Manchester UnitedDownload App

Premier League Game-by-Game Breakdown, Players to Watch and Predictions

Willie GannonSenior Writer IOctober 7, 2016

Premier League Game-by-Game Breakdown, Players to Watch and Predictions

1 of 12

    The Premier League season may only be entering Week 4 of the new campaign, but we are already on track for what should a memorable year.

    So far we have had to deal with Wayne Rooney's horror injury, Brendan Rodgers' mission impossible and Swansea playing like Brazil or Spain.

    This week we could have possible fireworks as Chelsea make the short journey across London to take on QPR. It will be the first time John Terry and Anton Ferdinand will meet following Terry's acquittal of racially abusing Ferdinand.

    Liverpool will take the "long and winding road" from Anfield to Sunderland, with Rodgers weighed down by hope more than expectation, while Arsenal will look to keep their run of consecutive clean sheets going as Southampton roll into town.

    Week 4's fixture list may not stand out, but it will be an extremely important tool as we gauge the teams and managers going forward.

    This will be the first week that expectation and pressure will begin to play its part, and it will be interesting to see how sides like Spurs, who are expected to win at Reading; Liverpool, who are expected to be doing far better; and Southampton, who have no points from their opening three games, cope when points are the most valuable currency you can have.

    So read on for the Premier League game-by-game previews and team news for Week 4 and what promises to be yet another fantastic weekend of football.

    Don't forget to leave your predictions and thoughts in the comments below.

Norwich City vs. West Ham United

2 of 12

    Norwich City - Form Guide - DWDLWD (Odds - 11-8) (Draw 23-10)

    West Ham - Form Guide - WWLWWW (Odds - 2-1)

    Last time out, West Ham hammered a Clint Dempsey- and Moussa Dembele-less Fulham 3-0, while Norwich drew 1-1 with a Spurs team who had just signed the duo. So with the difference between 20th and 11th being just three points, both teams will be playing with the full knowledge that losing here could be pivotal as the season rolls on.

    Norwich City have improved since their first outing this season, when they were well beaten 5-0 by a rampant Fulham side. Since then, Chris Hughton has made minor changes to the setup by making the Canaries far more compact across midfield.

    While they have yet to register a win this season, it would only seem a matter of time given their current form.

    The Hammers, for their part, began the season with an easy 1-0 win over an already doomed-looking Aston Villa side. That bubble was quickly burst though, as Michael Laudrup's Swansea inflicted a 3-0 loss upon Big Sam's side—their first away defeat since February 2012—but the signing of Andy Carroll from Liverpool reinvigorated the newly promoted side as they strolled to an easy 3-0 over Fulham.

    This game looks like it will be a very cagey affair. Both teams are on the lookout for points, and this particular fixture looks ideally set up for a draw that would keep both camps happy.

    West Ham were terrible in their only away fixture thus far at Swansea and will be looking to tighten up a defence that is usually much harder to break down while Chris Hughton's Norwich, still looking for their first win, don't seem to have the firepower up front to worry the better sides.

    Bear in mind that each side will be looking to hold onto these points like their very lives depended upon it. Five of the last six meetings between the two sides have ended in stalemates, so a draw would seem likely.

     

    Player to Watch: Robert Snodgrass

    The 25-year-old wide man was easily the best player on show in Norwich City's last match against Spurs, in which he deservedly scored the Canaries' late equalizer. If West Ham want to take anything from this game, they will have to keep the lively Scot quiet, which won't be an easy task as he is comfortable on either flank and switches and drifts quite frequently.

    Prediction: Draw at 23-10

Aston Villa vs. Swansea City

3 of 12

    Aston Villa - Form Guide - DWLLLD (Odds 13-10) (Draw 9-4)

    Swansea - Form Guide - DWWWL (Odds 9-4)

    Paul Lambert's struggling Aston Villa (17th) will entertain Michael Laudrup's high-flying Swansea (second), with both sides acutely aware that a good performance here will help morale and momentum in each team but for vastly different reasons.

