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)

Why West Ham’s Marko Arnautovic could be right to demand a move to China- but should be honest about it


This week it has emerged that West Ham’s best striker Marko Arnautovic has demanded that the club listen to an offer from an unnamed Chinese club who have come in for him and offered West Ham £35m.

This is a bombshell for The Hammers given that they have no quality back up to replace the Austrian who has scored 7 goals in the league this season and saved the club almost single handily against Brighton a few weeks ago with a brace.

Arnautovic has been a breath of fresh air who has really stood out at the club for the past year after his move from Stoke and his height has caused all sorts of problems for opposing defenders. But is he right to want a move to China?

In China it has been reported that he could earn £10m a year over a four year contract meaning that he is guaranteed £40m and that doesn’t even take in all of the freebies and luxuries he will get over there together with any bonuses. At West Ham once we take away tax he is earning about £2.5m a year, so in four years he would earn what he could in one year.

Of course this situation seems grotesque given that Arnautovic even with a deduction of tax still takes home nearly £200,000 a month- that would take the average worker in England 10 years to earn. However this is the crazy world of football and the Austrian’s thinking has to be that he will be 30 soon and his career at the top is winding down- what does he have 3 or 4 years at the top at the most?

The problem then isn’t that he wants away- although a little bit of commitment and passion would be a good thing in today’s game. No the problem lies with his excuse for going- to win trophies. This claim seems a little far fetched. True if he went to China it would be for the best team that may well win league titles and cups in China- but with all due respect nobody would have these wins at the tip of their tongue the next time you play a football quiz.

Arnautovic is more than likely going for the fantastic wage and at his age he could end up earning quite a retirement package. It feels wrong that he wants out but at the same time if you look at the situation from his point of view it does actually make sense.

As for West Ham, they seem backed into a corner- they cannot give Arnautovic such a pay rise but they do have the player under contract. The problem there is that we have seen in the past that contracts mean very little and the player usually ends up getting what he wants. The fee of £35m seems scant too for a club who paid £20m for him. That £15m profit is reduced because as part of the deal his former club Stoke would be good for £7.5m, and so West Ham would only end up making a profit of £7.5m on a player they really can’t afford to lose.

It does sadly for The Hammers look like he will be going. The key for them is simply holding onto him until the summer, lose him now and it doesn’t look like they will have the time or find the quality in January to replace him.


Chicharito making his mark for West Ham

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Javier Hernandez has started more league matches in the last week than he had in the entirety of this season combined. It wasn’t so long ago that he’d been linked with a move away from the London Stadium, but it now seems unimaginable that he wouldn’t be in the starting line up.

The build up of fixtures was likely to be a factor in the rotation which played a part in reinstating him to the starting line up, but his performances have ensured it hasn’t resulted in him coming back out of it. With the Hammers currently missing the likes of Marko Arnautovic, Andriy Yarmolenko and long term absentee Manuel Lanzini, Chicharito has truly stepped up to help his side. December was coined as the most important period of West Ham’s season and the Mexican has been integral in making sure that period has begun with success.

The first match came away against an in form Newcastle United, in which Hernandez was handed his first start since a draw with Leicester in October. He opened the scoring just 11 minutes into the game at St. James’ Park, as he latched onto a pinpoint ball in from Robert Snodgrass and played it first time past Martin Dúbravka. It was the type of goal which the Mexican has become so well known for throughout his career. Having missed a few chances, he got his second of the game when he got onto the end of Arnoutovic’s header, raced forward and calmly slotted the ball away at the near post, getting the second of the Hammers’ three goals.

Chicharito started again in the next game, which came against Cardiff City. He may not have scored but  the striker was a constant threat for the 64 minutes he was on the pitch. West Ham managed three goals again, as they earned their first back to back victories since January 2017.

West Ham were desperate to keep their run going against Crystal Palace and Hernandez helped to ensure that happened. The Hammers had gone 1-0 down in the sixth minute, but as Andy Carroll replaced the injured Lucas Perez they got into the game a lot more. After Snodgrass had drawn the sides level with his first league goal for West Ham, Hernandez was able to put the Hammers in front.

It was a goal which highlighted his poacher’s instincts for all to see. Felipe Anderson struck a free kick to Wayne Hennessy’s left. The Welsh stopper was able to palm it away from the goal, but while everyone in the wall had been focused on trying to stop the initial hit, Hernandez ran behind them and into the perfect position to get the rebound, striking the ball into the roof of the net. This goal helped West Ham to their third win in a row, something they hadn’t achieved for over two years.

