The Big four in the Premier League have been quiet in the transfer market

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The summer transfer window in the Premier League has been open since May 16th and in that time 7 weeks there hasn’t actually been that much activity between the top 4 clubs who finished in those places in the Premier League. The ones where you expect them to break the bank and make massive signings just like they have in the past.

Is FFP to blame? Or is it a case of the teams are simply not finding the right players at the right prices to try and compete? There haven’t been too many eye catching transfers in Europe either although the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool both aiming to dominate football and be the best would have risen an eyebrow to the highly talented Joao Felix signing for Atletico Madrid a few days ago. So the money is there or thereabouts but where is the quality this summer?

Of course the window does not shut yet but in England it has changed. Years ago the window used to close on August 31st even though the league had in all of those cases already started. The window now closes just before the league starts and that has been the new given rule in England. So it will close on August 8th. That is just 31 days away, and that goes very quickly, will we see more big deals go through or is that it?

Champions Manchester City who have spent close to £500m since Pep Guardiola became manager have brought in just two players. Angelino from PSV and their big one Rodri from Atletico Madrid. Angelino cost just over £5m but much is expected of Rodri who cost the club £63m. Give or take City have spent about £75m this summer on players, a lot of money but not nearly as much as City would usually spend.

Premier League runners up Liverpool have been very quiet buying just one player, Sepp van den Berg from PEC Zwolle for just over £1m and it will be questionable if the player gets games in the league and he may be only used for the league cup. So manager Jurgen Klopp is keeping his chequebook closed but at the same time Liverpool do have a very strong team and he will be happy with what he has.

Chelsea managed 3rd place in the end in the league but unlucky for them they currently have a transfer ban from UEFA. It is something that the club are appealing but with days running out anyway it looks almost certain that the Blues will not be buying or be able to buy any new players this summer.

That leaves us with Tottenham. A team who went the past two transfer windows not buying anyone. Young prospect Jack Clarke has come from Leeds for just £10m but the big purchase has been for Lyon’s Tanguy Ndombele who cost the club in the region of £55m, though that may rise.

All in all the big four clubs who finished in the top four last season have spent a combined £140m on players so far. Even taking into account Chelsea’s transfer ban this is a very low figure when you think of the TV deals that the clubs have been able to broker. We could also be fair and include Arsenal who finished 5th in place of Chelsea who can’t buy players.Yet even if we do this the Gunners have only spent £6m, with one player coming in on a free transfer.

Is the bubble finally bursting in the world’s most expensive league or should we remain more patient as the window closes by each passing day- either way we will find out soon enough.

Top Premier League Goalkeepers in 2018/19: Hugo Lloris

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Hugo Lloris completed his seventh season with Tottenham and even though it ended with no trophies there was no denying that his club had had a successful season. In the end Lloris helped Tottenham to a Champions League final, the clubs first final in their history and they also finished 4th in the Premier League and qualified for next years tournament as a result.

Lloris played 33 league games for Spurs and kept 12 clean sheets conceding 33 goals along the way. In the European Fantasy League rankings for the Premier League Lloris finished in 4th place with a total of 60 points. In the end he finished just 2 points behind Chelsea’s world record signing Kepa Arrizabalaga.

While Lloris can look back on the season as a good one it didn’t exactly start off well for him when he was arrested on suspicion of drink driving. He later pleaded guilty to the charge. Whilst this was a down point in Lloris’ season what was positive is that the Frenchman did not feel sorry for himself and quickly battled back to be in the team, missing only five games this season.

Because Tottenham conceded in their first two games of the season it meant that Llois started it with no points. He picked up his first points after the brilliant 3-0 win at Old Trafford against Manchester United. That game ended up being a catalyst for the team to continue their good form and Lloris kept another two clean sheets on a row as Spurs went on to beat Cardiff and West Ham. Llrois’ run ended in the next game when Tottenham were beaten 1-0 by champions Manchester City.

One of the best months for Lloris was in April when he did not concede a goal in the league that month and earned 21 points from 3 games played after Spurs claimed victories over Crystal Palace, Huddersfield and Brighton.

