The Premier League (as well as a bunch of others) start this week, but it’s week 2 of my weekly ruthless predictions. Last week’s predictions and results are there for you to read, but for those who don’t wish to, here’s a summary.
I make predictions and give a confidence score:
1 – Guess. This is a hunch that I have. If I’m giving a 1 for a prediction though it probably means that it’s either very speculative but based on what I feel like is a good gut feeling, or it’s a filler.
2 – Hunch. A hunch I have based on a little more knowledge than a 1. Unlikely to just be a filler prediction, but may still be a little speculative.
3 – Waver. This means I’m wavering about whether I’m confident or not, I’m probably about 50/50 on whether I think it’ll happen.
4 – Confident. Quietly confident. Anything could happen, of course, but I certainly think this is more likely than not to happen.
5 – Bet. Not *dead* certain, nothing’s really a dead cert, but as close to one as I would be willing to say. I’m not a better, but I’d bet on this.
After the weekend’s games are done, I’ll look at how I did – being right is important, but being honest about when I’m not is essential. So then, let’s get started.
Prediction 1: Chelsea will dominate central midfield against West Ham but will be vulnerable on the counter.
Confidence rating: 4
With Kanté, Chelsea are likely to play a 4-5-1, with two of Matic/Fabregas/Oscar alongside him. West Ham struggled a bit centrally against Juventus in pre-season in attack and defence (despite playing a relatively strong midfield and facing quite a back-up Juventus side).
They did look to attack quickly though, and will do so even more with Payet back in the side, and Chelsea for their part looked vulnerable on the counter in their later pre-season friendlies. Conte may get them tightened up before the season-proper starts, but his side struggled to find a balance between committing to attack and being prepared to defend if they lost the ball.
They seemed to experiment with the height of their centre-backs too – a high line helps keep the team compact, but Terry in particular isn’t quick. Given that West Ham are unlikely to trouble Chelsea much by dropping into the hole between defence and midfield, I imagine Conte will plump for a lower line, which should help deal with counters.
Prediction 2: Play the inverted full-back drinking game – it’ll get you hammered by next week (actually, it may take a few weeks)
Confidence rating: 3
I’m downgrading the confidence rating on this one because I’ll be judging it short-term. It’s a dead cert that at some point in the season Robbie Savage will be on Match of the Day pointing out an inverted full-back, sounding like it’s a high-level physics concept and two weeks after everyone else started talking about them.
It’s one of the parts of Pep’s system that will probably be the easiest to see though (after playing anyone and everyone at centre-back), so it’s likely that it will be picked up by tweeters, bloggers, and columnists fairly early. The possibility of ‘inverted full-backs’ being talked about just when full-backs are slightly narrow seems fairly likely at some point, which should spur the drinking game along nicely. Maybe take two shots each time the term is used incorrectly, if you’re feeling brave.
Prediction 3: Koeman’s Everton – Play from the back and protecting the midfield band is key.
Confidence rating: 4
In pre-season, Koeman’s side showed decent aptitude in passing out of presses, particularly against Real Betis – this certainly won’t be a radical difference in that front from Martinez (not that it will have been expected to be). Decent movement from midfielders is key in helping the centre-backs find options when building from the back, and there were some signs of this, though whether this was Koeman work I can’t tell as I haven’t watched enough of Everton pre- and post- his appointment.
Pre-season games showed Everton very keen on preventing passes into or through the midfield line, generally just through their positioning to mark men in the line or cover ones behind it. If necessary, they might press more vigorously a midfielder who’d dropped deep, and on occasion they pressed the full-backs to force them to pass back to the centre-halves. Whether they will continue their pattern of allowing opposition centre-backs to have the ball against Tottenham will remain to be seen, however, considering Vertonghen and Alderweireld’s ability on the ball.
Given that I made a prediction about Chelsea, who play on Monday, the results will be up on Tuesday, so join me then to see how I do.