Great Scott: McTominay Key to Scotland Future?

The role of Scotland Captain has evolved around a need for a midfield General, in the mould of predecessors Ferguson, Fletcher and Brown.

You would be forgiven for believing this is the first time Scotland had ever qualified for an international tournament, given the excitement and media response to last night’s penalty shoot-out, but whilst it’s their first appearance since an underwhelming France ’98, more importantly it’s the first time in a long time that it even looked remotely feasible. Sure, Scotland have only just squeezed in by the barest of margins, a penalty shoot-out in a play-off, for a tournament extended to 24 teams for the first time. Let’s be fair, qualifying for this tournament alongside fellow play-off winners Hungary, North Macedonia and Slovakia is hardly earth shattering – but all that matters is you are there – just ask the two Ireland’s who failed through this extended qualifying campaign.

But Scotland have reasons to be cheerful. By just being there (whenever Euro 2020 does take place) means not experiencing another summer tournament where they either become jealous or disillusioned with the sport. When everyone else is getting excited about matches you’re not involved in, you either distance yourself, or just start supporting whoever England is playing – and neither have been healthy.

Within their personnel, Scotland have a few players who play at the highest level. For too long, the domestic league has been dire and not at the required standard to develop players into an international set-up. It has regularly led to first choice Scottish players leaving Scotland for Championship football – which still falls too short of the desired standard for an international football team to make an impact on a summer tournament. The current Scotland squad allocation looks like this:

9 Premier League
11 Scottish Premier League (6 Celtic/Rangers – 5 Other)
5 Championship

With Sheffield United contributing 3 of those EPL players, the end of season could see those swing even further towards the Championship!

Scotland have to understand they do not have the personnel to compete without going the extra mile – and last night they certainly did that, in fact, they’re now on an unbeaten run of 9 games. Scotland are unbeaten in 9 games! This is definitely an advantage of the Nations League set-up that provides fixtures for teams on a similar level (rather than the painstaking friendlies we have regularly seen like the comfortable England win vs Ireland also from last night). The Covid-19 outbreak amongst the Czech Republic this autumn was equally quite significant in their back-to-back wins against them. But this turnaround would not have been possible without the influence that Steve Clarke has brought to the international set-up. Prior to this run, Scotland were 13 defeats from 18 matches including defeats to Peru and Kazakhstan.

Clarke has experience of working with the best, at the top, across Europe, and has in more recent years earned his stripes in Scottish domestic football – taking a low budget Kilmarnock on a heedy run to the heights of the SPL. His appointment as Scotland Manager was popular across all of Scotland, and the fruits are beginning to bear. The real big pull of Steve Clarke is his experience of winning, and being around winners. That knowledge can carry a lot of weight in an inexperienced dressing room, and commands respect from those developing players. What Clarke also desperately needs is one or two players around him as leaders within that dressing room, that have also seen and done it. Scotland are very fortunate to have that with two players in particular:

Captain Andrew Robertson – the number one left-back in Premier League football, Premier League and Champions League winner, a key component of the best team in Europe.

Scott McTominay – first choice anchor man for Manchester United. Europa League, FA Cup, League Cup winner. Experience working with Van Gaal and Mourinho – both players surrounded by some of the best in world talent on a weekly basis.

The three of them, Clarke – Robertson – McTominay, are the future of this Scotland side and the hope for any level of success at next summer’s Euro 2020. Furthermore, it’s McTominay’s presence in the heart of the midfield (or defence) that could be the most significant on-field presence. Scottish football has evolved around a central engine going back decades. Not just an engine, but an aggressive engine prepared to kick lumps out of the opposition. The following list of Scotland Captains with 20+ appearances looks like this:

Scott Brown – Midfield
Darren Fletcher – Midfield
Barry Ferguson – Midfield
Colin Hendry – Defence
Gary McAllister – Midfield
Roy Aitken – Midfield
Graeme Sounness – Midfield
Archie Gemmill – Midfield
Billy Bremner – Midfield

Smaller footballing nations desperately require their superstars to not just lead by example, but set the standards that all of their compatriots need to strive to. It’s not difficult to find evidence that supports this, the most obvious being Cristiano Ronaldo’s influence over Portugal particularly during Euro 2016. Even when injured during the final, CR7 felt empowered and responsible to push his side from the touchline, involved in every phase of play as a secondary Head Coach.

McTominay, probably more so than current Captain Robertson, is a natural leader. It speaks volumes that Jose Mourinho selected him as Manager’s Player of the Year when at the helm at Old Trafford – more notable for the fact he only made 13 starts that season, “He is the one who has done everything. I always say that, for me, there are not young players or old players, it is just about the quality of the personality and this kid has everything that I want.”

Current United Manager also sees the required qualities in McTominay to influence his own future Old Trafford side, Scott has never ever let us down and he never disappoints when he plays tonight was another very, very fine performance by Scotty. So, it won’t be hard to see him play many, many games for Man United, because he has got such a great mentality.

When a player can stand out at Old Trafford like this, amongst allegedly world class talent like Paul Pogba, defensive experts like Nemandja Matic, and the array of talented midfielders both Solskjaer and Mourinho have had the experience to share dressing rooms with, it speaks huge volumes for what he can bring to stabilise and develop his Scotland colleagues moving forwards.

If McTominay – plus Clarke and Robertson – can continue to influence the Scotland set-up, bringing his experience – driving the higher standards expected of a Premier League midfielder – a trophy winner – sharing that ambition with the rest of the Scotland squad – there’s no reason why they cannot believe in themselves in qualifying for more international tournaments and causing upsets along the way.

All of that is with a very obvious caveat, that Scotland do require an international standard goalscorer. Working hard, being organised, and keeping the ball are imperative to competing on an international stage, but luck and goals are the difference in making a statement at global events. They cannot rely on penalty shoot-outs forever, but the future is certainly bright for Scotland. Bring on England at Wembley during the Euro 2020 group stages!

England vs Ireland Mini Preview

England’s footballing superiority neutralises the bloody history of their political past.

I was just a naive 10 year old boy when England went to visit the Republic of Ireland in February 1995. England had failed to qualify for the USA 94, the previous summer’s World Cup. In hindsight, that enabled me to truly enjoy a summer tournament without the hype and hyper-critical media that surrounds the England team every 2 years. I got to sit at home and watch all of the excitement – mainly around Brazil – but all of it, including supporting Ireland as the only home nation. I re-iterate… I was naive. I believed we were all getting behind Ireland (I later discovered I am part Irish, certainly part enough to get hammered on Guinness every March 17th), but it turns out that was not the case. Sure, they had household names from the Premier League in their squad, and the infamous Jack Charlton at the helm – also it turns out a lot of their players were born in England – but anyway the point was that at the time Ireland were arguably the better side. For England, Terry Venables was now in charge, the team was young and attacking, and we were preparing for our assault on winning Euro 96 through a number of friendlies over 2 years. This game was due to be special. Unfortunately, it was at this game that I started to learn of the political past of these two nations.

