Sam’s Safe Space for Soccer Stoolies
Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room: congratulations to Liverpool Football Club on their first ever Premier League title…
…and an even bigger congratulations to Tottenham Hotspur Football Club for essentially winning the title for them.
The question has morphed over the last few weeks from “How the heck are Liverpool going to screw this up?” to “Will Liverpool ever lose a game again?”… and I’m not saying they won’t but after the last few performances I’m also not sure how anyone in their right mind would bet against them anytime soon.
That’s enough pseudo-fellating of the Reds for the time being. Soccer don’t sleep – in England anyway – and we are staring at our second full slate of games in 48 hours on Saturday and (spectacular) Sunday so time for a little previewing and predictioning…
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Results from last weekend:
Honorable mention: United, Chelsea, Sheffield Utd, Brighton
18. West Ham
Dishonorable mention: Aston Villa, Arsenal
Annotated table as things stand:
And the schedule for this weekend:
PICKS OF THE WEEKEND
Liverpool sucked some of the drama out of this game by being so damn good, while Wolves have a tendency to suck a lot of the entertainment out games thanks to their determined but often dire style of play… though the recent emergence of Adama Traore adds an electric element (and an extra half-ball) to the mix.
Full disclosure: I had it in my silly little head as I began writing this blog that I was going to shock the world by picking the Wolves to shock the world and beat Liverpool. The Reds looked like a gotdamn MACHINE spanking the bejesus out of Lester this week but even machines break down every once in a while and all that travel has to catch up with them at some point.
But then the Wolves went and beat City on Friday and expended a ton of energy in coming back from a two-goal deficit, and they screwed up all the “surprise upset” mojo I had been projecting onto them. Could they really beat City and Liverpool in the span over a single long weekend? REALLY??
Honestly, I think they could. Wolves are just the type of no-nonsense team that could take advantage of it if Liverpool – perhaps finally exhausted from the Club World Cup and the high-profile 1-vs-2 matchup with the Sneaky Foxes – finally lay a total egg. So if I’m betting on this I’d probably sprinkle a shekel or two on the underdogs. Those odds are too damn tasty not to in a game that they have a puncher’s chance in.
Welllllllllllllllll, shit. This is awkward. I think I just accidentally talked myself into… yep… buying a lottery ticket.
Prediction: Wolves to win 2-1.
Chelsea have been all over the place. Losing to Bournemouth, spanking Spurs, then getting spanked by Southampton. Rollercoaster like you read about. That is precisely the type of erratic form that everybody was expecting from the Blues all season… perhaps it just took a few months to finally show up.
Arsenal… well, what can we say about the Gunners that hasn’t already been said about Afghanistan. They look bombed out and depleted. But just like Afghanistan, Arsenal may be showing some signs of life. In the team’s first game under new management, their performance was actually quite a bit better than the 1-1 draw would suggest. Arteta did something almost unimaginable and played guys in their best positions (eg, freeing Granit Xhaka to go forward with Lucas Torreira behind him playing #6 pitbull) and Arsenal really didn’t look all that bad. Off days from Lacazette and Aubameyang cost them a win but it’s at least a step in the right direction.
Both teams have a lot of talent but make too many mistakes. Should be a very entertaining, if error-prone game. I’ll say they split the baby.
Prediction: 2-2 draw.
Sheffield Utd [+1500]
Everything that Arsenal/Chelsea is not from a “high quality soccer” standpoint but lacking the same cache given Sheffield Utd’s team-first – dare I say Communist – approach and lack of true difference makers.
City are probably a little worn down after chasing Wolves around for 80 minutes with only 10 guys out there. They have also had trouble with counterattacking teams (something Sheffield Utd does quite well) and the Blades have been damn good on the road this season. In fact there are a shocking number of reasons why the wee fellers could make this a game. I’m going with the big boys to restore some semblance of order to the universe.
Prediction: City to win 2-0.
Some more predictions (to increase the possibility that I eventually get one right – maybe):
• BRIGHTON 3-1 Bournemouth – LOCK OF THE WEEK: Brighton has been playing too damn well lately without nearly enough to show for it because of the murderer’s row of quality opponents they have been up against. Time to put some points on the board.
• Newcastle 1-1 Everton – Toffees have been snaking it and just barely making it lately but this has late Miggy Almiron equalizer written all over it.
• Southampton 1-2 Palace – Don’t let the Saints get hot! Two wins have catapulted them from wallowing in the relegation zone into 14th… sounds like a recipe for resting on their laurels against a Palace team that consistently does more with less (offensively).
• Norwich 1-3 TOTTENHAM – Spurs looked like poo poo against Brighton this week but Norwich is about three steps behind from a defensive perspective. Mourinho would probably prefer to (again) go with a shockingly uncreative midfield but – PRAISE THE LAWD – he won’t be able to with Sissoko and Winks both suspended, which may give Norwich a little joy but should also force Spurs to come out and play… something they have actually been pretty good at doing when Mourinho has taken the shackles off. (Over? Don’t mind if I do.)
• WATFORD 2-1 Villa – heat check game for Watford… and my brain (as well as unconscious and conscious biases) says they pass the test, despite Jack Grealish finally really truly emerging as the true Premier League game changer that people had been projecting onto him for many years.
• West Ham 0-1 LESTER – sneaky little Foxes got absolutely BATTERED by Liverpool this week, but I’m willing to believe their defense is legitimate enough to bounce back and show why they only gave up 14 goals in their first 17 games.
• Burnley 1-2 UNITED – the Red Devils bounced back from one of their most successful stretches in a decade by losing to Watford… but I suspect that that game won’t seem quite so bad down the road a piece if the Hornets continue to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Truth be told United’s Boxing Day ass whupping of Newcastle was pretty damn impressive, and it was driven by goals from all their kids. If that group can start clicking and Paul Pogba stays healthy (and interested in playing for them) this team could be a legitimate threat to hang around and snag a Europa slot. Impressive!
So there we have it. More midweek games coming up on and around New Year’s Day. Get pumped and stay safe out there, kids.
Sam’s Safe Space for Soccer Stoolies