The Weekend Preview : Gameweek 6
After a 1 week break, we are back folks! Welcome again to our weekly preview series where we discuss the fixtures and the major talking points coming into the weekend. Let’s dive right in.
Any interesting match-ups happening this weekend?
Donald : Definitely the match up between Pochettino and Pep takes centre stage. It would be interesting to see if City would be as effective breaking down Spurs defence as well as they have already done to almost every opponent they have come against so far. There are no assurances in City’s defence and Pochettino would have several options at his disposal to exploit that.
Another interesting match-up this weekend could be between Benteke and the centre back pair of Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka. The main game plan by Alan Pardew and his men seems to be making the most of the Belgians strengths which is his aerial ability. Can The Everton centre backs who seem to have developed a burgeoning partnership already, stop the former Aston Villa and Liverpool man?
Cyril : I am all about Theo Walcott this weekend. He had my curiosity with his early performances but now he’s got my attention after showing consistency over the last couple of games. Burnley’s left flank of George Byod and Matthew Lowton have a tough task ahead of them on Sunday to keep Bellerín and Walcott quiet. Sanchez remains the main danger for Arsenal with Özil his deputy as creator and chief but the right flank is fast becoming one of the most potent weapons in Wenger’s arsenal.
As a Charlie Austin fan, I find it rather frustrating he hasn’t been made a main fixture in the Southampton side yet. I endeavour to watch him play whenever I can and I have fond memories of his last stint in the Premier League when he was playing for QPR. I reckon scoring 5 goals across all competitions is a good way to get Puel to consider making him the Saints main striker. At the very least, he should make his 3rd start and give Leicester’s Huth and Morgan the runaround this Sunday. The 27yr old is yet to play the full 90min for Puel in the league this season and this weekend is as good a time as any to reach that milestone. Whether you blame the loss of Kante, general poor form or the changes in the rules which limit holding and tugging of jerseys in the 6-yard box for Leicester’s poor start to the season, the table shows the Foxes will be needing another miracle in order to defend their title this season if they continue playing as they do now. Austin will be looking to add to their defensive woes this season — so long as Puel let’s him play.
Reginald : With Kevin De Bruyne out injured, David Silva will play in the #10 he undoubtedly coverts. Wanyama and Dier will have their hands full trying to keep the diminutive Spaniard quiet.
Crystal Palace will hope to carry their aerial dominance to Goodison Park on Friday. With Townsend and Zaha willing to feed Benteke with crosses at any chance given, either one of Ashley Williams of Phil Jagielka should be willing for a gruelling duel against Benteke.
What players should readers keep an eye on?
Cyril : Arsenal’s midweek Champions League heroics against FC Basel means they are unbeaten in their last 6 games. As far as I am concerned, they are right on schedule according to the infamous Gooner Boom-bust cycle. I doubt this will be the last time I reference it this season. As per the cycle, Wenger has now led the team to an unbeaten 6 game run across all competitions and other than Sanchez, who was expected to have a productive season, no one typifies Arsenal’s bullish form better than Theo Walcott. With 4 goals in his last 3 appearances, Feo is in very good form and is expected to be one of Arsenal’s key men if they are to beat a Burnley side that is rather difficult to breakdown at home. He has formed a rather impressive partnership with Bellerín down the right, chipping in with interceptions and general defensive duties all season. Up front, he has combined well with Sanchez to form a rather effective attacking force. I quite like clinical Theo, whatever Wenger said to him in the off-season to have him playing with so much confidence should perhaps be shared with the Ox to get him finally up and running as well.
It’s all about pacy wide-men for me this gameweek as my next player is Raheem Sterling. After a troubled start to life at City, the former Liverpool winger has finally begun to deliver upon his earlier promise. Sitting pretty with 4 goals, and only one behind Agüero, City fans will be hoping he shows his guile and confidence in front of goal when they face the best defence in the league on Sunday.
Reginald : Three English players have caught some tailwind in the early parts of the season. Theo Walcott, Adam Lallana, and Raheem Sterling. Most Arsenal fans were excited in the summer when there was a rumoured bid from West Ham for Walcott. Three months later, he’s cemented his place on the right hand side of their attack. Despite his impressive displays, Roy Keane has moved to pour cold water over the praises Walcott has been getting and has challenged him to“try playing well for the next seven, eight, nine months when the real crunch games come.” Burnley Beware!
Another curious case is that of Adam Lallana. With three goals and assists to his name already this season, he’s part of a deadly midfield Klopp has at his disposal. He’ll be hoping to add to his tally this weekend against a lacklustre Swansea team.
Pep Guardiola has a thing for fostering goal scoring wingers. Think Pedro and Robben. Sterling looks to have found his swagger back playing under Pep. He already four goals to his name this season compared to six for the whole of last season in the league. Pep will hope his winger continue this fine form against Spurs.
Donald : Charlie Austin is back in the reckoning and looking the part as usual. With 5 goals in as many games so far, Claude Puel looks set to give him a decent run in the side and could profit from the industry of Redmond and assists from Tadic.
Heung-Min Son is another to keep an eye out of. He has already scored more goals this season than he did all of last year and is certainly one of the most in form players in the league. With Kane missing he has shown that he can step up. Now to do it against the league leaders.
What are the must watch games this weekend?
Reginald : All eyes on Tottenham vs Manchester City. The two remaining unbeaten teams in the league go head to head this weekend. It should be a good game to watch for neutrals due to the attacking impetus of both teams. Spurs have coped well in the absence of their talismanic forward Harry Kane. A year ago, Spurs thrashed City convincingly and also won away at the Etihad in the reverse fixture. Pochettino will fancy his sides chances despite the arrival of Pep.
