Eric Toth & TJ Lovenduski
Match of the Week: Arsenal (4th) v. Chelsea (5th)
Arsenal comes into this game after a 4-1 victory over Hull City, their third win in a row. Their offense has looked good. They have pace and creativity. Mesut Ozil is one of the best playmakers in the world. And Alex Iwobi is showing his potential. Granit Xhaka also seems to score one highlight reel goal after another. This is probably the most exciting Arsenal squad in recent memory.
But the Gunners have a very strong opponent in Chelsea. Conte hasn’t worked out all the kinks defensively. They struggled against Klopp’s Liverpool last week. They looked unorganized, and made poor decisions. That can’t happen against top sides. Luckily Chelsea has Eden Hazard on their team. Hazard has looked much better this season and can take over a game by himself. If Conte can get his defense organized, Chelsea will have a real chance to win this game.
Matchup to Watch: Arsenal’s Defense v. Chelsea’s Defense
This game is going to come down to which defensive unit can stay more organized. Both have struggled at times this season, but if either team wants to contend for the title they’ll need to figure it out.
Bellerin – Mustafi – Koscielny – Monreal
Coquelin – Cazorla
Walcott – Ozil – Iwobi
Ivanovic – Luiz – Cahill – Azpilicueta
Matic – Kante
Willian – Oscar – Hazard
Eric: Arsenal 2-3 Chelsea
Two teams with similar strengths and weaknesses, strong attack, not so strong defense. I expect Costa to be too much for Arsenal’s back line and without a clinical center forward, Arsenal will likely fall short in this contest.
TJ: Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea
I haven’t seen enough from Chelsea’s defense to show me that they can withstand Arsenal’s attack. I also like Arsenals defense a bit more with Laurent Koscielny and Petr Cech controlling the back.
Manchester United (7th) v. Leicester City (11th)
Coming off the back of three consecutive defeats, the latest being a shock 3-1 loss at home to Watford, Manchester United desperately need to get back to winning ways against Leicester. This may be a difficult ask with the recent emergence of a fierce striking partnership of Vardy and new summer signing Islam Slimani.
Matchup to Watch: Vardy and Slimani v. Bailly and Smalling
This newfound duo between the Englishman, Vardy, and the Algerian, Slimani, is the classic combination of the big man-little man strikeforce. Slimani is a great header of the ball, combining accuracy and good movement, he always seems to find a way to get on the end of crosses. Vardy is utilizes his pace to get in behind the opposition and create space or get in on goal. The two centerbacks for the Red Devils will have a difficult time to keep these two from scoring this weekend.
Eric: Man U. 1-1 Leicester
After a relatively easy opening three fixtures, United have been put to the test with some more difficult matchups and this weekend is more of the same. The two squads are both good going forward and defensively sound, I think they’ll cancel each other out and share the spoils.
TJ: Man U. 1-2 Leicester
My prediction is based on the assumption that Wayne Rooney will play. I think Rooney’s inclusion in the squad is hurting United and with him, I don’t see them winning this game.
Liverpool (6th) v. Hull City (12th)
Liverpool surprised me by beating Chelsea 2-1 last weekend, I didn’t think they had the spine to stand up to the Chelsea attack. They proved me wrong, however and got their most impressive result of the season so far. Liverpool come up against a Hull side who will look to rebound from a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Arsenal. Hull City started well out of the gate, but it seems as though they are crashing back to reality now with two losses and a draw in their last three premier league fixtures.
Matchup to Watch: Abel Hernandez v. Liverpool’s leaky backline
Hull will need Abel Hernandez to step up against a shaky Liverpool back four if they are going to get anything out of this match. Liverpool has one of the deadliest attacking groups in the league and to keep up, Hernandez will need to unlock Liverpool’s defense, a task that hasn’t been too difficult this season. Hull will look to exploit the back four on the counter-attack through Hernandez and the Uruguayan will have to be up to the challenge.
Eric: Liverpool 3-1 Hull
Liverpool just have too much going forward for Hull to handle. I believe the Reds will overwhelm the Hull defense and manage another victory, but will likely fail to record the clean sheet.
TJ: Liverpool 3-0 Hull
Yes, this is the week that I think Liverpool will show a more solid defensive effort. I think they’ll capture their first clean sheet of their campaign.
Stoke City (20th) v. West Bromwich Albion (10th)
Stoke have been appalling and are dead last in just about every team statistic at this point. The squad that Mark Hughes has assembled at the club has the quality to be challenging for a Europa league spot, but instead they find themselves last after five matches. The additions of Allen, Bony and Martins-Indi should propel Stoke out of the relegation zone and into a respectable midtable finish, but Hughes needs to get his men into shape and do it quickly if they are going to turn around this abysmal start.
Everyone knows what to expect out of West Brom, tough to breakdown in defense and direct in attack. With the addition of Nacer Chadli, West Brom have bagged themselves a winger who can score and create for others, giving themselves another option up front and some much needed help for Salomon Rondon.
Matchup to Watch: Stoke’s impotency v. West Brom’s solid defense
With the likes of Bojan, Arnautovic, Shaqiri, and Bony, you’d expect goals from Stoke City, but they’ve only managed to find the back of the net 3 times in their opening 5 matches. The Potters will have to break down a Tony Pulis side that is renowned for their defensive ability if they hope to improve their miserable record on Saturday.
Eric: Stoke 1-1 West Brom
In what I think will be the least exciting matchup this weekend, I can only envision a scrappy 1-1 draw for these two sides.
TJ: Stoke 1-1 West Brom
Stoke will score as a result of some independent brilliance from Arnautovic or Bojan. But other than that West Brom will play a tight game defensively.
Swansea City (15th) v. Manchester City (1st)
Manchester City will look to extend their winning streak to 6 in the league this weekend as the travel to Wales to play Swansea City. Manchester City have looked far and away the best side and seem to be revitilized under their new coach. With the likes of Sane and Gundogan returning from injury, City should be able to make quick work of a poor swansea team.
Swansea have relied on Leroy Fer to come up with goals this season to save their skins on a few occasions. The Dutch international is an unlikely goalscorer, but has picked up the slack after the departure of key man Andre Ayew to West Ham. Fer will have to continue his fine form if Swansea are to come out of this matchup with a result.
Matchup to Watch: Raheem Sterling v. Kyle Naughton
Sterling has looked like a new man in Pep Guardiola’s system. The English winger is on a tear, shredding defenses like he did in his breakout season at Liverpool. Sterling has recorded an impressive 3 goals and two assists in his 5 Premier League games so far this season. Kyle Naughton will have to face up to Sterling as Swansea host Manchester City and if he can keep the winger in check, Swansea just may have a chance to pull off an upset against the Citizens.
Eric: Swansea 0-3 Man. City
City have the momentum of 5 straight PL wins and I can’t see that being ended against the Welsh side. City should take this one easily.
TJ: Swansea 0-4 Man. City
I think City is going to thrash the Welsh side. City simply has too many weapons for Swansea to possibly contain them.
Bournemouth (17th) v. Everton (2nd)
Everton have had an impressive start, but context must be applied. Apart from Spurs on opening day, Everton have faced WBA, Stoke, Sunderland and Middlesborough, 4 sides that are 10th or lower and two of which haven’t managed a win yet. So with that, it is tough to really measure just how good Everton is, they’ve certainly looked good. They’ve been more sound defensively with the addition of Williams and return of Coleman and Baines from injury. Going forward, Bolasie and Lukaku seem to complement each other quite well and have looked good so far. As the old football cliche goes, “you can only beat what’s in front of you” and they’ve done that. Bournemouth may not be a good measuring stick to find out how far Koeman has brought this Everton side, but we’ll soon see as they come up against more competitive sides.
Bournemouth have made some good additions to their squad, but have lacked goals. Callum Wilson hasn’t found his form yet, but the English striker is definitely capable of producing the goods, he just needs the service from the rest of the sqaud. Wilshere, if he can stay fit, should be able to provide the type of service Wilson will thrive on and if Ibe can find his feet at the Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth could force some upsets this season.
Matchup to Watch: A tricky Bolasie v. Bournemouth’s fullbacks
Yannick Bolasie has proven to be a coup for new boss Ronald Koeman, even for the rumored fee of £25 million. The trickster has taken his flashy style with him to Goodison Park and has continued to strike fear into the opposition defense. He is difficult to defend because there’s no telling what he is going to pull to get out of a tough situation. With the talent around him, Bolasie has the chance to add more goals and assists to his game. The DR Congo international has played his way into the starting eleven for Everton and it will be up to Bournemouth’s fullbacks to keep him in check in this upcoming match. Smith and Daniels will have their hands full, but they will have to put in a great performance to keep Bolasie and Everton out.
Eric: Bournemouth 1-3 Everton
The linkup that Bolasie and Lukaku formed going forward for Everton will prove to be too much for Bournemouth.
TJ: Bournemouth 0-2 Everton
Everton has looked good this season, although they haven’t truly been tested. And that test isn’t likely to come from Bournemouth. Everton should win this one easily.
