Friday, 26 August 2016

Arsenal's Trip To Watford Previewed

With only one point from their first two games Arsenal are in need of a win before the players head off on the first of the dreaded international breaks this season. The point away to Leicester last week was better than the defeat at home to Liverpool the previous week, but it still leaves the team winless and five points behind the early pacesetters. It's far too early to be worried about gaps at the top of the table, but every point can be precious at the end of the season and Arsenal need to start putting some on the board.

In team news nothing much has changed which probably means we will see a pretty similar team to last week. There are bound to be a few changes and hopefully they will make the difference from last week. There needs to be a balance struck between defence and attack and we're just not finding that balance at the moment.

If any player can give Arsenal the attacking impetus they were missing last week then Mesut Ozil is the man to do it. In the short while he was on the pitch he looked like he would turn the game in Arsenal's favour, but he ran out of time. He needs the right players in the right positions on the end of his passes if he's going to make chances and that's a problem at the moment too.

Alexis Sanchez has played as the central striker for the first two games and it just doesn't work for me. I think he is far more dangerous in a wide role and I would ideally like to see him wide on the right. If he plays there it would mean we need someone else to play in the central role and that creates a problem of it's own at the moment.

Olivier Giroud would be the ideal choice of the players we have, but he is apparently still a little short of full fitness and will probably be on the bench again. Theo Walcott just isn't up to the role for me and Lucas Perez is still only a potential signing. The only other option would be Chuba Akpom who is the only actual striker we have in the squad besides Giroud.

I'm still trying to figure out why he's in the squad if he's not going to get a chance and surely this would be the ideal time to play him. Arsene Wenger is willing to give youth it's chance elsewhere in the team, but it seems Akpom won't benefit from this policy. I think his inclusion would give us a much more balanced attack and just maybe he might take the chance if it came his way.

I would be surprised to see Alexis in any other position than the central role though and we can only hope he can improve on his last two performances there. This is a game we really need to win and I'm not sure the team choices give us the best chance of doing so. I would prefer to see players playing in the positions they are best suited to rather than trying to accommodate players out of position.

Besides the inclusion of Ozil I'm not sure what other changes there might be, but I would like to the Mohamed Elbeny and Granit Xhaka partnership given a chance in midfield. I think they are the best combination going forward and we need to see them playing together from the start. I think their drive and enthusiasm in midfield could help to provide the impetus the team needs. 

Whatever team plays they need to show more than they did last week and a win has to be a necessity. We might not have beaten Liverpool or Leicester, but Watford are not in the class of either of those teams. They are no pushovers, but three points are there for the taking and we need to take them.

Besides the need for the three points we also owe them one after they put us out of the FA Cup last season. I'm still not quite sure how we lost that game and it was a low point for us in a disappointing season.

They have only one point from their first two games too after they let a lead slip to draw at Southampton in their first game and Chelsea came from behind to beat them last week. They looked good against Chelsea and probably should have been further ahead before Chelsea mugged them. They have two good strikers, but Etienne Capoue has been the player to catch the eye for them in their first two games with two goals.

Given the chance I'm sure Watford can cause us real problems, but equally we can cause them problems. If we can get a little bit of our mojo with Ozil in the team then I think the three points are there for us. Anything other than three points going into the break would be a huge blow considering what has happened in the first two games.

Finally for today it's still not too late to join my Fantasy League and my Predictions League for the new season. There's a €50 prize for the fantasy league and it's open to anyone to join.

To join my fantasy league go to the official site and set up your team after entering your details. Once you've set up your team go to the league's option and join a private league. The code for my league (Ever Arsenal league) is 64693-22498 and there's already well over 1,000 teams in it.

For my predictions league go to the official site and make your forecasts and then go to the mini leagues option. Go to the join a mini league option (invitation code) and use the code for my league FD6F8-HYH to sign up. After that you can join in the fun of predicting every single game left to play this season.


That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Arsenal To Face PSG In The Champions League

The draw for the group stages of the Champions Lesgue was made yesterday and Arsenal were in the pot with the second seeds. I suppose that's just about right for a team who came second in the Premier League last season and who haven't made it past the round of sixteen since the invention of the wheel. With two teams to qualify from each group qualification is the bare minimum expected from the group stages for Arsenal.

The draw was fairly kind I suppose with PSG as the number one seeds, Basel the the third seeds and Ludogerets in pot four. On the face of it Arsenal are more than capable of emerging from the group and it's certainly not beyond them to win it either. However, last season taught us how difficult the Champions League can be and we only just managed to sneak through in second place in our group despite losing three of the six games.

PSG will certainly be no pushover as they concentrate their considerable assets on another attempt to win this competition. The French League has become a stroll for them as they have so much more resources than all the other teams and their goal is to lift Europe's top club prize. Despite their best attempts they have yet to reach a final and the loss of Zlatan Ibrahimovic won't make their cause any easier.

