Friday, 24 August 2012

Premier League Predictions

So I have decided that each week I will be doing predictions for the Premier League game over the weekend. Let’s see how I do!

Swansea v West Ham
Saturday K.O. 12:45pm Live on Sky Sports

Swansea and Michael Laudrap surprised everyone with the 5-0 thrashing they handed out to QPR last weekend whilst the Hammers got their season up and running with a 1-0 win at home to Aston Villa. This game sees West Ham’s first visit to the Liberty Stadium and I don’t think it will be a happy one. The Welsh club will be oozing with confidence after their opening result and in front of their home fans will be keen to put on a good show. West Ham have bought well with Matthew Jarvis signing this afternoon, but they haven’t had time to gel as a team yet. With Michu up from I think Swansea will edge this game and make it two wins from two.

Swansea 2-0 West Ham United

Aston Villa v Everton
Saturday K.O. 3pm

Aston Villa look set to endure a long hard season in my opinion. With Darren Bent they have firepower but with nothing to put the bullet in the gun I think they are going to struggle. Marouane Fellaini was totally unplayable against Manchester United and the Toffees seem determined this year to start well, something they have consistently struggled to do in seasons past. This fixture has away win written all over it and will see the pressure on Paul Lambert increase at this early stage of the season.

Aston Villa 0-1 Everton

Manchester United v Fulham
Saturday K.O. 3pm

Fulham victories at Old Trafford are such a rare event the South London club actually released a DVD of their last one!  This time around will be no different. Despite Fulham’s fantastic start to the season with their new look squad, a United squad angry at losing to Everton will be too much for them. I expect to see Robin Van Persie start his first game for the Red Devils and for the Dutchman and Rooney to create havoc; expect a lot of chat about how dangerous these two will be this season after the game. 

Manchester United 3-1 Fulham

Norwich City v Queens Park Rangers
Saturday K.O. 3pm

Funny how things pan out isn’t it? Both of these sides lost their opening game 5-0 and both will be looking to kick start their season at the second time of asking. Norwich are at home and I think this will give them the edge in what will be a high scoring game. Neither posses very good defensive lines and the game will be won on who takes their chances. Expect Grant Holt to grab his first goal of the season and I fancy a QPR player to see red at some point.

Norwich City 3-2 QPR

Southampton v Wigan Athletic
Saturday K.O. 3pm

A real acid test for the Saints this. After last weeks thrilling game with Manchester City, this game will go a long way to providing a glimpse of how Southampton will fair this season. These two wont be far away from each other all season in the league table and this game is a real chance for either side to grab three points. Southampton are still buzzing from being back in the top flight and with this being their first home game of the season I think they will be the victors. Wigan wont go down without a fight however, they know that a good start can see them finish the season comfortably for once, but Mr Ricky Lambert will be the difference.

Southampton 2-1 Wigan Athletic

Sunderland v Reading
Saturday K.O. 3pm

A contender for last slot on MOTD I think, both sides will be careful not to lose this one as they look to consolidate opening day draws. Reading have a lot to prove with most predicting them for the drop but they gave a fantastic account of themselves at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening and can take a lot of confidence from that. Manager McDermott said he didn’t know how to play for a draw; unless he finds that out quickly the Championship beckons. Sunderland have just welcomed Steven Fletcher into their ranks and he will be looking to make a good start to his Black Cat career. With Reading keeper Adam Federici looking deciedley dodgy in their first two games I think Flethcer will have something to celebrate; however Reading are playing without fear and I expect them to come away with a point.

Sunderland 1-1 Reading

Tottenham Hotspur v West Bromwich Albion
Saturday K.O. 3pm

A big test for AVB this. After WBA's superb victory over Liverpool they will be going into this game with their heads held high. Spurs lost at Newcastle but the score could have easily been reversed had the North London side taken more of their opportunities. A lot of White Hart Lane eyes will be on AVB in his first home game and anything other than a win will hear Harry Redknapp’s name being sung in some quarters. Spurs will win the game, but it wont be as a easy as they would like.

Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 WBA

Chelsea v Newcastle United
Saturday K.O. 5:30pm Live on ESPN

Last season Newcastle came to the Bridge and won 2-0 courtesy of two wonder goals from Papiss Cisse. This time the Toon Army might not have quite so much to shout about. Newcastle did well to beat Spurs last weekend with Demba Ba finding the back of the net with a fabulous finish. Chelsea have won both of their fixtures thus far and in Eden Hazard have uncovered a real game changer. If Torres, Mata and Hazard are all on form then Newcastle will be in real trouble. I think they will be and it will be 9 points from 9 for Di Matteo’s men.

Chelsea 2-0 Newcastle United

Stoke City v Arsenal
Sunday K.O. 1:30pm Live on Sky Sports

The Stoke faithful always enjoy the visit of Wenger’s men to the Britannia and dishing out their well known battling style of football. However, I think Arsenal are very well-equipped to deal with the aerial assault that so many times has been their downfall. Arsenal fans will learn a lot about their new signings Cazorla, Podolski and Giroud as they experience how tough this league can be, how they react could either make or break their career. Stoke started with a disappointing draw at Reading and I think they are there for the taking. I expect (and hope) Arsenal can snatch a much needed win here to kick start their season.

Stoke City 1-2 Arsenal

Liverpool v Manchester City
Sunday K.O. 4:00pm Live on Sky Sports

This Super Sunday could see things go from bad to worse on Merseyside for new manger Brendan Rogers. If City come and play the Reds off the park, which is a strong possibility, then Rogers will find himself under a big, bright spotlight. Even without Aguero, City will be too strong with Joe Allen being swallowed by the force that is Yaya Toure and Carlos Tevez proving too much for Skertel and Carragher.
Liverpool 0-2 Manchester City

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Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Big Kick Off

The new Premier League Season kicks off on Saturday and I for one cannot wait. To get you all as excited as I am here is my list of the top five things to look forward to ahead of the new season.

