EPL

Premier League predictions: Arsenal to get back on track as strugglers aim to scrape wins

By Sports Desk April 21, 2023

Premier League leaders Arsenal will aim to get back on track when they host lowly Southampton on Friday.

The Gunners' lead at the top has been cut to just four points after successive 2-2 draws against Liverpool and West Ham, throwing away two-goal leads in each of those matches.

But with Manchester City in FA Cup action, Arsenal have a great chance to move seven points clear of Pep Guardiola's side ahead of next week's huge clash between the title rivals at the Etihad Stadium.

Leicester City, Everton and Leeds United will all be hoping Arsenal do the business, with Southampton's relegation rivals all in action on Saturday.

 

Arsenal v Southampton

Southampton are one of three sides Arsenal have failed to beat in the Premier League this season, along with Newcastle United and City, following their 1-1 draw at St Mary's Stadium in October. The last time Saints avoided defeat in both Premier League meetings with the Gunners was in the 2015-16 season.

This is the first Premier League meeting between Arsenal and Southampton on a Friday, with the Gunners defeating Southampton on each of the other six days of the week in the competition. They have never won a Premier League match against an opponent on all seven days of the week.

James Ward-Prowse has scored nine goals in all competitions for Southampton this season and could reach double figures for the second time in his career following his 11 last term. Six of his nine goals this season have come away from home, with four of those strikes coming in London.

Best bet – Arsenal to win: Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 27 home league games against Southampton (W19 D8) – in their league history, only against Fulham (current run of 30) have they had a longer unbeaten home run. They have never lost in 23 Premier League home games against Southampton (W16 D7), the most one side has hosted another without ever losing in the competition.

Long shot – Southampton to keep a clean sheet: The side bottom of the table has won just four of their 38 Premier League meetings with the league leaders (D6 L28), losing 14 of their 15 such games away from home (D1). Southampton kept a clean sheet in three of their first four under Ruben Selles but have kept none in their last five, while conceding 12 goals.

Opta prediction: The supercomputer has Arsenal winning this one, with their chances of victory rated at 67.3 per cent. The draw is at 20.7 per cent, while Southampton's hopes of a win are slim at 12 per cent.

Fulham v Leeds United

Given they have conceded 11 goals across their last two home games, Leeds will surely be thrilled to be back on the road. That being said, they have lost all five of their Premier League games in London this season, conceding 16 goals in the process. 

Fulham have already beaten Leeds twice this season, winning 3-2 in the league and 2-0 in the FA Cup. As a top-flight side, the Cottagers have beaten a team three times in one season on three previous occasions.

Leeds striker Patrick Bamford has been directly involved in six goals in his past four league starts against Fulham, scoring four and assisting two. He has both scored and assisted a goal in both of his Premier League starts against the Cottagers.

Best bet – Both teams to score: Leeds have conceded 16 goals in four Premier League games this month, letting in at least four goals in three of those matches. Fulham, meanwhile, have not kept a clean sheet since beating Leeds 2-0 in the FA Cup on February 28.

Long shot – Harry Wilson to score: In Fulham's 3-1 win against Everton last time out, Wilson scored his first league goal since March 2022, and first Premier League goal since January 2020 while at Bournemouth. He last scored in consecutive league games in September 2021, and last did so in the Premier League in August 2019.

Opta prediction: Only three teams have conceded more away goals than Leeds (30) in the Premier League this season, with no side keeping fewer clean sheets on the road than the Whites (one). Combined with their dismal record in London, it is no surprise to see Leeds have just a 28.5 per cent chance of success. Fulham are the favourites (42.8 per cent).

 

Crystal Palace v Everton

Palace have won just one of their past 16 Premier League games against Everton (D7 L8), though it did come in this fixture last season (3-1). The Toffees, though, won the reverse match 3-0 in October.

Dwight McNeil has scored two goals in his past five Premier League games, as many as he had in his previous 71 appearances. He is one of just two players to score more than once for Everton under Sean Dyche, along with Abdoulaye Doucoure.

Palace have won all three of their Premier League games since Roy Hodgson's return to the club, as many as they had in their previous 18 (D5 L10). They last won four in a row in June 2020, in Hodgson's previous stint at the club.

