Premier League Predictions: Week 4

11 09 2010

The Premier League returns today after an exciting week of international football. My predictions last week were quite good (even if I say so myself) as I correctly predicted the Blackburn 1-2 Arsenal, Wolves 1-1 Newcastle and Manchester United  3-0 West Ham United scorelines. So, with this in mind, I’m ready to excel myself this week and get four correct scorelines! I’ll settle for just one, though.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=the+premier+league+trophy&iid=8752786″ src=”http://view.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/8752786/carlo-ancelotti-manager/carlo-ancelotti-manager.jpg?size=500&imageId=8752786″ width=”234″ height=”354″ /]This week’s fixtures get under way at Goodison Park where Everton host Manchester United. This fixture is usually one of the better ones in the Premier League calendar and you can bet it will be again this season. Reasons for this? Well, Wayne Rooney is never made to feel welcome back on Merseyside and the revelations about his private life last week will fuel the Everton faithful to give Rooney more stick than he usually receives (if that’s possible). How, you may ask? Well, according to a group of Everton fans on Twitter yesterday, there will be a section of the Goodison crowd dressed in Bob Marley wigs ready to sing a rendition of the hit, ‘No Woman, No Cry’. Instead of those lyrics though, expect to hear, ‘No Woman, No Kai’. Harsh, maybe. But original and one of the more amusing football chants we’ve heard for a while. Anyway, enough talk of Wayne Rooney. I shall digress. Below are the fixtures for this weekend.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Everton v Man Utd, 12:45
Arsenal v Bolton
Fulham v Wolverhampton
Man City v Blackburn
Newcastle v Blackpool
West Brom v Tottenham
West Ham v Chelsea
Wigan v Sunderland

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Birmingham v Liverpool, 16:00

Monday, 13 September 2010

Stoke v Aston Villa, 20:00

Those are the fixtures and there are some cracking looking ones too. Here are the predictions:

Everton 1-1 Man Utd
Arsenal 3-0 Bolton
Fulham 1-0 Wolverhampton
Man City 3-0 Blackburn
Newcastle 2-1 Blackpool
West Brom 0-2 Tottenham
West Ham 0-3 Chelsea
Wigan 1-1 Sunderland

Birmingham 1-1 Liverpool

Stoke 1-0 Aston Villa

There are some difficult ones to predict in there. The stand-out fixture this weekend is the early kick-off at Goodison Park. They are both good footballing teams and it could be difficult to separate the them today.

As always, feel free to leave your predictions below. Here’s to a great weekend of football.

Mark

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Magpies Swoop For Gosling

23 07 2010

Newcastle United have added England under-21 star Dan Gosling to their ranks on a free transfer. The former Everton and Plymouth youngster has signed a four-year deal with the North-East club.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=dan+gosling&iid=4354443″ src=”http://view2.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/4354443/football-england-u19-czech/football-england-u19-czech.jpg?size=500&imageId=4354443″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]

Gosling (left) reportedly turned down interest from Sunderland and West Ham to become Newcastle’s second signing of the summer. James Perch joined the Magpies from Nottingham Forest earlier in the transfer window.

In an interview with Newcastle’s official website, Gosling revealed: “It’s a brilliant move for me. Now that the deal is done I just can’t wait to get started.

“I’ve played at St James’ Park before and know all about the amazing atmosphere. Playing there in a black and white shirt is something I have thought about already and it will be a great day when I finally get to walk out in front of 50,000 people.

“The gaffer Chris Hughton and all of the lads have been great with me and made me feel really welcome since I arrived and hopefully I can repay the faith that they’ve shown in me.”

Manager Chris Hughton was equally delighted and said: “We’re delighted to have signed Dan. He’s the right age and the profile that he has is what makes it such an appealing capture for us.

“He’s young but he has Premier League experience and he’s someone who can continue to develop their game.