    Villa are on a rotten run of 13 Barclays Premier League games without a win that began last March when they were destroyed 3-0 by Arsenal at the Emirates.

    Since then, their form has been below relegation standards; only good luck and early-season form kept Villa in the Premier League last season. Alex McLeish was duly removed of his duties as first-team manager by club owner Randy Lerner and replaced by Lambert, but the ex-Norwich City boss is fighting fires in all corners while still trying to get his feet under the table.

    They were truly dreadful against West Ham and Everton in their opening two fixtures, which resulted in defeat, but they radically improved for the trek to St. James' Park where they were unlucky to draw 1-1 with Newcastle United.

    Swansea began the season in the best way possible with a 5-0 away win over QPR that was quickly followed up by a 3-0 home win over West Ham United, but last time out they came undone against a disciplined and robust Sunderland side who pushed the Swans all the way to a 2-2 draw.

    So this season, all the love surrounding the EPL has gone out to Laudrup and Michu, a £2 million capture from Rayo Vallecano who has scored four goals in his first three games.

    Laudrup seemingly improved upon Brendan Rodgers/Roberto Martinez's free-flowing style of football, and at one point his team were sitting on top of the league—albeit just two weeks old.

    Much of the credit has gone to Michu, who is a similar type player to Frank Lampard in that he specialises in arriving late into the box. With Swansea playing a 4-3-3 system that fosters creativity from wide positions, he has been the main beneficiary.

    Swansea look very good against teams that are open. However, with the realisation finally dawning upon Aston Villa's players that they are already in a relegation battle after just four weeks, they will be reluctant to open up as much as Swansea would like.

    Villa will be looking at this home game to build momentum for tougher battles to come, while Swansea will be looking to maintain that early-season form. With Villa struggling to find the back of the net, we could be looking at a game where the home side might be happy with a 0-0 result.

     

    Player to Watch: Brad Guzan

    The giant American goalkeeper has had to be patient to finally get his chance at holding down a regular berth at Aston Villa. Since joining the club in 2008, the ex-Chivas netminder has only played eight times, but Paul Lambert had no hesitation in dropping Premier League legend Shay Given to get Guzan into the team.

    Against Newcastle, last time out, the 6'4" 'keeper was outstanding, and if the Villans are to stay in the Premier League this season, he will have to maintain that form starting with Swansea's trip to Villa Park.

    Prediction: Draw at 9-4

Fulham vs. West Brom

4 of 12

    Fulham - Form Guide - LLLWLW (Odds Evens) (Draw 5-2)

    West Bromwich Albion - Form Guide - WWDWLD (Odds 11-4)

    There has been a lot of water under the bridge at Craven Cottage since Fulham's brilliant 5-0 opening-day victory over Norwich City.

    Since then, the Cottagers have lost three on the bounce, including a 1-0 League Cup loss to Sheffield Wednesday, and they have lost both Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey to Tottenham Hotspur.

    Without the pair, Martin Jol will probably be forced into a tactical re-think to accommodate his many new signings, Dimitar Berbatov included.

    With the ex-Manchester United player as well as Hugo Rodallega, Bryan Ruiz, Damien Duff, Mladen Petric, Steven Sidwell and Mahamadou Diarra at his disposal, it would seem that the side is now set up perfectly to play 4-2-3-1 with Petric, the free-scoring Croatian, at the pinnacle up top.

    Over the past two seasons, Fulham's game has been built upon honesty and athleticism. These are the two key components that sum up Dempsey and Dembele perfectly, so it is almost impossible to see Jol's logic having sold the pair only to replace them with Dimitar Berbatov, of all people.

    Either way, there has been too much movement in the first-team setup to consider Fulham as European contenders this season. They could just be the perfect opponents for a West Brom side clearly enjoying life under new boss Steve Clarke.

    Clarke has kept the momentum going from Roy Hodgson's time as manager, and the Baggies have now lost just twice from their last 13 games—with those losses coming at the hands of Manchester City and Arsenal.

    They currently sit in third place in the league table having looked very solid defensively, and it is little wonder that they are unbeaten and have only conceded one goal so far this term.

