With the season getting ever closer, teams have began to add to their to squad, while letting go players. With the likes of Manchester City, who have spent nearly £90 million on four players, and Chelsea, who have Jose Mourinho back and have brought Andre Schurrle, Marco van Ginkel and Mark Schwarzer. I look at the opening weekend of fixtures in the Premier League and predict the scoreline.
12:45 pm: Liverpool v Stoke City
Brendan Rodgers had a flat first season at Anfield after joining from Swansea City. After finishing 7th, the reds should be challenging for a top 4 finish this season.
Rodgers has brought in four players into Anfield. Spanish forward, Luis Alberto has joined from Sevilla for £6.8m, Iago Apas has also joined from from a Spanish club, Celta Viga. The Spanish forward signed for £7m, providing competition for Suarez, Sturridge and Alberto.
Belgium goalkeeper Simon Mignolet signed from Sunderland for £9m, with Pepe Reina joining Italian side Napoli on loan. Liverpool also snapped up the signature of Kolo Toure from Manchester City on a free.
The players departing from Anfield are Andy Carroll who has joined West Ham for £15.5m and Jonjo Shelvey to Swansea for £5.5m,
For the visitors, there has been a change in the manager, with Tony Pulis leaving the Britannia Stadium and former Manchester City and Queens Park Rangers manager, Mark Hughes.
Player wise, Hughes has only signed to players. Erik Pieters signed for £3m from Dutch team PSV and Marc Muniesa from Barcelona on a free.
Four players left Stoke, who finished 13th last season. Rory Delap has joined League 2 side Burton, Carlo Nash has joined fellow Premiership team Norwich City, Matthew Upson has joined Brighton after an successful loan spell at the AMEX.
Dean Whitehead has also departed, joining Middlesborough. Mamaday Sidibe was released.
Score Prediction: Liverpool 2-1 Stoke
15:00: Arsenal v Aston Villa
Both teams have been busy during this transfer window. Arsenal, who have only signed one player, have been linked with many well-known players. Some of the candiantes linked with a move the Emirates are Wayne Rooney, Gonzalo Higuain, Mezut Ozil and most recently, Luis Suarez.
The only signing for Arsene Wenger’s side is French striker Yaya Sanog0 from Auxerre. Brazilian midfielder, Denilson has left Arsenal to join Sao Paulo after enjoying two seasons on loan at the club. Russian winger, Andrei Arshavin has also left the club, joining Zenit in Russia.
Italian goalkeeper, Vito Mannone has joined Sunderland for around £2m. Young midfielder, Jernade Meade has joined Swansea City, while Sebastian Squillaci has been released.
Andre Santos has left for Flamengo after an unsuccessful two years at Arsenal.
For Aston Villa, Paul Lambert has signed six players after surviving the drop last season. Aleksandar Tonev has joined from Lech Poznan in Poland for £2.5m. Defender Jores Okore also has joined Lambert’s men, signing from Norweignan club Nordjaelland form £4m.
Leandro Bacuna and Nicklas Helenius has moved to Villa Park. Bacuna joining from Groningen and Helenius joining from Aalborg. Defender Antonio Luna signed for £1.5m from Spanish club Sevilla and goalkeeper Jed Steer has signed for a free from Norwich City.
Players have also left the team. Richard Dunne has signed for QPR after being released, while Brett Holman has joined Al Nasr for a free.
Score Prediction: Arsenal 3-1 Aston Villa
15:00: Norwich City v Everton
Norwich finished 11th last season and Chris Hughton’s men will be hoping for more success after the signings the Canaries have made. Dutch striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel has joined from Sporting Lisbon for £8.5m. The ‘Wolf’ scored 28 goals last term for Sporting, playing 55 games.
Javier Garrido also signed after an successful loan spell at Carrow Road. The Spanish left back has been joined by Nathan Redmond, who signed from championship side, Birmingham City.
Martin Olsson left Blackburn to play Premier League football and Carlo Nash joined from Stoke City on a free. Leroy Fer, 23, has joined Norwich after playing for FC Twente.
