Charlie Nicholas returns with his Premier League predictions for the full round of fixtures this coming weekend.
The majority would look at this and see the opportunity that lies ahead for Brighton. Norwich did well in spells at Arsenal but were on the wrong end of a hammering. They have sucked the life out of their forwards.
Daniel Farke’s job is safe. Farke got them to the Premier League. They were a high-scoring, free-flowing team, and he has kept his faith with that. If he had real ambitions of staying in the Premier League, they needed to sort out the defence.
When you come up, you look at the teams who have got things right. Wolves, now in their second season, and up near the Champions League places. The same can be said about Sheffield United in their first season. Yes, they are attack-minded in nature but they have needed to be solid at the back. You can get away with it in the Sky Bet Championship but you will not get away with it in the Premier League.
Norwich’s defenders were good Championship defenders, but when you make one or two mistakes at this level, you are buried. That drains the life out of Teemu Pukki, but how long can you depend on him?
The same can be said about Todd Cantwell and Emiliano Buendia. They have gone from getting loads of touches to having hardly any. That is the reality of top-level football. You have to defend more and have less touches going forward.
I still feel there is fight in this Norwich team. They are pretty much down but if they do win, they give themselves a slight glimmer of hope.
The real pressure is on Brighton, who have created a little gap to the drop but are still vulnerable. It will be a tense and tight affair, but both sides will come away with a point.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 1-1 (5/1 with Sky Bet)
You have to scratch your head with Leicester. Some teams have come back poorly, some teams have come back positively, and some teams have been inconsistent. What has happened with Leicester?
If anybody out of the top four could have benefited from the break, it would have been Leicester – they were lagging, struggling for goals, and could not get James Maddison on the ball. Are they in jeopardy of sliding out of the top four? I think they are.
Brendan Rodgers would not have allowed them to soften their attitude, but all of a sudden they do not have goals in there. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is now level with Jamie Vardy, and you can see the frustration within those Leicester players. Maddison played well when he came on last time out but they are not getting the ball in the areas that matter.
Teams are squeezing them and having a pop at them. Rodgers will question why they are panicking. Chelsea have caught up, while Wolves and Manchester United are catching up too. Leicester go to Arsenal next week, and Crystal Palace are the masters of turning a result around and bouncing back from defeats.
I have been fairly impressed with Palace. I like Wilfried Zaha and his skills, but he does not lift his head up to use team-mates. He does not see the bigger picture. Palace will sit in and condense the space, and ask Leicester to play with width. This is going to be another frustrating game for Leicester.
Leicester vs C Palace
July 4, 2020, 2:30pm
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 1-1 (6/1 with Sky Bet)
Super 6: Foxes greedy for points?
Leicester are sitting third, dangerously only three points above Manchester United and Wolves. Seventy-two per cent of players are backing a win for Rodgers’ side, with 21 per cent expecting a draw. Where will you play your cards, with £250k on the line? Play for free.
I predicted a Bournemouth win against Newcastle and they got absolutely hammered. I am a fan of Josh King – he has good attributes but is a player low in confidence. Dominic Solanke played alongside him. I forgot he was there. He works hard but is so short in confidence too.
That was the last thing Bournemouth needed when they were in the position they are. Will Nathan Ake be off to a bigger club? He is a great footballer but not a great defender. I saw the vulnerabilities against Newcastle, but he is their best defender. Bournemouth can make life easy for you.
This is a comfortable home win. Bournemouth are gifting chances to the teams around them. Eddie Howe does not have a Plan B, but they do not really suit any other way of playing. I think it is going to be plain-sailing for Manchester United, and another bad day for Bournemouth’s goal-difference.
The key ingredient is Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes finding passes, whether they play into feet or in behind. It gives you variety and options. Mason Greenwood adds another dimension. It is breathtaking seeing the options they are now getting.
They are still not as solid at the back, though. Has David De Gea improved? No. The full-backs aren’t great defenders, and you can also get space in behind Nemanja Matic and Pogba. You can get at them but it’s working for United at the moment, and Pogba has an attitude that says he wants to be back in the team. He is ticking over nicely.
United have the momentum, and that momentum will make them believe they can make the top four. It is looking like they will at the moment, even though they are still a way short of Manchester City and Liverpool.
I applaud what Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has done and they look to be in a good position. Let’s see if they can finish it off. Have they got great choices on the bench? Not as much as they did have, but their fixtures have been good and I expect their form to continue here.
