It’s hard to believe that we’re almost two months into the Premier League season already. The EPL season is starting its seventh week of play and there are some key matchups, not for the teams, but for the managers. We’ve got several matches to cover this week in the EPL, so let’s get right to it. Just a quick reminder; when I put a team’s record in I’ll list it the way that it’s listed according to the table for the EPL. So it’ll be listed W-D-L instead of the way that we are accustomed to reading records here, which is W-L-D.
LEICESTER CITY .v ARSENAL 10:00 a.m. ET USA Network
As you all know by now, Leicester is not the team that they were this time last season–and neither is Arsenal. The Gunners’ have the exact same point total that they did after six matches last season, but they are one spot lower on the table according to the official league website Premierleague.com. It’s no secret that Arsenal started out the season with a poor performance and a 2-0 loss at home to West Ham United. Their next match was an expected victory over Crystal Palace but in the Gunners’ third outing of the season they played to a draw against a Liverpool side that has been horrible. Now, the momentum of last week’s match did change when Gabriel got sent off after the incident with Diego Costa, and Chelsea took advantage of that swing to take all three points.
Leicester City has continued to find a way to get points when it looks like they were beaten again. They were down 2-0 after 20 minutes and then they all of a sudden decided to get in the game. If the Foxes’ keep going the way they are then they could really be a challenger in the EPL and it would be refreshing to see a new club break into the top four. This match is going to be a battle for the top four, with the Gunners’ on the outside looking in.
The Foxes aren’t going to be able to eek out points the same way that they have the past two weeks. If Leicester wants to take all three points then they’re going to have to up their level of play because Arsenal isn’t going to make easy on them. The Gunners are going to have to score goals–it’s that simple. They have the strikers to do it; they just need to push the players forward on the attack so their strikers aren’t so easily marked.
WEST HAM UNITED v NORWICH CITY 10:00 a.m. ET NBC LiveExtra
Last week was a big week for both West Ham and Norwich. The Hammers’ handed Manchester City their first loss of the season and they did it at the Etihad last Saturday and the recently promoted Canaries’ were able to draw with Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday. Norwich is tied with Liverpool on points (8) but is ahead on them on the table due to goal differential. West Ham is currently third on the table with 12 points and will be looking to possibly move ahead of both City and Manchester United if all things go their way this weekend. Norwich has been playing well recently — if not inconsistently. Their record stands at 2-2-2 and it makes you wonder. If they had played like they did against Liverpool in the two losses that they have on the season that they might be a little higher up on the table.
West Ham is a different story altogether. Under first year manager Slaven Bilić, the Hammers’ have managed to take a total of nine points at City, Liverpool and Arsenal. That is a feat that is almost unheard of in the EPL. It’s one thing to knick one or two from that group, but to take all three games is not a small feat. The odds are starting to tilt in West Ham’s favor for beating all five of them in the first half of the season–and possibly beating them in the second half too. West Ham is playing like a different team than they did last year and a lot of the credit is due to Bilić and the way he manages the team.
This is going to be a match to watch because, if Norwich can start playing consistently, they will be a real threat. West Ham has already proven that they can knock off three of the “big five” at their homes, and the only one of those three to score on the Hammers’ was City. If both these teams can keep their momentum going then it will be an interesting rest of the season.
LIVERPOOL v ASTON VILLA 10:00 a.m. ET NBC LiveExtra
It can certainly be said that Liverpool has had better starts to their season than this one. It should be noted that there is only so much blame that a manager should have to shoulder for a team’s performance though. His job, after all, is to prepare the team and pick the best starting XI and subs each week based on what he sees in training. Now Brendan Rodgers can only do so much after the match starts — as far as managing the players — since he is limited by the number of subs he can use.
With that being said, the Reds’ haven’t won since the second week of the season when they defeated Bournemouth 1-0 at Anfield. After that match on August 17 they’ve had a 0-0 draw at Arsenal, a 3-0 loss to West Ham at Anfield, a 3-1 loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford and a 1-1 draw to Norwich at Anfield.
It’s been rumored that Rodgers is on the verge of losing his job. These are the same rumors that were floating around last season too but Liverpool didn’t start the season with a 2-2-2 record either. To add insult to injury this week, the Reds’ were taken to penalty kicks by Carlisle United in the League Cup. Liverpool also denied reports that it has contacted Carlo Ancelotti as a possible replacement for Rodgers according to ESPN FC.
In their last league game, as well as in their League Cup match, Liverpool has had loads of chances they’ve just been horrid at finishing. They’re relying on Danny Ings, who joined over the summer from Burnley, to score the majority of their goals when it should rightfully be Christian Benteke and Daniel Sturridge. Now Benteke is out with a strained hamstring that he picked up during the draw with Norwich and will miss not only the game with Aston Villa this week but also the Merseyside Derby next week as well.
This is the EPL where managers who don’t get results get fired. We all remember how long David Moyes lasted at United when he wasn’t getting results. Rodgers has lasted a lot longer at Liverpool than he would’ve at almost any other big club with the results he’s been getting, especially last year and so far this year.
Speaking of Villa, they aren’t in much better shape as they have a record of 1-1-4 and are 17th on the table. Their only victory this season has come on the opening weekend of the season away at Bournemouth and then they drew at home with Sunderland. This might be the year that we see Villa drop out of the EPL. They’ve barely avoided relegation to the Championship for a while now and I think that their luck has run out. Losing Benteke to the Reds really hurt them and they didn’t replace him with anyone. I only see things getting worse for Villa unless they have one hell of a January transfer window.
Both of these teams need a win and, believe it or not, Liverpool needs the win more than Villa does. A win should calm the Liverpool supporters who are calling for Rodgers to be sacked enough for him to get the team to focus on the Merseyside Derby coming up — which he has to win both legs of this year. If Liverpool comes away with another non-win — a draw or a loss — don’t be surprised if those rumors about Liverpool making contact with available managers aren’t just rumors anymore.
Those are the matches to watch this weekend in the EPL and I’d pay close attention to the Liverpool/Villa match. Not only is Liverpool a powder keg waiting to explode but Villa and the Reds are also level on goal differential. You’ll also notice that I didn’t include Manchester United or Everton in my picks this week. I figured that I’d lay off those two teams for a week and allow other teams in the EPL some exposure but don’t expect that to be a regular occurrence.
Here’s the rest of the EPL line up for this weekend: