Tuesday 20 February 2018 / 10:50 PM


Highlighting the crucial points and what to look for in the upcoming weekend of EPL action.

Can Spurs go to town on Huddersfield?

Compact and focused, the newly promoted team can stake a legitimate claim for the best defence in the league. United and City are the only units who have conceded less goals, but that’s due to their overpowering attacking output. Huddersfield, despite ranking 15th in pass completion, manage to hold teams out with impressive efficiency, leading the league in tackles per game with 21.5, conceding only three goals through six fixtures.

Spurs love to set up camp deep, but haven’t been consistently effective in getting clear looks at goal: despite ranking second in time spent in their opponents’ third, Tottenham take 48 percent of their shots outside the box, which is good for 10 a game, the most of any team. They managed a slight breakthrough last week against West Ham with three goals, but in opening up the game conceded two goals. For Spurs to take that final step, they have find that balance, and Huddersfield present a fascinating test to see if they can do it.

Also, expect plenty of crossing: these are teams ranked one and three in crosses per game.

Palace’s death row run continues with the red-hot Red Devils

Life is tough for Crystal Palace right now. All alone at the bottom of the table after six straight losses without registering a single competition point and scoring as many goals, invoking confidence in this unit must be rough for new coach Roy Hodgson.

Last week, they were better than the 5-0 scoreline suggests, and held on for as long as they could before Man City simply overpowered them. United’s attack doesn’t lag far behind in either potency or explosiveness, so the defence that has conceded the most goals will be underwire yet again.

How United go about their business when they have the upper hand will be of note: when they were cooking earlier in the season, it was Pogba and Mkhitaryan surging deep into the opposition’s defence and feeding Lukaku and the front three in space. Mkhitaryan may have to shoulder more of the creative burden when Palace sit deep, but it’s still tough to see how they have the troops to stop them.

Palace’s problem lies in their overzealous attack — they were dangerous against City pushing hard on the counterattack, but the tendency to get out of control leaves them vulnerable heading back the other way. They lead the in dribble runs per game at 13.8, but also in turnovers per game at 28.5. Going that hard each opportunity can be costly, both in the immediate and as they fatigue and get picked apart, as was the case with City last week.

United will undoubtedly be hungry for goals, not only because that’s been the trend all season, but to match their cross-town rivals’ success last week. If Palace force the issue, it could get out of hand.

Arsenal — underrated, overrated or properly rated?

We kNow Arsenal have flaws, but just how good are they?

They took care of business against West Brom without breaking a sweat last week, giving hope that maybe there’s another gear they can find. At the very least, picking up points against lesser teams helps them hang around until they can figure some of the bigger stuff out.

Brighton are exceptional in defending their goal square for prolonged periods of time, playing at times with a back 6 and walling off the penalty area, and Arsenal’s mental fragility makes them liable to collapse in the opposite direction. Brighton don’t get downbeat, rather they feed off the energy when fending off their opposition and will attempt to parlay it into a counterattack when available.

Defensively, they force the highest percentage of outside the box shots, the lowest efficiency attempts available. Seven of Arsenal’s nine league goals have come inside the penalty area, so they’ll have to flash some improved offence to break down the Eagles. We’ll see if Arsenal can prove their stature.

Match of the week: Chelsea vs Manchester City

No doubt about what which fixture is the most important on the slate. The teams sitting first and third clash with a chance to land the first blow in the current triple threat match for the EPL title.

A real contrast of styles, with City’s patient, finessed build-up the antithesis of Chelsea’s brutal, rugged approach. City average the least amount of long balls a game, a contrast to the success Chelsea has had playing over the top of defences. City average the most short passes per game (by a massive margin) whilst Chelsea rank second in tackles with 19 a game, ensuring they’ll be cutting out the space.

Who controls the possession will inevitably decide the pace of this game, and the Blues’ recent changes have helped them look comfortable sitting deeper and causing problems on the counter, which just happens to be one of City’s more apparent shortcomings. We’ll see the progress either team has made, not just in those areas but so far this season. Massive clash with so much to take away.

Relegation zone

Matchday 7 looms large for plenty of the teams down the spiky end, with everyone from 15th a chance to move either up or down in relation to the bottom three (except for Palace, naturally).

Leicester sit at an unlucky 1-1-4 to be a disappointing 17th. Their defence has let them down — they’ve maybe taken comfort without the ball too far, their complete lack of possession (41.8%, second least) has led to them to allowing the third-most shots on goal thus far.

They’ll need to step it up against 19th-placed Bournemouth, who will be desperate for points in a hope to jump their opposition on the table and kickstart their season. Set-pieces seem to be all the rage with the Foxes, having scored four and conceded four goals (second and first respectively)

In another bottom-table clash, 18th placed West Ham play 15th Swansea, with both sides hoping to overcome slow starts and end a string of subpar performances. Neither has found their stride or identity quite yet, so this could be absolutely anything, which almost always results in an entertaining clash, especially considering the loser will fall into the bottom three.

Keep an eye on….

  • After such a promising start to his time at City, it’s devastating to hear Benjamin Mendy is facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines, possibly the season. City had finally found the right fit, the powerhouse wing-back was simply fantastic in his role. Danilo and Fabian Delph — who was fantastic filling in there midweek — lead the way for replacements.
  • Liverpool’s ‘crisis’ was slightly exaggerated, more a media feeding frenzy than a genuine problem, but should they fail to pick up points against Newcastle, expect a similar reaction.
  • Everton enter a favourable, but dangerous fixture against Burnley. The Toffees did little to inspire confidence, and Burnley have proven capable of upsets already, taking down Chelsea early.
  • Bakayoko has improved with each start for Chelsea, and he now appears to be Conte’s first choice midfielder. His combination with Kante has been fantastic, so we’ll see how they fair against a top side should they back up from their mid-week game.

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About the author

Brayden Issa

Brayden is a Sydney-based sports management student and sports fanatic, specialising in rugby league, basketball, football and cricket. He is concerned with everything related to professional sports performance and management.

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