Manchester United v Brighton: predictions, psychology, injuries

The first thing we know about Manchester United is that they are on a terrific run.  Here it is…

22 Dec 2018 Cardiff City v Manchester United W 1-5
26 Dec 2018 Manchester United v Huddersfield Town W 3-1
30 Dec 2018 Manchester United v AFC Bournemouth W 4-1
02 Jan 2019 Newcastle United v Manchester United W 0-2
05 Jan 2019 Manchester United v Reading FAC W 2-0
13 Jan 2019 Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United W 0-1

But… only one of those teams was a top six team, and Tottenham are in the curious position of doing far worse at home than away.  So playing Tottenham at Wembley, although not easy, was not as difficult as one might assume.

Just to make that point here is the top of the home matches league table…

Home games only.

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 12 11 0 1 40 10 30 33
2 Liverpool 10 9 1 0 27 3 24 28
3 Arsenal 11 8 2 1 24 10 14 26
4 Chelsea 12 7 4 1 21 9 12 25
5 Manchester United 10 6 3 1 21 13 8 21
6 Everton 12 6 3 3 20 16 4 21
7 Tottenham Hotspur 10 6 0 4 18 10 8 18

So Tottenham are modest at home, and Manchester United are better, having three draws and a defeat against Tottenham’s four defeats.  But Man U do score 2.1 goals a game at home letting in 1.3

Brighton are modest away – to say the least…

16 Brighton and Hove 11 2 2 7 9 18 -9 8
17 Burnley 11 2 2 7 9 22 -13 8
18 Huddersfield Town 11 1 3 7 8 21 -13 6
19 Cardiff City 10 1 2 7 6 18 -12 5
20 Fulham 12 0 2 10 8 30 -22 2

Two wins and two draws for Brighton away and seven defeats, scoring under 1 goal a game and letting in nearly two on average.

The fact is that these are the teams that Manchester United’s new manager has been getting his team to eat for breakfast, and it is hard to see how Brighton will hold out.

The psychology

Man U will expect to win because of their recent track record, and Brighton will also expect them to win.  Brighton will play to stop that all important first goal.  The moment Man U get it, the floodgates will open.

The injuries

Manchester United are way down the injury list with just three men down: but two of those (Alexis and Smalling) could play, although given the way in which Man U have been playing they hardly need risk anyone.

Brighton also have three injuries but only one of these – Bissouma – has any chance of making the team.  Fernandes da Silva Junior and Izquierdo  have no chance of playing.

The verdict

It is hard to see anything other than a Manchester United victory – probably by at least three goals.  Manchester United have scored 17 goals in their last six games, and have not let in a goal in their last three games so 3-0 seems about right.

Brighton v Liverpool the predictions and the psychology

After three consecutive defeats Brighton are unbeaten in four…

08 Dec 2018 Burnley v Brighton and Hove Albion L 1-0
16 Dec 2018 Brighton and Hove Albion v Chelsea L 1-2
22 Dec 2018 AFC Bournemouth v Brighton and Hove Albion L 2-0
26 Dec 2018 Brighton and Hove Albion v Arsenal D 1-1
29 Dec 2018 Brighton and Hove Albion v Everton W 1-0
02 Jan 2019 West Ham United v Brighton and Hove Albion D 2-2
05 Jan 2019 Bournemouth v Brighton and Hove (FA Cup) W 1-3

And what is interesting is that apart from the final game we have a run of matches without either side scoring more than two.   But is such a run of four undefeated enough to cause Liverpool a problem?

Liverpool had eight consecutive wins ending with a 5-1 thrashing of Arsenal and then…

03 Jan 2019 Manchester City v Liverpool L 2-1
07 Jan 2019 Wolverhampton W v Liverpool FA C L 2-1

Two away defeats – maybe the first could be predicted but the second seemed very unlikely.

But more than this, in those two matches Liverpool lost two cherished aims; to be only the second team since the 19th century to go all season unbeaten and to be only the third team to get more than one cup and league double.    Given the results they had been getting up to that point they must have thought both were ready and waiting for them.

Brighton at home are not something to be sneezed at.  Here is the league table based on home games only…

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 11 10 0 1 37 10 27 30
2 Liverpool 10 9 1 0 27 3 24 28
3 Arsenal 11 8 2 1 24 10 14 26
4 Chelsea 11 6 4 1 19 8 11 22
5 Manchester United 10 6 3 1 21 13 8 21
6 Tottenham Hotspur 9 6 0 3 18 9 9 18
7 Brighton and Hove Albion 10 5 3 2 15 11 4 18

Five wins, three draws, two defeats.  True the goals are not rattling in, but 15 for and 11 against is OK for a recently promoted club.

