Samuel Army’s Midweek Soccer Preview/Picks – The “London Is Falling” Edition
Sam’s Safe Space for Soccer Stoolies
The transfer window slammed shut yesterday and it was one of the quietest in memory. To be quite honest I don’t mind that. It feels a little “old man yelling at cloud”-ish to say out loud but I kinda like the romantic (and perhaps antiquated) idea of your team being your team for the season, and whatever problems may arise – be it through injury or Dele Alli completely forgetting how to play soccer – you have to coach and play your way through it. Quaint concept in this day and age, I know, but just let me have that, okay?
Anyway, here is the quickest and dirtiest rundown of all the notable moves from the window…
Arsenal: mostly addition by subtraction as Arteta shed a ton of dead wood/contracts (Ozil, Sokratis, Mustafi) plus a low risk, high reward loan deal for playmaker Martin Odegaard
Burnley: new ownership brings new money and new hope for new signings and the club brought in… precisely nobody. No matter, maybe the next chance to make a good first impression will go a little better.
City: no striker… this would have been a ballsier move a month ago before they started scoring again (but with no KDB or Sergio Aguero for a hot minute it’s still a little ballsy)
Everton: brought in Josh King from Bournemouth to add a little forward depth
Fulham: added Sunderland-slayer Josh Maja (attacker) from France
Liverpool: scrounged a couple much-needed CBs in Ben Davies (Preston NE) and Ozan Kabak (Schalke) but missed out on Aaron Long so all in all an abject failure imho
Newcastle: Joe Willock (loaned from Arsenal) is an interesting move
Southampton: after years and years of taking whatever they want, Liverpool finally did some giving and shipped Takumi Minamino over on loan
Tottenham: held onto Dele Alli (for better and worse) and did not fire Serge Aurier or Ben Davies into the sun so the window all in all was – like my sex game – about as disappointing as you would expect
United: not having Jesse Lingard (loaned to Hammies) for the stretch run may come back to bite them… almost as much as not adding a CB
West Brom: biggest mover and shaker in the window added Mbaye Diagne (tons of goals in Turkey), Robert Snodgrass, Okay Yokuslu (A+ name) and Ainsley Maitland-Niles… they needed a lot of help and perhaps they actually got some
Wolves: added Willian Jose (you’ll never guess what language he speaks) from Real Sociedad and need the Brazilian striker to hit the ground running to fill in the for the still-missing Raul
For the moment, though, let’s focus on the here and now, and specifically the mighty tasty little midweek treat (a full slate!) that the soccergods have blessed us with…
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Scores from the weekend:
Honorable mention: Villa, Arsenal
20. Sheffield Utd
19. West Brom
Dishonorable mention: Fulham, Newcastle
WATCHABILITY INDEX (meaning must-watch … not always complimentary)
Table as things stand:
Dangly status: still a bit nipply in here
And the schedule for this midweek slate:
PICKS OF THE MIDWEEK
London is falling. Big time.
None of the usual three suspects are in the top four and the closest contender (at the moment) is West Ham, who are lovable and cuddly but are destined to slide down the table sometime – perhaps very soon now that they have a couple winnable games in the near future (yes, you read that right).
But back to the usual suspects: none of them are title contenders this year, and will instead have to contend themselves with hoping to somehow finagle one of the highly coveted top four slots that would assure Champions League money next season. The nerds at FiveThirtyEight currently think that none of the three will make it happen.
(I disagree but that is another discussion for another time)
For now the most important things are that (a) Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham all kinda suck, (b) the two latter teams have been especially poor lately, and (c) those same two clubs now face off on Thursday in a game that earns the winner a sigh of relief and the loser an unwanted additional liter of gasoline on the “fire everybody” panic fire.
There are plenty of reasons to think that Chelsea will win. (The bookies certainly do after all.) The frustration had reached a fever pitch under Lampard but change brought a temporary reprieve and fans will give the new regime at least a little honeymoon period to get their affairs in order.
Tommy Tuchel has come in with his calculator, pocket protector, analytics and ridiculous drills
and more importantly the team has not conceded a goal in his two games in charge, earning a scoreless draw against (hapless) Wolves and a 2-0 win over (toothless) Burnley. If the German coach can be the German whistler and cajole Kai Havertz and especially Timo Werner into not sucking so much the Blues could really be cooking with gas.
If we are being honest, though, my pick has little to do with Chelsea. This one is all about Tottenham – and in fact less about Tottenham, and more about Dear Leader Jozay Mourinho. The team’s back is against the wall. HIS back is against the wall. They are coming off two straight losses and are missing their most important player in Harry Kane.
If “tactical genius” has any magical fairy dust kept in reserve in case of emergency at the bottom of his bag of tricks then now is the time to break the metaphorical glass because make no mistake, this is an emergency. Spurs’ fan base is pretty patient – far more so than any of the other Big Six (a reflection of their recent “arrival” in their rarified ranks). However, another defeat… especially an ugly one playing negative JozayBall… and the calls for Mourinho’s head are going to start in earnest.
So this is not so much a vote against Chelsea or for Spurs but rather a display of begrudging respect for a one-time genius coach who has now learned what doesn’t work (Davies and Bale) and can try something new. Funky XI? Sure. Makeshift left back? Why tf not! Dele Alli returning from his vision quest? LETS GET NUTS!
Prediction: TOTTENHAM TO WIN 2-0
Note: I’m not even sure which is crazier between predicting Spurs score multiple goals or keep a clean sheet… but sometimes you just gotta shut off your and shoot.
ASTON VILLA [+120]
WEST HAM [+240]
I am a big fan both these teams this season. A lot of people had them in the relegation fight at the start of the season but here they are with outside shots at Europa. There seem to be some questions about whether Michail Antonio will be fit (shocker), which would be a big miss for the Hammies. Given that and the fact Villa has all their main guys (Grealish, Barkley, Traore, McGinn and Watkins up top) ready to go means I gotta go with the Villans.
Prediction: VILLA TO WIN 2-1
I am highly, HIGHLY tempted to go with Southampton purely because those are some ridiculously tantalizing odds. United suck at home. The Saints are a very good team and, while their offense has gone silent lately, they have enough weapons that it is only a matter of time til they start clicking again. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if they scored multiple goals in this game against a United defense that has been… lackluster. But I also like United to put some points on the board. (Reading between the lines I like the over.)
Prediction: 2-2 DRAW
Some more predictions… to increase the possibility that I eventually get one right, maybe (note: gonna start highlighting my BETTER BETS – meaning the ones I legitimately like as opposed to just picking because it's kinda my make pretend job – in BOLD):
• WOLVES 2-1 Arsenal
• SHEFFIELD UTD 1-0 West Brom
• Newcastle 1-2 PALACE
• Burnley 0-3 CITY
• Fulham 1-2 LESTER
• Leeds 2-3 EVERTON
• LIVERPOOL 2-0 Brighton
So there we have it. Quick turnaround with a full slate on deck again this weekend.
Thanks for reading you beauties!