For those that do not know, the game was abandoned with less than 30 minutes played. “Fans” within the Landsown Road crowd had used this opportunity to make further political statements. This was a time of an active IRA. Seats were destroyed and thrown to the pitch. Fans were removed for their safety. Players huddled together on the field in complete dismay. This was only 25 years ago.

Since then, we have played Ireland twice more and the fixtures have filled me with nerves. There really should be no reason to be concerned, Ireland vs England Rugby occurs every year (albeit with a unified rugby side, not separated by borders) with no incident – but that says a lot more for the fans of both sports. Football and Hooliganism, particularly in the UK, have gone far too hand in hand for decades, and despite the great work completed by the FAs, the Police, and fan bodies – there is always a concern when the big sides do get together that their fans have ulterior motives. Even with no fans present at the stadium today, I suspect somewhere there will be animosity that grows into physical exertion. Hopefully it peaks at slamming an empty crisp packet to the floor. But with recent political inferences to breaches of the Good Friday agreement, it would be a good time for an extremist to have their voice heard again… Anyway, from a football point of view…

A list of results between the two sides highlighted two major things for me. Firstly, that there’s only been 16 meetings between the two nations in all history – the first in 1946. That strikes me as peculiar for a next door neighbour. Secondly, is the head-to-head records and the recent form.

Played – 16
Ireland – 2
Draws – 9
England – 5

Last 7 Fixtures:
Germany 88 : 1-0 Ireland
Italia 90 : 1-1
Ire : 1-1
Eng : 1-1
Ire : 0-0* Abandoned
Eng : 1-1
Ire : 0-0

England have failed to win in SEVEN appearances against Ireland. That is an awful record. England are blessed with so many more resources and talent than Ireland, have consistently held a much higher ranking, and performed better in tournaments – yet Ireland appear to have a hold over us – ironically given the political past. History does have a tendency to repeat itself, so perhaps a draw is again on the cards tonight. Tonight’s friendly is more symbolic than competitive, and a peaceful draw could benefit both parties. I’m not suggesting that is what we will set out for, but given poor performances against Iceland and Denmark recently, it’s hardly like we can expect much better from England tonight.

It’s convinced me anyhow, that a draw is the only option at the bookies.

EPL GW8 Review: Whose League is it Anyway?

City and Liverpool are the pundits’ predicted Top 2, but have shown no certainty of this in the opening 8 games leaving the door open for… well basically everyone.

The Etihad was home to the biggest game of the season so far and it is fair to say it did not live up to its hype. The match was reasonably exciting for the fans, with Liverpool starting really brightly and pressing City’s back four with their own front four (I am yet to see it, but presumably the media have been all over the Liverpool Fab Four / Beatles puns). There was action and chances, but neither team showed the levels needed to be worthy of their hype, and the biggest stars of the league struggled to get going at all. The game had 2 penalties, one missed, in a 1-1 draw. Compared to regular 2020 matches, this was hugely understated. The second half wore out into an avoidance of defeat and the stalemate meant Leicester remained top on a weekend that saw Liverpool, Southampton and Spurs all appear at the summit for at least a few minutes. With Villa’s 3 points from the Emirates, Chelsea purring and score lines seemingly determined by the roll of a dice… the Premier League could be heading anywhere. Except Fulham.

Match of the Weekend: Palace 4 Leeds 1

As discussed previously, the International Break can be a good time for teams out of form to recover, and a bad time for teams in for form who lose momentum. I think this break has come at a perfect time for Roy Hodgson, as I am concerned his aged heart cannot take the excitement of a 4-1 win without a significant recovery period.

This is Palace’s first 4 goal haul since the final day of the 2018/19 season, and that was just last day madness as they entertained with Bournemouth for a 5-3 win. Selhurst Park has been short of this kind of entertainment for too long, with an emphasis on being organised and not giving anything away more prominent than creating chances and scoring goals. That being said, Palace showed they have the talent going forwards that – on their day – will cause havoc in the opposition’s final third – mainly because of the lightning pace in Zaha and Eze.

What Hodgson and Palace did extremely well, was to pick a team with the objective of counter-attacking as quickly as possible, having numbers across the full width of the pitch. It’s Leeds’ biggest frailty at the back. Bielsa plays high octane football, trying to get more bodies than the opposition in every area of the field, but that risk leaves space down both wings, and areas for midfield runners to exploit. Hodgson was brave in selecting Eze as part of a 3 man midfield, which worked perfectly on the break. Leeds were not going to change their approach, and ultimately that cost them. Hodgson showed his 448 years of experience, and may have shown a few other sides how to stop the Leeds United steam train.

But of course! No ‘Match of the Weekend’ could be complete without outrageous VAR controversy. So here it is…

Taking the rules to one side for a moment… there is no football fan in the world who wants to see this goal ruled out for offside. Not one. It’s ludicrous. Bamford is doing his very best to stay onside, time his run, communicate with his team mate… and then my word what a delicate finish. It’s tormenting the football gods that we are disallowing goals that tick so many positive boxes. But…

He’s offside. It’s mind-blowing that we have developed and evolved a sport, a religion if you will, over almost 200 years in the United Kingdom, then we introduce “3 Men and a TV” and the world goes to pot (okay, VAR didn’t cause Covid). I will no doubt get into an in-depth piece on VAR and the what, where, when, how and why but for now I will attempt to simplify this as much as possible.

VAR was brought in with the intention of resolving a percentage of decisions that were unanimously agreed to be incorrect. Unfortunately a lack of foresight meant “we” did not consider the huge number of incidents that actually occur within a game that would become hotspots, nor did “we” consider the difficulties and knock-on effects of having to create “black and white” rules on subjective matters such as handball.

The latter was a problem instantly – it was always going to be – but the use of VAR on handballs for attackers meant a rule change, initially to disallow all goals that hit the arm, now to disallow goals only where it hits “below the t-shirt line”. We changed the handball rule. We haven’t changed the offside rule – not in any way. Bamford would not have been offside last season, nor prior to VAR, but since his armpit / imaginary t-shirt cuff (he’s wearing long sleeves!) is now able to score a goal, he is now offside.

