Saturday, 30 April 2016

Arsenal v Norwich Preview And Confirmed Arsenal Line Up

I was reading Arsene Wenger's comments from Friday and his views on our results this season struck me as more than odd. He says we're champions away from home, but we have only won once away from home against the other teams in the top half of the table. That win might have come away to champions elect Leicester, but beating the champions does not make us champions even if we did it both home and away.

He also suggested that our home form against the teams from the lower reaches of the table has cost us the league, but that's only been in the last few games. Before the dropped points against Swansea and Palace we had a perfect record at home to the teams in the bottom half of the table and we led both of those games. The fact that we didn't see out either of those games was down to poor finishing and lack of concentration on our part and it can hardly be laid at the feet of the home fans.

Despite all of our shortcomings in the transfer market last summer I firmly believe we would have won the league if we had signed a striker worthy of the name. With all of the other so called big clubs have indifferent seasons it was there for the taking when we sat on top of the table in early January. Our record since then at home and away has been abysmal and that was down to poor finishing on so many occasions.

The suggestion we have been champions away from home is not backed up by the facts. In our last nine games on the road we have only won twice and that is most certainly not the form of champions. If Arsenal win their last two home games against Norwich and Villa we will finish with 12 home wins and that's going to be a lot closer to the home record of the league winners than our away record.

That brings me nicely to today's game with Norwich and the events surrounding it. It seems the voices of dissent are growing all the time and we will see how much support there is for the protests planned at the game today. It's hardly ideal for the players to see their own fans protesting, but the fans voices are not being heard by those running the club.

I include the manager in that and the owner too. From those I have spoken to the majority are certainly in favour of a change of manager, but the owner has no interest in that. He seems content to build for the future, but to us fans it seems that future is a point which will never arrive under the current regime.

For once the manager has a full squad to pick from today with nobody in the treatment room. Bizarrely with so many players to choose from he has decided not to make any changes to the team which drew 0-0 at Sunderland last week. Olivier Giroud plays as the central striker again despite not scoring a league goal in almost four months while Danny Welbeck warms the bench again.

What can you say about the team selection, I certainly don't know and I only hope they can show an awful lot more urgency than they did last week. They should be far too good for a team struggling to beat the drop, but the results against Swansea and Palace suggest it could be different.

I'll be watching the game of course as I always do, but it's difficult to get too excited about any game Arsenal play at the moment. They need the points to stay ahead of the chasing pack in the race for the top four in a season which should have delivered so much more. Anything other than a win will be a disaster considering they travel to City next week, but I don't think Norwich will get anything off us today.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Predictions For Premier League Gameweek 36

It's that time of the week again when I attempt to predict the outcomes of the upcoming Premier League games. I did reasonably well last week with four correct outcomes and three incorrect which kept me on top of my predictions league. With the season so nearly over I'm in a Leicester like position as you can see from the table below.

BadgesThis WeekPTS
 1 (1)  Michael Sheehy 4+51265
 2 (2)  Wayne Hubbard 5+51035
 3 (3) sensisoccerworld 3+501025
 4 (4)  Rutland Gooner 6-5875
 5 (5)  Malcs 4+15800


 
Saturday April 30

Everton v Bournemouth 

3pm BST, Goodison Park, Liverpool

Everton are on a terrible run in the league and things got even worse last week when they lost their FA Cup semi final against United. They have only won four of their 17 home games with only Villa and Bournemouth conceding more goals at home. They haven't won in their last seven games and have only one clean sheet in their last nine.

Everton players haven't done much to impress for fantasy managers recently and they are better off being avoided even if they do play twice next week. 

Bournemouth were well beaten at home to Chelsea last week and it looks like the end of the season can't come quickly enough for them. They have only lost seven of their 17 away games and have taken more points on the road than they have at home. They have lost four of their last five games, but they are secure in the Premier League for another season and few would have believed that possible before the season started. 

I don't think there are any Bournemouth players to interest fantasy managers right now.

Despite their current form and poor home record I still think Everton will take the three points.

Prediction: 2-1

Newcastle United v Crystal Palace

3pm BST, St. James' Park, Newcastle 

Newcastle came from behind to get a very good point at Liverpool last week, but they're still in the bottom three with three games left to play. They have taken more home points and scored more home goals than the other teams struggling to beat the drop. They have taken five points from their last three games after failing to win any of their previous seven.

Newcastle players haven't exactly set the fantasy world alight and it's probably best to avoid them.

