Arsenal v West Ham
Smiles turn to sneers at the Emirates
All is well at in the Arsenal world this off-season. Wembley was conquered for the second straight year and the FA Cup resides in the trophy cabinet once more, Jack Wilshere has returned and is slamming in worldies for England, and a gamble is developing momentum on Arsene Wenger leading his team to a fourth Premier League title – they are [5.5] third favourites behind Chelsea and Man City.
And, yet, it doesn’t take much to shatter this picture of contented bliss.
It’s 11 years since the Frenchman last led his team to a league title and recent years have been studded with the faithful booing their long-time leader and calling for a new man to lead the Gunners.
So, while the smiles are broad now, a shock result in the curtain raiser against Slaven Bilic’s men could get ’em grumpy again. JD[embedded content]
Bournemouth v Aston Villa
Claret and Blue invasion of the beach as Villa faithful desert Dean Court
After a summer of nonsense quotes and missed transfer targets at the hands of Tim Sherwood, Aston Villa fans will still be getting used to the sinking reality of three years with the man that looks like your Mum’s first boyfriend after her divorce from your Dad at the helm. As a result of this, the temptation to get away from it all will become too much and, rather than witness their team, probably without striker Christian Benteke, collapse to a 1-0 defeat thanks to an Ashley Westwood own goal, they’ll decide to head down to the beach and play the penny slots.
However, they’ll soon realise that shoving pennies into a hole and watching them disappear into a big, senseless machine never to be seen again is far too close to comfort after supporting Villa in the Premier League for so long and they’ll eventually get back on the train up to the Midlands without even checking the result. Meanwhile, Sherwood will praise his side for ‘dominating the game’ and bemoan the ‘losing mentality’ that he has by that point had six months to sort out but failed to do so. LM[embedded content]
Man Utd v Spurs
Harry Kane and Hugo Lloris will play at Old Trafford on the opening day – but for who?
Yet another away trip to start the season for Tottenham – their last home opener was in 2010 – and it’s a tough one, taking on a Manchester United side who finished the last campaign in great style. There will no doubt be plenty of ins and outs at both clubs over the summer with speculation mounting that star men Harry Kane and Hugo Lloris could be swapping north London for Manchester. Our traders make it a 7/4 chance for the England striker to join United before September 2, with the same price on the France captain to make the move. We wouldn’t put it past Daniel Levy doing the deals during the game to save on travel costs. DT[embedded content]
Newcastle v Southampton
Double Dutch as St James’ Park as McClaren bamboozles Koeman
Shteeve McClaren gets a home game to start his reign as Newcastle boss, which would normally be a plus but, given relations between the board and the fans at the moment, who knows what the atmosphere will be like. He will be comforted then to know that a fellow Dutch connoisseur will be sitting in the opposing dugout. Whether Ronald Koeman is fluent in McClaren’s interesting take on Dutch-lish is another matter entirely of course. (no apologies for reposting the video by the way – it’s never not funny) DT[embedded content]
Stoke v Liverpool
Brendan Rodgers will praise the ‘character’ of his team after a draw against Stoke. Fans go mad.
Picture the scene – Liverpool head to Stoke in a repeat of the humiliating last day of last season and Twitter will be absolutely packed full of tweets from Liverpool fans about how this could well be their year, 25 years of hurt is going to be over, and all that good stuff.
Danny Ings puts them in front with a well-taken goal beautifully crafted by Lazar Markovic’s tricky wing-play. Things could not be better for the Liverpool faithful – the sun is shining, the liver birds are singing…I mean, they’re in the city of Stoke, but apart from that, life is pretty sweet.
And then Jonathan Walters pops up with ten minutes to go to equalise with a deflected effort from 18 yards out. In the 89th minute substitute Peter Crouch scores to hand Stoke a 2-1 lead. The first murmuring of discontent strikes up from the away end. Someone tentatively whispers ‘Rodgers Out’ and a cacophony of noise swells up from the belly of the stand – ‘Rodgers Out! Rodgers Out! Rodgers Out! Rodgers Out!’
Fans are seething, tearing up programmes and burning Liverpool shirts, which light up the late afternoon gloom (this is happening in Stoke, remember) with their fiery glow. Then Jordan Henderson pops up with an equaliser in injury time and everyone celebrates a bit. The game finishes 2-2.
In the post-match interview Brendan Rodgers praises the ‘character of the group’ and makes the point that Liverpool are unlikely to play a better team than Stoke this season. LM