Premier League predictions: Lawro v Arsenal fans TJ & Femi from Ezra Collective


Leaders Manchester City beat Leeds 7-0 on Tuesday to rack up their seventh Premier League win in a row, but can struggling Newcastle stop them when they host Pep Guardiola’s side on Sunday?

“City don’t actually have a great record at St James’ Park under Pep,” said BBC Sport football expert Mark Lawrenson. “He’s won twice in four visits, but only ever by a one-goal margin.

“So this might not be as one sided as people might think. What won’t help Newcastle, though, is that they played at Anfield on Thursday and we don’t know how much that will have taken out of them.”

Lawro is making predictions for all 380 top-flight matches this season, against a variety of guests.

This week’s guests are Arsenal fans Femi & TJ Koleoso from jazz band Ezra Collective, who have collaborated with grime MC Novelist for their new single, More Than A Hustler.

The track is a tale of how the group is on a constant quest for greatness – something that applied to Arsenal when the brothers were watching them as they grew up in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but is a little less true of the current Gunners team.

Ezra Collective
Ezra Collective are a London five-piece who blend jazz with afrobeat, garage, hip-hop and soul

“Why Arsenal? Well we are both north London boys, born and bred,” Femi told BBC Sport. “But, more significantly than that, my uncle migrated from Nigeria to the UK and the first team he decided to start supporting was Arsenal.

“He told me the other day that he went to his first game at Highbury in 1994, which was the year I was born. He’s had a season ticket there for over two decades. and when TJ and I were born we were both signed up as junior Gunners.

“So although we are from north London, we could have been born near OId Trafford and we would still be Arsenal. It is the same for our whole family.

“My first game was against Bolton when I was about eight. Arsenal went through a spell where we always used to draw or lose to Bolton, so my uncle would always give those tickets away. I am really grateful that I got to see us at Highbury as well as Emirates Stadium, because our cousins who are a bit younger never got the chance.”

Those years around the turn of the millennium were golden ones for Femi and his younger brother TJ, who grew up idolising Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira.

TJ added: “You are going to find a lot of young black guys around our age and probably up to around 40, who support Arsenal because of Ian Wright or Thierry Henry, and also a lot of Nigerians who are Gunners because of Nwankwo Kanu.

“The first time I remember being conscious not just about Arsenal but about any football at all was when we won the Premier League title at Old Trafford in 2002.

Sylvain Wiltord scores the winner against Manchester United at Old Trafford in 2002 that secured the Premier League title for Arsenal
Wiltord’s winner at Old Trafford secured the Premier League title for Arsenal in 2002 and ensured they won the Double of league and FA Cup for the third time, repeating their feat of 1971 and 1998

“I didn’t know too much about what was going on, I just remember Sylvain Wiltord’s celebration when he got the winner, with Kanu jumping over him. I was only about six then, but I knew it was a big deal because my uncle was happy!

“Those are my earliest football memories and they were great times to be an Arsenal fan – they were the glory years. I was a massive, massive Vieira fan, as well as Henry. They were the two for me and with them in the team I just felt like we couldn’t lose.

“Then, the season after we had been the Invincibles in 2003-04, we lost to Manchester United to end our unbeaten run after 49 matches, which was the first time I had ever really cried at a football game. I am still not over Wayne Rooney’s dive for United’s penalty that made it 1-0 to United – if there was one game I could go back and have VAR, it would be that one.

“The 2006 Champions League final, when we lost to Barcelona, was another one that was hard to take. Even with 10 men we were so close to beating Barcelona. If the last 15 minutes of that game had gone our way, I really do think the next few years would have been very different for Arsenal.

“These days, our expectations are a lot lower. I think Arsenal fans get a little bit romantic every now and again because of our young players and when we win a few games like we have at home recently. But then you look at where you used to be, and instead of being happy to be be fourth we would be right in that mix with Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea.

“We got absolutely battered by Manchester City at the start of the season, and it is at those moments that you realise we are nowhere near where we were in 2005.”