WE NEED HELP! This system has so many flaws, but it also needs cooperation and support, not for everyone to consistently slate it and demand better. You’re entitled to think its shit, I am not disagreeing, but the constant changing or rules to manage the reaction of fans is not the way to solve the problem and evolve the sport. How did the VAR official decide where his t-shirt line was? I feel the simplest solution for now is to take the offside point from where the attacker is grounded i.e. feet. Sure, he might reach out with his head and score a header, but fuck it. Let’s just celebrate a goal for a change! Fans want clarity. VAR is seeking clarity. Even if handball did become every time the ball hits someone’s arm, at least players would know the rules, and it would become consistent (he jokes, knowing referees are incapable of consistency).

Man of the Weekend: Harry Kane

So far this season, the media have RIGHTLY sung Kane’s praises, discussed how his game has evolved, improved, and how his stats are incomparable to any other player in the country. We have known for some time that Harry Kane is lethal within the final third of a football pitch, no one-season wonder, whether you see how he does it or not, his numbers are truly remarkable – only Alan Shearer and Sergio Aguero reached 150 Premier League goals faster, they were both in title winning sides that created chances for fun.

This season, we have also seen Spurs be… Spursy. Or at least that’s what we have believed it to be. The late goal conceded against Newcastle was a fluke incident, but they should have put the game to bed – Spursy. The miracle comeback from West Ham may have been a one in a million, but they should have put the game to bed – Spursy. Losing points from winning positions will hurt Spurs, but what we haven’t seen enough of at White Hart Lane, is winning ugly and winning late. True hallmarks of title challenging sides. Twice Kane has stepped up to earn these late goals, assisting at Burnley and heading the winner this weekend at West Brom with minutes to spare. He is shouldering a lot of responsibility at the club, for his country and with huge pressure to reach the numbers we expect him to, yet he seems to turn up week in week out and delivering. Spurs and England fans have every right to believe they have a World Class centre-forward to deliver trophies.

Result of the Weekend: Arsenal 0 Aston Villa 3

“This topsy turvy Premier League season cannot have been kind on many punters’ pockets – Aston Villa are my biggest nemesis – they’ve accounted for 3 of my 7 failed predictions so I’ve chosen to avoid them like the plague” Feudball, October 2020.

Make that now FOUR of my failed predictions. Since I stopped including Aston Villa in my tips, I completed back to back wins… but I forgot their unpredictability, and outright ability, and they proved both in a big way in putting Arsenal to the sword.

What is the more impressive about Villa’s excellent season, is they look like they deserve it and that there’s more to come. Ollie Watkins, the two goal hero, has expressed this himself that he can reach further levels. Questions will be raised, and challenges will come, but they’re regularly keeping clean sheets in the games they do win, regularly creating chances in games they do not. They are beating good sides in Liverpool, Arsenal and Leicester and should be considered a threat to all teams as we move into the winter stage of the season. The biggest threat for them will be keeping their key players fit. Losing Mings will be devastating. Barkley, Grealish and McGinn have gelled perfectly, and Watkins is by far and away the best forward at the club.

In Form: Chelsea

Last week I nominated Hakim Ziyech as the In Form prospect within the Premier League, this week… it’s the whole Chelsea attack. I mentioned how if they can keep their balance right, they’re a threat to all trophies available to them this season – admittedly with huge amounts of luck in Europe – but they’re not conceding goals, and every one of their players is a threat and looks like scoring right now. Ziyech again was instrumental, but Abraham, Werner and Mount also made big impacts on the game.

Sheffield United are currently not the most difficult of opposition, but they did give Chelsea a fright in going 1-0 up, and it speaks volumes for the young Chelsea side that they were not derailed. It should not be underestimated figures such as Thiago Silva, Aziplicueta, Giroud and Lampard himself have on this dressing room. The four of them have won the world’s biggest trophies and understand success.

Chelsea will return from the International Break with four matches against very hard working sides in Newcastle, Spurs, Leeds and Everton, with Champions League games thrown in too. This will really challenge their squad and ability to keep performing when games are thick and fast, but whilst they’re keeping the ball out of their net, they’re going to keep collecting points and produce a title challenging campaign.

Out of Form: Leeds United

Despite an exciting start to the season that has seen them accrue fans across the country, Leeds are not accruing points to keep themselves out of a relegation battle. It’s fair to say that their start has been challenging with Liverpool (a), City (h) and Leicester (h) but they’re conceding far too many goals in their pursuit of happiness and it’s costing them points against other sides – they’ve conceded 4 goals on 3 occasions this season, and that puts too much pressure on the attack to recover the deficit. Also consider that, Bamford – who has a reputation for not taking his chances – is responsible for 60% of Leeds’ goals – so if he starts failing in front of goal more regularly, they will need to find goals from elsewhere often enough to overturn the 4 goals conceded.

That being said, Leeds are still looking far more healthy than the teams below them, and we’re looking at their poor form with a view that they’re capable of being a Top 10 side. There’s no need for panic at this stage, but conceding that many goals to a side like Palace, and only one win in 5, doesn’t sound like things are going well.

Leeds will return from the International Break by hosting Arsenal on Super Sunday. Expect them to be full of running, passion, and determination as ever when that kicks off, and with Arsenal’s recent run they will also be looking to get on the front foot and exploit those same spaces that Palace did.

EPL GW8 Preview: Understrength and Underdogs

Injuries and form mean City vs Liverpool has lost some of its allure, especially with the battle for the Top 4 at its most competitive ever.

For three years, Man City and Liverpool have been the strongest teams in the Premier League, and arguably Europe. They’ve set unprecedented records, created nerve tingling title run ins, scored buckets and buckets of goals in destroying the rest of the league, and done it all with smiles on their faces. In this recent period both sides have been effectively untouchable and it was only in their head to heads that we got to watch either of them seriously challenged. That allure has dissipated somewhat, whether it’s lockdown, whether it’s injuries, or just the loss of form that sees both teams with heavy losses already. Perhaps it’s more to do with the fact that Everton, Aston Villa, Southampton and others are shaking up the status quo of domestic football. Even if it’s only temporary, we know from Leicester’s title win that these underdogs shouldn’t be ignored. With key games in Everton vs Man Utd, Leicester vs Wolves and Arsenal vs Aston Villa, it no longer seems like there is only one game worth watching. Does that mean it’s not worth watching? Of course not. These two sides are still the runaway favourites to win the title, and this Sunday the majority of us can put our feet up and enjoy.

Match of the Week: Man City vs Liverpool

There’s two particularly exciting factors about this season’s Man City vs Liverpool fixture. Firstly is the more obvious factor that both defences have been inconsistent in both performance and selection. Both defences rely heavily on one individual, van Dijk who is now missing for Liverpool, and Laporte who is now returning from injury for Man City. Along with some calamitous mistakes from Kyle Walker and Joe Gomez – the usual risks taken by both defences, I expect both Managers will believe that the best form of defence is attack. With less faith in keeping clean sheets, a fact true across all Premier League football, the onus will be on outscoring the opposition and that is a wonderful thing for us neutral fans.

