EPL Week 2 – Anelka could retire, Chelsea hijack Spurs’ signing and more
EPL Week 2 – Anelka could retire, Chelsea hijack Spurs’ signing and more avatar

Famished soccer fans all around were treated to a feast last week as the EPL finally kicked off after almost three months rest.

Jose Mourinho's has two wins out of two for Chelsea! (Getty Images)

Jose Mourinho has two wins out of two for Chelsea! (Getty Images)

It was business as usual for most of the EPL’s big boys as Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham all won their opening fixtures, with Arsenal’s loss at home to Aston Villa providing the only real surprise of week 1.

Week 1 saw a total of 228 players play, 410,289 fans attend games, 28 goals scored, 7 shut outs, 37 yellow cards and 2 red cards.

Can week 2 match those numbers, I guess we will have to wait and see.

News

Anelka could retire

West Brom have confirmed that new striker Nicolas Anelka could retire following the death of his close friend and agent.

The former French international will sit out of Saturday’s game against Everton after being given compassionate leave.

Anelka (c) could retire from the game. (Getty Images)

Anelka (c) could retire from the game. (Getty Images)

Speaking about Anelka,West Brom manager, Steve Clarke, said: “I’m not going to deny that he used that word.

“But we’ve given him time to go away and think about it. I don’t think we could do more in the circumstances.”

Anelka, who has played for five different EPL clubs, only moved to the Hawthorns this summer on a one-year deal.

After scoring seven goals in as many during pre-season games, Anelka made his competitive debut for his new club in last Saturday’s 1-0 Premier League opening weekend defeat by Southampton.

Asked whether Anelka might return, Clarke said: “I don’t know, because from the conversation we had the other day, it was really negative.

“But as I said, we have given him time to think about it. So I’d like to think he could play for West Bromwich Albion again.”

Chelsea hijack Spurs Willian bid

Looks like Chelsea have taken Willian from under Tottenham's nose (Getty Images)

Looks like Chelsea have taken Willian from under Tottenham’s nose (Getty Images)

Reigning Europa League champions Chelsea look set to sign Anzhi Makhachkala midfielder Willian for a fee of around £30m ($45m).

The Brazilian international looked set to join Tottenham, passing a medical with the north Londoners, but could now move to Chelsea after the Blues entered the race for his signature at the eleventh hour.

Pressed if Willian had chosen Chelsea, Mourinho nodded, before adding: “I know what the player wants, so in this moment we cannot hide. That is a possibility.”

Tottenham had been expected to break their transfer record for the third time this summer and make Willian their fifth summer signing. However, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is believed to have intervened and used his contacts at Anzhi to offer a similar fee to Spurs but with more lucrative add-ons.

Willian has yet to agree personal terms with Chelsea, but it is thought the chance to play Champions League soccer and work under Mourinho helped to push the deal in the Blues favor.

Predictions and Previews

Week 2 Predictions

SATURDAY

 

Fulham v Arsenal

2-2

Everton v West Brom

2-0

Hull v Norwich

1-2

Newcastle v West Ham

1-1

Southampton v Sunderland

2-0

Stoke v Crystal Palace

1-0

Aston Villa v Liverpool

1-1

SUNDAY

 

Cardiff v Man City

0-2

Tottenham v Swansea

2-1

MONDAY

 

Man Utd v Chelsea

2-1

 

SATURDAY

Fulham vs. Arsenal

Arsenal got off to the worst possible start last weekend, losing 1-3 at home to Aston Villa. Small sections of the Arsenal contingent have been calling for Wenger to step down for a while, but after last week’s loss the official Arsenal supporters trust issued a statement saying they did not feel the boss should be offered a new contract after eight trophyless years in charge.

Oxlade-Chamberlain was Arsenal's best player until he got injured in their game against Villa. (Getty Images)

Oxlade-Chamberlain (L) was Arsenal’s best player until he got injured in their game against Villa. (Getty Images)

The core of discontent among the Arsenal faithful seems to be Arsenal’s perceived lack of ambition and activity in the transfer market. A marquee signing in attack would undoubtedly ease pressure on Wenger, but what Arsenal really need is a no nonsense ugly stopper in midfield and defense.

Fulham have bought well during the close season and proved they will be tough to beat again this season with a good 0-1 win away to Sunderland on the opening day of the season.