Liverpool might be top of the table overall but they are not when it comes to away games…

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Tottenham Hotspur 12 10 0 2 28 12 16 30
2 Liverpool 11 8 2 1 22 7 15 26
3 Chelsea 10 7 1 2 19 8 11 22
4 Manchester City 10 6 2 2 19 7 12 20
5 Manchester United 11 5 2 4 22 19 3 17

However recent wobble or not, this is still an excellent away for record with goalscoring to match.  Liverpool have scored more and conceded fewer away than Brighton have at home, which clearly suggests a win for Liverpool.

Psychological effects

The only thing that will stop Liverpool is themselves, with their concerns about those last two defeats.  Everything was going so well, and then suddenly it all goes wrong.   And not just wrong but two targets are now irretrievably lost.

And it is the impact of history that sooner or later will have a psychological effect on the club.  Their last trophy was in 2012 – the League Cup.  Before that it was the FA Cup in 2006.  Their last League title 1990.

The club does need to establish itself as a modern great not just by winning something but by doing it in a style that other clubs have managed, and for that they need to pick themselves up quickly.

If they can do so, the chances are they can give Manchester City a run for their money at the top.   But eyes will also be watching the transfer window this January – does the owner have the depth of pocket and nerves to go on and spend a lot more money?

Given these questions and issues the win in what might otherwise seem to be a match of little significance in the broader scheme of things, could mean a lot.

Bournemouth v Brighton FA Cup. The predictions and the psychology

Yet another South Coast Derby – well not really a derby but as with Southampton fans, these teams can all remember the days when all three teams were in the lower leagues looking up at the big boys.  Now all three are up there, and it is just Portsmouth on the south coast who can look on in annoyance, as their day has been and gone.

Portsmouth have won the cup twice, most recently in 2008, and actually made the final again two years later, Brighton have made the final once, while Southampton have won it once (in 1976) and been runners’ up twice.

Thus there is a bit of experience there – but not that much.

So to Bournemouth and Brighton.

Bournemouth have the home advantage and they have made use of it with five wins and three draws out of eight.  19 scored and 17 conceded in 11 games which on its own suggests a 1-1 draw.

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 11 10 0 1 37 10 27 30
2 Liverpool 10 9 1 0 27 3 24 28
3 Arsenal 11 8 2 1 24 10 14 26
4 Chelsea 11 6 4 1 19 8 11 22
5 Manchester United 10 6 3 1 21 13 8 21
6 Tottenham Hotspur 9 6 0 3 18 9 9 18
7 Brighton and Hove 10 5 3 2 15 11 4 18
8 AFC Bournemouth 11 5 3 3 19 17 2 18

Brighton are in the lower reaches of the away league table

15 Brighton and Hove 11 2 2 7 9 18 -9 8
16 Southampton 11 2 2 7 10 21 -11 8
17 Burnley 11 2 2 7 9 22 -13 8
18 Cardiff City 10 1 2 7 6 18 -12 5
19 Huddersfield Town 10 1 2 7 8 21 -13 5
20 Fulham 11 0 2 9 7 28 -21 2

Two wins, two draws and seven defeats from Brighton away, only nine scored in 11 games and 18 against does not make healthy reading.

The Psychological Effect

Combining the tables of home and away results Brighton are 13th and Bournemouth 12th, and both will be finding that acceptable, giving their limited resources.  They are 10 and 11 points respectively above the relegation zone, so in many regards the relief to get away from the bottom of the league itself isn’t there.  But in both cases a good cup run brings more finances, and of course greater publicity and belief.

But for the managers, going out of the cup early on, when there is a chance that a bad run in the league could draw the club into the relegation mire, is not necessarily a bad thing.  And certainly what no manager with a modest sized squad wants is the start of a set of injuries caused by FA Cup matches.

So lots at stake for local south coast pride, but a feeling for the loser (and especially their manager) that it makes it slightly easier to ensure a decent mid-table finish to the season.

Taking this into account we come back to the home-away goal scoring.

Bournemouth at home have a goal tally of 19-17

Brighton away have a goal tally of 9-18.

That makes it look like Bournemouth all the way.  Indeed in recent years it has all gone Bournemouth’s way…  In this table D is a draw and AFC indicates AFC Bournemouth was the winner.

