EPL GW9 Preview: It’s BACK! And it’s FREE*!

*Pay-Per-View has been disbanded, but multiple pricey subscriptions still apply bar one occasional BBC match.

The irony is not lost on me, using an image of fans celebrating an England goal whilst discussing the end of the international week, but these levels of excitement only occur once every few years – or in the case of Scotland, once in a lifetime.

But the real football is back! And now every minute is free from PPV meaning if you really wanted to… you could watch every minute of every match for approximately £100 per month… I predict now that this will be the next target for the armchair fan – to collectively unionise and demand that subscription prices are made more affordable. We’ll see. There is an underlying truth that there’s too much money in football, and that money is generally provided by the football fan, so who knows what the next wave of lockdowns will bring. There’s only so long furlough can pay those bills… But for now, let’s celebrate what we have with this week’s games!

Match of the Weekend: Spurs vs Man City

Super Saturday sees a modern day classic of a football match, with so many individual battles set to decide the fates of two of the major sides chasing title glory. This game is far more than just Mourinho vs Guardiola, more than just a recall of the infamous Champions League tie of two seasons ago, more than just 90 minutes of football.

Spurs can rightly believe this is their best chance of success in a Premier League campaign, with comparisons being made between this side now and the best they played under Pochettino. They look increasingly more and more exciting going forwards with Bale returning to full fitness, and a midfield behind becoming more accustomed to their roles in supporting the front three. Mourinho’s game winning changes last time out at West Brom also show a sense of determination to win games and keep the pressure on those around them. From 2nd place in the table and a run of tough fixtures against City (h), Chelsea (a) and Arsenal (h), they could seriously consolidate their title credentials with a performance and results against an inconsistent City.

However City themselves will have renewed belief in their own abilities following a draw with Liverpool last time out, the return of Laporte at the heart of their defence, Jesus leading the line in place of a false 9, a midweek hat-trick for Torres and Foden’s first goals for England… they also have much to play for in what could propel them into the Top 4 still with their game in hand from the first round of fixtures.

The game promises entertainment, though its also a real possibility that if the scores are still level in the final quarter, that not losing will become the priority over collecting all 3 points.

I believe there will be a penalty, I believe there will be goals, I believe Spurs are a better shout than the 3/1 being offered by SkyBet.

Man of the Weekend: Jamie Vardy

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock this week (and Liverpool fans will wish Mo Salah had been instead of attending a wedding and contracting Covid), you will be fully aware that Liverpool are suffering an injury crisis in defence. van Dijk’s absence will be prolonged into 2021, but Fabinho, Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold are also carrying injuries. Andrew Robertson gave everything for Scotland to qualify for Euro2020 and suffered a minor injury as a consequence, and to be fair their defence has not been solid this season at the best of times. So who would you not want to be holding a high line against this weekend? Jamie Vardy. As the scourge of so many sides this season, carrying the form from terrorising the Leeds backline and a rest through international week, Vardy – Barnes – Maddison will be pressing and chasing everything in Liverpool’s half causing further chaos to an unsettled defence. I am not necessarily expecting him to get the winning goal, but his contributions this season without the ball and in assists means Leicester will be more than a handful at Anfield and provide ongoing concerns about that backline.

Vardy’s record against the Big 6 is sublime, and against Liverpool reads as 11 games, 7 goals, 1 assist. I 100% believe this will improve this weekend.

Tipped Treble:
@Newcastle Away Win 4/9
@Spurs Double Chance Spurs or Draw EVENS
@Fulham Over 2.5 Goals 4/6

Chelsea are the side in form, and despite the international break, carry so many threats that it’s hard to see an inconsistent Newcastle side keeping pace with them. Following the last return from an international break, Chelsea dominated at home to Southampton before late goals cost them the win – but they went on to concede just one goal in 6 matches that included 4 wins. They’re dangerous, and entertaining. All things do come to an end, and Newcastle will work hard for the points, but they’re yet to fully connect as a unit and this hurdle will be too high for them.

As discussed, Spurs vs Man City should be a rollercoaster of a game, but I do not believe Man City are rightly the favourites being presented. EVEN money will cover the Spurs win or draw in this fixture, and whilst it is always brave to bet against City, this season’s form suggests Spurs are the more likely victors. City, a side normally so full of goals and attacking prowess, are the biggest surprise in goal return – especially with the mayhem of 20/21, only scoring 10 this term from 7 league games. In contrast, Spurs have 19 from 8.

Everton can welcome back Richarlison this weekend, and it’s much needed to stem the loss of points that have occurred in his absence. Richarlison scored midweek for Brazil, and will be hungry for more. As mentioned previously, Everton have not won a game without him since he arrived from Watford. Considering the pre-Richarlison ban form from the Toffees, they had a 100% win record, scored 12 and conceded 5 in 4 matches. They’ll see the visit to the Cottage as an opportunity to return to form. Fulham on the other hand have attempted to tighen up in recent games, but have still found themselves on the losing side. With more pressure on them to get results at home, they’re likely to provide Everton with chances in their pursuit of creating their own. Lookman will have double motivation to prove himself, following his failed Panenka penalty to earn a point last time out, but also because Everton let him go earlier in his career.

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.