FA Cup 4th Round Predictions

It’s the FA Cup 4th round at the weekend in England as the Premier League takes a break. Whilst possible points can’t be gained in cup games, it is still interesting to look into the teams in the Premier League that are still left in the competition and who we think could qualify for the 5th round. Or will there be shocks, and who can emerge as cup heroes at the weekend?

Brentford v Leicester

Brentford will be very determined in this match but look at how well Leicester have performed this season in the league. The Foxes will be strong and have reached the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup too. Manager Brendan Rodgers will be determined for his side to reach the 5th round. Leicester to beat Brentford

Southampton v Tottenham

Southampton have been in good form in the league and they have a chance to knock out Tottenham in this game. The club look solid. As for Tottenham their form has been average, and they could well be relying on Heung-Min Son to get them out of trouble. This is a massive game for Tottenham, they need trophies. Tottenham to beat Southampton

Millwall v Sheffield United

Sheffield United are having a strong season in the Premier League but manager Chris Wilder played a second string side in the last round. They got away with it then but if he chooses to play them again Millwall away could be a step too far, and we fancy the Championship side here. Millwall to beat Sheffield United

West Ham v West Bromwich Albion

It has not been a good start for West Ham manager David Moyes, whose side lost 4-1 at Leicester in the league a few days ago. They have the quality to win this game, and it will be interesting to see if Moyes picks Sebastian Haller who could be a danger if used in this game. West Ham to beat West Bromwich Albion

Burnley v Norwich

This all Premier League tie should see Burnley prevail. Norwich have bigger problems at the foot of the table and look like they could go down. Burnley have a lot of confidence and they have just beaten Manchester United away. Burnley to beat Norwich

Newcastle v Oxford United

Andy Carroll could return for this game and the centre forward getting a run out for a cup game could be the perfect tonic. Newcastle should have little problems in winning this game given that they are at home and we fancy a comfortable win. Newcastle to beat Oxford United

Hull v Chelsea

Chelsea will start as favourites but this could be a very close game and they will give the Blues some troubles. Chelsea manager Frank Lampard isn’t afraid to play a strong team and promising youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi could make all of the difference here. Chelsea to beat Hull

Manchester City v Fulham

Fulham just need to enjoy this game, try and defend and try to counter. The problem they have is that Pep Guardiola will most likely play a very strong team- he’s in need of trophies given that the league looks over. Ayermic Laporte is set to make his long awaited comeback in this game too. Manchester City to beat Fulham.

Watford/Tranmere v Manchester United

Watford and Tranmere will play a replay before this game, although we think Watford should make it through. The Hornets have already beaten Manchester United a few weeks ago, and we think they can force a draw here, and play in another replay. Watford and Manchester United to draw

Shrewsbury v Liverpool

On paper you would say Liverpool will win and will score many goals. But Jurgen Klopp will probably stick with the same youthful side that beat rivals Everton 1-0 in the last round. This won’t be an easy game, and Klopp’s ace card will be having some quality on the bench. Expect Sadio Mane to come on if everything is a stalemate late in the game. Liverpool to beat Shrewsbury

Bournemouth v Arsenal

This is a big game for Arsenal who have struggled in the league and not played well away from home. But Mikel Arteta has stated how important the cup is to Arsenal and having a deep run in it will be important. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is suspended and a lot of the responsibilty could fall on Alexandre Lacazette. Arsenal to beat Bournemouth

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11 Players to look out for in the FA Cup 4th Round

The Premier League is taking a break this weekend as focus turns its attention to the FA Cup one of the oldest cup competitions in the world. Even though we can’t score points in cup games, how some players perform this weekend can bode well for their form and confidence coming back to Premier League football for next weekend.

Let’s look at some of the players who will try and continue to light up the competition and possibly cause some problems along the way.

Goalkeeper: Adrian- Liverpool

Alisson of course is the main man for Liverpool when it comes to keeping guard in goal for the Reds but Adrian will step in for this game. Adrian has been really impressive when he has had the chance and kept a clean sheet in the last round against a full strength Everton team.

Defender: Kyle Bartley- West Bromwich Albion

Kyle Bartley’s West Bromwich Albion did well in the last round by beating Charlton 1-0 with the defence keeping a clean sheet. They will play West Ham away in the next round and could provide a stern test for the Premier League side who usually struggle in cup games against non top flight teams.

Defender: Isaac Hayden – Newcastle

Isaac Hayden has been in good form for Newcastle lately, and the question will be if manager Steve Bruce selects him for their FA Cup game? The Magpies will be at home to Oxford United and so will be the big favourites to win it and Hayden if he plays could well be part of a defence that keeps a clean sheet.

Defender: Conor Townsend- West Bromwich Albion

Conor Townsend has been one of WBA’s best players this season and is adept at keeping clean sheets. West Ham who the club are playing in the next round are not in great form. Could WBA provide a shock?