Fulham manager Martin Jol must decide whether to give ex-Tottenham midfielder Scott Parker his debut against Arsenal, though Goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg is definitely out after injuring his shoulder at Sunderland so David Stockdale is set to start.

Arsenal will be without defender Laurent Koscielny, who is banned follwing a red card against Aston Villa last weekend, meaning righ-back Sanga will likely shift over into central defense with Carl Jenkinson coming in at right-back .

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) and Thomas Vermaelen (back) are also out, though left-back Nacho Monreal is fit for selection.

Fulham can be a very hard team to beat at home. (Getty Images)

Fulham can be a very hard team to beat at home. (Getty Images)

Fulham play some silky stuff under Martin Jol and are especially tough to beat on their home patch. Arsenal are under a bit of pressure after losing their opening game, though they did play well midweek against Fenerbache in their Champions League qualifier.

Nevertheless, Craven Cottage is a tough place to come to and I think Arsenal would probably not be too unhappy with a draw.

Prediction: 2-2

Everton vs. West Brom

Everton began life without David Moyes last week with a 2-2 draw away to Norwich.

The Toffees played well and were a tad unlucky not to leave with all three points. New boss Roberto Martinez likes to play an expansive passing style of soccer and has stressed it may take time to implement.

Everton looked like a team with a purpose and played some pretty soccer. (Getty images)

Everton looked like a team with a purpose and played some pretty soccer. (Getty images)

Yet there are signs that his ideas are already having an effect—A possession statistic of 67% (as calculated by Opta) was the highest in the opening round of Premier League matches, with a successful passing rate of 88% bettered only by Manchester City.

West Brom lost their opening game due to a poor penalty decision and have been struck another blow in the news that striker Nicolas Anelka may retire following the death of a close friend.

West Brom were unlucky to lose against Southampton. (Getty Images)

West Brom were unlucky to lose against Southampton. (Getty Images)

The Baggies were last season’s surprise package, but have been weakened this season following the return of on-loan striker Romelu Lukaku back to Chelsea. Anelka’s arrival seemed like an ideal solution, but the former France international’s absence means the Baggies are really short of options up top.

West Brom have only won one league match at Goodison Park in 34 years – a 4-1 victory in November 2010. But Everton are in a transitionary period and could be more vulnerable than they usually are at home, but I still can’t see anything other than an Everton win here.

Prediction: 2-0

Aston Villa vs. Liverpool

When Aston Villa fans looked at their opening fixtures for the 2013-2014 season, the probably thought God is a West Brom supporter. Away games to Arsenal and Chelsea are as about the toughest openings you could wish for, and most Villa fans probably would have been happy with a solitary point from the two games.

Instead, they are unhappy they only have three after beating Arsenal and controversially losing to Chelsea after playing well.

Christian Benteke (L) has continued where he left off. (Getty Images)

Christian Benteke (L) has continued where he left off. (Getty Images)

Persuading striker Christian Benteke to stay at the club may turn out to be the best deal of the season, as the Belgian international has already scored three goals in two games. No one has found the back of the net more times than Beneteke in the league during 2013, having scored 17 times.

Suarez (L) absence leaves a void in Liverpools striking prowess. (Getty Images)

Suarez (L) absence leaves a void in Liverpools striking prowess. (Getty Images)

Liverpool also have a terrific striker in Luis Suarez, but the Uruguayan international is still unavailable for the Reds as he serves a suspensions for biting.

The Reds play some tidy stuff, but still lack that killer instinct—Liverpool attempted more shots on goal than any other Premier League team last weekend (20) – as they did last season – but for a late penalty save by new keeper Simon Mignolet would have been held to a draw at Anfield.

Liverpool have a terrific record against Aston Villa—The Reds have lost only one of their last 15 games away to Villa in the Premier League (W1, D5, L9) since 1998. Villa have mustered only seven goals in that time and last scored more than once in a 4-2 defeat in November 1998. But they can’t seem to finish their chances at the moment and that is why I’m going for a draw.

Prediction: 1-1

SUNDAY

Cardiff vs. Man City

Cardiff were given a harsh introduction to life in the EPL losing 2-0 away to West Ham without a shot on target, but will be chomping at the bit to play their first season in the top flight of English soccer for 51 years.