Palace have been on an awful league run since the turn of the year, but they reached their first FA Cup final in over 20 years by beating Watford in the semi final last week. They have only lost six of their 17 away games and have taken more points on their travels than they have at home. They have only won once in their last 19 games though and they are lucky they did so well in the first half of the season.

I don't think there are any Palace players to interest fantasy managers for the rest of the season.

Newcastle have to win this game and I think they should just about take the three points.

Prediction: 2-1

Stoke City v Sunderland 

3pm BST, Britannia Stadium, Stoke

Stoke were well beaten yet again last week and their season is petering out with little chance of their best ever Premier League finish. They have lost as many games as they have won at home and they're the only team in the top 12 to have conceded more than they have scored at home. They have lost their last three games and conceded 12 goals in the process and it looks like the season can't end quickly enough for them.

I can't see any Stoke players to recommend to fantasy managers for the rest of the season.

Sunderland fought hard to get a point at home to Arsenal last week and that point took them out of the relegation zone for the moment at least. They have only won three of their 17 away games with only Newcastle conceding more goals away from home. They have only won once in their last seven games, but they have only lost once too and they have kept clean sheets in three of their last four games.

Sunderland defenders have done well for fantasy managers recently and they play twice next week too. 

Stoke have little to play for and Sunderland desperately need points which leads me to believe they will win this game.

Prediction: 1-2

Watford v Aston Villa

3pm BST, Vicarage Road, Watford

Watford lost their FA Cup semi final to Palace last week and the second half of their season has been very poor. They have only won five of their 17 home games with only Villa scoring less goals at home. They have only won once in their last eight games and have failed to score in four of those games too. 

I can't see any Watford players to make a difference for fantasy managers even if they do play twice next week.

Villa lost at home to Southampton last week, but they at least managed more than one goal in a game for only the sixth time this season. They have only won once in 17 away games and that was on the opening day and no other team has scored less then them on the road. They have lost their last 10 games and they failed to score in six of those games too.

I can't see any reason why fantasy managers would even consider choosing Villa players.

As bad as Villa have been this season I have a feeling they might just get a point out of this game.

Prediction: 1-1

West Bromwich Albion v West Ham United

3pm BST, The Hawthorns, Birmingham   

West Brom did really well to come from behind and get a point at Spurs on Monday night and effectively end Spurs title hopes. They have lost as many games at home as they have away from home and only Villa have scored less goals than West Brom. They have only taken two points from their last six games and they failed to score in four of those games.

Like so many other teams at the moment it's hard to see any West Brom players for fantasy managers to choose.

West Ham didn't play in the league last week and they have had to wait two weeks since taking a point at Leicester in their last game. They have only lost four of their 17 away games with only four other teams scoring more away goals. They are unbeaten in their last nine games, but they could only win four of those games.

Dimitri Payet is the West Ham player to have at the moment for fantasy managers with Andy Carroll and Manuel Lanzini looking pretty good too and they play twice next week.

West Brom aren't an easy team to beat, but I have a feeling West Ham will get the better of them.

Prediction: 1-2

Arsenal v Norwich City

5.30pm BST, Emirates Stadium, Arsenal

Arsenal could only draw away to Sunderland last week and they are by no means certain of finishing in the top four. Only United have conceded less goals at home than Arsenal, but eight other teams have scored more home goals and even second from bottom Newcastle have as many goals at home. They are unbeaten in their last seven games and have kept clean sheets in four of those games, but five wins in their last 15 games ruled them out of the challenge for the title.

Alexis Sanchez has been the Arsenal player to have for fantasy managers recently with their defenders doing quite well too.

Norwich didn't play last week and they dropped into the bottom three on goal difference after Sunderland drew with Arsenal. They have lost 12 of their 17 away games and only the two teams below them have scored less goals on the road. They have lost their last two games without scoring and face a tough struggle in their last four games to avoid the drop. 

Norwich play twice next week and have a lot to play for, but I still can't see any of their players to recommend to fantasy managers.

Norwich need something from this game, but I think they will come up short as Arsenal win by a couple of goals.

Prediction: 2-0

Sunday May 1

Swansea City v Liverpool

12pm BST, Liberty Stadium, Swansea

Swansea were well beaten away to Leicester last week and they have little left to play for this season. They have won more home games than any other team in the bottom half of the table, but only Villa and Watford have scored less goals at home. They have conceded seven goals while losing their last two games and could finish the season with no more points considering their upcoming opponents.

Gylfi Sigurdsson has done really well for fantasy managers since the turn of the year and is certainly worth considering.

