Hello everyone! How are you? Anything big happened while I was gone? Maybe a person passed away and brought the whole football system to a halt? Nah that’s crazy talk. Anyway we’re back to preview the fixtures (or what’s left anyway) for gameweek 8. Nothing has changed much apart from any players potentially coming back from injuries so these previews will be a bit shorter than normal. So grab a cup of tea and let’s just get into it!
Aston Villa v Southampton
Gerrard will have had an extra week to work on a few things and a home game against a up and down side like Southampton will be a good test. The draw against City feels like a lifetime ago in the lives of us football fans. So any rope that was given to Stevie G might already be used up. A loss here and people will really start asking the hard questions.
One method would be to settle on a starting front line and then give them consistent game time to gel. A different approach to what he has done all season with chopping and changing each week. This will be a match they should be expecting to win and build on as they have one of, if not the easiest schedules going forward.
Up and down feels like the right term for this Saints side. An inspired 2-1 win at home to Chelsea followed up by a seemingly uneventful 1-0 loss to Wolves. But this has been regular life under Hasenhuttl’s reign. You are just not really sure which side is going to turn up. To give him some slack, they have just signed a lot of young and inexperienced players. So it may take a bit more time to get them up to speed.
The problem with that is when new owners arrive they usually either want results fast or they want to bring in their own manager. Only time will tell on that one. To focus on this game though, if they play to their strengths and are at their best they can win this game. Villa are not great at defending set pieces and struggle defending the counter attack. They certainly have a chance in this one.
The Saints have won 4 of the last 6 encounters with Villa winning the other 2. Both defenses are porous and so I can see both teams getting on the score sheet. If this game was in Saint Mary’s I might have picked Southampton but I am going for a score draw here.
Notts Forest v Fulham
The week off will have given Steve Cooper valuable time to get to know all his new signings better. Up to this point the starting XI was a lot of the players who brought the club up but that might soon change. You don’t sign 20+ players in the window and leave them on the bench or out of the squad. It will be interesting to see how they line up for this game against relegation rivals Fulham. It is still very early in the season but this does feel like a real 6 pointer.
They will be hoping so that the 3 at the back will be able to do enough to contain Mitrovic. If they can do that then they have a real shot in this game. Blowing 2-0 leads is not a habit you want to find yourself in. Dennis is yet to start for Forest but has proven PL goal scoring experience and with Lingard and Gibbs-White around he shouldn’t be short on chances.
It’s fair to say that Mitrovic has proved all the doubters wrong this season. Averaging a goal a game after 6 games is an incredible achievement for someone everybody thought was another Dwight Gayle or Cameron Jerome. The loss to spurs is long in the rear view mirror by now and they have a great chance to reset here. Forest will be a side they know all too well. Whether that is an advantage or disadvantage is yet to be known.
Dan James came on as a sub in the Spurs game but promises to offer real threat down the wing and another weapon for Marco Silva. Add an older but more experienced Willian to the mix and you have some interesting combinations. The Cottagers will see this as a game they must feel they can win and will be attacking from the off.
Much like the Saints, Fulham have won 4 of the last 6 in this tie and much like the other Friday night game, both sides do not have great defenses. I do fancy Fulham in this one and am going for the win and both teams to score.
Wolves v Man City
It’s been a crazy 2 weeks for Wolves. Their brand new ST signing tears his ACL less than 30 minutes into his debut and suddenly they are back at square one. Then they land on the idea of free agent Diego Costa. Initially denied a work permit, that has since been cleared up and he has signed a 1 year deal with the club. Whether he starts in this game against City I am not sure. He might lack the match fitness so could come off the bench if needed.
The real focus for Wolves though will be with their defense. Haaland is giving teams nightmares up and down the country as he seems unstoppable. But yet if the home side hope to get anything form this game that is exactly what they must do. I anticipate they will do what most teams do against City, set up in a low block and look to counter. They did a similar but slightly different tactic against Spurs and it almost worked.
A come from behind win against Dortmund mid week with Haaland scoring against his former team. City look to have finally added the last piece of the puzzle in their quest to not only win the PL but the CL. The draw against Villa will annoy them as it only gives Liverpool more hope that they can still challenge for the title. They will want to correct that and a win over Wolves right before the international break would be the best way to do that.
Walker being injured means that Stones will likely deputize at RB. This leaves the spot beside Dias open for either Akanji or Ake. Mahrez and Grealish starting midweek means it is likely Foden and Bernardo Silva play. With the lack of end product from Wolves and their ST issue a clean sheet will be the objective here.
As is the case with most City games, I expect them to win. The real question is whether they will get the clean sheet. I think they will in this case as I think both Jimenez and Costa are not what they once were as of right now.
Newcastle V Bournemouth
Eddie Howe will probably be a bit relieved with the weeks break as it gives his attacking talent such as Wilson, Saint-Maximin and Isak time to get back to match fitness. Howe also finds himself against his former team for the first time. With the away side still without a full time manager this should make Newcastle runaway favorites. The Cherries win over Forest however might cast a bit of doubt in their mind.
