When Arsenal beat Rapid Vienna in midweek Europa League action it was significant for more than the football result itself.
Despite slipping to 14th on the English Premier League table after 10 matches, the Gunners bounced back from their defeat against Wolves last week with a solid performance in front of 2 000 home fans.
There, that’s it. Home fans.
December brought a new set of regional Covid-19 lockdown restrictions to England, but in London, with lesser restrictions, some 2 000 fans are able to return to football stadiums. This is not the case up north in Manchester, for instance. But, it is something I want to highlight as the next round of EPL fixtures take place.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta praised the 2 000 fans inside the Emirates on Thursday night as providing an atmosphere for his players. It helped them lift their performance level and emphasised the difference that home fans make for their team. Bear this new development in mind when looking at the set of fixtures going forward – I have a feeling that you won’t see as many “upset” away results in an unpredictable season that we’ve seen so far.
Arsenal themselves travel to Tottenham for a traditional frenzied north London derby. Now, there will be some 2 000 Spurs fans this weekend and that could be the difference between them winning and drawing or losing.
The 1-0s haven’t dried up yet and are still the most popular result scoreline as seen by the below trend.
1-0: 21 times
2-1: 12 times
2-0: 11 times
1-1: 10 times
3-0: 9 times
3-1: 6 times
Now, for this week’s matches and my predictions. I hope they help you – even if you go completely the opposite way as one Twitterite said last week in response to my blog: “You’ll get 3/10 and Arsenal and Leicester will both lose”.
Well, I got 4/10 but Arsenal and Leicester did both indeed lose – to Wolves and Fulham in a 32-1 double! I’m glad that I was of help!
Aston Villa vs Newcastle: Postponed
Burnley 1 Everton 2: Still no fans here so the quality of Everton should shine through. Burnley are one from bottom and have the worst goal difference (-13). Only four teams have scored more than Everton’s 19 goals this season, so I’m expecting them to find the net here as well.
Man City 3 Fulham 0: The visitors have hit some form, winning 2 of their last 4 to climb out of the relegation zone. They beat high-flying Leicester last week in an upset. Their problem? City played their best game of the season in a 5-0 win over Burnley. But, they haven’t won two in a row all season either!
West Ham 1 Man United 1: The visitors are favourites here but they played midweek in Europe – losing to PSG – and 2 000 home fans will be allowed into the stadium here. I think the home fans can make a big difference for the Hammers and expect them to pick up at least a point.
Chelsea 3 Leeds 1: This has the hallmark of that 4-3 that we saw at Anfield earlier in the season. Leeds will come to attack and they’re playing an attractive brand of football. So are Chelsea. I expect both sides to score, but the hosts might just have too much all round. Should be great for the neutral.
West Brom 1 Crystal Palace 1: The hosts picked up the points in a basement battle last week against Sheffield United, while Palace haven’t scored in 3 of their last 4. Wilfried Zaha is back for the visitors and while I’m going for the draw, I’m tempted to go with Palace.
Sheffield United 0 Leicester 2: The visitors don’t do draws … with 6 wins and 4 defeats from their opening 10 games, while Sheffield United are the only winless team in the EPL. They wil get their wins and climb off the bottom, but unlikely to be this weekend.
Tottenham 2 Arsenal 1: The introduction of 2000 home fans could be the difference in this traditional derby. Spurs had limited ambition against Chelsea last week but will fancy their chances of winning here against a Gunners side struggling for consistency and confidence.
Liverpool 2 Wolves 1: Despite Jurgen Klopp’s complaints about unfair scheduling, his team remain joint top. They’re up against a Wolves team that will miss Raul Jiminez, who was badly injured last week, while Diogo Jota might well add salt into raw wounds for his old club as pulls on the Liverpool jersey.
Brighton 1 Southampton 1: The away side are flying, with 17 points from 10 games. They somehow let a 2-0 halftime lead against Man United slip last week and actually lost 3-2. They will be stung by that and there will be a reaction. Brighton meanwhile continue to play well but are struggling to convert chances into goals. This match could go either way.