He landed two out of three in his last preview and now Chris Bland sets his eyes on the midweek Premier League fixtures, with a huge £22,000+ Rollover Pick 8 up for grabs. He reckons that Mikel Arteta’s difficult start to life as Arsenal manager will continue when they travel to Chelsea.
Chelsea v Arsenal
The stand out game on Tuesday night comes from Stamford Bridge as Chelsea take on Arsenal. The Blues are looking to bounce back from a disappointing defeat to Newcastle at the weekend.
It was the same old problems for Chelsea, who struggled to put away chances against a defensive Newcastle side. The Toon Army capitalised on Chelsea Achilles’ heel from set pieces, with Isaac Hayden netting the winner late on.
Although performances are improving under Mikel Arteta, Arsenal have registered just one league win since the Spaniard took over. That came at the expense of Manchester United on New Years Day. Coming up against Chelsea, who recovered well from a slow start to beat them a month ago, will be a big ask for the Gunners. With Arsenal’s top scorer, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, suspended it will be even tougher.
Lampard was forced to adapt tactically against Arsenal last time. His flexibility in the first half allowed him to introduce Jorginho and retain a strong hold on the game. Control had initially slipped away as they struggled to retain the ball against Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi. This destructive role is expected to fall to Granit Xhaka on Tuesday night, so how Lampard adapts will certainly be interesting. As will gauging whether or not he has learnt his lesson from the first meeting.
Despite only winning one league game so far, the underlying numbers for Arteta’s side do make for better reading. In their last three league games, the Gunners have come out on top on the expected goals charts, with the 1-1 draw to Crystal Palace standing out. An xG of 0.31 for Palace to Arsenal’s 1.02, even with ten men, showed their dominance. They have conceded an xGa of under 1.0 in their last three league games, only conceding twice, so the signs of defensive improvement are there as well.
However, if the back two is to be David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi, Chelsea will fancy their chances. They will target this pairing as they were able to on the counter attack in the last game. Willian’s energy, coupled with Abraham’s pace, was fundamental to the winning goal at the Emirates, and Arsenal will need to be wary of this threat.
I expect Arsenal will look to sit deep and counter, so the hold up play of Lacazette will be key, particularly against the strong Chelsea centre halves. Antonio Rudiger could be partnered by Kurt Zouma, who coped well with the Frenchman’s threat in the reverse.
Although Chelsea are reliant upon Abraham for goals, evident as they struggled against Newcastle, they will be optimistic of breaking past an Arsenal back four missing key players. It is for this reason that I fancy Lampard’s side to bounce back and inflict another defeat on Arteta’s. Aubameyang will be a huge miss and Chelsea’s midfield should be able to dominate proceedings, meaning a long night for the Gunners on Tuesday.
Everton v Newcastle
Newcastle travel to Merseyside on the back of another shock win against the Premier League’s big guns. They’ll be hoping for another defensively resilient display, coupled with a clinical edge up front, to earn victory and reinforce their survival hopes.
Sitting 12th in the Premier League, Steve Bruce’s side are proving a nightmare on the underlying data this season. The question is constantly asked, when will the luck run out for the Magpies? Goals from unlikely sources, this time Isaac Hayden, have made up for a lack of fire-power up front as summer signing Joelinton struggles for form. Whether Newcastle can continue to rely upon these avenues is yet to be seen.
Owning lowest attacking xG this season, 18.84, coupled with a xGa of 41.46 sees Newcastle bottom of the league on expected points. However, as seen on Saturday, their packed defensive unit, coupled with a knack of picking up unlikely goals, means they have been constantly outperforming this data.
Injuries have been a constant thorn in Bruce’s side and Jetro Willems was the newest addition to the list on Saturday. However, the return of Matt Ritchie has come at a good time and provides an option at left back, with Paul Dummett also out. Allan Saint-Maximin’s return, coupled with Miguel Almiron’s improving form, means they will prove a threat on the counter on Tuesday.
Although Everton are showing improvements under Carlo Ancelotti, their own injury worries could prove costly in midweek. Richarlison, Alex Iwobi and Gylfi Sigurdsson could miss out for the Merseysiders. In a game where creativity will be the key to breaking down such a tight, defensive unit, others will need to step up for Ancelotti’s side. Seeing plenty of the ball, Tom Davies and Fabian Delph will be required to offer something through the middle, whilst Bernard and Theo Walcott will be hoping to stretch the Newcastle defence out wide and create opportunities in behind the Magpies backline.
The in-form Dominic Calvert-Lewin will lead the line after the Englishman’s fantastic form continued against West Ham on Saturday. Everton’s main goal threat without Richarlison, they will be desperate for the target man to step up and trouble the Newcastle backline. If he is able to continue his fine form, Everton will fancy their chances.
The underlying data points in the direction of an Everton win but, with their current injury problems, it would be understandable to see a tight, low-scoring affair. However, their improvements defensively should help to stop Newcastle on the counter attack, which will help them in this clash. The in-form Calvert-Lewin will fancy his chances of stepping up.
How long Newcastle can out-perform their data is yet to be seen. However, I do believe the Toffees will have too much come Tuesday night and victory for Ancelotti’s men can be expected.
Aston Villa v Watford
The Watford revival under Nigel Pearson continues to gain traction as the Hornets travel to Villa Park looking to do the double over Dean Smith’s side.
Although Troy Deeney’s penalty miss proved costly against Tottenham in a 0-0 draw on Saturday, it still represented a much-improved performance from Pearson’s side in recent weeks, particularly in defence. They now sit 17th and are without a defeat since Pearson’s first game.
Aston Villa, on the other hand, are currently struggling and their underlying numbers defensively, coupled with a lack of striking options up front, mean they are looking like prime relegation candidates in recent weeks. Without Wesley and John McGinn to call on, a huge reliance has been placed on Jack Grealish for goals up front and has forced Dean Smith into a tactical tweak. He has resorted to a back three and a counter attacking formation designed to get the best out of creative attacker Grealish, whilst he shops around for reinforcements in the striking market.
Villa struggled in the defeat at Watford to create any meaningful openings and the Watford defence will be confident of dominating Grealish and his fellow attackers once again, particularly with a defence that is well equipped to deal with counter attacking sides, as they showed in their 0-0 draw with Spurs on Saturday.
Although drawing a blank on Saturday, they did still create a number of promising openings against Jose Mourinho’s side, and they come up against the second worst defence in the league on goals against at 44, and the worst on the xGa charts at 47.16. The switch to three at the back has worked to an extent, but the underlying data itself has shown little signs of improvement.
Although Ismaila Sarr will be a miss for Pearson’s side if not passed fit, Roberto Pererya is more than capable of coming in and filling the attacking role, whilst Gerard Deulofeu will be relishing the prospect of being able to run and trouble the Villa backline. Deeney’s target man abilities will cause the Villa backline a host of problems, and with an attacking threat still not convincing from Villa, a win for Watford would come as no real surprise on Tuesday night.
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