EPL Predictions Gameweek 1

The 2020-21 English Premier League season kicks off in London on Saturday lunchtime as Fulham play host to Arsenal.

Eight matches in all will take place on the opening weekend, concluding with Brighton & Hove Albion hosting Frank Lampard’s Chelsea.

With Manchester United and Manchester City competing in the latter stages of European competition last month the two clubs have been given the opening weekend off, to explain the shorter schedule.

Here’s a look at each of the weekend’s games:

Fulham vs Arsenal

Arsenal have won the FA Cup and Community Shield in Mikel Arteta’s first couple of months in charge and should fancy their chances of picking up three points in their season opener too. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would be the obvious selection for your fantasy team given the forward has scored 22 goals in each of the past two seasons, whilst Dani Ceballos (3.50m) and Damian Martinez (1.0m) offer good value for money in this game.

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3 more players Chelsea could sign this summer

Chelsea have been busy so far during the summer transfer window, a year on from their transfer embargo.

Frank Lampard’s side have added prolific goalscorer Timo Werner from RB Leipzig, England left-back Ben Chilwell from Leicester City and experienced centre-back Thiago Silva from Paris Saint-Germain.

Shortly after the closure of the January transfer window, Chelsea agreed a deal to bring winger Hakim Ziyech from Ajax, with the Moroccan international joining his new teammates this summer.

Leaving Stamford Bridge are Willian to Arsenal, Pedro to AS Roma and Alvaro Morata to Atletico Madrid. Of those, only Willian made a significant impact under Lampard last season, whilst Morata had been out on loan in the Spanish capital anyway.

However, it appears Chelsea aren’t done there as Lampard looks to make further adjustments to his squad before the transfer window closes on 5 October. Three players who are being strongly linked with a move to West London are as follows:

Kai Havertz

The German international is believed to be undergoing a medical at Chelsea on Sunday depending on the reports you believe. Kai Havertz is coming off an excellent season with Bayer Leverkusen, particularly following the restart.

Still trying to establish himself as a German international, Havertz was very successful when deployed in the striker role in the closing weeks of the season. However, Werner’s arrival suggests Havertz wouldn’t be signed to play that role, but rather to replace Willian and Pedro as the right winger, where he has spent much of his career.

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The future is ever more exciting for Chelsea

Chelsea have enjoyed the past decade-and-a-half under Roman Abramovich’s ownership, which includes the 2012 Champions League and five Premier League trophies.

In recent years though there have been signs of decline – only two Premier League titles over the past decade, numerous managers coming and going, and a transfer ban.

Frank Lampard’s appointment last summer seemed questionable at the time, but the Chelsea legend proved many critics wrong by qualifying for next season’s Champions League and reaching the FA Cup final.

The transfer embargo the Blues were under last season led to the young manager handing opportunities to a number of young players – Mason Mount arguably the best of those of the current youth academy crop.

Tammy Abraham had started the season well before fading out at the end and losing his place to Olivier Giroud. Reece James saw plenty of game time at right-back, whilst Fikayo Tomori started a number of games at the back at the start of the season.

Billy Gilmour was another exciting prospect handed his chance prior to a serious injury, whilst Callum Hudson-Odoi was already established prior to the current manager’s arrival.

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Havertz, Chilwell, Silva and Rice? Watch out Premier League Chelsea have arrived

It’s been an odd transfer window so far with not many big noticeable deals going through between the big clubs but it seems that Premier League side Chelsea are wanting to make a statement for next season.

The Blues have already spent over £80m buying Timo Werner from RB Leipzig and Hakim Ziyech from Ajax. Two players who on paper at least are superb additions to the squad. But Chelsea who qualified for next seasons Champions League after finishing 4th last season are not about to stop shopping yet.

Frank Lampard’s side are closing in on Kai Havertz the German youngster who is being tipped to be brilliant in his position, he currently plays for Bayer Leverkusen. Chelsea have put a succession of bids in for Havertz which have all been rejected although it seems that a deal for £90m could go through very soon.

Ben Chilwell, the Leicester defender has also been a target for some time and his name has been linked to Chelsea. It is thought that a deal for the player could go through this week as the clubs are in talks. But Chelsea are not stopping there. PSG defender Thiago Silva left the club on a free immediately after the Champions League final and it is thought that his next destination is likely to be Chelsea.

The Londoners are also keeping an eye out for Declan Rice at West Ham, although if they get Chilwell it is expected that might not be able to go for Rice too, as the Hammers could demand a hefty fee. But another player who seemingly looks on his way and in a bargain free transfer is Nice defender Malang Sarr. He is only 21 and has impressed in Ligue 1 but has purposely run down his contract which must have made his club furious. They will now get nothing for a youngster, out of all the deals being laid on the table for Chelsea Sarr’s arrival could end up being the best one.