    Like many teams in the EPL this season, West Brom have used a 4-3-3 formation. However, unlike many teams, they have the problematic firepower up front in Shane Long and Peter Odemwingie.

    And if Plan A does not work, then Plan B comes into action—Romelu Lukaku. In his two cameo appearances this season against Liverpool and Spurs, he has terrorised the life and soul out of their defenders. As the season gets into its latter stages, expect the giant Belgian to have a major say.

    For this game, West Brom look so organised and full of honesty and integrity, while Fulham look like a team of flair players who have been cobbled together to wow the crowds. For that very reason, the Cottagers will be a very inconsistent and dangerous team to play against this term—but not for Steve Clarke's team.

     

    Player to Watch: James Morrison

    The 26-year-old Scottish international has enjoyed a fabulous start to the Premiership season. His versatility as a player makes him extremely valuable for Steve Clarke tactically.

    He is a creative force for the Baggies. He can show up on either wing or through the middle and is very hard to keep out of the game. Fulham lack pace across midfield, and if they do not get to grips with Morrison early on, then West Brom could have a field day.

    Prediction: West Brom win at 11-4

Arsenal vs. Southampton

5 of 12

    Arsenal - Form Guide - WDDWDD (Odds - 4/11) (Draw - 4-1)

    Southampton - Form Guide - LWLLWL (Odds 8-1)

    The Saints, the unluckiest team in the EPL, travel to the Emirates for the thankless task of taking on Arsenal.

    The Gunners quite misleadingly have the best defensive record in the Premier League this season and have yet to concede a goal. Despite the misleading nature of that record—Sunderland never even tried to shoot on goal, and neither Stoke City nor Liverpool are capable of shooting on goal—it should be extended against Southampton this weekend.

    Going forward, the Gunners have plenty of potential, and one gets the feeling that it is just a matter of time before Arsene Wenger's trio of new signings—Lukas Podolski, Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud—click.

    When they eventually got going against Liverpool's static midfield, they utterly destroyed them, but when faced with opposition who played for 0-0 draws (Sunderland and Stoke), they found it hard to break them down.

    That won't be the case against the most naive team in the Premier League—Southampton.

    So far this season, the Saints have had the misfortune to play against both Manchester City and Manchester United in their opening three fixtures, and now they face the Gunners.

    Against the two Manchesters, they had the opportunity to win each game and led quite late into the match, but defensive naivety, a lack of Premiership experience and fitness have all combined to leave Nigel Adkins' team with no points and a minus-four goal difference.

    Don't expect that to get any better against Arsenal this weekend.

     

    Player to Watch: Santi Cazorla

    Arsenal pulled one of the deals of the transfer window when the signed Cazorla for just £12 million from Malaga, because there is little doubt that the gifted Spanish international is easily worth twice that.

    He pulls all the strings for the Gunners from an advanced midfield role that also allows him to get into the box, but it is his eye for a pass and his creativity that mark him out as a real talent.

    Prediction: Arsenal win at 4-11

Manchester United vs. Wigan Athletic

6 of 12

    Manchester United - Form Guide - WWLWWL (Odds - 1-4) (Draw - 5-1)

    Wigan Athletic - Form Guide - DWWLWW (Odds - 11-1)

    So far this season, Manchester United have been patchy at best. They were well beaten by Everton in the opening game of the season and were lucky to beat both Fulham and Southampton, 3-2 each time.

    Taking the last two results into the context that the two teams the Red Devils defeated will struggle this season, one can easily see that Sir Alex Ferguson has much to do.

    That task has not been helped by a mammoth injury list that saw both Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa's names added to it this week after the international fixtures.

    When you realise that United have scored six goals this season and that Van Persie and Kagawa have contributed five of those six goals, you see the predicament Ferguson is in if they do not recover in time.

    Interestingly enough, Manchester United have beaten Wigan 12 of the last 13 times, with the Latics' only victory over the Red Devils coming in the season run-in last April.

    The key point about that win as far as Wigan is concerned is that it, apart from it being their first-ever win over United, also coincided with a complete change in tactics by Roberto Martinez.