Basel have done well in the Champions League in recent seasons and they're certainly capable of upsetting Arsenal and making the knockout stages. If I'm not mistaken they did just that to Manchester United and Liverpool in the last few years and won at home and away against Chelsea too. They cannot be taken lightly and Arsenal will have to be at their best to get the better of a team who seem to thrive against English opposition.

I can't say I know an awful lot about Ludogorets, but any team who makes it to the group stages has some merit as Arsenal learned to their peril last with the defeats to both Dinamo Zagreb and Olimpiacos. They play in the Bulgarian League and this isn't their first foray into the competition as they achieved their one and only Champions League group victory against Basel a couple of seasons ago. I have no doubt they will be a tough proposition on their own patch, but Arsenal have to target six points from the two games against them.

All in all it's a fairly standard group and progression to the last 16 should be well within Arsenal's capabilities. They took their opponents too lightly in the first two games last season and almost paid the price and I cannot imagine them doing so again this season. Arsenal kick off away to PSG in mid September and finish away to Basel in early December and hopefully they can win the group to give themselves a better chance of eventually getting past the last 16.

Finally it's not too late to join my Fantasy League and my Predictions League for the new season. There's a €50 prize for the fantasy league and it's open to anyone to join.

To join my fantasy league go to the official site and set up your team after entering your details. Once you've set up your team go to the league's option and join a private league. The code for my league (Ever Arsenal league) is 64693-22498 and there's already well over 1,000 teams in it.

For my predictions league go to the official site and make your forecasts and then go to the mini leagues option. Go to the join a mini league option (invitation code) and use the code for my league FD6F8-HYH to sign up. After that you can join in the fun of predicting every single game left to play this season.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Arsenal Line Up Two Players For €60 Million

It's been a long hard summer for Arsenal fans as they have waited in vain for the signings the club needed to strengthen a team who finished second in the Premier League last season. Granit Xhaka arrived what seemed like an age ago and there have been a few low key signings who are earmarked as "ones for the future". Among those low key signings was Rob Holding who has been called into action early in the first two league games this season as injuries forced Arsene Wenger's hand.

It looks like the elusive centre back is finally on the way though with reports coming out of Spain that Arsenal have finally agreed a price with Valencia for German international Shkodran Mustafi. The fee being bandied about is somewhere around the €40 million mark and it's an awful lot to pay for a defender. Unfortunately the transfer market has gone mad this summer and it's the going rate for a player of his ability and standing.

With both Per Merresacker and Gabriel Paulista injured the need for a central defender was pressing and hopefully it will be money well spent. He should make himself a first choice in the team alongside Laurent Koscielny and it's a signing which was needed whether Mertesacker and Gabriel were injured or not. Mertesacker is nearing the end of his career and the jury is still out on Gabriel, so the imminent arrival of Mustafi has to be welcomed.

With the central defensive issue finally looking solved the club seem to be moving quickly to bring in a striker. Reports from Spain again would seem to suggest Arsenal have jumped ahead of Everton in the queue and are about to wrap up the signing of Lucas Perez from Deportivo La Coruna. He's not exactly the international superstar we were clambering for, but needs must and there aren't too many strikers out there who are available.

With Danny Welbeck out until the new year and Theo Walcott looking like anything but a striker the only option besides Olivier Giroud is Chuba Akpom and the manager clearly doesn't fancy him just yet at least. I can't say I'm over impressed by Perez's scoring record to date, but he made a pretty good fist of it last season with just short of a goal every two games. He's had his fair share of clubs for a 27 year old and not all of them have worked out, but we have to hope we have signed him just as he's about the make his career breakthrough.

He's not going to be first choice of course with Giroud still occupying that role, but he will get to fill in for him at times or maybe come off the bench to replace him. There's also the possibility of the two of them playing together if the boss decides to change his tactics or we're chasing a game. Like any new player he has to be given a chance to settle in and hopefully the current atmosphere won't affect him or any of the other players for that matter. 

I know neither of these players are actually signed yet and everything I have just written could be to no avail, but it does look like they are going to happen. With the close of the transfer window still nearly a week away it's very early for Arsenal to tie down these deals, but I'm certainly not complaining about that. There's still the possibility of more players arriving, but I would be very surprised if we see any more arrivals. 

I would imagine the boss will have to sit down and take a deep breath if he has indeed brought his summer spending to €100 million. These two players might not have been our first choices at the start of the summer, but I think Mustafi in particular looks like he could be a great addition to the team. I doubt if anything will be tied up in time for us to see them play at Watford on Saturday, but they should be raring to go after the international break as long as we do actually sign them.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Predictions For Premier League Gameweek Three

It's that time of the week again when I attempt to predict the outcomes of the upcoming Premier League games. I didn't do too well last week with only four correct outcomes and six incorrect. Those poor results saw me fall from grace at the top of my predictions league and I'm not even in the top five as you can see from the table below.