Hughton has also added Gary Hooper to his strikers, joining van Wolfswinkel and Becchio. Two strikers have left Norwich. Simeon Jackson has joined German side BTSV and Grant Holt has joined relegated Wigan. Lee Camp has been released, while James Vaughan has joined Huddersfield Town.
The visitors, Everton, have a new manager at Goodison Park. Roberto Martinez has replaced David Moyes, after the Scottish manager joined Manchester United. Martinez has signed three players this summer, all three played for his old team, Wigan Athletic. Arouna Kone joined Everton after only one season at Wigan for £5m. Paraguay international, Antolin Alcarez joined after being released from the Latics.
The Toffees have also signed Joel, after the Spanish goalkeeper spent last season on loan at the DW Stadium, helping them win the FA Cup.
Everton have only got rid of two first team players. Thomas Hitzlsperger has been released, along with Jon Mucha.
Score Prediction: Norwich 1-1 Everton
15:00: Sunderland v Fulham
Paulo Di Canio saved Sunderland from relegation last season. A famous 3-0 victory away at Newcastle the most notable success from last season. David Karlsson singed form Goteborg for £1.5m, while Modobo Diakite and Valentin Roberge have also signed for the Black Cats.
Cabral has signed from Basel on a free, while Vito Mannone joined from Arsenal to replace Simon Mignolet. American striker Jozy Altidore has also joined, signing from AZ Alkmaar for £6m.
El-Hadj Ba and Emanuele Giaccherini will also be playing at the Stadium of Light next season. Di Canio has sold many players, as he continues to build his squad.
Titus Bramble was released, Matthew Kilgallon joined Blackburn, Adam Reed joined Burton, Ryan Noble joined Burnley, Simon Mignolet joined Liverpool, Ahmed Elmohamady joined newly promoted Hull and Danny Graham joined the Tigers on a loan.
Maritn Jol has been busy this window, signing five players.
Sascha Riether joined from Cologne for £1.3m, Fernando Amorebieta signed from Bilbao for free, Derek Boateng signed from Dnirpo, Maarten Stekelenburg joined from Roma for £4m.
Fulham also released four players (Simon Davies, Chris Baird, Mahamadou Diarra and Mladen Petric). Along with Austrlain goalkeeper, Mark Schwarzer joined Chelsea.
Score Prediction: Sunderland 3-0 Fulham
15:00: West Brom v Southampton
The Baggies have really done a lot of business this window. Nicolas Anelka signed form Italian giants Juventus, while Goran Popov signed on loan from Dynamo Kiev.
Gonzalo Jara left for Nottingham Forest, Jerome Thomas left for Crystal Palace, Zoltan Gera was released and Marc-Antoine Fortune joined Wigan.
Southampton, under Mauricio Pochettino, have signed two players. Croatian defender, Dejan Lovern signed from French side Lyon, while Victor Wanyama signed for £12m from Scottish champions, Celtic. Vegard Forren signed for Molde.
Score Prediction: West Brom 0-0 Southampton
15:00: West Ham United v Cardiff City
Sam Allardyce’s men finished 10th in the return from the championship. With the help from Andy Carroll on loan from Liverpool and Kevin Nolan, the hammers will be hoping for more of the same this season.
Romanian defender Razvan Rat has signed from Shakhtar Donetsk for a free, while Spanish goalkeeper Adrian joined from Real Betis. Andy Carroll has also joined after an successful loan period at Upton Park last season.
Carlton Cole was released, along with Gary O’Neil.
Last seasons championship winners, Cardiff City, have broken their transfer record, signing Andreas Cornelius from Copenhagen for £7.5m. The Bluebirds have also signed John Brayford from Derby for £1.5m.
Helguson has retired, Nathaniel Jarvis has left, along with Stephen McPahil.
