Prem Previews: Times are a changin' (just not for Bolton)

The bastardised political cliché is true: a week really is a long time in football. Last Friday, when FourFourTwo.com put its writing hat on and skilfully sculpted its Premier League Preview blog, the idea Liverpool could forge a serious title bid was, to many, pie-in-the-sky.

Nobody would ever win at Stamford Bridge, Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth were set to build on last year’s 8th place finish, Juande Ramos’s Spurs were wallowing in their own self pity at the foot of the Premier League table and Bolton were slipping towards impending doom. Seven days on, the football world is a wholly different place.

Liverpool are three points clear at the Premier League summit, having won at, wait for it, Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Portsmouth have taken a solitary point from two matches under manager Tony Adams. And Spurs look revitalised under Harry Redknapp, increasing their points tally by 200% in the first four days of his reign at the club, thanks in part to a win against Bolton, who are slipping towards impending doom.

So some things never change, it seems.

Dylan: Wrong about Bolton, it seems...

Nothing sums up the sea-change in mentality among the Tottenham squad than the performance of David Bentley on Wednesday night.

Having played on the left flank, through the middle, as a second striker and even at right-back under the previous manager, and looked frankly bobbins in the process, Bentley has been given the chance to prove what he can do in his favoured position by Harry Redknapp, and he’s repaid him with a goal and an assist in Redknapp’s first two games.

With potential title rivals Arsenal and Chelsea both having dropped points against Tottenham this term, a win at White Hart Lane for Liverpool on Saturday evening would be symbolic of their new-found steel.

Although Rafa Benitez will surely be wishing he was facing the Spurs team of seven days ago, rather than the almost unfathomably uplifted Redknapp equivalent. Saturday evening’s match will be a tough one for Liverpool, with Fernando Torres a major injury doubt with a hamstring injury.

One man who will start in the Reds' attack is former Spurs striker Robbie Keane, who moved to Anfield in a £20 million move this summer and can expect a mixed reception from Spurs fans on his first return to N17 since his shock departure.

The Irishman’s departure from White Hart Lane was overshadowed by the protracted Dimitar Berbatov saga, and while Keane probably won’t be subjected to the same bile as the Bulgarian can expect on his return in December, many Spurs fans still feel let down by his decision to leave, even though Liverpool are one of the 13 clubs he supported as a child.

Even without Torres, Liverpool are bound to be a tougher proposition for Spurs than Arsenal were on Wednesday night.

The Reds are as deadly going forward as the Gunners, but without the soft defensive underbelly. In short, Spurs won’t be able to get away with presenting Liverpool with the chances they gave Arsenal, because there’s no chance they’ll get four goals again on Sunday.

As it is, we expect this one to be a far cagier affair and Liverpool to nick it, just.

Aeroplane noise 

While Spurs appear to have finally turned a corner, one team who certainly haven’t are Bolton, who gifted Spurs their first win of the season last weekend.

In fact according to one Wanderers fan, Gary Megson’s side handed Spurs their first win “on a plate and all cut up into cute little chunks and flew it into Spurs' mouth making an aeroplane noise.”

Gary Megson’s decision to hold back Mustapha Riga and Ricardo Gardner until Sunday’s match was dead and gone left the travelling Trotters questioning his mindset.

Well, we say questioning, we mean incessantly calling him an Onanist. Obviously we wouldn’t dare suggest that Megson endulged in such activities, but his bewilderingly negative team selection and tactics against a Spurs team so low on confidence did leave us questioning his sanity.

Megson, who last week ingeniously claimed that “games are changed by goal scoring at one end or the other,” is now favourite with the bookies to be the next Premier League boss to go the way of Russell Brand (not in a sordid way, obviously) and fall on his sword – but God knows how with that kind of lateral thinking…

"One goal. That's all we need"

Wanderers' response to that defeat and blank scorecard was… errm… another defeat and blank scorecard against Everton on Wednesday night.

The Toffees hadn’t kept a clean sheet in a competitive match since March, but that didn’t stop Megson’s men from firing blanks again, before bouffanted Belgian Marouane Fellaini popped up to score a late winner.