09 Oct 2010 Brighton v AFC Bournemouth D 1-1 League One
22 Jan 2011 AFC Bournemouth v Brighton AFC 1-0 League One
30 Nov 2013 AFC Bournemouth v Brighton D 1-1 Championship
01 Jan 2014 Brighton v AFC Bournemouth D 1-1 Championship
01 Nov 2014 AFC Bournemouth v Brighton AFC 3-2 Championship
10 Apr 2015 Brighton v AFC Bournemouth AFC 0-2 Championship
15 Sep 2017 AFC Bournemouth v Brighton AFC 2-1 Premier League
19 Sep 2017 AFC Bournemouth v Brighton AFC 1-0 League Cup
01 Jan 2018 Brighton v AFC Bournemouth D 2-2 Premier League
22 Dec 2018 AFC Bournemouth v Brighton AFC 2-0 Premier League

So recent history suggests Bournemouth as well.  I’ll go for 2-1.

West Ham United v Brighton: the predictions and the psychology

19:45 West Ham United v Brighton
Referee: Chris Kavanagh
Assistants: Daniel Cook, Sian Massey-Ellis
Fourth official: Craig Pawson

West Ham have a home record that is just a little below average:

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
10 Watford 11 5 1 5 16 18 -2 16
11 Leicester City 10 4 2 4 12 10 2 14
12 Wolverhampton Wanderers 10 4 2 4 12 13 -1 14
13 West Ham United 10 4 1 5 14 16 -2 13
14 Cardiff City 11 4 1 6 13 23 -10 13
15 Fulham 10 3 3 4 12 19 -7 12
16 Burnley 10 3 1 6 12 20 -8 10

Four wins, one draw, five defeats.  Scoring and conceding around 1.5 goals a game.

Curiously West Ham are higher up the league if we just look at away games, but of course our focus here is on Brighton

9 West Ham United 10 4 2 4 13 14 -1 14
10 Watford 9 3 3 3 11 10 1 12
11 Newcastle United 10 2 5 3 8 12 -4 11
12 Crystal Palace 10 3 1 6 12 17 -5 10
13 Everton 10 2 3 5 13 15 -2 9
14 AFC Bournemouth 10 3 0 7 12 23 -11 9
15 Brighton and Hove Albion 10 2 1 7 7 16 -9 7
16 Southampton 10 2 1 7 10 21 -11 7
17 Cardiff City 10 1 2 7 6 18 -12 5
18 Huddersfield Town 10 1 2 7 8 21 -13 5

And for away matches Brighton are in the lower half of the table with two wins, one draw and one defeat.  A goal difference of Brighton away of -9 while West Ham at home is -2.  It gives West Ham the edge – especially if they can get an early goal.

In December West Ham went on a winning run before losing at home to Watford and then away to Burnley.

01 Dec 2018 Newcastle United v West Ham United W 0-3
04 Dec 2018 West Ham United v Cardiff City W 3-1
08 Dec 2018 West Ham United v Crystal Palace W 3-2
15 Dec 2018 Fulham v West Ham United W 0-2
22 Dec 2018 West Ham United v Watford L 0-2
27 Dec 2018 Southampton v West Ham United W 1-2
30 Dec 2018 Burnley v West Ham United L 2-0

That last away defeat was very unexpected since it was just Burnley’s third home win of the season, and this against a team that can certainly win away.

Both of these recent WHU defeats have been by 0-2, and although West Ham won the first four games of the month they were all against teams that were having problems.

Brighton on the other hand have had a more bumpy ride of late.  Here are their December results

01 Dec 2018 Huddersfield Town v Brighton and Hove Albion W 1-2
04 Dec 2018 Brighton and Hove Albion v Crystal Palace W 3-1
08 Dec 2018 Burnley v Brighton and Hove Albion L 1-0
16 Dec 2018 Brighton and Hove Albion v Chelsea L 1-2
22 Dec 2018 AFC Bournemouth v Brighton and Hove Albion L 2-0
26 Dec 2018 Brighton and Hove Albion v Arsenal D 1-1
29 Dec 2018 Brighton and Hove Albion v Everton W 1-0

Three wins, three draws and a defeat.  They too have lost to Burnley, and they did manage a draw against Arsenal, and they limited the damage in a defeat to Chelsea by just one goal.

The psychological position.

We have all seen clubs go on long winning or at least undefeated runs, but then when the run ends, they find it impossible to pick up the pieces and start winning again.  Typically there might be three, four or even five defeats against clubs that would previously have been swatted aside without a second thought.

The issue in this, as in so many aspects of football, is psychological.  A goal is given away and the players think “oh no not again” instead of metaphorically rolling up the sleeves and getting on with winning the match.

Yet psychology is very rarely taken into account by pundits – so we’re now adding the psychological element to our predictions.