With the games coming thick and fast, this is the perfect time for the Mexican to find form, especially with Arnautovic currently out injured. He’s always been able to get goals no matter where he’s been in his career, but having struggled since joining the club in 2017 there were fears that things wouldn’t work out for Hernandez in East London. Manuel Pellegrini has seemingly managed to get the best out of him and his team mates though. With an impressive run of games behind him, everyone involved with West Ham will hope this form continues against Fulham on Saturday.


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More bad news for West Ham as Marko Arnautovic looks set to leave the Hammers

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It’s not been a great start to the Premier League campaign for West Ham and new coach Manuel Pellegrini and this could be compounded more by the imminent departure of striker Marko Arnautovic.

Arnautovic whilst not coming out as wanting away via shouting from the rooftops like Eden Hazard at Chelsea has been hinting that now is the time for him to leave for a bigger club. Such has been the progress of a desired move away that Pellegrini has had to make his first denial in a recent press conference and for him the Austrian international will be staying. But it looks inevitable that he won’t.

In some ways it’s difficult to deny Arnautovic his move. He has never played for a top 4 club and at 29 he is approaching his last big transfer move. Reportedly Manchester United are very interested in taking the player and it would be a dream move for him. He may just be the perfect player for an Jose Mourinho side, a dogs of war side that have a striker up front, standing at over 6ft tall whose presence will be dangerous in set pieces.

For West Ham they were just taking to Arnautovic as he enters his 2nd season with the club and has scored 16 times from 47 games. It isn’t a brilliant return but with better players the feeling is that he can score more goals. Plus he puts in a superb work rate for the Hammers and will be surely missed.

The problem for West Ham is that if a deal is going to go through there are suggestions that a team such as United would not want to wait for the summer and have the transfer go through in January. This would be a huge body blow for a club who only have a small gap from the bottom three. Losing a player of this quality even if they will make a good profit at such a time as the 2019 run in could prove even costlier to the club in the long term.

West Ham will naturally resist all offers for now but if United offer £50m or upwards you would feel that the London club would take that. Plus on a personal level Arnautovic will feel that all of his hard work has earned him the right to play in a team that can realistically win trophies and push on and play in the Champions League. A shame for West Ham true but Arnautovic looks like he will be spreading his wings very soon.


Lack of finishing touch is punishing West Ham

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Manuel Pellegrini’s decision to got toe-to-toe with Manchester City was a brave or naive one- depending on how you look at it. However, there were two aspects of his side’s performance during the game which made sure the manager’s risk wouldn’t pay off. The first was Arthur Masuaku’s lack of concentration at vital times. The second is more of a problem: a collective inability to finish off chances.

The commentators praised the Chilean’s tactics and enjoyed the open spectacle that it allowed, however, with just three wins all season the Hammers manager would much rather have some extra points on the board and if the Hammers hadn’t been so wasteful in front of goal, especially in the early stages, there is a chance he could have got them.

Instead, his was the sixth game in the Hammers’ 13 league matches so far in which they failed to score. In the past this has been blamed on a lack of creativity, but that certainly wasn’t the case here. Michail Antonio arguably had the best of the chances, but Marko Arnautovic, Pedro Obiang and Fabian Balbuena all had clear opportunities to score which they were unable to convert. West Ham actually had the same number of shots as City during Saturday’s game, they just didn’t manage to force any in while the visitors hit the back of the net four times- David Silva and Raheem Sterling getting one each and Leroy Sane bagging a brace.

It isn’t necessarily a concern that the side were beaten by City, it is the lack of cutting edge in the final third that will lead to worry. The Hammers have a favourable run -they won’t play any of the big six in their next eight games- so there will be pressure for the team to pick up points during the festive period. Now is not the time for shooting boots to go missing.

There have been worries that the Hammers have been too reliant on Arnautovic for their goals in recent times, with the Austrian directly involved in six of the club’s 14 league goals this season. If there is ever a time when he’s having an off-day it rarely seems that there is someone to step up and put the ball in the net, something which must change if West Ham are to climb the table.

West Ham may be 13th in the league, but they currently sit just four points above the relegation zone. There are many who believe that the side’s run between now and the New Year will be decisive in the club’s season, so it’s important that the team learn from matches such as this and start putting the ball into the net. With Grady Diangana having broken into the first team fold and Felipe Anderson showing improvements in his overall game, West Ham are beginning to create a lot more chances than earlier in the campaign. They just need to start putting them away with more regularity now.


