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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.

A new golden generation for West Ham?

Last time West Ham won the FA Youth Cup, the Hammers were in the midst of a golden era of academy products. Michael Carrick and Joe Cole were the stars of that side and went on to become full England internationals, while Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand, Jermain Defoe and Glen Johnson all progressed from the club’s system to England honours across a short span.

West Ham won the FA Youth Cup for the first time since 1999 this week as the club’s youngsters thrashed Arsenal 5-1 in the final. George Earthy, Callum Marshall and Gideon Kodua – who scored a spectacular goal from distance – were all on target before half-time, before Kaelan Casey and Josh Briggs completed the rout.

Declan Rice – the modern example for the club’s academy – was in attendance and West Ham fans will hope the club’s rich history of producing talent can continue with the current crop. Divin Mubama scored his first senior goal in the Europa Conference League last month and will hope to be the trailblazer for this squad to reach the first team.

West Ham are perhaps one win from safety ahead of this weekend’s clash with Crystal Palace and Moyes could choose to look to the future once the club’s Premier League status is confirmed.

Toney closing in on mythical mark

The 20-goal-a-season striker is often championed as the man who can make the difference, with any forward capable of reaching the benchmark worth their weight in gold.

Just two players in the Premier League have reached that figure this season, with Erling Haaland and Harry Kane often called the creme de la creme of number nines. Behind that duo is Ivan Toney, who can reach 20 league goals when Brentford face off against Nottingham Forest.

It’s been a superb season for the 27-year-old, whose form has earned him an England cap and reportedly attracted summer interest from Chelsea, Manchester United and Aston Villa.

Should Toney score again before the season’s end, it will be just the 15th time a Premier League player has reached the 20-goal milestone for a team outside the top six.

Among those to have done so include Alan Shearer (twice), Luis Suarez, Teddy Sheringham and Jamie Vardy. It’s not bad company to keep.

Leeds’ failure to sign a proven centre-forward coming back to haunt

Leeds remain mired in relegation trouble after a 1-1 draw with Leicester in midweek, a fixture which saw Patrick Bamford miss a glorious late chance to secure precious points. Bamford blazed wide when it appeared easier to score against the Foxes, as Leeds missed the opportunity to inflict a damaging defeat on a Leicester side placed just behind them.

It continued a poor record around goal for Bamford this season, who has scored just three league goals. Since a brilliant 2020/21 that saw the forward score 17 times to earn an England cap, Bamford has struggled for form and fitness.

He has scored three goals from an xG of 8.16 this season, the second-worst underperformance in the Premier League this season behind Arsenal’s Gabriel Jesus.

Leeds spent almost £100m on new signings last summer but failed to address the club’s lack of a reliable goalscorer, despite losing leading scorer Raphinha to Barcelona.

Georginio Rutter did arrive from Hoffenheim in a club-record January deal, but the 21-year-old has a modest goal record and has been afforded just one Premier League start to date. Will Leeds come to regret their decision not to sign a proven source of goals?

Isak bringing Va Va Voom to Newcastle

Alexander Isak’s impact at Newcastle has earned the forward comparisons to Thierry Henry and, while it’s early for such acclaim, there’s no doubt similarities between the forward and Arsenal legend.

Isak has been in brilliant form in recent weeks and followed two goals in the 6-1 win over Spurs with a stunning impact off the bench against Everton in midweek, producing one of the assists of the season with a sublime solo run.

Isak’s speed – both over the ground and with footwork in tight areas – has already made him a firm favourite at Newcastle and Eddie Howe believes the Swedish striker can get even better.

“I can see the comparisons there,” Howe said on the comparisons to Henry.

“I think everyone is different. There are no two players who are the same but I think he does have some of the characteristics that Thierry Henry had.

“He has certainly got the speed and is a similar build and frame. Also the footwork. The assist [against Everton] was truly remarkable, really. He has got a lot of potential to improve and get better, but it’s been a great start for him here.”

Can Villa keep top four race alive?