Score Prediction: West Ham 3-1 Cardiff City
17:30: Swansea City v Manchester United
After winning the Capital One Cup, Swansea City have the opportunity of playing in the Europa League, meaning the league will be a competiton for the Swans to compete for a European place. Michael Laudrup’s men finished 9th last season and will be looking for a higher position this season.
Swansea have signed just less than 10 players already. Jose Canas signed from Real Betis on a free, Jordi Amat from Espanyol for £2.5m, Alejandro Pozuelo signed from Betis, Gregor Zabret from NK Domzale, Alex Gogic from Olympiacos, Jonjo Shelvey from Lverpool for £5.5m, Wilfried Bony from Vitesse for a club record £12m and Jernarde Meade from Arsenal.
Jonathan de Guzman has also joined on loan from Villarreal.
Kyle Bartley and Alan Tate have both joined championship clubs on loan. Bartley has joined Birmingham while Tate has joined Yeovil.
For the away team, Manchester United have a new manager for the first time for over 25 years. David Moyes has took over after Sir Alex Ferguson retired last season.
The Scotsman has only signed one player, Uruguayan defender Guillermo Varela from Penarol. They have been linked with Cesc Fabregas, but have had two bids rejected by Barcelona. Wilfried Zaha has returned from his loan from Crystal Palace, while Wayne Rooney is being constantly linked with Chelsea.
Score Prediction: Swansea 1-0 Manchester United
13:30: Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hotspur
Ian Holloway’s men got promoted through play-off after beating Watford 1-0.
Holloway has brought in five players already. Stephen Dobbie joined from Brighton after a loan spell last season. Dwight Gayle signed from Peterborough for £4.5m, while Jerome Thomas signed after being released by West Brom.
Jose Campana signed from Sevilla for £1.7m, along with Kevin Phillips signing a 1 year contract. Academy players have left Selhurst Park.
Tottenham have been in a transfer saga this summer, with Gareth Bale being linked with Manchester United and Real Madrid. Paulinho signed from Corinthians for £17m after an successful Confederations Cup with Brazil. Belgium international Nacer Chadli signed for £7m from FC Twente.
Gallas, Bentley and John Bostock have all left White Hart Lane.
Score Prediction: Crystal Palace 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur
16:00: Chelsea v Hull City
With the return of Jose Mournho, Stamford Bridge should be seeing a lot of wins this season. Germany international Andre Schrulle signed from Bayer Leverkusen for £18m. Dutch play maker Marco van Ginkel signed from Vitesse for £8m.
Mark Schwarzer and Cristian Cuevas have also joined the blues.
Jose Mourinho also let players go. Israel midfielder Yossi Benayoun has been released, with French winger, Florent Malouda joined Turkish side Trabzonspor, joining ex Chelsea striker Didier Drogba in playing in Turkey.
Goalkeepers, Ross Turnbull and Hilario, both have been released, after spending the last 4 years on the bench. Portuguease right-back, Paulo Ferreira has also been released.
Newly promoted Hull have a solid start to the season, playing Chelsea and Manchester City away in their first three games in their return to the top flight.
Manchester United legend Steve Bruce took the Tigers to automic promotion last season, after an dramatic last day of the season saw Hull snatch the promotion place after Watford lost to Leeds.
Five players have joined the KC Stadium team. Last season’s loanee, George Boyd, signed on a free from League One side, Peterborough United.
Honduras defender, Maynor Figueroa signed from relegated Wigan Athletic. Bruce also brought in competition for Eldin Jakupovic for the number one spot, bringing in Allan McGregor from Turkish side, Besiktas for £1.8m and Steve Harper, after the 38 year old left Newcastle after 10 years.
The newly promoted side also added to their attack, bringing in Ivory Coast striker Yannick Sagbo, joining the likes of Didier Drogba, Wilfried Bony, Gervinho, Salomon Kalou, Arouna Kone, Kolo Toure and Yaya Toure in the list of Ivory Coast players to play in the Premier League.
Score Prediction: Chelsea 4-0 Hull City
20:00: Manchester City v Newcastle United
Manchester City, like Manchester United and Chelsea, have a new manager. Manuel Pellegrini replaced Roberto Mancini after the Italian was sacked after losing the FA Cup final against Wigan Athletic.