Liverpool looked to be closing in on the top four when they led Newcastle 2-0 last week, but they could only draw 2-2 and the top four looks beyond them now. They have won more away games than home games with only three other teams scoring more goals on their travels. They have taken 20 points from their last nine games and they scored 26 goals in the process. 

Daniel Sturridge is the Liverpool player most likely to succeed for fantasy managers at the moment and they play twice next week, but it's not easy to know which players will play in each game with their busy schedule.

Despite having played in Spain on Thursday night I still think Liverpool will have enough to win this game.

Prediction: 1-3

Manchester United v Leicester City

2.05pm BST, Old Trafford, Manchester 

United beat Everton in their FA Cup semi final last week and they're only five points off the top four with a game in hand. Only City have won more home games than United and no other team has conceded less goals at home. They have won six of their last eight games and kept clean sheets in five of those games too.

United's defenders look pretty good for fantasy managers at the moment and they play twice next week too.

Leicester won 4-0 at home to Swansea last week and they will be champions if they take three points from their last three games regardless of what Spurs do. They have only lost two of their 17 away games and only Arsenal have scored more goals on their travels. They are unbeaten in their last night games with seven wins in those games and clean sheets in each of those games that they won.

Leicester's defenders look like very good options for fantasy managers while Riyad Mahrez might do well while Jamie Vardy is suspended.

Leicester will be champions if they win this game, but I think they might have to settle for a point and wait a little longer for the title.

Prediction: 1-1

Southampton v Manchester City

4.30pm BST, St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton 

Southampton won 4-2 away to Villa last week to keep their hopes of Europa League football for next season alive. They have won nine of their 17 home games and only the top three have scored more goals at home. They have only lost one of their last seven games, but they haven't kept a clean sheet in their last nine.

Fantasy managers could probably pick any one of Shane Long, Dussn Tadic, Sadio Mane and Geazianno Pelle and do quite well with them.

City won 4-0 at home to Stoke last week to move ahead of Arsenal into third place on goal difference. They have only won seven of their 17 away games, but only Spurs have conceded less goals away from home. They have taken 13 points from their last five games and have kept clean sheets in five of their last eight.

Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne are looking good for fantasy managers while City's defenders have done well recently too.

This looks like it could be a very close game and the chances are it will end in s draw.

Prediction: 1-1

Monday May 2

Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur 

8pm BST, Stamford Bridge, London

Chelsea won easily away to Bournemouth last week, but the chances of finishing any higher than their current ninth place are very slim. They have only won five of their 17 home games and have conceded more goals at home than any other team in the top half of the table. They have only lost two of their last 18 games, but those defeats came in their last three games.

Chelsea players haven't done too well for fantasy managers this season, but they have an extra game next week and could do reasonably well for the rest of the season.

Spurs could only draw at home to West Brom on Monday night and their chances of winning the league as good as ended with that result. Only Leicester have taken more away points than Spurs and only Arsenal have scored more away goals than them, but no other team has a better defensive record on the road. They're unbeaten in their last seven games, but they haven't been able to keep up the fantastic pace Leicester have set ahead of them. 

With Dele Alli suspended it looks like Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and all of the Spurs defenders are the ones to have for fantasy managers.

This has the makings of a very close game and the chances are it will end with the points shared.

Prediction: 2-2

That's it for this week.

See you next week.




Sunday, 24 April 2016

Arsenal's Trip To Sunderland Previewed

It's difficult to write about any Arsenal game at the moment without wondering what could and should have been this season. The lack of transfer activity last summer had been predicted by one and all to come back to haunt us and it's impossible to believe it hasn't done just that. I thought Arsenal needed to add at least two or three outfield players on top of Petr Cech, but it just didn't happen.

With so many of the other top clubs struggling this season Arsenal very nearly got away without signing those players and they would have done if they had just signed a striker worthy of the name. I read a fascinating piece on Arseblog news which shows just how bad Arsenal have been in front of goal this season and how few of their chances in the box they have taken. With the right striker signed last summer it's hard to think they wouldn't have added to the leads they had in games like the ones at home to Swansea or Palace.

Wins in those games would nearly have been enough to keep Arsenal in the mix right up until the end of the season. A 20 goal a season striker is what the doctor ordered and Arsenal could not deliver. There were strikers out there who might have fitted that bill and Javier Hernandez is one who immediately springs to mind.

We are where we are though and we can't change that. It's the annual fight to finish in the top four and secure a Champions League spot for us and nothing else. Barring a miracle we'll finish behind Spurs for the first time in 20 years and we can only hope Leicester hold their nerve to deny them the title.

