Tuesday, 21 March 2017

It's Time For Change At Arsenal

It just seems to be going from bad to worse at the moment for Arsenal as one inept display follows another and the indecision over the future of Arsene Wenger continues unabated. Depending on what you read and what you believe he's either already signed a two year extension to his contract or the club are actively seeking his replacement. Meanwhile not only us fans, but the players too are all left in a virtual state of Limbo.

To be honest there's just no way of knowing what's going to happen and the damage it's doing is there for all to see. I think the failure to commit in either direction is having a direct effect on what he's getting from the players as those who want him out couldn't be bothered and those who don't aren't sure if he's going to hang around and continue to put his trust in them. All the while we're being treated to displays on the field which all point in one direction and that's downhill.

The team are going through their worst ever run of league results under Wenger with four defeats in five games and they have just suffered their most humiliating Champions League thrashing ever at the hands of Bayern Munich. They have lost their top four place as they sit sixth in the table and are only ahead of seventh placed Everton on goal difference even if they do have two games in hand. Those games in hand don't count for much when you can't win a game for love nor money and that's where we are right now.

Of course the top four still isn't too far away and we've all seen Arsenal dig themselves out of a worse position in the table at this stage in the season under Wenger, but this season really does feel different. The amount of goals we're conceding at the moment is alarming and the inability to react to whatever the opposition throws at them is hard to fathom. It's as if they don't work on anything in training except passing the ball from left to right without ever looking for that incisive pass.

That can't be the case, but a team bereft of confidence in themselves and their manager is going nowhere but backwards. I still want them to turn things around and finish in the top four as well as winning the FA Cup, but I have no confidence in their ability to do so. It's not that they don't have the ability, but what has being missing for so long now seems to have become all that's left of this team.

The board and manager seem to think it's just a vocal minority of fans who think it's time for a change of management, but I don't think they could be further from the truth. It may well be a vocal minority who voice their opinions so loudly and obnoxiously as those hurling insults at the manager, but I honestly think the majority of Arsenal fans can see the game is up. Their respect for Arsene Wenger and what he has done for the club means they will not join in with those abusing him, but it doesn't mean they still think he's the best man for the job.

I can only assume Stan Kroneke is content to have Wenger in charge as his stake in the club continues to increase in value. He probably thinks Wenger has never let him down in the past and he is worth sticking with now with no way of knowing what will happen if he is replaced. It's not as if he has ever shown any ambition of winning trophies as the majority shareholder in the club.

It looks like the decision will be up to Wenger and I have a feeling that he might just decide to give it another two years in an attempt to finish on a high. If he left now it would certainly not be on a high, but he might still have some of his reputation and legacy intact. I can't see him making Arsenal genuine contenders again and that would surely mean any contract extension would be a failure.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.


Thursday, 16 March 2017

Predictions For Premier League Gameweek 29

It's that time of the week again when I attempt to predict the outcomes of the upcoming Premier League games. I did alright last week with two correct predictions and two incorrect which kept me in second place in my predictions league. However, the league leader is doing a Chelsea and it looks like it will be very hard to catch him as you can see from the table below.

BadgesThis WeekPTS
 1 (1)  Karl-Yngve Lund 4+601800
 2 (2)  Michael Sheehy 5+201535
 3 (3)  Rutland Gooner 5+601525
 4 (4)  Wayne Hubbard 1+201480


Saturday March 18

West Bromwich Albion v Arsenal

12.30pm GMT, The Hawthorns, Birmingham

West Brom lost 3-0 at Everton last week and their recent good run seems to have come to an end. They have won eight of their 14 home games and only five other teams have scored more goals at home. They have lost their last two games without scoring, but Tony Pulis will relish a home game against a struggling Arsenal team.

Gareth McAuley has been the best of the West Brom players and is still worth considering for fantasy managers due to his goalscoring exploits.

Arsenal didn't play in the league last week, but the did progress to the semi finals of the FA Cup with a 5-0 win against non league Lincoln City. They have only lost four of their 13 away games with only City scoring more goals on the road, but they have only won once in their last six away games. They have lost three of their last four games, but only Liverpool and Chelsea have scored more goals so far.