If Bolton want to survive in the Premier League they’re going to need a plan B, a creative streak in the side, a maverick who can make the team tick.

For years they’ve been the less ‘talented’ side that worked hard, had a game plan and everyone hated playing against. Now they’ve become stale, predictable and look like being beaten at their own game.

Erratic form

Manchester City have really failed to find their feet this season. Despite a few high-scoring victories they still seem to lose as often as they win, but at least they're entertaining.

Word on the street is that some members of the City squad are unsettled by rumours of big-name megastars being brought in to replace them in January, which perhaps explains their erratic form.

In any case, it's hard to see Bolton either scoring or keeping a clean sheet in this one and, as Gary Megson will probably tell you, that might be a problem.

One team that finally do seem to be slowly getting their season on track are Everton.

Having taken eight points from their last eight matches, they followed a hard-fought point against Manchester United with that win at Bolton, and it’s not hard to imagine that this is directly related to David Moyes finally signing his new contract at Goodison, which is sure to have been a real fillip for his squad.

 "I know I'm on fire, but the oven glove is a bit much"

Andy (or Andrew as he somewhat pretentiously demands to be called) Johnson returns to Goodison, having finally broken his Fulham duck in midweek.

In doing so, Andy scored his 100th and 101st English league goals on Wednesday night, and celebrated by whipping off his Fulham jersey and revealing a T-shirt which read…”100 League.”

Not “100 league goals,” not “100 league penalties won by falling over in the box when someone breathed on me,” not even “100 leagues under the sea." Just "100 league." Presumably some kind of printing error, or maybe they ran out of the little letters in the Fulham club shop.

Anyway, Everton should contnue their resurgence with a win, but don't be surprised to see our Andy on the scoresheet... or on his arse in the box.

FourFourTwo.com Premier League predictions: Saturday, 1 November 2008Chelsea 2-0 SunderlandEverton 2-1 FulhamMan Utd 3-0 HullMiddlesbrough 2-1 West HamPortsmouth 2-0 WiganStoke 1-1 ArsenalTottenham 0-1 Liverpool (Live on Setanta Sports 1, 5:30pm)West Brom 1-1 Blackburn  Sunday, 2 November 2008Bolton 0-2 Man City Monday, 3 November 2008Newcastle 1-2 Aston Villa (Live on Setanta Sports 1, 8pm) Make your own predictions and win £120,000 with Footy15 Footy15/Prem10 pundit predictions: Alan HansenBolton v Man City - DRAWChelsea v Sunderland - HOME Everton v Fulham - HOMEMan Utd v Hull - HOMEMiddlesbrough v West Ham - DRAWPortsmouth v Wigan - DRAWStoke v Arsenal - AWAYTottenham v Liverpool - AWAY Newcastle v Aston Villa - AWAYWest Brom v Blackburn - DRAW John BarnesBolton v Man City - AWAYChelsea v Sunderland - HOMEEverton v Fulham - HOMEMan Utd v Hull - HOMEMiddlesbrough v West Ham - DRAWPortsmouth v Wigan - DRAWStoke v Arsenal - AWAYTottenham v Liverpool - AWAYNewcastle v Aston Villa - DRAWWest Brom v Blackburn - DRAW Tony CascarinoBolton v Man City - AWAYChelsea v Sunderland - HOMEEverton v Fulham - HOMEMan Utd v Hull - HOMEMiddlesbrough v West Ham - DRAWPortsmouth v Wigan - HOMEStoke v Arsenal - DRAWTottenham v Liverpool - DRAW Newcastle v Aston Villa - DRAWWest Brom v Blackburn - HOME Graham PollBolton v Man City - AWAYChelsea v Sunderland - HOMEEverton v Fulham - HOMEMan Utd v Hull - HOMEMiddlesbrough v West Ham - HOMEPortsmouth v Wigan - HOMEStoke v Arsenal - AWAYTottenham v Liverpool - AWAYNewcastle v Aston Villa - AWAYWest Brom v Blackburn - HOME

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