Dave Tindall picks out the weekend’s talking points and best bets, with Theo Walcott backed to continue his fine form and a look at Crystal Palace’s very own Alan Partridge.
Never Gunner Give You Up
In some ways, Theo Walcott embodies the Arsenal team he plays for. Hot streaks and purple patches mixed in with hugely disappointing dips. At times last season he was embarrassingly poor; now he looks like that exciting young talent who once banged in a hat-trick for England.
After what proved a wasted opening strike against Liverpool on the first day of the season, the 27-year-old has fired in four goals in his last three outings, games Arsenal have won by a combined 9-1. He has the chance to improve that run when the Gunners travel to Burnley on Sunday afternoon. The naysayers will note that Walcott scored seven in nine for club and country across September and October last season but then managed just five in his next 32. So, with age still on his side, are we seeing Walcott in his prime? Or is it another one of those false dawns which usually end with an injury?
Who Blinks First?
The only two unbeaten teams in the Premier League – Tottenham and Manchester City – clash at White Hart Lane on Sunday. It’s a fixture that Spurs fans used to dread, with City twice thrashing them 5-1 in London and also dishing out a 6-0 hammering at the Etihad in 2013. But Spurs have turned the tables in recent times and did the double over the Citizens last year, cruising to a 4-1 win in this fixture before nicking a 2-1 win in Manchester back in February.
Harry Kane scored in both games but Mauricio Pochettino will have to do without his injured striker this time. City’s 100% start to the season finally ended in a pulsating 3-3 draw at Celtic in midweek and, with Kevin de Bruyne absent, they too will be weakened. So, with star men missing on both sides, do we see one of two unbeaten records go?
Back Of The Net
At times, the Crystal Palace boss has seemed more Alan Partridge than Alan Pardew, dad dancing in the FA Cup final and not really understanding the Geordie… people. Pardew must have considered driving to Dundee in his bare feet after watching his team take just 11 points from 21 Premier League games, but now? A-ha!
— Dream Team (@dreamteamfc) May 21, 2016
Palace have taken 10 from their last four. Lovely stuff. On Friday night, Palace travel to Merseyside where, instead of trying to dismantle Jurgen Klopp’s gegenpress or listening to his favourite Beatles album (‘The Best of the Beatles’), he’ll be attempting to put one over their rivals Everton.
With Pardew marshalling the defence from the touchline – “Dann, Dann… Dann… Dann…….. Dann”, he’ll hope to keep the Toffees out whilst watching Christian Benteke knock one in (“eat my goal”, “he must have a foot like a traction engine”) at the other end. So will it be another Palace win or a trip back to London stopping at Rejection. Disappointment, Backstabbing Central and Shattered Dreams Parkway?
Sinking Feel for Swans Boss
It may sound a bit morbid after just six games in but already there is a boss trading at odds-on in the Premier League’s First Manager To Leave Post market. The man in the crosshairs is Swansea’s Francesco Guidolin and, unfortunately for him, his side are at home to Liverpool on Saturday.
That would be a Reds side who have scored 24 goals in eight competitive games this season – their highest tally to this point since 1895-6! Oh dear. Even the Italian manager himself admits that defeat might mean it could be arrivederci and it’s hardly convincing to hear him say: “If we play against Liverpool the same way as we did against Man City, then we can get a result.” That would be the 3-1 defeat he’s referring to. Or did he mean the League Cup game a few days earlier, a game they lost as well? Swansea’s American owners are flying in to watch the game and it seems likely that they may have a few things on the ‘to do’ list when the full-time whistle blows.
Moody Mourinho or Just Jose?
After three straight defeats, Manchester United have bounced back with three straight wins. And it appears they have an obvious chance to extend that sequence to four when welcoming struggling Stoke to Old Trafford on Sunday. So, is the heat off Jose Mourinho or do some doubts remain? Nothing ever quite seems simple with the Portuguese boss and there was more to discuss during and after United’s less than sparkling 1-0 win over Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk on Thursday night.
“Maddened Mourinho rages at backroom staff” ran one headline after he was seen to blast coach Giovanni Cerra for giving the wrong instructions to Paul Pogba and later he kept using the phrase “poisoned gift” in relation to the upcoming fixture schedule and again to describe Stoke’s apparently false league position. Is this just Jose being Jose? Or is the United boss just not enjoying himself the way he used to when first coming to English football. Anything but a win over Stoke and his mood could darken further.
Theo Walcott is in a hot run of goalscoring form and looks good for another when in-form Arsenal travel to Burnley. Back him at 7/4 to find the net.
Spurs v Man City looks a cracker and it’s a fixture that traditionally throws up lots of goals. I can’t split the pair so try 1-1 and 2-2 scorelines.
It looks grim for Swansea boss Francesco Guidolin and a game with Liverpool is the wrong team at the wrong time. Attacking teams win lots of penalties so have a punt on James Milner at 5/1 to score anytime for the Reds. He’s already slotted home three this season and fate appears to be showing Guidolin the door.
Back Theo Walcott to score anytime v Burnley at 7/4 (General)
Back 1-1 draw in Spurs v Man City at 13/2 (William Hill, Bet Victor) and 2-2 at 12/1 (Bet Victor)
Back James Milner to score anytime v Swansea at 5/1 (Coral)
Everything is set for another exciting weekend of Premier League football, so be sure to check out our betting preview for Betsafe.