Crunch time for Emery as Arsenal hosts Wilshere… EPL predictions

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Manchester City and Liverpool sit pretty on top of the log, no surprises, they are the best two teams in the league on paper and on the pitch too, two wins in two and they don’t look like stopping any time soon. Chelsea, Watford and Bournemouth are on same wavelengths with the super two but for how long? Chelsea are beginning to look the part, great team spirit to stay composed after Arsenal surged back into the game last weekend but signs are there that the team isn’t done yet. Wolves keep showing glimpses of greatness but luck hasn’t been kind to them, they struck the wood work twice before conceding an own goal and then a goal from James Maddison with a healthy chunk of deflection. Fulham spent so much yet their fans have no joy yet, Tottenham are on six points with the leaders and Harry Kane does have a goal in August but Fulham could have stunned them if they took their chances, it’s still early days but no room for excuses.

Premier league predictions for the next round, just before the traditional summer window closes officially for the rest of Europe having closed for England; loads of tricky fixtures here and there, we deliver our take below.

 

Saturday 25th August

Wolves vs Manchester City

Molineux Stadium

12:30pm

Manchester City must be dreaded by anyone, no Kevin De Bryune and Sterling against Huddersfield and they were still as ruthless as you can imagine, fast, compact and precise. City blitzed past the Terriers six times, they did concede one but it’s inconsequential. Wolves were a tad unlucky as they slumped to defeat at Leicester, they struck the upright twice with fast paced counter attacking football, they were in the game till the very end, element of luck came to play for the Foxes at the detriment of the new boys. Manchester City’s game play is scary, goalkeeper Ederson even weighed in with an assist in the demolition of Huddersfield, tells you how purposeful they are with their strategy, with Sergio Aguero upfront, Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez or Leroy Sane, whoever is called on to complete the forward line, it’s never going to be easy for anyone filing out against the champions. Nuno Espirit Santo was vocal in his confidence, he is pretty sure an upset is possible but City has won four of the last five against Wolves, a streak that looks certain to continue. Wolves will have to stay back with lots of discipline and maintain mental awareness for runs behind their defense, man for man they aren’t anywhere close but they will fancy their chances.

Player to watch: Sergio Aguero

Verdict: Manchester City to win

 

Huddersfield vs Cardiff

John Smith’s Stadium

3:00pm

If you saw Cardiff against Newcastle you’d love them, they were dangerous on the counter and interesting to watch largely due to the industrious left winger Joshua Murphy. It was a joy to watch identical twins Jacob and Josh square up in the second half as the former got off the bench after Isaac Hayden had been sent off for the Magpies. Huddersfield were hapless against City, there was little they could do against a side that would do that to almost everyone in the league, six times they had to retrieve the ball from their gapping net as almost every attack troubled them. Here’s a potential relegation six pointer, most book makers fancy the two clubs to go down and with the way the Terriers have started this campaign; it won’t be long before they start preparing for life in the Championship. An ode must be due to Neil Etheridge, Cardiff’s shot stopper who denied Kennedy from the spot at the death, he won the point for them and he deserves a mention, should Huddersfield be handed a penalty in this fixture, they shouldn’t celebrate until they beat Etheridge. Cardiff City have won every of their last four games against Huddersfield, something David Wagner must be wary of, just one consolation… Stats don’t play football.

Player to watch: Joshua Murphy

Verdict: Cardiff to win or draw

 

Bournemouth vs Everton

Vitality Stadium

3:00pm

Bournemouth are having a dream start, they’ve played twice and have only conceded once, joint second with Manchester City, only second to Liverpool who are yet to be beaten this term. Bournemouth struggled last season, although they were the highest finishers of all the South Coast clubs, they would want more than relegation scraps, a good start to that effect. Everton have started brightly too, yet to be beaten despite going down to ten, Marco Silva’s side are a joy to watch, Richarlison has found his feet early at Goodison and he’s fans’ favorites already. It’s like for like, two teams that like to attack, two managers that do not care about defending, Theo Walcott, Cenk Tosun and Richarlison will be too much a burden for the Cherries but hey, the hosts are not afraid, it would be a game of chances. This fixture has always been about the home side, the last five times they have met in the Premier League, the home side has carried the day, nineteen goals scored between them and Bournemouth winning the last in front of the Vitality faithful in December 2017. The neutrals will enjoy every bit of this.

