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Weekend Football Blog

Everton v Arsenal Preview

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Arsenal travel to Goodison Park this Sunday looking to avenge there 3-0 defeat suffered in March, which ultimately ended any aspirations they had for a tilt at the title. 

Neither team got off to the perfect start in their opening Premier League fixtures, with Everton drawing away at Leicester City before Arsenal scraped past Crystal Palace with a stoppage time winner at The Emirates.

Roberto Martinez’s side lead twice at the King Power Stadium and he will be disappointed that they were pegged back on each occasion. Everton’s performance was akin to the way they played last season.

They finished last season as the second best team at keeping the ball, averaging 63.3% of possession, while also averaging 13 shots per game – the fifth highest in the league.

They saw 67% of the ball against Leicester and looked like they would see the game out comfortably, until Chris Wood swept home five minutes from the end of play.

Despite having the majority of possession, Everton only managed three shots on target out of their 13 shots in total, although two of these produced goals and were finishes of the highest order.

Everton’s team was similar to the starting 11 Martinez would have played last year with a fully fit squad. The only ‘new’ signings in their starting 11 was Romelu Lukaku and Gareth Barry, who both made their loan moves permanent over the summer.

Ross Barkley is expected to be out for an extended period of time, but Everton have made a couple of key acquisitons in Christian Atsu and Muhamed Besic, likely to be heavily utilised by Martinez throughout the season.

As expected Arsenal remained pretty on the ball last season, averaging 76% of possession – the highest in the league – as well as having the best passing accuracy with an average of 87.7%.

With the sacking of Tony Pulis confirmed days before the season opener, many thought Crystal Palace would be rolled over at The Emirates. However, they put in a plucky performance and Arsenal needed a scrappy stoppage time goal from Aaron Ramsey to ensure the win.

The Welsh man has picked up from where he left off last season and will aim to improve on his tally of 10 league goals last season.

Although Arsenal didn’t play particularly well against Palace, they got the job done. Something they have failed to do in recent seasons.

Wenger got his big business done early this summer, with Alexis Sanchez joining the Gunners. A signing of his calibre may just see Arsenal hurdle their usual February downfall and push on for silverware.

Head-to-head:

Arsenal have failed to beat Everton in their last four attempts, drawing at The Emirates last year before being convincingly beaten at Goodison.

Prediction: Arsenal win – best odds here

Arsenal’s record against The Toffee’s hasn’t been great in recent years, but we don’t expect them to become unstuck in this one. The Gunners always start the season well and Everton made some sloppy defensive errors last weekend that Arsenal are likely to capitalise on.

Money maker: BTTS + result – best odds here 

Everton may have made some defensive errors against Leicester, but they still looked a threat going forward and Lukaku will fancy his chances against Calum Chambers. However, Arsenal always start the season well and we fancy them to end their Goodison hoodoo on Saturday evening.

 

Hull City v Stoke City Preview

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Hull City get Super Sunday kicked off as they take on Stoke with both teams looking to improve on their performances from their opening Premier League fixtures.

Hull got their season started with victory on the road, as James Chester’s second half header was enough to give them a 1-0 victory against QPR at Loftus Road. However, Hull manager Steve Bruce wouldn’t have been best pleased with his sides’ performance.

QPR had 51% possession in total and 19 shots with six on target compared to Hull’s 11 shots and four on target. QPR were even awarded a penalty in the closing stages of the game, but Charlie Austin could only hit it straight at Allan McGregor.

On another day QPR could quite easily have taken a point from this game, if not all three.

Although Hull never really looked like being relegated last season, they did finish in 17th place on 37 points and scored just 20 goals at home – only two teams, Norwich and Crystal Palace, scored fewer with 17 and 18 respectively.

The Tigers also have European commitments this season after qualifying for the Europa League and Steve Bruce has replenished his squad accordingly with five new signings. Jake Livermore has signed on a permanent deal after impressing on his loan spell from Tottenham, while winger Tom Ince has been signed from Blackpool. After so much talk about his career to date, now is the time he needs to start realising his potential.

They have also brought in Robert Snodgrass, who has Premier League experience with Norwich, although the winger has since injured his cruciate ligaments and is expected to be out for up to six months. 13 players have left the squad including the high profile departure of Shane Long to Southampton for a fee of around £12m.

Stoke have also seen a summer of transition with a total of nine players leaving the club, but Mark Hughes has brought in five players, three of which have plenty of Premier League experience. Steve Sidwell and Victor Moses have been signed to bolster the midfield, while Phil Bardsley has been snapped up from Sunderland.

To illustrate how much Stoke’s style of football has changed in recent seasons, Hughes has also completed the signing of Bojan Kricic from Barcelona for a fee of £3m, while former Manchester United man Mame Biram Diouf has also joined the Stoke ranks.