Secondly, this match no longer holds the intense level of pressure that previous meetings have suffered from. Players with fear of losing, losing the game, losing the ball, losing the tackle… that fear has stifled some of the Super Sundays we had dreamed of previously. This season with the sides further apart, meeting early in the season, with other teams shining at the top of the table… means players will have more freedom to express themselves and really attempt to impact on the game. There’s not been the drama of Pep vs Klopp, City vs Liverpool, for the Premier League title… no. This one’s for the fans. Keep 430pm on Sunday free, get the beers in the fridge, and enjoy.

Oh – stick a cheeky 50p on 0-0 in case I’m wrong. It will pay for the beers.

Man of the Week: Harry Kane

It feels a little like cheating on this week’s Feudball Preview. Man City vs Liverpool writes itself into the Match of the Week, and predicting Harry Kane for Man of the Week is like calling a Biden victory with just four states to go. You have plenty of information on the internet to tell you Biden / Kane will have a good week without my input, but then… I would be doing myself a disservice not to re-iterate the fact that Harry Kane is not only on fire but he is surrounded by attacking talent determined to prove their worth in a Spurs shirt and starting line-up.

Kane’s determination to become the best in the world is driving him to be involved everywhere, with goals, assists, blocks and clearances on a game by game basis. He’s very rarely out of the game for long, and Spurs are making the most of it with another goal and assist in their midweek win.

The only thing going against backing Kane this week is the extent of hype that has surrounded him and his 200th goal for Tottenham (from just 300 games). Football has a tendency to screw us over when everything points so obviously to him scoring another hat-trick… but then Kane has had to fight this his whole career – with the critics insisting he’s been a one season wonder several times. That tag has gone, and he’s now on a level with Europe’s elite in contributing to goals on a weekly basis. Everyone knows Kane can go all the way to breaking the Spurs, England and Premier League goal scoring records, and it’s games against the likes of West Brom that will catapult him there in record time.

Tipped Treble:

Firstly, let’s celebrate last week’s Feudball Tipped Treble coming in, admittedly it was touch and go, but a return at 2.08 is progress towards a profitable season. In light of this, I’m supporting two bets this weekend, starting with the exciting Friday Night Football!

@Brighton Under 1.5 First Half Goals 4/11
@Southampton Under 1.5 First Half Goals 2/5

I prefer not to back the opening games of a weekend, as a loss can spoil the whole weekend accumulator so I am reserving this bet to just the Friday night action. Risky perhaps, but an opportunity to double your money on what quite frankly looks a no brainer. Brighton and Burnley have had plenty of goals conceded but both have struggled putting the ball in the net. Southampton are on form and scoring goals, but meeting a more robust defensive outfit in Newcastle, who are unbeaten in 5 away games, and missing Danny Ings suggests a blip in their momentum is due. For the rest of the weekend, I’m supporting:

@Chelsea Home Win 2/5
@West Brom Away Win 4/9
@Arsenal Home Win 4/6

Chelsea are on imperious form, scoring plenty of goals and finally balancing their defence with 5 consecutive clean sheets. Everyone in their attacking line-up is contributing meaning they’re a threat with every attack and Sheffield United have so far offered little to nothing to threaten at Stamford Bridge.

Spurs are similarly flying going forwards, having spent much time eulogising over Harry Kane and Heung-min Son, they now travel to West Brom who have conceded 2+ goals in each outing bar fixtures with Brighton and Burnley, where they only managed one goal themselves and that was a late equaliser. West Brom have also conceded more goals in the Premier League than any other team this season. This is Spurs’ last “easy” fixture in the Premier League before a run of games of Man City (h), Chelsea (a) and Arsenal (h). A win is a must to carry this momentum into a serious attack on the Top 4, or even a title challenge.

Arsenal have looked more and more solid under Mikel Arteta, and have every right to be bigger favourites in this match given they have only dropped points against City, Liverpool and Leicester. A surprising win away to a poor Man Utd will have driven belief that this team can fight for the Top 4 and despite an indifferent record at home to Aston Villa that includes 3 defeats in their last 10 home fixtures, overall Arsenal have actually won 11 of their last 14 meetings in all competitions.

EPL GW7 Review: Cream is Rising to the Top

Liverpool, Man City, Leicester, Tottenham, Wolves and Arsenal all find victories to give the Premier League a sense of normality once again.

No-one truly believed it could last forever… the unpredictably chaotic lockdown football that brought added goals, controversial penalties, form books out the window, home advantage neutralised, etc etc. This weekend – as predicted – has brought the Premier League closer to normality. Sure we are all working towards a “new normal”, but the Big 6 are the Big 6 irrespective of season positions, and Man Utd aside, they’re doing Big 6 things. Winning whilst not playing well, keeping clean sheets, clinical in front of goal. Plus – Salah, Vardy, Kane and Aubameyang – the leading marksmen across four of last season’s Top 8, found the net this weekend. Normality, also provides more predictability, so it’s pleasing that Feudball’s Tipped Treble finally came in this weekend. Well done to you if you followed it.

Stand-out Match: Leeds vs Leicester

Having predicted this as the match of the weekend, it failed to disappoint. Harvey Barnes’ opened the scoring within just 2 minutes, but the cameras were still panning round from Bamford’s first minute miss from 4 yards out. Fast paced, high lines, clever movement, both sides were a joy to watch. Leeds are a side that take risks in their beautiful football, risks which Leicester ultimately were planning for. When out of possession, Leicester settled into a 5-4-1 formation, difficult to get around for Leeds to make crosses, difficult to get through with holding midfielders protecting the back three. More importantly, it allowed them to break quickly with Vardy at the point of an incisive attack. Leicester never over committed on the break, but recognised where there were gaps in the Leeds defence and how to exploit them with just four or five players in the move. Goals quickly accumulated for Barnes and Tielemans putting Leicester in control.

Leeds then turned it up even more, an early goal in the second half and relentless pressure culminating in hitting the woodwork with Schmeichel beaten. It was the closest they came to parity, as not long afterwards Vardy extended the Leicester lead and didn’t look back. Their standards on the counter-attack appear to be second to none in the Premier League, with Vardy the ace in the pack.

Leeds in some ways only have themselves to blame. Bamford started the league season with a reputation of inefficiency in front of goal and he was at fault for not punishing Leicester twice with blatant sitters. The header from point blank range, then a one on one where he couldn’t quite get his feet right. In the second half, a third chance went begging as he harried the keeper. Credit to Bamford for getting into these positions, but Leeds will need to score more goals when they get the chances to make a real impact on this League – as Vardy does for Leicester.

