SOCCER

English Premier League Returns With Battle Between Master And Apprentice

Jun 16, 2020, 10:59 AM | Updated: 11:06 am
In this composite image a comparison has been made between Pep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester Cit...
In this composite image a comparison has been made between Pep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City (L) and Mikel Arteta, Manager of Arsenal. Manchester City and Arsenal meet in a Premier League fixture on June 17,2020 at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester,England. ***LEFT IMAGE*** MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 26: Pep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City looks on prior to the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg match between Real Madrid and Manchester City at Bernabeu on February 26, 2020 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images) ***RIGHT IMAGE*** PIRAEUS, GREECE - FEBRUARY 20: Mikel Arteta, Manager of Arsenal looks on prior to the UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg match between Olympiacos FC and Arsenal FC at Karaiskakis Stadium on February 20, 2020 in Piraeus, Greece. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The long-awaited, but not long-overdue return of the English Premier League happens this coming Wednesday, June 17.

The two midweek matches played on NBCSN are between the four teams that hadn’t played the same amount of games as the rest of the league before the COVID-19 pandemic put a temporary halt on the season.

Aston Villa v. Sheffield United

The 10:00 a.m. MST kick-off between Aston Villa and Sheffield United is a huge game to begin proceedings. Villa is in a relegation dogfight, whilst United have had a phenomenal season on their return to the EPL.

United come into Villa Park in 7th position, and with a win will jump to 5th in the table just two points off Chelsea, who hold the last Champions League position. They’ve also picked up 11 points in their last six games. With the recent good news of contract extensions for captain Billy Sharp, vice-captain Oliver Norwood and forward David McGoldrick, there is a really positive vibe over at Brammall Lane.

Coming into Villa when they were on a run might’ve been a run of the mill result, but with being out of action for so long, and playing behind closed doors, it is likely to see form go out of the window somewhat.

The Villans are 19th, two points from safety. This game will be massive for them.

Captain fantastic Jack Grealish is going to have to put this team on his back, and with the rumors that Manchester United are after his services when the transfer window opens, could see the young English attacker move on regardless of Villa’s finishing position. He does, however, need a better supporting act.

Keeper Tom Heaton has ruled himself out for the rest of the season due to knee ligament injury. Brazilian forward Wesley, is also suffering from a lengthy injury. However, energetic central midfielder, John McGinn is back after a leg break injury he suffered in December 2019. That could be massive as the relegation zone is tight, and the bottom six are all in real danger. He not only provides bite in the center of the park, but he has the ability to break into the box and score on occasion (3 goals and 2 assists).

I think this matchup will be a tight affair, with the better soccer coming from the visitors. The hosts will try to be a little more direct as they sacrifice some of the technical talents for a better defensive performance as the scrap for every point available.

Prediction: 1-1, tie

Manchester City v. Arsenal

This is the 1:10 p.m. MST kick-off and one that holds massive repercussions. City is holding onto the hope, although it is a slim chance, that Liverpool’s form will drop off a cliff, allowing them a remote chance of retaining their title. Along with Champions League football potentially lacking at the Etihad Stadium because of alleged financial irregularities, City will be looking for any kind of silverware and a fairytale comeback.

This is a matchup between the master and the apprentice. Pep Guardiola has had a phenomenal career, and his right-hand man from 2016 until late December 2019 was, Mikel Arteta, the new Arsenal manager. It was always obvious that Arteta would one day be a manager, but the job at Arsenal is massive.

Yes, they have a great stream of youngsters at the club, that with the right guidance, will be fantastic for the club. It’s the experienced players to guide the club and the younger players towards challenging for titles that are hugely lacking. With COVID-19 we’re expecting a lot of clubs to spend a lot less than they were planning to make back in March.

Arsenal has a world-class goal scorer in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. He’s a hugely influential captain, however, the day after this match he’ll be turning 31, and there are rumors of grumblings coming out of Arsenal with how happy he is with sticking around for a massive rebuild and overhaul that might, in fact, take another year before it’s properly underway.

What I do expect is good soccer. Pep we know about, whilst I’ll never run out of things to say about him and his style, the focus will be on Arteta. How will his approach match with Pep, will he go toe to toe? Knowing his backline is questionable, has the work that’s been done in the mini restart pre-season been used for defensive shape and cohesion?

With a win, the Gunners could jump to 7th, but really they are a long shot for Champions League soccer. They could still make a run at the Europa League, but I’m almost of the opinion that it would be a hindrance. Do they give the young players the rest of the season to get more experience and responsibility, which could have a hugely positive effect for the long run? But then they would run the risk of the more experienced players asking their agents to find a way out. In my opinion, of all the EPL managers, Arteta has the biggest job.

Back to soccer though, I do think there will be some silky soccer on offer from both sides, I just think the master will show the apprentice just how big a job he’s taken on for his first job in management.

Prediction: 3-0, City

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English Premier League Returns With Battle Between Master And Apprentice