    At one stage last season, Wigan looked doomed and were playing the worst football in the league, but Martinez turned everything around when he decided upon a 3-4-2-1 formation that suits his players perfectly.

    The Latics have now become a much tougher proposition to break down, and with Franco Di Santo weighing in with a few goals, they are an entirely different proposition altogether.

    The only barometer we have to compare these teams this season is how they each fared at St. Mary's against Southampton.

    Wigan won 2-0, and after riding a storm, they looked comfortable in the end as they held the Saints' attacks off at arm's length, while United had to dig deep and show immense character to come from 2-1 down to win the game in the final minutes.

    If this game was the only judge to go on, we would pick Wigan as favourites here. At 11-1, especially considering United's injury problems, they do offer exceptional value.

    Despite only having to travel a few miles for this game, Wigan tend not to travel too well when playing against the better teams, so United look favourites if slightly overpriced at 1-4.

     

    Player to Watch: James McCarthy

    The Irish international midfielder is on the verge of breaking into Giovanni Trapattoni's team, having been knocking on the door for the past couple of seasons. In him, Wigan have one of the best young midfield talents around.

    McCarthy is not exactly a marauding midfielder who gets stuck in and wins the midfield battle through strength and brutality. He is a clever player who wins midfield through making cunning incisive passes and intelligent positions combined with superior safety-first passing.

    If he keeps up the progression he had made over the last three seasons, he will be playing for the likes of Manchester United before long.

    Prediction: If Van Persie plays at any stage, Man United to win easy at 1-4. If not, a shock Wigan win at 11-1.

Stoke City vs. Manchester City

7 of 12

    Stoke City - Form Guide - DDDDDL (Odds - 4-1) (Draw - 3-1)

    Manchester City - Form Guide - WDWWWWW (Odds - 8-11)

    Traveling to the Britannia Stadium no longer holds any fears for Roberto Mancini and Manchester City.

    The Italian's team are deserved defending champions, and while teams like Spurs and Arsenal may fear Tony Pulis' physical side, the Citizens relish the different challenge they propose and deal with it in the only way they know how—playing winning football.

    Winning football is not to be mistaken for free-flowing, good-on-the-eye football. That is the respite for teams who do not have the nerve or bottle to take that step to becoming a winner, and from the very first moment a ball was kicked under Mancini you knew that there had been a massive philosophical change at the club.

    City head into this game with one eye on next week's Champions League group stage match with Real Madrid, having won nine and drawn only once from their last 10 Premier League fixtures.

    That solitary draw came at the hands of Liverpool at Anfield earlier this season where Mancini, quite uncharacteristically, changed his much-favoured 4-2-2-2 system to a 3-5-2 system that quite frankly did not suit his players.

    Whether he returns to the failed experiment against Stoke City remains to be seen, but it would seem unlikely.

    Stoke welcome the champions to the Britannia on the back of five consecutive draws that show the Potters are tough to beat and find it hard to put teams away in equal measure.

    Michael Owen will most likely make his debut having signed on a free transfer from Manchester United, but it seems unlikely that the ex-England man will make much of a splash considering the players in front of him.

    Jonathan Walters has developed a fine reputation over the last couple of seasons and comes across as a poor man's Mark Hughes in terms of his superb work rate and goals-to-games ratio. He has built a steady partnership with Peter Crouch, and if Tony Pulis can add some much-needed creativity to his robust midfield, Stoke City could be a perennial European-chasing team.

    For his part, Owen will still harbour hopes of an England recall for Brazil 2014 so he will be intent on proving his fitness and breaking into Pulis' side for what could be a fitting end to a great career.

    Stoke have drawn their last five games at home and make life difficult for everyone, and under normal circumstances one would choose City to win this game. However, given that City travel to Madrid for their opening Champions League fixture of the season almost straight after the Stoke clash, and given the fact that they were embarrassingly eliminated at the group stages last year, one gets the feeling that both managers would be happy with a draw.

     

    Player to Watch: Carlos Tevez

    The Argentine striker has been outstanding this season. He has scored four goals in four games and has been unlucky not to have had more.