Alexis Sanchez has been by far the best of the Arsenal players for fantasy managers and he's still the top scoring player overall while Theo Walcott has looked good recently too.

I think this will be a very close game and Arsenal might just about manage a narrow victory.

Prediction: 1-2

Crystal Palace v Watford

3pm GMT, Selhurst Park, London

Palace didn't play last week and Hull's win over Swansea means they're only one point and one place above the relegation zone. They have only taken 10 points from 13 home games with only Boro scoring less goals at home and they have lost five of the last six on their own patch. They have won their last two games though and have won three of their last five as well as keeping a clean sheet in each of those games they won.

Wilfried Zaha could be the Palace player to have for fantasy managers if they're going to win their fight to avoid the drop and their defenders have been in good form recently too.

Watford didn't play last week either, but they still have a seven point buffer between them and the bottom three and that should surely be enough to keep them up. They have only won three of their last 13 away games and have only won once in the last nine on the road. Their form has been fairly up and down, but they have only kept one clean sheet in their last 17 games.

Troy Deeney has been in good form recently for fantasy managers and is certainly worth considering.

I think this will be another very close game, but Palace's need for points might just see them take the three points.

Prediction: 2-1

Everton v Hull City

3pm GMT, Goodison Park, Liverpool

Everton won 3-0 at home to West Brom last week to move within three points of fifth placed Arsenal. They have only lost one of their 14 home games with only three teams scoring more goals at home and only two conceding less. They have taken 24 points from their last 11 games and have not yet given up all hope of breaking the top six.

Romelu Lukaku is the best of the Everton players for fantasy managers and their defenders have done very well for the last few months too.

Hull got a crucial 2-1 win at home to Swansea last week to move within one point of seventeenth placed Palace. They have lost 11 of their 14 away games and no other team has scored less goals or conceded more goals away from home. They have taken 11 points from their last eight games, but only Swansea have conceded more goals so far.

Despite their recent upturn it's still hard to see which Hull players might make a difference for fantasy managers.

I think Everton should be too strong at home for Hull and should win with a few goals to spare.

Prediction: 2-0

Stoke City v Chelsea

3pm GMT, BET365 Arena, Stoke

Stoke didn't play last week and they face a very tough game this week which could see them drop into the bottom half of the table if they lose. They have only lost three of their 14 home games and are unbeaten in their last eight at home with clean sheets in five of those games. They have only lost twice in their last nine games and have kept a clean sheet in three of their last four.

None of the Stoke players have done too much recently for fantasy managers and the chances are they won't do an awful lot in this game either.

Chelsea didn't play last week either, but they maintained their 10 point lead at the top of the table with only 11 games to go. They have only lost two of their 14 away games and no other team has conceded less goals away from home. 18 wins in their last 21 league games have left them in a position where the league is their's to lose and no other team has conceded less goals with only Liverpool scoring more.

Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and Pedro have all done well for fantasy managers in recent weeks with Cesc Fabregas performing well when he plays too.

I think Chelsea will continue their fantastic day run with a narrow win in this game.

Prediction: 1-2

Sunderland v Burnley

3pm GMT, Stadium of Light, Sunderland

Sunderland didn't play last week and they're now six points from safety with only 11 games to go. They have lost eight of their 14 home games with only Boro scoring less goals at home and only Swansea conceding more on their own ground. They have lost their last three games without scoring a goal and have only taken five points from their last 10 games with only Middlesbrough scoring less goals so far.

Jermain Defoe had been by far the best of the Sunderland players for fantasy manager, but just like them he has failed to score in five of his last six games.

Burnley led away to Liverpool last week, but ended up losing 2-1 and they're still seven points clear of the relegation zone. They have lost 12 of their 14 away games and have not won away from home yet with only Leicester and Hull scoring less goals away from home. Only four other teams have lost more games than Burnley and they haven't won in five games, but four of those were away from home and it's their home form which should keep them in the Premier League.

Burnley defenders are still good fantasy choices, but as I've said so often before that's only when they play at home.

This is a game Sunderland really have to win, but I think Burnley might just get their first away win of the season.