With four games to go Arsenal are strong favourites to finish in the top four and maybe even third, but their two away games will probably decide their fate. The second last game of the season is a trip to City and that offers those chasing both us and City some hope in their attempts to close the gap. I think it will be a close run finish and the outcome of today's game could well have a significant impact on that race.

Sunderland need a point today to move out of the bottom three on goal difference and a win would give them some real hope in their attempt to beat the drop. They won 3-0 away to Norwich last week by defending in depth and hitting them on the break and we can expect more of the same today. Jermain Defoe knows how to find the back of the net and he could well punish us if he gets the opportunities. 

Arsene Wenger made a few changes against West Brom on Thursday night after the points dropped against Palace last Sunday. The chances are he will do so again today and I wouldn't be surprised to see Danny Welbeck come back into the team. Olivier Giroud was an onlooker in the first half as Arsenal played around him, but he did better after the break. 

He didn't put away the chances he had though and he hasn't scored a Premier League goal in over three months now. Welbeck's finishing hasn't been great either, but he offers an awful lot more in the overall scheme of things for me. There's always the possibility of Theo Walcott getting the nod, but I would doubt that very much.

Sam Allardyce has never been relegated as a manager and he won't want that record to go this season. His teams have always been fond of roughing us up given the chance and they will surely try to do so again today. We need to be strong and stand up to any physical challenge as well as playing our own game.

A defeat for Arsenal would mean they can no longer mathematically win the league, but that ship has long since sailed. Even if they do win I think Leicester will beat Swansea later in the day to put the final nail in our coffin. It's been a season to forget for Arsenal and the sooner it's over the better.

Despite his repeated failings the manager is going nowhere and we can only hope he gets it right this summer. It's hard to put your trust in someone who failed so miserably this season and it could well be a forlorn hope. It has to at least be a busy summer in the transfer market as there are so many players who need to move on and those places at least need to be filled besides the purchases the squad so desperately needs.

As for today, I know we can beat Sunderland but equally I know our ability to shoot ourselves in the foot. I no longer have the confidence in the team I used to have, but I will still be cheering for them from first minute to last. Fans of other clubs tell me they would give anything to be in our position, but that doesn't make it any easier when you see how we have folded yet again this season. Third place would ease the pain just a little, but it's going to take a long time to get this season out of my mind.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Predictions For Premier League Gameweek 35

It's that time of the week again when I attempt to predict the outcomes of the upcoming Premier League games. I did reasonably well last week with two perfect results, five correct outcomes and eight incorrect. Those predictions leave me still on top of my predictions league as the end of the season draws ever closer as you can see from the table below.

BadgesThis WeekPTS
 1 (1)  Michael Sheehy 4+901260
 2 (2)  Wayne Hubbard 5+751030
 3 (3) sensisoccerworld 3+120975
 4 (5)  Rutland Gooner 6+120880
 5 (4)  Malcs 4+5785


 
Saturday April 23

Manchester City v Stoke City

12.45pm BST, Etihad Stadium, Manchester 

City won easily at Chelsea last weekend, but they could only draw at Newcastle in midweek and they're in a real fight to finish in the top four. No other team has won more home games than City and they're the top scorers at home too. They have taken 10 points from their last four games and have kept clean sheets in four of their last seven.

If City play their strongest team Sergio Aguero is a must have for fantasy managers while Kevin de Bruyne has to be considered too, but they could be tempted to rest them with a Champions League semi final on Tuesday.

Stoke were well beaten at home by Spurs on Monday night and they look less likely to reach their highest ever Premier League position. They have only lost six of their 17 away games, but no other team in the top 12 has conceded more away goals. They have lost three of their last five games and have only one clean sheet in their last 12.

Marco Arnautovic has been the best fantasy performer in the Stoke team this season.

I think City should just have enough to win this game despite possibly having their minds elsewhere.

Prediction: 2-0

Aston Villa v Southampton 

3pm BST, Villa Park, Birmingham 

Villa will be a Championship team next season after the relegation was confirmed following the defeat at United last week. They have only won two of their 17 home games and no other team has scored less or conceded more goals at home. They have lost their last nine games and they failed to score in six of those games too.

I can't see any Villa players to remotely interest fantasy managers.

Southampton could only draw away to Everton last week and that result could leave them struggling to make the Europa League places. They have only won five of their away games, but only Spurs and City have conceded less goals on the road. They have only lost one of their last six games, but they haven't kept a clean sheet in eight. 

Graziano Pelle, Sadio Mane and Shane Long have all impressed recently for fantasy managers.

I think Southampton should be more than good enough to win this game by a few goals.

