Arsenal V Hull City – Saturday 11th February 2017- 12:30-Sky Sports 1HD
Although this game represents a clash between a side near the top of the table not necessarily out of the title race, against a side who are sitting in the relegation zone, the mood around both clubs is drastically different from their suggested places in the league.
It must feel like déjà vu for Arsenal supporters, as the familiar routine of settling for 4th place has started to come to fruition again. Arsenal’s 3-1 comprehensive defeat at the hands of Chelsea last weekend, leaves them 12 points off the league leaders. This was the second defeat in a row, and their fourth in their last 10 games. No other team in the top 6 has lost that many games inside their last 10. Although he admitted, it would be hard to catch Chelsea straight after the loss, Wenger seemed more positive in his pre-match press conference for the Hull game:
“It is never over—at least, we have to behave like that. If you think it is over, I don’t—we are in a pack that is tight. If it is over for us, it is over for everybody else.”
However, supporter unrest at Wenger’s position is once again palpable. Popular Arsenal fan forum, Arsenal FanTV was awash with people calling for Wenger’s head after the Chelsea game. Wenger who is currently in his twentieth year in charge of Arsenal was coy when discussing his future in the Hull press conference, refusing to comment if there is a contract offer on the table for him, in a week in which Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri was linked to the Arsenal job.
If results don’t go Arsenal’s way this weekend, they could find themselves out of the top 4. Wenger will also continue to serve his touchline ban. Despite not being on the touchline, there are rumours he will be making a big call, and dropping Petr Cech. Cech has been Arsenal’s No 1 since joining the club in summer 2015, but his performances this season have come under scrutiny.
The 34-year-old was partially at fault for the first two goals in the 3-1 defeat to Chelsea, and mis-kicked directly to Cesc Fabregas in conceding the third. If Cech is dropped, then David Ospina would likely come into the team. Hector Bellerin is “recovering well” according to Wenger, from a suspected concussion suffered against Chelsea, though it remains to be seen whether the right-back will be passed fit for the Emirates clash.
Wenger’s midfield options are still limited with Aaron Ramsey (calf) and Santi Cazorla (Achilles) out, although Mohamed Elneny is returning after defeat in the Africa Cup of Nations final with Egypt.
The contrast with Hull, and manager Marco Silva, couldn’t be any different than the mood at Arsenal. Ushered in at the start of the year to take charge of a side seemingly at rock bottom, it is fair to say that not a great deal was expected of relative unknown Silva.
A former manager of Estoril, Sporting Lisbon and Olympiacos, Premier League rookie Silva has enjoyed relative success at each club he has managed and is on course to add another impressive mark to his CV at Hull.
Silva has won half of his eight games in charge overall, including that hugely impressive victory against Liverpool last weekend, that was built on true grit and determination, as well as a bit of fortune as their opponents can no longer seem to find the net.
All the more impressive is that three of the Portuguese’s league games in charge so far have seen him come up against Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool, with four points from that run, and all three from his first match at the helm against Bournemouth, enough to take City to within one point of safety.
The Tigers’ new boss has also had to contend with losing two of his better players in Jake Livermore and Robert Snodgrass, the latter of whom directly contributed to 10 goals in 20 league games before departing for West Ham United in January.
Eight players have been brought in, however, including a couple very much with a point to prove in the Premier League. Oumar Niasse and Lazar Markovic joining on loan from Everton and Liverpool respectively and both already leaving a good impression.
Two clean sheets have been recorded in his side’s last two league outings – as many as in the previous 26 combined – but not since October 2008 have they gone three in succession without conceding. Do so in North London on Saturday and Silva will take another step towards keeping Hull in the Premier League.
Michael Dawson is out, after pulling his calf in the warm-up before the Liverpool game. Dawson will join fellow centre-back Curtis Davies (hamstring) on the sidelines. Abel Hernandez has also been ruled out for up to four weeks with a hamstring injury.
Ryan Mason remains out with a skull fracture, while Markus Henriksen (shoulder), Will Keane (ACL) and Moses Odubajo (patella) complete a lengthy Tigers injury list.
Liverpool V Tottenham – Saturday 11th February 2017- 17:30- BT Sport 1HD
The biggest game of the weekend sees 2nd place, and title chasing, Tottenham travel to Anfield to take on a Liverpool side that have yet to win in the league this calendar year. Despite Liverpool’s poor form, and Spurs excellent run, the 2 sides are only separated by 4 points. A win will of course take Spurs 7 points of Liverpool, and will keep the pressure on Chelsea, who play away at Burnley on Sunday. For Liverpool, a victory could kick start their season and will lift them, albeit temporarily depending on Man City’s result, back into the top 4.
Liverpool’s nightmare start to 2017 continued last weekend, when they lost 2-0 to a resurgent Hull side. Despite dominating possession and having more shots on goal, Liverpool simply weren’t up for the game, and poor finishing cost them dearly. A drastic turnaround is needed sooner rather than later to prevent the Reds from falling further behind in the race for the top four, which is now their only realistic goal this season.
Perhaps the only saving grace heading into this weekend’s match is that Liverpool have generally raised their game when the big boys have come to visit, and they still boast the best points-per-game record in the top-six mini-league this season having remained unbeaten in their seven outings so far.
The most recent of those saw them hold leaders Chelsea to a 1-1 draw – a satisfactory result on its own but one that also extended Liverpool’s winless home run to five matches – their longest since 2012. However, they have also not lost to Spurs in their last 8 meetings, and Spurs haven’t won at Anfield in the league since 2011.
In his pre-match press conference, Jurgen Klopp implored his side, to put recent results behind them, and to step up against Spurs.
“Against a team like Tottenham we need everything we have got,” Klopp said. “It’s a strong opponent. If we play like we did in the first half against Hull, no chance, if we play like we did in the second half, better chance, but we should play better.”
The Reds do remain the league’s joint top-scorers, but they have now conceded 30 times in their 24 outings this season, giving them the worst defensive record in the top eight.
Klopp has taken full responsibility for the recent run of results, which have been so poor that the German’s future has even been questioned. Currently Klopp has an identical record to Brendan Rodgers after 54 league games in charge – 26 wins, 16 draws and 12 defeats – Klopp is increasingly in need of a response to his first testing patch as Liverpool boss.
Klopp will also have to figure out a way to combat a Spurs side that play a very similar pressing game to Liverpool. That should make for an interesting match-up. Spurs will harry Liverpool high up the pitch, would could make it difficult for the hosts to play out from the back, as they like to do. Sadio Mane will also be expected to help restore an attacking verve to Liverpool’s front line.
Liverpool will assess Dejan Lovren, who missed the defeat at Hull with a knee injury, and fellow centre-back Ragnar Klavan, who has been unwell. Adam Lallana, who has a minor Achilles problem, will also be given the run over before the game. Klopp may also make changes to his back lie, given the fact they haven’t won in 5 league games.
While Spurs defence is the meanest in the league, having only conceded only 16 times this season, to put that into perspective Liverpool have conceded almost twice as many with 30 goals in the back of their net. However, one of the reasons there not further up the table is their form going forward. Their 46 goals scored is the lowest in the top five, while their only goal in their past two league games came from the penalty spot, during their 1-0 win over Middlesbrough. Without Harry Kane, and without spot kicks, they would really be in trouble.
So much of what is good about Spurs is typified by Kane – work ethic, efficiency and passion in abundance. But in their last four games, Tottenham have only managed two goals not scored by Kane, and he assisted one of those, so keep him quiet and they may struggle.
Another big reason for the big gap between Spurs and Chelsea has been their away form this season. No team has drawn more away games in the Premier League this season, with Spurs having won just four of their 12 league games on their travels – the worst record out of any team in the top six.
Back-to-back 4-1 wins over Southampton and Watford either side of the New Year are Tottenham’s only triumphs from their last 12 away games in all competitions – a run which stretches back to September and includes a defeat at Anfield, in the EFL cup fourth round.
Mauricio Pochettino has never beaten Liverpool during his time in charge of Spurs, drawing three and losing three of his six meetings, although he did win two of his three games against the Reds while at Southampton. Pochettino was also very complimentary of Liverpool’s team and squad during his pre-match press conference:
“They are not on a good run but Liverpool have very good players, for me it is one of the best squads, not only in England but also in Europe.”
Tottenham will be without defenders Danny Rose, and Jan Vertonghen on Saturday, with knee and ankle problems respectively. Georges-Kevin N’Koudou is also out with a knee injury. Erik Lamela is still struggling with pain in his hip but Kieran Trippier is available again after overcoming an injury to his ankle.
