Hello again everyone, my apologies for not being able to analyze my picks from the opening weekend, been having a little computer trouble. For those of you keeping tabs I'm sure you'll agree I didn't do too badly!?
Anyway I thought I'd offer my thoughts on the season so far as well as giving a shortened version of my pics for this weekend.
The opening weekend didn't provide many shocks. Most of the big 4 looked rusty, but only Liverpool paid for it but against a Spurs side who are looking vastly improved this year and playing with a lot of confidence. The biggest shock to me was Evertons capitulation against Arsenal, I watched every second of that game on ESPN and i've never seen a display that lacked as much creativity as Evertons that day. Arsenal were good, but i've not seen anything yet to convince me that they will sustain a challenge for honours they thrashed a shocking Everton fair enough, beat a poor Stoke side....so what? And Celtic although probably not the better team can probably count themselves hugely unlucky to have been 2-0 at Parkhead!
In the chasing group Spurs and City have started well, City fans will be especially pleased with the clean sheets and Spurs fans with the fact they have been pegged back or gone behind and still gone onto win. Spurs teams of previous years may have folded under Liverpool pressure in the opener, this team seemed to thrive in it.
Villa have been the Jekyll and Hyde of the opening games, woeful against Wigan and yet sensational at Anfield!? As for the rest its as you were last year really, Burnley have had a good start and they will need that to get them through the dog days of December and January against quality opposition, Portsmouth are relying on takeover being able to buy quality otherwise the writings on the wall i'm afraid.
Of course all this can change in an instant, and drawing any solid theories about challengers and relegation fodder is pointless until at least October/Novemeber. However this weekend throws up interesting match-ups that will act as an early indicator as to how teams will fare due to a lot of top clashes, or relegation 6 pointers.......if you can call them that at this stage.
Here are my "expert" picks for the weekends Premiership action;
Blackburn Rovers vs West Ham United
Blackburn have looked unspectacular to say the least, they have lost Franco Di Santo through injury and a direct quote from a City fan friend of mine after the opening day game which he attended stated "the ball spends more time in the air than a boeing 747". Typical Alladyce stuff really, but will it work against Upson and co?
West Ham have been shown up by a mindless section of their fanbase, thats not the West Ham fans I know! West Ham fans i've met are lively, passionate and knowledgable and its a pleasure to talk football with them and share a drink before a game.......who those imposters were I do not know!
Look for a response from Zola and his players, showing the true West Ham pedigree
Verdict: Blackburn 0 - 1 West Ham
Bolton Wanderers vs Liverpool
Liverpool have been poor to start the year, it looks like the tag of "Title Favourites" is weighing on them a little. Rafa is ranting already, Gerrard is off form and troubled and Fernando Torres would be best served concentrating on playing his game rather than chasing referees!
However don't get any false hope Bolton fans, you've been no great shakes this year either and Megsons comment about how they are treated differently to all other Premiership teams was laughable, smacks a little of excuse mongering to me!
I tipped Bolton to go down, nothing I've seen has changed that
Verdict: Bolton 1 - 3 Liverpool
Chelsea vs Burnley
One of the more intriguing games of the weekend here, Burnley are off and running with two really good home wins. However they play open football and only an inspired display from Jensen stopped United getting a result. They were beaten easily on opening day by a big strong Stoke side, Chelsea are no midgets either I think this will tell in the end.
Chelsea are starting to click and Lampard looks like he LOVES the 4-4-2 diamond system they use....all this leads to one thing
Verdict: Chelsea 2 - 0 Burnley
Manchester United vs Arsenal
Interesting game this one, United looked good against Wigan but poor against Burnley and average against Birmingham. Which is more likely to happen this weekend?
Arsenal will be confident, but rocked by the news Cesc Fabregas is out of the game with a hamstring strain. Can they be as composed and effective without him?
Look for an Scholes and Fletcher midfield combo to harrass Arsenal and nudge them out of their stride, it might just come down to who takes the chances.
Verdict: United 1 - 1 Arsenal
Stoke City vs Sunderland
Stoke are another of what I affectionately(ish) call the Premierships RAF squadrons, but despite not playing dazzling one touch football they are effective! Sunderland have started well, but unlike West Ham at Blackburn I don't think they have the right defenders to handle this kind of attack.
Verdict: Stoke 2 - 1 Sunderland
Tottenham Hotspur vs Birmingham City
Birmingham have been a bit of a riddle at the start of the campaign, they've picked up points without ever really getting out of the blocks in games. However they have been playing teams who have been rusty or just plain poor.....Tottenham are bang in form, have quality all over the pitch and are confident. They will also want to prove that they aren't going to drop points against so called lower teams this year
Verdict: Tottenham 3 - 0 Birmingham
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Hull City
Put these 2 teams together and you have a solid mid-table outfit. Wolves create more chances but don't have the players to take them, Hull don't create as much but look like they have forwards capable of scoring goals!
Hull will be the better defensively for sure, but Mick McCarthy has for once fashioned a good footballing side this will be a pretty good game
Verdict: Wolves 1 - 1 Hull
Aston Villa vs Fulham
This is more of the guess which Villa will turn up, than guess the result. If the Villa from Anfield turn up then they'll sneak a win, if the opening day Villa show up then expect Fulham to wander back down the M1 with the points.
However look out for Villa, if they sign Distin/Dunne and Warnock as is rumoured they will be a very hard team to beat
Verdict: Villa 1 - 0 Fulham
Everton vs Wigan Athletic
Everton will be desperate for a result here, they've clearly been distracted by the atrocious behaviour of Joleon Lescott. It wasn't the sole reason for their embarrassment by Arsenal but it contributed i've no doubt. Against Burnley they were no better and without their best defender.
Wigan have flattered to deceive, they took advantage of a poor Villa performance and whilst playing some attractive stuff have not really threatened since.
Verdict: Everton 1 - 0 Wigan
Portsmouth vs Manchester City
This is, in a strange kind of way, a key game for City. This is exactly the kind of game that they would lose in previous seasons (similar to Spurs). Playing well against a poor side in massive turmoil, they should turn them over easily but there-in lies the test!! Will City go into the game focused or complacent?
For Pompey fans its hard to see where the hope comes from, they've not looked like scoring at any point this season and look like a team hoping for a saviour. Will the new owner be that man, well even if he is its not going to help them in this game!!
Pompey 0 - 2 City