Arsenal: Top of the (Injury) Table
Arsenal fans rejoice! While the Gunners may be a languid eighth in the Premier League proper, they’re sitting high and mighty atop the EPL injury table, with a very respectable nine first team players out of action. The irony of their recent “long-term partnership” with a health insurance provider surely isn’t lost on Arsene Wenger.
Although the headlines have been dominated by Mesut Ozil’s “cracked knee,” it’s Arsenal’s defense that looks most exposed by this latest chapter in the never-ending soap opera that is The Emirates’ Physio Room. With both Laurent Koscielny (Achilles) and Mathieu Debuchy (ankle) out for the foreseeable future, and with Callum Chambers suspended, Arsenal could take the field against Hull this weekend with a defensive line comprised of Per Mertesacker and three full backs, one of whom is a 19-year old yet to play a single competitive fixture for The Gunners.
With Mertesacker their only defender taller than 5' 10", and with 6 of Hull’s 11 goals this season coming from crosses into the box, it doesn’t take a tactical Svengali to surmise that the Tigers will severely test Arsenal’s neck muscles this weekend.
QPR: The Winston Wolfe of the Premier League
Much like Harvey Keitel’s character in Pulp Fiction, Queens Park Rangers are the fixers of the English Premier League. If you’ve got a problem, no matter how complex, they’ll do their best to solve it.
Never won in 11 previous trips to London (Hull)? Visit QPR (Hull won 1-0).
Looking to make a good impression at your new club (Eric Dier)? Invite QPR round (Dier kept a clean sheet, scored a goal).
Yet to win a game or generally look like you know how to play football (Man United)? Give QPR a call (United won 4-0).
All of which should be music to the collective ears of Liverpool, who have kept just one clean sheet in their last 11 Premier League fixtures. The pending visit of Harry Redknapp’s finest should also pique the wandering interest of a certain sulky Italian. Currently on a barren run of 21 Premier League games without a goal (albeit interspersed with an 18 month hiatus in Serie A), a home tie against the Rs should be just the tonic for Mario Balotelli’s scoring woes.
You can get odds of 22-1 on a Balotelli hat-trick this weekend. Just sayin’.
Does Pelle Think he’s Pele?
There’s one significant problem with being a small yet impressive fish in a pond stuffed full of heavily moneyed piranhas: as soon as one of your players does something – anything – of promise, their agent starts shopping them around Europe faster than you can say “long-term contract.”
While club loyalty is a luxury enjoyed by few in this day and age, players and agents still typically have the good grace to wait at least a season before lifting their skirts to the big boys down the road. Not so Graziano Pelle. After just three months and four goals with Southampton, the big man’s agent is already lining up a move back to Serie A, specifically Napoli: “He always speaks well of them” says Pelle’s agent. “Napoli is a major place and all the players want to wear the blue shirt and it is for this reason that inevitably Graziano appreciates Napoli."
Having lost such a big chunk of their squad at the end of last season, Pelle’s strong start to the year must pose something of a conundrum for Saints fans: do they want to see Pelle continue to bang in spectacular goals like he did against QPR, drawing further admiring glances from afar? Or would they rather he just pop up with the odd unspectacular tap-in here and there, starting against Sunderland this weekend? Not half as enjoyable, but at least he might hang around until the end of January.
Goooooaaaaaaallll! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal!
Like goals? We’d be surprised if you didn’t, so why not head down to / tune your TV sets into Man City vs. Tottenham this weekend. The last six Premier League meetings between the two have produced a whopping 30 goals, while City scored 11 against Spurs last season alone. That’s the most scored in one season against a single opponent since 2009-10 when, you guessed it, Spurs managed 12 against Wigan.
So, we unconditionally guarantee that if you watch City vs. Spurs this weekend you’ll be treated to a veritable festival of scoring, replete with so many bangers, rockets, sledgehammers and zingers that you simply won’t know what to do with yourself.
Cue a 0-0 bore-fest.
Yes, it’s only week 8, and yes, there are still another 30 fixtures to go after this weekend, but Aston Villa’s trip to Everton is already a crucial tie for both clubs.
Currently just two points above the relegation zone, Everton – perennial slow starters – haven’t had a worse beginning to a Premier League season since 2005. Yes, Roberto Martinez’s men have suffered from a horrific fixture list, having already faced Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Man United, but they’ve also failed to take any points from a home tie against Crystal Palace while only managing a draw against new boys Leicester City. While Steven Naismith’s form in front of goal has been one of the few highlights, Tim Howard has already picked the ball out of his own net 16 times in seven matches: whatever happened to the Secretary of Defense?
They welcome an Aston Villa team doing its best to save The18’s blushes. With 10 points from their first four games, the Villains were making a mockery of our relegation prediction. However, the fact that those ten points came from just four goals has now been ruthlessly exposed: Villa haven’t scored a single goal in their last three matches, and haven’t picked up a single point.
Paul Lambert’s men could well do with arresting that decline with a morale-boosting win at Goodison Park, but history is against the Scot: in six attempts, Lambert has yet to best Martinez.