Player to watch: Richarlison

Verdict: Both teams to score

 

Southampton vs Leicester

St Mary’s Stadium

3:00pm

The next of our simultaneous fixtures takes us to the St Mary’s Stadium, home of Mark Hughes’s Southampton. By the skin of their teeth, the Saints avoided relegation last season, they left it late, toiled and labored and they have started another campaign on the back of struggles. They had a stalemate with Burnley on the opening day and managed a goal of little significance as they lost at Everton, they have to step up, fire on all cylinders or they may have to do the old difficult way again.

Let’s talk Leicester shall we? The talks of luck amount to nothing if you don’t take advantage, after Joao Moutinho struck the upright, Leicester could have still gone behind, a close range effort from Jimenez rattled the woodwork again before an unfortunate own goal ruined the script for Wolves, moments later, kid forward, James Maddison fired in albeit off another Wolves defender to complete the misery, the Foxes stayed compact and saw out the result, more of that at St Mary’s and Leicester might just be heading for yet another win as Claude Puel tries to steady the ship. Leicester won 4:1 at St Mary’s in December, the second of their wins in the last five between the two in the league, two goalless draws a one resounding Southampton win, way back in January of last year.

Player to watch: Demarai Gray

Verdict: Leicester to win or draw

 

Arsenal vs Westham

Emirates

3:00pm

Arsenal lost their opening two games for the first time in a very long time but there seems to be no pressure around the Emirates. Arsenal looked average at best against the Champions on the opening day but showed great signs of improvements in the second game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge coming from behind to level twice before Marcus Alonso side footed in late on. Westham have started poorly as always, the big money spent is yet to be of any value as players try to fit into Manuel Pellegrini’s style. Major talking point will be a certain Jack Wilshere in the lineup of the Hammers, the England international departed the Emirates in the summer following the arrival of Unai Emery, it will be the first time ever that the 26 year old will be facing his boyhood club as he tries to walk his way back into reckoning. Westham don’t have good records against the Gunners anywhere, they will count on Felipe Anderson and Marco Arnautovic as they try to kick start their season, interestingly, they both have wrongs to right, they both lost their opening two, they both have a new manager and results matter now.

Player to watch: Pierre Emerick Aubameyang

Verdict: Arsenal to win

 

Liverpool vs Brighton

Anfield

5:30pm

The last fixture for the day sees a battle at Anfield between mesmerizing Liverpool and the slayers of the devils, Brighton. Liverpool are in cloud 9, they deserve to live there, their apartment up there looks to be made of bricks and steel, they don’t look like one that the storm can erode. Two goals in the twilight of both halves against a hard fighting Palace side on Monday leaves the Scoucers in second only on goals difference, Sadio Mane seems to have slotted into the Mohammed Salah position, scoring freely and giving opposing teams lots of headaches. Brighton had their 90minutes of fame last weekend as they took Manchester United to the cleaners at the Amex Stadium, what a confident performance, from Matt Ryan, to Shane Duffy, Leon Balogun who replaced their injured captain, to Anthony Knockert, Pascal Gross and Glenn Murray, the Seagulls deserved all the praise they got after destroying Jose Mourinho’s men. Liverpool will not be easy to contain for the Seagulls, they will struggle to see the ball, but if they press repeat, from last weekend game, they could be eyeing the scalp of yet another top team. Chris Houghton who clocked sixty recently won’t want to see the stats against his men, they have lost each of their last four against Liverpool in all competitions, he has just one statement in response to that… Stats don’t play football.

Player to Watch: Sadio Mane/Pascal Gross

Verdict: Liverpool to win

 

Sunday, 26th August

Watford vs Crystal Palace

Vicarage Road

1:30pm

Watford are on top form, two wins in two and all those calling for the head of Jarvi Gracia a while ago are aligned behind the Spaniard. Watford beat Burnley at Turf Moor, that’s a huge result considering how difficult it is to face Sean Dyche’s men away from home, it gave them some fresh air as they aspire for something better than relegation scraps this term. Crystal Palace gave their all against Liverpool, very unlucky to concede at the tail end of each half, one to a penalty that left lots of questions for the thinking faculty of Mamadou Sakho and another breakaway goal at the tail end of the second half, not long after they were reduced to ten men following Wan Bissaka’s professional foul on Mo Salah. Both sides are entertaining to watch, the statistics of recent games hugely favor the Eagles, Roy Hodgson’s men are unbeaten in five against Watford, they are in strong positions to soar and banish the loss at home to Liverpool as a fluke. Wilfred Zaha is the man for Crystal Palace, starting Christian Benteke does more harm to the team than they think, he seems to be out of touch with skills and discretion, Sorloth will do better as seen in his cameo against Liverpool. Abdoulai Doucoure and Hughes are the men for Watford, if they are allowed to roam as they want, they will clip the wings of the Eagles at the Vicarage Road Stadium.