Stand-out Result: Fulham vs West Brom

Fulham and West Brom fans, on the whole, knew this would be a Premier League campaign fought mainly from the relegation zone, with a hope rather than expectancy on beginning next season as Premier League contenders once more. Neither were naive enough to believe this would be easy following their successful promotion runs last year, and their early season form has gone a long way to reinforce that. An early season 6 pointer is not necessarily one to whet the appetite, and I’m sure the Box Office viewing figures will back that point up. The only important thing about this match was the result, and who got the points. It was down to Mitrovic (2 assists) and Fulham to stamp their authority and deliver a first 3 points of the season. It’s imperative to use this victory as a springboard to safer positions up the table, because momentum is vital in a relegation battle – as is taking points from the teams around you. Fulham have beaten West Brom and drawn with Sheff Utd. Perhaps Paddy Power were wrong to treat their defeat to Aston Villa as the nail in their coffin after 2 games… Unlikely, both these sides are still expected to go down.

Stand-out Performance: Jamie Vardy

“You maybe think of him as just a goalscorer but Jamie knows football inside out. His positioning and his reading of the game. He just understands football. He genuinely loves it. He watches it. How many young players actually do that now? But he will be watching games, talking football. I have really enjoyed seeing the level of understanding he has.” Brendan Rodgers, Oct 2019

One year on, Vardy has got better and better and better under Rodgers. He’s developed his game to bring other players in, to push defensive lines where he wants them, and to capitalise on mistakes not just for his own benefit but for the team’s. His progress is not inline with England’s requirements, so unless we get to the summer with a shortage of forwards he is still likely to sit Euro 2021 out, but if his figures continue he will be hard to ignore. At Leeds, he read the error by Koch to assist Barnes’ opener. For the second, he showed his commitment by throwing himself at a diving header, beating his marker, forcing a tough save and leaving an easy rebound for Tielemans. He spent the second half as a menace to the Leeds backline, getting his goal from another breakaway, and should have got himself a second having been played through again from a high line.

When Leicester play away, against a team coming at them, Vardy is the most dangerous forward in the league. He did it to Man City, he’s done it to Leeds, and he will do it again.

In Form: Hakim Ziyech

Chelsea’s new breed of attacking talent is starting to find their feet and their overall team is starting to find their balance. Selecting a starting XI at Chelsea must have it’s challenges, but in many ways they are nice challenges to have. Werner, Abraham, Giroud – any one of them being able to lead the line, with differing advantages. Pulisic, Havertz, Ziyech, Mount, Hudson-Odoi… all behind creating the chances, and scoring goals for themselves. Once the balance is found, they’re capable of hurting ANYONE.

This week, Ziyech finally made his mark at Chelsea – his first Chelsea goal in Europe – then one goal and an assist away to Burnley – no easy place to settle into the Premier League. Ziyech is gifted, an unbelievable talent, that has had the luxury of playing in a frontline at Ajax with less responsibility and more opportunity to express himself. If he is able to do that at Stamford Bridge, he will occasionally be unplayable. The obvious thing seems to be to force him onto his weaker foot but… he finds a way of getting back onto his left.

Out of Form: Brighton & Hove Albion

A number of teams could justifiably be arguing for this title right now, with Everton (no wins in 3), Aston Villa (back to back losses) and the bottom 3 of West Brom, Sheff Utd and Burnley all without a win this season. However I am highlighting Brighton who earlier in the season were prompting fan excitement with their performances. Whilst their defeats have come against big sides in Chelsea, Man Utd, Everton and Spurs, they have also failed to win against Crystal Palace and West Brom. The reason Brighton should be concerned with their run of five games without a win is their upcoming fixtures against Aston Villa and Burnley, where they really need to return to getting points on the board to avoid falling into the relegation zone.

Mo’ Money, Mo Salah

Despite an increasingly competitive field, Salah is an unbelievable 4/1 for Top Premier League Goalscorer and should be backed.

Personally, I have never been Mohammed Salah’s biggest fan. His reputation had been tarnished having come to England previously with Chelsea and been mediocre – scoring just twice in 13 appearances. However we have all become too aware that failing at Chelsea as a youngster should not determine your career, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku being a further two great examples of this.

Salah spent 3 years in Italy’s Serie A with Fiorentina then Roma, where he didn’t convince everyone that his 35 goals in 81 games was world class but he had recaptured his confidence and self-belief – and with his style a perfect fit for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool he rightly earned a return to England. This is when he really began to excel.

Mo Salah benefits from a system that allows him several touches in the opposition box, whether played through directly over the top, or chances created as part of arguably the best front three in the world. He has less defensive responsibilities, and less pressure to score every chance – an issue often questioned of him for his efficiency in front of goal.

It’s true that, as Liverpool’s points tally has increased year on year, Salah’s goal haul has gone in the opposite direction; 32 from 36, 22 from 28, 19 from 34. No-one expects Liverpool to be anywhere near as dominant this season, so this trend points towards more goals for him.

More importantly however, is his improved effectiveness in front of goal this season, how sharp is he looking, and how hungry he appears to be to be placed back on the Anfield pedestal that helped earn him the PFA and Football Writers Player of the Year double in 2017/18.

The instinctive finish against Leeds show a player in his prime – not only the reaction time to the ball falling to him, but to then hit the postage stamp with a full speed half volley was beyond imaginable for a regular forward still thinking about getting their feet in the right place.

Similarly against Aston Villa, whilst Liverpool were being POUNDED at one end, Salah was his usual effective self, pouncing on loose balls and emphatically dispatching the ball past the keeper.

Last weekend he was unfortunate not to add to his 6 goals in 6 games, hitting the woodwork and having a marginal offside disallow a goal as part of Liverpool’s chase to take the lead.

Further to the above open play, Salah is the nominated penalty taker at Anfield (and we know how many penalties they’re likely to get at Anfield). He’s occasionally allowed to take free-kicks too! These additional set pieces will benefit Salah in the season long chase for his 3rd Premier League golden boot in 4 seasons.

So I say to you…

Given Mo Salah’s previous history of winning the Golden Boot twice in three seasons… given Liverpool’s expected stay around the top of the League and chances created… given his form and current goals tally (6 goals is only 2 behind leader Heung-min Son)… Odds of 4/1 (SkyBet) are far too generous. With an each-way bet, even if he finishes in the Top 4 Goalscorers you will return your stake so to me – I stress this is not a guarantee – it’s a free bet.

Sure, he could get injured… but with that attitude we’ll never win any money! And if you don’t gamble then… at least get him in your Fantasy Football team.

EPL GW7 Preview: Revenge of the Clean Sheet

Mad results continue, but tide is turning on clean sheets.

The last 13 Premier League Games:
13 games, 21 goals, 10 clean sheets ; 1.6 goals per game.