Newcastle’s defnese, while not perfect looks pretty solid and Pope is making a late push for the England no.1 shirt. Bruno Guimaraes will also be hoping to get back in time for this one to add a bit of class to the midfield. Even if they are missing some players if Newcastle want to be taken seriously as an emerging force in the league then this is a game they cannot afford to slip up on.
“Cannot afford to slip up” was probably the thoughts of Forest when they played this side only the 2 weeks before. Yet they found themselves on the end of a 3-2 loss. The departure of Scott Parker seems to have galvanized the squad to a certain extent. Parker’s comments would have left the squad feeling like they weren’t good enough to compete in the PL. They proved to not only everyone else but also themselves that they have a bit more to offer.
Some of the players still in the squad would have worked under Howe and have an idea of how to find some weaknesses in his teams. They will hope to exploit that as, without a real manager, they are probably playing to the same structure implemented by Parker. Solanke will be relied on to provide the goals but whether he is capable another question.
Without over complicating things here, I am going for a Newcastle win to nil.
Tottenham v Leicester
Fresh off a 2-0 loss away to Sporting in the CL, Conte will be fuming and looking to correct things straight away as they face a struggling and demoralized Leicester. Son continues to be a shadow of his former self and with players like Richarlison and Kulusevski in better form you do wonder how much longer he can keep his starting spot. Maybe the international break is exactly what he needs. A break. The man looks exhausted.
They face a side about as low in confidence as they are in the league table. The Foxes sit rooted to the bottom and without a win. This is a game that Spurs really should flex their muscles in. I would expect Kulu to come into the side for probably Richarlison and they should really be looking to keep a clean sheet here as Leicester have not had much rhythm going forward.
Speaking of lack of rhythm, Rodgers’s side have lacked any sort of it in any department this season. Individual moments form Maddison are about the only positive things you can say about them. Vardy has been handed a 2 year extension but looks out of sorts. The defense has completely collapsed and the GK situation is almost a joke. The lack of recruitment could ultimately lead to Rodgers getting the sack and then it could be a fight to stay up.
In the past you would say Vardy loves a goal against the top 6. Now you are wondering if he even starts that game. What might have helped Rodgers is the extra week on the training pitch to try and correct some issues. However with morale so low and reports of players either confused or not agreeing with the managers tactics, things are not well.
Spurs win to nil. Carry on
Brentford v Arsenal
There is not much to say about Brentford right now. A big win against Leeds and with no injury concerns. They enter into this fixture with good history as they beat Arsenal at home on the opening night last season. The away side have changed a fair bit since then but the home side are more or less the same.
Ivan Toney is pushing for an England call up for the world cup so will want to continue his good form. They will probably revert to the back 3 formation and look to hit on the counter a bit like with United. The question will be how they get around the Gunners high press. Long balls into the strikers isn’t a bad option but not very reliable. They do certainly have the weapons to threaten this Arsenal team hurting after their first loss of the season.
Yes, Arsenal would have been hoping to play Everton as soon as possible to get over that loss but alas it was not to be. Insteas they had to settle for a win over Zurich in the Europa league. Then with their game against PSV also called off it messes up their schedule futher. The good news from this is that it looks like Thomas Partey will be fit and ready to start the match. Great news for Arsenal who have missed his presence in midfield.
That would be the only change I expect to see form Arsenal on Sunday. Arteta’s men will still have the memories from last season but also know that they are the much better side. If they stick to their game plan and don’t overthink things they will be fine.
Brentford will certainly make things hard on Arsenal but I expect the Gunners to get the win here. I am going for an Arsenal win and both teams to score
Everton v West Ham
Lampard enters this game still looking for his first win of the season. Draws can only get you so far. Giving DCL more time to get back fit can only be a good thing but pinning all hopes on him is how his injuries started in the first place. This is a good chance against a West Ham team struggling to recapture last seasons form.
Frank already has his best starting XI more or less decided. The midfield may be the only area of contention. Onana and/or Gueye could push Iwobi out of the team but he has been one of their better performers this season. I do think that they will need to change their tactics for this game. Sitting back in a low block against West Ham probably isn’t the best strategy.
The Hammers are a tricky team for me to get a read on this season. Maybe I am being too harsh on them. A draw against Spurs and loss to Chelsea in a game where they should have had at least a draw are good performances. They now face a side that they really need to be beating in order to reclaim their season.
Antonio looked lively against Chelsea and caused the back 4 problems. Paqueta will be a good signing for them and Bowen should come good eventually. The area of most concern is at the back. Keher looks out of his depth at the moment and they have a fair few injuries in that department. The break would have given some of them a chance to come back. If they can be solid at the back I can see a win for them here.
As boring as it is I am going to predict a score draw here. Both sides are yet to find their best form and are probably missing 1 or 2 key bodies. I do think both teams will score.