Prediction: 1-2

West Ham United v Leicester City

3pm GMT, London Stadium, London

West Ham lost away to Bournemouth last week and missed out on a chance to go back into the top half of the table. Only three other teams have lost more home games than West Ham and only three other teams have scored less goals at home too. They haven't won in their last four games and they haven't kept a clean sheet in their last seven.

Michail Antonio is the West Ham player most likely to do well for fantasy managers.

Leicester didn't play last week, but they did their way through to the last eight of the Champions League on Tuesday night despite being only three points above the relegation zone. They haven't won any of their 13 away games and only Hull have scored less goals away from home. They have won their last two league games since Claudio Ranieri departed, but they haven't kept a clean sheet in seven.

Now that they've found some form again both Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez could be worth considering for fantasy managers.

This isn't an easy game to predict considering West Ham's home form and Leicester's away form, but I think a draw might just about be the right outcome.

Prediction: 1-1

Bournemouth v Swansea City

5.30pm GMT, Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth

Bournemouth got a very important 3-2 win at home to West Ham last week to stop the rot and move six points away from the relegation zone. They have won six of their 14 home games and have scored more goals at home than any other team in the bottom half of the table, but their win last week was their first home win in six games. That win last week was their first one in nine games overall and only Swansea have conceded more goals.

I suggested Josh King might be a good fantasy choice last week and he didn't disappoint with three goals even if he did miss a penalty.

Swansea lost 2-1 away to Hull last week and they're still only three points above the drop zone despite their recent good run. They have lost 10 of their 14 away games and no other team has conceded more goals away from home. Only Sunderland have lost more games and no other team has conceded more goals, but they have won four of their last seven games.

Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente (if he's fit) have been in very good form for fantasy managers while Alfie Mawsom has chipped in with three goals in his last six games which isn't bad for a defender.

I think this will be another very close game and I wouldn't be surprised to see it end in a draw.

Prediction: 2-2

Sunday March 19

Middlesbrough v Manchester United

12.00pm GMT, Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough

Boro didn't play last week and find themselves second last in the table with three points to make up on seventeenth place. They have only won three of their 14 home games and they're the lowest scorers at home with only two goals and three points in their last four games at home. They haven't won in 10 games and failed to score in seven of those games and they're the lowest scorers in the league which has just cost Aitor Karanka his job.

I can't see any Boro players to interest fantasy managers at the moment.

United lost their FA Cup semi final to Chelsea on Monday and Everton are closing quickly behind them even if United are closing in on fifth placed Arsenal. They have only lost two of their 12 away games and have taken 17 points from their last seven away games with no other team conceding less goals away from home. They are unbeaten in 17 league games and have kept clean sheets in three of their last four, but their numerous draws and lack of goals is keeping them in sixth place.

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic suspended the best prospects for fantasy managers in the United team at the moment are probably their defenders.

Even without Ibrahimovic I think United should be good enough to take the three points in this game.

Prediction: 0-1

Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton

2.15pm GMT, White Hart Lane, London

Spurs had an easy FA Cup quarter final win against Millwall last week, but they lost Harry Kane to an injury and that could hamper their chances of staying second in the table. They have taken more points at home than any other team with only Chelsea and Liverpool scoring more goals on their own patch and they're the only team still unbeaten at home. They have taken 29 points from their last 12 games and no other team has conceded less goals so far.

With Kane injured the best fantasy options in the Spurs team are Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and their defenders.

Southampton didn't play last week and they now have a couple of games in hand on the three teams directly above them. They have lost half of their 14 away games, but they have won their last two on the road and scored eight goals in those two games. They have lost six of their last nine games though and they're only in the top half of the table on goal difference.

Manolo Gabbiadini looks like a must have for fantasy managers with the form he has shown since joining Southampton and two extra games to paly and Dusan Tadic has found some form recently too.

I think this will be a very close game, but their home form should see Spurs get a narrow victory.

Prediction: 2-1

Manchester City v Liverpool

4.30pm GMT, Etihad Stadium, Manchester

City won their cup quarter final last week, but they were knocked out of the Champions League in midweek and their chances of closing the 10 point gap on Chelsea are pretty slim. They have won more games and scored more goals away from home than any other team with only three other teams conceding less goals on their travels. They have taken 14 points from their last six games and kept clean sheets in five of those games.