Super 6: Hero To Zero?
Despite Manchester United’s form since the restart, only 0.4 per cent of players are backing a Bournemouth win in Saturday’s Super 6 round, with 45 per cent hoping for a 3-0 Manchester United victory, the same as Charlie. Play for free, entries by 3pm.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 3-0 (11/2 with Sky Bet)
This is a big game. I am stubborn enough at the best of times with Arsenal, but I have tipped Wolves to make the top four. My normal instinct is to go against the grain.
Arsenal have strong individuals but Wolves are better collectively. I hope Aubameyang is there next year but if the right money comes he will be off. I questioned him to liven up, get your goals, and I don’t even care if you play well, but go and get yourself the Golden Boot. He is the fastest Arsenal player to score 50 goals. Can we afford to lose him? No, but at least we cannot lose him until the season ends.
Wolves have got everything going. They have balance in defence, their wing-backs are exciting, their midfielders are slick and silky, and they have an abundance of pace, movement and finishing up front.
Wolves are a better team than Arsenal, and Arsenal will still probably want to open up. Mikel Arteta will not want to change too much, and he will not try to stifle them. He may play Dani Ceballos closer to the front three as he is not great defensively, but the adjustments may suit Wolves.
The wing-backs will be a big problem for Arsenal. Arteta could swap to a back three which would suit Kieran Tierney, but way this game looks, I would have to go against Arsenal, which I do not like doing. I think Wolves will win it.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 2-1 (17/2 with Sky Bet)
Wolves vs Arsenal
July 4, 2020, 5:15pm
It is so typical of Chelsea, the way they did not take advantage of Leicester’s defeat to Everton. It was a strong Chelsea team which should have got the job done. Olivier Giroud looked unhappy to be on the bench. He has come back from the break looking sharp. Giroud has been loyal and good for the team. He is a top professional, so I do not see it as a sulk. He just looked disappointed.
Frank Lampard will reflect and ask himself what he was missing. It was a luxurious bench, but he knows his team are not taking advantage of situations that come their way. He said they had to be ready to take those opportunities. They did not play badly but defended really badly.
I do not know what is going on with Watford. Where is the fight? I look at Nigel Pearson and would not like to be getting a telling-off from him! He is not getting that extra 10 per cent. Why did he get it in his first game and not now? What is missing?
Watford are unpredictable, but they are missing the point as a team and some balance. They lack technical ability and pace but have the steel and midfield runners. What has happened to these players since the break? Can they rely on them? So far, the answer has been no. It will be more pain and suffering for them here, and Chelsea will get back to winning ways. It is a must-win for Lampard’s side.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 2-1 (15/2 with Sky Bet)
Chelsea vs Watford
July 4, 2020, 7:45pm
This has become a much more interesting game now. Sheffield United looked much better against Tottenham. They got lucky with the disallowed equaliser but the win was thoroughly deserved.
Their energy levels were good and the goals were well-worked. I did say they were the second-most impressive team before the break. They put early crosses into the box, they go back to front well and they do not always get the credit, as they graft, too. They got their mojo back against Tottenham and it was an impressive display.
Burnley are another team who could be in with a chance of Europe. They are sitting in 10th and two points off their opponents. How did they get there? They looked as if they were on their knees.
Sean Dyche’s side had no Ashley Barnes or Chris Wood, but you do not talk much about their midfield. Dwight McNeil is a talent on the left. These two are honest as the day is long and I cannot separate them. They will have fire in their bellies. It will be a fight with lots of yellow cards, but it will be a draw.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 1-1 (9/2 with Sky Bet)
Burnley vs Sheff Utd
July 5, 2020, 11:30am
Things are starting to turn again with West Ham. They showed tremendous character and their response to the VAR howler was great. They scored goals. Mark Noble has often been at the centre of this but he was not on the pitch.
Tomas Soucek has done well since he has come into the fold but Andriy Yarmolenko has the pace and movement that causes problems. West Ham have missed him. Michail Antonio is their best option up front though – he has pace, power, great enthusiasm, and people who can support from midfield too. All of a sudden things are changing.
Newcastle are playing with freedom and a smile on their faces – they are looking dangerous too. Until things calm down, they could and should offer Steve Bruce another contract. Andy Carroll could start against his former club. Joelinton continues to struggle despite getting his goal the other week, while Jonjo Shelvey played well and Miguel Almiron contributed off the bench too.
