The league table is beginning to take shape, teams are taking their customary places, one or two are in odd places, Bournemouth comes to mind up there and Fulham, with respect to how much they spent in the summer and their current league position. Manchester City showed grit to continue their Wembley dominance by beating Spurs on Monday and retained their top spot on the table; Crystal Palace halted Arsenal’s winning streak at the twelfth time of asking with a late contentious penalty to end the game all squared.
Chelsea are firmly on course with yet another scintillating win away from home and this time, without talismanic forward Eden Hazard too, sign of squad quality right? Damn right!. Elsewhere, Liverpool beat Cardiff very well to cement their place up there with the Citizens and are well placed to visit Arsenal and wreck havocs without remorse; at the other end of the table, Newcastle are in trouble, so is David Wagner, the Huddersfield manager who joins Rafa Benitez as the only managers not to have tasted victory yet this season, time isn’t running out yet but another weekend of defeat takes both to yet another new low and a gulf is brewing between them and the surrounding teams…
Weep not for Wagner, weep not for Benitez, hold your breath as we head into another weekend of pulsating Premier League duels, here’s the prediction as always…
Saturday 3rd November
Bournemouth vs Manchester United
Bournemouth any day any time will be a test to anyone, how much more a somewhat inconsistent side like Manchester United who saw the back of Everton last weekend but had to do it the hard way especially with the Toffees waking up to it at the death.
Bournemouth went to Craven Cottage and shipped three past their hosts, Callum Wilson on a brace and new kid on the block, Brooks added the third in between both Wilson goals, the win keeps the Cherries above United and firmly behind Spurs in sixth.
Manchester United beat Everton 2:1, great result considering how good the Toffees have been of late but any day any time, Manchester United will never be in the same class with Everton, no disrespect; victory over Marco Silva’s men will never be a yardstick to measure the strength of the Old Trafford side, regardless of what the post-Ferguson era statistics say.
Fleet footed Bournemouth up against Jose Mourinho’s side, a side that can be static and frustrating to watch, headaches will return to Old Trafford, questions will be asked of the manager’s tactics and the attitude of a whole lot of the squad members will be under scrutiny because here’s one fixture they will not find interesting, Paul Pogba can’t afford to migrate from brilliance to low end foolishness in same game as he did against Everton, he won’t get away with it here.
Player to watch: Ryan Frazer
Verdict: Bournemouth to win or draw
Cardiff vs Leicester
Cardiff City Stadium
Cardiff City Stadium welcomes a very sorrowful Leicester City to the ground following last weekend’s horrific news of their owner’s death, the unfortunate incident happened shortly after Wilfred Ndidi’s scorching leveler at the death against Westham, five lives altogether were lost including the pilot and his co pilot who happened to be his partner.
Cardiff City will not be kind here, they lost emphatically at Anfield last weekend and they won’t want to lose the momentum that their solitary win this season against Fulham gave them, another win will boost confidence and position them for a good fight and create a daylight between them and their drop zone rivals, they have to win here and they have to do it early too as Leicester are known for late resurgences.
Leicester City with their black armband will look to give something to their charming old boss who departed in the helicopter crash of Saturday evening, the entire city is mourning and it’s somewhat brave of them to go ahead with this fixture despite being offered the opportunity of postponing the game; their late draw against the Hammers was going to be celebrated before news broke out that a carrier belonging to their owner was involved in a crash, everyone learned later that no one survived.
Last five fixtures between these two produced three draws, a result that Leicester would grab with both hands.
Player to watch: Josh Murphy
Verdict: Cardiff to win or draw
Everton vs Brighton
With three wins in their last five, Everton will look to put last weekend’s loss to Manchester United behind them and fire past the Seagulls who themselves have gone three straight games without dropping a single points for the first time in their premier league career.
In Everton’s loss to the Red Devils, they left it late, and were unlucky not to get a point at the death, they were sloppy early on which helped the hosts to steer clear with two goals and had anyone tracked quicker than Pogba, the penalty rebound that earned the Frenchman a goal after missing the main attempt wouldn’t have happened.
Brighton beat Wolves, the oldest men in the league both combined to give Brighton the goal with 35 year old Murray sliding in from close range and Wolves couldn’t respond; Australian stopper Matt Ryan was on hand to repel everything Ruben Neves and Co offered on the day and he sure deserves a mention for the Seagulls but the news of the death of the fans that collapsed in the stadium during the game left bitter taste in everyone’s mouth in a very sorrowful weekend in English football.
