It is, to be honest, a terribly miserable day outside as I write this. It is raining consistently and the sky is a light grey that can’t even be given the virtue of looking angry and threatening. There is a link to be made between a dull and depressing day and this weekend’s round of Premier League fixtures, but it would be best to just get on with making my final round of predictions in this trial ‘Put your money where your hindsight is’ series – a title which is something of a misnomer as I never put any money anywhere to begin with.
If you’re reading this, you’ll probably have read the previous posts, the first of which is here. I make predictions and give them a rating of 1-5 based on how confident I am about them, and then after the games have been played I rate how I did. I have not done wholly well thus far. If the weather is anything to go by, life’s pathetic fallacy, then I am probably unlikely to do well this week too.
Here are the confidence rating grades that I’ll be using:
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.
Prediction 1: Sturridge plays a more central role against Tottenham than he did against Burnley
Confidence rating: 2
This is a bit of second guessing Klopp here. Sturridge complained about being played out wide against Burnley, understandably saying that he prefers playing down the middle (and, unlike Theo “I’m a striker boss” Walcott, has the history to back it up). Sturridge playing as a left-hand side wide-forward didn’t really work last weekend, though the blame for this may well lie as much with Sturridge as it does his manager.
The striker didn’t look like he knew how to play in his role. Klopp’s desired system (as he mentioned in his response to Sturridge’s comments) is more like a rolling mass of advanced midfielders-cum-forwards than it is a defined formation, and Wijnaldum, Firmino, Coutinho, for example, seem to look like they understand it. Sturridge looked out of place for most of the match, coming too deep and looking lost. Of course, you could also say the blame lies with Klopp for not training Sturridge up well enough for this role and/or playing him in a role he isn’t comfortable with.
What Klopp says about players in the press doesn’t always tally with what happens on the pitch. After the full-back’s iffy display against Arsenal, Klopp supported Moreno publicly, saying that he was only doing what was asked of him. And yet Moreno didn’t play against Burnley or in the unusually strong line-up which faced Burton in the EFL Cup.
To my knowledge, Klopp didn’t say that Sturridge would continue to play out wide, but instead just defended his choice, but it may not be surprising to see a change for Sturridge. The likelihood of the striker playing as a striker may be increased by the strength of Tottenham’s defence, which may increase the necessity of a more conventional spearhead (or just for players to play where they are comfortable). Of course, Klopp may just decide he’s sick of Sturridge alternating between being injured or moaning and stick him out wide again.
Prediction 2: Manchester United scrape past Hull and there’s an awful lot of fretting about the wheels coming off the Mourinho bus (not, surprisingly, an intentional reference to it being parked).
Confidence rating: 2
Manchester United, although having won 3-1 and 2-0, have not quite been as convincing as their two results so far have suggested. While they created 1.9 Expected goals against Bournemouth (per Michael Caley’s map), a large chunk of this came from Simon Francis’ backpass-bad bounce double backfire, and the team only created 0.7 xG against Southampton (at home). The Zlatan header and gift of a penalty from Jordy Clasie also masked some vulnerabilities on the defensive side for United, looking a little unsteady when facing counters (although Southampton never produced many actual good chances).
Hull, meanwhile, looked genuinely good and well organised defensively in their win against Leicester, and won again against Swansea. Fill-in manager Magic Mike Phelan (now there’s an image for you) also knows United, having been assistant manager to Sir Alex Ferguson for the five years before the Scot’s retirement. He may not be an expert of Mourinho’s system, but he will certainly have a lot of useful knowledge about a good number of the players. I don’t expect them to win, but I do think that there is a strong possibility that Hull could give United a hard time.
Yeah, that’s all folks. Tune in on Monday to see how I did.