Best bet – Palace to have 10+ shots: Everton have allowed 50 shots across their last two matches, while Palace are averaging 19 shots, 2.2 xG and 6.3 shots on target per game under Hodgson, compared to 9.9 shots, 0.9 xG and 3.2 shots on target per game before his return.

Long shot – Everton to win and score over one goal: Having won two of their first three Premier League games under Dyche (L1), Everton have won just one of their subsequent eight (D3 L4). All three of their league wins under Dyche have been at home, by a 1-0 scoreline, with the Toffees currently winless in 11 Premier League away games (D4 L7).

Opta prediction: Everton are looking to complete their first league double over Palace since 2004-05, though the Eagles have won their last two home games against Everton in all competitions, as many as they had in their previous 15 (D6 L7). Hodgson's team are ranked as 40.6 per cent favourites, with the draw at 29.9 per cent, while the Toffees' likelihood of a win is 29.5 per cent.

 

Leicester City v Wolves

Dean Smith could hardly have had a tougher game to start his interim spell in charge of Leicester, who are 19th after losing 3-1 to Manchester City last week. The new Foxes boss will be hoping to rekindle the magic Brendan Rodgers managed at Molineux in October, when Leicester beat Wolves 4-0.

Wolves have never scored in five Premier League away games against Leicester – only Birmingham City have visited a side more without ever finding the net in the competition.

Leicester are the only side without a clean sheet since the resumption of the Premier League following the World Cup, having kept a shutout in five of their six matches before the break. It is their longest run of conceding a goal in consecutive league games since a run of 21 between April and December 1994, which included their first 18 Premier League matches.

Best bet – Leicester to avoid defeat: Wolves have won just one of their past 25 away league games against Leicester (D9 L15), failing to score in five of their past six visits (including the last four) since a 4-1 Championship win in May 2007.

Long shot – Jamie Vardy to score and Leicester to win: Vardy has scored three goals in his last four Premier League games against Wolves, with Leicester winning all three matches. His only league goal so far this season was in the Foxes' 4-0 win in the reverse fixture.

Opta prediction: Despite their place in the bottom three, Leicester are the favourites, at 47.3 per cent. Wolves have won their last two games to drag themselves out of trouble, but Opta give them just a 24.3 per cent chance of victory. The draw is rated at 28.4 per cent.

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    Day two of Euro 2024 picked up the excitement where it left off, with a historic round of games on Saturday.

    Switzerland joined Germany level on points at the top of Group A with an impressive 3-1 win over Hungary before Spain cruised to a 3-0 victory over Croatia in their Group B opener with three first-half goals.

    Italy's European Championships title defence got off to a perfect start as they bounced back from conceding the earliest goal in the tournament's history (23 seconds) by beating Albania 2-1.

    While the football continued to entertain, there was also plenty of action on social media. Here's a pick of some of the best posts.

    What might have been for Wimbledon

    AFC Wimbledon's official X account drew plenty of attention as the admin latched onto the hype over Jamal Musiala, following the Germany international's magical display against Scotland.

    Musiala grew up in England, and represented AFC Wimbledon, via the Corpus Christi Primary School, in the EFL Utilita Kids Cup.

    It's clear from the highlights of that match, in which Musiala scored a hat-trick and left defenders mesmerised - a bit like he did on Friday - that he was a special talent.

    Embolo back on the scene

    Breel Embolo endured an injury-hit campaign for Monaco, but he is back to fitness in time to feature for Switzerland, for whom he remains a crucial player.

    And after coming on as a second-half substitute, Embolo sealed the three points as the Swiss beat Hungary 3-1 in the first game of the day. 

    As the official Euro 2042 X account pointed out, Embolo has now netted in successive Euros tournaments for his nation.

    Birthday boy

    Pascal Gross is a newcomer to Germany's squad, and came on for his major tournament debut during Friday's 5-1 thrashing of Scotland.

    The Brighton midfielder then celebrated his 33rd birthday on Saturday, with Germany's official X account sharing the celebrations.

    That big win over Scotland, and his Euros bow, was surely a great way to welcome in his 34th year.

    UEFA turns 70

    Gross was not the only one celebrating a birthday on Saturday.

