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Question time

Merse gives his verdict on all the weekend's games

Paul Merson - Paul Merson Posted 13th January 2012 view comments

As ever, you can follow all the Premier League action this weekend on Sky Sports.

We asked Soccer Saturday expert Paul Merson to look at the fixtures and give us his verdict on where the games will be won and lost.

He's taking a close look at the live games but this season he's also having his say on all of the other matches, too.

Henry: will he be involved against Swansea?

Henry: will he be involved against Swansea?

So read on for his shouts and don't forget to let us know your views in the comments box...

Ford Super Sunday: Newcastle v QPR
1pm, Sun, Sky Sports HD1

QPR are on a bit of a slide at the moment, but I never like to see anybody lose their job.

If they were to get relegated, I'd look at it and think: who would I want at the club to get them back up? And it would be Neil Warnock.

I'm a great believer that if you get promoted from the Championship then you should not be allowed to be sacked for 18 months. We keep seeing managers pulling up trees to get a club promoted to the Promised Land and then getting sacked six months later.

So I'm not happy about Warnock going, but it's good to see Mark Hughes, Eddie Niedzwiecki, Mark Bowen and Kevin Hitchcock back in a job.

There's no doubt that Hughes is a very good manager and he has had good experiences in the Premier League with Fulham and Blackburn. But I'm not sure if he'll keep QPR up because this team has been on a slippery slope.

Also, they play the top six teams in their last 10 games of the season, so they need to get points on the board now - and I can't see anywhere tougher to go right now than Newcastle, who beat Man United comfortably in their last league game. I'm sure Hughes wishes he could start with a home game!

Yes, Newcastle have lost big players to the Africa Cup of Nations, in particular Demba Ba, but Shola Ameobi and Leon Best are a handful on their day.

And they're playing against what is effectively a Championship defence. At the moment, QPR need to score two or three goals per game to get a result and they need to be much tighter than that.

They've been linked with players like Alex and someone like that would improve their back four 100 per cent, but I fear that this is a game too early for Mark Hughes. With Joey Barton suspended I can't see them getting anything here.


Ford Super Sunday: Swansea v Arsenal
3.30pm, Sun, Sky Sports HD1

I was at the Emirates with two of my boys on Monday evening and we will never forget being there for the return of Thierry Henry.

I've been to that stadium plenty of times and I've never known an atmosphere like it when he came on and scored. It was phenomenal.

When you're at the ground you can see that his movement is second to none, but I'm just not sure if Arsenal have the players to find him? Alex Song played a good pass for the goal, but he'd made three or four runs before that that nobody even saw. That's the problem he may face.

I see him largely being used as a sub, coming on if they need to change the game. Robin van Persie will start, there's no question about that, and you don't want to change something that ain't busted. He's been scoring goals for fun, so it would be wrong to change it to suit someone who'll be there for eight weeks.

So Henry will be used when they're chasing a game. He'll go up front with Van Persie playing his number 10 role in the hole when they need to get a goal.

And I think Henry will be needed against Swansea because this will be a very difficult test for Arsenal. This team gave Tottenham one hell of a game and were unlucky not to win.

Both of these teams like to keep the ball and I can see Swansea having a lot of possession in this match. Arsenal aren't the greatest team without the ball and so the home side will create enough chances to get a draw out of the game.


Monday Night Football: Wigan v Man City
7pm, Mon, Sky Sports HD1

Man City have lost four of their last eight games and they should be panicking like mad about the way things are going.

People say they made a great comeback against Man United, but at the end of the day they lost. Remember, they were 3-0 down at half-time and 1-0 down before they had a man sent off.

Against Liverpool in midweek I can't really remember Pepe Reina making many good saves, apart from one shot by Micah Richards that went straight at him. Man City should be opening teams up more than that.

The other issue is all the empty seats. They were playing the semi-final of a cup against Liverpool - still one of the biggest clubs in football - and it seems like their supporters are getting a bit complacent. I couldn't believe that place wasn't full.

There's no Yaya Toure, Kolo Toure or Vincent Kompany for the next few games and the latter is a major, major miss. You only have to look at the way Andy Carroll turned Stefan Savic on Wednesday night to see that.

Teams are starting to suss Man City out now. At the start of the game they like to pass the ball about 45 times across the back and into midfield and opponents are just saying 'let's sit back and let them pass the ball in front of us'. You can do that because City always give you a chance to nick a goal.

Sunderland did that for 90 minutes and then Liverpool did it in midweek, especially in the second half. Teams are also going man-to-man on David Silva and make it hard for him.