Player to watch: Wilfried Zaha

Verdict: Both teams to score

 

Fulham vs Burnley

Craven Cottage

4:00pm

Fulham spent the most of the new boys, bringing in loads of players while still keeping hold of their sensational teenage star Ryan Sessegnon. The game at Wembley offered lots of promise and lessons as Fulham caved in to defeat after Aleksander Mitrovic headed in from close range to level matters, the loss meant they still have no point to call their own yet upon their return from the Championship after four years of absence from the top flight. Burnley were the toast of last season, European duties seem to be their undoing however as they have to negotiate Olympiakos for a place in the group stages of the Europa League. The loss at home to Watford was bizarre, no one goes to Burnley and score three outside the top teams, some even get beaten at Turf Moor, the stress of continental engagement is usurping the Clarets and they do have to watch it. Here the hosts have only one job, beat Burnley and give your season a lift, if they fail to, doomsday bearers will be on their backs with compass pointing southward. The last fixture between this two was in 2016 at Craven Cottage in the English Championship, Burnley won 3:2, the last time they met in the Premier League on this ground, Fulham won 3:0. This will be fun to the neutrals.

Player to watch: Ryan Sessegnon

Verdict: Fulham to win

 

Newcastle vs Chelsea

St James’s Park

4:00pm

Chelsea hardly finds it easy at St James’s Park, it’s not written anywhere that they can’t win there but they always manage to either share points or return home empty handed, this is a new era, a new manager and a new agenda, and something must be different this time. Newcastle were their own enemies at Cardiff, they had no business playing Isaac Hayden at right back after Manquillo hobbled off, the former Arsenal midfielder got sent off and things got hard for Rafael Benitez’s men, they got a penalty at the death and unbelievably, Kennedy opted to showboat and gifted the ball to Etheridge who is fast building a reputation for himself as a spot kick specialist. Chelsea saw off Arsenal in a very entertaining London derby at Stamford Bridge, Arsenal fought back from two goals down after Pedro and Morata who was scoring only his second in sixteen appearances had given Chelsea the lead, Marcos Alonso’s winner handed Mauricio Sarri his second straight maximum point and this will be very challenging. Newcastle beat Chelsea 3:0 on the 13th of May, 2018 as the league shut down last season, another testimony of Chelsea’s struggles against the Magpies at St James’s Park. Man for man it’s always heading one way, but Newcastle have it all to prove against a title pretender.

Player to watch: Jonjo Shelvey

Verdict: Newcastle to win or draw

 

Monday 27th of August

Old Trafford

8:00pm

Manchester United are in turmoil, talks of a banner flying round the ground bearing words against club Vice-Chairman, Ed Woodward means most people still very much back Jose Mourinho, but the crisis is deeper than that. Mourinho has a track record of struggling in his third season anywhere he goes, the signs are clear again, from the way he handled the Anthony Martial situation, to the spat with Paul Pogba, one can tell that the Portuguese needs to check something within. Tottenham have everything going fine on the pitch, off it they have questions to answer; they have mishandled the stadium issues and must make it up to their fans. Two wins in two for Spurs and even a goal in August for Harry Kane, he bent one past Fulham to seal the result when the visitors looked like bouncing back. For United, that horrendous loss at Brighton will haunt them for long, fans will demand for more, they have to give it. Luckily for Jose Mourinho, They always find a way to beat Tottenham at Old Trafford, no matter how difficult it is, they will always find a way; it was Martial who latched on to a Romelu Lukaku knock down last October, even though they met twice after then and they both won one each. Man for man it will be tight, defensively United are in trouble, they need more than few training sessions to stop the rampaging Tottenham midfielders, fans will hope Mourinho won’t sit deep and bore them to death but trust Spurs to take the game to the Devils.

Player to watch: Dele Alli

Verdict: Tottenham to win or draw

 

 

Strictly the writer’s opinion

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