Around the Grounds FPL Team News Gameweek 21
Welcome to Around the Grounds FPL Team News Gameweek 21. Boring these breaks from FPL aren’t they? Transfers are waiting to be made, wildcards have been played, but it’s all waiting, waiting and more waiting at the end of the day. But we are now back. The FA Cup was last week and we now look forward to returning to FPL proper – GW21. It was Spurs who ended GW20 in such an authoritative manner by dispatching Chelsea and it’s Spurs who kick off GW21 as they welcome West Brom to the Lane. Six matches follow at 3pm – Burnley host Southampton, Bournemouth travel to Hull, Sunderland take on Stoke, Arsenal go to Swansea, Watford welcome Boro and Big Sam returns to West Ham with his Palace side. The evenings match sees Chelsea go to Leicester. Sunday sees the final two matches of the gameweek and it’s two Merseyside vs Manchester affairs as Everton entertain Man City before Liverpool visit Old Trafford.
It would be amiss of us not to briefly mention Graham Taylor – the ex-England manager passed away suddenly on Thursday morning and is generally recognised as one of the good guys of football. Aside from his time as England manager, Taylor is most famous for managing Watford from 1977 to 1987, leading the Hornets from the old Fourth Division to the old First Division, the FA Cup Final in 1984 and a first ever season in Europe for the club. RIP Graham Taylor.
With new managers on board, the AFCON almost underway and the FA Cup matches in the past for now, let’s go Around the Grounds to see what our friends have had to say. We welcome Paul Clement and Marco Silva to this article and hope we will become firm friends. Or else……
Spurs vs West Brom (Sat 14 Jan 12.30)
Five wins in a row has lifted Spurs into 3rd place, above their nearest and dearest and within seven points of Chelsea, who they so impressively beat in GW20. Their great run of late is largely down to the form of Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen who have finally decided to put last season’s disappointment behind them and take the pressure off The Nose up front. While everyone is banging on about Spurs, don’t ignore the Albion who sit eighth – don’t laugh, that’s good for them. But while West Brom have impressed so far, it’s worth noting that their recent losses to Chelsea, City and United emphasise that while they can see off the minions of the division, they tend to struggle vs the bigger boys. It’s also worth bearing in mind that Albion has only kept one clean sheet since GW3, so any thoughts that they can keep the on-fire Spurs lads quite may be unfounded. The last three meetings between the two have ended in 1-1 draws, with young Alli scoring in two of those matches. For those fixture form freaks, you will no doubt be juiced up by the fact that Spurs have not beaten the Baggies at the Lane since 2012.
Nothing unusual at Spurs as manager Pochettino says that only Erik Lamela is unavailable with the midfielder another week away from completing his recovery. A lunchtime win for Tottenham will lift them to second and to within four points of Chelsea, but Pochettino is reluctant to get too confident despite the impressive win over Chelsea – the manager referred back to the team’s reaction to beating Man City 2-0 earlier in the season…they drew the week after…..at West Brom.
The Baggies have problems at the back with Jonny Evans ruled out of the trip to Spurs with the knock he picked up at Hull, while confusion surrounds the availability of Allan-Romero Nyom. Pulis says the club are still tyring to contact the Cameroon FA to confirm that there will be no penalty if Nyom plays, Cameroon despite not selecting Nyom for their final squad for AFCON are refusing to respond to Albion and the club are hesitant on playing the defender without official word from the Africans. All in all a bloody mess. Chris Brunt will need to be assessed after missing last week’s Cup defeat with a knock. The Saido Berahino saga continues – the moody striker scored twice for the U23s in the week but is being touted around the hunting clubs again, while Nacer Chadli is not at the level he was pre-injury, hence his reduced gametime. Fancy Spurs may just get their long-awaited win over West Brom.
Burnley vs Southampton (Sat 14 Jan 15.00)
Things are looking pretty tough for Claude Puel right now – three losses in a row, the captain wanting out and now they face a trip to in-form-ish Burnley. It’s likely to be an uncomfortable trip for the Saints as Burnley have won five of their last six matches at home with the only loss coming against Man City courtesy of a fortunate ricochet off Aguero. A win for the Clarets would indeed take them above Southampton in the league and would emphasise what a good job Sean Dyche is doing. Home advantage is crucial for Burnley as we have touched upon already – they have taken 22 of their 23 points at home. While Southampton’s away record is slightly better than their host’s, Puel’s men were soundly beaten at Everton last time out and with crucial injuries and a dressing room which appears far from united, three more home points for Burnley seems the favourite outcome here.
