Tuesday, 26 January 2010

A kind of prediction type thing totally copied from somewhere else (Part deux)

The second part of my look at the midweek round of games in the premier league this week. Find part one here.

Aston Villa v Arsenal

Game of the week? I reckon so. As I mentioned last week, this is the first of a nightmare run of fixtures for the gunners that will really test their credentials as supposed title challengers. They'll take heart on the fact that they haven't lost at Villa since 1998 but questions will be raised as to whether their defeat to Stoke in the FA Cup on Sunday (their first in any competition since their champions league dead rubber against Olympiakos at the start of December) has halted their momentum. Wenger's Arsenal have been notorious for being unable to react positively to defeat, particularly in the FA Cup. In 2008, following a cup defeat to Man Utd, a run of 4 draws cost them the title. In 2007, they famously went out of 3 cup competitions in the space of 10 days and even in the unbeatable season exit from the Champions League Quarter finals came just 3 days after losing the FA Cup semi, again to United (the side's only back to back defeats all season!).

This much sought after momentum will be with the home side who followed up their hockey score victory in the Carling Cup last four with a fairly straightforward win against Brighton in the FA Cup. Admittedly, their league form has been far from spectacular recently and fourth place could soon slip out of their reach if they aren't careful. Despite their awful home record against Arsenal, they will be encouraged by their performances against the other members of the Premier League's elite so far this season. However, with the Arsenal team expected to look completely different to the team battered by Stoke at the weekend, if they are at the top of their game, they should just about have enough to see off Villa.

Prediction: Arsenal to just about come through with a 2-1 win.

Blackburn v Wigan

If I'm honest, and as my bookie will attest, I haven't got the slightest clue when it comes to predicting Wigan games. Very much like I said about Spurs yesterday, they can either be brilliant or absolutely shocking. When they recently got hammered 5-0 at Old Trafford, I kid you not, it could have quite easily eclipsed their 9-1 defeat at White Hart Lane a month previous. They were THAT bad! It's too easy to say that if the likes of N'Zogbia and Rodallega perform Wigan should have no problem because there is quite simply no guarantee they will. Martinez certainly has a very positive football philosophy which looks good when it comes off but when you see how bad they can be, you have to wonder how tactically astute he is and what, if any, kind of authority and discipline he has. When things are going wrong, does he really know what to do to change it? Ultimately, what I think I'm asking is if he is really ready for Premier League management? I believe Wigan are as prime candidates for the drop as anyone given their inconsistencies.

Blackburn on the other hand will just be happy not the be facing Aston Villa again. We all know how Fat Sam sets out his teams to play and given how abject his side have been on the road, the importance of points at Ewood Park cannot be underestimated. With Chris Kirkland injured yet again, Rovers should win it but it wont be a classic (cue a 5-5 scoreline).

Prediction: 2-0 to Blackburn

Chelsea v Birmingham

There was a slim hope amongst the majority of the football viewing public that CSKA Fulham would be somehow hindered by the loses of messers Drogba, Essien et al during January allowing the rest of the chasing pack to catch up. This proved far too simplistic an assumption as factors such as the snow causing the blues to only play one league so far this month and Drogba's Ivory Coast exiting the African Cup of Nations before Chelsea had a chance to 'miss' him were not taken into account.

With an almost full compliment of players (Mikel remains in Angola – COME ON THE EAGLES!!! – and Essien seems to have sustained some kind of injury) going into the second half of the campaign, many will believe that it would take a major catastrophe of Newcastle-esque proportions to see them not win the league come May.

The march to the title will be expected to continue with three points against a Birmingham side on a simply unfathomable good run. Credit to Alex Mcleish but anyone who has seen Birmingham play will know they have not hit the dizzy heights playing anything even close to exciting football. Their style of play hasn't won anyone over but it has got them results. Going through their squad there aren't many players that other teams would look upon with great envy (and that is putting it as nicely as you can imagine) with the exception of on loan Man City goalkeeper Joe Hart – a major factor in their current position – but they work hard for each and play for each other etc. Something that has certainly been helped by the fact Mcleish has kept the same starting XI in the league since Jesus was teething or something like that.

I don't expect Birmingham to be as abject as the last team to go to Stamford Bridge but I don't see them holding the title favourites like they did just a month ago.

Prediction: comfortable 3-0 win for CSKA

Everton v Sunderland

I commented in detail about Everton's recent run last week and there seems no sense in repeating it here although they did lose to the aforementioned Birmingham at the weekend meaning there will be no repeat of last season's FA Cup heroics. A key factor in how they end this season comes in the form of the returning Mikeal Arteta. All of sudden, some people (me) might say that the Everton midfield looks like one of the strongest in the division.

From all the early season brilliance of Sunderland, Steve Bruce seems to have no idea how get the best out of his team anymore. Their results are currently as bad as any team in the league and a defeat against Rock Bottom Pompey in the cup wont be good for morale. What's that? Useless trivia you say? Sunderland conceded 7 in their last league game and in going to Goodison, they return to the scene of their last 7 goal pasting. I say this is useless because the Toffees wont get that many again but should come through this without too much trouble (Although Steve Bruce has the easiest team talk ever: "Lads, whatever you do, just makes sure it's less than 7 this week").

The Mackems may be encouraged by the fact the often useless Phillipe Senderos may play for Everton following his loan from Arsenal and the visitors could have Lee Cattermole back in their side.

Prediction: 2-1 Everton win but the moral victory goes to Sunderland for not being embarrassed yet again.

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