Arsenal v Hull
Two bad losses for Arsenal – one scarcely expected, the second seemingly inevitable – mean Arsene Wenger’s preparation for this match has included a plea for Gunners fans to get behind the team as they face Hull on Saturday. Er, by telling them to be more like Spurs fans. Bloody hell.
Arsenal’s record against Hull is outstanding…
Let’s hope the Frenchman’s strategy for beating Hull amounts to more than calling on the 12th man. That said, in the last 13 games between the two teams, the Tigers haven’t recorded a single win. Arsenal have won seven of the last eight Premier League games between the two. Arsenal fans, why so delirious?
…But Hull are hitting it out of the park right now
Well, Hull beat Liverpool at the K-Com Stadium last week; in two meetings with Man United in the last two weeks, they won at home and held United to a draw at Old Trafford.
New manager Marco Silva might just be enjoying a particularly spectacular version of the ‘new boss bump’ effect – but even if his team revert to type soon enough, do the side still have enough juice to make monkeys of the Gunners in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off?
Arsenal might be having a tough time of it, but under Wenger the club never tend to go through prolonged spells of gloom – that perennial fourth place finish tag might be used to attack the Gunners, but it’s also proof of their consistency.
Hull have won precisely one league game away all season, too. Arsenal must surely win this one.
Liverpool v Tottenham
We all know it’s been a rotten start to 2017 for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Tottenham are in better fettle, but the North London side are hardly invulnerable – they fought back well against City last month to earn a draw, but couldn’t score against bottom-of-the-table Sunderland two weeks ago.
Still, Spurs are second in the league table, and Mauricio Pochettino may scent blood as he comes to a Liverpool side that need to arrest an alarming slump – one win in their last 10 games in all competitions, four losses in their last five.
Spur of the moment
You can rarely avoid talking about Harold when you talk about Spurs, but Kane’s numbers will be especially daunting for Jurgen Klopp this week. The striker has scored twice and created another in his last two visits to Anfield in the Prem. Factor in six goals already so far in 2017, and the 23-year-old is surely the biggest danger this week.
If current form has the home fans shuddering, head-to-heads between these two sides firmly gives Liverpool the advantage. Liverpool haven’t lost in their last eight league meetings with the London club, winning five. Pochettino is still looking for his first win over Liverpool as Spurs boss, too. Tottenham’s last win at Anfield came in 2011 (and was their first since 1993). History is against the visitors – but do the history books go out the window for this one?
Liverpool cannot continue plodding along, and a loss to Tottenham could propel the Merseyside team into full-blown crisis mode.
Conventional wisdom says Klopp’s players are knackered from playing the German’s high-energy pressing game. If that’s really the case, it suggests Klopp needs a whole new blueprint for success – but perhaps the last month’s trials have had more to do with blows to the side’s winning psychology, rather than their waning fitness.
If there’s one thing to galvanise the side, it’s that they’ve tended to fight their corner convincingly against the best sides; even in this current period of woe, Liverpool held the mighty Chelsea to a draw at the end of January.
This is a must-win for Liverpool. So does that translate as a will-win? I say yes.
Swansea City v Leicester City
Swansea have two wins from three under new boss Paul Clement – with a creditable performance against Man City last time out, when they lost 2-1 at the Etihad.
Before that, the Swans had the spirit to record a 3-2 victory at Liverpool – enough to have won the manager the Premier League Manager of the month for January. Contrast that with Claudio Ranieri – the only award he seems likely to win any time soon is the sack race.
Leicester haven’t won in the league since New Year’s Eve – and haven’t won away in the Prem all season. After the champagne supernova of the previous season, it’s a hell of a comedown for Claudio Ranieri and co. The side did manage an FA Cup win over Derby County midweek, though the team needed extra time to get the job done. So can Leicester build on that success?
In the zone
Leicester and Swansea each have 21 points; the Swans are 17th, with the Foxes 16th in the table. Depending upon results elsewhere, either side could slip into the relegation zone with a loss here. Swansea seem by far the likeliest to get a result here; aside from recent wins, the players are clearly responding to Clement’s methods.
And main man Gylfi Sigurdsson is back in form, with three in his last three outings (making him the Swan’s highest scoring player ever in a top flight division). Could the Icelandic maestro find the net once more, against a side that have shipped 10 goals in their last four league games?
The Cup win might be a timely scrap of good news for Leicester, but it doesn’t do much to relieve the club’s ongoing problems – one of which is the persistent rumour of a rift between players and manager. If the team aren’t turning out for you, there’s not much to be done – just ask Jose Mourinho. Swansea will surely take all three points here.
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