Premier League Preview: Storylines To Follow Ahead Of Matchday 8

The 2021/22 Premier League season has certainly delivered plenty of dramatic storylines already, with crowds flocking back to stadiums, big superstars delivering on their price tags, and some managers already starting to feel the heat on the back of slow starts. 

With the season’s second international break mercifully coming to a close this weekend, why not get a good recap at SinkorSwimSports for some of the biggest storylines to follow ahead of matchday 8 kicking off, and pick up some of the best Premier League betting tips for good measure? 

Premier League Matchday 8 Fixtures: 

Saturday 16th October 2021

Watford vs. Liverpool, 12:30, Vicarage Road, Watford 

Aston Villa vs. Wolves, 15:00, Villa Park, Birmingham 

Leicester vs. Man Utd, 15:00, King Power Stadium, Leicester 

Man City vs. Burnley, 15:00, Etihad Stadium, Manchester 

Norwich vs. Brighton, 15:00, Carrow Road, Norwich

Southampton vs. Leeds, 15:00, St. Mary’s, Southampton 

Brentford vs. Chelsea, 17:30, Brentford Community Stadium, Brentford

Sunday 17th October 2021 

Everton vs. West Ham, 14:00, Goodison Park, Liverpool 

Newcastle vs. Tottenham, 16:30, St. James’ Park, Newcastle 

Monday 18th October 2021 

Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace, 20:00, Emirates Stadium, London

Solskjaer Feeling The Heat? 

After two and a half seasons of consistent, albeit trophyless, improvement, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United have entered the 2021/22 Premier League season at a crossroads. Having led the Red Devils to back-to-back top-four finishes for the first time since 2012, Solskjaer has managed to build out one of the most stacked teams in the entire division, compounded by the additions of four-time Champions League winner Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho, and four-time Balon D’or winner Cristiano Ronaldo.

After three seasons without a piece of silverware, the longest run for the club since they were last relegated in 1974, the pressure to deliver is now on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. 

However, despite almost universal agreement from both fans and pundits that this is the campaign to step up for United, the early signs are that, regardless of the influx of big names, the Red Devils haven’t looked like they’re ready to smash their glass ceiling just yet. 

The Premier League betting odds have United locked against Liverpool, Manchester City, and Chelsea as favourites for the title this season, however, despite only being two points off the top at the start of matchday 8, the Red Devils are the only team in that crop to not play a ‘top six’ opponent yet. 

The club have won just once in their past five games, and the laboured style of play the side exhibited across 2020/21 has continued on so far this campaign, with United looking devoid of creativity and far too reliant on individual moments of brilliance from the likes of Ronaldo or Bruno Fernandes. 

Solskjaer has been praised for his man-management throughout his tenure, however, there have already been rumblings of discontent within his ranks as well this year, with uncertainties hanging over the likes of Paul Pogba, Dean Henderson, Jesse Lingard, and the ever-maligned Donny van de Beek. 

Starting from matchday 8, United’s next Premier League games are against Leicester, Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester City, Watford, Chelsea, and Arsenal, and will surely have huge ramifications on whether Ole truly is at the wheel, or whether the Red Devils’ spell in the wilderness is set to continue. 

The Hunt For A First Win 

Heading into matchday 8 in the Premier League, four teams are still looking for their first win of the campaign: Norwich, Newcastle, Burnley, and Southampton. 

All four sides were tipped as potential relegation candidates in the Premier League betting odds before the season kicking off, and all four face tough challenges in their fixtures ahead of the weekend. 

Norwich are known as the Premier League’s biggest yo-yo club and have continued to live up to their reputation so far this campaign. Daniel Farke’s side have once again played some nice football, averaging 45% possession and a near-80% pass completion rate, however, the Canaries have just looked like they lack the bite to compete in England’s top division, conceding 16 times and scoring just twice in their first seven matches. Matchday 8 sees Norwich take on high-flying Brighton at home, an undoubtedly crucial match in what could shape up as a long campaign for the Canaries. 

Newcastle fans were finally given the news they had been desperately waiting for almost a decade for during the international break with the announcement of the club being taken over by the Amanda Stavely-led Public Investment Fund. However, whilst the Magpies became the league’s wealthiest club in one swoop, they still face a battle in turning around a dismal start to this season. With a tricky trip to Tottenham on the horizon for matchday 8, Newcastle’s new owners could be facing a four-point deficit in the relegation zone. 

Sean Dyche is the third-longest serving manager in English football, and the longest-serving one in the Premier League, having won plaudits for keeping Burnley competing at the top table of the footballing pyramid since 2012, despite hardly any investment behind him. However, the Clarets’ slow start to the season has only increased the rumblings over whether Dyche’s time at Turf Moor could be coming to a close. Burnley face probably the toughest task in the league on matchday 8, facing champions Manchester City at the Eithad on Saturday 16th October, already one a winless run of ten games going back from last season. 

As for Southampton, the loss of Danny Ings always looked like it would see the Saints drop in the Premier League odds, however, there were warning signs on the horizon even before the Englishman’s departure. After beating Liverpool in January 2021, the Saints closed the season with a dismal run of just four wins, two draws, and fifteen losses. It’s been nine games since the Saints last won a match in the Premier League, and with only five goals scored so far this campaign, it’s clear that replacing the goals of Danny Ings will continue to be a concern for Southampton as they host Leeds on matchday 8 and beyond. 

Ranieri Returns 

Just like death and taxes, Watford sacking their manager just a handful of months into the job was an inevitability, and Xisco Munoz was relieved of his duties before the international break following a loss to Leeds, with his side sitting in a practically criminal 15th. 

Whether the Spaniard’s dismissal was justified or not, the sacking game has been a formula Watford have followed for several years now, with Xisco being the 14th manager hired by the club’s Pozzo family owners since 2012. 

Watford have made a solid start to life back in the Premier League with wins over Aston Villa and Norwich, however their last two performances against Newcastle and Leeds were both very uninspired, and there are several issues that new manager Claudio Ranieri will have his eyes on fixing. 

For starters, six of the Hornets’ ten goals conceded so far this season have been from set-pieces, and the team’s rigid 4-2-3-1 formation is yet to yield a clean sheet in any of their seven matches. The team have also only managed to record over 50% possession in one match, against the league’s worst possession side in Newcastle, and have only registered an xG (Expected Goals) over 1.00 in three games this campaign. 

What’s more, having only played Tottenham from the league’s traditional top six in their opening seven games, Watford’s next eight games look particularly daunting, with Liverpool, Everton, Southampton, Arsenal, Manchester United, Leicester, Chelsea and Manchester City all on the horizon. 

Whilst every football fan in the land has fond memories of the Ranieri miracle with Leicester in 2015/16, it’s important to remember that his last mid-season rescue mission with Fulham in 2018/19 did not end well for the Italian. The Hornets have rolled the dice early this campaign, and starting from matchday 8, could be entering the defining point of their season with so many tough fixtures looming large.