BadgesThis WeekPTS
 1 (2)  Karl-Yngve Lund +85165
 2 (6)  Rutland Gooner +65105
 2 (5)  @ iWelloo +45105
 4 (7) goonerdhanesh +90100
 5 (3) sensisoccerworld +2095



Saturday August 27

Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool 

12.30pm BST, White Hart Lane, London 

Spurs left it late last week, but they managed to beat Palace 1-0. They have taken four points from their first two games to keep themselves close to the early pacesetters. A win in this game would be a huge boost for Spurs and their chances could depend on which Liverpool team show up.

Eric Lamela and Harry Kane look the most likely Spurs players to perform for fantasy managers at the moment. 

Liverpool lost 2-0 away to Burnley last week after winning away to Arsenal the previous week. Their inconsistency was a huge problem last season and it looks like it could be again this season. This is their third away game in a row to start the season and it could be the toughest of the three for them.

When Liverpool are at their best players like Phillippe Coutinho, Roberto Friminio and Daniel Sturridge can do really well for fantasy managers.

This is a game which could go either way and I have a feeling it will end in a draw.

Prediction: 2-2

Chelsea v Burnley 

3pm BST, Stamford Bridge, London

Chelsea have come from behind to win their first two games and get off to the perfect start to the season. They have been fortunate that Diego Costa wasn't sent off in both games and surely he can't continue to ride his luck. A home game against a newly promoted team gives them the ideal opportunity to continue their perfect start to the season.

If Costa can control himself he's a good choice for fantasy managers and Eden Hazard has started the season well too.

Burnley got a great win at home to Liverpool last week after losing their opening game at home to Swansea. Their sole aim this season has to be to avoid relegation and the points they took from Liverpool were very welcome and most unexpected too. A trip to Chelsea is going to be a tough task for them, but they might just have a chance if they can show the form they showed against Liverpool.

Andre Gray looked good against Liverpool last week and he could just be the Burnley player to have for fantasy managers.

I can't see anything other than a Chelsea win in this game.

Prediction: 2-0

Crystal Palace v Bournemouth 

3pm BST, Selhurst Park, London

Palace have lost their opening two games without scoring a goal and they struggled to score last season too. The arrival of Christian Benteke could be what they need to rediscover their goalscoring form. A home game against Bournemouth must give them a great chance to get their first win of the season, but a defeat would leave some serious questions to be answered.

At the moment Palace players aren't doing enough to warrant interest from fantasy managers, but that might change if Benteke can have an impact.

Bournemouth have had a tough start to their season and lost their opening two games against United and West Ham. They did very well to stay in the Premier League last season and that has to be their aim again this season. If they're going to do that this is the type of game they need to get some points from.

I thought Callum Wilson might do well for fantasy managers this season, but that faith is fading fast.

I think this will be a close game and a draw is the most likely result.

Prediction: 1-1

Everton v Stoke City

3pm BST, Goodison Park, Liverpool

Everton came from behind to win away to West Brom last week and they have four points from their first two games. Their home form was very disappointing last season and it needs to be a lot better this season. They will feel they have every chance of winning this game and going into the international break on seven points from three games.

Ross Barkley has started well for Everton and my hunch he could thrive under Ronald Koeman might just be right.

Stoke conceded four goals at home to City last week, but they won't have to face an attack like that every week. They're still waiting for their first win after drawing away to Boro in their first game and they won't find it easy to get that win in this game. Everton still have a few injuries though and that might just give Stoke some hope of getting something from the game.

I'm not sure if any of the Stoke players will do the business for fantasy managers this season.

Stoke won't make it easy for Everton, but I think Everton will take the three points.

Prediction: 2-1

Leicester City v Swansea City

3pm BST, King Power Stadium, Leicester 

Leicester are the reigning champions, but they have only taken one point from their first two games. Their home record was excellent last season and it will have to be again this season if they are to get anywhere near where they did last season. A home game against Swansea is surely the ideal chance for them to get their first win of the season.

Riyad Mahrez is the Leicester player most likely to perform for fantasy managers while Jamie Vardy should come good too.

Swansea won away to Burnley in their opening game, but they lost at home to Hull last week. They came a little too close to the relegation zone for comfort last season and this season could be even tougher for them. A trip to the reigning champions is a hard task for them, but they do have the capability to get a result against almost any team.

Gylfi Sigurdsson is the Swansea player most likely to make a difference for fantasy managers.