The prior 17 Premier League Games:
17 games, 67 goals, 5 clean sheets ; 3.9 goals per game.

Leeds, Man Utd, Chelsea, Southampton, Leicester and Spurs all kept clean sheets in the last round of Premier League games, four of which away from home – two in terminating undefeated records. The Clean Sheet is back! This could be huge news to your Fantasy Football teams, it could be a massive impact when deciding to spend £15 on Fulham vs West Brom on Monday afternoon. This could be a blip, or the start of a trend, but with “closely matched fixtures” throughout the weekend, Draws and Under 2.5 Goals multiples are worth a punt. I say multiples because, they can’t ALL BE Draws and Under 2.5 Goals, someone is bound to ruin it for you. Let’s consider whom…

Tipped Treble:
@Wolves Under 2.5 Goals 1/2
@Burnley Under 3.5 Goals 4/9
@Newcastle Under 3.5 Goals 4/11

Wolves have been slow starters within matches, and like to control the game. Crystal Palace are notoriously low scorers, and defend tightly. This one seems a no-brainer.

Burnley, improved performances, were strong going forwards and defensively against Spurs, they’re getting back to being difficult to play. Chelsea, concerned with their defensive play – now have 3 consecutive clean sheets – but will be wary of what Burnley did to Spurs, and know there’s too much risk at going gung ho.

Finally to complete the treble, no – not Fulham vs West Brom (because, you just know there’s going to be goals) but Newcastle vs Everton. Steve Bruce likes to keep his Newcastle team organised and not to over commit, whilst Ancelotti’s Everton looked a little lost without Richarlison upfront alongside Calvert-Lewin. With further disciplinary issues, Everton should consolidate and that will impact on the game

Stand-out Match: Leeds vs Leicester

History tells us that… Man Utd vs Arsenal is one of the greatest Premier League fixtures of all time, with plenty of fire and passion, goals and fouls. However, the modern day Man Utd vs Arsenal is a much more tepid affair, and given the recent Utd run, and underwhelming performance at home to Chelsea last weekend I am reluctant to put anyone through that shit show again. Instead…

Leeds are on the rise – ‘Marching on together’ – making light work of the Premier League, even in the face of defeat as they scared the current Champions at home on the opening day. The awakened giant, they’re winning games and fans, accumulating an assault on the Top 6. Leicester were such a package last year, ultimately falling out of the Top 4 post lockdown, but have again turned up this year to cause an upset away to Man City and Arsenal. Hoping to continue their away day form, they may not be the prettiest counter-fitting outfit at the moment, but forced to pay at a higher pace – which will suit their attacking players, this game should be end-to-end as the Leeds vs Man City game had entertained us earlier in the season. Not to mention, Leeds have Feudball’s In-form player Patrick Bamford.

Stand-out Performance: Harry Kane (and friends)
Brighton have won plaudits this year for improved performances, but pretty football does not keep you in the Premier League, and they have shipped too many goals against the “better” sides, 3 at home to Chelsea, 3 at home to United, 4 away to Everton. They have looked better going forwards, they have looked organised at the back, but over 90 minutes they give away chances and no side in the league look more equipped to punish chances right now than Harry Kane and Heung-min Son. No doubt further attention will be placed on stopping the unstoppable combination, but little Lamptey will be forgiven for being run ragged by Son, and I foresee Kane being the ultimate beneficiary.

Acca Basher: Fulham vs West Brom

The idea of the Acca Basher was to identify one of the odds on favourite bets and suggest to avoid it due to one of a number of underlying factors. However, confidence in any team is shot. Week to week, it seems harder and harder to predict any results, and therefore this week I suggest you avoid Fulham vs West Brom. Let’s face it, you could back home, draw or away – they all seem just as likely. Then there’s the inability for either team in front of goal, and yet… this could be 3-3. What I would say is, they’re both going to be in similar positions come May.

This will probably be my last weekly Acca Basher. Let me know your thoughts on what you might like to hear about instead. Comment below, or find Feudball on Facebook. Also, whilst I’m at it… tell your friends about this blog you read and how if you avoid my betting tips, you might save your money.

By Stephen Lee

EPL GW6 Review: Unfamiliar Top 6 Mockery of Big 6 Breakaway

Everton, Aston Villa, Leeds, Southampton amongst unexpected early runners.

Going into this weekend’s fixtures, Everton had given themselves a serious chance of extending their lead at the summit, taking any points away from St. Mary’s in their early Sunday kick-off with Southampton. However, the Saints’ dominant performance over a ‘hungover’ Everton, Leeds steamrolling the Villa runaway train, and Leicester’s smash and grab at the Emirates means the Premier League race is becoming somewhat of a steeplechase – a question of which teams will manage to survive all of the hurdles unscathed, conserving enough energy for the sprint finish. Watching everyone beating everyone else, this season could see anyone’s name on the Premier League trophy. Anyone, except Fulham.

Stand-out Result: Aston Villa 0 Leeds 3
The two remaining undefeated records disappeared this weekend, and although neither were entirely unexpected, the manner of the results and performances reminded us that lockdown football is mad and unpredictable. Prior to the season’s opening, many fans would have predicted a Leeds victory against Aston Villa but given the formbook, the capitulation of the Villans was extraordinary. No goals, and offering many chances, Leeds showed why they’re being thought of so highly. They’re hard working, intense, press all over the pitch, and give the opposition nothing. They’re going to win fans all season long, and many more points along the way. Aston Villa need to be careful on how they react to this loss, and do everything they can to avoid the change in momentum and confidence.

Stand-out Match: Man Utd 0 Chelsea 0
This – game – was – boring. It was awful. Who would ever have suggested it was the one to watch from the weekend?! Oh… I did. Well, so did Sky Sports and so did many other fans tuning in on Saturday evening.

Prior to the weekend, I stated “It doesn’t appear to be in either Manager’s playbook to consolidate and avoid defeat” and I am not budging from that assessment. Whilst neither team committed sufficiently to the win, inspiring a heated debate between Patrice Evra and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink about wanting both sides to play without fear, it would equally be fair to say that neither team looked particularly competent in their tactics. Fear, not a consolidated performance, is what drew this game to a blank. It’s that fear, and lack of ability to impose themselves on the opposition that makes this the stand-out match. Fans of both sides are used to title challenges and winning trophies, and want to be back amongst the silverware sooner rather than later, but this lack of cutting edge and winning mentality – leadership, as Evra repeatedly gestured – means these sides are sorely lacking from the required standard.

The underwhelming nature of this match will fill every Premier League side with confidence going into upcoming fixtures with both sides, damaging their chances in the race for the Top 4 – a race that is increasing its number of competitors with each passing week.

