Premier League Preview – Week 3

It’s almost time for another weekend of Premier League action and this weekend should be even more exciting than the last two.  The transfer window closes on Friday night, so it is almost impossible to know what sort of squads the teams will have at their disposal.  Most clubs seem to be still active and a few have a huge task to complete their squads for the season.
The next two days should be full of speculation, some ridiculous and some accurate, but most importantly it should see lots of player movement.  Everybody loves it when their favourite team sign a new player.  It doesn’t always end well but that initial excitement when your team brings in a new “star” is hard to beat.  Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal all seem to be in the market for new talent and if things go their way I expect to see some big money spent on new additions.
With all that in mind I’ll try to write my preview of this weekend’s games but for all I know, by the time kick off arrives Manchester City could be giving debuts to their new strike force of Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.  
West Ham v Fulham – Sat 12.45 BST
Another weekend, another Saturday lunchtime kick off for the Hammers.  They looked terrible last weekend against Swansea.  They didn’t help themselves by giving Swansea two first half goals but they also struggled to cope with the Swans passing and movement in attack.  West Ham will have to be much better and I would expect to see some improvement in front of their home fans.  Matt Jarvis had a relatively good debut last week but it’s difficult for a winger to look good in a team were your only real aerial threat is coming from midfield.  I expect the Hammers to at least try one more time for Liverpool striker, Andy Carroll.  Carroll made it clear he didn’t fancy the move but Brendan Rodgers has made it even clearer that it’s either move on or make yourself comfortable on the Liverpool bench.
Fulham followed up their 5-0 win over Norwich, with a 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford.  They can count themselves unlucky in that game as United keeper, David de Gea made some excellent saves in the dying minutes.  Fulham have had a mixed week in the transfer market.  Star man, Mousa Dembele has left the club, joining London rivals, Tottenham.  Dembele is a huge loss and with Clint Dempsey rumoured to be leaving, things don’t look good.  On a positive note, Dimitar Berbatov, looks like he could be making the move to Craven Cottage.  The Bulgarian has had limited opportunities recently but his goals to minutes played ratio last season was among the best in the league.  Regular football should help him and he could be a good addition.  I will be keeping an eye on Craven Cottage over the next few days as I feel they will need to bring in at least one midfielder, especially if Clint Dempsey moves on.
Prediction :  I can’t split them.  Draw.
Swansea v Sunderland – Sat 3.00 BST
The Swans have got off to an excellent start under new manager, Michael Laudrup.  Eights goals scored, none conceded, six points from two games.  It’s certainly a lot better than I thought they would do.  When Rodgers left I thought Swansea would struggle but it appears chairman, Huw Jenkins, has got yet another managerial appointment correct.  Laudrup’s signings have all looked good with Michu being the stand out after scoring three goals in two games.  Swansea have been making enquiries about new signings and look to have agreed a deal to bring in Valencia winger, Pablo Hernandez.  Hernandez will be a replacement for Scott Sinclair who is on the verge of joining Manchester City.
Sunderland have only played one game after their game was postponed last weekend due to a waterlogged pitch.  In that game they earned a credible draw at the Emirates.  Since then, Martin O’Neill has improved the attacking options in the squad with Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson both coming in.  Johnson will provide some creativity and O’Neill will be hoping Fletcher can add some much-needed goals.  O’Neill is well-known to leave his business late in the window so I wouldn’t be surprised if he has another deal planned.
Prediction :  This should be another tight game and Swansea’s toughest task so far.  I think Sunderland could hold them to a draw here.
Tottenham v Norwich – Sat 3.00 BST
New Spurs manager, Andre Villas-Boas, is still looking for his first victory and will expect his side to get over their slow start against Norwich.  They had enough chances last week to win comfortably but they didn’t take them and West Brom managed to get a stoppage time equalizer to grab a point.  Spurs have already brought Mousa Dembele in and I expect to see several more changes before the window closes.  There has been a lot of rumours involving Spurs in the last few days, so all we can do is sit tight and see what AVB does in the next 24 hours.  I would be very surprised if there is not one or two big deals, in and out of the club
Norwich have had a tough start this season.  A 5-0 defeat at Fulham was followed up by a home draw with QPR.  They should have won the QPR game but were unable to take their chances.  Norwich have signed Mark Bunn from Blackburn and appear poised to sign Brighton striker, Craig Mackail-Smith.  Mackail-Smith was a good player at Peterborough but hasn’t brought that form to Brighton so I’d be surprised if he started scoring in the Premier League.  Norwich haven’t started well and judging by those signings, I don’t expect much of an improvement.
Prediction :  AVB to get his first win as Spurs manager.
West Bromwich Albion v Everton – Sat 3.00 BST
West Brom have made a promising start under new manager Steve Clarke.  They started with a great 3-0 win over Liverpool and got a late equalizer last weekend at White Hart Lane to claim a point.  Four points from two difficult fixtures is an excellent start for the Baggies.  If they can play as well against the league’s lower teams then there is no reason why they shouldn’t target a top half finish.
Everton are another side who have made a great start with two wins from two difficult fixtures.  A 1-0 win over Manchester United and a 3-1 win at Villa Park has given them something to build on which is quite unusual for Everton.  In recent seasons we have become used to a poor start and then a turn of form after Christmas and a top half finish.  With a good start like the one they have had David Moyes men should be aiming a little big higher this season.  Moyes may yet bring in an extra player but I’d imagine he will probably just be glad to see the transfer window close so his board can’t sell any of his players.
Prediction :  Both sides have started well and I can see this ending in a draw.
Wigan Athletic v Stoke City – Sat 3.00 BST
Wigan will most likely be happy with three points after two games and they may even consider themselves a bit unlucky.  They were the better team for most of the game against Chelsea but were caught out with two early goals and never got the goal that could have changed the game.  Last week they got a great result at St Mary’s, winning 2-0.  Wigan have lost Victor Moses to Chelsea and to date they have not replaced him.  I think it would be foolish of manager, Roberto Martinez, not to bring in another attacking option.
Stoke are another team who seem to be interested in bringing in another attacking option.  This week has seen them linked with Jermaine Defoe and Michael Owen.  Defoe has signed a new deal at Tottenham but Owen is still up for grabs.  Charlie Adam and Maurice Edu are another two who are on Tony Pulis’ radar.  Neither are particularly impressive signings but Stoke’s midfield could probably do with an upgrade.  Stoke have started with two draws but haven’t looked particularly impressive in either.  They certainly need to bring in a few fresh faces and I expect to see quite a bit of activity at the Britannia.
Prediction :  Wigan to keep their good run going with another win.

