FA Premier League Predictions Week 37 – Mind The Gap

Well first off, week 36 saw a miserable week for predictions as I managed just 1 correct result and 1 correct score. Where there were wins predicted there were draws and where draws looked a banker, the result at Selhurst Park for example was the most unlikeliest result of the season.  Who would have thought Crystal Palace would have stuck five past Leicester City.  West Brom seem to have left their great escape a bit too late after their win at Newcastle United.  With fellow strugglers Southampton (32 points) and Swansea City (33) both with a game in hand, the drop does look inevitable for the Baggies.

The top end of the table saw wins for United, Spurs and Chelsea, whilst Liverpool were held to another home draw after Mo Salah showed he was human after all. It was the first game since Boxing Day that he hadn’t found the net. It would be interesting to see how things pan out as Liverpool travel to Chelsea on the Sunday afternoon. Liverpool will go in looking for a win that would secure their Champions League spot, whilst a draw would be enough to secure a top four spot. Should the Blues win and take maximum points in the remaining games, it will make it interesting going into the final round of the season. Tottenham travel to West Brom where it is likely that the hosts will be doomed to relegation. Should West Brom do anything else, then it could make things quite interesting,especially

  1.                         Arsenal  3-1.   Burnley.            Gunners give Wenger final home win
  2.            Bournemouth.  1-1.   Swansea.          Swans hanging on by a thread
  3.                     Brighton.   0-3.   Man Utd.          United storm to south coast win
  4.                        Chelsea.  1-2.   Liverpool.         Another win over Chelsea for Klopp
  5.                       Everton.   2-2.  Southampton.  Saints struggling for survival
  6.            Leicester City.    1-2.   West Ham.       Hammers safe again
  7.                     Man City.   3-0.   Huddersfield.  Can City ton up?
  8.                      Stoke City. 1-2.   Crystal Palace. Palace send Stoke down
  9.                        Watford.  1-1.  Newcastle Utd. Hornets and Magpies draw
  10.                   West Brom.  1-1.   Tottenham        Point not enough as Baggies down

 

So with the penultimate weekend, the Emirates sees Arsene Wenger’s final home game, the relegation battle is being eeked out and the battle for the remaining Champions League spots gets ever closer, so here’s how things should look this weekend.

Arsenal look certain to beat Burnley not only giving Wenger the final home game send off he deserves whilst securing sixth spot. In the chase for the Champions League, Liverpool face Chelsea as they travel to the Bridge and having qualified for the Champions League Final, they will look to secure their place in next seasons competition. The Red look certain to bounce back from the second leg defeat and beat their hosts. For Liverpool a win or draw will give them a top four finish, whilst a home win would make things a little interesting. I am though giving three points to Liverpool.

Spurs look certain to end West Brom’s stay in the Premier League albeit with a draw. This and the other result would surely end any hopes of Chelsea in the Champions League next season.

Swansea City’s trip to Bournemouth sees only a point for the Welsh club which will do nothing for the nerves of the fans although their relegation rivals Southampton will only see a point away to Everton. The two relegation threatened sides face off in the midweek game in what is basically a game that will either make it a final day survival battle or make Premier League survival all but done. That prediction is for another column.

Until then, it’s good night.

 

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Arsène Wenger changed my life – Victoria Sharkey guest post

Follow Victoria’s football tweets here at Groundhopping Girl

I don’t remember the day that Arsène Wenger was appointed as Arsenal manager. I’d have been 19, still a season ticket holder, but still reeling from the bitter disappointment of Bruce Rioch. We had a few things going for us; a stalwart Captain in David Platt, safe-hands Seaman between the posts, the amazing but disgruntled Ian Wright, the new boy Vieira, and the talented, quiet, respected Dutchman Dennis Bergkamp, who looked slightly out of place in our team of bruisers and boozers. Ah, the boozers! What had been the best defence in the country had seemingly had one pint too many, had stopped being quite as reliable as they used to be, and were looking more than a little jaded.

Enter The Professor.