If neither team can be confident in their defence (also to be fair, who is right now?) and they shut up shop through fear, they will be there for the taking against sides high on confidence and with more organisation and depth behind their attacking talent.

What was HUGELY curious about this match, was the HUGE INCOMPETENCE in not awarding a penalty to Chelsea. It’s interesting the lack of media and punditry attention, the outcry and outrage over VAR, that has not happened when a decision has gone against Manchester United. Last week we had the fallout regarding the Pickford challenge, the week before the fallout regarding Lamela’s play-acting – but a definite penalty not given to the opposition at Old Trafford? We used to laugh these off, because “You don’t get away penalties at Old Trafford”… but the idea that there’s a partiarchy system protecting the big teams needs to change. Why is no-one outraged by how bad a decision this was? Maguire literally headlocks Aziplicueta, there’s plenty of camera angles, and plenty of time to get the decision right. Conspiracy? Or Incompetence? Either way, public statements from Referee HQ would settle how we all feel about it.

Stand-out Performance: Patrick Bamford
For the second week in a row, I need to talk about a forward I have released from my Fantasy Football team putting in the performance of the week. The game between Aston Villa and Leeds was likely to produce something special, and Bamford duly took responsibility with an excellent hat-trick – the 2nd and 3rd of which really demonstrated an exceptional standard of finishing. Leeds’ fans had not been entirely sold on Bamford leading their attack this season, feeling he was too inefficient with his chances in their Championship campaigns, but he’s finding his form nicely with 6 goals in 6 games and is carrying the Leeds assault on the top half of the table.

With the match on Box Office, you can enjoy the highlights and hat-trick below.

In Form: West Ham United
When this season’s fixtures were announced, Hammers around the world were understandably concerned for their ability to start their campaign with sufficient points on the board to move away from the relegation battle. However David Moyes’ men have managed to accumulate a number of points, results and performances to turn some of those frowns upside down. They’re unbeaten in their previous 4 games and visit Liverpool next having beaten or held Wolves, Leicester, Tottenham and Man City. Should they avoid defeat at Anfield, West Ham will be set nicely to enter the winter months with more optimism than usual where they will begin with Fulham (h), Sheff Utd (a) and Aston Villa (h).

Out of Form: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Despite the on-going contract sage, Aubameyang started the season in great spirits. The ‘Feudball Goal of the Month’ for September on the opening day, and an assist in the following 2-1 win over West Ham – everything was on song, and he and Arteta appeared to be on the same page. Since those two games, Aubameyang is four games without contributing to a goal. Those fixtures have been a tough run for Arsenal with Liverpool (a), Sheff Utd (h), Man City (a) and Leicester (h) – four of the top sides from last year – but he is their number one talisman, captain, and regularly one of the top scorers in the Premier League. Could his absence from the big games be the reason for Arsenal’s recent struggles against the Big 6? That would be a harsh assessment, given their troubles span over 5 years, but his output during this period should be a minor note in your Fantasy Football planning given his £11.7m price tag.

Arsenal On-field, Farcical Off-field – Ozil’s Exile Exposes Divide at Emirates

Arteta’s on-field evolution papers over pre-existing cracks in the foundations.

The ‘Mystery of Mesut’ has been the defining soap opera narrative at Arsenal ever since the “will they, won’t they” climaxed in 2018’s season finale, with Arsene Wenger finally riding off into the sunset. Once Europe’s ‘King of the Assist’, Mesut Ozil’s reputation has taken somewhat of a battering. Unfairly called out as lazy, and not working hard enough – Opta stats showing he ran more that most of his team mate – he’s been accused of stealing a wage – yet actively participates in all training sessions – then there was the late night special when he and Kolasinac were mugged at knife point, the press and fans’ banter mocking his behaviour of hiding in the car during the assault. It’s been a rough time for Mesut Ozil, yet he has – until now – remained an Arsenal player and committed to the club. And why not? At £350k a week, he has no reason to leave. The story has taken a latest twist this week, with Ozil unregistered by Arsenal for Premier League and Europa League duty. Ozil’s last season at the Emirates will be fulfilling media events, and not one single on-field occasion. This is the end of Mesut Ozil at Arsenal.

Arteta’s On-field Evolution

To be fair to Ozil and Arteta, this is nothing of a surprise. Since Arsene Wenger left, and even for a period whilst he was finishing his reign – Ozil’s form had dropped off. His ability to influence games was waning, and without his key passes in Arsenal’s attacks, he didn’t contribute enough to the team strategy.

Arteta has since developed somewhat of an evolution at Arsenal. A focus shift has occurred, with more emphasis on pace, passing from the back, and pressing swiftly from the front. In this time, Arsenal’s form has improved significantly – not to mention the three successes at Wembley vs Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool. No mean feat. This evolution has come at the expense of Mesut Ozil, and justifiably, he has no place in Arteta’s plans. It’s cruel, but it’s reality.

It’s not just harsh on Ozil, but other players of a similar vein are feeling the impact too. Look at Dele Alli at Tottenham, who no longer implement the #10 role behind the striker. Some teams do still maximise that position, James Maddison at Leicester is thriving there. But whilst the trend of football moves to a 4-3-3 formation with wide strikers, an anchor man and two central midfielders, the longer players like Dele and Ozil need to sit it out or find a new team.

What’s astonishing about this whole fiasco, is the incredibly poor timing of this decision-making, and complete lack of understanding between the on-field management, and the off-field management – whether that is the Manager, the Press Officer, the Head of Finance, Chairman, Owners, even Wenger himself who carries so much weight at the Emirates.

Mesut Ozil’s HIGH salary of £350k per week has been shared widely, casting doubts in the first instance as to how that was ever offered in the first place. This new contract was offered as the prior one was running down, and there was a fear of the player leaving on a free (as Aaron Ramsey has, Jack Wilshere did, and Alexis Sanchez came close to – costing the club millions in revenue). In racing to save that situation, they made him the highest paid player at the club. Interestingly at that time, he wasn’t even a guaranteed starter – the writing was already on the wall – but the club made the move anyway – to protect their asset.

At £350k a week, Ozil is not just Arsenal’s highest paid player but one of the best paid players in world football. His performance since sitting on this salary has diminished with stakeholders all around Arsenal dumbstruck as to the purpose of keeping him around as non-playing staff when that £17.5m annual could have been used to help balance the books – and not force the sale of players like Martinez to Aston Villa.

It’s not just the playing staff that Ozil’s salary could be contributing in more effective ways – as seen by Arsenal’s 50+ redundancies, including the infamous Gunnarsaurus. The story behind letting go their club mascot is filled with such disgrace, not from the business point of view, but the brand management and public relations teams. The fact that, it’s completely swayed public opinion to start supporting Mesut Ozil is embarrassing. From stealing a wage to the ultimate public servant in offering to pay the salary of the man behind the mask – and keep him in employment – when the average person is struggling with Covid-19 lockdown.