If all the deals go through Chelsea will be looking at spending around £300m and one of the reasons the Blues can spend big is because they had a transfer embargo last summer when they couldn’t buy anyone and that has built up.

Chelsea are pushing this season to advance themselves and whilst it is brilliant news for the club it will be clear that manager Lampard’s position and objectives with the club will have to change with their spending. Lampard has been left in peace with zero pressure on him last season. That ended up paying dividends, after a shaky start Chelsea were in 3rd place for the majority of the season before being pipped down to 4th on the final day of the season on goal difference against Manchester United. It changed nothing of course. Although the board would have been displeased at losing the FA Cup final against Arsenal.

This season the bar will be set higher and any mistakes and a run of poor form will be magnified for Lampard. Then again when you look at what the starting line up could be for Chelsea they may well have their strongest team since winning the 2012 Champions League title.

This next season will be all about closing that gap to Liverpool and Manchester City and being more consistent. Also the club conceded 54 goals last season, that’s simply too many for a top 4 side, so their defence needs to be more shored up.

Chelsea have already raised over £60m selling the likes of Alvaro Morata and Mario Pasalic as they try and balance the books and of course they have lost Willian to Arsenal on a free.

So with this much spending and the quality coming in the pressure cooker will be more on Lampard but Chelsea are the one team in the Premier League so far making headway and making a statement that last seasons top 4 place was not a one off. Can they seriously challenge Liverpool and Manchester City next season though?

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Is Aubameyang bigger than Arsenal as the Gunners beat Chelsea in FA Cup final?

All of a sudden Arsenal seem back. After a poor season which saw Unai Emery sacked before Christmas and former player Mikel Arteta brought into the dug out it seemed like Arsenal would be waiting a long time for any type of silverware. However they have ended the season by winning the FA Cup against the odds.

Arsenal came from a goal down to beat Chelsea 2-1 to lift their 14th FA Cup which is a record. Indeed Arsenal have won 4 cups in the last decade and their name is becoming part of the cup itself- just go ahead and put red and white ribbons on permanently why don’t you?

A burning desire and their name to be scripted onto the cup seemed to come when they upset Manchester City at the semi-final stage. Arteta had changed up the system and even David Luiz was playing with confidence. This was the first glimpse that under Arteta Arsenal could end up being a force to be reckoned with.

In the final it was going to be incredibly difficult given that the last time Arsenal had faced Chelsea in a cup final was in the 2019 Europa League showpiece where Chelsea simply outplayed the Gunners as the game went on and ended up running out 4-1 winners. Sure Eden Hazard who is now at Real Madrid orchestrated the win but still that game surely had to be playing on some of the minds of the players?

Maybe then it was to no surprise that Chelsea took a 5th minute lead through Christian Pulisic who has been outstanding this season for the Blues. With 56 points earned this season the American international was the 3rd best player for Frank Lampard’s team.

Chelsea started brightly but couldn’t find a 2nd and there was just that feeling creeping in that they were not putting this game to bed. With under 30 minutes played Arsenal were awarded a stone wall penalty and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who else? stepped up to take and convert it and the game was back on.

Whilst the 2nd half had it’s lull periods Arsenal were looking more and more of a threat, how much difference from their second half performance in the Europa League. Chelsea hoped for extra time but the Gunners could sense blood and Aubameyang got his brace and the match winner with just 3 minutes left to play.

True Chelsea will feel that Mateo Kovacic’s sending off was harsh, though he was already on a yellow card. It’s unfortunate though that VAR perhaps isn’t used in the big decisions like this, because on this occasion the referee looked to have got it wrong. It’s also worth pointing out that Kovacic has racked up 8 yellow cards this season from just 14 starts in the league.

This cup win feels like a turning point for Arsenal though because finishing 8th in the league represents their worst season in a generation. Arteta has said the win was his most important of his career, now he will be hoping that his statement won’t hold true in a decades time.

The last word has to go to Aubameyang. He has scored 22 league goals this season and assisted in a further 3, meaning that he has contributed to almost 50% of Arsenal’s league goals. He has been phenomenal, the one truly world class player in the side that can change a defeat into a draw and a draw into a win.

Aubameyang stands above as the lead man in this Gunners side and the club will be hoping that he will sign a new contract and stay with the club. They most likely have little chance of that happening if Barcelona or Real Madrid come knocking but given how teams have had to step back somewhat following the pandemic maybe that call won’t happen and maybe Aubameyang will realise that at Arsenal he is the king of the hill, at another club that might not to be the case.