Nasri got on the scoresheet for Man City on Monday. (Getty Images)

Nasri got on the scoresheet for Man City on Monday. (Getty Images)

The last one, back in 1962, saw a 3-0 victory over a West Ham team including Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters, and the Bluebirds will be hoping for a similar result on Sunday though they will have their work cut out as they face big spenders Manchester City.

Cardiff's Bellamy will have a point to prove against his old club. (Getty images)

Cardiff’s Bellamy will have a point to prove against his old club. (Getty images)

City have once again splurged over the summer, spending close to £100m ($150m) as they try to wrestle back the EPL crown from neighbors Manchester United. The sky blues have also recruited a new manager in Manuel Pellegrini, and the veteran Chilean could not have wished for a better start with his side easily beating Newcastle 4-0 at home.

Cardiff’s Danish striker Andreas Cornelius could make his Premier League debut after recovering from an ankle injury, while left-back Andrew Taylor could also feature after serving a suspension.

Manchester City will be without captain Vincent Kompany after the Belgian international injured his groin in the game against Newcastle, meaning Matija Nastasic could be forced back early from injury.

Cardiff fans are renowned for their passion and the Cardiff City Stadium will no doubt be electric on Sunday, but even so it is hard to see past anything other than a Man City win here.

Predictions: 0-2

Tottenham vs Swansea

Spurs looked impressive in their win at Crystal Palace last weekend and again midweek in Europe.

Tottenham's Gareth Bale (L). seems set to leave Tottenham for Madrid(Getty Images)

Tottenham’s Gareth Bale (L). seems set to leave Tottenham for Madrid(Getty Images)

The north Londoners have made busy in the transfer market over the summer, and even if they lose Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, look like they now have a squad capable of really competing at the top of the table.

Swansea passed the ball and played well last week, but were still beaten 1-4 at home to champions Manchester United. However, the Swans bounced back midweek with a 5-1 win in Europe and once again look like a side that will finish mid-table.

Spurs hope to welcome back Aaron Lennon and Jan Vertonghen after they missed the Europa League clash with Dinamo Tbilisi on Thursday. However, Emmanuel Adebayor, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Lewis Holtby remain out injured.

Michu looked on fire in his Europa game mid week. (Getty Images)

Michu looked on fire in his Europa game mid week. (Getty Images)

Swansea will be without Nathan Dyer (hamstring), though Ben Davis could return after sitting out midweek’s European game.

Swansea have never won a league match at White Hart Lane in 15 attempts, losing 13 and drawing two. The Swans have come on leaps and bounds in recent years and play some of the nicest soccer in the EPL, nevertheless Spurs should still takes this one.

Prediction: 2-1

MONDAY

Manchester United Vs. Chelsea

Chelsea’s bids for Wanye Rooney mean all eyes will be on the England international on Monday night whether he plays or not.

The Rooney affair is just the distraction that could go in Man Utd's favor.(Getty Images)

The Rooney affair is just the distraction that could go in Man Utd’s favor.(Getty Images)

The intense speculation over Rooney’s future might actually come as a relief to David Moyes, as it will lighten the pressure both on his team and himself as Manchester United play their first EPL game at Old Trafford without Alex Ferguson for the first time in almost 27 years.

United got off to a terrific start winning 1-4 away to Swansea, but Chelsea are a different kettle of fish and will provide Moyes with his first real test since becoming Manchester United boss.

Chelsea have made a perfect start to the new season winning both their games, as returning coach Jose Mourinho continued where he last left off for Chelsea six-years ago.

John Terry has found himself in Mourinho's starting lineup (Getty Images)

John Terry has found himself in Mourinho’s starting lineup (Getty Images)

Both teams will want to win this game, though Chelsea’s two wins and the fact they are the away team means there is less pressure on them to go for it. David Moyes will want his side to give a good account of themselves in their first home game of the season, but he definitely will not want his side to lose so don’t expect United to over commit to a win either.

This game has a tight scrappy draw written all over it, but United have a bit more class in the strikers department and that is why I’ll edge them to just nick this one.

Prediction: 2-1

About Anthony Ta

Anthony Ta is a writer for the GotSoccer Magazine, specializing in Premier League, Champions League and the Euros.
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