Sunday, 22 October 2017

Arsenal's Trip To Everton Previewed

Here we go again with Arsenal trying to get back on the horse after their latest setback. Our attempt to move into the top four went off the rails last week when we surrendered a lead to lose 2-1 at Watford. We've got to get a hold of the reins again though and go to Everton today with nothing less than three points as our target.

As bad as we have been this season we have been nowhere near as bad as an Everton team who spent a fortune this summer and have nothing to show for it so far. They're at the wrong end of the Premier League and bottom of their Europa League group too. Of course selling their prize asset last summer didn't help and it seems they just can't find a way to deliver the goals Romelu Lukaku scored so regularly for them.

At least our reserves and fringe players managed to keep up their 100% record in the Europa League on Thursday night while we rested all of the team who will play today with the exception of Petr Cech. On the other hand Everton could only afford to rest a couple of players and fatigue could play a part in their performances today. However they did get the better of the fight against Lyon on Thursday night with the help of their fans who joined the melee behind the goal despite one of them having a child in his arms.

I could go into what went wrong at Watford ad nauseam, but it's such a recurring theme that it seems pointless at this stage. The cures are another thing we could discuss forever too, but I think we won't see the real cure until a complete change of mindset at the club and that will only come with a change of management. With the imminent departures of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez next summer it looks like it could be a real low point for us and it would be the perfect time for a new man to step in. We all know it won't happen though as the status quo seems to be what we do best.

Anyway I digress and it's back to today's game and what we need to do to win. For me I don't think the three central defenders are working in terms of how it affects other areas of the team. I think we need to strengthen our midfield and given the players we have the best way would be to add another play to the two we are currently playing.

When you look at the players we have available at the moment our defenders and attackers look up to the task of fighting for a top four place to me, but the centre of the park is where we are struggling. Maybe redeploying Francis Coquelin to protect a back four would give us more control in midfield, but it would require a change of tactics from the manager and the chances of that happening are slim to none. I don't see why we have to stick to the same system in every game and our approach should surely come from the tactics required to win each individual game.

It looks like Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey and Alexis Sanchez will all be fit to return today and I expect them all to play. Mesut Ozil is available too, but whether he plays or not is a different matter. There has been much debate about whether he should play or not and his overall contribution to the team, but I think you leave a player of his quality out of the team at your peril.

Comparisons have been made between Ozil and Alexis and the fates of Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie in the past. Both of those players left due to under investment in the team in my opinion and it seems the same will be the case with Ozil and Alexis. If the stories are true they both have become disillusioned with the lack of investment in the team compared to the promises made to them. It's perfectly believable and it would be a damning indictment on the club considering our financial position since we came out of our "stadium building" era.

Anyway back to Everton again and a game we could and should win despite all of our shortcomings. We have better players than them and we're in better form than them despite some of our results. The problems will come if Everton score first or pull a goal back because that's when we lose our confidence and our way. That's something they're short of too and we need to exploit their position by outplaying them from the start.

Our away record this season is dismal with one point and one goal from four games and yet that point came at Chelsea. The defeats at Stoke and Watford were hard to take and the joke performance at Liverpool still hurts when I think of it. With the manager saying he sees no reason to explain why a team are different away from home than at home I would love him to explain the difference in our home and away records this season.

I'll leave it there for today and despite our dreadful away league form I still more or less always believe we can and will any game we play. Realisation usually kicks in when I see the performances being put in by the players, but it would be a sad day for a fan not to believe his team could win a game before a ball is kicked. 

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Arsenal's Trip To Red Star Belgrade Previewed & Confirmed Line Up

After Saturday evenings debacle at Watford it's back to Europa League action this evening when Arsenal make the trip to Belgrade to take on Red Star. The Europa League has gone quite well so far with two wins out of two and seven goals in the bag. We have been able to play fringe and reserve players without it affecting the result and we're in a very healthy position in our group.