“We see him as a high-energy player and a player who can play from box-to-box, but he’s also a young player with experience, so he won’t be fazed by what is ahead of him.”

Mark Jepson





The Race for Fourth

24 03 2010

As the race for fourth place hots up, it is looking increasingly unlikely that Liverpool will finish in the coveted fourth Champions League qualifying spot. Currently lying in sixth place in the Premier League and having played one game more than fourth placed Tottenham and two games more than Manchester City and Aston Villa, it looks an increasingly uphill battle. That said, a look into the remaining fixtures perhaps suggests that Liverpool’s run-in is more favourable than that of our rivals.

The Champions League Trophy: The Race for Fourth.

Manchester City are for me favourites to clinch fourth place, largely due to them having nothing else to compete for and they have six of their remaining nine league games at home where they are yet to be beaten. They have two games in hand on Liverpool and one on Tottenham and despite the saying that you would rather have the points on the board, I fancy City to win their games in hand. This said, they still have to play Everton tonight, as well as their last five games being against Manchester United, Arsenal, Aston Villa, Tottenham and West Ham on the final day of the season, who themselves will be scrapping for their Premier League status. By no means are these easy games for City but if they have genuine aspirations of finishing fourth and even higher next season, these are the type of games they must find a way of winning.

Number One: Mancini's side are in pole position to challenge Europe's elite.

Moving on to Tottenham who have today announced the signing of Brazilian midfielder Sandro from Internacional. They face Fulham in the FA Cup replay at White Hart Lane tonight with the winner facing crisis-club Portsmouth in the semi final. Their Premier League race for fourth run-in is as difficult as Manchester City’s. Trips to Sunderland, Burnley and Manchester City, in what could essentially be a Champions League play-off, are tough enough yet they also have to face Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal in consecutive matches. Their record against the ‘big three’ is not too impressive and I struggle to see them picking up more than three points against the sides currently above them. When this is considered with their recent spell of injuries to key players such as Roman Pavlyuchenko, Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon, I think their most realistic chance of having a successful season is to win the FA Cup and qualify for the Europa League after a year without European football.

Defoe, with 17 Premier League goals, is out for three weeks.

This leads me on to Aston Villa who have already booked their place in the FA Cup semi final. I struggle to see them finishing fourth as for one reason, I don’t think their squad is big enough and they are suffering from a loss of form, particularly at home where they have won just once in their last six. Their squad is thin in the sense that when Gabriel Agbonlahor gets injured, they often resort to long balls for John Carew or Emile Heskey despite on their day playing attractive football. Their run-in is more favourable than Tottenham’s and Manchester City’s but they must still face City away, the only side yet to be beaten at home this season, as well as a trip to Chelsea and the Midlands derby with surprise package Birmingham City. Much like Liverpool last season, defeats haven’t been their downfall but they are picking up too many draws with the latest at home to local rivals Wolves proving this point. Villa have lost half as many games as Liverpool yet they have won two less. Their inability to turn these draws into wins could prove costly and I can only see them finishing seventh. The return of key players at Everton could even see them push for a top seven finish. As a result, like Tottenham, I see their best chance of having a successful season being an FA Cup win and Europa League football again next season.

The strain begins to show: O'Neill looks on as Villa drop two points against Wolves.

This leaves me with Liverpool. A season that offered so much hope after last season’s second place finish saw us crash out of the Champions League early and lose to Arsenal and Reading in the Carling and FA Cups respectively. The two-legged Europa League clash with Portuguese side Benfica is fast approaching and this is the last remaining trophy to aim for. However, given our current financial situation, a fourth placed finish would be received as warmly as a trophy itself. Our run-in is perhaps on paper the easiest out of the four sides battling for fourth with Chelsea the only side left to play above us. Yet our away form this season is woeful; we have only won four games away from Anfield so far. Four draws and eight defeats tells the rest of the story and proves this is where our weakness lies. Birmingham away will be a tough game after they came close to beating us at Anfield and will surely want revenge for David Ngog’s late dive that cost them all three points. However, the trip to St. Andrews aside, our only other two away games are Hull City and Burnley. No disrespect to either side but if we do not take six points from those two games then we simply do not deserve to finish fourth. Our remaining home games see us entertain Sunderland next before three visits from London sides Fulham, Chelsea and West Ham United. On paper, it looks like five or six wins from the final seven fixtures is not unrealistic. Football, as I’m sure you’re aware, is not played on paper.