Raheem Sterling has done well recently for fantasy managers and it's always a risk not to have Sergio Aguero in your team.

Liverpool came from behind to "win ugly" at home to Burnley last week which strengthened their place in the top four, but the two teams closet to them both have two games in hand. They have lost four of their 14 away games with only Chelsea and Arsenal scoring more goals on the road, but they have only taken two points from their last four away games. They have scored more goals than any other team, but they have only won three of their last nine games even if they have won their last two.

Sadio Mane still looks like the Liverpool player most likely to perform for fantasy managers.

I think this will be another very close affair and a draw is probably the most likely outcome.

Prediction: 2-2

That's it for this week.

See you next week.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Arsenal v Lincoln City Preview

It's been a tough old time for us Arsenal fans recently with five defeats in our last seven games in all competitions as the wheels seem to be coming off our season yet again. We exited the Champions League in the round of 16 for the seventh season in a row and we have absolutely no hope of winning the Premier League yet again this season. It's all too depressingly familiar and it's exactiy what those who doubt Arsene Wenger predicted.

Even the two games we won in that run were far from convincing with a particularly lucky 2-0 win at home to Hull in the league and a totally uninspiring 2-0 win away to non league Sutton United in the fifth round of the FA Cup. The defeats to the rest of the top six continue unabated and we were destroyed 10-2 on aggregate by Bayern Munich in the Champions League. It looks like it couldn't get much worse and yet the manager can't make a decision on where his future lies.

Of course there are those who might say things aren't as bad as doomsayers would seem to make out and the 15 teams below us in the league would gladly swap places with us. We're in the last eight of the FA Cup and there's still a good chance we will win it for third time in four seasons. As it stands both City and Leicester are still in the Champions League, but both of them could go out next week and end all Premier League participation for another season.

I suppose it's all about perspective and expectations and I find myself firmly in the "we have underperformed yet again" corner. We might still turn things around and finish in the top four as well as winning the cup, but the all too predictable collapse just cannot be ignored. I'm not saying we have the right to win trophies, but surely we have to be able to compete for the top trophies and that means the Premier League and Champions League.

I think an announcement from the manager of his intention to leave at the end of the season might just galvanise the team and get the players and fans behind him as we try to at least finish his final season on some sort of high. I'm not so sure it's going to happen though and I think he is still leaning towards taking up the new contract on offer and hoping for a strong finish to strengthen his hand. Either way a strong finish to the season is what's needed and the first step to recovery has to be a cup quarter final victory against Lincoln.

We couldn't have asked for a kinder draw than a game at home to a non league team even if they are going very well in the top league outside the football league. They won away to a Burnley team who have an excellent record at home in the Premier League in the last round and they will hope to take advantage of our current ails. If we don't approach this game in the right way we could be on the end of the greatest FA Cup upset of all time.

I think we have to go with the strongest team possible and try to put the game to bed as soon as possible. With the greatest respect to Lincoln we should be winning this game by five or six goals and even with our current troubles we are so much better than them. We have scored 90 goals already in all competitions this season and we should be an awful lot closer to 100 after this game.

Of course we've been so bad recently that we're probably far more likely to struggle to a two goal win and survive a few scares during the game. The performance in the first half on Tuesday was very encouraging and showed this team can still play some good football as well as give everything they have, but the second half collapse showed all that is wrong with the players and tactically too.

I want to see more of that first half from here to the end of the season and make it more about the football and not the manager. Surely we have to turn things around at some stage and what better way to start than by getting within one game of yet another FA Cup final. There's still a chance of some silverware this season and we have to at least give ourselves a chance of maintaining the excitement in our season other than the annual fight for the "fourth place trophy".

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Predictions For Premier League Gameweek 28

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 no perfect predictions, five correct outcomes and six incorrect which actually moved me into second place in my predictions league. However, the league leader did a lot better and I lost ground despite moving up as you can see from the table below.

It's a tough week for fantasy managers to field a full team with only eight teams playing and a lot of them are going to have a pretty poor week. There are plenty of teams who will have games in hand after this week and some of their players will be at a premium from here on in.

BadgesThis WeekPTS
 1 (1)  Karl-Yngve Lund 4+651740
 2 (3)  Michael Sheehy 501515
 3 (2)  Rutland Gooner 5-551465
 4 (4)  Wayne Hubbard 1-51460


 
Saturday March 11

Bournemouth v West Ham United

3pm GMT, Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth

Bournemouth managed to get a point at United despite being down to 10 men for more than half of the game. They have won five of their 13 home games and Leicester are the only team in the bottom half of the table to have scored more home goals. They have only taken three points from their last eight games, but they're the top scorers in the bottom half of the table even if only Swansea and Hull have conceded more.

Josh King has done quite well recently for fantasy managers and is certainly a good option at a good price too.

West Ham only lost 2-1 at home to Chelsea on Monday night, but their late goal made the game look closer than it was. They have only won four of their 13 away games, but only three other teams have scored more goals away from home. They have taken eleven points from their last seven games and most of them came away from home.

Michail Antonio is still the best fantasy pick in the West Ham team and Andy Carroll isn't too bad either if he's fit.

This has the makings of a close affair and I think West Ham might just sneak the three points.

Prediction: 1-2

Everton v West Bromwich Albion

3pm GMT, Goodison Park, Liverpool

Everton lost 3-2 to at Spurs last week to put an end to their good run and they were never really in the game. They have only lost one of their 13 home games with only three other teams scoring more goals at home and only the top two conceding less at home. They have taken 21 points in their last 10 games and only the top five have scored more goals.

Romelu Lukaku is the best fantasy option in the Everton team with their defenders good choices too despite conceding three goals last week.

West Brom lost 2-0 at home to Palace last week much to my surprise and just about everyone else too. They have only won three of their 13 away games while only five other teams have scored less goals on their travels and only five other teams have conceded less. The defeat last week was their first one in six games and they're still as close to seventh place Everton as the teams below them are to them.

Gareth McAuley is the best fantasy option in the West Brom team and I still think Chris Brunt is good value too.

I think Everton should be good enough at home to take the three points in this game.

Prediction: 2-0

Hull City v Swansea City

3pm GMT, KCOM Stadium, Hull

Hull went ahead at Leicester last week, but ended up losing 3-1 and they're still in the bottom three. They have only lost five of their 13 home games and have taken eight points from their last four games. They have only taken one point in their last three games with only Swansea conceding more goals so far and only Boro scoring less.

Hull players are exactiy setting the fantasy world alight at the moment, but Kamil Grosicki might not be the worst choice for fantasy managers.

Swansea left it late at home to Burnley last week, but the three points moved them five points above the relegation zone. They have lost nine of their 13 away games with only Bournemouth and Hull conceding more goals on their travels. They have won four of their last six games and scored 12 goals in those games with no other team conceding more goals so far.

Gylfi Siggurdsen is still the best fantasy bet in the Swansea team while Fernando Llorente, Martin Olsson and Alfie Mawson have all looked good recently too.

I think this game could go either way and the chances are the spoils will be shared.

Prediction: 2-2

Sunday March 12

Liverpool v Burnley

4pm GMT, Anfield, Liverpool

Liverpool had a very good win at home to Arsenal last week to move back up to fourth in the table. They have only lost one of their 13 home games with only Chelsea scoring more goals at home and only four other teams conceding less. They have only won two of their last eight games, but they are the top scorers so far with Stoke the only team in the top half of the table to have conceded more goals.

Sadio Mane is by far the best fantasy option in the Liverpool team while Roberto Frimino has done a bit better recently too.

Burnley looked to have got a rather fortunate point at Swansea last week, but were beaten at the very end. They have lost 11 of their 13 away games with only Hull scoring less goals on their travels. They have only taken two points in their last four games and their next two games are away from home too, but their nine point gap to the bottom three should be enough to keep them safe.

Burnley defenders have done very well for fantasy managers, but only when they're at home.

I think Liverpool should win this game by at least a couple of goals.

Prediction: 3-1

That's it for this week.

See you next week.