Result Lawro Femi TJ
SATURDAY
Man Utd v Brighton P-P P-P P-P P-P
Aston Villa v Burnley x-x 2-1 1-0 3-0
Southampton v Brentford P-P P-P P-P P-P
Watford v Crystal Palace P-P P-P P-P P-P
West Ham v Norwich P-P P-P P-P P-P
Leeds v Arsenal x-x 1-2 0-3 0-3
SUNDAY
Everton v Leicester P-P P-P P-P P-P
Wolves v Chelsea x-x 0-2 2-1 2-2
Newcastle v Man City x-x 0-3 1-3 0-4
Tottenham v Liverpool x-x 1-1 0-2 0-11

P-P = matches postponed because of Covid-19 outbreaks.

A correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth 10 points. The exact score earns 40 points.

LAWRO’S PREDICTIONS

Games kick off at 15:00 GMT unless otherwise stated

SATURDAY

Man Utd v Brighton

Manchester United P-P Brighton

This match was postponed because of a Covid-19 outbreak.

Aston Villa v Burnley

Aston Villa v Burnley

Burnley, who were one of the teams who had their game postponed because of Covid-19 in midweek, have not really got going yet this season. They have not even managed a goal in any of their past three matches.

In contrast, Aston Villa are going well under Steven Gerrard, who got his fourth win in six games as manager when they beat Norwich on Tuesday. They will be full of confidence going into this one.

Lawro’s prediction: 2-1

Femi’s prediction: 1-0

TJ’s prediction: 3-0

Southampton v Brentford

Southampton v Brentford

This match was postponed because of a Covid-19 outbreak.

I agree with Brentford manager Thomas Frank, who says this weekend’s Premier League games should be postponed because of the current situation.

We all love football, and we all love going to matches, but getting games played should not be the priority when the number of cases at clubs is rising like it is.

A few individuals like Frank are rightly speaking out, but the Premier League should make the decision for everyone, which would hopefully stop things getting worse.

Brentford’s game with Manchester United on Tuesday was postponed because of an outbreak involving the visitors but, by Thursday, the Bees had 13 cases of the virus among their players and staff too.

We don’t know how many cases it takes for Premier League to call a game off but the current scenario seems to benefit the bigger clubs with better squads and more top players.

Watford v Crystal Palace

Watford v Crystal Palace

This match was postponed because of a Covid-19 outbreak.

West Ham v Norwich

West Ham v Norwich

This match was postponed because of a Covid-19 outbreak.

Leeds United v Arsenal

Leeds United v Arsenal (17:30)

Leeds will be feeling low after they were hammered by Manchester City on Tuesday, and injuries have taken their toll on Marcelo Bielsa’s side.

So, although Arsenal’s away form has been decidedly ropey of late, I fancy them to get something at Elland Road.

The Gunners still need to be more consistent on the road but they are up in fourth place, which is pretty much as good as they could hope for.

Mikel Arteta’s side don’t always play well, but they are rarely a pushover these days, which is a good sign.

Lawro’s prediction: 1-2

Femi’s prediction: I really enjoyed our win over Southampton last week, it was the first time I’d been to the Emirates in a little while. We played really well and for a club that has been such a toxic environment for the past five to 10 years, any win feels a little bit more precious these days. Losing to Everton at the start of December really demonstrated how much of a mid-table club we have become.

When you are a mid-table club there is frequent disappointment of course, but when you do win it is a massive high because whoever it feels like you have just beaten Manchester United, because you know these days we can lose any game we play.

Too often, part of the problem is that Mikel Arteta picks his side as if we are the worst team, but that cannot happen here – we have to go for it this time and make a real statement. If he gets it wrong against Leeds, there will be a really bad reaction. 0-3

TJ’s prediction: Our big problem under Arteta is creating chances, which is totally different to the way Arsenal have always been since we started watching them.

Defensively we are all right, we just don’t score goals – something is wrong there, because we are an attacking team. This time it has to be different, we have to try to take Leeds apart. For once I am actually looking forward to an away game because I can’t believe how bad they were on Tuesday. 0-3

SUNDAY

Everton v Leicester

Everton P-P Leicester (12:00)

This match was postponed because of a Covid-19 outbreak.