Lloris’ lowest point of the season came against eternal rivals Arsenal, it was a frantic day of football in the north London derby that saw Arsenal come out 4-2 winners. Conceding 4 goals is never good as a goalkeeper and on that day he ended up with -6 points. There was also the defeat against Wolves which ended 3-1 where Llrois ended up with -4 points.

With the season winding down and Tottenham clearly concentrating on the Champions League, so did their club form. Lloris finished his final three games this season earning no points and indeed finished with -2 over that period.

Had Tottenham finished a little stronger there is no doubt that Lloris would have beaten Kepa in the rankings.

Lloris looks set to keep his place at Tottenham for another season and if manager Mauricio Pochettino can identify the clubs problems with some shrewd summer signings this should be able to bolster the clubs fortunes once more and Lloris will be looking to put more clean sheets and more points on the board for next season.

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Why UEFA should build a super stadium for major events

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It’s been a busy and interesting last few days for UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin who called English clubs ‘mad’ because Chelsea and Arsenal had complained that the Europa League final was in Azerbaijan and Ceferin had many good points to his argument. At the same time it is estimated that only 10,000 fans of both clubs witnessed the game live and one wonders if UEFA needs to change the format of the final?

Ceferin himself admitted that future Champions League finals need to be played at only 4 or 5 rotating venues around Europe, but is happy for the Europa League final to be played anywhere that has a capacity of more than 50,000.

For Europe’s premier prize it is thought that a stadium like Atletico Madrid’s Wanda was in fact too small at 67,000. And Ceferin rightly pointed out that more tickets would have been sold had the final been at Wembley Stadium for example. There is also the Bernabeu in Madrid and Nou Camp and if Ceferin gets his way we should expect these stadiums to be on the short list for future Champions League finals.

But here’s the thing- why don’t UEFA build their own purpose stadium, perhaps in Switzerland? A stadium that is simply the largest in the world- we’re talking between 150,000-200,000 capacity. It would be quite a job but it would also be possible in this day and age and with the technology we have.

One could see Ceferin’s frustration when he admitted that 980,000 fans had applied for a Champions League ticket. This was the tickets released on general sale. With so many applying less than 3% ended up being successful. In other words the chances for general football fans to witness a Champions League final is almost non-existent. Why not cut in those odds and sell more tickets?

Of course countries love to host the final but having it always in Switzerland makes sense if we have such a mega stadium. Switzerland is basically like the middle ground of Europe and easily accessible for fans. Over time the stadium would get a legendary reputation as the stadium that every professional footballer would want to play in.

As for getting costs back, other events such as concerts could take place there, Swiss expos, conventions, perhaps even the Europa League final and maybe the semi-finals of the Champions League too. UEFA could have shops and a UEFA museum attached to the stadium with exclusive hotels to boot. What UEFA would be doing is in affect stamping their name on the heart of football by creating a super stadium for super final games.

In the current climate the finals are evidently not working and genuine fans of clubs are being left out in the cold. Time for a mega stadium to happen.

 

Tottenham’s Harry Kane could burn out if he doesn’t protect himself

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It was unfortunate to see such a lethargic display from Harry Kane in the Champions League final after the Tottenham striker returned from injury and was immediately put into the first team. Kane is one of the very best prospects in England but the player needs to be protected and mainly from himself.

We do not have to doubt Kane’s goal scoring abilities and his eye for goal and work rate in the area is brilliant. He is so precise and if anyone does want to doubt Kane’s abilities as a striker then his 164 goals in 253 appearances for Tottenham should put that to bed.

But here’s the problem and it cuts both ways with coaches and Kane himself- he needs to know and they need to know when the player needs rest.

Before the Champions League final Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino was asked why he brought Kane straight back into the team forcing Lucas Moura the hat trick hero in the semi-final win over Ajax to be dropped to the bench? Pochettino reacted as if the interviewer was pulling his leg, such is Kane’s importance to the team, but it was arguably wrong to think that and it was a genuine question. Had Moura been returning from injury, he still would have started the final from the bench, and yet Kane was brought in. True he is special to the club but he was still slightly rusty after having missed almost the last two months of football. It was the wrong choice to start him.