I can’t remember the first time that I realised the impact this elegant Frenchman was making on the side but I do remember the gradual realisation that we were getting…well…a bit more serious about things. Not just in his signings (though it was to be many years before I realised he was behind the Vieira signing even though he’d not yet been appointed!) but in the attitudes of the old guard. Players who had been solid under Graham suddenly became skillful too.  “He’s using ball control!!!” I exclaimed in shock about ‘Donkey’ Adams on more than one occasion. We’d never really seen that before! Players like Adams, Dixon, Winterburn became sleek and demonstrated more pace and intelligence than I’d ever seen before. Steve Bould and Ray Parlour got a new lease of life. Suddenly Dennis didn’t look so out of place.

And then we became ‘Le Arsenal’.  Where do I start? Vieira, Petit, Wiltord,  Anelka, Grimandi…eventually Pirès and Clichy…we had the stars of the World Cup, the European Championship winning side, players who would never have dreamt of coming to play for us under Graham or (haha!) Rioch.

And of course Freddie. We can’t forget Freddie! And the controversial signing of Sol Campbell from Spurs…what other manager could have pulled that off?

Something happened to Arsenal when Mr Wenger came along. It was more than just about winning trophies, we’d done that under George. It was a change of style. No, more than that, it was a change of ethos, and we could see it both on and off the pitch. No more tabloid shots of players leaving clubs at 3am. No more Tuesday Club, sorry boys. A change of diet, a change of lifestyle, a change of attitude, and with that he truly brought us the epitome of The Beautiful Game. As Ivan Gazidis said at his press conference today, he made “art out of football”.

And then was Thierry. Of course, Thierry.

I don’t need to reel off the trophies he won with Arsenal. I don’t need to talk about his winning the title in his first full season. I don’t even need to talk about the historic Invincibles. The impact that Mr Wenger has made on my life is more than even all that. I was always proud to be a Gooner, even through the Terry Neill and Don Howe years, but after Mr Wenger took over my head was held just a little higher. Being Arsenal meant more than mere silverware. It was about having the greatest team of players I had ever seen or even imagined. It was about playing week in, week out, the sort of football I had never dreamed would be seen at gritty down-at-heel Highbury. “It’s just like watching Brazil” was a regular song, but that wasn’t true. We were better than Brazil!!!

The move to the Emirates and the lack of league titles since then have of course been disappointing and I’m not naïve to think that our manager has nothing to do with that. But right now that doesn’t matter. What matters is how he changed my club for the better, how he changed football in England for the better, and how he changed my life.

He is Mr Arsenal.

Au revoir, Arsène, et merci.

Never Appoint Your Heroes – Dan Raywood

30 Years a Lilywhite – Dan Raywood guest blog

So another season is over, and it is one that is magnificent for Spurs for a number of reasons. Firstly, we finished second for the first time since the 1960s, and of course we ended the curse of St Totteringham’s Day that has long lingered over N17. That postcode is also significant, as Spurs will not call White Hart Lane home for a year, as the new stadium takes shape and Spurs relocate to Wembley Stadium for next season.

The last game and following pitch invasion and ceremony were all lavishly done. A final victory at the stadium over a half hearted Manchester United – who probably have most eyes on the Europa League final – was followed by a parade of legends in the rain, and choir and opera singers of some terrace chants. Amusing of course was the pitch invasion, with one claim from The Spurs Show podcast that to clear it, all they needed to do was give the microphone to Pat Jennings!

I’m writing this an hour ahead of the final games of the season, where Spurs finish off against a relegated Hull City. The season has been a good one from my point of view – Spurs were generally excellent despite struggles in the Champions League and FA Cup when we hit Wembley. The winners Chelsea are led by a terrific coach in Conte, while the on-off form of West Brom, Southampton and Bournemouth has showed that this remains the best league in the world.
On the downside, Arsenal and Manchester United look to be in disarray. United will buy their way out of trouble, but Arsenal face a divided fan base over the future of manager Arsene Wenger. See my previous post for my view on that situation.
The main down point of the Premier League season has been it’s end. A strong title race between Spurs, Chelsea and Manchester City was over after one defeat by West Ham over Spurs, while the relegation places were confirmed over a disastrous Sunderland, too defensive Middlesbrough and resurgent Hull City. All three will struggle to hold on to the few big names they have and I don’t know how fast they will return with Newcastle United and Brighton and Hove Albion claiming the promotion places.

