Arsenal’s showdown with Chelsea is the standout encounter in Week 22 of the Premier League season, as the curtain comes down on the congested spell of festive football.
The Gunners will hope to close the gap on their London rivals in second place and keep themselves in position to secure a top-four finish. Chelsea, however, have been making quiet progress as of late and look to be the finest side in the division behind runaway leaders Manchester City.
Other intriguing matches include Everton’s meeting with Manchester United, while Liverpool visit Burnley. City can make their grip on top spot even tighter, as they host floundering Watford at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.
Here are the fixtures to look forward to, a prediction for each and a look at two players with the class to make the difference for their side.
Monday, January 1, 2018
12:30 p.m. Brighton vs. Bournemouth (1-1)
3 p.m. Burnley vs. Liverpool (1-2)
3 p.m. Leicester City vs. Huddersfield (2-0)
3 p.m. Stoke City vs. Newcastle United (1-1)
5:30 p.m. Everton vs. Manchester United (0-1)
Tuesday, January 2, 2018
7:45 p.m. Southampton vs. Crystal Palace (2-1)
7:45 p.m. Swansea City vs. Tottenham Hotspur (1-2)
7:45 p.m. West Ham United vs. West Bromwich Albion (2-1)
8 p.m. Manchester City vs. Watford (3-0)
Wednesday, January 3, 2018
7:45 p.m. Arsenal vs. Chelsea (0-1)
For all the attacking stars United have on their books, Jesse Lingard is the first name on the teamsheet.
While he may not have the guile or flair of some of the division’s best forwards, the United man has proved himself to be a key part of Jose Mourinho’s team, making crucial contributions in the final third.
In recent weeks, his goals have helped the Red Devils earn some vital points. As Tifo Football noted, he’s beginning to find his groove.
Jesse Lingard has been directly involved in nine Premier League goals this season (five goals, four assists), more than in his previous three campaigns combined (8 goal involvements in 51 apps).
Away from home, he’s an extremely effective too. Not only does Lingard get forward into the box, but he also works hard defensively and can fulfil a number of different roles.
At Everton, a side likely to sit deep in an attempt to soak up pressure and spring on the break, he will need to make things happen on the ball too. He can be key to United rediscovering some momentum with a big result.
Willian found himself on the fringes of the Chelsea side for much of the previous campaign, with Eden Hazard and Pedro utilised frequently in support of Diego Costa. But he’s making himself undroppable this term.
As journalist Amadi Tidiane noted, when the Brazilian was brought into the side against Stoke City on Saturday, he was sensational.
There have been times this season when Willian has been subject to criticism, with his passing wasteful and his choices in possession often frustrating. But he’s played exceptionally well recently.
Against Stoke, Willian’s display was arguably his best of the season. He buzzed around the box with tremendous intent, won the ball back high up the pitch and made major contributions at the top end of the pitch. He grabbed two assists, won a penalty and converted the consequent effort.
Football journalist Rik Sharma commented on his dominant display:
It was a performance that will surely see him keep his place in the side for Wednesday’s trip to the Emirates Stadium. And it’s the kind of game in which Willian can thrive.
Going forward and in defence, he will have a big role to play. If Arsenal’s focus is on the likes of Alvaro Morata and Eden Hazard, Willian could punish the Gunners.
Culled from Bleacherreport.