Brighton’s players will very much be on the up having ended their run of three defeats.  West Ham players however will be nervous.  An early goal by Brighton and they will have that sinking feeling, thinking the good run is over.

So the first goal in this game is going to be very important, and neither side will want to give it away.  Neither is a side that is currently feeling that they can come back when going one down.

I suspect West Ham will go all out for the first goal, and get it, and so win the game, probably 2-0.  But the first goal is vital.

Brighton v Burnley: the predictions

Saturday 29 December

Brighton v Everton
Referee: Andy Madley
Assistants: Simon Long, Mick McDonough
Fourth official: Andre Marriner

Brighton have a decent enough home record, and can fight back at home as was shown in their game against Arsenal

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 10 9 0 1 35 9 26 27
2 Liverpool 9 8 1 0 22 2 20 25
3 Arsenal 10 7 2 1 20 9 11 23
4 Chelsea 10 6 3 1 19 8 11 21
5 Tottenham Hotspur 8 6 0 2 17 6 11 18
6 Manchester United 9 5 3 1 17 12 5 18
7 Everton 10 5 3 2 18 15 3 18
8 AFC Bournemouth 10 5 2 3 16 14 2 17
9 Brighton and Hove Albion 9 4 3 2 14 11 3 15

Everton however are struggling to show that they are anything but a middle ranking team when it comes to away form… two wins, three draws and four defeats – the exact reverse of the Brighton results at home.

11 Newcastle United 9 2 4 3 7 11 -4 10
12 Crystal Palace 10 3 1 6 12 17 -5 10
13 Everton 9 2 3 4 13 14 -1 9
14 AFC Bournemouth 9 3 0 6 11 19 -8 9
15 Brighton and Hove Albion 10 2 1 7 7 16 -9 7
16 Southampton 10 2 1 7 10 21 -11 7
17 Huddersfield Town 9 1 2 6 8 20 -12 5
18 Burnley 10 1 2 7 7 21 -14 5
19 Cardiff City 9 0 2 7 5 18 -13 2
20 Fulham 10 0 2 8 6 24 -18 2

The goals however are fairly similar.  Brighton at home have 14 for and 11 against, while Everton away have 13 scored and 14 against.   All this suggests Brighton might just edge it, but if so only by one go.

Here are Brighton’s recent games at home in the Premier League

27 Oct 2018 Brighton and Hove Albion v Wolverhampton W 1-0
24 Nov 2018 Brighton and Hove Albion v Leicester City D 1-1
04 Dec 2018 Brighton and Hove Albion v Crystal Palace W 3-1
16 Dec 2018 Brighton and Hove Albion v Chelsea L 1-2
26 Dec 2018 Brighton and Hove Albion v Arsenal D 1-1

That is a good run, with just one defeat to Chelsea thus far.  Everton’s last five in the league look like this

28 Oct 2018 Manchester United v Everton L 2-1
11 Nov 2018 Chelsea v Everton D 0-0
02 Dec 2018 Liverpool v Everton L 1-0
15 Dec 2018 Manchester City v Everton L 3-1
26 Dec 2018 Burnley v Everton W 1-5

Yes it was a fine win against Burnley but after a very poor run, and I can’t see Brighton giving up the ghost as Burnley did.   The stupidity of the Burnley manager coming out and saying that their team were always discriminated against by referees is revealed here – the team believe they can’t win because the manager has as good as said it.  What on earth did he expect?

So I take that as an oddity, and the result looks like a Brighton win to me.  The only chance of anything else by way of a result is a 1-1 draw.

Matchweek 20 the full list

Saturday 29 December

Brighton v Everton
Referee: Andy Madley
Assistants: Simon Long, Mick McDonough
Fourth official: Andre Marriner

Fulham v Huddersfield Town
Referee: Kevin Friend
Assistants: Matthew Wilkes, Andy Garratt
Fourth official: Chris Kavanagh

Leicester City v Cardiff City
Referee: Simon Hooper
Assistants: Richard West, Derek Eaton
Fourth official: Mike Dean

Tottenham Hotspur v Wolves
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Assistants: Stephen Child, Neil Davies
Fourth official: Lee Probert

Watford v Newcastle United
Referee: Roger East
Assistants: Harry Lennard, Simon Beck
Fourth official: Paul Tierney

17:30 Liverpool v Arsenal
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistants: Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett
Fourth official: Jonathan Moss

Sunday 30 December

12:00 Crystal Palace v Chelsea
Referee: Craig Pawson
Assistants: Ian Hussin, Eddie Smart
Fourth official: Andre Marriner

14:15 Burnley v West Ham United
Referee: David Coote
Assistants: Peter Kirkup, Daniel Cook
Fourth official: Martin Atkinson

14:15 Southampton v Man City
Referee: Paul Tierney
Assistants: Constantine Hatzidakis, Scott Ledger
Fourth official: Lee Probert

16:30 Man Utd v AFC Bournemouth
Referee: Lee Mason
Assistants: Marc Perry, Adrian Holmes
Fourth official: Mike Dean

Brighton v Arsenal match predictions

Brighton have been erratic in the league and that is their defining characteristic this season.

