of the table. They have only won once in five away games, but no other team has conceded less goals away from home and they have taken more points away from home than they have at home. They have lost five of their last six games and have failed to score in six of their 11 games with only Palace scoring less goals.

Tammy Abraham still looks like by far the best fantasy option in the Swansea team and he's available at a very good price too.

I think Burnley will continue their recent impressive run by taking all three points in this game.

Prediction: 1-0

Crystal Palace v Everton

3pm GMT, Selhurst Park, London

Palace only lost 1-0 away to high flying Spurs in their last game and they came very close to getting something from the game. Their only win so far came at home while only Bournemouth and Burnley have scored less goals at home. They have taken four points from their last two home games and they're the only points they have with no other team scoring less goals and only West Ham conceding more.

Wilfried Zaha is the Palace player to have for fantasy managers if they're brave enough to pick a Palace player.

Everton came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at home To Watford in their last game and those three points moved them out of the relegation zone. They're one of three teams without an away win and only Palace have scored less goals away from home. Their win in their last game was their first in five and only West Ham have conceded more goals.

If he gets a proper run in the team I think Dominic Calvert-Lewin can do well for fantasy managers.

This is a game both teams need to win and I think Palace might just get the better of a very close game.

Prediction: 2-1

Leicester City v Manchester City

3pm GMT, King Power Stadium, Leicester

Leicester led twice in their last game away to Stoke, but they had to settle for a 2-2 draw in the end. They have won as many games as they have lost at home, but their two defeats were against Chelsea and Liverpool. They're unbeaten in five games with two clean sheets in those games, but they will do well to continue that unbeaten run in this game.

Riyad Mahrez has done well for fantasy managers in recent weeks and has to be seriously considered.

City won 3-1 at home to Arsenal in their last game to move eight points clear at the top of the table. They are the only team with a 100% record away from home and they're the top scorers away from home with no other team conceding less goals on their travels. They have won their last nine games and have six clean sheets in their 11 games and they are by far the leading scorers.

I'm still not sure which City striker is the best fantasy option, but every team should have at least one of Kevin de Bruyne, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and David Silva as well as considering the City defenders too.

As good as Leicester might have been since the new man took over I think City should be more than good enough to win with a couple of goals to spare.

Prediction: 1-3

Liverpool v Southampton 

3pm GMT, Anfield, Liverpool 

Liverpool had a very good 4-1 win away to West Ham in their last game and those three points moved them up to fifth place. They're unbeaten at home, but they have drawn two of their five games with only United conceding less goals at home. They won their last two games after only winning once in the previous six, but only five teams have conceded more goals and only the two Manchester teams have scored more.

Mohamed Salah is a must have for fantasy managers while Sadio Mane is a very good option now that he's back from injury too.

Southampton lost 1-0 at home to Burnley in their last game and they're getting a bit too close to the wrong end of the table for comfort. They have only lost one of their four away games, but only Palace and Everton have scored less away goals and no other team has conceded less away goals. They have only won once in their last six games and they have failed to score in five of their 11 games.

Southampton's defenders have done reasonably well for fantasy managers, but the clean sheets don't seem to be coming as frequently as they were a few weeks ago.

I think Liverpool should get the better of Southampton, but it will be far from an easy task for them.

Prediction: 2-1

West Bromwich Albion v Chelsea

3pm GMT, The Hawthorns, Birmingham 

West Brom lost 1-0 away to Huddersfield in their last game as they continue to slide towards the wrong end of the table. They have drawn more home games than any other team and haven't won at home since their opening game. They haven't won in their last nine games and they have failed to score in four of their last seven.

I can't see any West Brom players who might remotely interest fantasy managers at the moment.

Chelsea got a very good 1-0 win at home to United in their last game to stay hot on the heels of United and Spurs in the battle for second place. They have won four of their five away games with only City taking more points away from home. They have won their last three games after losing the previous two and they have kept clean sheets in five of their 11 games.

Alvaro Morata looks like the best fantasy choice in the Chelsea team to me, but you have to pick Caesar Azpilicueta if you pick him and Eden Hazard is a pretty good choice too.

I think West Brom's woes will continue in this game with Chelsea getting a narrow win.