Defender: Jordan Orbita- Reading

Jordan Orbita could well be playing in the Premier League soon. He has been impressive for Reading this season and in the last round he scored the winner as the club overcame Blackpool 2-0. Reading will play Cardiff at home in the next round.

Midfielder: Adam Lallana- Liverpool

Adam Lallana is sure to start when Liverpool face Shrewsbury Town away from home. Lallana is a fringe player now at the Reds but does get the nod to start cup games. He was very impressive as Liverpool beat Everton 1-0 in the last round.

Midfielder: Mathieu Smith- Millwall

Mathieu Smith’s future may lie elsewhere than Millwall if he continues to put in good solid performances and the player scored when the London club knocked out Newport County in the last round. He can play as an attacker or just drop down into attacking midfielder and is worth keeping your eye on.

Midfielder: Callum Hudson-Odoi- Chelsea

Another player who can just drop off the strikers. He doesn’t always get regular starts for Chelsea in the league, but he has been picked as first choice for cup matches. He scored a goal in the last round as Chelsea beat Nottingham Forest and he will be tipped to do well when the Blues take on Hull in the 4th round.

Striker: Alexandre Lacazette- Arsenal

Alexandre Lacazette was the hero for Arsenal in the last round against Leeds, and the Gunners will need him to perform when they take on Bournemouth. In part this is because Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be suspended for this game. Lacazette can hopefully provide the front line that Arsenal need.

Striker: Curtis Jones- Liverpool

Who is Curtis Jones? Well a few weeks ago not many people knew outside of Liverpool football club. But Jones a teenager scored the only goal and a cracking one at that to give the Reds a 1-0 win over their local rivals Everton. Now people know who Jones is and surely Jurgen Klopp will give Jones another opportunity to play and shine when they take on Shrewsbury Town in the 4th round?

Striker: Jay Rodriguez- Burnley

Jay Rodriguez scored in the last round as Burnley overcame Peterborough 4-2 in  an entertaining game. Burnley will now play Norwich at home and will start as favourites to advance to the next round. Rodriguez has every chance of playing and helping his team.

 

Is this the worst Arsenal side in 35 years?

On Saturday it happened again at the Emirates- Arsenal did not win. The 2-2 draw against Southampton marked the third game in a row that Unai Emery’s side have failed to win at home. The excuse could almost be forgiven if they had faced the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool, but in that time along with Southampton they played Crystal Palace and Wolves. Are we now getting to the point where we can claim that this Arsenal side are the worst in a generation?

At the weekend the Gunners were heading for a defeat until a 95th minute goal by Alexandre Lacazette saved their skin. But the worrying fact was that Southampton who are relegation contenders were able to go away to Arsenal and have more shots on goal and more shots on target. Just like against Aston Villa who were 2-1 up here with a few minutes to go only for Arsenal to win 3-2, Arsenal seemed to find an escape hatch. But their results are now either losing games away from home where they remain dreadful or clutching onto some last desperate minute hope. This is not the Arsenal that we are all used too.

The rot has set in at the club, and apart from some obvious speed bumps like reaching the Europa League final last season and Emery achieving more points in his first season than Arsene Wenger did in his last, as a whole Arsenal seem to have been going backwards for the past few seasons.

First it was letting their neighbours Tottenham repeatedly finish in front of them for the first time in over 20 years, and it wasn’t just luck, Tottenham in every way and shape took over from Arsenal and have stepped out of their shadow. Then came the fact of non Champions League football. The way this season is going the Gunners will be omitted for the 3rd consecutive season.

When Arsenal inevitably fell apart in the closing stages against Leicester before the break manager Unai Emery was under immense pressure but told the press that the club had to remain calm. One could think this was in part because he had looked at the upcoming fixtures. Southampton, Norwich, West Ham all games that Arsenal should be winning. And yet when they face Southampton at home they didn’t win. Norwich have found some confidence in their 2-0 win away to Everton and one wonders being at home if they will now give Arsenal a game that they weren’t expecting?

It’s difficult to remember when Arsenal were this lost at sea and perhaps we would have to go back to the days of Don Howe in the mid 1980s for that. There was of course the season after George Graham was sacked that Arsenal looked like being on the decline and then Wenger was appointed which changed everything.

The problem for Arsenal is that they don’t seem to have the players to make that difference. When Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang is missing or simply doesn’t score, Arsenal don’t seem to have a chance. He is their one player that can change a game. But you need a few more if you want to aim for the top.

By the end of the weekend Arsenal will be in 8th place and whilst they have only lost 3 games- the same as Manchester City, they have only won 4. They have also gone their last 5 games without a win picking up just 3 points from their last 15 available.

Times haven’t been as hard as this for Arsenal in years. But many fans wanted change, and to be fair they had a point. But the old saying comes to mind in this situation, be careful what you wish for.

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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.

aubameyang lacazette

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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