Burnley v Chelsea – Sunday 12th February 2017 – Sky Sports 1 HD 13.30
This is the kind of games that makes champions. Chelsea could have the chance to go 12 points clear at the top of the league depending on the result at Anfield on Saturday afternoon, but Burnley will be a very stern test who themselves have a great home record of late.
Sean Dyche has built a very solid Burnley side this season, currently in 12th place just 2 points off 9th. Burnley have won their last 5 home games and could go on to win 6 consecutive home game in the top flight for the first time since 1961 a run which saw them win 8 on the bounce and a 2nd place league finish.
They have won 28 of their 29 points at home this season, which gives them the 3rd best home record in the league going into this weekend’s action behind Chelsea and Tottenham.
In Burnley’s last 7 games they have won 4 and lost 3, scoring 10 in that period and conceding 7. It seems Burnley’s home form will be more than enough to keep them up this season but Sean Dyche can’t be happy with such an inadequate away record.
Andre Gray could be the man Burnley look to in order to take some points off the Blues. Gray is the Clarets top goal scorer in the league this season with 6 goals.
Whilst Burnley have a great home record, unfortunately for them Chelsea have the best away record in the league. Burnley have also never won a Premier League encounter against Chelsea having lost four of five previous attempts.
Chelsea have only lost one of their last 18 league games, and have 30 more points than they did at this stage last season. They have also kept the most clean sheets in the Premier League this season with 13, 4 more than they managed in the whole of last season which goes to show the extent of improvement they’ve seen under Antonio Conte.
Chelsea’s impressive win against Arsenal last week really showed the gulf in class between Chelsea and the chasing pack. Diego Costa has been Chelsea’s primary goal scorer this season with 15 league goals. Coincidentally, Diego Costa’s first Premier League goal came against Burnley in August 2014 since which, only Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero have scored more Premier League goals than him.
Impressively for Chelsea, their last 10 goals in all competitions have been scored by different players showing the depth and quality Antonio Conte has at his disposal.
Burnley will be without midfielder Jeff Hendrick, who commences a three-game ban following his sending off against Watford whilst Chelsea have a full squad to choose from.
Whilst I think Burnley will be resilient and not lie down for Chelsea, ultimately their quality will shine through and take a hard 3 points.
Swansea City v Leicester City – Sunday 12th February 2017 – Sky Sports 1 HD 16.00
Sunday’s final game is a real bottom of the table thriller which could turn out to be one of the biggest games of the season so far for Leicester as they could finally find themselves in the dreaded relegation zone.
Swansea have seen signs of improvement since manager Paul Clement took charge and have won 3 of their last 5 league games moving them level on points with Leicester and Middlesbrough.
They seem rejuvenated under Clement and have the signs of a team strong enough to stay up. One of the key men and stand out performers in recent games has been Gylfi Sigurdsson who has scored in his last 3 Premier League games. Only one player has managed to score in 4 consecutive PL matches for Swansea which was is Danny Graham back in October 2011.
Sigurdsson is a player who seems to do everything right. He is technically very strong, experienced, has good positional awareness and is great on set pieces, a great asset in games with few chances being created. In fact 7 of Gylfi Sigurdsson’s last 11 home Premier League goals for Swansea have been scored from set pieces with four from free-kicks and three from the penalty spot.
The main problem Swansea have encountered this season is their poor defensive record, something Clement will know needs to improve if they are to stay up. They have already conceded 54 goals in the league which gives them the unenviable record of having the worst defence of any team in the Premier League this season. It also means they have the joint worst goal difference on -25 alongside Hull City, ironically another team improving under new management.
Since taking over the job in January, Clements team have conceded 10 goals in the 5 league games he’s taken charge, not a great record averaging 2 goals conceded per game. This is somewhat skewed by the heavy 4-0 defeat at the hands of Arsenal. However, compared to the 5 games prior to his appointment, Swansea conceded 13 in the 5 games so even with the heavy Arsenal defeat he is seeing signs of improvement.
For Leicester this game can only be described as a must win. They have been very disappointing this season, their inability to even remain competitive after last season is a real shame. This could be due to a host of reasons, their top 5 players last season coincidentally having the best season of their lives, could be the real impact of losing N’golo Kante to Chelsea or could just be a lack of hunger and desire from a group of players who would never of dreamed to have won the league.
One thing’s for sure, the way they limped to defeat at home last weekend to Man United shows us they have little in the way of retort to the demand of the fans.