Pellegrini was quick to improve his squad, splashing £30m on Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho from Shakhtar Donetsk. They continued their spending, buying Spain World Cup and European winner, Jesus Navas from Sevilla. The 2011-12 English champions brought the 27 year old for £14.9m.
The Blues brought another Spanish Sevilla player, Alvaro Negredo joined Pellegrini’s men, a £20m move replaced Argentinian striker Carlos Tevez, who left for Italian side Juventus for £12m.
The same day as Negredo’s signing, Stevan Jovetic also joined Manchester City. The Montengro forward left Fiorentina for City in a £22m.
Along with Tevez, Kolo Toure left the blues to join Liverpool on a free contact. Wayne Bridge left for championship side Reading after spending last season on loan at Brighton.
Paraguay striker Roque Santa Cruz also left for Spanish side Malaga after spending last season on loan at the club. Brazilian right back, Maicon also left after only a year at City.
For Newcastle United, Alan Pardew is yet to add to his squad, after ex-manager Joe Kinnear was appointed Director of Football. Much to the disgust of most Newcastle fans.
Pardew has let three players leave. Danny Simpson left for QPR, James Perch left for Wigan and Steve Harper left for Hull City.
Score Prediction: Manchester City 2-0 Newcastle United.
Tottenham Hotspur fans react to Danny Welbeck dive
Tottenham Hotspur fans were not pleased with Danny Welbeck’s dive v AC Milan.
Arsenal successfully knocked AC Milan out of the Europa League last night with a 3-1 win at the Emirates Stadium. The hero of the night was England forward Danny Welbeck. The striker scored two goals as Arsenal completed a deserved 5-1 aggregate victory over the Rossoneri.
But Milan had taken an early lead through Hakan Calhanoglu’s bamboozling long-range strike. Arsenal, at that stage, were looking on the ropes. Welbeck though won and then dispatched a penalty to level the scoring. The word ‘won’ being the optimum word.
Welbeck dived for the penalty, there is no doubt about that. Ricardo Rodriguez barely breathed on the Arsenal man, who tumbled to the ground hopefully. When the penalty was given, he looked in disbelief.
For Tottenham Hotspur fans it was a moment they did not appreciate.
Spurs have seen Dele Alli victimised throughout the season, and some would say rightly so, for his diving. There is no doubt that the England midfielder has dived this season and not many Tottenham fans would suggest not.
But the anger here lies with what Tottenham fans believe is hypocrisy. There is also a certain level or irony given a thinly veiled dig by Arsene Wenger against Spurs’ players this season.
After the highly controversial 2-2 draw at Anfield, where Harry Kane was accused of diving v Liverpool, Wenger had this to say, as reported by the BBC:
“I remember there were tremendous cases here when foreign players did it.
“But English players have learned very quickly and might be the masters now.”
“Sometimes players play a little bit with the rules. How far can you go? That is down to the referees.”
With Arsenal their next Premier League opponents, Arsene Wenger’s barb was not hard to see.
When that statement came out Tottenham fans quickly pointed out occasions when Arsenal’s English stars had been caught diving. Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott were prominent examples. Now, in Welbeck, Tottenham have seen another.
Arsenal fans will be happy that their team have booked a place in the next round of the Europa League. On balance it was more than a fair result as over two legs Arsenal outplayed the Italian giants.
But the Welbeck moment certainly put an asterix on the game for Spurs fans.
Here is some of the best reaction from Twitter…
Özil against Watford was falling down when a gust of wind went past him. It was appalling. Welbeck yesterday was one of the worst dives
— Joe B ??????? (@JblincoTHFC) March 16, 2018
Only just seen the Welbeck dive, he must be embarrassed even appealing for that.