Burnley boss Sean Dyche reveals that Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Scott Arfield are both doubts for the visit of Southampton with both midfielders suffering from hamstring injuries. The pair join George Boyd and Jon Flanagan on the sidelines but there is every chance that striker Patrick Bamford may be available following illness.
Claude Puel says that midfielder Steven Davis will need to be assessed after he picked up a knock late on in the midweek Cup win over Liverpool. Fellow midfielder Jordy Clasie is ok after he also picked up a knock, while Charlie Austin, Alex McCarthy, Jake Hesketh, Matt Targett and Sofiane Boufal all remain sidelined. Speaking on the situation regarding wantaway captain Jose Fonte, Puel said he would rather not have Fonte in the team at the moment, which should be good news for Maya Yoshida’s prospects for increased gametime until that situation is resolved one way or the other.
Hull vs Bournemouth (Sat 14 Jan 15.00)
Marco Silva takes charge of his first Premier League match as Hull boss with his club sat bottom of the division, two points adrift of Swansea and Sunderland and three points behind 17th placed Crystal Palace. Termed the “new Mourinho” by many in his home country, the Portugeezer certainly has his work cut out if he is to save Hull from the dreaded drop. For those interested, Silva is an attacking minded coach who likes to play 4-3-3, that’s until he turns up at Hull and sees who the three up front are! Anyway, let’s give the bloke a chance. Bournemouth come to town on their back of their entertaining if slightly bizarre 3-3 draw with Arsenal, when manager Eddie Howe decided at 3-0 that he’d remove all his attacking players for defensive ones – so it would seem that Bournemouth’s four may just give Hull’s three a chance. Should be comical to watch if nothing else, though Silva oversaw a Cup win over Swansea last weekend with a clean sheet to boot…..the comeback is on!
Silva has quickly learned that all that glitters isn’t gold, but has been boosted by two new signings. I say boosted, but am not really that sure. One of the signings is a loan deal for Everton striker Oumar Niasse who Ronald Koeman rates so highly that the Senegalese striker hasn’t even got a first team squad number at Goodison and has been sent to train with the U23s since August. The other signing is attacking midfielder Evandro from Porto – never heard of him personally but DMC will I’m sure be glad to give you the rundown on him if you ask nicely. There is bad news as Markus Henriksen has been ruled out for around three months with a shoulder injury, but on the positive side Curtis Davies, Michael Dawson and Joshua Tymon have all recovered from injury and could feature vs the Cherries.
Head Cherry Eddie Howe says the club has received clearance from DR Congo allowing Benik Afobe to play despite the striker electing to miss the tournament. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Simon Francis serves the second match of his three-match suspension and Nathan Ake has of course been recalled by parent club Chelsea. Adam Smith is likely to be recalled and Tyrone Mings could also be given a rare start, while winger Ryan Fraser should be fit to return to the squad after recovering from a knock.
Sunderland vs Stoke (Sat 14 Jan 15.00)
It would appear that if Sunderland are to avoid the drop then it will be their home form that sees them home for the Black Cats have won eleven of their fifteen points at the Stadium of Light, winning three of their last five there. Much of course depends on Jermain Defoe and if he can score more than his defence can concede – Shorty has scored three goals in his last two matches and eleven in total so far this season. The enigma that is Stoke are in town this weekend – and they don’t enjoy a trip to Sunderland, which doesn’t make them bad people. The Potters have never won at Sunderland in the Premier League, losing six and drawing the other two and have lost their last three matches on the road this season, conceding eleven goals in the process and last weekend went out of the Cup, losing at home to Derby.
Moyes is hopeful that the Black Cat’s good record vs Stoke at home can continue. However, if the injury list isn’t long enough then he also has to cope with Lamine Kone, Didier Ndong and Wahbi Khazri at AFCON. Billy Jones has a chance of returning but Victor Anichebe, Steven Pienaar, Jordan Pickford, Paddy McNair, Duncan Watmore, Lee Cattermole and Jan Kirchoff all remain sidelined.
