Eight talking points ahead of the Premier League weekend

Each week we preview the Premier League action and discuss some of the division’s major talking points.

Away day blues to continue for Chelsea?

Chelsea remain a work in progress under the management of Graham Potter, who right now is attempting to fit the expensive pieces into a puzzle.

Record arrival Enzo Fernandez made his debut in last week’s goalless draw with Fulham, a fixture which saw the club’s run extended to just one goal in three games. Fernandez was bright in flashes against Fulham, but Mykhailo Mudryk was withdrawn at half-time after an anonymous outing. It was evidence, if any was needed, that this will be a process for Potter.

Near the top of Potter’s concerns will be addressing Chelsea’s away day blues. The west Londoners are eight without a win on the road in all competitions, having last claimed three points at Aston Villa on October 16.

Chelsea face a tough challenge this weekend with a London derby at West Ham, who have shown signs of improvement in recent weeks. The Hammers followed a much-needed win over Everton with progress in the FA Cup and a battling draw at Newcastle. With Jarrod Bowen finding form and Nayef Aguerd impressing at centre-back, David Moyes’ side will be confident of extending Chelsea’s record as poor travellers.


Arsenal face test of championship credentials

Arsenal’s season has been one without hiccups for much of the campaign. The Gunners have swaggered to the top of the Premier League, appearing to have removed past faults in a season which has exceeded all expectations to date.

Before last weekend, the north Londoners had lost just once in the Premier League. Even that defeat came with the mitigating factor that Mikel Arteta’s side were arguably the better side at Old Trafford.

Last week, however, was a different story. Arsenal were outmuscled and out-hustled; bullied and bruised at an Everton side making a statement to new manager Sean Dyche. It was a performance which will have raised concerns, particularly after how Arsenal crumbled in their chase for Champions League football last season.

Manchester City’s subsequent loss at Spurs provided Arsenal with a welcome reprieve, but Mikel Arteta will demand a response from his side as in-form Brentford visit the Emirates this weekend. The Bees have the attributes to unsettle the Gunners, who must show how far they’ve come at a crucial point in the season. With City visiting north London in midweek, Arteta’s side can ill-afford another setback.

Palace looking over their shoulder ahead of M23 derby?

One of the Premier League’s oddest rivalries resumes this weekend as Crystal Palace take on Brighton.

Despite a distance of around 40 miles, there’s no love lost between the sides and Patrick Vieira will be hoping his Palace team can turn around their concerning run of form. Palace are six points clear of the Premier League’s relegation places, but have not won in six matches.

The clash with Brighton begins a challenging run of fixtures for the Eagles, who follow up the visit of Brighton with games against Brentford, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Arsenal. Four of the eight sides below Palace picked up wins last time out and the South Londoners can not afford to continue their winless streak for much longer.

Vieira will take encouragement from Palace’s recent record in this fixture however, with the Eagles unbeaten in six against Brighton. Each of the last three at Selhurst Park have ended in 1-1 draws.

Kane faces favoured opponents as pursuit of Shearer continues

Harry Kane is collecting records at a rapid rate. Since last winter the 29-year-old has become both England’s (joint) and Tottenham’s record goalscorer, with his winner at Manchester City last weekend taking him past Jimmy Greaves’ club total for the north Londoners.

Kane’s goal was also his 200th in the Premier League, becoming just the third man to achieve the feat. Given his form this season, Kane could pass Wayne Rooney (208) and move into second in the all-time chart before the end of the campaign.

That would leave just Alan Shearer in his sights. Shearer’s record (260) is one that many felt might never be bettered, but Kane has placed himself into a brilliant position to etch his name into Premier League folklore. For all the social media jibes regarding his failure to win silverware, Kane’s legend would be cemented should he surpass the Geordie goal-machine.

Shearer – arguably the best out-and-out number nine of the Premier League era – won the Premier League title at Blackburn. How often is that mentioned when discussing the former England captain? It is that goal record that is most often associated with his name.