A bit of fight in West Ham might cause Newcastle problems though, as it did against Chelsea. West Ham may have started to believe that they are not a bad side once they get going. They just need to get better defensively, but their grit and determination will get them over the line in this one.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 1-2 (10/1 with Sky Bet)
Newcastle vs West Ham
July 5, 2020, 2:00pm
I am sorry, Aston Villa, but this seems to be the worst thing that could have happened to them with Liverpool getting thumped at City. Lots of people predicted what would happen. It was not their attitude, but had they been celebrating a bit too much?!
I did not think they were that bad. Mohamed Salah hit the post and they made chances. Everything the full-backs tried they could not execute, and sadly it was against the one team who can make you look foolish. Welcome to being champions!
Jurgen Klopp’s side will be angry, upset, and will have a point to prove. Do Villa park the bus? Do they sit in? Do they get Jack Grealish on the ball? What have they got up front or in the wide areas?
That would be the thoughtful plan, to counter-attack and get some midfield runners alongside the attackers once more. John McGinn is still trying to get fit and find his feet since returning to action. Dean Smith will go to a back five, flood the midfield and put Grealish close to the frontman. They will feed off scraps, but Liverpool will win comfortably.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 3-0 (17/2 with Sky Bet)
Liverpool vs A Villa
July 5, 2020, 4:15pm
Southampton were so impressive when they returned. Since then they have dipped a little bit but they have not played badly. Manchester City have become refreshed and written off the title, but it has made no difference to their attitude; just look at the Liverpool game.
Pep Guardiola was giving instructions in the first drinks break and was having a go at Ederson who was getting some extra practice – the intensity is still there. Who is guaranteed to start? Perhaps Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Rodri, Aymeric Laporte, and Ederson. Those five would always be guaranteed starters, but even Pep could give any of them a rest to keep everybody hopeful and on their toes.
How good was De Bruyne against Liverpool? When I looked at him and Sadio Mane for the Player of the Season award, De Bruyne is so far above, and I mean that with the least disrespect possible for Sadio Mane, who has had an exceptional season. His touch, vision, movement is impeccable – he has absolutely everything. Liverpool know how good he is. He is fabulous and a pleasure to watch.
I see Man City prepping themselves to meet Arsenal in the semi-final of the FA Cup and the Champions League in August. Leroy Sane has gone, while Phil Foden is increasing his reputation and played well against Liverpool once more. Foden is beaming at the minute. Southampton have to get the ball first in order to counter-attack, but they will struggle against City.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 1-3 (10/1 with Sky Bet)
Tottenham should have had an equaliser at Sheffield United, but at the same time they were well beaten. I have said the same thing. Why have Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld resigned when Jose Mourinho doesn’t fancy them?
What is the full-back situation? Serge Aurier is a liability but is strong going forwards. Mauricio Pochettino used to chop and change his full-backs most weeks. Ben Davies has been playing but struggles defensively, and he was taken off at Bramall Lane. Tanguy Ndombele was put on when it was an embarrassing scoreline too, so he looks out of favour.
Harry Kane nicked a goal but is suffering at the minute. Lucas Moura is not the same threat and Heung-Min Son looked out of sorts too. It looks confused. Dele Alli cannot get in the team now either. Maybe the shape is too rigid.
Mourinho is picking the same team but they are making the same mistakes. The centre-backs are struggling and so are the protectors in midfield. Giovani Lo Celso looks good on the ball but is he defensively good? No. They are not understanding what is being asked of them.
The opposite has happened to Everton. It will be a struggle for Richarlison to make this one, but he has played beautifully for Carlo Ancelotti. Jordan Pickford got away with another one and one day he will get punished again.
Defensively, Everton have improved but they are still not as good as what they should be. Michael Keane is getting back to some decent form but is still not consistent enough. On the other side, they are strong going forwards. Dominic Calvert-Lewin is a handful, while Gylfi Sigurdsson is a decent footballer and a creative spark in midfield.
If there was no trophy in the current season for Tottenham or a chance of making the top four, I imagined Jose would move on. All of a sudden they are in ninth place. If they don’t win, Mourinho is not going to be under pressure, but if he does not get the right response, he will say that it isn’t working for him or the team and potentially agree to go separate ways, and that is where Tottenham are stuck at the moment.
He looks a lonely figure, and I do not see Tottenham winning here either. Everton improved massively and I see them nicking a point here in a score draw.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 2-2 (12/1 with Sky Bet)
Tottenham vs Everton
July 6, 2020, 7:30pm