Stoke will continue to be without the injured Jon Walters, Bojan and Geoff Cameron but manager Mark Hughes can at least count on Marc Muniesa and Phil Bardsley as they travel to snowy Sunderland. Ramadan Sobhi, Mame Biram Diouf and Wilfried Bony are all away at AFCON, leaving Peter Crouch as the recognised striker – laugh all you will, but Crouchy has scored in the last two league matches and wakes up every morning next to Abbey Clancy. Spot the winner.
Swansea vs Arsenal (Sat 14 Jan 15.00)
Swansea’s booting out of Bob Bradley and hiring of Paul Clement means that three of the bottom four have changed manager over the last few weeks. Watch out Moyesie lad! The good part in all this is that Lord Pardew hasn’t been asked to manage any of the three teams. Anyway, back to Swansea and Arsenal and what we should expect? Well, a convincing away win for the Gunners surely? Well, yes. Probably. Though Clement has other ideas. “I think over recent games to ship three goals, four goals, five goals – I’m confident in my ability as a coach that that won’t happen during my reign. I can get a team organised, more organised than they’ve been, give them a bit of solidity in the defensive work and that’s the foundation to build what they’ve already shown they can be good at, which is the offensive side.” Confident chap. Sadly it failed to work last weekend in the Cup at Hull, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Meanwhile, the Gunners have dropped to fifth, courtesy of their comical defending at Bournemouth – however they have scored two or more goals in seven of their last eight games so Saturday will prove an immediate test of Clement’s ability to organise his defence.
Claude Makelele has joined the Swans!! Sadly for them he has joined as assistant manager and not as a player. Oh well. Paul Clement says that his team can compete with anyone. Let’s see how this one plays out then Paul. Meanwhile, defender Neil Taylor suffered a fractured cheekbone in training and is likely to be missing for around three weeks, which should open the door for Stephen Kingsley to return to the side in the interim…or before the Swans buy someone else. Jefferson Montero and Modou Barrow remain out. Much to the Gunners’ relief, no doubt. The Swans have announced the signing of Dutch international winger Luciano Narsingh, but the new recruit won’t be involved this weekend.
Theo Walcott has been ruled out of the next two games by Arsene Wenger who says the winger has an ongoing calf problem, which is not serious. Course not – a serious injury at Arsenal is at least a year out. Hector Bellerin and Francis Coquelin are also injured and not available, but Mesut Ozil has recovered from man flu and is ready to stroll around the pitch again in a daze. Laurent Koscielny, Petr Cech and Alexis Sanchez all return to the team after missing the cup tie at Preston. Per Mertesacker and Santi Cazorla remain out while Mohamed Elneny is at AFCON.
Watford vs Middlesbrough (Sat 14 Jan 15.00)
Anyone care? I guess a few of you may have a Boro defender – maybe some of you may even own Negredo. Anyone playing Holebas? Ah, whatever. Both teams are awful – both have won just two of their last ten, somehow the Hornets are three points better off than Boro, but were taken apart at home by Spurs in their most recent fixture at Vicarage Road. Recent form suggests Watford will have the better of things – they won at Boro in August courtesy of our aforementioned pal Holebas and have not lost any of the last six encounters with Boro.
It’ll clearly be a sad and poignant day at Vicarage Road as Graham Taylor is fondly remembered. Manager Walter Mazzarri is hopeful of delivering a win in memory of the club’s old boss and his injury list is easing somewhat. Goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes and defender Jose Holebas have both recovered from illness and Juan Camilo Zuniga, Stefano Okaka and Valon Behrami should all be available again. However, the weekend comes too soon for Daryl Janmaat and Isaac Success but new loan signing Young Tom Cleverley will go straight into the squad. Roberto Pereyra continues to miss out.
Boro boss Altor Karanka says new signing Rudy Gestede has settled in very well and will play a big part for the team this season. Ok mate. Villa fans may choose to disagree, but we’ll see. Daniel Ayala misses out through suspension while fellow defender Antonio Barragan and midfielder Gaston Ramirez are unavailable due to injury. George Friend is expected to start in defence and Victor Valdes and Viktor Fischer have recovered from knocks and in contention.
