Prindi’s Premier League Picks: Southampton and Arsenal to stumble

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In case you didn’t notice, this weekend’s Premier League fixture list is positively bonkers.

The excitement kicks-off first thing Saturday with Newcastle v. Chelsea and continues straight through to the final match of the day when Liverpool try to dethrone Arsenal.

On Sunday, Everton and Tottenham serve as a tasty appetizer for the much-anticipated South Wales derby between Cardiff City and Swansea City.

So strap on in, it’s going to be a wild one.

Here’s how I have it all shaking out.

UPSET SPECIALS

Hull City v. Sunderland (Sat 11:00am ET on Live Extra; KC Stadium)

How on earth Jozy Altidore has gone eight matches without scoring is beyond comprehension. He’s working hard, come agonizingly close to scoring on numerous occasions and is linking up well with his teammates.

It’s cliché to say it but the man has simply been unlucky.

But this weekend, the fluke ends. I’m calling it now, Jozy breaks his duck before the halftime whistle blows and Sunderland march on to steal all three points from the rugby field that is the KC Stadium.

Write it down. Take it to the bank. Cash it.

Sunderland 1 Hull City 0

source:
Sam Allardyce, shortly after being told the cupboard is empty.

West Ham United v. Aston Villa (Sat 11:00am ET on Live Extra; Upton Park)

When asked for the team news on Thursday morning, West Ham manager Sam Allardyce responded: “[We have] quite a big problem in terms of numbers. We’re very short of first team squad players available for Saturday so it’s about getting on with the job and using the players we’ve got available.”

Translation: ‘Well, we’re basically screwed but maybe the scrubs can put something together.

Way to motivate the troops, Big Sam.

To be fair, it has to be difficult to shout instructions with a  mouth full of peanut butter.

West Ham 1 Aston Villa 2

Stoke City v. Southampton (Sat 11:00am ET on Live Extra; Britannia Stadium)

Southampton have shown they can knock-off top teams (Liverpool), equalize when losing to Champions (Manchester United) and wipe the floor with bottom dwellers (Crystal Palace, Fulham). But can they go into the depths of mortar and snatch three points from the frothing jaws of a Stoke City side with their back to the relegation wall?

Make no mistake about it, there will be blood. And in the end I think the Potters prevail and the Saints come crashing back to earth. You heard you.

Stoke City 1 Southampton 0

Arsenal v. Liverpool (Sat 1:30pm ET on NBC; Emirates Stadium)

Ultimately, this one feels like a 1-1 draw. But calling for a draw here is about as safe and boring as ordering the pad thai while on holiday in Bangkok. Philippe Coutinho is in, Mathieu Flamini is out and for me, that’s the difference maker in this one. For a full match report, click here.

Arsenal 1 Liverpool 2 

CAPTAIN OBVIOUS

Manchester City v. Norwich City (Sat 11:00am ET on Live Extra; Etihad Stadium)

After getting ‘Nando’d by Chelsea last weekend it’s safe to say that Manchester City is poised to dole out one of those quintessential bounce-back punishments they’re so well known for. Sadly, those sweet, loveable Canaries find themselves in the firing line.

Manchester City 5 Norwich City 0

West Bromwich Albion v. Crystal Palace (Sat 11:00am ET on Live Extra; The Hawthorns)

When it comes to Crystal Palace playing on the road, things are relatively straightforward – they’re going to lose. This is the sad reality of a club promoted to the Premier League one to two years before they were ripe to compete in the top flight.

West Brom 3 Crystal Palace 1

source:
Chicharito bagged a midweek brace against Norwich City, might we see the him Saturday?

Fulham v. Manchester United (Sat 11:00am ET on NBCSN; Craven Cottage)

Has anyone else grown tired of Manchester United?

I have. No offense Red Devils fans, but I need a break. Or a morphine drip. Something to take away the pain that is the current state of the red side of Manchester.

I used to love watching United play but these days the only action coming out of Old Trafford is that whiny, suck-the-fun-out-of-life drama that a drunk ex-lover heaps on you at four in the morning when all you want to do is sleep. Admit it, you’ve been there.

But as much as I want to say Fulham can get a point in this one, I’m merely jaded, not delusional.

Fulham 0 Manchester United 3

SQUEAKY BUM TIME

Newcastle United v. Chelsea (Sat 8:45am ET on NBCSN; St James’ Park)

Admit it, you were impressed with Chelsea’s victory over Manchester City last week, weren’t you?

Me too. But let’s not get carried away, this Blues squad is still miles away from consistent football and reaching their full potential. It’s their consistency that will be tested early Saturday and don’t be surprised if Jose Mourinho’s men find themselves behind early.

Ultimately I think they figure it out but not without some tense moments before doing so.

Newcastle 2 Chelsea 3

Everton v. Tottenham Hotspur (Sun 8:30am ET on NBCSN; Goodison Park)

Keep it moving. Nothing to see here, folks. Just the dark-horse match of the week hiding its pretty little head behind headline grabbers Arsenal/Liverpool and Cardiff/Swansea.

When these two sides met last year it was a battle royale at Goodison Park with Clint Dempsey’s second-half opener being cancelled out by injury time strikes by Steven Pienaar and Nikica Jelavic. Having sat in the Gwladys Street end for that match, I can tell you it was positively bananas. Expect the madness to be reborn this year, with the same result.

Everton 2 Tottenham 1

Cardiff City v. Swansea City (Sun 11:00am ET on NBCSN; Cardiff City Stadium)

As you’ve probably heard, this will be the 55th league derby between Cardiff and Swansea but the first one played in the English top-flight and the first ever English top-flight fixture between non-English clubs.

And, as you’ve also probably heard, the last football fan on earth who you ever want to mess with is a drunk Welshman.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Cardiff City 1 Swansea City 2

Managerial change a slippery slope for West Brom

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Tony Pulis brought much needed stability to West Bromwich Albion before his tenure soured in a hurry.

When Pulis took over at the Hawthorns, West Brom had seen both Pepe Mel and Alan Irvine do little winning in abbreviated managerial stints. Mel won three of 17 matches in charge, while Irvine could only nab five in 22.

[ MORE: Pulis sacked ]

So there is little debating, even for those who West Brom fans who revel in the club’s former free-flowing ways, that Pulis had a productive time in charge from January 2015 right on through most of last season.

But Pulis was seemingly limited to setting a points total and then kicking his heels up once Premier League safety was reached.

While that sounds a bit laughable, the facts are that the Baggies finished 10th last season despite an impressive start that saw the club comfortably eighth for much of the season. However, West Brom won five points from its final 12 matches to finish 16 points behind a European place (including five shutout losses at home).

The Baggies finished 14th the previous season, Pulis’ first full year in charge, but collapsed again after hitting the rarefied air of 11th. That final stretch? Five losses and four draws including shutout losses at home to Norwich City, Watford, and West Ham.

In doing so, Pulis belied his own budgetary critiques by proving the Baggies had the talent to compete for something relatively special.

Pulis was good at getting his side to play with the fury of a relegation contender from Day One, but it was so clear the side was sated once safety was secure. It wouldn’t be callous to opine that the manager would’ve viewed the Europa League as a nuisance to his “never been relegated” reputation (an idea buttressed by West Brom’s performances in Cup competitions, where Pulis never advanced to a quarterfinal while losing to Reading, Norwich City, Derby County, Northampton Town, and, this season, Man City).

What West Brom does next will say a lot. If it’s as simple as a rehashing of the “never been relegated” deck with Sam Allardyce, well, that’s something. But the Baggies are in the tricky predicament of having to replace a relatively stable hand who was their first good hire in three tries, while also running with the knowledge that their players clearly are capable of so much better than 17th.

The names on the bettor’s lists show what’s expected of West Brom: gritty style from an island manager. Derek McInnes is the favorite, with Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill just ahead of Sam Allardyce. Alan Pardew is next, followed by Ronald Koeman (For what it’s worth, bookies are still milking money from gamblers by including Jurgen Klinsmann’s name at 20:1 or so).

West Brom is in its eighth-straight Premier League campaign. The firing will jostle an already rocking ship, but the Baggies have steady leadership in Jonny Evans, Ben Foster, Chris Brunt, Gareth Barry, Gareth McAuley, and Craig Dawson. They have the wherewithal to achieve safety again, and can even look good in the process should a manager find the right way to use Salomon Rondon, Matty Phillips, Jay Rodriguez, Nacer Chadli, and others.

Who’s the right man for the job?

West Brom fires manager Tony Pulis

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Tony Pulis‘ reign over the Hawthorns is over, as West Bromwich Albion has fired the 59-year-old after just under three years in charge of the Premier League outfit.

