Premier League Gameweek 1 Roundup

Photo courtesy of premierleague.com

 

 

It’s been a long three months, but the Premier League is back with a bang. An entertaining Gameweek 1 featured only one goalless draw, and had its share of surprises.

 

Arsenal 4-3 Leicester

Coming into the first game of the week, Arsenal were missing all of their starting center backs. The result? Sead Kolasinac moved over from wing back, Nacho Monreal was stuck in the center, and poor Rob Holding was the only actual center back playing at center back. For Leicester, Shinji Okazaki surprisingly started alongside Jaime Vardy instead of new signing Kelechi Iheanacho.

As an Arsenal fan, this game was just pure stress. For the neutrals it must have been fantastic. Record signing Alexandre Lacazette put the hosts in front after just two minutes with a sublime header, only to see Leicester pull ahead through Okazaki and Vardy. Right before the break, Sead Kolasinac kind of/sort of/shouldn’t have found Danny Welbeck for the equalizing goal.

In the 56th minute, Jaime Vardy found the back of the net to put Leicester back in front, 3-2. Arsene Wenger immediately decided to throw on Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud. They both scored, Arsenal won, and you all probably watched it anyways.

Watford 3-3 Leicester

Many things are constant in the red half of Liverpool. The first is signing Southampton players. The second? They are really, really bad defenders. Goals from Stefano Okaka, Abdoulaye Doucoure, and a dramatic last-minute equalizer from Miguel Britos offset strikes from Liverpool.

Burnley 3-2 Chelsea

No, that’s not a typo. Sam Vokes (twice) and Stephen Ward propelled Burnley to a shocking 3-0 lead over the defending champions at Stamford Bridge. Alvaro Morata and David Luiz managed consolations for the box score, but one question lingers.

What is going on with the Blues?

Crystal Palace 0-3 Huddersfield

Look at the Terriers! Picked to finish last by the whole world, Steve Mounie’s brace thrusted them to the top of the early table. An abysmal showing by Frank de Boer’s side, especially in defense, certainly opened the door. Mounie ran through it.

Everton 1-0 Stoke

There’s not much to say, is there? Wayne Rooney’s header was the only time Everton weren’t just playing it around the back like they didn’t care, and Stoke obliged them.

Southampton 0-0 Swansea

The Saints had 29 shots. Twenty nine! Only two were on target.

Just. . . just move on.

West Brom 1-0 Bournemouth

Tony Pulis grabbed the most Tony Pulis of victories. A header from Ahmed Hegazi put the hosts in front and West Brom promptly spent the rest of the game trying to send long balls to Jay Rodriguez.

Manchester City 2-0 Brighton

Kevin de Bruyne —> David Silva —> Sergio Aguero goal.

de Bruyne—> Silva—> Lewis Dunk own goal

A typical win at the Etihad. Or in Brighton. Either way, it was BORING.

Tottenham 2-0 Newcastle

Dele Alli and Ben Davies scored in the second half to deliver an away win for the Spurs. Newcastle were content to defend, getting booked left and right. It didn’t work.

Manchester United 4-0 West Ham

West Ham were very poor defensively, and Romelu Lukaku took advantage, scoring two . Nemanja Matic seems to have unlocked Paul Pogba’s center midfield potential, as they dominated the Hammers. Hammered them, in fact.

 

That’s all for today! Next week I will round up Gameweek 2, and the article will likely be out on Tuesday. Until then, don’t destroy your FPL teams 😀😎🙄

Premier League Predictions III: The Top Four

Today I predict the top four of the Premier League. If you missed the first two parts of my EPL predictions, please go back and read them.

Arsenal. Liverpool. Chelsea. Manchester City. Those four teams will make up the top four, starting in the fourth spot with. . .

Liverpool. The Reds bolstered their attacking lineup with the €42 million capture of Mohamed Salah from Roma. The problem is, as Arsenal fans like me painfully learned with Mesut Ozil, attacking players tend to get pushed around for about half a season before they become accustomed to the Premier League’s version of the world’s game. Playing Philippe Coutinho in the center of midfield won’t help their playmaking either.

