Our resident football writer Ed Acteson gives his verdict on the five matches contained in the Premier League – Pick 5 pool kicking off on Sunday and he’s envisaging more trouble for Arsenal at the hands of Leicester. If you agree with his selections then join his Syndicate.
Tottenham vs. Sheff Utd
Champions League contenders Sheffield United visit relegation threatened Tottenham on Saturday afternoon. Ok, clearly neither of those descriptions are remotely accurate but the point remains that, in recent weeks, only one of these sides has looked like sinking down the table and it hasn’t been the antepost relegation favourites.
Spurs are on a winless run of four games in the Premier League after losses to Brighton and Liverpool as well as draws with Watford and Everton. Oddly, this run has been punctuated with 5-0 and 4-0 batterings of Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League, suggesting that it is the Premier League in which Mauricio Pochettino’s side are feeling the pressure.
Almost the reverse of Spurs’ recent record, The Blades are unbeaten in four having won and lost two. The victories were at home to Arsenal and Burnley, so not just easy scalps, whilst the draws came away from home against Watford and West Ham.
Those form stats are going to form the crux of my bet here. In honesty it is one of those matches where absolutely anything could happen. Spurs could finally click and assert their class, they could also capitulate once again. As such I’ll back all three options in my perm but will take the draw in the blog.
Burnley vs. West Ham
Sean Dyche’s Burnley side start the claret derby in wretched form, having lost three matches in a row and shipping nine goals in the process.
Although Dyche’s job is widely considered to be one of the safest in the Premier League, if he can’t stop the rot and shore up that defence again, will he start to feel the pressure?
Part of the problem is Dyche’s insistence of retaining the same core of players season after season and completely relying on the attacking pair of Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood. In fact, Burnley have lost the last ten matches in which one of the pair hasn’t started.
West Ham haven’t been much better than Burnley recently, failing to win in their last five league games. They drew two of them but defeats to Crystal Palace, Everton and Newcastle demonstrate a side in turmoil. After a positive start to the season in which they had top six aspirations, West Ham have sunk to 13th in the table and will be looking over their shoulders.
However, could 13th in the table still be too much for Burnley, who have only managed wins against the teams in 17th, 18th and 19th so far?
In good consciousness I couldn’t make an argument for either team so will take another draw, probably boring and low scoring. Enjoy it though, if you’re going.
Southampton vs. Everton
It was supposed to be Southampton’s season. They finished the 2018/19 Premier League campaign so well under the direction of Ralph Hasenhüttl that many assumed that they would continue their form into this one. However, finding themselves in 18th place after 11 games, that doesn’t appear to be the case.
Battered 9-0 by Leicester a couple of weeks ago, the joint worst defeat in Premier League history, and 4-1 by Chelsea a couple of weeks before that, Southampton haven’t won in five league games, losing four of them with an aggregate scoreline of 17-3.
A place above them in the league, Everton are another team under immense pressure following a summer rebuild and Marco Silva could be out the door if they lose this one.
They managed a draw against Spurs last week in extremely difficult circumstances, after Andre Gomes’ horrific injury, and I have the suspicion that it could prove to be a watershed moment in their season. After Son Heung-Min was (incorrectly) sent off for that tackle, Everton really upped their game and eventually had chances to win it.
Although Gomes will undeniably be a big miss, it remains a set of circumstances that could galvanise the club and I imagine that Marco Silva will use their stricken Gomes as motivation for The Toffees in this one. I am going for an Everton win.
Newcastle vs. Bournemouth
How are Newcastle doing it? They replaced a Champions League winning manager with a Championship manager, lost two attacking players who scored 23 of the club’s 41 league goals last season yet they’ve still managed to keep their heads above water.
Jonjo Shelvey is the only Newcastle player to score more than once in the league so far, yet through conceding a not entirely unrespectable 17 goals, as many as Chelsea, Newcastle have scraped three wins.
I don’t think it will last and I suspect they will come unstuck against a Bournemouth side that Eddie Howe is, once again, working miracles with.
The Cherries are up to sixth after defeating Manchester United last weekend, although drew three of the four previous games. With 14 goals scored and just 13 conceded, they operate a pretty tight ship yet have clearly sacrificed some of their former attacking verve in favour of results.
Up against a defensive Newcastle side this could make for a tight, awkward encounter but I’ll take Bournemouth to edge it.
Leicester vs. Arsenal
Despite having a comfortably better start to the season than either Manchester United or Tottenham, Unai Emery seems the closest of the top six managers to the brink and defeat in Leicester could spell the end.
The Foxes are absolutely flying after their win over Crystal Palace last weekend made it five wins in six league games. Just two points behind City, it is only them and Chelsea who have kept and sort of pace with the leaders so far and they could be in for another stunning season that culminates in Champions League qualification.
Brendan Rodgers has got Leicester playing some majestic football, with the Premier League’s top scorer Jamie Vardy spearheading their lethal attack, and how the Gunners must wish that they could swap managers.
Leicester have fared well against their three ‘big six’ opposition so far this season, beating Spurs, drawing with Chelsea and only losing to United in what now seems a surprise result.
Vardy will be licking his lips at the prospect of running against the most comedic defence in the league and I expect him to find the scoresheet. I’m taking Leicester for the win and it’s adios Emery.