The Potters’ fans turned up to The Britannia last weekend full of optimism ahead of the new season, only for Villa to come and crash the party with a 1-0 win.

Stoke have certainly improved in possession of the ball and averaged the third highest amount of possession in the Premier League last season with 62.1% of the ball. Only Everton and Arsenal averaged higher.

Surprise, surprise, Stoke had 62% of the ball against Villa, but even with the lion’s share of possession they managed just two shots on target. Hughes will be hoping summer signing Bojan can help to increase that statistic.

 

Head-to-head:

Stoke took four points of Hull last year, drawing at the KC Stadium before nicking a 1-0 win at The Britannia back in March. Hull have drawn more games against Stoke than they’ve won.

Prediction: Draw – best odds here

Stoke will want to show what they are capable of after a disappointing result at the weekend and Hull may feel the effects of their midweek European expeditions, but Hull don’t concede too many at home and we can see this heading for a low scoring draw.

Money maker: Under 2.5 goals – best odds here

The last three fixtures between these two teams have all had under 2.5 goals, with just one goal being scored across the 180 minutes they played against each other last year. Stoke looked blunt in front of goal against Villa, while Hull may feel the effects of their midweek game.

 

 

 

 

Aston Villa v Newcastle Preview

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The second weekend of Premier League actions gets underway at Villa Park with Aston Villa taking on Newcastle in the early kick-off at 12:45pm (BT Sport 1). 

Having just about survived relegation last season, many fans thought this would be the season that Villa succumbed to their problems and be duly relegated to The Championship. That may well be the case still, but if Saturday’s performance is anything to go by, Villa could be in for a successful season.

They took on a rejuvanted Stoke side lead by Mark Hughes, who has tried to implement a different style of play at The Brittania Stadium. This was illustrated by the signing of former Barcelona forward Bojan Krkic. And although the Villa victory would have ruined many an accumulator at the weekend, the Villains were good value for their first away win since New Year’s Day.

Paul Lambert hasn’t brought in an abundance of players, but those that have come in are experienced, top level professionals. The Colombian midfielder Carlos Sanchez has been signed from Elche and should add steel to Villa’s midfield, while Aly Cissokho and Kieran Richardson will strengthen the fullback position. Joe Cole and Philipe Senderos have also arrived at the club, but it remains to be seen as to whether they will be astute signings or experienced flops.

There has also been plenty of outgoings at Villa Park, with 13 players leaving the club, including youngsters tipped for the top such as Nathan Delfouneso and Marc Albrighton. This indicates that Lambert wants to work with a tighter squad this season and he has also brought in Roy Keane, possibly in a move to toughen up some of the younger playing members within the squad.

With two weeks of the transfer window remaining, crucially, Villa have managed to hold on to centre-back Ron Vlaar. The Dutch international impressed at the World Cup and interest in him is thought to be high. If Villa can get through the transfer window without selling him, their chances of staying up come the end of the season will increase massively.

Villa had the worst goal difference outside of the relegation zone last season and they will need the Dutch man’s experience if they are to avoid a similar feat.

In contrast, Newcastle started their season with a dissappointing 2-0 defeat at home to reigning champions Man City.

It was a performance to be expected from Newcastle. They showed what they could do in glimpses, but rarely threatened to win the game, exemplified by their 12 shots on goal without hitting the target.

Their was some consolation for Geordie fans in that their six new signings all impressed on their Premier League debuts. However, the pick of the bunch was former Montpellier maestro, Remy Cabella.

Playing in his familiar position of attacking mid, the French international picked up the ball in some dangerous positions and always looked to take his opposite man on. After the departure of Yohan Cabaye to PSG in the January transfer window, Cabella, although a different style of player to Cabaye, could be the man to replace him.

But The Magpies never looked like scoring against City and rather than seeing Cabella come in to replace Cabaye, Newcastle fans will now want to see those type of players, playing together at the club rather than one coming in as a replacement.

As things stand, Newcastle look like they may be in for a season that is similar to last year. Comfortably in mid table, but not challenging for any silverware come the end of the season.

 

Head-to-head:

Newcastle did the double over Villa last year and Villa have failed to beat Newcastle in their last six attempts. There have been 32 draws in total between the two sides.

Prediction: Draw – best odds here 

Villa’s defence impressed in their away win at The Britannia, but Andreas Weimann’s goal came through slightly fortuitous circumstances. Newcastle created enough chances to score against Man City, but were let down by poor finishing. This may not be a game to get the pulse racing and we can see it petering out into a draw.

Money maker: Under 2.5 goals – best odds here 

Neither team currently have a recognised striker up front with Christian Benteke and Pappis Cisse both out injured for their respective clubs. Villa’s defence was solid against Stoke, while Newcastle defended well enough for the best part of 90 minutes against City before Aguero sealed the win. This, combined with a lack of penetration up front from both teams, suggests goals may be hard to come by in this game.