— Joshhh (@JJonesTHFC) March 16, 2018
— Harry Hotspur (@HarryHotspurWHL) March 15, 2018
If you had any doubt about how this country treats Dele Alli (one of its brightest prospects in years) look at the difference in how the media and in particular fans, are talking about the #Welbeck dive. ? #COYS #THFC
— Gary Ford (@Spursfordie) March 15, 2018
Imagine if this was @dele_official who did this and the media onslaught! Danny Welbeck you diving cheat! Hope the likes of @talkSPORT @GaryLineker @alanshearer to name a few subject Danny to the same treatment they have subjected Dele too this season! https://t.co/MXFMAkOGcN
— H (@LittleMissTHFC) March 15, 2018
— Lucas (@MoughtTHFC) March 15, 2018
Welbeck is a cheat end of. Ruined a good game.
— THFC (@RaoullyT69) March 15, 2018
Look how everyone destroys Dele over diving. No one will comment on Welbeck’s dive. Shocking! #THFC
— Harry Hotspur (@HarryHotspurWHL) March 15, 2018
— Steve Williams (@spurssteve69) March 15, 2018
Welbeck dives. Dele will be in trouble in the morning. #THFC
— Stephen Vincent (@StevieV14) March 15, 2018
If Dele Alli did what Welbeck just did?
— Billy Adams (@ThfcAdams) March 15, 2018
Victory in Milan, but is this another false dawn for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger?
Arsenal were triumphant in Milan despite their recent miserable form.
Arsenal ended their losing run of four matches with an excellent performance away to AC Milan in the Europa League. This competition has the potential to save the Gunners season and the commitment from every player suggested that they want to go all the way.
They were coming up against a team full of confidence under Gennaro Gattuso. Milan hadn’t lost a match since the end of December. The Serie A club hadn’t conceded a goal in six and had won five of those inside ninety minutes.
These sides came into this fixture in remarkably different form, but football is played on grass and not on paper.
Despite Milan having more attempts, it was Arsenal who created the better chances. They had a couple of half-chances early on before the opening goal.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan has had a hot and cold start to life in a Gunners’ shirt, but he was one of the best players on the pitch in Italy. His goal was emphatically taken as he drove the ball past Gianluigi Donnarumma.
It is important to capitalise when you are on top, especially away from home in European competitions and Arsenal did just that. As the first-half progressed, they continued to create the better opportunities. Both Danny Welbeck and Mkhitaryan had good chances to double the visitors’ lead, but they were squandered.
In stoppage-time of half-time, Arsenal scored a second to give them a commanding lead in the tie. It was a great move from the team and Mesut Ozil found Aaron Ramsey who coolly rounded Donnarumma before putting the ball into the net.
The first-half performance from Arsenal was one of the best that supporters have seen this season. They were better all over the pitch and showed the work rate that they had lacked in previous weeks. Milan pushed in the second half, but they couldn’t penetrate the Gunners’ defence.
Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi were both excellent. Arsene Wenger will be hoping that both are returning to their best after some uncharacteristic errors in previous matches. The centre-back pairing made eight ball recoveries and were always in the right position on Thursday.
Patrick Cutrone is a teenager with a big future, but the young striker had no luck out of the Arsenal defence and that will encourage the manager.
Another player to emerge with credit is Danny Welbeck. The ineligibility of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and the injury of Alexandre Lacazette means that the Englishman started the game up front for Arsenal. It was a huge opportunity for him after being pushed down the pecking order at the club and he took it with both hands.
The Englishman worked tirelessly and caused problems with his movement.
Although his final product wasn’t great, he was a constant threat and led the defensive effort from the front. Welbeck will never be a leading Premier League striker, but he is effective in matches such as this one. He deserves more opportunities during the run-in.
It would be too soon to get carried away for Arsenal fans. There are still questions regarding Arsene Wenger and the work rate of the players, but this was an excellent performance that finally provides the club with positive momentum. They have had a miserable few weeks and the supporters can get excited about their team once again.
When the draw was made, a lot of supporters checked their expectations when it came to the Europa League. Milan were the overwhelming favourites, but Arsenal have taken a dominant position in the tie and should be able to finish the job in London.
