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.

Lampard must look to future

Chelsea’s nightmare season went from bad to worse against Arsenal in midweek, as the west Londoners were beaten emphatically at the Emirates. It’s now six consecutive defeats since Frank Lampard’s return as interim manager and hopes of European football are long gone.

Mauricio Pochettino is favourite to take charge next season and Lampard should use the remaining games of the run-in to help set foundations for the incoming manager. Chelsea’s squad is bloated and the sheer numbers mean several prospects have struggled for minutes this season. With little to lose over the remaining games, Lampard could hand opportunities to those who will form part of the future.

Mykhailo Mudryk needs minutes and confidence as he adapts to the demands of the Premier League, while David Datro Fofana, Carney Chukwuemeka and Noni Madueke have had limited involvement since signing across the last two transfer windows.

Madueke was a rare positive in an otherwise disappointing defeat at Arsenal in midweek and Lampard – whose previous spell saw the likes of Mason Mount, Reece James and Tammy Abraham become established first-team players – should place his faith in youth once again.

The miserable performance of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in midweek was the clearest evidence yet that Chelsea require a fresh start.

Big Sam is back!

Leeds pushed the Premier League’s popular panic button this week, appointing Sam Allardyce as manager in a last roll of the dice for their survival bid. Allardyce – whether he agrees or not – has forged a reputation as a firefighter in the Premier League and boasts a proven track-record of taking over struggling sides and improving results.

He has been appointed mid-season on five occasions previously and has improved or maintained position at each of those clubs, four of which saw him secure survival when relegation appeared a real threat.

The 68-year-old caused an immediate stir with his comments his week, insisting ‘nobody’ is ahead of him in football terms and comparing his knowledge of the game to Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta.

‘Big Sam’ has never been shy of blowing his own trumpet Leeds should be prepared for unapologetically Allardyce football across the run-in. Given the club conceded a record-breaking 23 goals in April alone, that might be the best course of action in order to survive.

Leeds could hardly face a tougher test in Allardyce’s opening fixture, as Manchester City – top of the division after nine consecutive wins – arrive at Elland Road.

Can Spurs solve early issues?

Ryan Mason was left distraught after Tottenham’s last-gasp defeat at Liverpool last weekend, as Spurs conceded a 94th-minute goal – just seconds after equalising – to lose at Anfield.

Spurs had shown character to come from three goals down to level at Liverpool, but the club’s issues early in games will be a prominent concern for the caretaker boss. Across their last three Premier League fixtures, Spurs have trailed 5-0, 2-0 and 3-1 at half-time.

The club’s capitulation at Newcastle saw the north Londoners concede five goals in just 21 minutes at St James’ Park, while there were similar fears last weekend as Liverpool raced into a three-goal lead with just a quarter of an hour played.

Mason’s ability to solve Spurs’ early issues will be crucial to the club’s hopes of European football for next season. Spurs are seventh in the table after four games without a win and in danger of missing out.

Can Wolves bite back?

Julen Lopetegui apologised to the Wolves fans and took responsibility for the club’s disastrous defeat at Brighton last weekend, as his side were thrashed 6-0 at the Amex Stadium. It was the Spaniard’s largest defeat as a manager with Wolves woeful on a harrowing afternoon on the south coast.

The result was Wolves’ biggest Premier League defeat and their joint biggest in any top-flight game since the Second World War. Lopetegui’s side have done well in recent weeks to move clear of relegation fears, but this was a performance which emphasised the scale of rebuild required at Molineux.

Wolves’ lacked leaders and were awful in and out possession, with recent recruits Matheus Nunes and Joao Gomes out of position and uncomfortable. Lopetegui said this week that Wolves have analysed their performance and claimed his side must be ‘very close to perfection’ to get a result against Aston Villa this weekend.

An all-Midlands encounter can serve as added motivation for Wolves to find the response their fans will demand.

Nunez needs summer of work at Liverpool

Darwin Nunez has found himself on the fringes at Liverpool in recent weeks with the forward having started six successive games as a substitute before returning to the team at Fulham in midweek.

Nunez won the penalty for Mohamed Salah’s winner, but this was a performance which summarised his season with rather more effort than end product. The Uruguayan is a fans’ favourite at Liverpool and the crowd serenaded Nunez in song against Fulham, with the forward’s endeavour having endeared him to his new supporters this season.

However, there is a sense that the chemistry has not quite clicked between Nunez and his teammates. Cody Gakpo’s encouraging understanding with those around him, formed in less time, has emphasised Nunez’s struggles and communication has been an issue for the 23-year-old as he continues to learn English.

A return of 15 goals is a respectable return as he adapts to the demands of a new division, but the flashes of Nunez’s best – power, pace and relentless work-ethic – indicate there’s more to come. Klopp will hope a full pre-season of work can see Nunez hit the ground running next season.

Arsenal return to scene of last season’s collapse

Arsenal bounced back from their recent wobbles with an impressive 3-1 win over Chelsea in midweek, a result which keeps the Gunners in touch with Manchester City at the top.

The north Londoners now face a formidable challenge to keep their title hopes alive, as Mikel Arteta’s team travel to face a Newcastle team powering towards the Champions League. The Magpies have lost just twice at home – each time to Liverpool – since January 2022 and have scored 13 goals across their last three games.

Arsenal will need no reminding of how their last visit to St James’ Park unfolded, following a crushing 2-0 defeat last May that effectively ended their hopes of Champions League football. Newcastle’s emphatic win continued a strong run under Eddie Howe and the Magpies have maintained momentum to challenge for a top-four finish this season.

A win for the home side will put Newcastle in touching distance of the Champions League, while it would all-but-end Arsenal’s title dream. This weekend’s encounter is not one to miss.

West Ham not out of the woods

West Ham appeared to ease relegation fears after taking seven points from clashes with Fulham, Arsenal and Bournemouth last month, but a run of three consecutive defeats since means the Hammers have work to do.

David Moyes side battled well despite the absences of Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek and Nayef Aguerd against Manchester City in midweek, but saw their resistance broken early in the second half before falling to a 3-0 defeat.

West Ham face Mancunian opposition once again this weekend as Manchester United visit the London Stadium, with the Red Devils in need of points of their own to confirm Champions League football.

The Hammers are four points clear of the bottom three and end the season with clashes against Leeds (H) and Leicester (A) – the two sides directly below them in the table. Moyes’ side cannot afford to take their eye off the ball despite an upcoming European semi-final with AZ Alkmaar, or the pressure could really be on in the season’s final weeks.

Ten Hag’s travel sickness

Manchester United remain a work in progress under Erik ten Hag and the club’s defeat at Brighton on Thursday continued a wretched record in away games against the division’s top sides.

United have now faced each of the Premier League’s top nine away from home this season and have earned just one point from those fixtures, conceding 28 goals in the process. It’s an issue that will cause concern for the Red Devils’ coaching staff, who must find a way to address their away day blues if the club are to challenge at the top of the division next season.

United travel to face West Ham this weekend and will take encouragement from a rather rosier record against teams lower down the table. In nine away games against sides 10th or lower, United are unbeaten, winning seven and drawing twice.

Ten Hag will hope his team can continue that record at the London Stadium this week, against a Hammers side still fighting for Premier League survival. Liverpool moved within four points of the Red Devils in midweek, having played a game more, and another slip-up could pile the pressure on in the race for Champions League qualification.

Read – Premier League Team of the Week – Midweek action

Read Also – Five Serie A strikers on the radar of Premier League clubs

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