I think Leicester should get their first win of the season with a couple of goals to spare.

Prediction: 2-0

Southampton v Sunderland 

3pm BST, St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton

Southampton played well enough away to United last week, but ended up losing 2-0. They haven't got a win yet, but they are a tough team to beat on their home patch. A home game against one of last season's strugglers who have lost their first two games this season must give them a great chance of getting that first win.

I still think Dusan Tadij could do very well for fantasy managers this season.

Sunderland have lost their opening two games and it looks like they will face another season struggling at the wrong end of the table. They had a very bad record on the road last season and there's no reason to suggest that will change this season. They came close to getting a point away to City in their first game though and that might just give them some hope.

Jermain Defoe is the Sunderland player who might get points for fantasy managers, but it's difficult to pick Sunderland players.

I think Southampton should have enough to get the better of Sunderland and get their first win of the season.

Prediction: 2-1

Watford v Arsenal

3pm BST, Vicarage Road, Watford

Watford came so close to beating Chelsea last week, but they ended up losing 2-1. They finished last season badly and this season hasn't started too well either. They could have a relegation fight on their hands and any points they could get from this game would be very welcome.

Etienne Capoue has done very well in the first two games for Watford, but he might not be fit to play this game.

Arsenal have only one point from their first two games, but at least the point away to Leicester last week was better than the defeat at home to Liverpool. They came second last season, but they will find it hard to match that considering how much some of the other contenders have strengthened. They need to get their first win of the season and a trip to Watford affords them the opportunity to do so.

With Mesut Ozil back he looks like a good choice for fantasy managers along with Alexis Sanchez and the Arsenal defence.

I think Arsenal will have too much for Watford and win this game by a couple of goals.

Prediction: 1-3

Hull City v Manchester United

5.30pm BST, KC Stadium, Hull

Hull have started the season far better than anyone could have imagined with six points from their first two games. They still have huge problems to deal with, but they have certainly given themselves a head start in the fight to avoid the drop. They have beaten Leicester and Hull already, but United could be a different proposition.

Eldin Jakupovic has done well in goals so far for Hull and is available at a very good price.

United have won their first two games too and they're living up to their billing as one of the favourites to win the league. They haven't been pushed too hard yet and they struggled on the road last season. If they are to genuinely challenge for the title they need to win games like this away to teams who will ultimately struggle at the wrong end of the table.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has already made himself a must have for fantasy managers while Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw look pretty good too.

Hull will be no pushovers, but I think United will do enough to continue their 100% start to the season.

Prediction: 1-2

Sunday August 28

West Bromwich Albion v Middlesbrough 

1.30pm BST, The Hawthors, Birmingham 

West Brom won away to Palace in their first game and led at home to Everton last week, but ended up losing 2-1. They struggled to score goals last season, but they're not an easy team to score against either. They will fancy their chances at home to a newly promoted side, but Boro certainly won't make it easy for them.

Boro won away to Sunderland last week and they have started their return to the Premier League very well. They're unbeaten in their two games and look more than capable of steering clear of the bottom three. They are more than capable of getting a result against a West Brom team who don't concede too many goals.

Alvaro Negredo is living up to my expectations for him this season while Christhian Stuani looked very good against Sunderland too.

This has the makings of a very close game and I can see the spoils being shared.

Prediction: 1-1

Manchester City v West Ham United

4pm BST, Etihad Stadium, Manchester

City have won their first two games and scored six goals in the process. They weren't playing any of the league's better teams though and they didn't manage a clean sheet in either game. With Champions League qualification wrapped up they should be ready to have a real go at West Ham before the players head off to play for their countries.

Sergio Aguero is a must for fantasy managers while players like Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva and Nolito all look pretty good too.

West Ham just about managed to beat Bournemouth last week to win their first league game on their new ground. They will hope to match their high finish of last season and they won't have pesky Europa League action to distract them after going out on Thursday night. They put it up to a lot of the big boys at times last season, but they might not find it easy to do so again this time around.

If he's fit Dimitri Payet is the West Ham player most likely to succeed for fantasy managers.

I think City's firepower should be strong enough to see them win this game.

Finally it's still not too late to join my Fantasy League and my Predictions League for the new season. There's a €50 prize for the fantasy league and it's open to anyone to join.

To join my fantasy league go to the official site and set up your team after entering your details. Once you've set up your team go to the league's option and join a private league. The code for my league (Ever Arsenal league) is 64693-22498 and there's already well over 1,000 teams in it.

For my predictions league go to the official site and make your forecasts and then go to the mini leagues option. Go to the join a mini league option (invitation code) and use the code for my league FD6F8-HYH to sign up. After that you can join in the fun of predicting every single game left to play this season.

Prediction: 3-1

That's it for this week.

See you next week.