Premier League predictions: Chelsea to keep up winning momentum, Spurs to bounce back, West Ham and Crystal Palace to lose
Steve Luckings gives his predictions for Round 4 of the Premier League.
Manchester City 2 Liverpool 2. Why? Liverpool start games at breakneck speed and will look to catch Manchester City cold following the international break. New signing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is in line to make his debut following his shock move from Arsenal last week, although he will find a congested engine room of Jordan Henderson, Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum. Much will depend on how Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah recover from their arduous trips to South America and Africa respectively, but the trio are proving the most difficult front line to contain so far in the Premier League while the heart of City’s defence still has question marks over it.
Arsenal 2 Bournemouth 1. Why? Some say this is the ideal game for Arsenal following their 4-0 chastening to Liverpool last time out, up against a Bournemouth side low on confidence, goals and points. In many ways that is true: Bournemouth, like Arsenal, are guilty of trying to play too much football when sometimes the situation calls for players to roll up their sleeves and do more dirty work. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger can ill afford another defeat so early in the season following a tumultuous transfer window. Three points is a must to stop the air at Emirates Stadium turning toxic.
Brighton & Hove Albion 0 West Bromwich Albion 1. Why? For this reporter the best value found in the summer transfer window was West Brom securing the season-long loan of Gregorz Krychowiack from Paris Saint-Germain. The Pole will add a quality passing game to a steely midfield high on graft but low on creativity. Brighton are a side still finding their feet following promotion from the Championship last term but supporters will expect to see signs of improvement after a fairly innocuous start to life in the Premier League.
Everton 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2. Why? Tottenham players may not admit it in public but privately they will be glad their first fixture following the international break comes away from Wembley, where they have lost their opening two home games, to Chelsea and Burnley. That’s not to say they didn’t create enough chances to win both, and they will look to do the same against an Everton side where Wayne Rooney’s latest indiscretion following his drink-driving arrest has cast a dark cloud over what has been an encouraging start to the season for Ronald Koeman’s side.
Leicester City 1 Chelsea 2. Why? Danny Drinkwater and N’Golo Kante, stalwarts of Leicester’s championship winning team in 2016, could be united for the first time as Chelsea players as the former looks to silence the doubters who say his move on transfer deadline day was just so Chelsea could fulfil their home-grown player quota. Leicester came unstuck when the champions visited in January as they tried to mirror Antonio Conte’s blueprint of 3-4-3. They are unlikely to do so again this time around at the King Power Stadium, but I expect another Chelsea win.
Southampton 0 Watford 0. Why? This match just seems to have “stalemate” written all over it. Mauricio Pellegrino is attempting to stamp his mark on a Southampton team that never look like being blown away but neither do they look capable of really hurting teams. With Charlie Austin fit again they at least have a proven finisher in the English leagues and in Dusan Tadic and Nathan Redmond they have plenty of guile but not nearly enough end product. Watford’s best chance of success lays squarely at the feet of Richarlison, the 20-year-old Brazilian striker who has acquitted himself well in England’s top tier to bely his tender years.
Stoke City 1 Manchester United 2. Why? With Romelu Lukaku leading the line Manchester United have looked devastating in the final quarter of their opening three matches and that has largely been down to the tactical acumen of manager Jose Mourinho, calling for the cavalry – mostly the pace of either Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial – to kill teams off. Mourinho, whose side have won all three opening fixtures, scoring 10 and conceding zero, could hand Ander Herrera a belated first start of the season to combat Stoke’s physicality in midfield.
Burnley 2 Crystal Palace 0. Why? Ian Holloway, Neil Warnock, Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew, Sam Allardyce, Frank de Boer. Can you guess the odd one out? All have managed Crystal Palace but it is the latter who stands out like a sore thumb. Great players don’t necessarily make great managers and the overriding sense is that De Boer was a beneficiary of privilege to have been given a plumb job at Ajax having been a student of the great Dutch tacticians Johan Cruyff and Louis van Gaal. That is not to say De Boer won’t go on to be a great manager, but trying to change Palace’s battle-hardened troops into pass-master connoisseurs was always going to be a work in progress. There are rumours that the one-time Inter Milan manager has one game to save his job. He could not have asked for a tougher away assignment than Burnley.
Swansea City 2 Newcastle United 0. Why? Swansea City may have been deprived of last season’s two most influential figures in striker Fernando Llorente, who joined Tottenham on transfer deadline day, and playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson, who joined Everton, but do have the power and energy of Renato Sanches to compensate. Arguably the deal of the transfer window (Krychowiack aside), the Portuguese midfielder found playing time hard to come by in a midfield of Xabi Alonso, Thiago Alcantara, Arturo Vidal and Thomas Muller last season at Bayern Munich but his path to the Swansea first team is likely to be much more sanguine. Never underestimate a central midfielder who can get the team up the pitch quickly (makes you wonder why Arsenal didn’t show any interest?) and Newcastle will find it hard to contain the Portuguese powerhouse desperate to remind the world of his undoubted talent.
West Ham United 0 Huddersfield Town 1. Why? If Frank de Boer has one game to save his job, you would think Slaven Bilic also has another 90 minutes to save his. Last season’s failings through the spine of the side were only addressed at its tip with the phenomenal goal-poaching skills of Javier Hernandez. Problems persist in goal, central defence and in midfield where Mark Noble’s passion runs high but his limited ability is too often exposed. James Collins and Jose Fonte seem about as mobile as Nelson’s Column, but in Steve Mounie the two centre-backs may just enjoy some change out of the giant Benin striker who prefers balls hit long and high to him rather than into feet. Aaron Mooy sets the tempo for Huddersfield and he and his teammates will look to increase the pressure on Bilic by taking three points at the London Stadium.
The transfer window is closed and, for some, it couldn't come soon enough.
Not all, though. Amazingly, five clubs - Crystal Palace, Manchester City, Manchester United, Swansea City and Watford - voted against a new law that would see the 2018/19 Premier League summer transfer window close the day before the start of next season. One club, Burnley, abstained.
But that's a way off in the distance. There are more pressing matters at hand, like this weekend's round of Premier League fixtures for a start.
For many fans it will offer a
first glimpse at some of the players brought in before the transfer window closed on August 31.
There should be Premier League debuts for
Renato Sanches at Swansea City, Gregorz Krychowiack for West Bromwich Albion, while Liverpool supporters will be wondering if their new arrival Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is worth all the fuss when Liverpool travel to Manchester City in Saturday's early games.
There are at least three managers under pressure even at this embryonic stage of the season. Arsene Wenger knows only a win at struggling Bournemouth will keep the wolves from the door at Arsenal, while rumours persist that Frank de Boer and Slaven Bilic have just 90 minutes to save their futures at Crystal Palace and West Ham United respectively.
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Updated: September 8, 2017 02:54 PM