What is left to be said about last year for Arsenal? Their record 19 year streak of finishing top four was broken and the Gunners will compete in the Europa League this year. Fans changed their tune when Arsene Wenger signed some striker (!) named Alexandre Lacazette. This Lacazette guy is actually very good. Mesut Ozil is going to break every assist record imaginable this—oh wait, he did that two years ago.

Mesut Ozil is going to break all of his assist records this year if Alexis Sanchez stays. Arsenal could finish even higher if not for second-placed Chelsea. When John Terry is your worst departure, you’ve had a pretty solid transfer window. When Alvaro Morata and Tiemoué Bakayoko come in to South London?  Unheard of. Look at what happened to the last five champions of the Premier League. They got off to abysmal starts the year after. Add the fact that Eden Hazard will miss the first month of the season. Chelsea should be on fire late a lá Arsenal 2015, but it won’t be enough to top. . .

Champions Manchester City. Has Josep “Pep” Guardiola finally assembled the team he has wanted at the Etihad? New signings Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker will start on either side of the defense. Danilo won’t even start. Bernardo Silva and Ederson Moraes have been signed to start at right mid and goalkeeper respectively. Considering that Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva are the other attacking midfielders, this side will score goals. Lots of them. In defense, Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany form a formidable center-back partnership. If they’re healthy.

 

Did you agree with my predictions? Perhaps you thought something different. Let me know in the comments!

Alexandre Lacazette: Who is Arsenal’s record signing?

Arsenal fans lit up earlier this week when notoriously penny-pinching Arsenal announced the signing of Alexandre Lacazette. The former Lyon striker had been pursued by Arsene Wenger for over two years, and with Alexis Sanchez possibly departing the club, Arsenal not only bought the French striker, they smashed their record transfer fee.

The record was formerly held by their £42.5 million capture of some guy named Mesut Ozil. Lacazette was signed for a reported £46 million, but sources found that it could rise to £52 million if he meets specific incentives. That basically means that if he scores lots of goals, Lyon get lots more money.

Some who don’t follow the French Ligue 1 will say Arsenal overpaid for Lacazette. I call bogus. Lacazette doesn’t often find himself in front of goal, only taking 2.7 shots per game last season, but he buried those chances in the back of the net 37 times in 45 appearances for Lyon.

The French striker brings to Arsenal what they have been lacking. Goals, goals, and more goals. If Arsene Wenger sticks with a 3-4-2-1, the Gunners have a front three of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, and Lacazette. Thomas Lemar wouldn’t even start if they sign him from Monaco.

 

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Confederations Cup 2017 Predictions!

The 2017 Confederations Cup is here! Let’s take a look at the qualified teams and how they got here.

Germany: 2014 World Cup winners

Russia: 2018 World Cup hosts

Cameroon: African Cup of Nations winners

Portugal: Euro 2016 winners

Chile: 2015 & 2016 Copa America winners

Australia: Asian Cup winners

Mexico: 2015 Gold Cup winners, defeated USA in a playoff

New Zealand: OFC Nations Cup winners

But enough of that. Here’s what you came to see. My predictions for how this thing will shake out.

Group A

Fourth place: Russia

Quite frankly, it’s hard to see the hosts even getting a point. They may be buoyed by the passionate home crowd, but a squad whose best players are Alexander Korkorin and Artem Dzyuba won’t go places.

Third place: New Zealand

Led by free-scoring striker Chris Wood, (no, seriously. He scored 27 goals for Leeds last year) New Zealand has a squad almost entirely made up of English Premier League and Championship players. They managed an impressive 1-1 draw against the United States last October. They’re not pushovers, and will probably beat Russia.

Second place: Mexico

Eliminating New Zealand will be Mexico. El Tri has had a nearly flawless start to World Cup qualifying, and stars Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Carlos Vela, and 21 year old wonderkid Hirving Lozano spearhead a deadly strike force.

Group winners: Portugal

The champions of Europe roll in with a stacked squad. Euro 2016 hero Eder was cut from the squad after a less than inspiring season with Lille, but the big stars are all there. Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe, and new Manchester City signing Bernardo Silva will lead Portugal to the top of the group.

