After yet another boring and pointless international break, the Premier League returned last weekend and it couldn’t have come soon enough. England proved they’re the international equivalent of West Brom, while pundits and Twitter “experts” alike once again praised England and raised expectations further, only for them to eventually be dashed when we get knocked out in the group stages of the World Cup next year.
I, for one, am glad the Premier League is back, and thankfully we don’t have to see Gareth “the only noteworthy thing I did during my career was miss a penalty” Southgate for another month.
As I look to fill my Premier League Prediction Table, this week I start with Brighton vs. West Bromwich Albion. The game ended 3-1 to Brighton, and handed West Brom their first loss of the season, but it’s way too early to start panicking if you’re a West Brom fan.
The win was Brighton’s first ever in the Premier League, and going in to Friday night’s tie away to Bournemouth, they will likely arrive with an added confidence that they can double their win tally.
The loss leaves West Brom in 9th place as they look forward to hosting “failing” West Ham, if I can replicate Donald Trump for a second.
There’s a long way to go for West Brom, and despite this loss, their real win came in the transfer market, where Tony Pulis improved his squad exponentially.
Gareth Barry, Kieran Gibbs and Jay Rodriguez joined the Baggies, along with Oliver Burke and Zhang Yuning (who?), but the best piece of business came in keeping Jonny Evans. The former Manchester United defender was linked with a move to Manchester City on deadline day, but Pulis and West Brom managed to keep the 29-year-old in what might prove to be the best piece of business of the window.
Evans, while prone to the odd error, completes a strong defense that includes Craig Dawson and Gareth McCauley, and even though it’s not the flashiest of back lines, it’s a Tony Pulis back line, and nobody knows more about mid-table finishes than Tony Pulis.
Prediction: Brighton 18th, West Brom 10th
The weekend continued with Burnley hosting Crystal Palace.
Now, as you know, I’ve already let my feelings about Crystal Palace be heard. Last week I called their defeat to Swansea City a “humiliation,” and lambasted Frank De Boer for playing “top six football” with a mediocre team. Unfortunately for De Boer, he was sacked this week after yet another loss, this time 1-0 at the hands of Burnley.
I have been known to be wrong in the past. Not many times, of course, but I’ll admit it when I need to, and this time I was
Frank De Boer deserved to stay. Not because he needed time, and not because I think Crystal Palace’s season has been any more than humiliating, but because Palace decided to replace De Boer with former England manager Roy Hodgson.
The same Roy Hodgson who put 6’2” Harry Kane on corners at the European Championships Last Summer. The same Roy Hodgson that refused to drop Wayne Rooney in his biggest slump, and even played him out of position constantly to try and force him in to the England team. The same Roy Hodgson that currently sits at an average win percentage of 35% as a Premier League manager at four clubs.
At least he’s nothing but consistent.
The appointment is so uninspiring that I wouldn’t be surprised if Crystal Palace continue to get worse. I can’t even imagine to think what the players are thinking. I’ve said, and will continue to say that Crystal Palace has a mediocre first team. Now they can truly match that with a mediocre manager in Roy Hodgson.
Burnley, however, can be proud of their efforts so far this season. Losing Michael Keane to Everton over the Summer was a big hit to their defense, but so far they’ve proved to the Premier League that they are still up to the task, losing only once so far, and sitting in the top half of the table.
Next week will be a real test for Burnley when they travel away to Liverpool, but after Liverpool’s 5-0 embarrassment against Manchester City last weekend, they could be shaky!
Prediction: Burnley 11th, Crystal Palace 20th
Finally, I am going to touch on Mark Hughes’ Stoke City, who drew with Manchester United 2-2 in a game that saw the emergence of Eric Choupo-Moting in Stoke’s midfield. Choupo-Moting opened the scoring for Stoke City, and also equalized later in the game to secure a point, while the real action happened on the sidelines as Jose Mourinho and Mark Hughes clashed, sharing some choice words together. It led to Mourinho “refusing” to shake Hughes’ hand at the end of the game, a tradition.
Many pundits chose to make this spat a focal point of their post-match analysis, but things like this happen all the time between managers. Credit must not be taken away from both teams who played an excellent game, but specifically Stoke City, who didn’t waver when going 2-1 down.
This season we’ve seen a Manchester United team reborn, and while they did pass a test this past week, Stoke passed an even bigger one.
It’s hard to deny that United will be the team to beat this year, along with their cross-town rivals Manchester City, so to get even a point is a bonus for Stoke. It’s sure to give them confidence going in to a game this weekend against Newscastle, who are yet to prove their Premier League worth.
The only downside to this weekend’s trip is that Geoff Cameron will miss out, but Stoke are yet to confirm the fate of Ryan Shawcross who would be a big miss for the Potters.
Manchester United welcome Everton and Wayne Rooney back to Old Trafford. Wayne Rooney is Manchester United’s all-time leading goal-scorer, and he’s bound to receive a giant ovation on his return. Whether he will score and celebrate is a different story.
Prediction: Stoke City 8th, Manchester United 1st/2nd