    He has led the line superbly in the absence of Sergio Aguero and has often played up front by himself—even when partnered by the lackluster Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko.

    If he can maintain this early form, he will be a superb shout for Player of the Year.

    Prediction: If City play 4-4-2, an away win at 8-11. If Mancini goes with 3-5-2 again, a draw at 3-1.

QPR vs. Chelsea

8 of 12

    QPR - Form Guide - LWDLLW (Odds - 7-2) (Draw - 5-2)

    Chelsea - Form Guide - LWWWLD (Odds - 5-6)

    The big news heading into this game is not about how Chelsea can recover from their 4-1 mauling at the hands of Atletico Madrid in the European Super Cup final or about how Mark Hughes can mesh his existing players with the 12 he added in the transfer window. It is about whether Anton Ferdinand and John Terry should shake hands.

    This will be the first time the players have met since Terry was acquitted in a court of law for racially abusing Ferdinand.

    On the playing side of things, the Blues travel to the ground where they had two men sent off and were beaten last season to exact revenge. That won't be an easy task as Loftus Road claimed not only Chelsea, but Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham last season too.

    Both managers will have selection headaches heading into this fixture, but for wildly contrasting reasons.

    Hughes has an almost fully fit squad to select from, with only Ferdinand and Diakite doubtful, while Roberto Di Matteo faces up to the prospect of having to play without two of his regular back four as both Terry and Ashley Cole picked up injuries while on international duty with England.

    Picking the QPR team at this moment in time is next to impossible, as Hughes practically strengthened every single part of his team, but it looks increasingly likely that a number of players will make their debuts against the Blues.

    Hughes will most likely choose a 4-4-1-1 formation where Jose Bosingwa and Fabio will be employed in the full-back positions to attack Chelsea where they are weakest—out wide—while midfield is packed out to combat where Chelsea are strongest.

    Facing a game without the ever-present Terry and Cole will be no easy task for Di Matteo, but Ryan Bertrand is a very capable deputy at left-back if Cole does not recover in time. The same cannot be said of centre-half, where Bobby Zamora will be primed to wreak havoc should John Terry not make the lineup.

    Such is the two defenders' importance. This very result could depend upon whether they play or not.

     

    Player to Watch: Ryan Bertrand

    The youngster made his European debut in the Champions League final last year and has gone from strength to strength under Roberto Di Matteo since then. Primarily deployed as a left-sided midfielder to bring balance to Chelsea's centre, Bertrand is blessed with pace, power and a superb sense of defensive positioning.

    Should Cole not recover in time, Bertrand will step into the position that he will make his own over the coming seasons.

    Prediction: A lot depends upon Terry and Cole playing. If neither or just one plays, then a home win at 7-2. If both are on the pitch the Blues, who are shaky defensively, could still be held to a draw at 5-2.

Sunderland vs. Liverpool

9 of 12

    Sunderland - Form Guide - DWDLLD (Odds - 12-5) (Draw - 23-10)

    Liverpool - Form Guide - LDDWLW (Odds - 6-5)

    Liverpool head into this game on the back of their worst start to a season since the last one. Over the last couple of seasons, the Reds have been very inconsistent, and with a new manager at the helm (Brendan Rodgers), nothing much has changed.

    They travel to the Stadium of Light to take on a Black Cats team that have not won in 11 EPL games but have strengthened significantly during the transfer window—unlike Liverpool, who are now conceivably weaker.

    To be fair to Rodgers, the fixture list his team has been handed is brutal to say the least, and it offers little respite until a run of fairly winnable games in December. But between now and then, it will be backs to the wall, Butch-and-Sundance style, and it will be no surprise to many if Liverpool are found in the bottom six come Christmas.

    Sunderland will test Liverpool out in every single manner, and being ready for the physical onslaught that awaits them will be key to getting something out of this game.

    The Black Cats will bombard Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger and then look to suck them out to the halfway line before hitting them on the break with pace. They will also contest every single breaking ball across midfield so it is in games like this that the loss of Lucas will be felt most, as Liverpool do not have players capable of a physical battle across the middle.