Manchester United missed the chance to consolidate their position in the Champions League places this week, as the Red Devils squandered a two-goal lead to draw at Spurs. Erik ten Hag’s team face another side attempting to chase them down this weekend, as in-form Aston Villa travel to Old Trafford.

Villa are sixth in the table after an extraordinary run of form under Unai Emery, one which has seen them win eight and draw two of their last ten Premier League games. Only Manchester City (28) have taken more than Villa’s 26 points during that run and another win this weekend could keep alive the race for Champions League football.

A win for Villa would see them move within three points of Manchester United in fourth and while Emery’s side have played two more games, it would increase the pressure on the Red Devils ahead of another tricky test at Brighton next week.

Villa won 1-0 at Old Trafford last season thanks to a late Kortney Hause header, but have not won consecutive games at the ground since 1930.

Haaland and the historic half-century

Fulham face the toughest test in world football right now as Erling Haaland leads the Manchester City machine into Craven Cottage this weekend.

City are unbeaten since early February and have put a run together that has edged a treble ever closer, with the ruthlessness in which Pep Guardiola’s side humbled Arsenal in midweek a sign of their confidence and strength.

Haaland added another record to his growing collection after scoring his 33rd goal of the Premier League season against Arsenal, surpassing Mohamed Salah for the most goals in a 38-game season. One more will level Alan Shearer and Andy Cole’s all-time Premier League record achieved when the division was a 22-team format, while it will also see Haaland score his 50th in all competitions.

No player has ever scored more for an English club this side of the Second World War, with Haaland’s goal against Arsenal levelling Clive Allen’s landmark set in 1986/87.

Vic Watson (50 – 1929/30) and Tom Waring (50 – 1930/31) are next up on the list, behind the legendary Dixie Dean’s 63 goals for Everton in 1927/28. Dean’s record is one so mythical many felt it would never be beaten.

Haaland could conceivably have 11 more games this season, to score the 15 goals required. He couldn’t, could he?

Gakpo flourishing in Firmino role

There were some willing to write off Cody Gakpo after an underwhelming start at Liverpool. Having arrived in the midst of a turbulent time, he went six games without a goal to raise questions over the success rate of signings from the Eredivisie.

Since then he has grown in stature and quickly become a trusted figure in Jurgen Klopp’s plans. Having impressed in a left-sided role at PSV, he has been moved into the centre at Liverpool as Klopp looks to mould the Dutchman into his Roberto Firmino replacement.

Gakpo has flourished as the free-floating lead of Liverpool’s line, where his excellence in tight areas, one-touch play and intelligent pressing have offered encouragement ahead of next season. Klopp signings often take time to adjust to his demands and Andy Robertson and Fabinho notably required patience, while Darwin Nunez has had a mixed first season.

Gakpo has wasted no time however, and a fine strike at West Ham made it six Premier League goals for the season. His crisp hit from distance was impressive, but it’s his all-round game that is getting most excited.

King Power set for relegation six-pointer

Monday’s meeting between Leicester and Everton shapes as definitive for both sides. Each find themselves in the Premier League’s relegation places and are struggling to escape, ahead of a showdown that neither can afford to lose.

Leicester are at home and arrive in better mood after picking up four points from their last two games. Jamie Vardy’s late equaliser rescued a point at Leeds in midweek, ensuring the latter did not secure vital breathing room from the bottom.

As for Everton, the mood is bleak. Sean Dyche’s side endured a harrowing night as high-flying Newcastle ran riot at Goodison Park in midweek and are running out of time to escape a first relegation since 1951.

The pre-match atmosphere outside the ground failed to stir up a spirit in the side, who were second-best to extend their run to one win in ten games. Dyche was defiant post-match and insisted Everton can survive, but defeat at Leicester would feel like a fatal blow to a team clinging desperately to top-flight status.

Read – Premier League Team of the Week – Matchday 33

Read Also – Premier League Awards: De Bruyne delights and tormented Toffees

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