There are issues tonight of course with the defence in particular short of players. With Sghkodran Mustafi, Calum Chambers and probably Laurent Koscielny all unavailable and David Ospina too I believe we might even have to revert to a back four. There is a possibility of the elusive Mathieu Debuchey making an appearance while you would imagine Rob Holding and Nacho Monreal will have to play and maybe Per Mertesacker unless a youngter is thrown in.

In midfield we should see the return of Francis Coquelin and Jack Wilshere should get another chance to impress. It's make or break time for Wilshere and he needs to take every chance he has to make an impression while staying fit. With the issues our midfield has a fully fit and back to form Wilshere could be a huge asset, but one more long term injury would probably spell the end for him at Arsenal.

Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott should be in the team in attack and there are plenty of other options too. We could see Mesut Ozil or Alexis Sanchez in the team as Ozil only came off the bench on Saturday and Alexis wasn't even in the squad. I think we might see Alex Iwobi play though as we need our strongest team possible to play at Everton on Sunday.

After the debacle against Watford last Saturday we quite simply have to win at Everton and they are struggling this season for form and goals. I'm not too bothered about tonight as I think we will qualify from our group relatively easily with the real challenges to come in the knock out stages if the likes of Borussia Dortmund drop out of the Champions League. Equally the League Cup game at home to Norwich next week is of little importance to me.

I see our best route to next season's Champions League as possibly the Europa League, but tonight's game won't affect our chances even if a bad result further damages our weak spirit and morale. If we can have our best team ready to go at a fragile Everton team on Sunday we can undo some of the damage done last Saturday. Having said that of course I want us to win and after the results we have got so far I wouldn't be surprised if we did.

The goals have come from Walcott mainly in the Europa League, but he is a mile away from being first choice at this stage and I don't think there's much he can do to change the manager's opinion. I wouldn't be surprised to see him get one or two this evening, but otherwise his contribution will be probably be minimal as usual. Here's to a win, but most importantly here's to no injuries to any of the players who are important to the team that play on Sunday.

The team is in and you can see it below with few surprises and I would imagine none of that 11 will play from the start on Sunday with the exception of Petr Cech.

Cech

Debuchy, Elneny, Holding
Nelson, Coquelin, Willock, Maitland-Niles
Walcott, Wilshere, Giroud

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

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 did reasonably well last week despite only getting one perfect outcome, three corrrect outcomes and six incorrect and I moved four places off the bottom of my predictions League. Here's a look at how the top five of that league stands with me nowhere in sight.

 1 (1) Brisbane City FC
4
595
 2 (6) betojohn
ioannis papanikos
3
570
 2 (2) JediKnut
2
570
 4 (3) Wild Things
3
555
 5 (6) lukaszbee
1
535
 5 (5) immycader
Imran Cader
1
535

Friday October 20

West Ham United v Brighton And Hove Albion

8pm GMT, London Stadium, London

West Ham nearly held on for a 1-0 win at Burnley last week after going down to 10 men, but they had to settle for a point in the end. They have won two of their three home games and they kept clean sheets in those two games. They have only lost once in their last five games and they kept clean sheets in three of those games, but only Palace and Stoke have conceded more goals 

None of the West Ham players are really doing enough to recommend to fantasy managers, but a fit again Michail Antonio might just be able to do so.

Brighton must have thought they had taken the three points at home to Everton last week, but a last minute penalty cost them two points. They have lost three of their four away games with only Palace scoring less goals away from home. They have failed to score in half of their league games so far, but they're two points above the relegation zone and that's their goal for the season.

Pascal Gross has been the best fantasy option in the Brighton team and he's still available at a good price.

I think this will be a close game, but West Ham should have just enough to take the three points.

Prediction: 2-1

Saturday October 21

Chelsea v Watford

12.30pm BST, Stamford Bridge, London

Chelsea lost away to Palace last week and they're already nine points behind the league leaders after only eight games. They have only won once in their four home games and have only scored four goals in those games despite being the top scorers at home last season. They have only won once in their last four games, but only the top three have scored more goals.