Assistant coach Gary Megson takes over on an interim basis.

[ MLS: Steve Bruce to Miami? ]

The Baggies have not won a game since August, and were belted 4-0 at home by Chelsea on Saturday to leave the club one point above the drop zone.

Overall, Pulis oversaw wins in just 36 of his 121 matches, losing 49, in what will go down as one of the least successful stints in his well-traveled career. Only three PL clubs have scored less than the Baggies’ nine goals.

Here’s the club statement:

“These decisions are never taken lightly but always in the interests of the Club.

“We are in a results business and over the back end of last season and this season to date, ours have been very disappointing.

“We would like to place on record our appreciation of Tony’s contribution and hard work during a period of transition for the Club which included a change of ownership. We wish him well in his future endeavours.”

Pulis will almost certainly be back on the touch line soon, as he hasn’t spent more than a few months out of work since 2002.

Pressure builds on Borussia Dortmund manager Peter Bosz

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Borussia Dortmund has fallen to fifth in the Bundesliga table thanks to a trio of consecutive losses in league play, and suddenly there is loads of pressure on manager Peter Bosz.

The Dutchman came to Westfalenstadion after upper management pushed Thomas Tuchel out over the summer, and while he won seven of his first eight league matches in charge by a total goal differential of 21-2, things have come crashing down. The black & yellow have lost three in a row Bundesliga matches and four of their last five across all competitions, with their only win in that span coming over third-tier Magdenburg.

With fans feeling helpless over the departure of the wildly successful Tuchel that came as a result of a falling out between the German and his superiors, Bosz would always be on a short leash. He inherited a flawed squad, yet one that had achieved much under his predecessor, and immediate failures would naturally be lumped on the new man.

The most recent defeat, a 2-1 falter at Stuttgart, was a microcosm of Dortmund’s recent failures. The team conceded a comically poor goal five minutes into the match, worked hard to equalize just before the halftime break, and conceded again just after returning to the pitch. They controlled much of the match, but largely failed to capitalize.

The head man summed it up pretty well. “The defeat really hurts,” Bosz proclaimed after the final whistle. “We came here to win, so we’re very disappointed. When you see the goals we conceded, it borders on the ridiculous. It hurts because we actually put in a relatively good performance in the first half. The team performed well after conceding the early goal, only the final ball was lacking. The second half wasn’t as good. We need to keep going, we won’t give up.”

So what do the Dortmund executives do? Does Bosz get the benefit of the doubt based on performances? Or does he get blamed for the sudden dropoff in results? There is plenty of pressure given the team sits not only nine points back of Borussia Dortmund in league play, but is also third in a brutal Champions League group with almost no hope of recovery, and even threatens to miss out on a drop to Europa League play if they slip behind Cypriot club Apoel Nicosia, whom they find themselves level on points with.

Even if the club sticks with the Dutchman for now, his room for error has almost completely evaporated and it’s only mid-November. The next two matches will likely tell the tale, and it’s an uphill battle. Tottenham comes to Westfalenstadion on the backs of a disappointing defeat to North London foes Arsenal, followed by the home end of the Rivierderby against a Schalke side that sits second in the Bundesliga table, three points above Bosz and Dortmund.

Antonio Conte calls Tony Pulis a “really good manager”

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West Brom, after four straight defeats, sits 17th in the Premier League table, most recently suffering a 4-0 dismantling at the hands of Chelsea.

Yet Blues boss Antonio Conte has offered his counterpart an olive branch, supporting his fellow Premier League manager at a time of panic.

With reports that Pulis could be fired this coming week – some say as early as Monday – the Baggies boss is under heaps of pressure, but Conte doesn’t believe he should be. “I must be honest, I think Tony Pulis is a really good manager,” Conte said, hoping those in charge don’t make decisions based on Sunday’s result.

“He has great experience and it’s always very difficult to play against his team. This game became easy because we started very strong, with great concentration and desire to win. We showed from the start our will to win this game. But I repeat: Last season we struggled a lot against them.”

West Brom has lost four in a row in league play, and they haven’t picked up a win since August, and as The Guardian points out, they have the lowest average possession in the Premier League and have the second-lowest shots on target thus far. They registered just two shots on target against Chelsea, and held 39% possession, which is actually slightly above their average for the season.