Everton are enjoying a new lease of life, the atmosphere is different now, the team is attacking and the fans are buzzing, compared to the days of Sam Allardyce and Ronald Koeman, life is beautiful for the Toffees now; Brighton are looking like a team that won’t join the relegation stories this season, they are up to 11th and will be a very formidable test to Everton here, set pieces remain their major strength, a huge weakness on the part of Everton who just can’t keep clean sheets.
Player to watch: Richarlison
Verdict: Both teams to score
Newcastle vs Watford
St James’s Park
Newcastle must give this game everything they have, they must dig deep and deliver the best way they can, they can’t afford to lose again or even drop points, but they have to do it against a Watford team that doesn’t look like taking a foot off the pedal.
Last weekend, Newcastle fought out a draw at Southampton, they were on the back foot for long as the Saints mounted serious pressure on the Magpies, not a single shot on target for the visitors but resolute defending and brave goalkeeping earned the point and it could have been better had they taken any of the few chances that fell to them, one point forward but they just need that full points.
Watford shuffled a bit and were still intact in composure and discipline, who would have expected them to win consecutively despite the suspensions and injuries that happened to them recently, they went to Wolves and won convincingly, they hosted Huddersfield and hammered them too, Jarvi Gracia is having a time of his life and guess what? Goals are coming from everywhere, Isaaac Success scored for the first time in two years!
This game will be fiercely contested, Newcastle will show some guts but Watford will not let them stroll to it, it’s a game of who wants it more, should you be interested, Watford have won every of the last five between this two, yes, the entire five!
Player to watch: Kenedy
Verdict: Watford to win or draw
Westham vs Burnley
Westham would rue the last minutes of action at the King Power Stadium that saw Nigerian midfielder Wilfred Ndidi equalize with the last kick of the game, but the ugly incident that happened would keep the on field hurt on hold.
At Leicester, Westham played to their strengths and even brought on Antonio at the death to hoard the ball and frustrate with his pace but one moment of magic from arguably the best tackler in the league shared the spoils; with players returning from injury soon, Westham’s Manuel Pellegrini will have enough options to call on.
Burnley had their goalkeeper Joe Hart to thank despite shipping four in front of the Turf Moor Fans against Chelsea, giving them the opposite of what they felt when they rammed four past Bournemouth on the same ground. They offered nothing going forward against Chelsea, were on the back foot for the entirety of the game and must be better if they want to produce anything different this weekend.
Injuries still haunt the Hammers, Javier Hernandez started upfront in place of the injured Marko Arnautovic and he couldn’t offer much, Yarmolenko isn’t available for selection and Antonio might still not be fit enough for the start but on the opposite end, it’s nothing missing nothing broken for Sean Dyche, he has his men to call on.
Player to watch: Felipe Anderson
Verdict: West Ham to win or draw
Arsenal vs Liverpool
Welcome to the Emirates Stadium, home of the colorful and the interestingly unpredictable Arsenal, in town for the game is a very predictable Liverpool side, they have only one game plan, attack, attack and attack, and with Arsenal on a miserable first half run, expect lots of goals in this one.
Arsenal are still the form team of Europe regardless of the point dropped at Selhurst last weekend, two penalties converted by the Eagles captain gave Palace the lead and the equalizer respectively to end Arsenal’s eleven games winning run; the resulted didn’t change much on the log at either end but it raised lots of questions about Arsenal’s mentality.
Liverpool beat Cardiff cleanly but the goal they conceded after halftime against the Welsh side was the first since Antonio scored at Anfield in February of this year; the front three are firing again and with this particular game averaging five goals in the last five fixtures, Arsenal will need all the defensive discipline they can gather as this would be a very huge test to their top four credentials.
Injuries stand in the way of Arsenal here, Bellerin is injured and so is Nacho Monreal, the first choice full backs are out, Stephan Lichestener isn’t exactly who you want to throw at any of the guys up there for the Kops and Maintland Niles look short for Saturday, anyone’s money would be on Liverpool to score at least twice at the Emirates.
Pierre Emerick Aubameyang as initially expected is scoring week in week out and he is now joint top with Hazard, Salah, Mane and Firminho will test Arsenal, they have Red Star Belgrade to play in Europe, it’s a light fixture and they can concentrate on this one with optimism having at the back of their minds that Liverpool are unbeaten since Klopp joined the Kops.
Player to watch: Sadio Mane
Verdict: Liverpool to win
Wolves vs Tottenham
For the first time in a while, premier league football will be aired live on Saturday at odd hours, it’s fast and furious now and you can’t afford to slip up.
