Arsene Wenger will come up against bitter rival Jose Mourinho for the 15th time in his career, but it’s the first time he faces a different team than Chelsea under the Portuguese. Wenger has never beaten Mourinho in a competitive game — with all due respect to the Community Shield — while he has lost eight of their 14 previous meetings.
Both teams have a big pool of injured players and this might take the shine off what should have been a classic. Arsenal rarely play well at Old Trafford, even when they are favourites. It’s a myth that’s mind-boggling. Last season, they were beaten by two goals from a teenager writing his final high school exams at that time. In fact, Arsenal had once lost to a Manchester United team fielding seven defenders under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Arsenal fans would be rightly pessimistic going into this fixture but the Mourinho – jinx may not work on Saturday. This is a different team to his Chelsea sides. These lot may not be able to execute those defend-deep-and-break-out-fast strategies. Arsenal have a chance!
Swansea won their first game of the season, away at Burnley, but they have gone without another league win ever since and currently lie 19th, six points from safety. Manager Francesco Guidolin was fired on Oct. 3, new boss Bob Bradley has picked up just one point from a possible 12, and the mood is bleak. As it rightly should be when a team goes 10 games without a win in all competitions.
The trip to Everton this weekend doesn’t over much hope of a turnaround and Bradley needs to throw the kitchen sink at the situation now before the dreaded December fixture pileup.
Ever since their comfortable 2-0 victory over then Premier League leaders Manchester City on Oct. 2, Spurs have struggled for fluency. They may be the only unbeaten team in the Premier League, but many of their recent draws have had the taste of points dropped rather than gained. There has been a disjointedness in midfield and a bluntness in attack. Tottenham are due a big performance and West Ham could well be the unlucky team on the wrong end of it on Saturday evening.
Visitors Bournemouth will arrive having enjoyed a relatively mixed season but will be happy enough sitting just one place and one point behind the Potters as Bournemouth try to establish themselves as a top-flight force. For the most part, their matches have been tight affairs, but the last two have ended in defeat. It will give Hughes hope as he eyes a fourth consecutive victory. That’s not to suggest that Bournemouth will be a pushover, of course; far from it, in fact. While they have suffered back-to-back defeats, they have created a glut of chances and have a trio of lively wide men in Jordon Ibe, Joshua King and Junior Stanislas ready to cause the home defence plenty of problems down the flanks. The stage is set for the Stoke side to extend their impressive run of form, and they have enjoyed the upper hand versus Bournemouth for some time. Both of last season’s meetings ended with a Stoke win, and since Bournemouth have not won in the Potteries since 1991, the odds are favouring a return to the top 10 for Hughes’ men by the final whistle.
Kicking off this Premier League season with just 13 senior players available is destined to become the fabled stuff of Hull City folklore. Things have improved for Mike Phelan three months on. But only just. Recent injuries to Abel Hernandez and Will Keane, half of the club’s attacking stable, ensure City head to Sunderland on Saturday with just 16 fit senior professionals.
Premier League games will come little bigger than the one facing City and Phelan at the Stadium of Light on Saturday afternoon. Even in mid-November it feels enormously important for both clubs. City can escape the bottom three and move purposefully into the middle reaches of the table with a second win in succession. They would also open an eight-point advantage on a side destined to be a relegation rival all season long. Sunderland, meanwhile, can covet a victory for their own reasons. Their 2-1 win at Bournemouth has gone some way to repairing the damage of an abject start and taking another three points from City would lift David Moyes’ side back to within touching distance of safety.
Manchester City have been unlucky, especially at home where they have drawn their last three league match, and with a tough December schedule to come, those drop points could come back to haunt. They have lost their top spot on the table now, don’t rule out City playing catchup in January. An away game could be just what Pep Guardiola needs with teams showing more initiative to attack in front of their own fans than the wall opposition teams build when they play at the Etihad. I expect Manchester City to win this one.
We’ve got a new league leaders in Liverpool. It’s the least Klopp’s team have deserved this season and the big question mark now is if they will be in same position come the end of the season. The Reds have been in scintillating form this season and it finally looks like they have taken care of their issues against the smaller EPL sides. A trip to the Saints is another test for Liverpool. They lost here last season and on the back of an international break, this one could be tricky. I won’t be surprised if Liverpool dropped points in this one.
Any team can lose to Liverpool but Walter Mazzari must have been embarrassed at the manner of their 6-1 defeat at Anfield a fortnight ago. But they are not alone in feeling embarrassed as the Champions are looking anything but at the moment. They lost at home to West Brom the last time that has left then two points from the relegation spots. This one would be evenly contested. And it’s a tight one to predict.
Playing three at the back seems to be the new cool in the EPL. And how great has it worked out for Chelsea. 5 league games, 16 goals, none conceded, it couldn’t have worked Aby better and even Antonio Conte is probably surprised how well the change of tactics has brought about the best in a number of players. Boro on the other hand haven’t overhauled their tactics but five points from a position nine including matches against Arsenal and Manchester City is a great return. The challenge for Aitor Karanka is to find a way to succeed where other teams have failed – score against Chelsea. And you never know what can come after that.
West Brom and Burnley complete this round of fixtures on Monday night. Both teams are separated by a point. Also, both teams are flying at the moment.