Friday, November 19, 2021

Premier League Preview Match Week 12: New Managers Take Charge; Chelsea Goes Fox Hunting; Gunners Take Aim at Liverpool; Wolves Face Hammer Attack; Burnley Looks To Ruffle Eagles’ Feathers

Three new managers make their debut this weekend as clubs took advantage of the international break to reset and hopefully salvage their seasons under new management. Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard returns to the Premier league at the helm for Aston Villa. The man Gerrard replaced, Dean Smith, has already been re-employed as the new head man at Norwich. Former Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, meanwhile, has accepted the Newcastle job under their new Saudi Arabian management.

All three managers face daunting challenges. Aston Villa are but two points removed from relegation while Newcastle and Norwich remain winless and occupy the bottom two places in the table. Smith’s debut as Norwich manager versus Southampton drips with irony. A defeat to the Saints was Smith’s last match at Aston Villa before being sacked. He now faces the same Southampton team, now as manager of Norwich, on the very next match day.

Gerrard makes his debut in front of the Villa Park faithful against Brighton and Hove Albion, with the new manager tasked with ending a five-match loss streak for Villa. The Liverpool legend attempts to salvage a season for Aston Villa which has seen the failure to date of all three touted transfer acquisitions: Danny Ings, Emi Buendia and Leon Bailey. Gerrard will also need to re-energize underperforming holdover stars Ollie Watkins, Tyone Mings and Emi Martinez if Villa is to move up the table.

Brighton, meanwhile, sit seventh in the table but have not won a match since Sept 19th. Eddie Howe faces immediate pressure at Newcastle as the team is at risk of being relegated before the new ownership money can come to bear. A home match versus a Brentford side which has lost four straight league matches gives Howe the opportunity for a good first impression.

League leading Chelsea head to King Power Stadium to meet Leicester for the first time since their consequential matches in May of this year when Leicester beat the Londoners for the FA Cup but lost to Chelsea three days later in the league to help knock the Foxes out of a Top Four finish. The Foxes have struggled this season, sitting 12th in the table, struggling to overcome injuries and poor play on their back line. Injured midfielder Youri Tielemans will be a key miss for manager Brendan Rodgers this weekend. Thomas Tuchel, meanwhile, will be looking for a response from his European champions after a disappointing draw with Burnley before break. The aerial battle between the squads could be interesting as no side has headed in more goals than Chelsea while no side has conceded more headed goals than Leicester.

The best match of the weekend could unfold when Arsenal plays at Liverpool. The Gunners bring an eight-match unbeaten run to Anfield and trail fourth place Liverpool by just two points.

Winner of its last three matches, Arsenal has the longest unbeaten run in the league after Liverpool fell to West Ham before break, the first defeat for the Reds in 21 Premier League matches. Having yet another contender leapfrog them in the table would be anathema to Jürgen Klopp and the men in red. The Liverpool attack, spearheaded by league leading scorer Mohamed Salah, will provide a stern test for the Arsenal center back pairing of Gabriel and Ben White. The two center backs, along with goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, have been integral to Arsenal allowing just two goals in their current five match winning run. The match’s result could turn on the availability of Liverpool’s Andy Robertson, Sadio Mane and Jordan Henderson, all of whom are questionable for the match.

Wolves will play host to a West Ham club which has scored seven goals in its last two matches. A run of four consecutive victories, capped by a win over Liverpool before break, has the Hammers third in the table, just three points behind league leading Chelsea. A fifth consecutive win would equal the club’s Premier League record. An improving Wolves side, meanwhile, had their five-match unbeaten run snapped in a defeat to surprising Crystal Palace in their last outing.

Manchester City will be at less than full strength when the second place Citizens host Everton. Kevin De Bruyne is self-isolating after a positive Covid test. Jack Grealish and Phil Foden, meanwhile, are both nursing minor injuries which could affect their availability. Manager Pep Guardiola’s remaining array of talent should be more than sufficient to put down an Everton squad which is on a five-match winless run marked by three losses. The Toffees have been toothless without inured striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin, scoring more than a goal just once in those five matches, that being in a dreadful 5-2 loss to Watford.

Manchester United begins its hopeful journey to rejoin the Top Four when the Red Devils return to action at Watford. The international break was a welcome respite for a club which has lost three of their last four league matches under embattled manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Watford have also lost three of four matches under Manager Claudio Ranieri. The meeting of the two unhappy sides could get chippy with the angry Hornets leading the league in fouls by a wide margin.

Spurs are home to Leeds as Antonio Conte seeks his first win as Tottenham manager. A second goal of the season by Harry Kane would certainly contribute to that outcome. The underperforming striker was a scoring machine against lesser footballing nations for England over the international break. Leeds have lost just once in their last five matches to pull themselves free of the relegation zone despite the continuing injury absence of striker Patrick Bamford.

Crystal Palace tries to make it three in a row when the Eagles visit Burnley. The rebuilt Palace, under new management, is undefeated in six matches and won impressively against strong opposition in their last two outings. Manager Patrick Vieira’s squad will face a challenge, however, in creating chances against a packed in Burnley defense under old school manager Sean Dyche. Burnley haven’t conceded a goal in winning the last three matches between the clubs but now face a more attack-oriented Eagles side under Vieira. The Clarets have lost but once in their last six matches but remain relegation bound after a poor season start.

American fans watching this weekend’s matches on NBC platforms should be pleased at a new six-year contract between the network and the Premier League. NBC has done an amazing job in building the league’s brand in America. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a comment: