Gameweek 4 Preview - Arsenal beware the Bristol Rovers old boy
It seems such a long time ago since that hat-trick from RVP against Southampton. England once again failed to deliver 3 points as they stumbled to a 1-1 home draw with Ukraine. The injury merry go round is in full force as RVP and Shinji Kagawa both pick up knocks in their respective matches.
Anyway, back to business of the Premier League and a look at this weekend’s fixtures:
Norwich v West Ham
The first game of the week takes us to Carrow Road where Norwich face the Hammers. After the opening 5-0 drubbing at Fulham, Chris Hughton’s side have shown some resilience with two draws against QPR and impressively at Spurs. Top points scorer Robert Snodgrass will want to continue the form that has seen him get on the score sheet and pick up maximum 3 point bonus as he did at the Lane.
The Hammers will be missing Andy Carroll for the trip due to a hamstring injury. Kevin Nolan will once again be expected to support the front line of Cole and Vaz Te and continue his 2 goals in 3 ratio.
Arsenal v Southampton
Arsenal return to the Emirates in Gameweek 4 still not having conceded a goal in their opening 3 encounters. Arsenal are still likely to be without Abou Diaby and Szczesny for the game against the Saints. Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski (this week’s punt) are showing signs of forming a potent partnership and the Saints will do well not to add to the 8 goals they have conceded thus far.
Southampton’s first team can boast a clean bill of health with ex-Bristol Rovers striker Rickie Lambert expected to lead the line, and the Arsenal defence will have to be at its best against a striker who has notched goals against both Manchester sides.
Aston Villa v Swansea
Aston Villa start proceedings this week just one point ahead of the drop and will once again face the wrath of the Holt End again should they fail to pick up 3 points against continual overachievers Swansea.
Villa’s new signing Christian Benteke will be expected to help carry the weight of expectation for goals off Darren Bent’s shoulders. 4.9m Barry Bannan caught the eye in the game against Newcastle and has been afforded more game time of late so he could become a more popular pick should he continue that run against the Swans.
Laudrup’s Swansea will once again look to Michu for goals and he may have a new line of supply in the form of 6.5m Pablo Hernandez. Defender Chico starts the first game of his 3 match ban and new left-back Dwight Tiendalli will be expected to make his debut, limiting the 4.0m Ben Davies’ chances of featuring.
Fulham v West Brom
Martin Jol’s Fulham take on Champions League position holders West Brom. After Fulham’s opening day thrashing of Norwich, the Cottagers have slumped to two straight defeats and now will look to new signings Karagounis and, of course, Dimitar Berbatov.
West Brom travel to the Cottage with nothing to fear after wins against both Merseyside clubs and a creditable point at the Lane against Spurs. Having only conceded one goal so far, it’s no surprise that McCauley (27) and Ridgewell (19) lead the way in the points table, and Long isn’t far behind on 13. The Baggies have some decent fixtures ahead so I expect the boing to still be there for another few weeks yet!
Man United v Wigan
There’s only one place to start: Robin van Persie. Many rumours have been spread and I’m sure many more will up until the 3pm kick-off time. Fact of the matter is so far he was taken off as a precaution as he received a knock to his leg. The Manchester United backroom staff will assess him over the coming day or so and only then can we build up a trail of thought as to whether he will feature, and if we are brave enough to first pick him, and then captain him. His form cannot be denied. 4 goals in 3 games means he is definitely the man to have despite Man United’s unenviable fixture schedule.
In other Man United news, Shinji Kagawa picked up a back twinge whilst training for the Japan national side. He never featured in the match and Ferguson says he will monitor his progress. With the Champions League tie midweek, Kagawa could be given a rest to put this knock to bed.
The Latics travel to Old Trafford with 1 win, 1 draw and a defeat to their name so far, and they will have to continue their new brand of high tempo possession football and hope Al Habsi shows his best form for one of the toughest away days in world football. Shaun Maloney (5.0) and Franco Di Santo (5.5) will once again provide the threat up front and Arouna Kone has shown well in his opening fixtures.
QPR v Chelsea
Chelsea return to league action and will hope Eden Hazard can continue his tremendous form and his double digit price tag (10.1) to earn three points at a ground where last year they suffered defeat in a bad tempered match where Chelsea had two men sent off.
John Terry and Ashley Cole are expected to be back in contention for this game. Despite the new signing of Cesar Azpilicueta, Ivanovic will be expected to keep his place at right-back, after adding a goal and two assists for Serbia in midweek.
QPR’s new look team roll out at Loftus road with several new signings expected to make their debuts. Ex-Chelsea man, Mark Hughes, will be out to break the Premier League’s only 100% record and with the likes of Julio Cesar, Esteban Granero and Chelsea old boy, Jose Bosingwa, you wouldn’t rule out the home side getting something from the game, but can they stop Hazard?
Stoke v Man City
The Potters will be hoping for more of Peter Crouch’s finishing from last season if they are to stop the Man City juggernaut trailing a blaze of glory through the Potteries. Stoke are made of stern stuff and have pulled off a major coup by the signing of Michael Owen last week. Matty Etherington is a doubt for Stoke whilst City have Sergio Aguero and Mario Balotelli as doubts. Aguero has returned to training, though, so good news for the blue half of Manchester. Points to note: Edin Dzeko notched a goal and two assists for Bosnia and Aleksandar Kolarov also got himself a goal and one assist for Serbia.
Sunderland v Liverpool
Liverpool’s run gets no easier as in Gameweek 4 they travel to the Stadium of Light to face a Sunderland side who will play their first home game of the season after trips to the Emirates and more recently the Liberty Stadium, with the home match against Reading being postponed for a later date. New signings Fletcher and Johnson have hit the ground running and will look to provide the finishing touches to Sunderland’s industrious play. Johnson is a doubt for the weekends game but is expected to shake off a thigh injury for his full home debut.
Liverpool, fresh from defeat against Arsenal, will have this week’s Hillsborough verdict to look to for inspiration. A solitary point against Man City is the only point they have to show so far. Suarez and Borini will have to up their game if they are to beat Sunderland, and Sterling can continue to enhance his growing reputation after his selection by England in the last squad. I can’t see this being a goal fest (famous last words), and the odd mistake or a bit of genius will be enough to swing this game either way.
Reading v Tottenham
Both sides will no doubt be itching to get out on the park this weekend after Reading’s blank in Gameweek 3 meaning they haven’t played for 3 weeks now. Looking to take advantage of that potential rustiness are Tottenham who have enjoyed a shaky start under Andre Villas-Boas.
Two injury doubts for Reading are Roberts and Robson-Kanu. The Reading player values have been hit hard since the Double Gameweek as Pogrebnyak, Gorkss, Harte, and Guthrie have all dropped below their starting value and are maybe worth considering as they don’t face a top 4 side for another 10 weeks yet.
Spurs will be desperate to get 3 points on the board and no-one more so than AVB. Life has been tough for the new Spurs boss but with Adebayor, Dempsey and Dembele added to the starting XI, and Gareth Bale getting on the score sheet midweek, hopefully the signs are looking positive for the north London side. There has been many Fantasy Managers casting more than a shade of doubt over Bale’s credentials and another 2 point haul will not fuel managers’ enthusiasm for the Welshman whilst there are other targets being more generous with their fantasy offerings.
Everton v Newcastle
The final match of the Gameweek sees high-flying Everton take on last season’s over achievers Newcastle. Everton’s start of 2 wins from 3 has ditched the theory of them being slow starters and Newcastle’s start of 1 win, 1 draw and 1 defeat is where they would expect to be, although last time out most would of expected them to beat Aston Villa, so they go into this one with something to prove.
Everton manager Moyes has no injury concerns for this game whilst Newcastle manager Pardew will be sweating on the fitness of both Ameobi’s, Coloccini and Cheick Tiote. Krul and Simpson are ruled out. So far these two sides have all been about the midfield. Pienaar and Fellaini for Everton and Ben Arfa for the Geordies. Let’s just hope they can continue their 25 yard screamers in the top corners as it sure makes great viewing!
So there you go, that’s my preview of the week ahead, and by 11:30 this Saturday I expect the RVP rumours to still not be resolved. Over 400,000 wildcards would have been played and Emile Heskey will of found himself a Premier League club… well 2 out of 3 isn’t bad!