Prediction: 0-2

Bournemouth v Chelsea

3pm BST, Dean Court, Bournemouth 

Bournemouth lost at home to an understrength Liverpool team last week, but their Premier League position is safe for another season. Only Villa and Palace have lost more home games with only Villa conceding more goals on their own patch. They have lost three of their last four games and haven't kept a clean sheet in six games.

Joshua King has done quite well for fantasy managers recently and could be worth considering.

Chelsea were well beaten at home by City last week and they're only just in the top half of the table. They have won more away games than home games and taken as many points on their travels as they have at home. They have lost their last two games without scoring after a run of 15 unbeaten games. 

Chelsea's players haven't exactly set the world alight for fantasy managers recently and it's probably best to avoid them.

Despite some of Bournemouth's performances against some of the better teams this season I think Chelsea will just about win this game.

Prediction: 1-2

Liverpool v Newcastle United

3pm BST, Anfield, Liveroool

Liverpool have had a very good week with two wins to their name and they're closing in on the top four quite quickly. They have only won seven of their 16 home games, but they have being scoring freely at home recently. They have won their last three games and scored 10 goals in the process, but their clean sheet against Everton was their first one in six games.

It's not easy to know what Liverpool team will play from game to game, but Phillippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge and Roberto Frimino are all looking good at the moment.

Newcastle have had a good week too with four points from two home games giving them a chance of avoiding the drop. They have lost 14 of their 17 away games and no other team has conceded more or scored less goals away from home. Their win against Swansea was their only one in their last nine games and that was their only clean sheet in those games too.

Andros Townsend has done well for fantasy managers in recent weeks and could be the player to have in their team if they are going to have a chance of staying up.

Liverpool might have their Europa League quarter final on their minds, but I still think they should be far too good for Newcastle.

Prediction: 3-0

Sunday April 24

Sunderland v Arsenal

2.05pm BST, Stadium of Light, Sunderland 

Sunderland got a very important win away to Norwich last week and they're now only one point behind them with a game in hand. Only Villa have won less home games than Sunderland, but they have the best defensive record at home in the bottom six. They have only won twice in their last 12 games, but they do have two clean sheets in their last three games.

Jermain Defoe has been the best of the bunch in the Sunderland team for fantasy managers.

Arsenal drew with Palace on Sunday and beat West Brom in midweek to stay third, but second place now looks beyond them. Only the top two have won more away games than Arsenal and they're the top scorers away from home too. They are unbeaten in six games and have scored 16 goals in those games, but the three draws among them have ruled them out of running for the title.

Akexis Sanchez is the Arsenal player to have for fantasy managers at the moment.

This looks like it will be a very close game and I think Arsenal will win it by the odd goal.

Prediction: 1-2

Leicester City v Swansea City

4.15pm BST, King Power Stadium, Leicester 

Leicester just about managed to get a point at home to West Ham last week and their lead at the top was cut to five points with four games to play. They have only lost one of their 17 home games, but they have actually taken more points and scored more goals away from home. They have won six and drawn two of their last eight games and kept clean sheets in each of those six wins too. 

With Jamie Vardy suspended the Leicester defenders are probably the best bet for fantasy managers as Riyad Mahrez hasn't done much in the last few games.

Swansea were well beaten away to Newcastle last week and they don't have much to play for between now and the end of the season. Only the bottom two have won less away games than Swansea and only the bottom four have lost more on the road. They have won four of their last seven games and kept clean sheets in three of the last six, but those clean sheets were all at home.

Gylfi Sigurdsson has been by far the outstanding fantasy performer in the Swansea team for the last few months.

Leicester need to win this game and it won't be easy without Vardy, but I think they will take the three points.

Prediction: 1-0

Monday April 25

Tottenham Hotspur v West Bromwich Albion

8pm BST, White Hart Lane, London

Spurs took Stoke apart last week to close the gap on Leicester at the top of the table to five points. Only the two Manchester teams have won more home games than Spurs and only City have scored more goals at home. They have taken 13 points from their last five games and kept clean sheets in four of them too.

Harry Kane and Dele Alli have been great for fantasy managers recently while Christian Eriksen and all of the Spurs defenders are worth considering too.

West Brom lost at home to Watford last weekend and away to Arsenal in midweek and they won't fancy a trip to in form Spurs. They have only won four of their 17 away games with only the bottom two scoring less goals away from home. They have only taken one point from their last five games and failed to score in four of those games. 

I can't see any West Brom players to interest fantasy managers for the rest of the season.

I can't see Spurs slipping up in this game and I think they will win by a few goals.

Prediction: 3-0

That's it for this week.

See you next week.