Arsenal v Newcastle
How much can be read into the Gunners’ 4-0 loss to Liverpool last week? At the risk of flippancy, Arsenal typically succumb at Anfield and typically to a comprehensive margin. Furthermore, any club side in the world, bar a select handful, would have found themselves pummeled into submission by the cyclonic nature of the hosts’ pressing in the final third. “They were just seeing red blurs all over the place,” was how Trent Alexander-Arnold put it.
Even so, the manner in which Arsenal naively played themselves into Klopp’s hands puts a question mark at the end of a ten-game unbeaten spell that appeared to suggest Mikel Arteta’s tenure was on an upcurve. “We didn’t have any shape or security with the ball,” was Arteta’s damning verdict after a thrashing that has undone – to an extent at least – the fine work achieved from September onwards.
This Saturday however, at the Emirates, represents a great opportunity to restore the feel-good mood that was so recently prevalent in North London. Newcastle may be undergoing change courtesy of Eddie Howe’s arrival, changes that immediately saw the Magpies play more on the front foot against Brentford last week and display greater intensity off the ball, but theirs is a defence that is utterly incapable of defending and no amount of instruction can alter that, only new personnel.
Twelve games into a surreal campaign that still has them winless while simultaneously being furnished with unlimited wealth, Newcastle have yet to keep a clean sheet and on three more occasions against the Bees, we witnessed precisely why. According to the official stats, Howe’s new side have only conceded twice this term due to individual errors but that description is subjective and if we factor in poor positioning and lax concentration it is a figure that rises sharply. Too many times this season, a back-line whose base requirement was to keep their shape and security amidst chaos ahead of them, have gone missing.
In Aubameyang, Smith Rowe, Saka and Odegaard, the hosts possess more than enough creativity to trouble this failing collective though bear in mind Arsenal have not been ruthless this term, even on their best days. A 2-0 victory at 15/2 is decent value.
It was a game #nufc needed to win but, for once this season, supporters did not leave St James' deflated after what they saw following just 10 days of work under Eddie Howe.
Defence remains a huge issue, though, and Martin Dubravka needs to come in ASAPhttps://t.co/UpOW8RLnHb
— Ciaran Kelly (@CiaranKelly__) November 21, 2021
Burnley v Tottenham
In broader context, consecutive draws against Chelsea and an in-form Crystal Palace would be considered good results for Burnley, especially following their first win of the season at the expense of Brentford a few weekends ago. But while they remain mired in the bottom three it is maximum points the Clarets need, a run of victories that feels beyond them at present.
Still, the form-book states that Sean Dyche’s side have lost just once in their last seven and that is a cause for encouragement, perhaps even optimism, while the astonishing goal-scoring feats of Maxwel Cornet continues. Signed as a wide player who can double up as cover for Charlie Taylor at left-back, the brilliant Ivorian has instead partnered Chris Wood up front and scored five times into the bargain, over a third of Burnley’s league haul.
The relegation battlers should also be buoyed by a respectable record against Spurs at Turf Moor in recent seasons, winning one and drawing another, but sadly that is where the positivity ends. Cornet aside, the Clarets have been profligate of late, wasting the sixth most chances this season and this despite creating far fewer than many others. They have additionally hit the woodwork five times while at the other end had to rely on last-ditch defending to eke out their succession of stalemates. No team has cleared off the line more.
As for Spurs, a revitalizing second-half showing against Leeds last week got the Antonio Conte era officially up and running. Prior to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s equalizer, Tottenham had accumulated a remarkable four hours without testing a Premier League goalkeeper with Harry Kane once again all-but-anonymous. For his country, he can’t stop scoring. For his club, he can’t start running into the six-yard box. That seems to be the gist of it.
A highly charged 45 minutes that downed Leeds and ignited the Spurs faithful could well be enough to end such passivity, while another week on the training ground with the ultra-demanding Conte will make a significant difference too.
Don’t be surprised if a transformed Tottenham emerges at Turf Moor with the same applying to Kane. The England international has scored nine goals and made three assists against Burnley from his 13 previous meetings.
Kane is 3/1 to break the deadlock and help revive his team’s fortunes.