    Indeed, UEFA marked the 70th anniversary of its founding, which came on June 15, 1954.

    "It's a story of devotion, dedication and dreams..." shared the governing bodies' official X account.

    Barcelona show pride of record-breaking youngster

    Spain got off to the perfect start in the so-called 'group of death' with a rampant 3-0 win over Croatia on Saturday.

    But, when the team sheets came out before the game, all the headlines quickly turned to Lamine Yamal, who became the youngest-ever player to appear at the Euros at 16 years and 338 days.

    After an impressive performance by the youngster, Barcelona were quick to remind fans where he came from with a post on X: "He's very good... and he's ours."

    Van Dijk, Simons and De Ligt put to the test

    The Netherlands are yet to open their campaign in Euro 2024, but put aside their preparation to take some time to answer questions from young fans.

    Xavi Simons was quizzed on which defender scares him the most - fellow Dutchman Virgil van Dijk - while the captain and Matthijs de Ligt rated their chances of winning the tournament.

    Final preparations

    England open their campaign when they take on Serbia in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday, and on Saturday, Gareth Southgate's team ran through their MD-1 training session.

    All 26 players were involved in the session, with England allowing their fans to watch on live via a post on X.

    Only part of the session was broadcast, however, so any Serbia spies could not garner too much information about Southgate's tactics ahead of the Group C clash.

  • Euro 2024 data dive: Goals galore on historic day at European Championships Euro 2024 data dive: Goals galore on historic day at European Championships

    After Germany's 5-1 win over Scotland in the Euro 2024 opener, the goals continued to fly in on a busy day of action on Saturday.

    Records were broken as Spain beat Croatia 3-0 and reigning champions Italy came from behind to beat Albania 2-1.

    Switzerland also dispatched Hungary 3-1 in the other Group A meeting to ensure things are finely poised going into the second round of matches.

    The 16 goals scored through the opening four matches of Euro 2024 so far are the most netted at this point of a European Championships or World Cup since Euro '76 (19).

    Using Opta data, we take a look at some of the other standout statistics from Saturday's action in Germany.

    Hungary 1-3 Switzerland: Swiss start in style

    Switzerland have only lost one of their last 15 games across all competitions (W7 D7), a 1-0 defeat to Romania in November 2023, after opening their Group A campaign with a 3-1 victory over Hungary.

    It was a tale of two emphatic maiden performances for the Swiss as Kwadwo Duah and Michel Aebischer became only the third and fourth players to score on their European Championship debut for Switzerland.

    That first-half dominance saw both players score their first-ever senior international goal, too, in what was Duah's second appearance and Aebischer's 21st for Switzerland.

    Aebischer also teed up Duah's well-taken opener in Cologne as the full-back became the first Switzerland player ever to both score and assist a goal in the same match at the Euros.

    Barnabas Varga – who became the fifth Hungarian to score on his European Championship debut – pulled one back with his seventh goal in his last 10 international appearances, with assisted help from Hungary's ever-reliant Dominik Szoboszlai.

    Since the start of 2023, Liverpool midfielder Szoboszlai has had a hand in 10 goals across 15 international appearances (six goals, four assists), though the Hungary captain could not stop a familiar European fate for Marco Rossi's men.

    Breel Embolo's cool, late lob sealed victory to leave Hungary with just two wins from their 12 matches at the European Championships (D4 L6), a win rate of 17 per cent. Among nations with five-plus games at the finals, only Romania (six per cent) and Poland (14 per cent) have a lower success ratio.

    This win also marked a special moment for Ricardo Rodriguez, who appeared for a 22nd game at a major international tournament (Euros/World Cup) – the outright most of any player for the nation.

     

    Spain 3-0 Croatia: Young guns steal spotlight

    Spain got a statement win against Croatia in their Euro 2024 opener, beginning a European Championship tournament with a victory by 3+ goals for just the second time, after their 4-1 win against Russia on MD1 of Euro 2008.

    The spotlight was shining on Lamine Yamal, who became the youngest-ever player to feature at the Euros, capping his historic appearance for La Roja with an assist for Dani Carvajal, who became Spain's oldest-ever goalscorer in the competition at 32 years and 156 days, on the stroke of half-time.

