It’s just one game but… snap Premier League predictions on Man Utd, Huddersfield and more
by George Keaney
With one game for each Premier League team in the books, it’s time to get carried away. But what can you learn from goals galore, red cards aplenty and the an upset for the champions all in one weekend? At the risk of ending up very wide of the mark, here are a few takeaways from the first 10 games of the 2017/18 season.
Southampton are going to struggle
Radio and television coverage of Southampton’s draw with Swansea was reminiscent of the infamous film Groundhog Day. “Somehow Southampton still haven’t scored”, “I can’t believe it’s still goalless”, “Chance after chance gone begging”, so on and so forth. This represents the problem that Southampton have, and will continue to have, unless they invest heavily in another goal scorer. Charlie Austin has guaranteed goals in the past, just not as part of a top 10 team. Manolo Gabbiadini flatters to deceive and Shane Long has never been relied on as a team’s focal point.
Without a 20-goal striker in their midst, the inevitable prospect of losing Virgil van Dijk, and given their core of young, inexperienced players, Southampton might well find themselves falling away from the chasing pack this year. An 8th place finish last year masked the struggle that was the Saints’ season: only 46 points, and a mere six home wins, tell a different story.
Unless a new striker appears on the south coast, a long season could be in store for the regulars at St Mary’s.
Jose is ready for the challenge
Last season, Manchester United were fairly average. Some 15 draws told the story of a team without a killer instinct or a strong backbone when the going got tough. But Jose Mourinho has attempted to address both of those issues over the summer. Nemanja Matic produced a man of the match performance at Old Trafford on Sunday, one that will surely have Antonio Conte writhing in regret. Or pulling his hair out, as Jose might have it. You could argue that N’Golo Kante was the signing that won Chelsea the league last season; this year, Matic may well be the exit that loses it for them.
Romelu Lukaku looked sharp, strong, ruthless, and full of confidence. Seemingly comfortable on the big stage, with best friend Paul Pogba set for a breakout campaign, 20 league goals for the big Belgian should be a certainty. Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard will only get better with more game-time and the likes of Juan Mata, Antonio Valencia and Daley Blind will provide the necessary experience. The additions made this summer mean that United really are a threat, even if thrashing a limp West Ham side is the only showing so far.
As the season grows old, mind games from the Special One might well be enough to overcome their noisy neighbours in blue… but it has only been one game.
This might seem like a stretch, but a 0-3 demolition at Selhurst Park is food for thought certainly. Tom Ince looked like he could scare Premier League defenders all year and new signing Steve Mounie was energetic and lethal when he needed to be. There will be countless dark days throughout the year when the Terriers will look out of their depth, and even be rolled over a few times. But their fans will enjoy every minute, every goal and every unexpected victory.
Just like Burnley before them, the team from West Yorkshire have shown in 90 minutes that they have the fight and the togetherness to turn the top flight upside down. The John Smith’s Stadium will be rocking for the visit of Newcastle on Sunday, and David Wagner’s gang of underdogs will be right up for the fight. It’s only one game, but Huddersfield have the metal and the support to survive… who’d have thought it?