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12 Dec

The Analyst's Notepad - Premier Predictor Gameweek 17

As we head into the thick forest of football in December, there are a frightening amount of points, pints and bragging rights to be won in the Budweiser Premier Predictor. Here’s our guide to the calls you simply need to be making this weekend.

Liverpool vs Watford (click to find pubs)

I think we can all agree this is the kind of game where we get to see Adam Lallana, the Shaq, Origi and maybe even one of the kids. Nigel Pearson returns to a Premier League dugout for the first time in a while and by the final whistle he’ll probably be wondering why he bothered.

Liverpool were rampant against Salzburg, once they’d weathered the initial storm, and if they play at 25% again they’ll stick fifty bazillion past a Watford side boasting all the self-assurance of Eeyore right now. Just like last year…

The only risk to King Klopp’s gameplan is if he takes the rotation and 'need' to rest legs one step too far and they lose some of that delightful gegenpressing fluency that is virtually never-ending. Oh, and if they play as badly as they did against Palace - maybe.

Watford will probably line-up with a back five with at least two of the midfield sitting 30 centimetres in front. There will be a temptation to pick Troy Deeney because, you know, pashun, but they would be better off leaving Sarr up there on his own to provide a pacy outlet if they ever do win the ball back.

Hard to see anything other than a three, four or five-goal win here for the Reds, but if they go in at half-time two-nil to the good, that will be the final score.

Southampton vs West Ham

It would have been a brave man that suggested both managers would still be in charge for this game given the massively inconsistent form shown by both teams.

The word on the streets around the Athletics Stadium is that patience is extremely very thin with Senor Pellegrini and if they can find enough spare change down Sullivan and Gold’s big sofa to cover the £12m needed to get him a taxi, he’s a goner.

Ralphy-baby has a remarkable knack of plucking a result out of his backside just when he is looking most-likely to be sacked, so the Southampton board would be wise to make that an on-going threat.

West Ham were that bad on Monday that even Arsenal beat them - Pellegrini rolled the dice by bringing back in Mikael Antonio to no avail with Mark Noble and Declan Rice being bypassed at will in the second half.

Hasenhuttl could try the maverick approach of asking Danny Ings not to score here. Nine Premier League goals in 16 appearances is more than decent considering how ropey Southampton have been at times, but he’s yet to snaffle an actual match winner and just two of his tally have come in Saints wins. Ah stats.

Southampton’s aggressive game should see them over-power the Hammers here, but if West Ham can break the Saints’ press then their quality in the final third (in theory*) could see them take a poor defence to the cleaners.

Unsurprisingly, I’m calling this a score-draw - probably 2-2 - and there will be some hilarious defending from both sides.

Man United vs Everton

Well done, Big Dunc. Beating Frank Lampard’s Chelsea on debut was great, but you should have walked away then and let the board sort out the managerial situation quickly. It’s not going to get that good again, I’m afraid.

Or will it? Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is getting a few plaudits for doing a number on Klopp, Jose and now Peppy G himself - though we are quickly reminded that Steve Bruce put one over on the Norwegian as well. Can Ferguson go the ground used to pining for his namesake and get a result?

Well, yes. And it could be pretty basic. Everton will go 442 again, you’d imagine. And they’ll get the ball wide, you’d imagine. And then they’ll launch it into the box, you’d imagine. Hey, it worked against Chelsea but then you did have a passionate Everton home crowd delighted to see a club legend in the dugout. It’s a bit different going away from home and trying it.

But, if Everton focus their attack down United’s left they might get some joy (I wouldn’t bother even trying down their left, I mean, Wan-Bissaka and all that). Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin doubling up on Lindelof in the air? Who knows, who knows.

Th

Just like the Grim Reaper conjuring some black magic.

It’ll take a brave manager to ask Gylfi to play in a midfield two at OT as well, but I’m not going to suggest Big Dunc isn’t brave, are you?

All United really need to do is mop up the crosses, quickly hit the wide spaces vacated and they should be coming away with three points. I’m going 2-1 United here, Rashford to win it once again.

Arsenal vs Man City

Well, at least Freddie can say he won one game as Arsenal manager in his life. Arsenal briefly sparked against West Ham to steal a win but, funnily enough, the current champions pose a slightly different challenge.

Freddie’s first move was to pack the team with alleged experience, and that didn’t exactly work as they drew and lost the first two matches on his watch. Throwing some kids back in against West Ham saw a marginal improvement but, being honest, it won’t matter what he does, who he calls before the game or what he decides to wear at the Emirates - Arsenal are getting beaten here.

The only way Arsenal could pose City any kind of threat is to try and replicate what United did to them last week - the problem is, where United have Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Arsenal have Bellerin or Maitland-Niles. Where United have Harry Maguire, Arsenal have Sokratis or David Luiz. Or where United have de Gea - well, you get the picture.

There is no doubting Arsenal’s attackers have the pace and flair to do what United did to City last week. The problem is, they don’t have the defence or midfield to match - sure, you could argue that Jonjo Shelvey did OK against City the other week so picking Granit Xhaka might be a good idea, but I am not so sure.

Gabby Jesus is filling Sergio Aguero’s boots with plenty of Christmas cheer (and hat-tricks) so will fancy this one. Whoever plays alongside him will back themselves against Arsenal’s full-backs and I don’t think Kevin de Bruyne expects Mesut Ozil to win the midfield battle.

City need a commanding Premier League performance to settle them down into making a sensible fist of what is left of December - and I think they will get it here, 3-1. Raheem Sterling will probably score, feels like it’s been a while.

Crystal Palace vs Brighton

Last but not least, we have a Monday night firecracker in the poetically titled M23 Derby. Pack a tub of raita, this one’s typically spicier than a weekend at Hugh Hefner’s gaff.

Whilst the atmosphere will be a humdinger, don’t expect Roy Hodgson to be fazed. The old crow’s seen off more than a few bright young things in his time. And for all the chat of Graham Potter and the brave style of football he is playing at Brighton – it’s a style that, whilst a damn sight better to watch, actually sees them worse off this season points-wise.

Although it’s not a match-up to set pulses racing in China, there is a chance it could be an entertaining game. Brighton do like to play out from the back and try to pass through the lines. Palace are probably the masters of stopping that happen (against lesser sides, anyway) and will be keen to counter quickly. Ayew’s mobility will distract the Brighton central defenders, theoretically creating a bit of space for someone like Wilf to exploit.

Palace’s worry will be their complete lack of fit defenders and Neal Maupay looks a bit of a handful at this level.

I’m going to push the boat out and say 2-2 (goals wise, not red cards).

Chris Darwen
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Need a guide to all things Prem on the box? Our Premier League on TV guide should sort you right out.