That was proven in a game where Kane was almost invisible. Again not his fault, this was the final and he wasn’t about to miss it but Kane’s inclusion actually helped Liverpool, because it felt for the most part that Tottenham were playing with 10 men, he was that quiet.

A few days later England were playing the Netherlands in the UEFA Nations Cup and England manager Gareth Southgate absolutely did the right thing in not starting Kane but bringing him on later in the game. No matter if England eventually lost the match, Kane’s presence or not wouldn’t have made the difference as he is still clearly recovering.

The problem was that after the game Kane was interviewed where he remained positive and upbeat and told journalists that he would get right back to fitness, go for a run on the beach and hit the gym.

Whilst Kane’s words would seem normal to any day footballer who is 25 remember the problem is that Kane doesn’t seem to be listening to his own body. He missed two chunks of the season because of injury and his quality is such that Tottenham cannot really afford to be without him for long periods. And when he gets injured his willingness to get fit quicker than expected seems to hamper his recovery time. So when he is ready to return, he actually really isn’t.

Southgate did the right thing Pochettino to a lesser extent didn’t. But Kane also needs to listen to his own body, the last thing anyone wants to see is a career where he keeps picking up injuries here and there and doesn’t get a good run of games under his belt. He is a special talent and he needs to be looked after.

Van Dijk and Alisson the stars of Liverpool’s Champions League success

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Madrid has often been where Champions League legends are made, and that proved to be the case for Liverpool. This year’s Champions League final won’t go down as one of the best, indeed in many aspects, it was among the worst, but Liverpool won’t mind one bit.

This side have battled their way back throughout the Champions League this season, and it was no different in the final. The natural rhythm, tempo and desire were lacking from Jurgen Klopp’s side. Instead, they had to battle, scrap and find something much deeper to ensure they were lifting a sixth European crown by the evening’s end. This Liverpool side have transformed under Klopp this year. The swashbuckling, cavalier team of the past has made way for one that has much more about it. Continue reading

No need for despondency at Tottenham, who are well ahead of schedule

Following a lengthy three-week build up, Tottenham Hotspur’s chances of winning the Champions League were significantly damaged within just 22 seconds of the first whistle on Saturday night.

After Liverpool had raced forward in an attempt to get their noses in front early on, Moussa Sissoko was penalised when Sadio Mane’s cross struck his outstretched arm. Sissoko may have been a little unfortunate to see the ball ricochet off his chest and then hit his arm, but extending it away from his body to that extent was a needless risk that gave Mohamed Salah the opportunity to draw first blood in the second minute.

That strike made Spurs’ task harder, but there was still plenty of time to get back into the match and they will have drawn inspiration from their sensational comeback from three goals down on aggregate in the semi-finals against Ajax. This time, though, there was to be no dramatic turnaround. Mauricio Pochettino’s men enjoyed plenty of possession for the remainder of the encounter without ever sufficiently testing Alisson in the opposition goal. And although Liverpool, who made sure of victory with a well-taken goal by Divock Origi in the closing stages, did not play particularly well either, the onus was on Tottenham because of the scoreline.

Games as big as the Champions League final often lead to sweeping conclusions, and although Liverpool can legitimately point to the result and argue that the end justified the means, the Madrid showpiece could have turned out very differently had Sissoko kept his arm by his side. That is not to say that Tottenham would have triumphed but for that incident – who knows, they could have lost by an even bigger margin had Liverpool needed to chase the match – but it is important to remember that minor episodes can have major effects and it would be wrong to lose perspective with regards to where Tottenham are currently at.

In Pochettino’s first campaign at the helm, Spurs missed out on Champions League qualifications. They then finished as runners-up to Leicester City in 2015/16 and Chelsea in 2016/17, before securing two more top-four finishes in the last two seasons. This represents a phenomenal stretch of consistency given that Tottenham’s net spend and wage bill are substantially lower than the teams they are competing with, namely Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and, their victors this weekend, Liverpool. Despite the disappointment of defeat in Madrid, it is important to remember that the north Londoners are still well ahead of schedule.

