by Kieran Davies
‘Why always me?’ That is what football fans up and down the country have been asking themselves every time they realise there was no football on due to an international break. This annoyance arrives with the popularity of an unexpected visit by the in-laws or Mother Nature paying the better half a visit and in a weird coincidence all three seem to stay for the same length of time. Don’t get me wrong, we are all patriotic about our home nations but the fact is international football isn’t as exciting as the Premier League or Champions League. Most fans have just been playing ‘injury Guess Who’ for the best part of two weeks, flipping tiles representing their club’s big players as they get injured on international duty playing in meaningless games. So soon into the season and good starts made by teams are being put in jeopardy due to international obligations. Finally, it’s over and the beautiful game is back!
The early kick off treats us to a battle between two of the contenders for the ‘top 4’ spots this season, Arsenal entertaining Man City. Both teams have key players who may miss out which is a shame as they have made great starts to the season but it looks like Ramsey and Jovetic will be sitting this one out. The big criticism of Arsenal last season was that they performed badly against the other big teams, losing some quite heavily. Having spent well in the summer, this game will be a big test of the Gunners credentials for sure. It will also be a test for any fan who is planning to watch it as it is on BT Sport and you will no doubt have to listen to the contradictory thoughts of the likes of Michael Owen. Mute button and Radio 5 live anyone?
If Swansea still have a 100% record Saturday evening then Gary Monk should stand for Prime Minister as they travel to Stamford Bridge to face Jose Mourinho’s expensively assembled squad. Having performed a smash and grab at Old Trafford the Welsh club’s fans will travel to London expecting nothing, but deep down hoping for something after the start they’ve made. Surely they can’t pull off the unimaginable in West London? Across the other side of London, Neil Warnock’s return as Eagles manager gives him the proverbial 6 pointer to concentrate on at home against Burnley. These games are so critical to sides who know they will be there or thereabouts when it comes to relegation battles. Home edge would make Palace the favourites surely.
Ronald Koeman will have found his start as Southampton manager to be very stop/start as he chases his first win at St Marys. The visitors Newcastle are looking for their first win of any type against the South coast club. Not usually prolific on the road, Pardew will need to try and get his side to take the game to a hopefully nervous Southampton looking to appease their home fans. After their stunning win at the Etihad Stadium last time out, Mark Hughes will be trying to ensure that his team follow up this performance with a convincing three points at home to newly promoted Leicester. Away at Chelsea despite losing, Leicester did create opportunities and chances but did not take them and that is the one thing they are having to adapt to in this league is the need to be more clinical in front of goal.
Gus Poyet with no doubt have another passionate North east crowd hoping for a first win of the season at the Stadium of Light as he entertains one of his old teams. Tottenham will be looking to bounce back after the heavy defeat at home against Liverpool. The wounded lion could be a dangerous opponent for Sunderland. Can they capitalise on Spurs defensive frailties? Or will Pochettino get his side back to winning ways. Everton fans will be expecting their side to get their first three points of the season away to West Brom. The two sides have had very similar starts to the season and only a place separates them in the table, with one of the sides hoping by 5pm that it is fourth time lucky for them. The betting man would edge for a draw here with the sentimentalist betting on a Joleon Lescott equaliser late on.
The late kick off comes from across Stanley Park as the toffees city rivals take on Aston Villa. Lambert’s men have made an unbeaten start to the season and more surprisingly, Liverpool have not won any of the last three meetings between the teams at Anfield. With Sturridge another casualty of international friendly matches, pressure will be on Mario Balotelli to produce on his home debut. Adam Lallana is likely to feature also. This will be a good test for Brendan Rodgers’ side against somewhat of a bogey team of sorts at home. This one will be decided in Villa’s ability to shut out the Liverpool attack whilst trying to build quick counter attacks. Rodgers will be looking to stamp home their authority after a fantastic win at White Hart Lane last time out.
All eyes this weekend will be on Old Trafford. The ground dishing out three points to away teams with more regularity than a poorly calibrated speed camera will be no doubt graced with their new high profile signings. Di Maria will make a home debut while you would expect, irrelevant to actual age, Radamel Falcao will also make a debut. The man who was stating what a dream it was to join Madrid #holamadrid to only four days later to reveal how it has always been a dream of his to sign for a big team like Man Utd. Someone buy this guy a dream catcher for crying out loud. Considering the investment made by the owners this summer, their aspirations should be pushing titles not aiming for fourth spot so surely this is deflection to allow them to do just that. Butthead, I mean Luis Van Gaal, has come in for some criticism since the season started, crazy to think we are only four games in. He too will want to ensure of a comfortable win which shouldn’t be too difficult as they are playing a QPR side that travels that poorly you’d be forgiven to think they were the lovechild of an affair between Mr T and Dennis Bergkamp.
A manager who has seemed to be one bad result away from the sack for about the last two years is Sam Allardyce. Fair play to Sam. To manage under those conditions but still achieve results must be as tough as it gets in the management world. Away form has dwindled for some time now and let’s be honest, it is difficult for any side to win away from home in this competitive Premier League. A lot will depend on which Hull City side turn up. Their game has had a real Jekyll and Hyde character to it this season. They made a number of signings on transfer deadline day and it will be interesting how they change/improve Bruce’s side. One thing is for sure, from what we have seen so far this has the potential to be THE most competitive Premier League season we have seen yet.