West Ham vs Crystal Palace (Sat 14 Jan 15.00)
Big Sam returns to West Ham on his latest survival mission, but with Palace, not his beloved Sunderland. And he hasn’t started great, losing at home to Swansea and being held to a Cup bore draw at Bolton…another old home of England’s greatest manager. Oh the shame. Well this week he takes his Palace lads across the capital to the Olympic Stadium where the home performances have been anything but worthy of a gold medal thus far. They may count themselves unfortunate to have lost to Man United last time out, but that really only disguises how poor the Hammers have been this season and last weekend they were torn apart by a rampant Man City. Aside from a recent three match burst of wins over Hull, Burnley and Swansea, Slaven Bilic’s men would be on a level with Hull. That’s how poor they have been. Of course, Palace haven’t been any better and are only a point clear of the drop zone. West Ham have won two and drawn the other of the past three meetings between the two and if all FPL eyes are on Dimitri Payet or Michail Antonio or even, perish the thought Andy Carroll, ignore at your peril Manuel Lanzini, who has scored in all of those past three matches vs the Eagles.
WOW – Bilic admits that Dimitri Payet wants to leave the club and is refusing to play – the manager then said the club won’t sell Payet. A stroppy Frenchman on strike – who would ever have believed that? This would probably explain the lack of spirit in the team this season. Watch this space for developments in what is clearly going to be an ongoing situation until the transfer window shuts, despite what Bilic says as money talks and the likes of PSG, Chelsea, Man City and Man Utd will all be on high alert, while a move back to Marseille is also a possibility according to the rumours. Onto team news and Michail Antonio missed training on Thursday due to a temperature with the manager hoping it’s just a 24 hour thing. The service to young Andy is suddenly looking somewhat depleted! There is some positive news as James Collins, Sam Byram and Reece Oxford have all returned to full training this week and will be available for selection. Maybe he can cross a ball to Carroll? Cheikhou Kouyaté and Andre Ayew are at AFCON and Diafra Sakho, Arthur Masuaku and Alvaro Arbeloa are long term absentees.
Big Sam says he is looking forward to returning to West Ham and is expecting a good reception. The boss denied media reports that the club is looking to offload Christian Benteke in order to raise funds to beef up the squad. Benteke may have a new mate soon enough as Loic Remy prepares to rejoin the squad, though Remy is unlikely to be able to play 90mins just yet. Scott Dann, James McArthur and Wayne Hennessey will all be given late fitness tests before the weekend, while Wilfried Zaha and Bakary Sako are away at AFCON.
Leicester vs Chelsea (Sat 14 Jan 17.30)
Before GW20, we could have been forgiven for arranging the passing on of the Premier League trophy to take place this weekend, with Chelsea seemingly unbeatable at the top. However, the Blues crashed and burned at Spurs and suddenly don’t look as impenetrable as they did. In all honesty, a trip to Leicester shouldn’t faze them too much unless the Foxes have secretly signed Dele Alli in the last fortnight. The Champions are of course having a shocker and go into the weekend in 15th place with just 21 points, 28 points behind their visitors. How different things were last season when they beat everyone around them, including Chelsea, who were Vardy’d and Mahrez’d at the King Power Stadium. The Foxes did at least secure a Cup win at Goodison last week, though let’s be honest all eyes on this one will be gagging to see a certain Nathan Ake appear on the Chelsea team sheet.
Jamie Vardy and Andy King have both recovered from illness to return to training this week and should therefore be available for the Foxes. Ex Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri laments the loss of Riyad Mahrez, Daniel Amartey and Islam Slmiani to AFCON but says that Ahmed Musa will be one who will be able to take advantage of the absentees over the next few weeks. Leo Ulloa misses out with a thigh injury. New signing, midfielder Wilfred Ndidi could make his league debut after appearing in the impressive Cup win at Goodison last weekend.
Oh Signore Conte, don’t. Just don’t. ‘I have to check on a couple of situations before deciding the team’.Regarding Nathan Ake, Conte says the player has grown (as a player) while on loan but needs time to adapt to ‘our way of playing’, before saying he hasn’t yet decided if the defender will be involved vs Leicester but he has been impressive in training. When asked if Ake has been tried at left wing back in training, Conte said he’s only looked at him at centre back, which MAY suggest that Marcos Alonso is ok. Who knows?! John Terry is of course suspended after being sent off in the Cup last weekend.
Everton vs Man City (Sun 15 Jan 13.30)
This supposed crisis that City are having has seen them win four of their last five in the league – however, such is the form of Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs that Pep sees his new guns sat in 4th place and suddenly Champions League qualification doesn’t seem as guaranteed as before. City take the short journey west along the M62 to Liverpool – but fortunately for Pep, City bypass Anfield and head for Goodison. This of course means a trip home for John Stones, who is bound to receive a warm homecoming welcome from his old adoring fans. The Toffees sit in 7th, 9pts behind 6th place and are being their usual inconsistent selves, but did at least see off Southampton in GW20 before crashing out of the Cup at home to Leicester. Everton have failed to win any of their last seven clashes with City, though three of the last four have ended in draws.
Everton have completed the signing of Morgan Schneiderlin from Man Utd, but manager Ronald Koeman says he will leave it to tomorrow to decide whether the midfielder will go straight into the starting XI. James McCarthy and Maarten Stekelenburg have both trained all week but again late assessments will be made on the pair. Fellow new signing Ademola Lookman also has a good chance of making the weekend squad according to the manager. Idrissa Gueye is away at AFCON, while Bryan Oviedo, Mo Besic and Yannick Bolasie remain out.
City’s new striker Gabriel Jesus has not been registered in time for Sunday’s trip to Goodison with Pep saying that ‘it will take time for the player to settle’ and is therefore unlikely to be challenging Kun. Or even Zabaleta or Sagna, Kop Young Gabriel will have some company in the stands as Fernandinho is suspended following his sending off vs Burnley. Ilkay Gundogan is of course out for the season, but captain Vincent Kompany has trained with Pep saying he is hopeful Kompany can play regularly in the second half of the season. KdB has recovered from sickness and is fine for Sunday.
Man Utd vs Liverpool (Sun 15 Jan 16.00)
The final match of our game-week and what a finale it promises to be. Still probably the most prestigious match in English football sees the two most successful teams meet at Old Trafford. The late kick off should ensure that both sets of supporters should be fully tanked up and therefore spend most of the pre-match fighting each other and the next 90mins singing obscenities to each other. Charming lot. The game itself will be electric with United on a run of six successive league wins and Liverpool sitting pretty (to coin a phrase you understand) in 2nd place, unbeaten in six. Fixture form points to United who have won four and drawn the other of the last five meetings – but instead of fixture form, what may be of greater consequence will be the ability (or lack thereof) of Jonesy to deal with Firmino and Coutinho and Lovren in dealing with Ibra. Don’t miss it!
Mourinho says he thinks Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo will be ok for Sunday but cannot confirm that with still 48 hours to go before the game. The only other definite absentee is defender Eric Bailly who is at AFCON.
Klopp says that Joel Matip, Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho all trained yesterday and will be assessed nearer the time to see if they are ready to make the squad for Old Trafford. One person definitely missing out is Sadio Mane who is at AFCON, while Danny Ings is of course a long term absentee.
Suspension Report for GW21
Any player who receives 10 yellow cards before the second Sunday in April will face a two-match suspension. There is just one player on nine yellows (our old mate Jose Holebas), while Danny Rose and Danny Simpson are on eight. We will update this every week so as to keep you in touch with any existing suspension and those players who are close to getting the weekend off.
Suspended for GW21:
Simon Francis (Bournemouth)
John Terry (Chelsea)
Fernandinho (Man City)
Daniel Ayala (Middlesbrough)
One yellow card away from suspension:
Jose Holebas (Watford) (again!)
Two yellow cards away from suspension:
Danny Simpson (Leicester)
Danny Rose (Spurs)
Thanks for reading Around the Grounds FPL Team News Gameweek 21. This article was written by Cookie
Fixture Tracker – the next 6 games