Manchester City v QPR – Sat 5.30 BST

Defending champions, Manchester City haven’t started particularly well but they do have four points on the board.  They didn’t play well against Southampton but stole a 3-2 win and were handed a point at Anfield, thanks to two defensive errors.  Things need to improve if they are to retain their title but I don’t imagine manager, Roberto Mancini is panicking yet.  Mancini looks set to bring in Matija Nastasic and Scott Sinclair before the window closes. I don’t know much about Nastasic other than he is a young Serbian defender who spent last year at Fiorentina.  City do need a defender but I’d have liked to see them bring in a proven talent rather than another project.  Sinclair is a player I rate but I would question the wisdom of this move.  He left Chelsea to get first team football and I don’t know how much he will get at City.  Good luck to him but it seems like a poor career move.

QPR are a mystery.  Nobody has a clue what is going in there.  They have signed some top class players and been linked with even more but still have some very ordinary footballers in key positions.  Julio Cesar has come in and a deal is in place for Esteban Granero.  They are two good players but QPR are playing a dangerous game.  The club haven’t got a large turnover and these players will be on big money.  Several clubs have found themselves in similar situations with disastrous consequences.  Results on the pitch have been poor so far.  A 5-0 home defeat to Swansea, followed by a rather fortunate point at Carrow Road have been less than inspiring.  QPR will no doubt sign a few more players before the transfer window closes and based on their first two games they need to.

Prediction :  I can’t see anything but a comfortable Manchester City win.

