With The New Year Comes Intriguing English Premier League Matches

Dec 31, 2019, 2:33 PM | Updated: 3:35 pm
Jorginho of Chelsea is closed down by Alexandre Lacazette of Arsenal during the Premier League matc...
Jorginho of Chelsea is closed down by Alexandre Lacazette of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Chelsea FC at Emirates Stadium on December 29, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Round 20 was an up and down affair, some teams turned on the style, and some slogged through as they completed two games in 48 hours; and as we just about catch our breath, round 21 kicks off on New Year’s Day.

After these midweek fixtures, the players will have some time away from league action as the oldest cup competition (FA Cup) reaches its third round.

West Ham United finally lost patience with Manuel Pellegrini and fired him after another disappointing loss at home to a much-changed Leicester. David Moyes was announced as the Chilean’s replacement shortly after.

Moyes is returning almost 18 months after the Hammers let him go. As far as happiness with the appointment of the Scotsman and the lack of imagination from the West Ham board, I suspect if Moyes doesn’t hit the ground running that we could hear discontent from the stands once again.

Liverpool were given all they could handle against a very good Wolverhampton Wanderers side but maintained their unbeaten record with a 1-0 win. They sit top by 13 points and still have a game in hand.

All January 1 and 2 matches will be shown on NBCSN and NBCSN Gold.

Brighton and Hove Albions v. Chelsea

The first game of 2020 that intrigues me, two teams that play attractive football when they’re on form. Both teams are fluid in the multiple formations they employ. Brighton sit in 14th, and under manager Graham Potter (replaced Chris Hughton in the offseason) they’ve gone to a different level in seasons past, tactically.

They’ve always been in relegation scraps but this season they’re much more resolute, also their brand of soccer is much easier on the eye. They are proving that you don’t have to be big spenders to put together a team that plays attractive soccer and still get results.

Potter came with a reputation as a proper tactical coach and in his first season at the top level in England, he’s impressing. Forward Neal Maupay has seven goals and has adapted very well from the Championship level with Brentford, a small and speedy forward, he constantly buzzes around and plays off the shoulder of whoever is marking him. Aaron Mooy got his first EPL goal for the club after his summer move from relegated Huddersfield, along with midfield partner Pascal Gross, they provide the engine to propel the attacks.

Chelsea’s form has been a little up and down recently. Wins away to Arsenal and Spurs, but losses at home to Southampton and Bournemouth. They’re still fourth in the EPL but they certainly have Man Utd and Spurs breathing down their necks.

Tammy Abraham scored a late winner against Arsenal at the weekend, making his twelfth EPL goal for the season. The young attacking talent is certainly pulling their weight.

On their day, the Blues are one of the most fluid sides in transition, but manager Frank Lampard will be puzzled about dropping points against teams at the bottom end of the table. Somehow, he must get a better understanding of how to open teams that sit deep defensively, and I believe they’ll go to the transfer market to remedy those woes.

This should be two teams that will look to move the ball through midfield. I think Chelsea will manage to get over the line though.

Prediction: 2-0, Chelsea

Manchester City v. Everton

Pep Guardiola v. Carlo Ancelotti. How about that for a manager match up? Two of the most highly decorated managers going toe to toe in the EPL. Manchester City bounced back from a disappointing 3-2 loss away to Wolves, to then beat Sheffield United 2-0 at home.

Whilst Everton’s amazing coup of talking Ancelotti in to taking over at Goodison Park has resulted in two wins on the bounce. Yes, these teams aren’t evenly matched talent-wise, and I do expect Everton to spend money, but since Marco Silva was relieved of his duties a few weeks back, these Everton players have proved they are talented and should be much higher than they currently are (read into that what you will).

Dominic Calvert-Lewin has proved over these last few games to be a handful, and maybe interim manager Duncan Ferguson helped the light go on for him to realize his potential. The return of five goals in his last five EPL games shows he’s on the right path. He’ll be looking forward to going up against a soft City backline.

City are fighting to chase down Leicester and then Liverpool. With Kevin De Bruyne (KDB) they have a chance as he can open any defense. He was on the score sheet as was Sergio Aguero against Sheff Utd. With Aguero, KDB earned his 12th assist and after the assist, he added his seventh goal of the season. De Bruyne is one of the form players in the league.

If City are to make a charge for the title then he is vital, providing ammunition for Jesus, Aguero, Sterling and Bernardo Silva. This team is awesome.

Everton are robust and will look to battle City, disrupt the tempo and flow. If they can do that then they might have an opportunity to cause an upset, but City are at home, still in the race for the title and I think they’ll turn on the style and overwhelm the Toffee’s.

Prediction: 3-1, Man City

Arsenal v. Manchester United

This matchup is the one I’m most looking forward to – both EPL royalty. Under Arsène Wenger and Alex Ferguson they fought out some epic title battles.

The two teams are now a shell of those previous years. Mikel Arteta, a wonderful Arsenal player in his day is now the manager. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was in the same boat. A natural goal scorer that had some massive glory years at Old Trafford.

United are in decent form with 13 points in the last six games with just one loss coming away to Watford. They have been ruthless against Newcastle and Burnley. The front line that includes Rashford, Martial, James and Greenwood is certainly doing the business. A young and fast quartet that is really starting to raise eyebrows. Question marks are still there for the backline and goalkeeper, and results will continue to yoyo at little, but sitting in fifth position they are still in position to hunt down Champions League football.

Arsenal have shown signs that there is life in the players and that Arteta could energize them, there are still massive issues across the backline, and they are still getting themselves into a mess unnecessarily.

It’s not just about coaching, it’s to the point where there needs to be some very smart recruitment and upgrades that must come in.

One thing that will give Gunners fans hope is that Mesut Ozil has come out from the cold in recent weeks, it’s not always been pretty, but there are signs that he is starting to pull strings in the #10 role. I’ve said this before, but if Arteta can channel Ozil’s talent then the likes of Aubamyeng and Lacazette are only going to benefit. They have the attack to be a top-four team, of that there is no doubt. They have a backline that is relegation fodder. It’s that bad and a massive reason they find themselves in 12th position, 11 points off the Champions League places.

I’m expecting a real gun-blazing performance from the teams though, both desperate to roll back the years and show that there is life in the old dogs yet.

Prediction: 2-2, Tie


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With The New Year Comes Intriguing English Premier League Matches