Paul Merson's Premier League predictions - Week 17
Soccer Saturday pundit sees wins for Man Utd, Sunderland, Man City and Liverpool
Last Updated: 20/12/13 12:24pm
This is a big game for Arsenal because they could end up in fourth place by Christmas if results go against them.
That would have been almost unthinkable a few weeks ago when they were looking to go seven points clear at the top. It just shows you how quickly things can change.
I called a 3-0 win for Manchester City last week, so I wasn't surprised to see them lose that game, but I don't read too much into that match, it's the Everton game that was the concern. I saw things in that game that made me think things weren't right.
They were miles too open and they were letting people like Ross Barkley and Steven Pienaar get on the ball in space. They allowed David Silva and Samir Nasri to do the same thing last week and so they were always going to have problems. Plus Laurent Koscielny is injured which is very bad news for them.
Chelsea let in three goals against Stoke and five goals in two games against Sunderland, but you can bet your bottom dollar they won't let in three against Arsenal. Jose Mourinho will set his team up completely different.
On Monday night I expect Chelsea to be difficult to beat and they will make it hard for Arsenal by playing "the Mourinho way". They will be rock solid and go from there.
I don't think Mourinho enjoys playing entertaining football. He's a top manager because his teams have always been well-oiled machines who play from a base. In his teams of the past everybody would know what they are doing, but I don't know if his players do at the moment.
He doesn't have the steel in his team that he used to. Jon Obi Mikel sits in front of the back four, but he's no Claude Makelele. You don't see him breaking up play and making interceptions like Makelele used to.
However, I don't see Chelsea going to Arsenal and getting beat. Furthermore I don't think Arsenal can afford to lose. A draw will ensure they go into Christmas joint top of the league, which sounds a lot better than fourth, especially when they've just got games against Man City, Chelsea and Everton out of the way.
I expect them to pick up seven points from their next three games against West Ham, Newcastle and Cardiff so a point against Chelsea would leave them in a good position.
So I think will be more cautious than they have been in the last two games and as a result this could be quite a cagey game. For that reason I'm going for a draw.
PAUL PREDICTS: 1-1
Swansea v Everton (3.30pm, Sun, Sky Sports 1)
This will be a good game. Everton have been playing well and you've got to say that the teams that are up there at this stage of the season have to be seen as good teams. We are a lot of football matches into this season now and you've got to give Everton some respect. They won at Manchester United and they passed Arsenal to pieces in the first-half at the Emirates. I think Swansea will find it hard because Nathan Dyer is out, but they have got decent players in Jonjo Shelvey and Michu and they always give it a go. These are two decent teams and I think they will give us a very good, open game.
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-2
Southampton v Tottenham (12.30pm, Sun, Sky Sports 1)
Last week's result at home to Liverpool was as bad as it gets, but Tottenham were shocking in midweek against West Ham as well. They dominated the game, but when Emmanuel Adebayor came off the wheels fell off. They are all over the place at the moment, they're in disarray, and they will get squeezed by Southampton. Adebayor is quick enough and strong enough to make a difference, but I don't see them turning things around this quickly. Southampton aren't having a great time of things at the moment, but they are usually pretty strong at home and I think they will win this game, although I don't think it's a good idea to be leaving Adam Lallana on the bench!
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-1
Crystal Palace v Newcastle
Crystal Palace have been doing well under Tony Pulis and they were competitive against Chelsea last week. I watched Newcastle's game with Southampton for Soccer Saturday and it was a good match. When Newcastle get all their players out on the pitch - Yohan Cabaye in particular - they are a very good team. I've been impressed with them this season and I think they will win here.
PAUL PREDICTS: 0-1
Fulham v Man City
Fulham have been doing ok in recent matches. They played well to beat Aston Villa and they didn't deserve to lose 4-1 against Everton, That result was not a fair reflection. They can't live with Manchester City in this form though. People say City have got a bad away record, but they have done pretty well in their last two away games against Leicester and Bayern Munich. I can't see past City
PAUL PREDICTS: 1-3
Man Utd v West Ham
If Manchester United win this then it will be four wins in 10 days, which makes a big difference to David Moyes all of a sudden! West Ham had a great result in the Capital One Cup in midweek, but they have been struggling in the league and I think they are going to struggle again here. The West Ham fans will be looking forward to the semi-final, but you wonder if their squad can cope with too many extra games! It will only be a matter of time before Man United break them down.
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-0
Stoke v Aston Villa
I've been disappointed by Aston Villa in the last couple of weeks. They were atrocious against Fulham and then after the opening 10 minutes against Manchester United they weren't good enough. I'm also starting to wonder if Christian Benteke is a one-season wonder. Stoke didn't do very well against Man United, but I think they may just have enough to win this at home.
PAUL PREDICTS: 1-0
Sunderland v Norwich
This game is like a cup final. It's a big game for Norwich, but it's 100 times more important for Sunderland because they have to win. They had to play extra time in midweek, but they came through that and rode their luck so fair play to them. There looks to be a good team spirit there and I've seen enough from them in that game to suggest they will be good enough to win this important match. I really fancy them.
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-1
West Brom v Hull
When I heard Steve Clarke had been sacked I was majorly shocked at first, but when you saw his stats for the whole year then it made sense. People remember his first six months and the win at Old Trafford, but bar that results haven't been good. Things might be different if the ref hadn't given a silly penalty at Chelsea or if Stephane Sessegnon hadn't missed a sitter against Villa or if the Cardiff goalkeeper hasn't made a worldy save. It just shows the fine margins that can cost someone a job! Hull are a decent, well-organised team but I expect a reaction from West Brom.
PAUL PREDICTS: 1-0
Liverpool v Cardiff
Cardiff had a good result against West Brom last week, but I watched them draw 0-0 with Norwich and they should have lost that game 100-0. Liverpool have been beating a lot of the smaller teams this year and I can't see this lot stopping Luis Suarez in the form that he's in. I wouldn't be surprised if he got a hat-trick as well!
PAUL PREDICTS: 4-0