Leicester are the only Premier League side yet to score a goal in 2017 and have gone 5 games without one. You’d have to go back some 31 years to find the last top-flight side to fail to score in their opening six games of a calendar year.
A lack of goals is a common theme we see with the current Leicester plight, something that is a world away from what we saw last season. Last season, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez scored a combined 22 goals away from home in the Premier League, with Vardy grabbing 10 and Mahrez 12. So far this season they have only scored three combined. The rumour linking those two players with Arsenal now seems a lifetime ago.
One positive however is the expected return of Leonardo Ulloa who is expected to of recovered from a thigh strain leaving Claudio Ranieri with a fully fit squad to choose from.
But there could be some signs of improvement after beating Derby County in the FA Cup 5th round replay midweek, it was a different looking Leicester side, one with aggression and a competitive spirit to keep battling to the final whistle. They will need to show all those attributes if they are to get something from the Liberty Stadium on Sunday, but given their shocking away record in the league it’s probably not wise to put your money on them.
One thing’s for sure with all that’s at stake, coupled with the fact that none of the last 12 meeting between these two sides have ended with a draw we should be in for a cracker.
Bournemouth v Manchester City – Monday 13th February 2017 – Sky Sports 1 HD 20.00
The final game of match round 25 in the Premier League takes us to The Vitality Stadium as Bournemouth host Manchester City on Monday Night Football.
Bournemouth are in need of 3 points following a poor run of form that started back in mid-December. Bournemouth have only won once in the past 8 league games over that period scoring 13 goals but conceding a substantial amount of goals at 22. This means over the past 8 league games Bournemouth have conceded an average of 2.75 goals per game. Bournemouth have also, not surprisingly, conceded the most Premier League goals in 2017 with 16 which is 4 more than any other side in the league.
Bournemouth will need to be careful, whilst at the minute they sit 6 points above the relegation zone, it doesn’t take much to get dragged into a relegation battle Eddie Howe will want to avoid. There form has dipped as the season had progressed, especially the previous 8 games as mentioned. To put that into perspective, their first 8 games of the season saw them pick up 3 wins and 2 draws, scoring 12 goals and conceding 12, 10 lower than in the past 8 games.
If they are to get anything out of this game they will need to defend better, and perhaps set up more rigid when they don’t have the ball. This is imperative when coming up against the new kid on the block Gabriel Jesus who has scored on both of his first two Premier League starts for Man City.
In his 188 minutes of Premier League action, Jesus has scored three goals and assisted one. This has averaged a goal or assist every 47 minutes in his Premier League career so far. Now whilst many in the media and social media have slightly jumped the gun on this kid, let’s not forget how impressive Robinho was in the early days of his City career. With that said you can’t argue he’s not made an impact.
Manchester City have never lost to Bournemouth in a league game, winning 7 of their 9 encounters so the lookout is bleak for the Cherries.
Man City have seen a slight improvement in results lately and are without defeat in 3 games following a tough period that saw them lose 4 league games in 8 matches. It seems Pep has just about stabilised results.
Whist they found their last game against Swansea hard, they did eventually battle until the end and pick up a much needed 3 points. City will also be spurred on by results around them. With both Liverpool, and Arsenal losing last week it was a big 3 points for City which brought them back up to 3rd position just 1 point off Spurs. Depending on the Liverpool v Tottenham result, City could find themselves in 2nd place in the league with a win over Bournemouth which makes the hysteria of the Pep Guardiola bubble bursting a few weeks back look a little premature.
It’s hard to see how Bournemouth will take any points from this game, their currently floundering at the back and think City will start fast and press high. For City regardless of the Liverpool v Tottenham result, a win on Monday night will just help to steady the ship and work towards solidifying their top 4 status.
Other games this weekend:
Manchester United v Watford
Middlesbrough v Everton
Stoke City v Crystal Palace
Sunderland v Southampton
West Ham United v West Bromwich Albion
Next Bet Wins TV Accumulator
If you fancy a 5 fold accumulator across this weekends televised games, our friends at Nexbetwins.co.uk have come up with a little something. Remember these prices come from Bet365
- Arsenal V Hull City – Over 9 corners
- Liverpool V Tottenham – Over 9 corners
- Chelsea Over 1.5 team goals
- Swansea V Leicester – Over 1.5 match goals
- Man City over 1.5 team goals
This all adds up to a very reasonable 5/1 so is certainly worth a punt. Good luck!
By Michael Thatcher and Rich Leee