The last things to confirm are the final fourth place in the league to play in the Champions League next season – that is in Liverpool’s hands. Also I’ll be hoping Everton don’t score so Harry Kane can claim the golden boot, one trophy for Spurs to boast about this season!

Love the One You’re With – Dan Raywood blog


Champions League – Last 16

The Champions League draw took place this morning and England’s three remaining representatives were hoping for a easier start to a possible run to the final. For Arsenal and Man City it was familiar ground but for Premier League champions Leicester, this was still new ground. In fact for the Foxes, they were the only debutants in the knock out stages in this rounds competition.

Having snatched the group on the final round of group games, Arsenal found them meeting their Champions League nemesis, Bayern Munich. Having lost to them at the same stage in 2013 and 2014, Arsene Wenger will hope it’s third time lucky for the Gunners. Bayern, who finished second in their group will look to progress to the final having lost to runners up Atletico Madrid.

Leicester City find themselves in at the deep end as they face Spanish club Sevilla, who won last seasons Europa League final against Liverpool. The Spaniards came second to Juventus in their group and in their domestic league are flying in third place. The fortunate thing for Leicester is that they will be at home in the second leg and if they are yet again flying in Champions League form and still within a shout, it could make all the difference.

Man City will hope to make it to the Semi finals again and will see their chance of progression the easiest out of the three home clubs Whilst they face French club Monaco beat Tottenham twice, they wont be easy. City will hope that their form has turned round by the time the two clubs meet.

In the other last sixteen fixtures Real Madrid look favourites against Napoli, despite the defending champions finishing second in their group albeit behind Borussia Dortmund. Benfica face a tricky tie when they face Borussia Dortmund. The Portuguese club will need to be tight at the back against the strong German club. PSG’s failure to top the group with a final round draw sees them face Barcelona. The French club will host Barcelona in the first leg and travel to Spain for the second. It should prove to be a mouthwatering tie with both teams looking to reach the final.

The changing face of the boss – Dan Raywood’s thoughts

The continuing fiasco at Nottingham Forest has convinced me of one thing – don’t employ a club legend as your manager.
As a Spurs fan, I can speak from experience with memories of Ardiles and Hoddle having been manager. The former struggled with the initial power sharing between Alan Sugar and Terry Venables, as well as a fantastic attacking line combined with a poor defence, while Hoddle lost Sol Campbell within months of starting and struggled with a poor crop of players, failure to match Arsenal’s achievements and Levy’s expectations.
Of course the fans would never turn on a club legend and there are instances where this scenario has worked out – Keegan’s first spell at Newcastle, George Graham at Arsenal and Howard Kendall at Everton. In the case of the tricky trees (yes, that is a nickname), Stuart Pearce seemed to start well, but things have taken a turn for the worse and psycho has left the City Ground.
Did the fans still sing his name despite the downturn? I expect so. However the situation changed so fast at Forest that Pearce was out and replaced by Dougie Freedman within a matter of hours, something that stung of a planned removal and the departure of the Chief Executive within the following 24 hours suggests that while the fans of Forest support Pearce, the board made moves ahead of time.
This may be an example of how the modern manager is expected to perform – with immediate impact and effort. The argument could be that the modern manager is replicated of the European and American model, where the club gets the players and the manager/coach is expected to work with what they are given.
Take Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s recent comments in his column in the Arsenal programme ahead of the game against Aston Villa. He talked of signings of how if a player is bought by the manager they are bought by someone who selected them, and “that gives you a certain level of confidence that you’re really wanted and that you have a chance to play.” Wise words from the Professor, but he is speaking the truth about one method of management, while a more modern one is the “top down approach” where a coach is just that, a coach.
Was this the case at Nottingham Forest, where another manager has fallen on his sword because of the actions of the owners? Take last night’s deadline day activity where West Ham United chairman David Gold advised people not to go to bed in a kind of reverse Freddie Kreuger action. Why was the chairman advising instead of the manager? Is the chairman picking the team over “Big” Sam Allardyce?
The role of the football manager is changing and the situation is dividing the new and old schools of ways of doing things. Sadly some eggs are being broken as a result.