    Up front, much will be expected of Luis Suarez as usual, and as usual he will be challenged to every single ball and then complain vociferously to the referee.

    In short, it will take a huge performance from the Reds to claim a victory here, and on this season's form, that seems highly unlikely.

    Martin O'Neill is a superb manager, and one feels that the Northern Irishman, at 60, will never get a chance at a top Premier League job he deserves so much.

    His teams are always built upon honesty and never give less than 100 percent in each and every game. He fosters a great self-belief in his players to the extent that they will run through walls for him.

    For Liverpool, it would seem that this fixture has come at the worst time. They enter the cauldron that is the Stadium of Light like an injured animal about to take on a predator who is lining up his next dinner.

    It won't get any easier for Rodgers, as next week they play Manchester United.


    Player to Watch: Steven Fletcher

    The £15 million Martin O'Neill spent to bring the Scottish international to Sunderland may seem a tad excessive, but it will turn out to be money well spent if he can push them up the table.

    O'Neill specialises in buying players that no one else wants, and that is exactly the kind of manager Sunderland need if they are ever to become a power in the Premier League. At 49,000 seats, the Stadium of Light is one of the largest grounds in the league, and if O'Neill can help fill that stadium week in and week out, they could push for a top-six berth.

    Fletcher is the first piece in that massive jigsaw, and having bagged two goals on his debut against Swansea, he will be keen to add to his tally against a Liverpool defence that looks decidedly shaky.

    Prediction: Sunderland win at 12-5

Reading vs. Tottenham

10 of 12

    Reading - Form Guide - WLDLDW (Odds - 11-4) (Draw - 5-2)

    Tottenham Hotspur - Form Guide - DDLWDW (Odds - Evens)

    Andre Villas-Boas brings his Spurs team to the graveyard that is the Madejski Stadium, where they will take on a Reading side that will be looking to heap more pain upon the young Portuguese.

    Having been booed off at White Hart Lane following their 1-1 draw with Norwich, it is safe to say that, for some Spurs fans, the honeymoon with their new manager is over after just three games.

    Villas-Boas' Spurs team are very much a work in progress, and any Spurs fan who has given up hope at this early stage really doesn't understand football.

    The 35-year-old Portuguese manager seems to have learned his lessons from Chelsea only too well. He is approaching the Spurs job and team with a view to respecting the pecking order of the dressing room and is allowing nature to takes it course before he implements changes.

    The changes will be gradual, but many should expect the likes of Moussa Dembele—who impressed so much when scoring on his debut against Norwich—and Emmanuel Adebayor to break in over the coming games while others, like Clint Dempsey and Hugo Lloris, will have to wait a little longer.

    Dembele's introduction is key, because this season Gareth Bale has been peripheral, and much of that is down to the Luka Modric supply line being cut off. In 45 minutes against Norwich, Dembele found Bale more times than the Welsh star had been in the previous two-and-a-half games, and if Spurs want to do well they need Bale to do well.

    Reading and Brian McDermott will be looking at this game full in the knowledge that this is probably the best time to be facing Spurs. Make no mistakes about it; Reading will be amongst the relegation contenders come next May, so three points here could be vital for that challenge.

    They are now unbeaten in 11 at the Madejski Stadium but have yet to keep a clean sheet from the two Premier League games this season.

    Against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, they were extremely adventurous and took the game to the Champions League holders and were unlucky to be beaten 4-2 at the end of an entertaining match.

    McDermott likes to use a 4-4-1-1 formation that sees Danny Guthrie and the injured and wonderfully named Hal Robson-Kanu interchange before joining Adam La Fondre or Pavel Pogrebnyak up front.

    They will create chances due to the quality of their possession play and their set-piece play, but they are hopelessly static across the back four and are very open across midfield, so they will struggle to keep clean sheets.

    On paper, Spurs should win this game handsomely, but with the Villas-Boas change project in full swing, it would seem unlikely that Tottenham will field their strongest XI just yet, so Reading will have a real chance at taking something from the game.