Kane’s quest will continue against his favoured opponents this weekend, as Spurs travel to Leicester. He has scored 18 goals in just 15 league appearances against the Foxes, including two hat-tricks.

Cloud surrounds City ahead of crucial week

All is not well at Manchester City right now. Defeat at Tottenham last weekend saw City miss the chance to capitalise on Arsenal’s slip the previous day, leaving the champions five points behind the table-toppers who also have a game in hand.

Then came the bombshell that the Premier League had hit the club with more than 100 charges of alleged financial misconduct. It is news that has provided an unwelcome – and seismic – distraction to the club’s title challenge and while no sanctions appear imminent, it will be important that City regroup and refocus on the task at hand.

Last Sunday’s loss at Spurs was the latest unconvincing performance from City this season, whose well-oiled machine has not quite found its mojo. Erling Haaland failed to register a shot on goal for the first time as a Premier League player, with a below-par Kevin De Bruyne starting at Spurs on the bench. Reuniting that duo could be crucial to bringing the best from his side for Guardiola, following a period of tinkering which has not found the winning formula.

City host Aston Villa this weekend, before their crunch clash at Arsenal in midweek. Time is of the essence as Guardiola’s side look to refind their form.

Liverpool must follow Everton example ahead of Merseyside match-up

Merseyside rivalries resume on Monday evening, as struggling Liverpool face the blue half of the city buoyed from beating the league leaders last weekend.

Liverpool’s season reached a new nadir after Wolves walloped Jurgen Klopp’s men last weekend, the Reds two goals down inside 14 minutes as their fragile confidence crumbled at Molineux. Hopes of Champions League football are fading fast as Klopp’s side bounce from one disappointment to another, their latest a 3-0 capitulation at a Wolves side who have struggled for goals all season.

Klopp could do worse than follow the example of Everton. The Toffees had gone eight without a win before upsetting Arsenal last weekend, as Sean Dyche’s debut restored fight into the struggling side. Everton produced a performance full of desire and drive, with Dyche’s side running themselves into the ground and unsettling the visitors with intensity.

Klopp will demand similar from his side this weekend. If Liverpool cannot rediscover the basic principles of hard work and fight in a local derby, their problems will be worse than first feared.

Howe heads back to Bournemouth

Eddie Howe will make his return to Bournemouth this weekend, the club he served for more than two decades as player and manager.

Howe made his managerial name across two spells with the Cherries, a period which saw him oversee a rise through the divisions of English football and consolidate in the Premier League. He departed following relegation in 2019/20, but the foundations he laid have since allowed Bournemouth to bounce back.

Howe’s reputation has risen further since taking the reins at Newcastle. The 45-year-old was not the first choice of the Magpies’ new ownership, but has proven an inspired one. Gone are the doubts around his ability to organise a backline, with Newcastle’s incredible defensive record the bedrock of their unexpected challenge for Champions League football.

With a Carabao Cup final also to come later this month, Howe could be heading to iconic status at St James’ Park. It will be an emotional return for Howe this weekend, to a club where he is already held in such high regard.

Sancho ready to start?

The reception that Jadon Sancho has received in recent fixtures has emphasised the will for the winger to success at Manchester United.

Sancho’s struggles have been well-documented since his £72.9m move to Old Trafford from Borussia Dortmund, where across 18 months he has rarely looked like the player who tormented Bundesliga defences with expressive and exciting wing-play.

After an underwhelming debut campaign, Sancho began brightly under new manager Erik ten Hag before his season ground to a halt. As his form faltered, Ten Hag took the decision to remove the 22-year-old from the spotlight, allowing Sancho to work on his game, confidence and mental health.

Sancho has returned in recent weeks, smiling, and to a warm ovation from the United fans. Roared on against Nottingham Forest, he followed that cameo with a crucial equaliser off the bench against Leeds in midweek.

Ten Hag hailed Sancho’s confidence and belief against Leeds, who the Red Devils face once again at Elland Road this weekend. It will be a fiery atmosphere, but one that Sancho will be hoping to continue his comeback in.

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