If Alvaro Morata is fit to return he's the best fantasy choice in the Chelsea team while Eden Hazard's return should increase as he plays more games.

Watford came from behind to win 2-1 at home to Arsenal last week and those three points moved them into the top four. They have won three of their four away games with only Spurs and City taking more points on the road and only three teams scoring more away goals. They have only lost one of their eight games with only the top three scoring more goals, but only three other teams have conceded more goals.

Richarlison is the Watford player to have for fantasy managers while Abdoulaye Doucoure isn't too far behind him.

As good as Watford have been up to now I don't think Chelsea will be as easy to turn over as Arsenal and they should win by a couple of goals.

Prediction: 3-1

Huddersfield Town v Manchester United

3pm BST, John Smith's Stadium, Huddersfield 

Huddersfield lost 2-0 away to Swansea last week, but they're still three points above the relegation zone thanks to their good start to the season. They have only lost one of their four home games, but no other team has scored less goals at home. They haven't won in six games and they failed to score in five of those games with only the bottom two teams scoring less goals.

I can't see any Huddersfield players who might make a difference for fantasy managers.

United went to Liverpool looking for a point last week and came away with a drab 0-0 draw. They're unbeaten away from home with only City and Swansea conceding less away goals. They are still unbeaten with seven clean sheets in their eight games and only City have scored more goals with no other team conceding less.

Despite failing to score last week Romelu Lukaku is still a very good choice for fantasy managers while all of United's defenders and goalkeeper are very good choices too.

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

Prediction: 0-3

Manchester City v Burnley

3pm BST, Etihad Stadium, Manchester 

City put seven goals past Stoke last week to go two points clear at the top of the table. Only United and Arsenal have taken more points at home and they're the top scorers at home with 18 goals in four games. They have won their last six games and scored 26 goals in the process with no other team scoring more goals and only United conceding less.

With Sergio Aguero available again it's hard to know which City striker fantasy managers should choose, but David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane all offer loads of points from midfield.

Burnley left it late against 10 man West Ham last week, but they just about managed to take a point. They're still unbeaten away from home despite four tough away fixtures to start the season and it doesn't get any easier in this game. They have only lost one game and are unbeaten in six with clean sheets in three of those games.

Stephen Ward has done very well for fantasy managers at a good price with Chris Wood worth considering too.

With the form City are in I think they should win this game and win it with ease too.

Prediction: 4-0

Newcastle United v Crystal Palace

3pm BST, St. James' Park, Newcastle 

Newcastle led twice at Southampton last week, but they had to settle for a draw in the end. Only four teams have taken more points at home despite losing their first home game to Spurs. They have taken 11 points from their last six games and will be happy if they finish the season in their current position in the top half of the table.

None of the Newcastle players have done too much for fantasy managers so far, but Jamaal Lascelles and Matt Richie haven't done too badly.

Palace got their first goal and first points of the season last week when they won 2-1 at home to the champions. They have lost all of their away games and they're the only team not to score away from home with no other team conceding more goals on their travels. They have lost seven of their eight games and they're the lowest scorers with no other team conceding more goals.

Wilfried Zaha could be the man to save Palace now that he's back from injury and if he is he could do quite well for fantasy managers.

I think this will be a very close game and the chances are it will end in a draw.

Prediction: 1-1

Stoke City v Bournemouth 

3pm BST, bet365 Stadium, Stoke

Stoke managed to score twice at City last week, but they ended up conceding seven goals with a makeshift defence. They have only lost one of their home games despite playing three of the big six teams, but only Watford have conceded more goals at home. They have lost three of their last four games and conceded 14 goals in those games and they're only one place and two points above the bottom three.

I don't see any Stoke players making an impact for fantasy managers at the moment.

Bournemouth put up a good fight at Spurs last week, but they lost 1-0 and that leaves them in the bottom three four points from safety. They have lost all of their away games with only Palace scoring less goals away from home. They have lost six of their eight games and failed to score in five of them with only Palace scoring less goals.

