Written by : @JGriffithJourno
5-0 versus Manchester City may not have been the ideal start, but let’s look forward. We have three very exciting fixtures coming up, so we need to put that pre-season friendly behind us and preview our next three matches. Positivity is key and it surely can’t get any worse, right?
A trip to the Amex; West Ham’s kryptonite. We are yet to beat the Seagulls in our four matches against them since their promotion in 2017, with Glenn Murray being a particularly difficult adversary. Brighton are under new leadership this term, with young Graham Potter at the helm. He is the polar opposite to his predecessor Chris Hughton, as Potter looks to play an expansive brand of football with a side who narrowly avoided the drop last season. Many doubted Potter’s credentials, yet he got off to a flyer against Watford last weekend, winning 3-0 at Vicarage Road.
Their style of play is clear and they look to keep the ball as shown by their 52% possession stat away from home last week. West Ham also look to control the game, using Wilshere and Rice as a double pivot in order to dictate the tempo of play. This sets up an interesting midfield battle between the two Hammers and Brighton’s partnership of Stephens and Propper. Brighton deploy a back three, so it is essential for Haller to have bodies close to him, which is why it is likely Antonio will retain his place.
Brighton’s danger man is Pascal Gross, a creative number 10 who Potter deploys on the right of a midfield 4. He will regularly drift inside leaving room for Montoya, the right wing-back, to overlap. Cresswell performed horribly last weekend, so it is likely Masuaku will play at left-back and he will certainly have to be on top form.
Brighton are a tough side to break down, but I expect Fornals to shine and make a breakthrough. However, history speaks volumes and I don’t see us leaving the seaside town with anymore than a point.
Score Prediction: 1-1
We ran riot at Vicarage Road last season, winning 4-1 with captain Mark Noble being the standout player. Watford started the season poorly, losing to Brighton at home on the opening weekend. Watford strengthened sparingly during the transfer window, with club-record signing Ismaila Sarr and defender Craig Dawson their only notable additions. It is likely they will suffer another defeat away at Everton this week so it should be in our minds that they are there for the taking.
Javi Gracia uses a 4222 formation, identical to the system Manuel Pellegrini played during his time at Manchester City. The game will be won and lost in midfield. Roberto Pereyra offers little defensive contribution and either Sarr or Deulofeu will play on the other wing, also leaving them weak defensively. We should employ a fluid three of Fornals, Lanzini and Anderson in order to occupy Doucoure and Capoue. This prevents them driving forward as they tend to usually, while it will create numerous chances for Haller, who I expect to bag his first West Ham goal in this game.
Watford should be seen as a must win. It will lay down a marker that we are challenging for Europe this season, not them. This may just be the game where we finally see Pellegrini’s dream realised and we play as a ‘big team’.
Score Prediction: 1-3
We were the only side whose opening fixture was worse than a trip to Anfield. Norwich were unsurprisingly torn to shreds by Liverpool, although they will be happy to have grabbed a goal (even if it was basically an open net given Adrian was in goal). By the time Norwich visit the London stadium, they may have some points on the board, given that they face Newcastle and Chelsea at Carrow Road and with both clubs currently nearing disaster, newcomers Norwich will fancy their chances.
Norwich were brave against Liverpool. They are persisting with Daniel Farke’s free-flowing attacking philiosophy, which must be respected, but this could be their downfall. Their expansive play lacks any real structure and there is a lot of open space to exploit when facing off against the Canaries. Pace is a team’s biggest asset against them and West Ham have plenty in abundance. Hopefully Pellegrini realises this and plays on the counter, rather than with the intention to dominate and we will enjoy a much easier match.
Nevertheless, it is a must win. Haller again will have plenty of chances and if things aren’t looking great, the open spaces make this a perfect game to implement a Haller-Hernandez front two; which is extremely exciting. I trust Pellegrini to get his team selection correct and subsequently we should run out comfortable victors against a side who will be facing the drop come the business of the season.
Score Prediction: 2-0