Another round of midweek action in Europe where English clubs were largely shown up. Arsenal were dominant against minnow opposition, but even on their way to a 6-0 victory there were a number of missed chances that would have been put away by a more clinical outfit. Speaking of clinical, Barcelona made Manchester City look like a park side. City gave the ball away coming out of trouble far too often and were punished, firstly by way of a Bravo red card and then by conceding three times when down to 10 men.
The Citizens will have a chance to make amends this weekend, whilst the Gunners will go for an 8th successive victory. For the first time in a long time, we have five genuine heavyweights occupying the top five places on the table, with Manchester United in 7th the lone outlier. With just three points separating 1st and 5th, the stakes are as high as ever in Gameweek 9.
2016/2017 Season EPL Predictions Record
Since this column began ahead of the 2014/2015 Premier League season, we’ve tipped 518/946 results correctly for a success rate of 54.76%, whilst predicting 92 correct scorelines along the way.
- Roman Barbera: 42/80 – 6 correct scorelines
- Clinton Madden: 39/80 – 5 correct scorelines
EPL Predictions: Week 9 – Matchday 1
Bournemouth vs. Tottenham (Vitality Stadium)
The Cherries were insatiable against Hull last weekend, however they will need to regroup if they’re to challenge a Tottenham team that seems as a resolute defensively as any side we’ve seen in recent years. Tottenham have conceded just 4 times through 8 Premier League fixtures this campaign; two fewer than Everton and 5 fewer than league-leaders Manchester City. Bournemouth have conceded just once over their last 3 EPL home games, and have relied on Eddie Howe’s high-possession brand of football and an incredibly fast back four to deny their opposition chances in both conventional play and on the counter. In Tottenham however, they’ll face a team capable of depriving possession and pressuring the ball. Whilst Tottenham won this fixture last season 5-1 (courtesy of an Artur Boruc shocker if I recall correctly), it would be a surprise to see many goals in this match. Tottenham come off the back of a 0-0, yet expansive, outing against Leverkusen mid-week, and are still trying to find their way in attack without talisman Harry Kane. A narrow win is expected for the visitors, despite the fact that the two fixtures between these sides last season yielded a total of 9 goals.
Key Player | Artur Boruc – Boruc had a howler in this fixture last season, struggling for confidence against a barrage of Tottenham shots. This season, Tottenham are attempting the most shots (18.4 per game), and average the third most shots on target per game (6.3) in the Premier League this season.
Prediction | Bournemouth 0 – 1 Tottenham
Arsenal vs. Middlesborough (Emirates Stadium)
Middlesborough have avoided defeat in 5 of the last 7 meetings between these sides, however all five of those positive results came in a previous era of Boro football – the pre-2009 relegation era. The current era has been far less promising. Middlesborough haven’t scored more than 1 goal in a game since August (a 2-1 win over Sunderland). Since then, they’ve scored 5 goals over a span of 7 games – this despite playing Fulham, and just one club in the top 8 of the Premier League standings (Everton). Middlesborough have dominated possession over the last fortnight (averaging 62% of the ball), however they’ve managed only 6 shots on target and 1 goal. That output against Arsenal won’t suffice, and it would seem that for a team that only has 3 goals from open play in 8 EPL outing this season, set-pieces will be a primary avenue of attack. The Gunners are notoriously fragile from such situations, however it is hard to see how Boro – a side that seriously lacks pace – will threaten Arsenal enough between the counter and at set-pieces to score the 2-3 times they would need to take anything from this clash.
Key Player | Alvaro Negredo – Negredo is not the type of forward who will thrive in this situation. He’ll be largely isolated and doesn’t boast the pace to outrun Koscielny or Gabriel, not to mention Bellerin. Holding the ball up for the Stuani is unlikely to yield much, meaning Stewart Downing will likely be Middlesborough’s best avenue forward.
Prediction | Arsenal 3 – 0 Middlesborough
West Ham United vs. Sunderland (London Stadium)
Gone are the says where West Ham were a free-flowing attack led by the sublime Dimitri Payet and spearheaded by a range of interchangeable forwards who always seemed to produce. West Ham’s last 8 games across all competitions have yielded a total of just 9 goals, and that includes matches against Astra Giurgiu and Stanley. Despite the fact that they play a side that has conceded 15 goals this campaign, the Hammers tend to thrive in open, counter-attacking situations. Sunderland average just 42.2% of possession however, and will sit deep and try to snatch a win. Sunderland’s away games have averaged 2 goals per game, whilst their home games have been far more free-flowing. All of this adds up to a tough day for the Hammers unless they can snatch an early goal. A strong start would open the game up and give the likes of Payet room to operate. As a result, this game could go one of two ways, but we’re hedging towards Sunderland’s winless streak to continue.
