Prem Previews: Predictable, predictabler & Hull
Until Phil GartsideÃ¢ÂÂs dastardly plans come into fruition and the division is reduced to 18 teams, there is always going to be the need for a couple of midweek matchdays in the Premier League calendar.
Traditionally weÃ¢ÂÂre treated to one early doors, with pleasantly warm mid-August evenings being a great time to take in some top-flight action, and between Christmas and New Year depending on when the big guyÃ¢ÂÂs birthday falls (we mean Chris Kamara, not Jesus, obviously).
This year theyÃ¢ÂÂve plumped to shoe-horn one in the last week of October, happily (or not) the very week the weather here in dear old Blighty has turned more bitter than Sir Alex Ferguson soaked in a marinade of lemon juice and earwax.
One place thatÃ¢ÂÂs sure to have a heated atmosphere (geddit?) is the Emirates, where Arsenal welcome old friends Spurs with open arms. Spurs, of course, are basking in the rays of eternal hope, optimism and chirpy Cockney jollity that emanate from Harry RedknappÃ¢ÂÂs backside, and actually looked like they vaguely remembered how to play football against Bolton on Sunday, having spent the previous two months seemingly playing an advanced form of hide-and-seek.
"DUCK! Oops, sorry it was just William Gallas"
This miraculous upturn in the mood at White Hart Lane hasnÃ¢ÂÂt worried Cesc Fabregas, who claims Spurs would struggle to beat Arsenal Ladies. The fact the Ladygunners are probably a more physical side than CescÃ¢ÂÂs boys has perhaps passed the little chap by, bless him.
Arsene Wenger has also chimed in on the recent goings on at Spurs, oddly and somewhat pointlessly claiming that Tottenham wouldnÃ¢ÂÂt have sacked Jaunde Ramos had he been appointed in July, ignoring the fact Spurs only won five league games under the Spaniard in the 26 they played this calendar year and that, and hereÃ¢ÂÂs the important bit, itÃ¢ÂÂs none of his chuffing business.
YouÃ¢ÂÂd imagine all this slightly disrespectful shooting-off of mouths might motivate Harry RedknappÃ¢ÂÂs boys, but the fact is we all know how this one is going to pan out.
Spurs will take the lead, look like theyÃ¢ÂÂve turned a corner, create a few good chances but not take any more of them, let in a stupid goal (this is probably where Heurelho Gomes comes in) and then fall victim to a moment of magic from Robin van Persie or Emmanuel Adebayor and end up losing the game 2-1. FourFourTwo.com can guarantee this to a degree of certainty that puts ArgosÃ¢ÂÂs extended warranties to shame.
At least there's one team in N5 that wins trophies...
Despite that, Adams must have been more than a bit chuffed to have taken the wheel at the good ship Portsmouth Football Club, not least because his last sojourn into management with Wycombe ended as woefully as Weekend at BernieÃ¢ÂÂs, but also because he got the job ahead of men like Sam Allardyce, Alan Curbishley and Avram Grant, Pompey's former Director of Football (it was a passing fad, ask yer dad).
Nevertheless, it is the former Arsenal and England stalwart that takes the reins at Fratton Park, and what easier place to start than Anfield? Errm, well, Stamford Bridge on current form. Liverpool are flying and, as stated by FourFourTwo.com last week, finally look ready, willing and able to compete with the biggest of Premier League big guns at domestic level, not just in Europe.
By winning at Stamford Bridge theyÃ¢ÂÂve now set a marker for themselves, and surely the famously Eurocentric Rafa Benitez will be persuaded to divert his gaze from the European Cup to the Premier League trophy. Having continued to be resilient and solid at the back, the Reds have added the ability to find goals at the right time in league matches, a skill they have only really demonstrated in Europe over the past three or four seasons.
Despite looking like being without Fernando Torres and with Robbie Keane carrying a groin niggle (an odd turn of phrase, we grant you), itÃ¢ÂÂs hard to see anything other than a home win from this one. Pompey looked dazed and confused against Fulham on Sunday following RedknappÃ¢ÂÂs midnight exit and despite having now had more than a couple of hours to get their heads round whatÃ¢ÂÂs happened, we expect them to be overwhelmed again at Anfield.
Having previously seen off the Cockney quartet of Fulham, Arsenal, Spurs and West Ham to varying degrees of Ã¢ÂÂpluckÃ¢ÂÂ the Tigers are fast becoming everybodyÃ¢ÂÂs second favourite team, kind-of like the modern equivalent of Kevin KeeganÃ¢ÂÂs Newcastle (first time round, not the last time... or indeed the next time). Except they can defend. And their fans wear clothes.
The very same fans have, like the team they proudly follow, won many friends this season. In an age of coin-throwing, effing and jeffing, and all-out nastiness from the terraces, the Hull faithful have brought joy to many with their delightfully camp Ã¢ÂÂyouÃ¢ÂÂre getting mauled by the TigersÃ¢ÂÂ chant.
In truth, itÃ¢ÂÂs the accompanying hand gestures that bring a smile to the face of FourFourTwo.com Ã¢ÂÂ itÃ¢ÂÂs like something Dave Benson Phillips would teach four-year-olds to do on kids' TV back in the day.
Pedants note: Paul Heaton is a Blades fan
But having lovable, well-behaved fans alone doesnÃ¢ÂÂt get you very far. Does it, Scotland?
Hull's success has been based on hard work and sticking to a simple system, rather than chopping and changing every seven minutes and playing half the team out of position, like a certain unemployed Spaniard. Chelsea are reeling having finally lost their long-standing unbeaten home record and will crave no other tonic other than three points from their trip to East Yorkshire, but that will be easier said than done.
The Blues are the first Premier League 'megaclub' to travel to the KC this season, and despite waltzing to a comfortable 4-0 win in their last visit in the League Cup last season, we expect them to find the going a little tougher this time round.
Expect to see John Terry get his knickers in a twist when things don't go his way and things to end all square.
FourFourTwo.com Premier League Predictions:
Wednesday, 29 October 2008
Arsenal 2-1 Tottenham
Aston Villa 2-0 Blackburn
Bolton 1-1 Everton
Fulham 1-1 Wigan
Hull 1-1 Chelsea
Liverpool 2-0 Portsmouth
Man Utd 2-0 West Ham
Middlesbrough 1-1 Man City
Stoke 1-1 Sunderland