Seven Barclays Premier League matches are scheduled to take place on the afternoon and evening of Saturday 9th September 2011, on a day which sees each of the teams currently occupying the top four spots in action on the fourth game weekend of the 2011/12 campaign.
Arsenal v Swansea – Kick-Off (BST) 15:00
Arsenal have been having a torrid time thus far in 2011/12, with their most recent result, an 8-2 humbling at Manchester United’s Old Trafford, the most recent disaster in an horrific summer which saw them lose their two best players. This home match against Swansea, should, on paper, therefore represent a good opportunity to record their first victory of the season, and get back towards the top half of the table they have occupied for around two decades or more.
Should is not a word that belongs in football, however, and Swansea City, newly promoted as they are, have proved to be tough nuts to crack, keeping a clean sheet en route to two 0-0 draws. While the Swans have obviously yet to find the scoring touch, Arsenal’s defensive woes – Thomas Vermaelen has just had ankle surgery which will keep him out for a little while – may well see them inspired to add this to an already reasonable defense of their own. That said, Arsenal still have talent throughout their squad, and will be desperate to put down a marker after three stalled attempts to date: Swansea might feel the fallout from last week’s implosion in Manchester.
An intriguing prospect awaits fans at the Emirates stadium, both home and away, as a result.
Everton v Aston Villa – Kick-Off (BST) 15:00
Another entertaining prospect awaits fans at Goodison Park, as Everton and Aston Villa – two teams with designs on remarkably similar-looking top half finishes – face each other.
Villa are perhaps the better of the two sides in terms of Premier League attacking flair, but Everton have shown in their first two games that they are able to soak up pressure, and shut out teams who perhaps might have done enough for at least a goal, particularly with Tim Howard in their goal in great form. Villa replaced a great goalkeeper with a Premier League legend, however, when they introduced Shay Given in the summer-time, so the hosts will not have it their own way if and when they do work a shot on target.
Expect a hard-fought battle, with few goals.
A score draw could be the most likely result, though this match is exceptionally difficult to call in advance, making it another highlight on the day’s roster.
Man City v Wigan – Kick-Off (BST) 15:00
Manchester City, with their across town rivals in red, are currently one of only two sides who have won 100% of their Premier League matches to date in 2011/12.
Nothing Wigan have shown to date indicates that they have the fire-power and resilience required to be the first side to avoid defeat against the rich Sky Blues at the City of Manchester.
City have averaged an amazing four goals per game in the three matches they have completed in this league campaign to date, with Edin Dzeko, in particular, showing outstanding form. If Wigan are to get anything from this match, they’ll need another performance from Al Habsi in their goal, no little amount of luck, and a return from most, if not all, of the limited opportunities they’ll get in front of goal. Di Santo is a key man for Wigan, as most of their good attacking play this season has been finished by him.
City have key individuals all over the pitch – and their expensive bench – so expect another strong performance from them, as they continue to convince pundits that they have the right package to threaten the very top of the table this season.
Stoke v Liverpool – Kick-Off (BST) 15:00
Stoke are yet to be beaten in 2011/12, as are Liverpool, as both teams have combined a tight rearguard with an improved attack this season.
Liverpool have spent £100million+ on attack minded and play-making individuals since last Christmas, and it is paying off, as they have added the one or two goals they were certainly short of last term to pick up their two wins and a draw gathered to date.
Stoke, however, have remained remarkably difficult to break down, and have continued to cause problems with a powerful, primarily aerial, attack of their own, one which pounces on set-pieces with a well-oiled consistency borne of training-ground preparation.
With home advantage, Stoke have a real chance to maintain their loss-less season in this match, but only if they can do a similar job on Liverpool to that which they opened the season with against Chelsea. They are always capable of grabbing at least one goal, too, so a score draw may be the result here. As with several matches on this fourth week of Premier League 2011/12, though, this is an exciting prospect: somebody could be experiencing defeat for the first time this season, but it’s anything but clear-cut, in advance, exactly who that might be.
