I'm going to try to do a new weekly feature in which I briefly preview the 3 or 4 most intriguing Premier League fixtures over the coming weekend. Then as the weekend progresses and the matches are played I'll try to do match analyses for as many as possible. The format of these previews will be fairly simple: I'm going to offer up what I think will be one key tactical feature of each contest and one important statistic that I think may provide some insight into how a match will play out.
I spent a few hours last night trying to do this feature as a video blog. I should have thrown in the towel sooner than I did. Spouting a 10 minute monologue is difficult stuff so big ups to the YouTubers that are able to wax poetic about the game sitting in front of a camera- I have a new respect for just how difficult that is. I'm not sure if it was an attempt at being more expressive than I typically am but for whatever reason I did a lot of talking out of one side of my mouth, Xhedran Shaqiri style (yes, I'm missing all my top teeth in half of my mouth). Anyway, that idea has been closeted for the foreseeable future.
This weekend I'll be watching Newcastle at Manchester United (7:45 am ET Saturday), Tottenham at Leicester City (10 am ET Saturday), Manchester City at Everton (11 am ET Sunday), and Liverpool at Arsenal (Monday 2:45 pm ET).
Here's the Manchester United vs. Newcastle preview. I'll post the other three shortly. Woop woop!
Newcastle at Manchester United
Key tactic: One potentially key tactic here could be the battle down Manchester United's left channel. United's Memphis Depay is coming off an excellent performance down the left wing in Manchester United's 3-1 Champions League qualifying win over Club Brugge Wednesday. He scored two fantastic goals cutting in from the left and provided the assist to Marouane Fellaini for United's third with a perfectly weighted cross to the back post.
Memphis is a dynamic player. He's quick and athletic, able to beat the opposition fullback with the dribble, a prolific finisher when cutting inside onto his right foot and is capable of providing good crosses into the penalty area from the channels. He also scored more goals from free kicks than any player in Europe last season.
His presence will be a particular concern for Newcastle given they'll will be without first choice right back Daryl Janmaat who was foolishly sent off for two bookable first half offenses in their 2-1 defeat to Swansea. Steve McClaren may elect to slide Massadio Haidara across from his normal left back position to fill in for Janmaat, then drop Jack Colback to left back from the midfield. Haidara has had a solid enough start to the season- he's Newcastle's highest rated player according to whoscored.com's statistical model- but is prone to the occasional lapse in concentration. Whoever plays right back for Newcastle will have to be dialed in on Memphis to contain the electric Dutchmen.
Key stat: The key stat here is the difference in goal difference between the two sides. Newcastle have conceded twice in both of their opening fixtures. Manchester United have yet to concede in the league. A solid defensive effort is going to be the most likely way to get a result at Old Trafford. I can't see Newcastle getting anything out of this if they concede two. United under Van Gaal haven't always been the most exciting side but they are capable of methodically controlling a game when they take the lead.