Liverpool v Arsenal – Sun 1.30 BST

What a game this should be.  Both teams have had a poor start whilst dealing with the high expectations of their fans.  Some Liverpool fans were on Rodgers back after they lost 3-0 to West Brom.  The pressure eased a little with a good performance in their 2-2 draw with Manchester City.  Liverpool should have taken all three points but made two bad defensive errors.  Liverpool will need to continue their improvement as they are up against an Arsenal team who also need a win to kick-start their season.  I expect Liverpool to have a few different players at the club by the time this game kicks off.  They seem desperate to get rid of Andy Carroll and Charlie Adam amongst others to bring in funds for new signings.  Anything could happen and I expect a big day for Liverpool tomorrow with plenty of movement both in and out.

Arsenal have started with two 0-0 draws.  The media are already making a big issue of the lack of goals after Robin Van Persie’s departure and rightfully so.  Arsenal have become a selling club and the fan’s seem happy with it.  The Arsenal fans need to start putting pressure on the board as they are risking getting left behind.  Their wage structure, whilst encouraging in this day and age, has become outdated.  Players can earn a lot more elsewhere and when they’re not winning trophies on the pitch, why would they want to stay?  Wenger needs to spend if he wants to compete.  They have been downsizing for a few years now and it’s only a matter of time before they go too far and miss the lucrative Champions League qualification that has become the only reason for their existence in recent seasons.

Prediction :  The three points will be staying at Anfield.

Newcastle United v Aston Villa – Sun 4.00 BST

A mixed bag for Newcastle so far with a win and a defeat in their two games.  When you consider the games were at home to Tottenham and away to Chelsea , it has been a good enough start.  Manager, Alan Pardew, has said he hopes to keep all his star players and at this stage it looks like he will do just that.  He had been interested in signing Andy Carroll and Mathieu Debuchy but at this stage it looks as though those deals are dead.  Pardew strikes me as the kind of guy who won’t be forced into panic buying and he will only spend if it’s for the right player.

Aston Villa have been an absolute disaster so far.  They have had two defeats and two very poor performances.  Manager, Paul Lambert, needs results to turn in their favour soon as they don’t want to get sucked into a relegation battle.  They have completed a deal for Joe Bennett from Middlesbrough and seem to be enquiring about a few others.  Owner, Randy Lerner, has just sold his NFL team, Cleveland Browns, so there is money available but at this stage it doesn’t look as though Lambert is going to see a significant portion of it.

Prediction :  Paul Lambert’s misery to continue with another defeat.

Southampton v Manchester United – Sun 4.00 BST

Southampton have lost both games so far but they can take some positives from a solid display in their opening game away to Manchester City.  They took a second half lead but couldn’t hold on and lost 3-2.  They followed that up with a disappointing 2-0 home defeat to Wigan.  The Saints have made a few signings this week bringing in Emmanuel Mayuka from Young Boys Berne and Maya Yoshida from VVV-Venlo.  Manager, Nigel Adkins, has indicated there may be more signings to come and it is still being speculated that Bologna’s, Gaston Ramirez, could be one of them.

Manchester United announced earlier in the week that they wouldn’t be signing any more players in this transfer window.  If there is to be any transfer activity at Old Trafford, it looks likely to be departures.  Striker, Dimitar Berbatov, looks almost certain to join Fulham and I wouldn’t be surprised to see maybe one or two other squad players leave, possibly on loan.  United haven’t been great in their two league games so far, losing at Everton before edging out Fulham 3-2.  They don’t look as solid at the back as they have in recent years but with their current injury list, that’s to be expected.  Once United have their full squad available I’ve no doubt they’ll be right in the middle of the title race as usual.

Prediction :  I expect United to have a difficult afternoon but they should have enough quality to edge a tight game.

Weekend Predictions

West Ham 0-0 Fulham        
Swansea 1-1 Sunderland
Tottenham 3-0 Norwich
West Brom 1-1 Everton
Wigan 2-1 Stoke
Man City 2-0 QPR       
Liverpool 2-1 Arsenal    
Newcastle 2-0 Aston Villa       
Southampton 0-1 Man Utd  

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