Middlesbrough (13th) v. Tottenham (3rd)
Tottenham is going to be without their star striker, Harry Kane. I guess we’re going to see what Vincent Janssen can do in his place. He has plenty of offensive help around him though with the like of Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli. On the other side, Middlesbrough has impressed so far this season, but they’re coming off a 3-1 defeat to Everton where they struggled offensively. Bro needs to figure out a way to open up opposing defenses. They hold the ball well, but struggle to turn it into anything. They’ll have to figure it out soon, or else they could find themselves back in the Championship.
Matchup to Watch: Antonio Barragan v. Kyle Walker
Barragan is going to have his hands full dealing with the runs of Kyle Walker. Walker employs his speed on the flank sending balls into the box. It’s one of the things that makes Tottenham a dangerous side. Barragan is going to need to shut that down to keep Tottenham off the board.
Eric: Boro 0-2 Spurs
Spurs have remained unbeaten through their first 5 matches in the league and I see no reason for that run to end against ‘Boro. With or without Kane, I think Spurs will take this one comfortably.
TJ: Boro 0-2 Spurs
I think Tottenham has too much pace and quality for Boro to contest with. I don’t think the loss of Harry Kane will have too much of an impact on this game.
Sunderland (19th) v. Crystal Palace (8th)
Sunderland struggled last game, despite only losing 1-0 to Tottenham. Their defense was ripped apart and they showed little promise moving forward. And now they’re without Adnan Januzaj after he received two yellows. He has shown promise this season, and is one of the few players capable of creating something by himself. Crystal Palace, though, is currently firing on all cylinders. They’ll be coming in confident after a 4-1 thrashing of Stoke. Andros Townsend has the hot hand, and I expect him to have an impact on this game.
Matchup to Watch: Sunderland’s Right Back v. Andros Townsend
After last week’s right back situation in which David Moyes made a change 15 minutes before game time, I’m not sure who will be playing back there. That being said, they’re going to need to shut down Andros Townsend. Townsend has shown throughout his career an ability to make something happen offensively. He’s going to be a key player to shut down for Sunderland.
Eric: Sunderland 1-2 Crystal Palace
Sunderland have been dire so far and with Palace seemingly hitting their stride, this one seems pretty straight forward. I expect Palace to take the early lead and Sunderland to draw one back through a late Defoe goal.
TJ: Sunderland 0-2 Crystal Palace
Palace should continue their good form against a Sunderland squad lacking certain pieces, especially offensive threats. Expect Palace to wreak havoc down the sidelines.
West Ham (18th) v. Southampton (14th)
West Ham has been disappointing this season. They currently sit at 18th with a -6 goal differential. Not what anyone was expecting after the previous season. Last game, they surrendered 4 goals to West Brom. Yes, West Brom, you read that right. That’s not a good sign for a team that was hoping to contend for Europe. Fortunately they still have Dimitri Payet who has proved he is more than capable of carrying this team to victory. But against them we have Southampton who finally got their first win of the season against Swansea last weekend. Now we’ll have to wait and see if Puel elects to start Charlie Austin. The striker is making a strong case with 3 goals in his last two appearances.
Matchup to Watch: Dimitri Payet v. Dusan Tadic
I think this game is going to come down to who can control the midfield. And while these two players won’t necessarily be going head to head, they are each team’s respective creator. It’ll come down to these two guys in my opinion.
Eric: West Ham 1-1 Southampton
After disappointing starts for two clubs with big ambitions this season, West Ham and Southampton find themselves wallowing in the depths of the Premier League table. I expect their struggles to continue and both teams to go home with a point.
TJ: West Ham 1-2 Southampton
Neither team has looked on par with last season so far, but West Ham has looked worse. They’ve had some problems at the back and I think Southampton will be able to exploit that, picking up the victory.
Burnley (16th) v. Watford (9th)
Watford is coming off a 3-1 victory against Manchester United. That’s a huge win for them and I expect that will give them a bit of momentum coming into this game against Burnley. They have a potent strike force. They currently have 10 goals this season, tied for fourth most in the Premier League. Meanwhile Burnley is sitting at 16th in the table with a -5 goal differential. They’ll have to play great defense if they hope to keep Watford at bay.
Matchup to Watch: Michael Keane and Ben Mee v. Tory Deeney and Odin Igahlo
Keane and Mee were on a side that conceded 3 goals to Leicester last week. Well they definitely don’t get a break this week. They’ll need to be on their game if they hope to stop Deeney and Igahlo.
Eric: Burnley 1-3 Watford
Watford have scored and conceded in every one of their matches thus far and I believe that trend will continue against Burnley. Watford’s attack will overpower this Burnley defense and they’ll come away with the victory.
TJ: Burnley 0-3 Watford
I just don’t think Burnley has the means to stop the Watford attack. Deeney and Igahlo up top, but also Capoue has been in excellent form as of late. Burnley simply won’t match up.