City will be desperate to win this game because I expect Tottenham and Man Utd to have gone level with them at the top by the time they kick off on Monday night. That adds even more pressure before their game with Tottenham (which I fancy Spurs to win, by the way).

Wigan will give them a game. They got results against Chelsea and Liverpool and they will sit 10 men behind the ball and ask City to break them down. I think City will ultimately have too much, but this will be a struggle.


The rest of the weekend's games

Aston Villa v Everton

Robbie Keane is a good signing for Villa because they haven't had a number 10 for a long, long time. They need someone like him who can knit stuff from the midfield to the forwards. Darren Bent is a good centre-forward, who makes good runs and if Keane gets in the hole he will find him. I think they'll beat Everton on the strength of that signing.

Blackburn v Fulham

Blackburn have got to win, but I think I've been saying that since October! They won at Old Trafford and got a point at Liverpool, but they seem to struggle against the "lesser" teams. Fulham aren't the worst side in the world and with someone like Clint Dempsey around they always have a chance.

Chelsea v Sunderland

Sunderland have been on a good run, but I've watched them a few times and I don't think they can keep being so lucky. They beat Wigan 4-1, but Wigan hit the inside of the post twice, which could have changed the game! Plus they hardly had 10 per cent of the ball against Man City and won. I think Chelsea will click sooner or later and rip someone apart. Sadly it will be too late to win the league.

Liverpool v Stoke

I'm doing this game on Soccer Saturday and it will be hard for Liverpool because they used a lot of energy chasing the ball in the second half against Man City. Stoke will sit behind the ball at Anfield and have the set-piece power to hurt you from corners, free-kicks and throw-ons. But for me, when Steven Gerrard plays it's always +1 in your favour because he can find the killer goal or pass.

Man Utd v Bolton

I think Manchester United will take unbelievable confidence from that win over Man City in the FA Cup last week. This wouldn't be a bad game to throw Paul Scholes into, but I'm not convinced he'll play here. He'll probably be on the bench again, but this should be comfortable for Man Utd.

Tottenham v Wolves

Wolves are spoilers. They give good accounts of themselves against the big boys. They've given Arsenal, Man City, Man United and Chelsea a good game this season and they very rarely get mugged off. However, Tottenham are flying, especially attacking-wise. They have pace on the wings and Emmanuel Adebayor up front, so I don't see anything but a Tottenham win. The only issue is that everyone is looking at them now and expecting them to win. Can they cope with that?

West Brom v Norwich

This will be a good game because both teams go for it. West Brom are sixth bottom and if they win this one they can go eight points clear of Wolves in 15th. Everyone will be looking at this result because if West Brom win then a gap opens up and I think you're looking at a five-horse relegation battle. Norwich don't mess about, but I see this as West Brom's chance to get out of it.

Follow Saturday's football on Soccer Saturday from 12noon on Sky Sports News HD and then see extended highlights on Football First from 8.25pm on Sky Sports HD2.

Comments (5)

  • Page 1 of 1
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Paul Merson (Liverpool fan) says...

liverpool for 4!!

Posted 12:11 14th January 2012

Daniel Russell (Manchester City fan) says...

I cant understand how you can critisce all of the empty seats . Ticket prices are on the rise and there is a credit crunch ! We cant all get to every game

Posted 18:13 13th January 2012

Jim West (Manchester City fan) says...

Paul, you say wigan 0 city 2 but expect city to struggle seems a bit of a contradiction of your thoughts. poor decisions have cost Man City over the last few games, but tbh i expect that they will bounce back on Monday and win comfortably.

Posted 17:54 13th January 2012

Ste Lee (Sunderland fan) says...

Disagree with Mersons comments about Sunderland. Yes Wigan did hit the post twice on the SAME move, so that would only account for one goal. Against Man City, they dominated possession but never created a clear cut chances, Richards hit the crossbar but Sunderland had 3 one on ones. Where was the Luck with Everton? I think it will be a close game as Chelsea are playing poor at the moment.

Posted 14:36 13th January 2012

Ephraim Odogwu says...

Man City will win the championship they have all the qualities,the challenge on Nani by Comp and that of Glen on Man city player is no different, Glen should have been sent off, two footed tackle it is,However refs are always affraid to make decisions on Man U players 'cos of Alex Ferguson.refs makes all sorts of mistakes,Man City lost to Man U 3-2 'cos of the send of comp. I don't surpport either, just love football.

Posted 11:38 13th January 2012

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