SOCCER

Critical Matches On Horizon In English Premier League

Apr 15, 2022, 3:33 PM
Harry Kane - Tottenham Hotspur...
Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur at Villa Park on April 09, 2022 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images)
(Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – Last Sunday we witnessed a thunderous occasion between Man City and Liverpool, as the top two teams in the Premier League duked it out at the Etihad Stadium.

With so much on the line you could’ve been forgiven for thinking this might be a cagey affair. What we got was 90-plus minutes with two of the best teams in the world tearing through each other.

City was outstanding in the first 45 minutes, and Liverpool, who rode their luck at times, improved dramatically in the second half. A point each doesn’t give us an indication who will be champions come May, but City are still favorites as they hold on to that one-point lead. This weekend they face off again in the FA Cup semifinals, with Chelsea and Crystal Palace playing in the semi.

With eight games to go, Burnley has gone with the decision to sack the longest tenured manager in the EPL. Sean Dyche was coming up on a decade in charge, and even though they languish at 18th, it is a desperate move to try and get a new manager bump that will get them over the line come the last game of the season.

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Brighton & Hove Albion F.C.

Saturday’s early kick at 5:30 a.m.MT is one of the games of this shorthanded weekend. You can tune into either USA or Universo to catch the game.

Spurs are absolutely flying. In their last four games, which they won in succession, they’ve conceded just two goals and kept two clean sheets. They’ve scored an incredible 14 goals!

Fourth place is well and truly in their hands. Antonio Conte has finally gained the full investment to his methods of this Tottenham team. It took a little while for them to get going but now they are playing some of the best soccer in the league.

Son and Kane are doing the business with regards to goals, and Harry Kane’s playmaking ability is once again being highlighted and his game has, in my opinion, gone up another level. An important addition though has been Juventus winger, Dejan Kulusevski. The Swedish international joined on loan initially, and his adaptation to the EPL has been stunning.

He arrived on an initial 18-month loan deal on the January deadline day and his three goals and six assists have been an excellent return. He does a lot of hard work on the right-hand side, not only showcasing pace and power, but maintains top-level stamina which in turn maintains a consistent high-skills level throughout 90 minutes.

Add Rodrigo Bentancur into the center of the midfield alongside Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and they now have a true engine room that is able to protect the back three and expertly move the ball forward to the front three. Spurs are still a couple of players short to be title challengers moving forward, but the balance is right, and the manager, along with being top tier, have the ability to win silverware for the long-suffering fans at Tottenham Hotspur stadium.

Brighton has come through a real sticky patch. A draw against Norwich, followed up with a win against Arsenal ended a run of six straight defeats. When Dan Burn left in January to go to his local team, Newcastle, I didn’t think too much of it. A solid defender, no doubt. His departure kickstarted a general downward spiral (not all to do with him) which we haven’t seen under Graham Potter before.

Brighton is usually a tough nut to crack and move the ball extremely well. The same old problem occurs though, they just don’t score enough goals. They’ve conceded 37 goals this season, the same amount as Spurs, and only four other teams have conceded less. But the Seagulls have only scored 28, only Burnley and Norwich have scored less.

Neal Maupay leads the way with eight goals, but it’s Leandro Trossard that I believe Brighton needs more from. The attacking midfielder has five goals and one assist. And whilst he’s on target to beat his goals’ tally from last season (also five) his creativity and assists have taken a knock. I still feel the Belgian international is the key to all of Brighton’s attractive movement, and whilst they’re comfortably mid-table, they’ll be looking to spark their attack into life the rest of the way.

Prediction:

I actually think this will be an attractive match up. Brighton comes into Tottenham having damaged Arsenal’s top four chances and they’d like nothing more than to do the same to Spurs.

Spurs on the other hand are in machine mode, they are steamrolling teams, and this is something I’m expecting more of. I think it’ll be close, but Tottenham get another three points to stay in control of their Champions League fate.

Southampton vs. Arsenal

This is quite a similar match up to the other game previewed. The 8:00 a.m. MT kickoff can be viewed on Peacock, live from St Mary’s. Saints are likely safe, and some of their soccer has been excellent this season. Under the guidance of Ralph Hasenhüttl, they have produced some good players that have not only stepped up to first team football in the Premier League, but also internationally, for their respective nations.

Saints are, like Brighton, on the cusp of something impressive. There just needs to be a little more money spent and both teams would be mid to top half playing attractive soccer and developing players. Southampton on their day is extremely fun to watch. They can be tough and physical. Making the most of attacking deadball scenarios.

But they also have some finesse about them, moving the ball all over and attacking quickly. Hasenhüttl likes his players to be comfortable on the ball, brave with it at their feet. He wants to entertain punters in the stands or those watching on TV. He is perfect for Southampton (and probably a handful of other teams).

Arsenal is having a little wobble in their pursuit of a top-four finish. It’s no surprise that the downward spiral went hand in hand with when Kieran Tierney went down for the season a couple of weeks ago. Of course, you don’t usually think a left back would have such an impact on the team, but the high energy Scotsman is a fine player and leader.

A fiery character that makes everyone around him better, he has high standards and barks at those around him if he feels like those standards are slipping. Arteta has his Arsenal team moving the ball quickly and smoothly through the talents of Martin Ødegaard, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, and Gabriel Martinelli, who are the future of the club. It’s an abundance of young talent.

The maturity, bravery, and end product are what they’ll rely on once again. If Arsenal add a top-level holding midfielder and a very good central forward, this Arsenal team will go up another level, being able to compete within the Champions League. In turn, this would also give them a stronger position to hold onto the crown jewels of the aforementioned players. Whereas things stand currently, they face the risk of these players being cherry picked by the strongest teams in Europe.

Prediction:

I’m not sure what is going to happen with Arsenal the rest of the way, and I suspect they’ll have some yoyo results. Top four might be a reach, even though a win in their game in hand over Tottenham would put them level on points with their bitter rivals.

Southampton is trying to navigate through a sticky patch of results and they’ll be a tough opponent for the Gunners. There will be some flashes of good attacking play from both teams, with the home side looking to keep their shape and spring counter attacks. They’ll certainly be looking to bounce back from last week’s thumping against Chelsea. It might just end up being even Stephens when 90 minutes are up.

That’ll do it for this week, we’ll be back early next week as we have a thumping midweek round of EPL action to look forward to.

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Critical Matches On Horizon In English Premier League