“Now it’s impossible to talk and we will all be very disappointed,” Pochettino told reporters at the Wanda Metropolitano. “The season was fantastic. We need to feel proud. I feel so proud of all the players, the fans and the club. We can’t give the last moment, the last game of the season, a massive reward for our fans.

“It’s not about tactics and today before 30 seconds a penalty that changed the plans completely. It had a massive impact for the team which we had to manage but the team was great, because of course it was difficult after.

“When that happens, it’s so painful but at the same time we need to be calm in the way that we talk and analyse the things because the season was fantastic and we need to feel proud. To finish in the top four and play in the Champions League final for the first time in the history of the club. It’s a thing that is going to be painful because we lost the final but in the same time we need to be positive.”

Pochettino later refused to commit his future to the club when invited to do so, but it is likely that he did not want to discuss such a big question in the immediate aftermath of the game. It would be a surprise if the Argentinian departed at this stage, but he is right to seek assurances from Daniel Levy about the club’s objectives going forward. Tottenham have had a fantastic five years, but they must ensure that their first ever Champions League final appearance is the start of something, not the end.

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Transfer News: Are Tottenham finally ready to spend money and buy Lo Celso?

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The transfer window in the Premier League opened up on May 16th and so far it hasn’t seen many players coming in but has seen quite a few leaving. There is a lot of work at Manchester United to be done and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer realises this and has acted accordingly. Two players have already been released in Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia and we should expect more in the coming weeks.

West Ham have been very active in juggling up their squad and have released 8 players which includes Andy Carroll and Samir Nasri. They have also got Roberto the goalkeeper from Espanyol on a free as a back up.

A couple of legends of the Premier League will play no more in England in Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany who will become player/manager of his boyhood club Anderlecht. Petr Cech’s last game was in the Europa League final for Arsenal and he will hang up his gloves and join Chelsea’s goalkeeping coaching team.

The big news this week regarded Tottenham and their reported pursuit of Giovani Lo Celso. The North Londoners have reportedly bid £53m for the midfielder who was on the books of PSG but was then loaned out at Spanish club Real Betis, who bought the player only in April.

With Tottenham buying no new players in the last two transfer windows this would signal the clubs first purchase in over a year. However whether Tottenham will get their man is up for debate given that Betis have him under a release clause for £88m. It is understood that the club would listen to offers though in the region  of £75m but that is still over £20m what Tottenham have bid. And to further make things complicated for the club other Premier League sides have shown an interest in the 23 year old.

The connection could be a good one though for Tottenham fans hoping that their manager Mauricio Pochettino stays at the club next season given that Lo Celso is Argentinian. But this could end up being a war of words between Pochettino and club chairman Daniel Levy. If we remember a few weeks ago Pochettino hinted that he needed assurances from the club in order to stay with them, and surely one will be to bring in quality players this summer in the form of Lo Celso.

For Real Betis they would be looking at massive profits. They purchased Lo Celso only in April for about £20m, and if they did accept Tottenham’s bid they would have made a massive £33m profit in one month. Though it looks likely they will hold out for more and Tottenham will need to make a bigger improved bid.

The good news even if Tottenham fail with Lo Celso is that the club have revealed their purchasing power and that they will be buying players this summer, which must come as a relief for any Tottenham fan.

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Where next for Simone Inzaghi?

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Since being appointed as Lazio’s interim head coach in 2016, Simone Inzaghi has transformed the biancocelesti into one of the league’s most compact sides, and has consistently delivered silverware, winning the Supercoppa in 2017 against Juventus, and most recently claiming the Coppa Italia this season after dispatching Atalanta. The two trophies are indicative of Inzaghi’s good work at the club, but it may be time for the Italian tactician to consider his future, and evaluate the possibility of joining one of Italy’s elite.

With both Juventus, and Milan considering him for their managerial vacancy, Inzaghi would be wise to wait before committing his future to Lazio. While club president Claudio Lotito and Inzaghi have an excellent rapport – to a point where the former views his tactician as ‘his son’ – it’s time Inzaghi demands more.

