The Analyst's Notepad - Premier Predictor Gameweek 14

Reader(s), I will level with you as I do believe that one of my jobs as The Analyst around here required being completely honest with you. 

When I saw the televised matches for this week, I did ask for the week off. However, and damn you small print, my contract does actually say that even if Newcastle, Southampton, Watford and Everton are involved in each of the four matches on the box, I have to turn up.

So here I am, ready to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse, and tell you where the good value lies in this weekend of frankly timeless Premier League action.

Newcastle vs Man City (click to find a pub)

The only saving grace for this fixture is that by the time it is over, you’ll still have most of your Saturday remaining. I am starting to become of the opinion that we should only have Man City on TV when they are playing a top-six team - though I could be persuaded for that to be narrowed down to top-four.

When a team has a go at them, like Frank Lampard’s Chelsea did last week, we get an entertaining game of football where the outcome isn’t 100% guaranteed. City are not perfect this season, but as we saw against Chelsea, they are still a very, very good team (even if they don’t have more possession than the opposition).

Sadly, we won’t get that here. Steve Bruce doesn’t exactly set his team up on the front foot at the best of times, so it is massively unlikely that Joelinton will see anyone else in a black-and-white shirt in the same half as him for most of the match.

Newcastle will sit deep, very deep. 3-4-3 will really be 5-4-1 and at times, maybe even 5-5-0 as they get as many men behind the ball as possible to try and cut City’s vertical passing lanes. They’re a smart bunch these City lads and there’s every chance they’ll respond in kind, I expect Yedlin and Willems to be ruthlessly targeted with David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne loitering out wide as Cancelo and Mendy leg it to join the party.

Newcastle’s brightest moments will come from whenever Alain Saint-Maximin gets the ball and dribbles thrillingly down a blind alley. Other than that, City will take approximately 79.7% of the ball and score a few goals - even without Sergio Aguero who went off injured at the Etihad last week.

With Bernardo Silva returning to the side, last week’s match-winner Riyad Mahrez could well need an extra layer on the subs bench - it’s likely to be brass monkeys at St James’ Park.

Need I tell you who will win this one? The only debate is over how many. Saturday 12:30's are never the goalfests we dream of, so I am saying City 2-0 without breaking sweat (and not just because of the temperature in Geordieland).

Southampton vs Watford

Right then, who’s ready for a relegation six pointer so big it’s arguably a RELEGATION SIX POINTER? 19th take on 20th with nothing but a point separating them at the foot of the table, defeat.

Where do I even start with this? Southampton will peg it around one hell of a lot more than Watford will because, frankly, they seem to give a rats backside about staying in the Premier League whereas you get the feeling the Watford players are more interested in who wins the “When is Quique leaving?” sweepstake they’ve no doubt got going in the dressing room.

The problem for Southampton is merely running around does not always make a good team (I played 5-a-side with Eliud Kipchoge once – garbage) and although they did draw at the Emirates last weekend, that’s not really considered a benchmark for success anymore. Crucially, they haven’t kept a clean sheet on the South Coast all season thus far. They’re never going to get a better chance to change that than against a Hornets side who’ve failed to net in over half their games this season.

And if they don’t, then I think we can add Ralph to the list of managers likely to be out of a job come Christmas Day. Actually, the loser here gets sacked. There, I said it.

Watford on the other hand will look to armour plate their six yard box with as much human flesh as possible and task Delofeu with chasing Deeney’s flick-ons all game. Dull, uninspiring and probably quite effective.

Saints to play the better football but continue to finish with all the conviction of a Ryan Giggs team talk. I see Watford nicking this 1-0 with Troy Deeney going nuts at the final whistle and headbutting a ball boy into next week. Or something.

Norwich vs Arsenal

The nightmare is finally over. Good night, Unai. The Arsenal board have finally grown a backbone and pulled the plug after seven games without a win. While a permanent successor to the speech-hindered Spaniard is sought, Fred 'The Ledge' Ljungberg has bravely agreed to take the reigns for this one. The Swede knows a thing or two about beating Norwich, having scored against them back in 04/05.

The Spanish commentary of Freddie's goal is sheer coincidental irony. Honest.


The Spanish commentary is sheer coincidental irony. Honest.

You'd imagine, with his amiable Scandi nature, he'll swiftly have the the Gunners singing to a tune again. The Canaries have shipped no shortage of goals at Carrow Road so far this season. However, with Christoph Zimmerman back in defence, Norwich became only the second team to stop Everton scoring at Goodison Park last week and helped themselves to a much-needed three points.

Teemu Pukki will have no doubt made note of David Luiz randomly wandering off against Southampton and have a plan to exploit any such space that appears on Sunday and it is not too much of a stretch to expect the Norwich midfield to outrun Arsenal in the middle of the park.

Despite the new-manager bounce, Arsenal should still be concerned about this match - Norwich play like renegades with nothing to lose. At least when they get relegated they will have been relegated on their terms - high-pressing, play-out-from-the-back, attacking, suicidal football. But hell, it’s fun to watch.

The thing is, those characteristics make them a good match for beating Arsenal - Southampton and their love of running around a lot got some joy from just that last weekend and Norwich will fancy the same for sure. If they can keep Arsenal’s undoubted quality in the final third at arm’s length, there could be a win on the cards for Farke.

Freddie to enstil some of that invincible spirit and grind out a messy 2-3 win, but have his side's defensive frailties laid bare once again. Aubameyang is bound to score and at least one of the Norwich goals will involve some absolutely hilarious defending.

Leicester vs Everton

Oh look, a rare week where we get both Newcastle and Everton on the TV. That hasn’t happened since at least the week before the international break. Oh well, at least we get to watch Leicester tear them a new one.

Leicester City are nipping ahead of Frank Lampard’s Chelsea right now to be considered everyone’s second team to enjoy watching - and that is their biggest danger.

We know Brendan would probably eat himself if he was made of chocolate and there is a big chance here that if Leicester continue to do well, his ego might explode and the run would come to a shuddering halt.

I, on behalf of all people that like to see a team like Leicester play football that even Barcelona would be pleased with at the moment, would like to see Rodgers lead the Foxes deeper into a title race so I do hope he doesn’t believe his own press too much.

We’ve spoken before about James Maddison, Jamie Vardy, that big Turkish lad at the back and Ben Chilwell - but there are two other reasons why Leicester are flying and will beat Everton at the KP.

In Wilfrid Ndidi, Leicester’s recruitment shone through once again by buying the best defensive midfielder in the Premier League who doesn’t have the initials NK. A man responsible than more break ups (of play) than Christmas, he tops the charts for tackles and interceptions this season. It is he who allows Maddison the freedom to go and play.

Out wide, credit has to go to Rodgers for how he has developed Harvey Barnes into a player of genuine substance. I am going to go as far as saying that he is the closest thing to Raheem Sterling in the league - and if he can add goals to his game, like Sterling has gone on to do, then Barnes is going to become a household name. Yeah, big talk.

Leicester will beat Everton like this - dominating the midfield, creating space for Vardy to leg into and overloading Everton out wide. Plus, if they can be creative from set-pieces, Everton have got no hope.

Everton, on the other hand, will fecklessly launch crosses that Evans and Big Caglar will nod away with ease all day.

Leicester 3-0 for me - Vardy at the double and Harvey Barnes to start adding those goals I was talking about.

Chris Darwen
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All images - PA. Numbers and stats via WhoScored.