Key Player | Dimitri Payet – Payet’s season hasn’t been as mind-blowing as his last campaign, but that is as much a product of his teammates’ incompetence as anything else. The Hammers average the 8th most shots in the league but the 16th most on target. They’re also conceding the 10th fewest shots – meaning midfield pressure is adequate – but have conceded 17 goals in total (2nd worst in the EPL).
Prediction | West Ham United 2 – 1 AFC Bournemouth
Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace (King Power Stadium)
After an uneasy start to their title defence, Leicester have found their feet. A perfect start to the Champions League Group Stage, three clean sheets in their last four outings and new signings are starting to gel. The Foxes have struggled against the league’s bigger sides – Chelsea and Manchester United – for several reasons, however Crystal Palace are hardly world beaters, and Ranieri should fancy his side’s chances this weekend. Palace are in the midst of a scheduling anomaly in that this weekend will mark their 5th away game in their last 7 outings. They’ve knocked off the league’s whipping boys in Middlesborough and Sunderland away from home in that time, but have fallen victim to all other opponents. Their midfield looks slow, the defence lacks intensity and outside of Christian Benteke, there somehow seems a notable lack of class – despite Zaha and Cabaye having been two of the bigger transfer targets for mid-tier clubs just 18 months ago. Leicester’s speed should really trouble Palace, and as much as this game has ‘Leicester settles for disappointing point’ written all over it, the hosts should be too good given their recent form. Add to this the fact that Palace are erratic, and put this down as one of the more entertaining (if not attractive) matches of the weekend.
Key Player | Christian Benteke – At his best, he was the most damaging centre-forward in the league, but an ill-fated stint at Liverpool has clearly dented Benteke’s confidence. Brute force is unlikely to yield results against Huth and Morgan, but the pace of Zaha and Townsend, combined with Leicester’s struggles to mark from set pieces could yield rewards.
Prediction | Leicester City 2 – 1 Crystal Palace
Hull City vs. Stoke City (KCOM Stadium)
After an incredibly promising and courageous start to the year, Hull’s smaller squad and off-season controversy has caught up with them. Over their past three games, they’ve lost 5-1, 2-0 and 6-1, with that latest loss against a good but hardly world-beating Bournemouth. Stoke meanwhile have been inconsistent, but seem to have found some defensive integrity of late. A tough run of fixtures ended with a 2-0 win over Sunderland, and there is every chance they make it back to back wins for the first time since 2 March this year. The Potters have largely held their own against minnow opposition over the last two seasons, and should be expected to take at least a draw away from Hull. With the Tigers’ defence as porous as it has been, and with Stoke’s front four likely to provide issues for the 3-5-2-1 formation that Hull deploys, expect Hull to sit deep, even at home. Stoke have enough talent up front to navigate that challenge and should earn a comfortable win.
Key Player | Jake Livermore – Stoke aren’t the forceful, typically English side they were under Tony Pulis. They’ve been moulded into a continental-style pass-first attack with sublime midfield and striker talent. Livermore will be responsible for breaking up the rhythm of Shaqiri and Allen – something he’s been unable to do for most of this season.
Prediction | Hull City 0 – 2 Stoke City
Burnley vs. Everton (Turf Moor)
Burnley at home is one of the more tricky Premier League fixtures. The last 11 fixtures at Turf Moor have seen under 3 goals scored, and with Everton so strong defensively and inconsistent in attack this season, we’re backing a 1-0 win for the visitors. The Toffees have managed to eek out wins on the road this season, with a 3-0 victory at the Stadium of Light their lone comprehensive showing. Lukaku and company however have managed to score in every away game bar an abomination against Bournemouth, however that they only lost that game 1-0 reads well for those expecting a grinding affair. With Steven Defour set to miss, expect Burnley to have less going forward, meaning that we’d be surprised if Everton conceded. It took Ronald Koeman months to choose between 4 and 3 at the back at Southampton, because either the attack or defence struggled depending on which formation he deployed. He seems to have found somewhat of a balance at Everton, however with defence the priority, we’d be surprised if there were more than 2 goals in this match.
Key Player | Patrick Bamford – Bamford may be deployed to give Burnley something going forward, however we don’t expect him to have much success if Burnley sit deep and try to live on the counter. Bamford was used in such a role 7 times by Norwich on loan last season, and managed to not only finish all 7 matches goal-less, but didn’t contribute much aside from one speculative hit from distance that smacked the crossbar.
Prediction | Burnley 0 – 1 Everton