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Arsenal vs Chelsea: FA Cup final preview

Arsenal and Chelsea will contest the 2019-20 FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

Both London teams defied the odds in beating Manchester City and Manchester United in the semi-finals to setup an all-London affair in the final.

Chelsea wrapped up a Champions League finish on Sunday by beating Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 at Stamford Bridge to finish fourth. This proved to be a rather impressive debut season for Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge considering the transfer embargo the club was under.

If the former Derby County manager and Chelsea playing legend can take home a piece of silverware on Sunday it will go a long way to proving the doubters wrong after he was appointed last summer.

To reach the final, Chelsea had been on top of Manchester United in the last round prior to Olivier Giroud‘s opener in the 11th minute of first-half stoppage time. The Blues doubled their lead immediately after the restart when David de Gea spilled Mason Mount’s long-range effort into his own net. They went on to win 3-1 in the end.

Meanwhile, the Gunners were 2-0 winners over City with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring 20 minutes into the game and 20 minutes from the end, despite Mikel Arteta’s side only seeing 30% of the possession.

The Spaniard has been in charge of the North London club even shorter than this weekend’s opponent as he was only appointed back in December following the dismissal of Unai Emery.

Arsenal had initially made a shaky start once the season resumed before beating Wolves 2-0 and Liverpool 2-1 prior to their impressive FA Cup performance.

They will be looking to win a record 13th FA Cup on Sunday, though the bookmakers have Chelsea as the narrow favourites.

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FA Cup Final Best Combined XI

Sunday’s FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium will be contested between two London teams as Arsenal and Chelsea meet for the third time this season.

Frank Lampard’s side have had the better of the first two meetings this season, in the Premier League, winning 2-1 at the Emirates in December and then being held 2-2 at home the following month.

Arsenal looked to have improved greatly in the final weeks of the season, including victories over both Liverpool and their FA Cup semi-final win against Manchester City.

Prior to the final showdown here is the best side we could pick among the two squads based on their current form:

Goalkeeper: Emi Martinez
Frank Lampard has a decision to make over whether to keep Willy Caballero as his cup goalkeeper or start Kepa in the final. His opposite number doesn’t have much choice with Bernd Leno injured but Emi Martinez has looked good since finally being given a chance at Arsenal.

Cesar Azpilicueta
One of the most consistent defenders in Premier League history, Cesar Azpilicueta starts on the right of our back three.

Antonio Rudiger
Arsenal have lost Shkodran Mustafi for the remainder of the season through injury whilst David Luiz is inconsistent. Antonio Rudiger is the best centre-back at Chelsea, usually alongside Kurt Zouma with Fikayo Tomori not getting much action since January.

Kieran Tierney
The Gunners have found a gem in Kieran Tierney on the left-hand side of their defence. He could start the FA Cup final in a back three due to injuries. Has a very good cross when bombing forward.

Marcos Alonso
The Chelsea left-back and left wingback edges out Bukayo Saka in our team to play on the left of our midfield four. Marcos Alonso puts some good crosses in from out wide and usually comes up with a few goals and assists over the season.

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All of Sheffield United’s hard work was undone in the last 3 Premier league games

One of the outstanding teams in the Premier League this season has been Sheffield United. However Chris Wilder’s side finished in 9th place, and a quick glance at their final league position would suggest that the Blades did well enough but did not exceed any expectations.

That of course would be unfair on the Blades who really turned out some terrific results and found good consistency, alas even this effort in such a tough league was not enough. Manager Chris Wilder would be right to be very frustrated that his side haven’t even reached the Europa League after all of their efforts.

In a sense he should be proud once the dust has settled on the league season given that United may have been some people’s tip to go down or be involved in a relegation dog fight. That never looked like happening though.

It was United’s first season back in the Premier League in 12 years and for that they have really made their mark this season. Stand out results included beating Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and being involved in a 3-3 classic with Manchester United. Even when they played Liverpool earlier in the season who were flying at that stage they only lost the game 1-0. They also reached the quarter finals of the FA Cup before being knocked out by Arsenal with that game finishing 2-1.

Perhaps one problem has been goals, and the club ended the season without a prolific goalscorer. Both Lys Mossett and Oli McBurnie were the clubs top goalscorers with 6 goals each.

The most frustrating part of the campaign will be the Blades last 3 games though. They lost all three and had they won them they would have actually finished in 5th place ahead of Leicester. What will be somewhat annoying to the club is that all 3 games could have been won on another day.

The terrible run started after they had just beaten Chelsea 3-0, which was a fantastic result for the club. But then they followed that up with a 2-0 defeat at Leicester. Even then two wins in their last two games would have assured them of European football for next season. But the Blades then lost at home to Everton 1-0. This was seen as a shock result given how poor Everton have been since the restart. They ended the campaign by losing 3-1 at Southampton and the ghost was certainly given up by that time.