 

Group B

Fourth place: Cameroon

Manager Hugo Broos led Cameroon to a surprising win in the African Cup of Nations, employing a fast-paced, risky style of soccer. It won’t pay off against stronger opposition.

Third place: Australia 

The Socceroos haven’t been beat in Asian World Cup qualifying this year. They are on a roll, led by goal threat Tommy Juric and lockdown defensive midfielder Aaron Mooy. They should dispatch the Cameroonians, but face a daunting task against a Chile and Germany.

Second place: Chile

The South American champs are simply loaded in Russia. Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez will spearhead a deadly attack, and Arturo Vidal is no slouch in midfield. They should comfortably qualify for the knockout stage.

Group winners: Germany

You knew this was coming. Complain all you want about the weakened side they’ve sent to Russia. They left Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus, Manuel Neuer, and Toni Kroos at home. So what? Julian Draxler, Emre Can, Jonas Hector, Marc André ter Stegen, and Leon Goretzka are all bound for Russia. There’s more incredible players too. Shkodran Mustafi. Max Meyer. Time Werner. The Germans should win this group comfortably.

 

Semifinal: Chile defeats Portugal

Chile would come into this matchup set on nothing less than victory. Ronaldo and Silva will keep it close, but Alexis Sanchez will expose the lack of defensive talent Portugal has outside of Pepe.

Semifinal: Germany over Mexico

A year ago, Mexico was thrown out of the Copa America by Chile, to the tune of 7-0. It won’t be that bad, and Hirving Lozano’s speed and skill will cause problems for right back Matthias Ginter. It still won’t be enough, as the German side is simply too good.

Final: Chile over Germany

This is my classic risky Finals pick. Why, you ask, would the reigning world champions lose here? Germany does feature a slightly weakened side, and that is all Chile needs. Gary Medel will shield the defense, allowing Arturo Vidal to get forward and play through balls to the feet of Sanchez, who doesn’t miss.

Premier League: What the top teams can still accomplish this season

***”Magic number” refers to the amount of points the team must grab in the last two/three games, the amount of points teams below or above them must drop, or both in combination.

 

Chelsea

  • Win the league and fend of Tottenham’s late charge. MAGIC NUMBER: 4
  • Win the FA Cup: MAGIC NUMBER: Beat Arsenal.

Tottenham

  • Win the league. MAGIC NUMBER: 10

Manchester City

  • Clinch a Champions League spot. MAGIC NUMBER: 6

Liverpool

  • Clinch a Champions League spot. MAGIC NUMBER IS 5

Arsenal

  • Clinch a Champions League spot. MAGIC NUMBER IS 13
  • Beat Chelsea to win the FA Cup

Manchester United

  • Clinch a Champions League spot. MAGIC NUMBER IS 11.

FA Cup: Arsenal topple Manchester City 2-1 in extra time

Three times was Arsene Wenger’s squad an arm’s length away from an agonizing defeat that would have put the nail in the coffin of an Arsenal season ruined by injuries. First, five minutes before halftime Leroy Sane (sah-nay) burst down the left hand side and delivered a sensational cross to Sergio Aguero. Aguero’s header probably crossed the line before Petr Cech’s parry, but Raheem Sterling hammered it in for good measure. But wait. The assistant referee ruled that the ball had passed out of play before the cross. No goal.

Second and third, in the 79th minute, Yaya Toure crushed a shot goalwards, only to have Cech tip it over the bar at the last second. Three minutes later, Kevin de Bruyne hit the crossbar. By then it was 1-1 with goals from Nacho Monreal for Arsenal and Sergio Aguero for Man City.

Arsene Wenger chose to stick with the 3-4-3 formation that so benefited Arsenal against Middlesbrough, deploying Nacho Monreal and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the wide midfield positions. It paid off in the 14th minute of extra time when Mesut Ozil’s superb delivery, via free kick, was miskicked by Danny Welbeck. It landed in front of Alexis Sanchez, and the Chilean did what he usually does. He buried it. 2-1 Arsenal. Ball game.