Compass Picks: Martial can lead Manchester United’s revival

Anthony Martial illustration by Alvaro Serey

Compass reporter James Whittaker found his footing last week, when he correctly predicted the outcome of six English Premier League games.

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Bournemouth v Manchester United – Local time: 7:30am
Two wins in a week means we can start talking about a mini revival at Old Trafford. The return of Anthony Martial to the centre of the attack and his superb combination play with Marcus Rashford gives some hope that United can still frighten defences despite the void in creativity in midfield.
Whittaker Pick: Bournemouth 1, Manchester United 3

Arsenal v Wolverhampton – Local time: 10am
There is a theory in football scouting called the ‘haircut bias’. This can be the only explanation for how a defender as unreliable as David Luiz has had more than $100 million spent on him in the course of his career. Arsenal picked up the curly-locked Brazilian at a relatively cut-rate price of $10 million, yet it still seems like the worst possible signing for a club desperately short on defenders that simply do the basics right. The Gunners went for a shaggy mop top when they needed a short back and sides.
Whittaker Pick: Arsenal 1, Wolves 2

Aston Villa v Liverpool – Local time: 10am
The recent evolution of football tactics has been about the search for space. With low-resource teams compensating for gaps in talent with strength in numbers at the back, innovative coaches have reconfigured their sides to find new ways to break down opponents. Trent Alexander Arnold’s emergence from right back as the creative force behind this Liverpool side is perhaps the latest development in this phenomenon. Liverpool’s midfield is filled with willing workhorses, but the real flair is found at fullback where the young Englishman is reinventing the position.
Whittaker Pick: Aston Villa 0, Liverpool 2

Brighton v Norwich – Local time: 10am
For the first few games, Norwich striker Teemu Pukki looked likely to be the ‘surprise’ scorer – the guy coming up from the lower division who took defences by surprise and became an automatic cut-price fantasy pick. He has gone quiet in recent weeks and Brighton’s Neal Maupay, an astute signing from Brentford, is angling for that crown. The French forward is playing in a better, more creative side.
Whittaker Pick: Brighton 3, Norwich 0

Manchester City v Southampton – Local time: 10am
After a 9-0 shaming against Leicester last week, back-to-back games against Man City was the last thing Southampton needed. City beat them in the Carabao Cup midweek and can be banked on to pile on the misery with another win on Saturday.
Whittaker Pick: Manchester City 4, Southampton 0

Sheffield United v Burnley – Local time: 10am
Burnley midfielder Jack Cork had some kind words for Sheffield United in the run-up to this game, describing them as “organised and aggressive”. He could just as easily have been talking about his own side. Both teams are punching substantially above their weight thanks to good coaching and a professional attitude that makes them more than the sum of their parts.
Whittaker pick: Sheffield 1, Burnley 1

West Ham v Newcastle – Local time: 10am
Few players have come to define wasted potential as clearly as Jack Wilshere. Tipped as a world beater as a teenager, injuries and loss of form have seen his career nosedive to the point where he is now struggling to make West Ham’s squad. It is a shame because one of the missing ingredients in this promising Hammers side is a composed central midfield organiser who can expertly knit defence and attack – exactly the qualities Wilshere was lauded for as a young prospect.
Whittaker pick: West Ham 2, Newcastle 1

Watford v Chelsea – Local time: 12:30pm
American winger Christian Pulisic announced his arrival as a serious player with a ‘perfect hat trick” against Burnley last week. Pulisic has struggled to make the first XI since his move from Borussia Dortmund but if he can continue in this kind of form, he can add another dimension to the young Chelsea side and perhaps go some way towards compensating for the loss of Eden Hazard.
Whittaker pick: Watford 1, Chelsea 3


Crystal Palace v Leicester – Local time: 9am
There was a moment during Leicester’s demolition of Southampton last week where the Foxes were five or six goals up. Central defender Johnny Evans gathered his teammates together and urged them not to take their foot off the gas. He told them the record win in the Premier League was 9-0 and they were going to go for it. That epitomises the self-belief and ambition of this talented side.
Whittaker pick: Crystal Palace 1, Leicester 2

Everton v Tottenham – Local time: 11:30am
Languishing in the lower half of the table, Spurs are in new territory under Mauricio Pochettino. They got the defeat they deserved for a frightened performance against Liverpool and look a shadow of the side that has been a top-four certainty for the past five seasons. The decline has not come at any cost to the reputation of their coach, however. The Argentinian is reportedly being courted by Manchester United and Bayern Munich, among other suitors.
Whittaker pick: Everton 1, Tottenham 1

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