There are some very questionable business decisions being made, but the most bizarre again comes back to their treatment of Mesut Ozil, communication from the team to the board, and projections of their own finances.

With Mesut Ozil’s position in the team being disputed, and ultimately concluded by being unregistered and now a non-playing member of staff WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU LET THE TRANSFER DEADLINE PASS?! This is insane. For the next 8 months, Mesut Ozil will cost Arsenal approximately £11m in wages. He cannot play for them, he can contribute on the training field, he can make public appearances – for £11m. In contrast, Gareth Bale is costing a total of £20m for his one season at Tottenham.

Understandably, they would not want to lose him to a rival – but who even is a rival? Ozil may have refused Arsenal’s attempts to let him go, a story we’re yet to hear – but if he is unable to play any football given the football decision, I am sure he would accept a temporary challenge of going anywhere – including the Championship – for the sake of playing some football in 6 months. He also needs to ensure match fitness to maximise the potential of a new contract with a new team in the summer. The situation SCREAMS of bad management, and bad management from the top of the board. A problem like Mesut has been a problem for almost 4 years and yet they have still failed having reached this point again.

Along with handling the other incidents at the club it’s hard to have belief they know what they’re doing. Arteta’s keeping things progressing on the pitch – aside from going away to the Big 6 – Arsenal have 100% winning record this season, definitely something to have optimism about. But if they’re unable to get their shit together behind the scenes, these soap operas will continue to destabilise the club.

EPL GW6 Preview

Heroes of Elland Road journey to slay the Aston Villains.

Sunday 28th April 2019, Aston Villa travel to Leeds in a hotly contested fixture with both teams challenging to achieve promotion to the greatest league in the world. In Leeds’ last home match of the season, Elland Road, notoriously ferocious and aggressive, is the perfect amphitheatre for the day’s events.

With the game at 0-0 and time running out, Leeds have the ball and are on the attack. An Aston Villa player goes down, and Leeds look like they’re about to kick the ball out of play, which results in the Villa players stopping… except… that doesn’t happen. If you watch the below video, you will see – Leeds score – players and the benches go on to fight each other – then, Marco Bielsa orders his Leeds players to deliberately concede an equaliser. The game ends all square, meaning Sheffield United obtain automatic promotion. The season ends with Play-off promotion for Aston Villa, but Play-off defeat for Leeds. This weekend, we will see the players meet again for the first time – those memories still fresh from just 18 months ago.

Given the form of Aston Villa, the energy of Bielsa’s Leeds, and the fiery history of their last encounter – we have a Friday night fixture worthy of kickstarting the weekend. This is definitely a game to watch, though let’s run through the rest of the weekend’s headline action.

Tipped Treble:
@Arsenal – 1st Half Under 1.5 Goals 1/2
@Wolves – Home Win 4/5
@Burnley – Over 32.5 Booking Points

Those following these weekly previews, and backing my tips, are considerably out of pocket. This topsy turvy Premier League season cannot have been kind on many punters’ pockets – Aston Villa are my biggest nemesis – they’ve accounted for 3 of my 7 failed predictions so I’ve chosen to avoid them like the plague and just enjoy the entertainment on Friday night.

With only 14 goals in their 5 Premier League matches, Arsenal are – shockingly – one of the more boring sides to have on television this season. Arsenal are notoriously slow starters at home too, and are even more likely to keep it tight at the back facing Leicester this weekend that completely dismantled Man City away from home – the side that Arteta helped build. Leicester have been hit and miss, but they’ll want to be prudent in this fixture to halt a run of poor form, and keep themselves in the game – much like their near stalemate against pace setters Aston Villa.

Wolves are building momentum following their up and down start to the league, and now have back-to-back wins and 9 points from 5 games. Coming off a Europa League fixture is no longer a concern for their Sunday fixtures, and they are much better than 4/5 at home to Newcastle who are falling back into an expected lower league table position. Wolves have needed to adjust to a few changes in personnel, but Nuno Santos will soon have them looking like the improvements that they are, rather than losses of Doherty and Jota.

Burnley vs Spurs has all the hallmarks of a game that you should avoid to bet on. Spurs attack is on fire, but they keep dropping points. Burnley are out of form, but have suddenly pulled a clean sheet out of the bag which is no mean feat this season – sure, that was West Brom, but Chelsea conceded 3 and Everton 2, so it’s still impressive. Burnley’s efforts to stop Spurs in their counter-attacks will be, for want of a better word, dirty. Spurs themselves to continue showing their boss they can be cunts, will want to rough it with the Turf Moor men. Perhaps you could be even more confident in the number of Yellow Cards expected!

Stand-out Match: Man Utd vs Chelsea

In the Premier League, these teams have entertained us with 21 and 22 goals respectively. I say entertained, 21 of those goals have been conceded. On the flip side, no other sides can boast the quantity of quality on show, so with dynamic talent going forwards and more gaping holes at the back than the Playboy Mansion, every attack should provide entertainment.

It doesn’t appear to be in either Manager’s playbook to consolidate and avoid defeat in a widely competitive chase for the Top 4 that should now include Everton and surprisingly Aston Villa – as well as an improved Tottenham and Arsenal. Fingers crossed for this one, another Premier League goal fest please.

Stand-out Performance: Man City Attack
West Ham will take confidence from their miracle escape with a point from White Hart Lane, but beyond the miracle it should be noted they were poor for 80 minutes, and Spurs looked like they could – actually should – have scored many more.

A team capable of scoring more is definitely Man City, particularly with a returning Sergio Aguero. City are still yet to really click, with some changes in their backline and approach to pressing off the ball, but on the ball they continue to be a joy to watch and with the incredible striking of their Argentinian #10 returning, this could be the game they get their swagger back. Admittedly, City should be wary of West Ham on the counter as this season they’re proven goal scorers, and City defend like – well, City.

Acca Basher: Burnley vs Spurs
It must be tempting to wager on Spurs, looking like one of the better and in-form teams of the season – to beat Burnley, looking to be worn out and unable to deliver on Sean Dyche’s needs. However… Spurs have dropped points to Everton, Newcastle and West Ham. They have scored many, but failed to keep a clean sheet. They’re also coming off a Europa League fixture and come down from the West Ham come back. And it’s Spurs. Full of promise, not often delivering. In the 6 Premier League matches since Burnley returned to the top flight, Spurs have won 3, drawn 2 and lost once. It was the last one they lost, at Turf Moor in February. All I’m saying is… I’m not putting my money on Spurs to win.