Arsenal’s Take Two, The Miserable Derby & 10 Things To Look For In The Premier League (Dec 28-30)


1 Crystal Palace v Swansea: A Corner Or A Cul-De-Sac?

The words ‘turning’ and ‘corner’ were thrust in the direction of Alan Curtis after Swansea’s somewhat messy 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion on Boxing Day, but as long as the club’s board drag their feet over the appointment of a new manager then the caretaker is going to have to put up with such managerial platitudes, perhaps until the end of the season.

And the proof of whether this was a corner turned or a cul-de-sac entered will come at a club who are doubtless disappointed to see the end of 2015.

It has been a superb year for Crystal Palace under Alan Pardew, surely one of the best in Palace’s history, but with Yannick Bolasie and Connor Wickham both out here they might just lack a bit of power upfront to trouble their hosts, who can just keep turning towards that corner.

Draw – 3.35

 

2 Everton v Stoke: Boxing Day Hangovers?

FBL-ENG-PR-TOTTENHAM-STOKE : News Photo

They went about it in very different ways, but both of these two got big wins on Boxing Day – Everton leaving it until the last seconds in an evening kick-off at Newcastle, and Stoke doing their business early on against Manchester United whilst everyone was eating their lunchtime turkey sandwiches.

Tiredness from those two fixtures is sure to be a factor here, and with Everton proving a barometer for most of the division due to their inconsistency, the fact that they have looked a little less certain at home recently could play into the visitors’ hands.

Stoke or Draw Double Chance – 1.95

 

3 Norwich v Aston Villa: The Most Ridiculous Tip Of 2015

Being 12 points behind Norwich City at any point of any season has to be cause for alarm bells, but that is what faces Aston Villa if they were to lose at Carrow Road in their final game of a wretched 2015.

But if you get your magnifying glass out and you really, really want to see it, is there not suddenly cause for optimism at Villa?

Jordan Ayew has begun to come into his own, and after a couple of draws (or non-defeats, as Villa fans call them) Micah Richards looks like he’ll return for this one at a Norwich side who are, well, Norwich.

Call me crazy, but Villa can win.

Aston Villa to win (yes, really) – 3.95

 

4 Watford v Tottenham: Goals Are The Only Banker

Tottenham Hotspur FC v RSC Anderlecht - UEFA Europa League : News Photo

Obviously Manchester United v Chelsea is fascinating for other reasons, but this could well be the most intriguing of the Monday fixtures.

Powered by the beef, brawn and brains of Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo, Watford have been second only to Leicester as the story of the season, and they’ll rightly be confident as Tottenham visit with the memory of what the Hornets did to Liverpool last week.

Spurs are a little more streetwise than the Reds at the moment, though, and with expectation growing in North London they seem determined not to fall into the ‘same old Spurs’ category again.

They look decent value, but going for goals at similar odds looks the smarter move.

Over 2.5 goals – 2.05

 

5 West Brom v Newcastle: Both Teams To Revert To Type?

The pain of defeat ruined both of these side’s Christmases, with West Brom frustrated at Swansea and Newcastle heartbroken following Tom Cleverley’s last-gasp winner for Everton.

That had ruined what would have been the latest in handful of decent results which were being picked up by Steve McClaren, who must now be wary of his side collapsing in a heap and regressing to the rudderless rabble we saw earlier in the campaign.

In such a scenario the last team you want to be playing is one which will scrap for everything, something which Tony Pulis teams excel in, particularly at home.

The Welshman would love a good clean sheet to take into 2016.

West Brom to win to nil – 3.30

 

6 Arsenal v Bournemouth: Topping The Table, Take Two

Olympiacos FC v Arsenal FC - UEFA Champions League : News Photo

The lines of communication between Merseyside and Hampshire can’t be that bad these days, so Arsenal would have known that they had been presented with the chance to go top of the Premier League by Leicester’s defeat at Liverpool on Boxing Day. They then opted not to turn up when the pressure was on.

Such failures are in danger of becoming the story of a Gunners season which really promises so much, but with the Foxes not in action until Tuesday they have the perfect opportunity to grasp a second chance here.

Bournemouth have improved of late but even though Arsene Wenger would be right to ring the changes following the Southampton debacle, surely, surely Arsenal can’t mess this one up?

Arsenal -1 to win – 2.04

 

7 Manchester United v Chelsea: The Miserable Derby

The white smoke hasn’t emerged from the Old Trafford chimney just yet, so we’ll assume that Louis van Gaal will be in position for a meeting with his old Dutch foe Guus Hiddink – a match in which the pining for Jose Mourinho could verge on the pathetic.

United, winless in seven and aimless for a lot longer, look as though they are about to be under new management whatever happens here, and if they were to fall behind early on then Van Gaal is likely to experience one of his tougher evenings in a long career.

But with Chelsea missing both the suspended Diego Costa and the toys they tossed out of the pram several months ago, this could be a tough watch.

One goal might settle it either way.

Under 1.5 goals – 3.00

 

8 West Ham v Southampton: False Hopes & False Dawns

Southampton v Vitesse - UEFA Europa League: Third Qualifying Round 1st Leg : News Photo

When you are in a run of draws you can choose to take the ‘glass half full’ approach and focus on the fact that you’re remaining unbeaten, or you can instead get worried about the lack of wins.

For West Ham – who have shared the points in each of their last five – anything other than the latter will surely serve as false hope, especially given their lack of goals.

They have failed to score more than once in any of their last eight, hitting just four goals in that time, and against a Southampton side determined to ensure that the hammering of Arsenal was more than just a false dawn, that isn’t going to be enough.

Southampton to win – 2.20

 

9 Leicester v Manchester City: The Foxes’ Rude Awakening?

Leicester never quite got going at Anfield as Liverpool’s superior work-rate found them out, and given that both Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy faded in the game and were substituted, the worry for Claudio Ranieri is that the 1-0 defeat could be the start of something more.

In order to supress that notion the Italian could have done with one of the Premier League’s admittedly rare easy games on Tuesday night, but instead he’s getting the visit of a Manchester City side who are ominously clicking into gear in the final third.

Kevin De Bruyne – brilliant in the win over Sunderland – will be a key man again.

De Bruyne to score at Manchester City to win – 4.50

 

10 Sunderland v Liverpool: Henderson’s Homecoming

Liverpool Training Session : News Photo

That Liverpool win over Leicester was hugely influenced by a captain’s display from Jordan Henderson, who helped set the tone for his side with aggressive running and a willingness to always look forward.

The midfielder returns to his old stomping ground at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday for the first time as Liverpool’s club captain, a status that he’ll feel that his Sunderland education helped him to earn.

This is a match that Jurgen Klopp’s side should win, and it would be no surprise to see Henderson in the centre of the action. 

Henderson to score and Liverpool to win – 6.25