Premier League gameweek 21 is the first taste of action in 2022 and Michael Owen is back to give us his thoughts on the weekend’s games, which could influence the title race.
Arsenal v Man City
Man City to win 3-1
Arsenal looked impressive in their last game against Norwich. No game in midweek means that they can really go into this game with confidence, and they will probably view it as a free hit.
City weren’t at their absolute best against Brentford, but still got the win. It was another lovely finish from Phil Foden, he’s such a calm, natural finisher. No team can play brilliantly every single game, it’s the sign of champions to win when you aren’t at your best.
This should be an open, entertaining game. Arsenal won’t sit in; they’ll try to play some good football. That should suit City though and I fancy them to get a few goals in this. I can see Arsenal scoring, but City comfortably winning.
Watford v Tottenham
Tottenham to win 2-1
Ranieri must have been disappointed with the performance against West Ham on Tuesday. After taking the lead so early, you fancied Watford to build on it and get a second, but they didn’t. They’ve looked bright going forward all season but defensively, they were poor against West Ham. It was far too easy for West Ham to create chances and they could have scored more.
Tuesday’s draw against Southampton was probably the worst performance of the Antonio Conte era at Spurs. It was a disappointing draw, particularly as they were building up a head of steam under Conte.
I’m expecting a response here from Spurs. It won’t be an easy one, the atmosphere will be good, and I can see Watford nicking a goal. Spurs should be able to exploit that Watford defence though and get a couple of their own. 2-1 Spurs.
Crystal Palace v West Ham
Match to be drawn 1-1
That was a comfortable win for Palace against Norwich, who truth be told, were an ideal opponent. I liked what I saw from Odsonne Edouard. A goal and two assists was a good return, and I think he can build on that moving forward.
West Ham got back to winning ways in style against Watford. There were a number of good performances, including Benrahma who looks like he’s back in form, but it was Jarrod Bowen who caught my eye again. Bowen is getting better and better, and he was superb against Watford. He’s surely on Gareth Southgate’s radar.
This is a tough one to call. I can see a draw here.
Brentford v Aston Villa
Aston Villa to win 2-1
Brentford competed well against Man City and they were organised at the back, as they’ve been all season. Ultimately, games against the likes of City aren’t where they’ll be judged this season, it’s games like this.
Villa have been doing well under Steven Gerrard and their fixtures over the next couple of months are quite kind, so I’d expect them to pick up some points. Gerrard will definitely be eyeing his first win of 2022 here.
This will be an even game; Brentford are hard to beat at home. I won’t be shocked if they score but I think Villa will get the win.
Leeds v Burnley
Leeds to win 2-1
Leeds have been struggling recently and a lot of that has come down to injuries. They don’t have the biggest of squads, so when they do get injuries, it really hurts this side.
I say it almost every week, but Burnley’s issue is that they don’t score enough goals. Sean Dyche has done an incredible job at Burnley, but it will be difficult to keep them up this season without any January additions.
This should be an interesting game; we’ve got a real clash of styles here. These two drew 1-1 all Turf Moor and I can see Leeds going one better here. 2-1 Leeds.
Everton v Brighton
Everton to win 2-1
I’m expecting Everton to return with a good performance. They’ve had the longest break out of anyone, so they should be fresh. They were having to rely on youngsters in their last few games who performed well, but Rafa Benitez will be hoping to get some senior players back for this, most notably Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Brighton completely deserved that point against Chelsea. I’m a huge fan of Graham Potter and think he gets absolutely everything out of his team. With a few more additions, Brighton could challenge for a spot in the top eight.
Everton went through a difficult spell at the start of the month and the enforced break will do them some good. They’ve got a good run of fixtures now, and I think that will start with a 2-1 win here.
Chelsea v Liverpool
Liverpool to win 2-1
Chelsea continued their poor run of form with that draw to Brighton. They had some chances, but I thought a draw was a fair result and the pressure is massively on them. Wing-backs are very important in Thomas Tuchel’s system, so to lose Ben Chilwell for the season is a huge blow and I’d expect a new signing as soon as possible.
I didn’t see that Liverpool defeat to Leicester coming. I know Klopp was unhappy with what he saw that night but even if wasn’t a great performance, they still had chances. Schmeichel was outstanding in goal and Liverpool just had an off night, that can happen!
This is a huge game and I think that whoever drops points here will find it very difficult to catch Man City. I can’t see Liverpool losing two games in a row, so I’m going for them here. It’s such a hard one to call but I think Liverpool’s extra quality in attack will be the difference. 2-1 to Liverpool.
Man Utd v Wolves
Man Utd to win 1-0
This is a big game for Man United. I know it’s early in Ralf Rangnick’s tenure, but it really does feel like he needs a couple of big wins to stamp his authority on this side and to get the fans on board. Recent performances haven’t been great, and it seems like he’s having the same issues Ole did, finding the right system to fit all these players.
Wolves continue to impress me defensively. They are so organised and hard to break down. I’m sure Wolves fans will be a little frustrated because if they could just score more, they’d be in the top four race. For Wolves to be as high as they are having only scored 13 goals is remarkable and just shows how good they’ve been at the back.
There won’t be much in this game. I think United will narrowly edge this and it could be yet another late winner from a certain Cristiano Ronaldo.