Like Stoke none of the Bournemouth players are doing too much to impress fantasy managers right now.

This has the makings of a very close game with both teams badly in need of points and I think Stoke will just about win.

Prediction: 2-1

Swansea City v Leicester City

3pm BST, Liberty Stadium, Swansea

Swansea won 2-0 at home to Huddersfield last week to move out of the bottom three. They have lost three of their four home games with only three teams scoring less goals at home and only Watford conceding more. Their win last week was their first in five games and they have failed to score in five of their eight games with only the bottom two scoring less goals.

Tammy Abraham would seem to be the Swansea player to have for fantasy managers and he's available at a good price too while their defenders and goalkeeper have fared well recently too.

Leicester took a point at home to West Brom on Monday night thanks to a late goal from Riyad Mahrez, but it wasn't enough to keep Craig Shakespeare in his job. They haven't won away from home yet, but they have at least drawn their last two on the road. They haven't won in their last six games and only five teams have conceded more goals.

Jamie Vardy and Harry Maguire are the Leicester players most likely to get something for fantasy managers and maybe the change of manager will improve their form.

It's not easy to know what way this game will go, but I think it might just end with the spoils shared.

Prediction: 1-1

Southampton v West Bromwich Albion

5.30pm BST, St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton 

Southampton came from behind twice last week to get a 2-2 draw at home to Newcastle. They have only won once in five home games and they failed to score in three of those games. They have failed to score in four of their eight games and have kept clean sheets in three of them.

Fraser Forster and Maya Yoshida are the Southampton players doing the best for fantasy managers, but they're doing their best work away from home.

West Brom led at Leicester on Monday night, but a late Riyad Mahrez goal meant they had to settle for a point. They have won once in their four away games, but they have only managed two goals in those four games. They haven't won in their last six games, but they did draw four of those games and no other team has drawn more games.

I can't see any West Brom players to recommend to fantasy managers and they have some tough games coming up.

Both of these teams are having problems winning games and scoring goals which leads me to believe it could end in a goalless draw.

Prediction: 0-0

Sunday October 22

Everton v Arsenal

1.30pm BST, Goodison Park, Liverpool

Everton left it late last week, but a last minute Wayne Rooney penalty saw them take a point at Brighton. They have won two and lost two of their four home games, but they have only scored three goals in those four games. They have only won once in their last seven games and they didn't keep a clean sheet in any of those games with only Palace and Stoke conceding more goals.

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

Arsenal led 1-0 away to Watford last week, but ended up losing 2-1 thanks to some poor finishing and bad refereeing as well as their own weaknesses. They have only managed one goal and one point in their four away games with only Palace scoring less goals on the road. They had taken 10 points from their four games before last week's defeat and kept clean sheets in those four games, but three of those games were at home.

Arsenal players have not done well away from home and it's hard to recommend any of them in this game, but Alexander Lacazette, Alexis Sanchez, Sead Kolasinac and their other defenders all seem to be good bets at home.

This is a game which could go either way and I think Arsenal should just about get the better of proceedings.

Prediction: 1-2

Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool

4pm BST, Wembley Stadium, London

Spurs finally put their Wembley league hoodoo behind them last week when they just about managed to beat Bournemouth 1-0. They have only won once in their four home games with only three teams scoring less goals at home. They have taken 13 points from their last five games and kept clean sheets in four of them with only the top two scoring more and conceding less goals.

Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen are the best of the bunch in the Spurs team for fantasy managers with their defenders, keeper and Dele Alli all doing very well too.

Liverpool couldn't find enough to break down a resolute United defence last week and they had to settle for a 0-0 draw. They have only won once in four away games and no other team has conceded more goals away from home. They have drawn three of their last four games and only five teams have conceded more goals even if only the top three have scored more.

Phillippe Coutinho is the Liverpool player to have for fantasy managers while Mohamed Salah and maybe Roberto Firmino are worth considering too.