1)   The Big Buys

This summer has seen the big clubs go against tradition and try to get their business done early on in the summer instead of waiting until Transfer Deadline Day to complete that all important deal-something that Sky Sports News Presenter Jim White will be most upset about. Podolski at Arsenal, Hazard at Chelsea, Kagawa at United and Vertoghen at Spurs. The big price tags now have to transfer into big performances. At least one will flop and at least one will become a new star, trying to guess which one will do what is our game!

2)   Under New Management

Six clubs go into the new campaign with a new boss at the helm; Brendan Rogers at Liverpool has spent most of the summer clearing out the deadwood from Kenny’s time and has bought well. It’s going to be very interesting seeing if Liverpool will adapt to his quick attacking passing style.

Rogers I feel is the new manager under the most pressure as the season gets underway. The pressure at Liverpool to get back amongst the big boys is huge and I hope that Rogers becomes a success on Merseyside because his style of play is a joy to watch and produces good football.  Di Matteo in his first full season at the Bridge also has a tough task. Despite winning the Champions league last season the pressure for success at Chelsea is huge and one poor season can see the exit door wide open, something Carlo Ancelotti knows that only too well.

AVB at Spurs has a second chance to prove himself in the Premier League. For whatever reason things didn’t work out at Chelsea but now is his chance to really show what he can do. Following Harry Redknapp however means a good start to the season is essential to keep the Spurs faithful on side. As for those in the lower half of the table, I think Chris Hughton will be fine at Norwich, good manger at a good club. I worry for Steve Clark at West Brom, a poor start could be very hard to recover from.

3)   The ‘Surprise Package’

Three seasons ago it was Hull, then Blackpool and last season it was Swansea, who will be this seasons surprise? The Surprise Package spend the first four months playing attacking football without any fear or respect for anyone collecting points away at the big teams whilst a raucous home crowd see mid-table teams easily swept aside. They are predicted the drop before term begins but see themselves safe by about mid-January (apologies Blackpool fans). Contenders this year include new boys Reading and Southampton; along with I think Wigan (honestly a good start with a few surprise wins could see a comfortable mid table finish) and Sunderland-Martin O’Neil knows how to run a good football club.

4)   The ‘Talking Point’

In previous seasons we have had overzealous goal celebrations, beach-ball goals, wild challenges and dodgy pre-match handshakes, what will this seasons talking point be? It’s a topic no one can predict but I cant wait to spend hours waffling on about whether or not his hairstyle put the keeper off or if the ball wasn’t exactly in the corner. An event will occur during a match that will stick around for the rest of the season. There is no saying what it might be, lets all hope for the return of the blonde streaker.

5)   The Title Challenge

After last season’s epic once-in-a-lifetime finale (Thank you Aguero), this campaign has a lot to live up to; I believe it’s got all the right ingredients. Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City, United and Spurs all begin the season with the title in mind and its going to make for a fascinating battle. I think City start as favourites despite their lack of new signings, but anyone of those teams have the players and the manager to put together a title-winning season. Its going to make for a rip-roaring season, one that will enthral us for the next nine months and again go down to the last day. Coupled with the fight against relegation and the battle for the top four, this season is gearing up to be a belter.

Roll on 3pm Saturday. 

Arsenal: The Big Boys Fodder?

Arsenal, I love them. A Gooner for 14 years I’ve witnesssed history in the making  and discovered two Gods; a Mr A.Wenger and a Mr T.Henry. However in recent years, things have taken a turn for the worse. Arsenal are still producing fantastic, world-class players who are winning titles season in, season out. The only problem is, they aren’t winning these titles in North London.

Here is a list of players who have left Arsenal in the past 6 years and have gone on to win a major trophy within the next two years. Ready? Deep breath….Alexander Hleb, Thierry Henry, Ashley Cole, Kolo Toure, Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini.

I spend hours sitting and wondering what could’ve been had these players stayed, Arsenal would be world-beaters! Manchester City won the Premier League last season with three ex-Arsenal players on their books. With Van Persie now expressing his desire to leave and Theo Walcott stalling on signing a new deal, it seems history is again repeating itself. Why have we become a feeder club for the European big boys? Who is at fault?

The obvious fact is Arsenal have now not won a trophy for seven seasons, that is simply not good enough. Cup finals have come and gone, title challenges have risen and then faded, that elusive silverware has remained exactly that. These players know that their time at the top of the game is limited and they want to win trophies, to have something to show for their efforts. They put their faith in Wenger’s ideology and when it doesn’t work they lose their faith in the Frenchmen and move elsewhere. This leads me on to a rather worrying thought; despite all of his excellence, does our pragmatic leader lack the mental strength for the month of May?

For all his good work, whenever it comes to crunch time, does Wenger lose his bottle? The lack of a back up plan, the stubbornness to not just lob the kitchen sink at the goal and see what happens and his refusal to initiate a ‘Plan B’ are these the reasons for Arsenal’s failings. The man is a legend, what he has done for the club will never been equaled, but recently has he lost his nerve? Its been so long since he won a trophy I’m worried he is afraid to lose rather than looking to win.

Wenger is a top manager, good enough to recognize what is happening and this summer he has spent big money in an attempt to convince those at the club eyeing up the exit door that Arsenal will be trophy contenders this season.  Podolski, Cazorla and Giroud all add talent to the side if RVP does a ‘Rooney-esque’ U-turn and Theo signs on the dotted line, this season could really be a game changer for Arsenal.

We need to get rid of our current feeder club status, for too long with have provided other teams with the quality to win trophies. Lets keep hold of our firepower and see where it takes us.

In Wenger we trust.