Adrian Clarke returns with his Premier League Insights column for what should be an intriguing Gameweek 25…
TACTICAL CAUTION LIKELY AT THE LONDON STADIUM
Nottingham Forest’s goal led an incredibly charmed life to deny us last weekend, but I am not deterred by the ‘Tricky Trees’. This week’s Insights column begins with another contest involving Steve Cooper’s gritty side.
.ands up who thinks David Moyes or Steve Cooper will go hard at chasing a second goal if they take the lead when West Ham United entertain Nottingham Forest this Saturday…
No, I didn’t think so.
David Moyes, under enormous pressure to get results, has reverted to type this season meaning negativity has taken over his approach.
He’s still a smart coach, but the fear of losing has made the Scot super careful and less willing to take risks.
His Hammers side has failed to score in 43 per cent of their matches in 2022-23, and that stat alone, I think, tells a pretty vivid story. The handbrake has stayed on, too long.
Nottingham Forest are also a pragmatic team. It is not in Cooper’s nature to play that way but in the top-flight he has cut his cloth accordingly.
On home turf it’s worked brilliantly, with a growing number of hard-fought clean sheet victories being claimed.
Away from those City Ground comforts it has been tougher going for Forest, who have failed to score in eight of their 11 road trip fixtures.
A total of three away goals all season, will not have Lukasz Fabianski’s gloves quivering in fear.
I do see this as a low-scoring affair.
Remarkably, 18 of West Ham’s 23 games this season have witnessed two goals or less being scored. They are the division’s undisputed ‘Unders’ Kings.
I say undisputed, but that’s not strictly the case. Nottingham Forest run them pretty close in this department too, with 16 of their matches dipping Under 2.5 goals too; the second-highest tally in the division.
While this encounter can’t be classified as a six-pointer per se, it does have the feel of a bottom-half game that neither will want to lose.
If this becomes loose, wild, or end-to-end I’d be absolutely staggered.
With the stats so strong and the game state likely to instigate additional caginess, my selection has to be Under 2.5 goals at 1.76 with Matchbook.
LEAKY LIVERPOOL HAVEN’T EARNED ENOUGH TRUST TO BANK ON CLEAN SHEETS
Liverpool are back! That’s what many people were saying last weekend when they picked off Newcastle United with a 2-0 win at St James’ Park.
A great result on paper yes, but they rode their luck big time against a Magpies side who played most of that fixture with ten men.
Fragile out of possession and rushed into making poor decisions, Jurgen Klopp’s side had fewer shots and touches inside the opposition box than their severely weakened opponents. Goalkeeper Alisson was man of the match.
To me that was alarming, and just three days later Real Madrid exposed that defensive weakness in brutal fashion, thumping five past them at Anfield.
Now, no one is claiming the Reds of old are back in the game.
In my opinion Liverpool are miles away from where they need to be, when they don’t have the ball.
Their tactical nous, structure, athleticism, communication, and decision-making are off – and it has been that way since the start of 2022-23.
Liverpool’s lucky shutout on Tyneside was just the second away clean sheet they have mustered this term, and that will give next opponents Crystal Palace encouragement this weekend.
Patrick Vieira’s men were denied a first win in seven by a last-kick-of-the-match goal from Brentford’s Vitaly Janelt last time out and would no doubt love to take a famous morale-boosting scalp on Saturday.
At Selhurst Park they struggle to keep clean sheets though (just two in 12) and that could be an issue when Salah, Nunez, Gakpo and co rock up in south London.
The scoring part isn’t so much of a problem for the Scousers.
Both Teams to Score has landed in 58% of Palace’s home games this term, while for Liverpool it’s 55% in their away matches.
Not mind-blowing numbers granted, but they certainly steer you in the direction of goals.
It feels like you don’t have to do too much to breach the Reds right now, and Palace are capable of finding the net at home.
Flipping it around it’s also hard to envisage Palace shutting down the visiting all-star attack.
I don’t know who’ll win. This one is tough to call, but I am confident in goals. BTTS at 1.84 is my pick.
- West Ham United v Nottingham Forest – Under 2.5 goals (1.76)
- Crystal Palace v Liverpool – Both Teams To Score (1.84)
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