Prediction: 1-2

Manchester United v Newcastle United

5.30pm GMT, Old Trafford, Manchester 

United lost 1-0 away to Chelsea in their last game and they're now eight points behind City at the top of the table. They're one of two teams with a 100% record at home and they haven't conceded a goal on their own patch yet with only City scoring more goals at home. They have only won once in their last four games after winning six of their first seven and they have eight clean sheets in their 11 games with only City scoring more goals and no other team conceding less.

Romelu Lukaku still looks like a fairly good bet for fantasy managers along with possibly the returning Paul Pogba, but every team should have at least one of their defenders or David de Gea.

Newcastle lost 1-0 at home to struggling Bournemouth in their last game to slip into the bottom half of the table. They have only won once in five away games with only Palace and Everton scoring less away goals, but only five teams have conceded less goals on their travels. They have only won once in their last six games and they have failed to score in five of their 11 games.

Newcastle's defenders and keeper are good priced options for fantasy managers with Matt Richie and Christian Atsu fitting that bill too.

I think United will be pleased to put a tough run of games behind them and should get back to winning ways in this game.

Prediction: 2-0

Sunday November 19

Watford v West Ham United

4pm GMT, Vicarage Road, Watford

Watford led 2-0 away to Everton last time out, but ended up losing 3-2 as well as missing a last minute penalty. They have only won once in five home games with only Everton conceding more goals at home. They have lost their last three games and conceded eight goals in the process and only four teams have conceded more goals.

Richarlison is the best fantasy option in the Watford team, but Abdoulaye Doucoure isn't a bad choice either.

West Ham lost 4-1 at home to Liverpool in their last game and that result cost Slaven Bilic his job as they dropped into the relegation zone. They're one of only three teams without an away win with only Liverpool conceding more goals on their travels. They have only taken two points in their last four games with 10 goals conceded in those games and they have conceded more goals than any other team.

Manuel Lanzini looks like the West Ham player most like to return points for fantasy managers if they're brave enough to pick a West Ham player.

I can see plenty of goals in this game and I think Watford will probably score more than West Ham.

Prediction: 3-2

Monday November 20

Brighton and Hove Albion v Stoke City

8pm GMT, AMEX Stadium, Brighton

Brighton won 1-0 at Swansea in their last game to move up to eighth in the table. They have only lost one of their five home games, but not too many goals have been scored by the home or away teams at their ground. They have taken eight points and kept two clean sheets in their last four games.

Pascal Gross and the Brighton defenders and keeper all look like very good fantasy options at the moment.

Stoke came from behind twice in their last game to draw 2-2 at home to Leicester, but they're still only three points above the drop zone. They have only won once in five away games, but that was their last away game at Watford. They have taken four points from their last two games after only winning once in the previous seven, but only West Ham have conceded more goals.

Xherdan Shaqiri and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting are reasonably priced fantasy choices in fairly good form at the moment.

Prediction: 1-1

That's it for this week.

See you next week.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Is Arsenal's Away Form Wrecking Their Season

With yet another dreaded international break upon us it's time to look at how the season is going for Arsenal so far. When the season began their only realistic goal in the Premier League was for a top four finish and they're currently only three points off that target after 11 games. On the face of it a top four finish is well within their reach and we should be hopeful they can make it.

For me the problem could be our away form because it is, to put it mildly, awful. We have lost four of our six away games and failed to score in theee of those games. Sure we have had to go to Liverpool, Chelsea and City, but that ignores defeats at both Stoke and Watford.

The only away win so far came away to an Everton team struggling at the wrong end of the table. We scored five of our seven away goals in that game and only managed two goals in the other five games. If we're going to put any pressure on the teams above us that away form has to improve drastically as well as maintaining our home form.

That's where our problems could arise because so far we've had a pretty good run of fixtures at home and our five wins out of five have all come against teams from the bottom half of the league. We had to come from behind to win in two of those games and we haven't really turned on the style against anyone at home. When the good teams come calling that could be a real problem and if our home form doesn't hold up we might have to kiss goodbye to our top four hopes.

It's not all doom and gloom though and we're actually only four points behind second placed United after playing away to three of the top six clubs. We have United, Spurs, Chelsea and Liverpool in our sights if we can put any sort of decent run of results together. The first step in that will be a game at home to Spurs as soon as the international break ends and it's a huge game for both clubs.

