Paul Merson’s predictions for Aston Villa vs Arsenal and other Premier League GW16 fixtures
With games coming thick and fast in the Premier League, the league table is finally beginning to take shape. Arsenal lead the way and are closely followed by Liverpool, while Manchester City are six points behind the Gunners and are currently on a winless run of four league games.
I can’t believe how badly they got battered by Aston Villa earlier this week. The scoreline says 1-0, but Unai Emery’s side absolutely dominated that game and I’ve never seen a Man City team in such a state for god knows how long. Pep Guardiola can have all the talent in the world, but Rodri is absolutely irreplaceable. He’s like the diesel or the petrol in the car - you can have the best cars in the world, but it won’t function unless there’s fuel!
On that note, here are my predictions for the upcoming Premier League weekend.
Crystal Palace vs Liverpool
Crystal Palace played an open game against West Ham United, but they are currently a bit depleted as the likes of Eberechi Eze and Odsonne Edouard are injured. They’ll make it hard for Liverpool, but this is a good time for the Reds to play against Palace, so I fancy them to secure an easy 2-0 win.
Liverpool have the luxury of rotating their forwards, but there’s absolutely no chance Mohamed Salah gets benched. He was withdrawn prematurely in their 2-0 win against Sheffield United, but I think he’ll be fit and raring to go on Saturday. Salah pretty much plays every game, but Klopp can afford to rotate his other forwards - they have four players for the remaining two positions and they are all around the same level. It’s a nice problem to have and it usually boils down to getting it right on the day.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 0-2 Liverpool
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Nottingham Forest
I like Wolves, they are a proper mid-table team and have done really well for themselves this season under Gary O’Neil. They got a good 1-0 win against Burnley and I expect them to have too much in their locker for Nottingham Forest, so I’m going for a 1-0 Wolves win.
I like Steve Cooper a lot and he’s done a fantastic job, but I fear the owners and the chairman would expect Forest to be higher up in the table, so they might look to sack him. This is a big game for him, but I can’t see them getting all three points
Prediction: Wolves 1-0 Nottingham Forest
Brighton & Hove Albion vs Burnley
Burnley won their big 'cup final' against Sheffield United last weekend, but I can’t see them building on it and Brighton may be too good for them. It’s been an interesting season for Roberto De Zerbi’s side as they have also had to contest in the UEFA Europa League, so it remains to be seen if they can secure a place in European football next season.
Aston Villa are a big threat for a spot in Europe and the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea are in the mix as well, so only time will tell if Brighton can build on what they achieved last season.
Prediction: Brighton 3-0 Burnley
Sheffield United vs Brentford
Sheffield United gave a good account of themselves against Liverpool despite falling to a 2-0 defeat against Liverpool. The game was always going to be a bit of a free hit, but Chris Wilder managed to get the fans back on his side as his side played well, particularly in the first half. They had a few decent chances to go ahead but failed to take them as the Reds punished them through goals from Virgil van Dijk and Dominik Szoboszlai.
They simply have to win this one, but I still think Brentford will secure a narrow win.
Prediction: Sheffield United 0-1 Brentford
Manchester United vs Bournemouth
Manchester United have set the bar now and are coming on the back of a morale-boosting 2-1 win against Chelsea at Old Trafford. Erik ten Hag left out Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial for the game and said it was due to rotation, but I can’t see them getting back into the team. In fact, I’d be really surprised if they made any changes to their team for this one, as against Chelsea, they collectively closed their opponents down and gave a good account of themselves.
Sofyan Amrabat had his best game in a Manchester United shirt against Chelsea and Scott McTominay emerged as the match-winner with his exploits in front of goal, but Alejandro Garnacho was the one who caused Chelsea problems all night. He was very direct and should be a threat once again against Bournemouth.
It’s absolutely extraordinary that Manchester United are just three points behind Man City. I haven’t seen Man City draw three and lose one in a sequence of four Premier League games - this just goes to show anything can happen! If Manchester United can win this, they’ll be on a bit of a high and might even secure themselves a place in the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League by beating Bayern Munich.
Of course, they need Copenhagen and Galatasaray to share the spoils, but that’s very much possible considering the quality of the two sides.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-1 Bournemouth
Aston Villa vs Arsenal
Aston Villa absolutely dominated Manchester City and came away with a deserved 1-0 win in midweek. I haven’t seen a team do that to Man City in god knows how long, so it was a huge statement of intent from Unai Emery and Co.
If Aston Villa win here, they are in the title race. I just have to say it. They put in a lot of hard work against Man City yesterday, but I still fancy Arsenal in this one. If Arsenal can beat the Villa press with Declan Rice and Martin Odegaard in the center of the park, I don’t think the full-backs will be able to handle the likes of Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli.
As for Kai Havertz, I said so many times that he’s a top player and would be a good signing for Arsenal. I’m not sure if he’ll start against Villa, but I think they could use a player like him as he’d play a key role in beating their press.
Prediction: Aston Villa 1-2 Arsenal
Luton Town vs Manchester City
Luton were amazing against Arsenal and scored three goals, but a late goal from Declan Rice buoyed the Gunners onto a crucial win. That said, if they beat Manchester City, I think it’ll go down as the biggest shock in Premier League history and that’s no disrespect to Luton.
Rodri is a huge miss. A handful of other players like Manuel Akanji and Rico Lewis have played in that position, but the Spanish midfielder is just different class. Manchester City are winless in four Premier League games, but I think they’ll win this one quite comfortably to put themselves back in contention for the title.
Prediction: Luton Town 1-4 Manchester City
Fulham vs West Ham United
This is a bit of a hard one to call because the result could depend on the outcome of the clash between West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur. All of a sudden, Fulham have become a goal machine - who would have thought? Two months ago, they couldn’t score to save their lives, but they are on a bit of a mad one at the moment.
They were very unlucky against Liverpool, but I think they’ve turned a corner and should get a win at Craven Cottage.
Prediction: Fulham 2-0 West Ham United
Everton vs Chelsea
Everton are a much better team away from home, but I think they will beat Chelsea this time around. Mauricio Pochettino’s side are missing something, I can’t quite point my finger at it. They did well against Man City but were absolutely blown away by Newcastle, particularly in the second half.
Manchester United also got the better of them, so it’s not been an easy few weeks for Chelsea. I’ve never seen a team with such high-quality players give the ball away as much as Chelsea did against Manchester United, so things aren’t going well for them at the moment.
I’d be shocked if Chelsea won this game. Everton are creating enough chances, but they haven’t put many of them away. However, I think they’ll do enough to secure a comfortable win this weekend.
Prediction: Everton 3-1 Chelsea
Tottenham Hotspur vs Newcastle United
Much like the previous game, this is a hard one to call as it depends on what happens between West Ham and Tottenham. That said, I just have a feeling Ange Postecoglou’s side will nick this one.
Newcastle have been outstanding so far, but most of their players are playing out of their skins, so I think things will catch up with them sooner or later. The Magpies have a UEFA Champions League clash against AC Milan coming up too, so they’ll have one eye on that game as they are still in with a chance of making it through to the knockout stages.
They don’t have their destiny in their own hands, so they’ll have to secure a win against the Serie A giants and hope Borussia Dortmund do them a favor against Paris Saint-Germain, so it’ll be an interesting one to keep an eye out for.
Spurs are on a bit of a bad run, but something tells me they’ll show up and record a narrow 2-1 win.
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Newcastle United