Predicted lineups for this weekend’s EPL fixtures

Premier League predicted lineups

It’s time to look ahead to this weekend’s Premier League action as we predict the starting lineups for each EPL game.

Cardiff City v Watford

Cardiff XI: Etheridge, Peltier, Manga, Bamba, Bennett, Paterson, Gunnarsson, Arter, Murphy, Cordova-Reid, Niasse

Watford XI: Foster, Janmaat, Mariappa, Cathcart, Masina, Doucoure, Capoue, Pereyra, Sema, Deeney, Deulofeu

Questionable: Ashley Darel Jazz Richards (Cardiff)

Out: Sean Morrison (Cardiff); Holebas, Kiko Femenia (Watford)

Alexandre Lacazette success shows value in standing by player

The signing of Alexandre Lacazette was seen, at the time, as something of a landmark moment for Arsenal. For years, since the sale of Robin Van Persie to Manchester United, the Gunners had lacked a natural goalscorer. Lacazette, proven at Lyon, was that goalscorer. And yet he struggled to initially find his feet in North London.

Indeed, Lacazette struggled to such an extent in his first season as an Arsenal player that he was considered a flop. The signing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the January window was widely seen as confirmation of this, with the Gunners plunging significant funds into signing another big-money, big name striker.

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Of course, as we now know Aubameyang has been used as a partner for Lacazette rather than a replacement for the Frenchman, and the former Lyon man has started to find his groove for Arsenal this summer, scoring five times in 10 appearances.

It would have been easy for Arsenal to cut their losses on Lacazette at the end of last season. He looks slow and sluggish, unsuited to the demands of playing at the high pace of the Premier League. They could have moved on the French striker, designating Aubameyang as their new central striker. And yet they decided to stand by their man.

That decision seems to have paid off, with Lacazette starting the season in good form. He has found his groove, playing his part as Arsenal have strung together nine wins in a row in all competitions, recovering from a difficult start to the season to rise up the Premier League table rather dramatically.

In a league where patience is at a premium, this is refreshing. Look at Alvaro Morata, for instance. The Spaniard arrived at Chelsea at the same time, in the same transfer window, as Lacazette arrived at Arsenal, suffering similar struggles in his first season. But while Morata looks doomed as a Chelsea player, with the Blues rumoured to be looking at strikers around Europe, Lacazette has been given more leeway to adapt to his new surroundings.

Some may argue that this is down to the price of the two players, with Morata a more expensive striker than Lacazette. But Lacazette was still, at the time, the most expensive Arsenal signing of all time and so with that came pressure. Some even claimed that he would be the best Arsenal striker since the days of Thierry Henry.

Aubameyang has played a role in the rise of Lacazette, with the former Borussia Dortmund attacker key in creating space for the former through his position in a slightly wider area of the pitch. But whatever the reason for Lacazette’s improvement, this serves as a lesson to those quick to write off new signings, particularly strikers. Arsenal stood by their man and are now reaping the rewards.

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EPL Best XI – Aubameyang and Lacazette lead the way

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Unbeaten Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool are only separated by goal difference at the top of the Premier League table after Week 8 of the 2018-19 season. Let’s take a look at which players made our Best XI of the weekend…

GK: Hugo Lloris, Tottenham – seven points
Hugo Lloris started his first Premier League game since August as Tottenham narrowly defeated Cardiff 1-0 on Saturday. The Frenchman earned seven points in the match — no other goalkeeper picked up more over the weekend.

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Aubameyang and Lacazette are no more than a short-term fix for Unai Emery

Fitting two players like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang  and Alexandre Lacazette into a team is a problem most managers can only dream of. They boasted superb goal scoring records for Borussia Dortmund and Lyon respectively prior to teaming up in north London.

Either striker walks into the starting line-up of at least 14 Premier League teams. That number would be even higher in several other European leagues. Quality, and multiple options in a similar position, causes problems for managers, though. It can be difficulty with balancing the side or troubles keeping players happy, but, whatever it is, it’s seldom easy.

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Five wins in a row and positives aplenty for Unai Emery’s Arsenal

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Arsenal collected their first clean sheet of the season when they defeated Marco Silva’s Everton 2-0 in London on Sunday evening. The win marked their fifth consecutive win in all competitions.

The Gunners got off to a rather torrid start to their campaign, losing to Manchester City and Chelsea in their opening games. Continue reading

EPL Weekend Picks – Round 5

Alexandre Lacazette

Sadio Mane, Mo Salah, Sergio Aguero, Eden Hazard and Marcos Alonso are among the high-scorers for EPL Fantasy managers so far this season, but there are plenty of other players across the league who could be worthy of inclusion in your team this weekend.

GK – Kepa Arrizabalaga (Chelsea)
Chelsea’s big-money summer signing has picked up 12 points so far this season – Liverpool’s Alisson is the only goalkeeper with more – and he will surely add to that tally in the upcoming matches against low-scoring Cardiff and West Ham.