    In Yamal (16y 338d) and Pedri (21y 203d), Spain are the first side to have at least two players aged 21 or under create at least three chances for a side in a game at the Euros since Germany against Czechia in June 2004 (Phillip Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski).

    Fifteen years Yamal's senior, Morata became Spain's outright second-highest goalscorer at major international tournaments with 10, and needs only three more to equal David Villa's record of 13.

    It was not the dominant performance people have come to expect from Spain though, as they had less possession than their opponents (47 per cent) for the first time in a competitive match since the Euro 2008 final, which they won against Germany (46 per cent), ending a run of 136 such matches where they had the majority of the ball.

    On the opposite side of the field, Luka Modric became the oldest player since Lothar Matthaus to appear in the European Championships at 38y 280d, but his experience could not prevent Croatia from suffering their joint-heaviest ever defeat at a major international tournament following 3-0 defeats to Portugal at Euro 1996 and Argentina at the 2022 World Cup.

    The Croatia captain also became just the third European player to appear in as many as nine separate editions of major international tournaments, after Matthaus (nine) and Cristiano Ronaldo (10, before Euro 2024).

    Italy 2-1 Albania: Azzurri nightmare soon turns into dream start

    As the reigning champions, Italy would have been fearing the worst after conceding the fastest goal in Euros history – Nedim Bajrami scored after just 23 seconds when Federico Dimarco gifted him a throw-in.

    However, Alessandro Bastoni's 11th-minute equaliser soon settled the nerves, with this the third-earliest time a game at the European Championships has seen both teams score, after Iceland v England in 2016 (sixth minute) and Russia v Spain in 1964 (eighth minute).

    The turnaround was complete with Nicolo Barella's 10th strike for the national side, and his goal-scoring touch proved golden once more – Italy have won all 10 games in which he has found the back of the net.

    Despite not getting on the scoresheet for the Azzurri, Federico Chiesa also impressed as he became the first player at the Euros to record at least three shots, three successful dribbles (four) and win possession in the final third at least three times since Denmark's Mikkel Damsgaard against Belgium in June 2021.

    Albania's goal came from their only shot on target in the match, though it means they have now scored in back-to-back games in the competition for the first time. Now, they need to find just their second-ever win at this tournament against Croatia on Wednesday.

    The Eagles will be glad to see the back of Italy having lost all five of their previous meetings with them in all competitions. However, only three teams have ever beaten them more times, with Spain, who they face in their final group game, topping that list (eight).

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    Luciano Spalletti warned Italy must show more intent to attack despite their 2-1 comeback victory over Albania in Saturday's Euro 2024 victory.

    Italy won their opening match at the European Championships for a third straight time (also in 2016 and 2020 editions), after doing so only twice in their first eight such appearances (D5 L1).

    The Azzurri needed a fightback performance, however, after falling behind Nedim Bajrami's thumping strike after 23 seconds for Albania against Italy, the fastest goal ever scored in Euros history.

    Alessandro Bastoni headed level soon after, though, before Nicolo Barella's 10th international goal proved the difference to send Italy level on points with Spain at the top of Group B.

    Yet Spalletti was far from impressed with parts of Italy's game despite the Azzurri becoming just the third side to score in 10 successive Euros outings, after England in 2012 (11) and Portugal in 2004 (10).

    "We saw many good things, but they need to actually take us somewhere, otherwise they are pointless," the Italy head coach told RAI Sport.

    "There was the possibility to hurt them several times and we didn't go for it.

    "We prepared the move well, then passed it backwards. We changed our minds too quickly."

    Barella was a doubt after missing both warm-up friendlies but returned with vengeance to guide his side to victory.

    Spalletti grew frustrated when asked if Italy are reliant on midfield maestro Barella, however.

    "A national team must be able to do without anyone, because there are 26 strong players," Spalletti responded to questioning over the Inter star's influence.

    "I don't like this idea that the team depends on an individual."

    Barella, meanwhile, was delighted with Italy's response to Albania's record-breaking opener.

    "It was a bit of a strange start, an opening goal after 23 seconds could really hurt the players psychologically," Barella told Sky Sport Italia.

    "However, we wanted this victory, we should've scored more goals and fell away a bit at the end, but we started on the right foot with this win."

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