6 – Tottenham are the first team since Opta have Premier League shot data (from 2003-04) to go six straight halves of play in the competition without managing a single shot on target (2nd half v West Ham, both halves v Man Utd & Everton, 1st half v Leeds today). Lacklustre. pic.twitter.com/9XyEY4CMGE
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 21, 2021
Manchester City v West Ham
A fascinating statistic surfaced this week that has no bearing on this weekend’s contest but warrants sharing, nonetheless. In the last calendar year, Manchester City and West Ham have each fielded 25 players. No other top-flight club side across Europe have deployed fewer.
Regarding this top-four clash, it is tempting to discount the reigning champions’ long-standing unbeaten record in this fixture because this is a very different Hammers of late, and this is true of the present-day side compared to the teams managed by David Moyes who have succumbed to slender losses at the Etihad in recent years. Though still difficult to break down, the over-achieving Londoners will be heading north looking to capitalize from a fluid and dangerous attack featuring Antonio, Benrahma and Fornals whereas perhaps in the past any adventure was stymied. They are a collective who plays to their strengths now and they’re a lot stronger and more watchable as a consequence.
To what degree last week’s loss at Wolves – the Hammers’ first defeat in eight games – will psychologically impact on an outfit that was previously flying remains to be seen but confidence will be key in possession against a formidable side who have scored 31 times at home already this term. Should they need reassurance, Moyes’ men only need to recall their progress at City’s expense in the Carabao Cup last month, though they arguably rode their luck a little, having encountered 25 shots prior to a penalty shoot-out.
As for the hosts, they are in relatively fine fettle though the absence of Kevin De Bruyne, recovering from Covid, is a sizable loss. In Bernardo Silva, however, they have an able deputy scheming from central areas. The Portuguese star has been in sensational form this season.
The Blues have developed a habit of scoring early in the past couple of months while West Ham have converted 69% of their goals in the second period. Man City – Draw is a highly generous 20/1.
Is there a midfielder in the world better than Bernardo Silva right now? 🤩 pic.twitter.com/jvy5sHkpGU
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) November 6, 2021
Chelsea v Manchester United
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s dismissal was inevitable and – some might say – belated, but naturally, we can expect this week’s big development to dominate the conversation around this marquee match-up at Stamford Bridge.
From a betting perspective, however, his sacking may not directly influence proceedings to any great extent, or at least not as much as the narratives would have us believe. There will be no ‘new manager bounce’ because technically there is no new manager, with Solskjaer’s assistant, Michael Carrick stepping in to take temporary charge until a more appropriate interim boss is installed. Furthermore, the Norwegian was not an unpopular figure at Old Trafford so an instant rejuvenation of the team can be largely ruled out, the kind witnessed at the tail-end of 2018 when Jose Mourinho’s departure restored positivity to the inner sanctum.
Lastly – and most pertinently – this is the same group of players responsible for conceding a record number of goals for the Reds in the Premier League at this stage of a season and accruing their second-lowest tally of points using the same metric. These are details that fully reveal the depths of United’s crisis and worse yet, they are figures that are worsening week on week. Since drawing with Everton at the start of October, the most successful club in the modern era has been breached every 33 minutes. All season long meanwhile they have been reliant on late escapes, firing a remarkable 32% of their goal-haul post the 80th minute.
With just two clean sheets from their 17 commitments in 2021/22 this beleaguered and beaten assembly head to the capital this Sunday to face a side that seem like their polar opposite at present. Chelsea have only been breached twice all season from open play while offensively they have added a ruthless streak to an already fearsome front-line. Thomas Tuchel’s men have averaged 2.5 goals per game to this juncture and most impressively of all have shared around the glory. No other team can boast as many different goal-scorers in the league (15) and with Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner, both back and available their firepower is strengthened further.
With a wealth of talent in their ranks, United will surely rise again. For now, though, they are a team in disarray and Chelsea will seek to punish them. A winning margin of three goals for the hosts at 13/2 is definitely worthy of consideration.
Thomas Tuchel since joining Chelsea:
▪️ Led them to a top-four finish after being in ninth place when he took over
▪️ Won the Champions League and UEFA Super Cup
▪️ Currently top of the Premier League
He's now a finalist for The Best FIFA Men's Coach 👏 pic.twitter.com/jDkeYJ0yCF
— B/R Football (@brfootball) November 22, 2021