Week 10 in the English Premier League season has already arrived and the battle at the top of the table is as tight as it was last week. The top three sides are separated by only three points, but the widest gap is in the goal differential. Manchester City currently enjoys a seven-goal lead over second place Arsenal, and a nine-goal lead over third place Manchester United. With everything so close at the top of the Premier League table, goals are needed almost as much as the points. Check out the table at ESPNFC.
PREMIER LEAGUE MATCHES:
WEST HAM UNITED v. CHELSEA — SATURDAY 10:00 a.m. EDT NBCSN
Top-four side, West Ham United, welcome the struggling, reigning English Premier League champions Chelsea on Saturday. This is a clash between the west side of London, Chelsea, and the east side, West Ham.
In years past, the Blues would have been the team that Slaven Bilić‘s Hammers would have been chasing, but this time around that tables have turned. West Ham, who are fourth on the table, have a six-point and a 11-goal advantage on Chelsea, who are currently in 12th.
These two teams looked completely different last weekend. Chelsea got lucky and was gifted two goals from Aston Villa. A poor pass from Brad Guzan set up a goal from Diego Costa and a deflection from a shot by Costa proved to be Villa’s undoing. West Ham was able to benefit from an overly aggressive Dwight Gayle. He was sent off right before the half and playing with ten men proved to be Crystal Palace‘s undoing with the Hammers controlling the rest of the match.
Before I tell you what I expect from this match let me say that, just because Chelsea beat a bad Aston Villa side, doesn’t mean that the Blues have turned their season around. Despite what the pundits say on Fox Soccer, ESPN FC and the other channels, Chelsea haven’t turned their season around. They just haven’t. Now maybe — and that’s a huge maybe — if the Blues can string together more than one win over a side that isn’t struggling, or better yet, if they can legitimately beat the other three top-four sides then I’ll change my mind about Chelsea’s season. And by legitimately beat, I mean nothing of this Diego Costa clawing up the center-back’s neck and pushing him down and not getting sent off. Yes he got charged by the FA, but that was after the match. I feel better and I’ll get off my soapbox now.
I expect the Hammers to keep playing the way that they have been, which includes good, solid soccer. They haven’t been beaten in the Premier League since August 29, according to ESPN FC, but they did lose to Leicester City in the Capitol One Cup four weeks ago, which doesn’t count against their Premier League record.
If West Ham keep their current form up then they very well could give City, United and the Gunners a challenge for the title — which would set Upton Park on fire with excitement. I want to see West Ham control the pace of the entire match, not just the majority of it. They have to be careful because Willian and Costa can, and will, make them pay for any mistakes they make in their third.
Chelsea knows exactly what they are walking into on Saturday. They know that they are facing a team that has beaten City at Etihad and Arsenal at the Emirates. They know that this isn’t the same Hammers’ side from the past — content with middle of the table. They also know that they aren’t the same Chelsea side that teams feared last season either. I expect to see Chelsea trying to take an early lead and then park the bus, and it’s a tactic that has worked for Jose Mourinho in the past. I seriously doubt that it’ll work against this West Ham team though. I wouldn’t be surprised if Chelsea lose and we hear Mourinho blame the new Canadian Prime Minister.
ARSENAL v. EVERTON — SATURDAY 12:30 p.m. EDT NBC
The Gunners are unbeaten in their last four Premier League matches. They easily dispatched Manchester United (3-0) two weeks ago and then beat Watford by the same score last week. Arsenal’s biggest victory of all has to be the 2-0 victory over Bayern Munich at the Emirates on Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League. It had Gunners’ fans (thanks Hugh Wizzy!) all over the world going absolutely insane, and rightfully so.
Everton is coming off a 3-0 defeat at the hands of United last weekend at Goodison Park. It was a match that saw Morgan Schneiderlein, Ander Herrera and Wayne Rooney score on the Toffees. While any defeat hurts, as far as the table is concerned in the Premier League, it’s not like Everton got crushed by United by six or seven goals. This is a defeat that they’ll be able to bounce back from — but maybe not this weekend.
With the current wave that Arsenal is riding, I expect to see them come out hard and fast against the Toffees. They’ll use the pace of Theo Walcott, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil to keep the ball in Everton’s half and to stretch their defense. You might see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain get the start in place of Aaron Ramsey, who is out until mid-November with a hamstring injury. Gunners’ boss, Arséne Wenger, attributed the injury to Ramsey’s work load for Wales during the most recent international break, according to ESPN FC.
Everton is going to have to play much better than they did against United if they expect to take any points away from this weekend. Romeu Lukaku, Steven Naismith, Ross Barkley and Arouna Kone can, and will, cause problems for the Arsenal defense when they get forward. Lukaku has amazing pace on the counter and can turn what looks like a safe pass into a scoring opportunity. Don’t believe me, just ask West Brom.
While these four are the main scoring threats for the Toffees, it’s not uncommon to see defenders Seamus Coleman, John Stone and Leighton Baines getting in on the attack and helping to create chances, especially late in a match.
Everton manager Roberto Martinez has said that midfielder Tom Cleverly could make his return to the pitch against Arsenal, according to ESPN FC. Cleverly suffered ankle ligament damage against Tottenham on August 29. Speaking about Cleverly, Martinez said “From a medical point of view, he’s 100 percent ready. It’s a case of trying to work on his match fitness really, more than anything,” via ESPN FC. Cleverly would be an added boost to the Toffees midfield, even if he comes on as a late sub.
I really see the Gunners controlling this game from the first whistle to the last. They’ve been on fire since the loss to Chelsea in the Premier League, and the victory over Bayern Munich Tuesday night only served to fire them up even more. ESPN FC reported that Roberto Martinez admitted rebounding against Arsenal would be tough, especially this week, and he’s right. Martinez might as well get ready to wait until 2016 to try to beat the Gunners at the Emirates because I don’t think it’s gonna happen this week.
MANCHESTER UNITED v. MANCHESTER CITY — SUNDAY 10:05 a.m. EDT NBCSN
Oh what a beautiful morning. It’s MANCHESTER DERBY DAY! That’s right folks, it’s the day when you are either a Blue or a Red and there are no two ways about it — and if you’re in my house, you’re a Red.
In the 168 total meetings between these two sides, United leads with 69 wins, City has 49 wins and there have been 50 draws, according to The Mirror.
Now, in recent years, Manchester has been a lot more blue than red, but in the second meeting last season United came back from 1-0 down and took control of the match and they ended up winning 4-2. In that meeting, City had a healthy Sergio Agüero and David Silva and they also hadn’t lost Frank Lampard to the MLS yet either.
This year is going to be totally different. United has shown that they have a hard time keeping up with teams that move the ball with pace — like Arsenal. If United can control the flow of the match and keep City off of their game plan then they’ll be in good shape. United’s boss, Louis Van Gaal, is going to have to find a way to get Schneiderlein, Herrera, Ashley Young, Juan Mata, Marouane Fellaini and Anthony Martial all on the pitch at the same time.
Fellaini, Herrera, Mata and Young all had a huge impact on the match against City in April and with the edition of Martial and Schneiderlein it could only increase. Memphis could even be a big edition, as long as he is fit mentally for the match.
The way that City has been playing with Wilfred Bony playing in Agüero’s place — alongside Raheem Sterling — not only are they winning, but they’re winning by wide margins in the Premier League. Yes, City is going to be just fine until Aguero’s healthy.
It looked like the midfield was missing a little of Silva’s leadership though. While you might be able to replace his attacking and ability to read the field, you can’t replace his ability to lead the midfield. De Bruyne will pick that up Cityzens, so don’t worry. He’s done everything else at the club wonderfully.
I really expect to see City come out and use Sterling, Bony and De Bruyne’s pace and movement against United — especially if Bastian Schweinsteiger and Michael Carrick are starting in the midfield. They both aren’t as fast as they use to be and that is a big reason why Ozil, Sanchez and Walcott had a field day with United two weeks ago. They were able to beat the center midfielders on the counter attack and that left the back four totally exposed.
Here are some of the great moments of past Manchester Derbies thanks to ESPN FC.