     

    Player to Watch: Kyle Walker

    The England international was surprisingly left out of Roy Hodgson's team for the Moldova and Ukraine matches, but there is little doubt that he is the best right-sided defender in the Premier League today.

    As a defender, he is excellent and is learning and improving all the time, but it is in attacking that he really stands out. So far this term, across three matches, he has put in eight crosses, and against 35-year-old Ian Harte on Sunday, he could literally have a field day.

    Prediction: If Adebayor plays, then expect Spurs to win at evens. If Defoe starts, then plump for a draw at 5-2.

Everton vs. Newcastle United

11 of 12

    Everton - Form Guide - LWWWWD (Odds - 8-11) (Draw 13-5)

    Newcastle United - Form Guide - DWLDWL (Odds - 4-1)

    Marouane Fellaini, the man with the best haircut in football, has been superb this season. Now in his fifth season with Everton, the 6'5" Belgian midfielder has scored 16 goals in 110 appearances. This season has seen a dramatic shift in his positioning, though, and that has resulted in him gaining far more chances to shoot at goal.

    The change came around when Tim Cahill was surprisingly sold to New York Red Bulls. The 32-year-old Australian, a superb servant to the Toffees, had made a career out of being a midfielder capable of supporting attack and defence in equal measure. Having Cahill moved on, Fellaini was promoted to that supporting role.

    Many tacticians mistakenly read the support role as being a free role because of the sheer amount of places that particular player will crop up, but in reality—and with a manager as demanding as David Moyes—it is one of the most tactically disciplined roles in football.

    With Felliani in that role, Everton have improved upon their tried and trusted 4-4-1-1 formation without really having to change a thing, but yet so much has changed by just moving one player further up the pitch.

    Now Everton possess a player who is arguably more than the sum of his own parts when combined with a team who are set up perfectly to suit him.

    David Moyes' teams are always difficult to beat, but the combination of Nikica Jelavic and Fellaini up front really gives them the capability to beat any team in the league this season.

    Alan Pardew knows this only too well, and he will bring his overachieving team from last season to Goodison Park full in the knowledge that it will take something special if his team are to get out of there with all three points.

    They have been wildly inconsistent this term as second-season syndrome kicks in and their games have fluctuated from the sublime to the ridiculous.

    A perfect example would be their opening home game of the campaign against Spurs, where the visitors dominated proceedings and hit the post three times before Demba Ba scored a wonderful goal to settle the nerves.

    Newcastle then went on to dominate before Spurs fought their way back into the game only to lose it to a cheaply awarded penalty in the final few minutes that Hatem Ben Arfa duly tucked away.

    This year, Pardew's team have problems defensively and in midfield, where the three sections of the team seem to have trouble supporting each other be it in attack or defence.

    With that in mind, they are exactly the last kind of team you would want to be sending to Goodison Park and Everton.

     

    Player to Watch: Steven Pienaar

    The little South African has been superb in the shadows of Fellaini and Moyes this season. While the two personalities I have mentioned deserve their praise, it is Pienaar who is quietly pulling all the strings for the Toffees from his roaming position on the left side of midfield.

    Prediction: Everton at 8-11

Story of the Season so Far

12 of 12

    29 Matches Played - 19 Wins 10 Draws

    85 Goals Scored - Average of 3 goals per game

    399 Shots on Target -  307 Shots off Target - Average of 24 Shots per Game

    348 Players from 60 Different Nationalities

    73 Yellow Cards and 5 Red Cards

    1,025,962 Fans Have Attended EPL Games - Average Attendance of 35,378 per Game

     

    All statistics provided by www.premierleague.com

     

    You can follow or find me on Twitter at @WillieGannon

Where can I comment?

Stay on your game

Latest news, insights, and forecasts on your teams across leagues.

Choose Teams
Get it on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Real-time news for your teams right on your mobile device.

Download
Copyright © 2017 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved. BleacherReport.com is part of Bleacher Report – Turner Sports Network, part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment Network. Certain photos copyright © 2017 Getty Images. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of Getty Images is strictly prohibited. AdChoices