This is a big game for two teams trying to keep pace with the two Manchester teams at the top of the table and the chances are they will share the points.

Prediction: 2-2

That's it for this week.

See you next week.




Saturday, 14 October 2017

Arsenal's Trip To Watford Previewed

The second international break is finally over and when the third one finishes next month we can actually have uninterrupted real football until next March. It wasn't without it's problems for Arsenal though as Shkodran Mustafi picked up an injury and it looks like he'll be out until December. Despite the club's apparent desire to sell him in the summer he is still an intrical part of our defence and I can only assume we attempted to offload him as we had a replacement lined up.

It's a trip to Watford for Arsenal today in the evening kick off which will of course be live on BT Sports. Live TV games are a part of life for football fans and the switching of kick off times to suit the TV stations. On that point the prospect of Arsenal's home game against Liverpool on December 23rd looks almost certain to be switched to the next day.

It's a decision that takes no account of the wishes of the fans if it goes ahead and it just shows those TV companies care not a jot about about the match going fans. Besides those possibly attending the game I would be surprised if they get a good TV audience on a day when most people in this part of the world already have too much to do. 

Back to Watford and it looks like the bad news about Mustafi will at least be countered by the return of Mesut Ozil, Danny Welbeck and Francis Coquelin. None of them play in the center of defence, but at least our options in other positions will be increased. The manager has a few decisions to make ahead of a game which is a very important one for me. We have recovered somewhat from our poor start to the season and we now need to push on to try to keep pace with the top four.

United and City have started really well and will be hard to catch, but United's season gets underway today when they start to play some of the other contenders. City are a different matter and we need to have as many points as possible on the board before we play them in a few weeks. We need to target three points from today and follow it up with a maximum haul against Everton and Swansea before that trip to City on November 5th.

Watford have started the season very well under Marco Silva and their only defeat came at home to City a few weeks ago when they were thumped 6-0. They haven't won at home yet though and they have conceded more goals at home than any other team too. That statistic is somewhat skewed by the loss to City and as I said already that's their only defeat.

On the other hand Arsenal's turnaround has been fairly impressive and we have managed four clean sheets in a row in the league. It's been a long time since I can remember four clean sheets in a row for Arsenal. That run included an impressive 0-0 draw at Chelsea, but the three wins in it were all at home to teams we would be expected to beat.

Our only away point so far came in that game at Chelsea and we are one of only two teams who have failed to score away from home with the other one propping up the table without a point to their game. Our away form in the second half of last season was just not good enough and if we can't get it right this season we will not finish in the top four again. Only the top two took more points at home than Arsenal last season and we have started this season with four wins out of four on our own patch.

It looks like Laurent Koscielny will be fit to play and if he is the only change from the 2-0 win over Brighton might be a replacement for Mustafi which would be one of Per Mertesacker or Rob Holding. Ozil might come back in too of course which would probably see Alex Iwobi miss out unless Alexis Sanchez isn't up to the task after his late return and World Cup qualification disappointment. I suspect we will see both Holding and Ozil in from the start and we should have a bench with some real quality options. It's going to be a busy few weeks with with Premier League, Europa League and League Cup games to come and the strength of that bench will be tested in those games. 

As good as Watford might have been so far we still have the quality to dominate them and take the three points. I think the first goal will be crucial and I hope we can get it because I'm not sure how we will react to going behind. Besides the defeat to Liverpool we also lost at Stoke and I thought we did well in trying to get back into the game after they scored.

For me the equalising goal was coming until the manager made some quite bizarre substitutions and he should have kept faith in the players he had out there. There's no point in making changes just for the sake of it in a case like that and I hope he remembers that if today's game follows a similar pattern. If we score first and keep up our momentum I think we will win and anything other than three points would be a real blow for the team's confidence and the morale of the fans which is slowly improving. It's never easy to lose, but losing to teams you are better than is very hard to take and I think that's something that has happened too often in this calendar year.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.