Spurs finally managed to finish ahead of us last season for the first time since Arsene Wenger took the reins at Arsenal in 1996 and the perceived verdict is that that are the better team. While it's hard to argue with that opinion at the moment a win for us would put us only one point behind them and it bears remembering that they have not won a trophy in almost 10 years. In fact if you don't count the League Cup as a major trophy (reserve teams and all that) then it's currently 26 years and counting.

In that time Arsenal have won three league titles, seven FA Cups and a European Cup Winners Cup. If that's what it means for them to be "better" than us then long may it continue. Even last season when they eventually managed to finish ahead of us we picked up our third FA Cup in four years.

All of that will count for very little if we lose at home to them next week though. It's not only a game the fans want to win, but it's also a game which could be so important to how the rest of the season goes. A win against our local rivals who are ahead of us in the table might just be the catalyst the players need to push on and cement a place in the top four, but a defeat could send us plummeting in the opposite direction.

We have seen in the past what a bad result can do to the team's confidence and how it can take a long time for them to recover. I just hope our home form can hold for that game and our 100% record at the Emirates in the league this season remains intact.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Arsenal's Trip To Manchester City Previewed

After a fairly uninspiring 0-0 draw at hone to Red Star Belgrade on Thursday night it's back to the important stuff for Arsenal today when they travel to Manchester City. That draw on Thursday night was enough to put Arsenal through to the knock out stages with two games to spare and they did it without having to use any of their current first choice team. On the other hand City had to endure a tough fight away to Napoli in midweek when they had to play their strongest team.

Of course City did win that game 4-2 and they're though to the knockout stages of the Chamoions League as a result of that win. They're also sitting pretty on top of the Premier League with nine wins and a draw from their first 10 games and they already look like it will be almost impossible to stop them winning the league. They are the in form team in Europe at the moment and there probably isn't a team playing better than them or with more of a goal threat.

Arsenal haven't done well away to the rest of the six big clubs in the Premier League in a long time and we have been on the end of far too many pastings. Far too often Arsene Wenger has gotten his team and tactics completely wrong in these games and the latest case in point was the 4-0 defeat at Liverpool in August. However he did manage to do just the opposite when we visited Chelsea only a few weeks later and came away with a credible 0-0 draw.

Our chances today don't entirely rest on the manager's decisions though as the players have to find it within themselves to put in the performance required. Far too often their attitude has been all wrong and while you can get away with it sometimes against lesser teams you get punished by the better teams. City have already shown how lethal than are and they tend to put teams away when they have them on the ropes.

As good as City have been this season they did drop their only points at home to an Everton team who are not exactly doing well this season. Everton set out to frustrate City and they nearly took the three points, but they tired and City equalised late on. Everton were helped by being up against 10 men for all of the second half, but their example surely has to be the template for Arsenal today.

I would be very surprised if we don't see the same team as the one who beat Swansea 2-1 last week. With the players we currently have available that team is more or less our strongest team and the manager is more than likely to go with it. I don't think the midfield duo of Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka offers enough cover to our defence and those two players will have to be at their very best today.

Xhaka has developed a nasty habit of giving the ball away in the wrong place and City will punish us if he shows that slackness today. They are deadly on the break and their attacking options seem almost limitless at the moment. It is going to take 100 % concentration for every minute of the game to stop them and I'm not sure we can do that.

As good as City are they can be exposed at the back and we have the players who can do that. Alexis Sanchez could well be a City player next season and he is the man most likely to upset the apple cart today. If we can get enough of the ball to him and Mesut Ozil I think we will make the chances for Alexandre Lacazette and hopefully we can score some of them.

I have no doubt City will get their chances too, but we need to keep those chances to a minimum and probably ride our luck a little too. It is within the capabilities of these players to get a result today and anything other than a defeat today would be a great result. I'm not saying I'm confident of them doing that today as past experience has taught me some painful lessons with Arsenal. I've learned those lessons the hard way, but the problem with Arsenal seems to be the players and manager haven't learned those same lessons.

Our realistic aim for this season has to be a top four finish and the result of this game won't have too much beating on that I suppose, but the right result might give us the confidence we require to finish in the top four. We need big displays from our big players today and if they show up ready to go anything is possible. We have a very good recent record against City with only one defeat in the last nine games and it would be great to continue that run today however unlikely that might seem.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.