Wolves v Chelsea

Wolves v Chelsea (14:00)

Wolves do not score many, but they don’t concede many either. They will make life difficult for Chelsea, just as they have against Liverpool and Manchester City in the past few weeks.

But both of those sides still took three points against Wolves, and I think Chelsea will do the same, despite their wobble in the past few weeks.

Even if they don’t play well, Thomas Tuchel’s side usually still find a way to win. They are still right in the mix in the title race too, and things will click again for them soon, I am sure of it.

Lawro’s prediction: 0-2

Femi’s prediction: Wouldn’t it be nice if this one came true. 2-1

TJ’s prediction: Wolves will be close to winning it, but then Antonio Rudiger will dive in the last minute to get Chelsea a penalty. 2-2

Newcastle v Man City

Newcastle v Manchester City (14:15)

Manchester City seem to have found it tricky at St James’ Park in recent years for various reasons and they have not yet taken Newcastle apart there the way they have demolished most teams at one time or another under Pep Guardiola.

This time, I think they will find it a lot easier. City showed against Leeds what kind of form they are in, while Newcastle go into the game after successive defeats at Leicester and Liverpool.

I think the Magpies will end the week with another loss, and will just be hoping they don’t do more serious damage to their goal difference.

Lawro’s prediction: 0-3

Femi’s prediction: 1-3

TJ’s prediction: 0-4

Tottenham v Liverpool

Tottenham v Liverpool (16:30)

Tottenham have had two weeks without a game because of Covid but they have been able to train for most of that time which will have kept their boss Antonio Conte happy.

Knowing what Conte is like, I just think he will have Spurs well drilled and lying in wait for Liverpool, and the time they have had to prepare for it makes me think they can get something out of the game.

Liverpool haven’t won in London yet this season after drawing with Brentford and losing to West Ham, and I think they might have to wait until they play Chelsea at the start of 2022 to try to put that right.

Lawro’s prediction: 1-1

Femi’s prediction: A big Liverpool win here would be nice. 0-2

TJ’s prediction: It certainly would! 0-11

Lawro was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.

How did Lawro do last week?

From the midweek Premier League games played from Tuesday to Thursday, Lawro got three correct results from seven matches, with no exact scores, for a total of 30 points.

For now, it goes down as a draw with Sea Power guitarist Martin Noble, who also got three correct results with no exact scores, for a total of 30 points.

Brentford v Manchester United, Burnley v Watford and Leicester v Tottenham were postponed following a number of Covid-19 cases at United, Watford, Leicester and Spurs. Noble went for a 2-1 United victory, a 1-0 Watford win, and a 1-1 draw at King Power Stadium, and any points he earns will be added to his tally when those games are played.

Lawro's League Table graphic

TEAM P W D L PTS +/-
1 Man City 17 14 3 0 45 0
2 Liverpool 17 13 4 0 43 0
=3 Chelsea 17 12 5 0 41 0
=3 Leicester 17 12 5 0 41
5 Man Utd 16 12 2 2 38
6 Leeds 17 11 1 5 34
7 Arsenal 17 8 4 5 28
8 Tottenham 15 7 5 3 26
9 Aston Villa 17 7 4 6 25
10 West Ham 17 6 5 6 23
11 Brighton 16 6 3 7 21
=12 Newcastle 17 4 3 10 15
=12 Wolves 17 4 3 10 15
=14 Burnley 15 4 2 9 14
=14 Southampton 17 4 2 11 14
16 Brentford 16 4 1 11 13
17 Crystal Palace 17 3 3 11 12
18 Everton 17 3 1 13 10
19 Norwich 17 1 4 12 7
20 Watford 16 0 3 13 3

GUEST LEADERBOARD 2021-22

130 Jamie Webster
110 Friction, She Drew The Gun
90 Dev from Idles
80 Tom McFarland
77 Lawro (average after 17 weeks)
70 Ben Cajee, Elena Cole, Jelani Blackman
60 Haydn Craven
50 Aqib Khan, Shaun Thomas
40 Dan Haggis of The Wombats, Murray & Tav from FUR, Justin Young
30 Martin Noble, Michael ‘Venom’ Page, Roger Taylor, Zuzu
10 Tom Hughes

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