If they can do that, they will move into the quarter-final stage. Although it will be difficult to win it, they will have as good a chance as any.
There have been many false dawns for Arsenal in recent years and this could be another one. That said, it takes enormous character to go away to a huge stadium like the San Siro after a poor run of form and win comfortably.
Considering the criticism that they have had for their lack of desire, few would have thought the Gunners to be capable of a result like this.
It is now up to Wenger to prove that he can get this level of effort and performance out of his players on a regular basis. The Frenchman remains in a difficult position with no margin for error. If he is going to keep his job, he needs to finish the season strongly and win the Europa League.
It won’t be an easy challenge, but this performance and result will give him hope that he can upset the odds to claim his first European trophy.
Brighton 2-1 Arsenal: Three talking points from the Amex
Arsenal lost for a fourth successive game as Brighton & Hove Albion bullied their opponents into submission.
Arsenal suffered their fourth consecutive defeat in all competitions as Brighton & Hove Albion took a giant leap towards Premier League survival.
The pressure on Gunners boss Arsene Wenger, which has intensified since the turn of the year, looks set to reach new heights after another dismal day at the office for his charges.
Goals from Lewis Dunk and Glenn Murray put the Seagulls in control before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pulled one back for the visitors on the stroke of half-time.
Despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession, Arsenal were unable to muster an equaliser.
For Brighton, this was a huge result that lifted them seven points clear of the relegation zone.
Here are three talking points…
Is beleaguered Wenger’s position now untenable?
It lurches from one disaster to another for Wenger.
He probably thought the nadir had been reached after last weekend’s limp performance in the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City, when his future became the main topic of debate.
The Frenchman would have hoped for a reaction from his players in the subsequent fixtures.
Instead, his side were brushed aside against City in the Premier League before producing another sub-standard display here against Brighton.
Added to their shock Europa League reversal at home to minnows Ostersunds, it is the first time Arsenal have lost four successive matches since 2002.
After last season’s FA Cup triumph, Wenger penned a new contract that takes him through to the summer of 2019.
Now, however, it’s difficult to see how he can last beyond the end of the current campaign.
Perhaps only by lifting the Europa League, which would automatically qualify Arsenal for the Champions League, could Wenger realistically remain in situ.
Even then, it may not be enough. His players look devoid of any confidence and need an injection of new ideas.
Brighton take a massive step towards safety
The focus will understandably be on Arsenal, but Brighton’s display should not be overlooked.
This victory extended their unbeaten run in the Premier League to four games and has all but banished thoughts that they might be dragged into a relegation scrap.
Yes, it was a good time to face Arsenal, but Chris Hughton’s side made a fast start with two early goals that went a long way to recording their first win over the Gunners since 1982.
Brighton’s performance bore all the hallmarks of their season so far.
Despite being one of the lowest scorers in the division, they took their chances when they came, exploiting Arsenal’s weakness from set pieces and aerial balls.
In the second half, the home side remained very organised defensively, which was key when the Gunners upped the tempo.
Modest and unassuming, Hughton has done a terrific job on the south coast.
Defensive shortcomings continue to haunt Arsenal
Wenger has regularly spoken of his belief that Arsenal cannot compete on a level playing field with the likes of Manchester City.
And while his side’s record against fellow ‘Big Six’ clubs is regularly scrutinised, the Gunners’ results against the lesser lights have not been good enough for a club with Champions League aspirations.
In 2018 alone, Arsenal have been beaten by Swansea City, Bournemouth and now Brighton in the Premier League, while losing to Nottingham Forest and Ostersunds in cups.
A lack of leadership has long been an issue on the pitch and it’s an area Wenger has consistently ignored.
Defensively, the Gunners are too easy to bully.
Take Shkodran Mustafi’s defending for the first goal in the Carabao Cup final last weekend, for example.
Particularly away from home, Arsenal are prone to imploding.
Despite the attacking talent Wenger has at his disposal, his failure to invest in proven defenders at the top level looks set to cost him dearly.
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