The fitness of Gerrard and Torres is vital if Liverpool can maintain their push for fourth.

In a season of ups and (considerably more) downs and despite remaining optimistic it appears that the “Top Four’s” stranglehold over the Premier League is about to be broken for the first time since Everton finished fourth in the 2004-2005 season. The current squad have of course been there and done it before on club football’s biggest stage and this experience could prove vital. If we stay injury free and move on from “Rieragate” then who would bet against the masters of the comeback? Istanbul alone proves that anything in football is possible. I think it will almost likely go down to the wire but despite Rafa’s promise of a fourth placed finish; it is no longer in our hands.

Mark Jepson





2009 So Far

14 01 2010

First Written – 18th March 2009

December 2008 ended full of promise, hope, optimism and even allowed us kopites to smile at the thought of winning our first league title since 1990, coincidentally the year I was born, rather than wondering how we were out of the title race by November once again. Whilst Sunday’s victory over Chelsea allowed us to move back to second place in the league, it is looking increasingly difficult to see how teams are going to be capable of taking points off Manchester United.

The victory over Chelsea is all the more frustrating as it has been our first in the league of the year after very disappointing draws against Everton and Wigan to name just two. Along with this, take into account draws at Anfield to Stoke, Hull, Fulham and West Ham, that is just four points from a possible twelve. Eight points dropped to must supporters. It is this inability to beat the so called ‘lesser teams’ that makes January seem an even more frustrating month for Liverpool.

Robbie Keane’s departure back to Tottenham seems strange to say the least and with Fernando Torres struggling with fitness this year, Dirk Kuyt and rookie David N’Gog are our only other recognised first team strikers. Robbie Keane never really seemed to get a fair crack of the whip under Rafa Benitez, scoring just 7 goals. We’ve only lost one league game all season, to Tottenham ironically, yet we have had the most 0-0 draws in the league this season with 5. We’ve got more draws than an IKEA warehouse! Signing Keane for £20m to rarely use him, even when we are in need of a goal, suggests there are other issues at Anfield that the fans do not know about.

The lengthy saga of Benitez signing a new contract to constant takeover reports which today co-owner George Gillett further fuelled by saying he is ‘open’ to offers. On and off the field, it seems like a very lengthy first month of the year. Benitez not signing a new contract again shows a frosty relationship still between himself, the owners and the more and more unreliable figure that is Rick Parry. As well as the Keane blunder, Parry’s inability to offer key players Daniel Agger and Dirk Kuyt new contracts, as well as allowing Jermaine Pennant to go on a six-month loan deal to Portsmouth with just six months remaining on his contract, further showing that Parry is no longer up to the job. The frosty relationship suggests a power struggle within the Liverpool hierarchy and rather unfortunately, it seems as if Robbie Keane has been used as a pawn in the games.

Robbie Keane’s deadline day departure ruled out realistic possibilities of signing a replacement, despite murmurs of Javier Saviola joining from Real Madrid, or Aaron Lennon joining from Tottenham. It seems that the last six months have seen Benitez struggle to land Gareth Barry, a player he wanted, and suggests Keane was bought in but not by Benitez’s say so. The same six months has now seen Liverpool spend £20m on a player only to sell him back to the same club for just £12m. Although neither sums were paid up front and were dependant on success, it has not left my beloved Liverpool FC covered in glory. The cliché goes that a lot can happen quickly in a football, and it seems Liverpool are going to have to learn this the hard way.

Mark Jepson








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