Southampton vs Leicester should be another tasty affair. Leicester will be hoping to translate their European form to the league and start getting consistent. Southampton however will have other ideas of their own. The Saints are on a two game winning streak and will be confident after last week’s display at West Ham.
Donald : Everton vs Palace should be a good one. Both teams with loads of attacking talent should make for an exciting contest.
Leicester vs Southampton will showcase two in-form strikers in Slimani and Austin and should be a pulsating affair.
But Spurs vs City is THE big one. Two very disciplined sides with 2 tactically astute managers should make for an interesting chess match. Both have lost key men in Kane and De bruyne and that evens things out in a way, but it’s understandable for anyone to fancy City for this one.
Cyril : City vs. Spurs. The best league’s defence vs. the best attack. It’s hard to look past this. Whoever is in charge of the fixtures did a good job as every weekend has served up an enticing tie. Fans at the White Hart Lane will be looking to Pochettino for a repeat defensive performance which saw them limit both Merseyside clubs to a goal a piece when they came to visit.
Things are not quite going as planned for Chelsea. They haven’t won in their last 3 matches and Conte will be hoping the lack of midweek European commitments would have given his team a chance to work out some of their issues on both halves of the field. Their opponents, Hull have defied preseason predictions which labelled them as the whipping boys and put together an impressive string of performances. The Tigers will be hoping their captain, Curtis Davies will make like a wall and block everything that Chelsea throw at them.
There’s something inexplicably beautiful about symmetry and a rather perverse enjoyment in seeing that get ruined. For anyone that finds that this resonates with them, look no further than Watford vs. Bournemouth. With 6 games played so far, both teams have 7 points from 2 wins, 1 draw and 3 losses. The away side however, arrive at Vicarage Road having beaten a lacklustre Everton lat week while the home side will be hoping to bounce back from their limp defeat to Burnley. A draw preserves their symmetry whilst a win for either shoots the victor into the top half of the table. I say let chaos reign free!
Eyes on the touchline — which manager[s] to watch?
Cyril : Sunderland inexplicably blew a 2–0 lead at home to Crystal Palace, losing 3–2 and thus condemning Moyes and his men to their 5th loss of the season. No wins . The troubled Scot has a woeful return of just one point from six games, leaving the Black Cats rock-bottom of the table. Does his team have what it takes to stop a Pulis team that excels at defending and now has players in Chadli and Rondón who can cause damage to teams on the counter? The signs don’t look too promising for Moyes at all.
Friday Night Football is back and we get to see how Koeman reacts to losing Everton’s undefeated record. Palace remain a hard side to figure out — they have the players and the talent. Just need to find a good rhythm. Maybe the switch from Connor Wickham to Benteke leading the line is taking a while for the Palace squad to adjust to. Pardiola would have to either motivate the hell out of his boys or set up his team to nullify Everton’s own wide men and neutralise their Belgian striker. Koeman is odds on favourite to win this tie. An upset isn’t beyond Alan Pardew, and with Everton haven failed to beat their visitors in the last 3 attempts, you can just see Tekkers towering over Williams and Jagielka to head in the winner in the dying minutes — similar to the heartbreak they unleashed upon Sunderland last weekend.
Reginald : Six games into the season and the race for avoiding the drop is already piling the pressure on managers. David Moyes has had a torrid time so far with Sunderland. He’s also been unlucky with conceding last minute goals against Man City and Crystal Palace. To avoid relegation, games like this at home against WBA are a must win. Moyes will have to be innovative and also come up with a way to replace his creative spark Adan Januzaj (out for six weeks with an ankle injury).
Another manager feeling the heat from the relegation dog fight is West Ham’s Slaven Bilić. After last season’s heroics to finish in seventh, The Hammers find themselves with only one win after six games. Italian recruit Simone Zaza has failed to score so far in three appearances. Losing record signing Andre Ayew to injury after the first game didn’t help much either. Dimitri Payet is still yet to get off the mark. Bilić tried to boost the team morale by allowing his players to take a day off from training during the week. He will be hoping to reap some reward from his players when they face Middlesbrough on Saturday.
Donald : Fransesco Guidolin. Seems to be a dead man walking with numerous reports suggesting the Swansea Hierarchy have lost faith in him. He needs a result to prolong his time in England as I suspect another defeat could be the last straw.
Antonio Conte said his team are good on paper but not as a team. He’ll be looking for a reaction from his players after that poor display at the Emirates
David Moyes is under Intense pressure at Sunderland and just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, one of their brightest players Januzaj is out for several weeks. The fans have started murmuring and he needs to find a winning formula and fast before things start to get ugly in the stands
West Ham were booed off after yet another disappointing defeat at their new home and Bilić, who saw his side tipped for great things at the start of the season, is under massive pressure to turn things around.
With the launch of FIFA 17, we ask the GCR football staff what their favourite FIFA cover?
Donald : FIFA ’06 for me. Rooney was at the time certainly one of the best forwards in world football and Ronaldinho was already a legend. The rain in the background still makes me lose it!
Cyril : Going with FIFA 06' as well. It’s strange just how insane you’d sound claiming Rooney is as good as C. Ronaldo but back then, you’d have legs to stand on if you claimed he was (and would be) the better player.
It’s disappointing seeing his career tail off but ’06 Rooney had the world at his feet, Dinho had the ball dancing between his feet and young me couldn’t get enough of the soundtrack. Good times.
Reginald : Fifa 2002 for me. A young Thierry Henry graced the cover on his rise to the pantheon of English Football. R1+O will be invented a few years after that.