The Blades ended the season poorly but on reflection they have had a good season. They won 14 games and conceded less goals than Chelsea, Leicester, Wolves, Tottenham and Arsenal to name a few.

Perhaps European football would have been a distraction for next season anyway, and of course how many times have we seen teams newly promoted have a good first season and then lose it all the next? As long as they keep Wilder in the dug out one would think that United will be fine, but they will rue these last 3 games for much of the summer one would expect.

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Finishing 8th is terrible for Arsenal but there might be light at the end of the tunnel under Mikel Arteta

What a disappointing season it has been for Arsenal. Not many fans could have predicted that the Gunners would have fallen so far, finishing 8th in the Premier League for a club like Arsenal is just not acceptable.

It was an odd season for the club who saw 2 different managers in charge, this coming after having the same one in Arsene Wenger in the hot seat for two decades. Unai Emery was sacked at the end of November after a poor run especially away from home and Mikel Arteta was brought in.

Arteta’s arrival did raise eyebrows simply because this was his first managerial job but he had been working under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City for several seasons and that was deemed good enough for the job at the Emirates.

Arteta has a win rate of 55.5% with Arsenal since December, at the same time and with more games under his belt Unai Emery had a win rate of 55.1%. Also when Emery was sacked Arsenal were in 8th place in the league, in that respect Arteta has not improved the club. From the 20 Premier League games that Arteta was in charge for the Gunners earned 33 points. On average in a season Arsenal would currently finish on around 60 points under Arteta, again no huge improvement.

But these are all small steps and under Arteta the play of the team and the way he has changed up the system is showing positive signs. Arsenal lost 5 times under Arteta in the league, four of those were away from home and it is clear that the Gunners will need to improve on their away travels.

But what has been encouraging is some of the results the club have churned out. Beating Liverpool, only the 3rd club to do so this season was impressive even if the league title was over by then.

Despite a poor season by Arsenal’s standards their season isn’t over just yet, and this is why there could be light at the end of the tunnel under Arteta. The young manager has steered Arsenal into the FA Cup final where they will meet Chelsea in an all London derby. Even without fans present this is sure to be a cracking game.

Arsenal will want revenge after last seasons Europa League final where Chelsea crushed the Gunners. A trophy would justify for now Arteta’s appointment and really give the club a boost they need ahead of the new Premier League season which is due to start on September 12th.

On the face of it then Arsenal haven’t improved under Arteta, stats wise. However overall there has been quite significant improvement on the pitch. He has his own philosophy which is natural and it is taking time to implement that onto his team. We have seen flashes of it.

The future is looking a little brighter for Arsenal, you just have to look deeper to find it, but surely Arteta will find his way and next season will be a huge improvement for the Gunners.

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West Ham have one foot in safety from relegation after a win over Chelsea and draw against Newcastle

For a while there West Ham looked destined to be relegated. There was no shape, discipline or attacking method. Everyone was looking at David Moyes as if to say ‘what now’?

Strange then how just 2 games can change the perspective. The first was against Chelsea where the Hammers were the obvious underdogs and yet not only did they beat the Blues they also put 3 goals past them in a fantastic 3-2 victory.

This match was followed up by a trip to Newcastle, a team under Steve Bruce who were still unbeaten since the restart of the league. The game finished 2-2, the battle was there for all to see. True the Londoners had taken the lead twice and been pegged back as many times but a point away to Newcastle is always a good point.

Those two matches stopped the rot and that was the most important thing for the club who suddenly had a self belief. Led by the inform Michail Antonio his goals have really counted. One could also suggest that Chelsea did the Hammers a favour, it was simply the right fixture at the right time, as West Ham always up their game when they are playing their London rivals.

Relegation can still happen but it feels much more distant now. The club have pulled 4 points clear from both Aston Villa and Bournemouth, only a few weeks ago the only thing saving West Ham from the drop was goal difference.

West Ham now have 31 points and this week they will play Burnley at home. They will be the favourites to win that and if they do they would have taken a huge step for survival this season.

The Hammers remaining games after that is an away trip to Norwich. It’s very possible that by the time they play the Canaries they will have been relegated. This could make the game easier for Moyes’ team. They will then be at home to Watford another game which many would fancy them to win.

Their last two games are against Manchester United away from home and then Aston Villa. It seems like the only tricky tie left for the Hammers will be their trip to Old Trafford as it is very possible that United will be needing a win to qualify for a top 4 spot and thus playing in the Champions League next season.

Even the Hammers final game which is against Aston Villa could be a dead rubber anyway, as the way Villa are playing they are looking like they could be down by then.

West Ham are making a superb recovery just at the right time, and for now all Hammers fans can breathe a sigh of relief.

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