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Same old Arsenal

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It’s been 15 years since Arsenal last won the Premier League title. 15 long years.

Almost as many as the gap between their title wins in 1971 and 1989.

That’s far from where the Gunners want to be at this juncture, and whether the blame lies with Arsene Wenger or the board is a moot point.

Since Unai Emery has taken over, nothing really has changed. It’s not a knock at the Spaniard as such, because he can’t possibly be judged on a handful of games, but it would’ve been expected that he’d make an impact.

Perhaps not even in results terms initially, but in the way that the team is set up.

It’s not wrong to hark back to the days of Adams, Bould, Dixon and Winterburn. The game has moved on of course, but one thing hasn’t changed and that is teams who win the title are built on the bedrock of a solid defence.

Even with the addition of Sokratis to partner Mustafi, you feel that this Arsenal side are still beatable.

One only has to look at the way they threw away a two-goal lead at Cardiff, and how lucky they were that Alexandre Lacazette was able to rescue the three points for them.

Similarly, West Ham were all over the Gunners in their fixture but were unable to convert their dominance into goals. Manuel Pellegrini has his own problems, but at least with the east Londoners, not an awful lot is expected of them in truth.

Arsenal have always been a gold standard outfit.

Able to attract the best players, and playing a brand of football that was both attractive and practical. There were players to put their foot in, and these would complement the more technical exponents. They were diligent in their work.

Now Arsenal just look lost, and the reality is that they’re becoming the same old Arsenal. It’s what’s expected.

The knee-jerk ‘fan tv’ assessments directly after a game aren’t helpful but, by and large, some supporters have a point.

If there were a core of players that would ‘put sweat on the shirt’ for want of a better phrase, those that pay their hard-earned every week would give these overpaid superstars their full backing.

But when you have players like Mesut Ozil just strolling around seemingly not worried with what’s happening around him, then there will be problems.

In the Europa League and now unable to attract the best players to the Emirates, unless Emery sorts it out quickly it’ll be another 15 years before Arsenal come close to the Premier League summit.

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Away win over Cardiff of huge importance to Arsenal

Before Sunday’s trip to South Wales to face Cardiff City, Arsenal had claimed just two away wins all year long. Indeed, their form on the road has been abysmal, contributing in no small part to the downfall of Arsene Wenger in the second half of last season. It’s why the 3-2 win over the Bluebirds was so significant.

On the face of it, Arsenal were less than impressive against Neil Warnock’s side, who are without a win since their promotion to the Premier League. Cardiff City should have been swept aside, but twice Arsenal allowed them back into the game, with Alexandre Lacazette‘s late winner giving them three points.

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It was far from the perfect display by the Gunners. They looked vulnerable at the back, not for the first time this season, and allowed Cardiff to control the game in the centre of the pitch for spells. But the mere fact that they were able to win a game away from home represented a form of progress for Arsenal.

“It is good to get rid of that mental barrier, it’s important to win away,” Lacazette said after the victory. “Like when we started the game like, [we thought] ‘Okay we can play like we do at home.’ I think we won just two games in 2018 away from home. This season we want to be better away and it was the first game we have won. I hope that it will the first of many.”

There are still questions over the start Unai Emery has made as Arsenal manager, but much of his job is about overhauling the culture of failure that festered at the Emirates Stadium over the second half of Wenger’s reign. Part of that culture includes an inferiority complex on the road. The only way to eradicate that is to pick up away wins, like the one earned against Cardiff.

“You can see we had the right mentality,” Lacazette added, underlining the difference in mentality at Arsenal between last season and this. “Last season we lost this kind of game. But if you see the faces after the second goal we had confidence and that was why we came back.”

He’s right. Arsenal probably would have folded last season. Having been pegged back twice, they would have struggled to a point or worse, would have conceded a third. There are concerns over the way the Gunners are playing out from the back, particularly over the suitability of Petr Cech, and the way they are struggling for creativity behind the central strikers.

But Emery has a tough job on his hands to untangle all the years of mediocrity that have dragged Arsenal down over the years. This is why Sunday’s win over Cardiff City came with a hidden significance. It could prove to be a watershed.

How well do you know European Football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.

Alexandre Lacazette must start alongside struggling Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

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Unai Emery’s willingness to take ineffective players at half-time suggests the new Arsenal manager is still undecided on his best starting eleven. He must have a selection headache ahead of the Cardiff City game, with most of his substitutes impressing. Of all the second-half players he’s used, one has impressed the most.

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Is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Arsenal place under pressure?

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Alexandre Lacazette

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang appeared to have cemented his place as Arsenal’s main striker following his club-record £56 million move to the Emirates Stadium from Borussia Dortmund in January.

The Gabon international was one of the few positives in the final months of the Arsene Wenger era, immediately showing that he can adapt to English football by scoring 10 goals in 13 Premier League matches between February and May.

This season, however, it has been a different story for the former Saint-Etienne man.

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