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Time’s up for Chicharito

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Just over three and a half years ago, Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez was scoring the goal for Real Madrid that sent them into the Champions League semi-finals at the expense of city rivals, Atletico.

Having enjoyed great success whilst at Manchester United, his time on loan from them at Los Blancos was another feather in his cap, but just 36 short months later everything is remarkably different for the Mexican.

Not even a starring role for his country at the World Cup in Russia seems to have stopped the rot at club level. Continue reading

EPL Weekend Picks – Round 11

Riyad Mahrez

The 11th week of the 2018-19 Premier League season sees Bournemouth take on Manchester United and Liverpool travel to Arsenal. Let’s take a look at some players who you should consider adding to your EPL Fantasy teams before the weekend…

GK – Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)
We’re going to look specifically at high-scoring players who sometimes go under the EPL Fantasy radar in this week’s picks, starting with Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. The World Cup winner has 21 points this season — only four goalkeepers have more — and he could easily add to that tally against Wolves on Saturday.

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Classic derby will tell Pellegrini how far Hammers have come

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Ask any West Ham fan which fixture they really look forward to every season, and without hesitation it will be the classic derby against rivals, Tottenham Hotspur.

Even a supposed hatred of south London side, Millwall, pales into insignificance when the north Londoners come to town.

This fixture also has added spice now given Spurs’ own efforts to try and secure the London Stadium which the Hammers currently call home. Continue reading

West Ham’s unbeaten run comes to an end

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West Ham’s unbeaten run of four games came to an end last night against Brighton and Hove Albion. Glenn Murray’s 25th minute goal from inside the six-yard box was the only goal of the game as the Hammers lost 1-0 at the Amex.

The result was disappointing for West Ham, but the performance was even more so considering previous showings from the Hammers. Despite having plenty of the ball and 16 shots on goal the Hammers were unable to get on the score sheet, with Fabian Balbuena and Marko Arnautovic missing clear chances.

During the first half the side looked lethargic and unmotivated. The side didn’t threaten often enough going forward, taking far too long on the ball. Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko, who had been so effective in recent weeks, were on the fringes throughout the game and failed to create much real danger.

They were also poor defensively, as was epitomised by Murray’s goal. A simple ball to Beram Kayal had been enough to send him down the wing. Balbuena wasn’t decisive enough regarding whether to shut down the Israeli or defend in the box and was consequentially caught in no man’s land. Issa Diop attempted to sort out the mess as he shuffled across and instructed Arthur Masuaku to come over and mark Murray. The left back didn’t do that though, leaving the Englishman to convert with ease without any pressure being put on him.

The performance did improve in the second half, but the Hammers were unable to carve out a goal. There was a real lack of cutting edge from the men in claret and blue, something which Manuel Pellegrini clearly attempted to address with his substitutions. The Chilean brought Michail Antonio, Lucas Perez and Robert Snodgrass on for Pedro Obiang, Yarmolenko and Mark Noble at different points in the second half.

With five attacking minded players on the pitch it would have been expected that the away side could score, especially considering the amount of the ball they were seeing and how deep Brighton had dropped. However, there was still a lack of fluidity in their play at points and there was nobody who was able to show the quality needed to bring the sides level. If anything, the number of players in the attacking areas were more of a hindrance, as Perez was ineffective after coming on, while Antonio’s decision making was poor and he failed to make a positive impact.

Overall, it was a frustrating night for the Hammers and one that they’ll want to put behind them quickly. They’ll have to wait for their chance to put things right though, due to the upcoming international break. Their first game after the break is at home against Tottenham Hotspur, the perfect game in which to put things right.

West Ham have dropped into 15th following this result ahead of the Premier League fixtures to be played over the weekend, with Southampton and Fulham the only sides who can overtake them. This result may have been disappointing, but having gone into the last international table bottom without a single point to their name, being out of the relegation zone reminds supporters the club has been in worse positions this season.


Do you have what it takes to challenge the best Premier League Fantasy Managers? If you’re up to challenging the best then play now!

EPL Weekend Picks – Round 6

Leroy Sane

Players from Manchester City, Wolves and Crystal Palace were among the high-scorers from Round 5, while Chelsea’s Eden Hazard topped the points chart following his hat-trick against Cardiff. Let’s take a look at some players you should consider in your EPL Fantasy team this weekend.

GK – Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester)
Admittedly, this is a risky selection. Kasper Schmeichel is on -4 points after five games and he conceded four goals last week. However, Leicester play Huddersfield – the Premier League’s lowest scorers – next before matches against Newcastle and Everton. At 7.00m, he’s worth considering.

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