Sunderland v Chelsea – Kick-Off (BST) 15:00
Neither Sunderland, nor Chelsea, have started the season in as bright a manner as they would have hoped: Sunderland getting two lacklustre draws and slipping to an embarrassing home defeat against arch-rivals Newcastle; while Chelsea have not yet fired on all cylinders, yet find themselves unbeaten with 7 points from a possible 9.
The positions the two clubs find themselves in is indicative of the differences involved. Sunderland, with a good, but shallow, squad, get a draw or narrow loss when they underachieve. Chelsea get a narrow victory. One of these sides needs to improve to get a clear result at the Stadium of Light. On the evidence of the team selection choices, and Sunderland’s inability to keep out goals at their end, the team which needs to improve the least to win this match, is Chelsea. They are expected to win this by two clear goals.
That being said, a repeat of Chelsea’s first three league performances, and some more consistently cohesive play from the Black Cats over 90 minutes, would see the hosts come out of this match with at least a point: there is plenty for home fans to get excited about; they could be meeting Chelsea at the ideal time – before they have got into their stride under new manager Villas-Boas.
Wolverhampton v Tottenham Hotspur – Kick-Off (BST) 15:00
Three short Barclays Premier League games ago, before the season began, one would have expected Wolves v Spurs to be a case of 5th place plays 20th place, though even the most optimistic of Wanderers fans would have been accused of wishful thinking had they predicted that it would be they in the UEFA Europa League qualification slot, even at this early stage in the season. However, following five football matches featuring this pair, that’s exactly where the clubs sit in the table.
The current league positions – both of them – are false.
Spurs, having missed the opening match against Everton because of rioting, have only played twice: against Manchester United and Manchester City: the best two teams in the league to date this season. While they were cast aside by both City and United, Tottenham, as they proved in dismissing Scottish side Hearts 5-0 in the Europa League, are still a fierce attacking unit in their own right.
Wolves have added goals and a little more defensive resilience to their play to date this term: they’ll need every bit of both skills if they are to remain unbeaten against a Hotspur side which is sure to be desperate to make an impression.
Except Spurs to come out roaring at Molineux. An away win is predicted.
Bolton v Man Utd – Kick-Off (BST) 17:30
Bolton Wanderers have, to date, been the best side to face Manchester City, in falling to a 3-2 home defeat on the second match of this season, so they will be confident that a similar performance may well produce a point or better against fellow Mancunian high-flyers, Manchester United, at the Reebok Stadium in Saturday’s late kick-off match.
United have set about their championship defence with a fresh-faced squad. Regardless of age or experience, they retain remarkable class and ability: every new face seems to ‘fit’; every existing player appears to be in form. Rooney has found his scoring touch once more, and Bolton’s mission number one is to stop England and United’s prolific striker from getting on the score-sheet.
But Bolton, under Owen Coyle, are more than the counter-punching side that came into the top flight a decade ago. Bolton are a genuine attacking threat, and United, who are still without captain Vidic, will need David De Gea, who, contrary to some media reporting, has been statistically one of the best goalkeepers in Premier League this season, to be again up to his very best if they are to secure a result in this match.
At the other end, Bolton will need to watch out for the finishing power of Javier Hernandez, who returns to the United side in place of the injured Danny Welbeck.
United should clinch this match, but Bolton have enough in their locker to get the result that would stop United’s 100% record on Saturday evening. Much will depend on how much new Bolton signing N’Gog adds to Klasnic’s impressive attacking play, and the ability of Jaaskelainen, in the Wanderers’ net, to keep out what will likely be the most shots they have faced to date this season.
After punishing Arsenal with 8 supremely taken goals last time out, few would predict anything other than an away victory for United.
But then, that’s just the sort of status that Bolton seem to like enjoy.
Barclays Premier League 2011/12 – Fixtures, Saturday 9th September 2011
- Arsenal v Swansea – Kick-Off (BST) 15:00
- Everton v Aston Villa – Kick-Off (BST) 15:00
- Man City v Wigan – Kick-Off (BST) 15:00
- Stoke v Liverpool – Kick-Off (BST) 15:00
- Sunderland v Chelsea – Kick-Off (BST) 15:00
- Wolverhampton v Tottenham – Kick-Off (BST) 15:00
- Bolton v Man Utd – Kick-Off (BST) 17:30