Given the current roster at his disposal, it’s clear Inzaghi’s gotten the most out of them, and has arguably seen his side peak. If they are to build off their two trophies, and consistently qualify for the Champions League, an aspiration shared by the entire club, they will undoubtedly need reinforcements. Going into next season, Lazio could arguably use another centre-back, a wing-back, and another striker to compete with Immobile and Caicedo.

Since Inzaghi’s hiring, Lotito has been conservative in the transfer market, and has opted for minor reinforcements rather than a complete squad upheaval. While this helps build chemistry, Lazio will need to dip into their transfer funds if they want to compete with the Milan clubs, and fierce rivals Roma. As the competition grows, so does their need to spend.

If Lotito guarantees Inzaghi a higher salary and more say on the transfer market, the Italian tactician should heavily consider remaining at Lazio for the foreseeable future. However, the managerial vacancy at Juventus may complicate affairs.

The bianconeri are far and away the best side in Italy, and don’t look like they’ll be slowing down anytime soon. Armed with Cristiano Ronaldo, coaching Juventus is an enticing prospect for any manager, let alone an up and coming Italian one like Inzaghi. Given his positive relationship with Fabio Paratici that goes back to their childhood, the Lazio tactician could emerge as a front-runner for the role. His experience in Serie A will undoubtedly put him near the top of Juve’s list, but he’s not there alone.

In recent times, Chelsea’s Maurizio Sarri and Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino have also been linked to the vacancy. In any case, joining Juventus would allow Inzaghi to take the next step in his career, and is a unique opportunity to grow his trophy case and reputation within the peninsula.

Milan, on the other hand, are frankly a less enticing option at the moment, but their appeal cannot be discounted. Despite their recent struggles, the rossoneri remain one of the league’s sleeping giants, and have improved significantly since last season. A lot, however, will depend on Champions League qualification, and whether or not, they will pip Inter or Atalanta to the final spot.

If they manage to claim top four, and promise to reinforce in key areas notably centre-back and left-wing, Inzaghi may be tempted to abandon his Lazio post for greener pastures.

While managing the biancocelesti has given Inzaghi the exposure and the necessary experience to take the next step from the primavera, managing one of Juventus or Milan may be an opportunity he can’t afford to turn down at this point in his career. After all, there aren’t many top class managers currently on the market, and by mere process of elimination, Inzaghi may find himself in contention for the jobs.

Much like he has done his entire career, expect Inzaghi to seize the opportunity and continue to propel his managerial career forward. That is, unless, Lotito makes him an offer he can’t refuse…

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UEFA must ensure Champions League & Europa finals have genuine fans attending

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UEFA will be under pressure to act ‘for the good of the game’ after it emerged that around only 20% of fans will be attending the Champions League final and Europa League final. It is a shocking statistic and a damning fact about the two prestigious finals.

The Europa League final will take place in Baku at the Olympic Stadium which boasts a capacity of 68,000. The all English final will be between Chelsea and Arsenal which is sure to a memorable game of football and yet here is the damning fact. Arsenal have only been allocated 6,000 tickets for their fans, Chelsea for some reason is even lower at 5,800. That equates to less than 20% of capacity.

UEFA and its partners and sponsors will be taking a percentage of tickets, this can amount to anything between 5,000-10,000 nobody knows quite sure how many. That is just a fact of the major finals that sponsors will be getting tickets and is part of modern football business. But where then are the other 38,000 tickets? Well they will go on general sale to anyone in the world that enters a lottery type ticket allocation.

While it should be applauded that neutral football fans around the world will get to see a final showpiece or at least given that chance, that it should be 55% of them is disconcerting. Whatever happened to genuine fans watching their own teams, especially in a football final? Does UEFA want the final devoid of all atmosphere is that the main goal here?

The same applies to the Champions League final although more tickets have been allocated. The final will take place at Atletico Madrid’s home ground of Wanda Metropolitan which holds like Baku around 68,000. Liverpool and Tottenham have been given 16,000 tickets each, about 5,000 will go to UEFA and the rest just over 30,000 goes to general fans again.