Wolves are on the downward spiral now, consecutive losses having worked hard to string wins together and they have it all to do against a very talented Spurs side. In the loss to Brighton, Wolves were unlucky, Doherty missed when scoring looked easier and the team slept off allowing Bruno and Murray to combine to hurt them with the goal that decided the game.
Spurs were lucky and unlucky at the same time in the same game, Manchester City took the lead early but it could have been worse, Raheem Sterling had chances after chances but failed to bury any, at the death, Eric Lamela should have earned a point for the hosts but he blazed over with only the keeper to beat after been teed up by Dele Alli.
This game will be fiercely contested, Spurs have a date with Barcelona in midweek, they have an eye on that while also making sure they don’t fall farther from grace in the league; Wolves need to halt the rot and not make it a norm to lose in such fashions, the gladiators will be at their best and it will not be as easy as anyone thinks. The last time Wolves beat Spurs in any competition was in 2010, the run looks set to continue.
Player to watch: Harry Kane
Verdict: Spurs to win or draw
Sunday 4th November
Manchester City vs Southampton
Southampton will draw inspiration from their 2016 4:2 victory over the Citizens as they struggle to find the net in so many games in the last two seasons.
Manchester City are the league leaders yet again, albeit on goal difference but how long before they tear off from the chasing pack? They do have a match in midweek that could mean more to them in Europe but a game at a time is the key. City held off late pressure from Spurs and maintained a clean sheet for the sixth time on the bounce, huge result that earns them another record of victories at the capital outside the London clubs.
Southampton huffed and puffed and still couldn’t get a goal against a Newcastle that ws just there for anyone’s taking. Game plan wasn’t solid, more like individual talent reliance and nothing of team show, to survive against such teams you have to do it together, you don’t have a Pereyra that could take on players and score then shoot from range or work together to open up oppositions and create credible chances, in all honesty, the Saints are hard to watch these days and you wonder how Mark Hughes feel about that.
City will punish every mistake here and Saints have to watch their discipline, they could end the game with fewer men if they allow the Citizens to frustrate them with short passes and carrots danglings, expect late tackles in the tea time fixture.
Player to watch: Sergio Aguero
Verdict: City to win
Chelsea vs Crystal Palace
Shortly after the kick off at the Etihad, Chelsea would be filing out against Crystal Palace, a team that has given them joy and sorrow in recent past.
Palace were the team that Chelsea rode on to triumph in Mourinho’s last successful season in English football and it was Palace that beat Chelsea at last season to hand the Blues a reality of impossible title defense, Antonio Conte didn’t overcome the hangover from a loss to a team that hadn’t scored nor won a game in seven attempts prior to that.
The victory over Burnley handed Chelsea 10 games without a loss in the league and every time they have started a season like that, they went on to win the league, is the title Chelsea’s? They didn’t have Eden Hazard to call on but they did it anyway, Ross Barkley was the man and he took his chances, a goal and an assist helped the Blues to four unreplied goals, now just two points behind the leaders.
Palace ended Arsenal’s run with two penalties, the point was a huge bonus with testing fixtures coming, they weren’t particularly solid against the Gunners and you wouldn’t expect them to be considering how strong Arsenal have been of late, here they have just one job to do, compete and earn a result, can they?
It hasn’t been one sided between these two in terms of recent head to head, in fact the Eagles have won twice out of the last five, impressive for a team with such weaknesses compared to the massive wights of Chelsea.
Player to watch: Eden Hazard
Verdict: Chelsea to win
Monday 5th November
Huddersfield vs Fulham
John Smith Stadium
The last game of the weekend takes us to the John Smith Stadium that is not used to seeing goals from the home side, hosting a side that has conceded more than anyone else, what a game we have on our hands for the night.
Huddersfield went to Watford and expectedly came back empty handed, they conceded three times and offered nothing going forward; they struck the upright though, something that is becoming part of their game, only Chelsea have been denied by the frame of the goal more than the Terriers.
Fulham with all the money spent are the most ridiculed in the league and you wonder how much more before the manager gets the boot? They are poor to say the least, loads of talents and nothing to show for it; the 3:0 loss to Bournemouth at Craven Cottage proved that there’s something amiss in the Lilywhites, they can’t create chances and can’t stop opponents from scoring, sad.
There’s nothing to report, it’s a relegation six pointer; The Terriers haven’t won a game this season, they have three draws, can they win this for their fans and for their hopes too? They won’t leave the drop zone win or lose tho. Fulham have to start firing, they have to start scoring and they have to stop defending, against a team like this they do have a chance.
Player to watch: Alexandr Mitrovic
Verdict: Fulham to win or draw
Strictly the writer’s opinion