From 25 August to 29 September they played six games – five in the league and once in the league cup (against Southampton).   They lost four and drew two.

Then starting on 5 October they won three in a row, two at home and one away.   Unlike the earlier games which had 22 goals in six games (3.7 goals a game), these three winning games contained just three goals (1.0 goals per game, obviously).

Next came two defeats away from home in the League, followed by a draw and two wins, and most recently three defeats.

These last three defeats on 8th, 16th and 22nd of December are interesting.  All three are in the Premier League:

Date Game Res Score
08 Dec Burnley v Brighton and Hove L 1-0
16 Dec Brighton and Hove  v Chelsea L 1-2
22 Dec Bournemouth v Brighton and Hove L 2-0

One goal to Brighton in three games (against Chelsea) and defeats to Burnley (!!!) and Bournemouth.  Maybe they don’t like teams that begin with B.

Of course Arsenal’s most recent adventures do not make particularly wonderful reading

Date Game Res Score Competition
16 Dec 2018 Southampton v Arsenal L 3-2 Premier League
19 Dec 2018 Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur L 0-2 League Cup
22 Dec 2018 Arsenal v Burnley W 3-1 Premier League

And Last season Arsenal lost away to Brighton at the end of a very depressing run of four games

22 Feb 2018 Arsenal v Östersunds FK L 1-2 Europa League
25 Feb 2018 Arsenal v Manchester City L 0-3 League Cup
01 Mar 2018 Arsenal v Manchester City L 0-3 Premier League
04 Mar 2018 Brighton and Hove  v Arsenal L 2-1 Premier League

But what of the home and away figures overall in relation to  the two teams…

Brighton are mid-table when it comes to home performances

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Manchester City 10 9 0 1 35 9 26 27
2 Arsenal 10 7 2 1 20 9 11 23
3 Liverpool 8 7 1 0 18 2 16 22
4 Chelsea 10 6 3 1 19 8 11 21
5 Everton 10 5 3 2 18 15 3 18
6 AFC Bournemouth 10 5 2 3 16 14 2 17
7 Tottenham Hotspur 7 5 0 2 12 6 6 15
8 Manchester United 8 4 3 1 14 11 3 15
9 Watford 9 5 0 4 14 15 -1 15
10 Brighton and Hove Albion 8 4 2 2 13 10 3 14

and although not relevant to this game Arsenal are second in this chart, although Liverpool hae two home games in hand and Tottenham, who are seriously trying to avoid playing at Wembley have three.

Away from home Arsenal are much stronger than they were last season, when the away form was their undoing.

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Tottenham Hotspur 11 9 0 2 25 12 13 27
2 Liverpool 10 8 2 0 21 5 16 26
3 Manchester City 8 5 2 1 15 4 11 17
4 Chelsea 8 5 1 2 16 7 9 16
5 Arsenal 8 4 2 2 20 15 5 14
6 Manchester United 10 4 2 4 20 19 1 14
7 Leicester City 10 4 2 4 12 13 -1 14

Four wins in the first eight away games for Arsenal is equal to their total for the whole of last season.

We can also see that Arsenal have a 20 to 15 goal tally away from home whereas Brighton are on 13 to 10 at home.  This suggests that Arsenal will go up against Brighton – and their division of goals between first and second half is very much stacked in favour of the second half.

What’s more there is Aubameyang – a top scorer now very much in form.  If we look for the top 20 scorers in the division right at the top we have Aubameyang with 20 goals, and the fastest scoring rate at 116 minutes per goal.  He’s knocked in 12 goals and just to round it off has 3 assists.

Brighton’s top may is Glenn Murray with 8 goals and no assists, coming in with a goal every 142 minutes.

Also in the top 20 is Alexandre Lacazette with 6 goals and 4 assists.

This looks to me like an Arsenal win.   Brighton do score at home so might get the one, but Arsenal are averaging 2.5 league goals per game away from home so I suspect it will be 1-2 to Arsenal.