It mean of course that long standing season ticket holders of both clubs simply won’t be able to go. The final which takes place on June 1st, is arguably Tottenham’s biggest match in their history. They have never reached a European Cup final, and it will be a massive occasion for the club. But loyal fans will have to watch the game elsewhere.

A proper figure of 25,000 tickets each should be made available for fans of the respective clubs. If UEFA cannot guarantee this, then why play matches in smaller grounds? Perhaps the final needs to be played in stadiums boasting 80,000 capacities or more? What is so frustrating is that the solution seems an easy one. The current state of ticketing is painfully wrong, playing host to touts as well as fans being charged excessively, ripped off or worse still ending up in the area designated for rival fans.

 

EPL: Premier League Predictions for Week 38

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This is it- the final weekend of the English Premier League season. It all comes down to the very final day where all games will be played on Saturday at 3pm. Will Manchester City win back to back league titles or will Liverpool claim their first league title since 1990?

All is set to be revealed in what has been a quite absorbing and fantastic league title race. We take a look below at the predictions for each game.

Brighton v Manchester City

Brighton are safe and will play Premier League football next season after Cardiff were relegated last week. This is the match for Manchester City, win and they will be champions again. Much could rest on the fitness levels of Fernandinho and the goal scoring qualities of Sergio Aguero. One mark against City is that they are only just winning games. Manchester City to beat Brighton

Burnley v Arsenal

Arsenal would have to win 8-0 and hope that Tottenham lose to Everton in order to finish in the top 4. Football is amazing but we can’t see this happening. Instead Burnley are in decent form, Arsenal have been very poor the last 6 weeks and we expect Arsenal to lose again. Chris Wood will be dangerous for the Gunners and too hot to handle.  Burnley to beat Arsenal

Crystal Palace v Bournemouth

When these two play we usually see goals and we should see a very entertaining game of football. Christian Benteke could return for Palace after smashing his cheekbone to play a farewell last game of the season. Both sides have similar qualities. Draw

Fulham v Newcastle

Fulham have been brilliant at home since being relegated and Newcastle do not have much to play for here. Plus they rarely travel to Fulham and get a result. Having said that the Magpies Salomon Rondon can be a danger. Fulham to beat Newcastle

Leicester v Chelsea

Chelsea will be exhausted after the Europa Cup tie which could see them in a final. They have basically qualified for a top 4 and will take it easy here. Leicester are just too good if you are not 100% and we expect Brendan Rodgers side to get all three points and end the season on a high. Plus Jamie Vardy loves scoring against Chelsea. Leicester to beat Chelsea

Liverpool v Wolves

Liverpool made the Champions League final in stunning fashion in midweek but they must focus on this game and get a win if they have any chance of winning the league title for the first time since 1990. Returning forward Mohamed Salah will be on fire for this game and we can only see one winner here given that Wolves have already secured 7th place. Liverpool to beat Wolves

Manchester United v Cardiff

Manchester United have all the qualities to win, the problem is that a quarter of this team know they won’t be playing for the club next season. Cardiff are relegated and we may see the best of the club with zero pressure on them. United have been extremely poor form wise. Draw

Southampton v Huddersfield

Southampton have blown hot and cold in the past few weeks but this game being their final one and at home they should have the quality to be too pacey for Huddersfield and win this game. Huddersfield claimed a brilliant point last weekend against Manchester United but that was at home. Southampton to beat Huddersfield

Tottenham v Everton

Tottenham against all expectations reached the Champions League final in glorious style. The team will be tired and they will be focused on the final on June 1st. Everton have been in solid form but we can see a pre season type of game complete with a happy atmosphere. Watch out for player of the moment Heung-Min Son who has a good chance to keep on scoring goals. Draw

Watford v West Ham

Watford will likely rest most of their first team squad to prepare for the FA Cup final the following Saturday. This gives West Ham a very good chance of claiming a victory. Marko Arnautovic grabbed a brace for the club in their 3-0 win over Southampton and he could well be on target to grab the headlines again. West Ham to beat Watford

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