Each week we preview the Premier League action and discuss some of the division’s major talking points.
David meets Goliath in west London
David takes on Goliath in the Premier League on Friday evening, as newly-promoted Luton travel to face Chelsea.
Chelsea have been a more frivolous than fearsome foe of late and while Luton will take to Stamford Bridge with slingshot at the ready, the Goliath of this particular tale has more recently been seen armed with a fat wallet and desire for shiny new toys.
Luton only eclipsed a modest £1.3m transfer record this summer. Chelsea have broken the British landmark twice since the turn of the new year.
Financially, there is no comparison between two teams somehow in the same division despite their gap in resources. Luton have little to lose in west London, against a Chelsea team who will be feeling the pressure after opening the season without a win to date.
— Luton Town FC (@LutonTown) August 25, 2023
It’s the first league meeting between the teams since 1991, while none of Luton’s current squad were born the last time the Hatters – who have been down to the depths of non-league before rising back up through the divisions since – won a league game at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea got little for their effort at West Ham last time out, but Raheem Sterling’s impressive performance will be encouraging for Mauricio Pochettino. The winger has 11 goals in his last 15 appearances against promoted sides, including three last season.
Entertainment expected as Bournemouth meet Tottenham
Bournemouth and Tottenham have rarely disappointed in recent meetings between the sides, with goals often promised when the two go head-to-head. Last season’s encounters were each enthralling, with the away side winning 3-2 on each occasion.
Spurs came from two goals down to snatch a stoppage-time win on their last visit to the Cherries, while both meetings last season contained winners scored in the 90th minute or later.
COYS 🤍 pic.twitter.com/BVOdJ3ymVJ
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) August 24, 2023
There has been just one goalless game between them since Bournemouth’s first promotion to the Premier League in 2015, with a minimum of three goals scored in eight of their 12 top-flight meetings.
One player who will be hoping for chances is Richarlison, who has failed to convince at Spurs and has now been handed the daunting challenge of replacing Harry Kane. The Brazilian has scored just once in 29 league appearances for the north Londoners and badly needs a goal to boost his confidence.
History against Mitrovic-less Fulham
Fulham face Arsenal in the Premier League this weekend and the Cottagers will make the short trip to the Emirates more in hope than expectation.
Marco Silva has just a week of the transfer window remaining to replace Aleksandar Mitrovic, after the forward – who had scored 111 goals in five-and-a-half seasons in west London – departed for Al Hilal in a £50m deal. Arsenal’s Folarin Balogun had been named as a target, but is now nearing a move to Monaco.
— AFTV (@AFTVMedia) August 25, 2023
It leaves Fulham short of firepower and with defensive issues remaining, concerns are high for Silva and his side. History is also against the Cottagers, who are without a win in seven London derbies in the Premier League and have never won a league game at Arsenal, despite 30 previous attempts.
Just six of those games have seen Fulham take a point, while the Cottagers have not beaten Arsenal in the Premier League for more than a decade.
Early six-pointer for Everton and Wolves?
It’s perhaps too early in the season to label any game a true six-pointer, but Everton and Wolves will be well aware of the importance of a result this weekend after opening the season with consecutive defeats.
Both struggle for goals and the early indications are that each face a fight to preserve their Premier League status. Everton were woeful in a 4-0 loss at Aston Villa last weekend and Sean Dyche faces a decision on his defence, with Jarrad Branthwaite deserving of a chance over Michael Keane this weekend.
🗣️ “Crisis after two games? We’re building something, it’s going to take time.”
Everton boss Sean Dyche calls for patience from the supporters after their bad start to the season pic.twitter.com/heejWohck3
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) August 24, 2023
Everton have failed to score a goal to date, though the Toffees are in the market for reinforcements and have approached Udinese for forward Beto. Wolves, meanwhile, impressed in defeat at Manchester United on the opening weekend but collapsed at home to Brighton last time out.
Gary O’Neil has taken the reins after Julen Lopetegui walked out days before the new season and will be keen to get his tenure up and running after consecutive Premier League defeats.
McTominay the man to plug Manchester United midfield gaps?
Scott McTominay’s future appeared to be away from Manchester United as the transfer window opened, with West Ham among the clubs interested in a deal to sign the Scotland international. McTominay made just ten starts in the Premier League last season, but Erik ten Hag could do worse than turn to the 26-year-old this weekend.
Manchester United’s opening two fixtures have raised concerns over their midfield balance, with a trio of Casemiro – noticeably off the pace so far – Mason Mount and Bruno Fernandes having been exposed all too easily. Mount’s absence through injury leaves Ten Hag with a decision to make on who replaces the summer signing and McTominay could provide the presence that has been lacking to date.
31 & 88 – Manchester United have faced the most shots inside the box (31) and conceded the most opposition touches in their own box (88) of any team in the Premier League this season. Concern. pic.twitter.com/uPSMV1TBrK
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 24, 2023
Oppositions teams have completed more take-ons (36) and progressive carries (59) against Manchester United than any other side so far this season, a tactic Nottingham Forest could look to exploit this weekend.
Forest will be expected to sit back and remain compact at Old Trafford, while using the ball-carrying of Morgan Gibbs-White and Brennan Johnson to counter-attack. McTominay might just be the more effective option to disrupt Forest’s breaks, with Christian Eriksen lacking the athleticism that may be required.
Brilliant Brighton can continue climbing
Brighton sit top of tree in English football for the first time after a superb start to the season for Roberto De Zerbi’s side. The losses of Moises Caicedo, Alexis Mac Allister and Levi Colwill have barely been noticed, after the Seagulls opened the season with consecutive 4-1 wins over Luton and Wolves.
De Zerbi has built on the solid foundations he inherited from Graham Potter to create a truly outstanding side, with Brighton a chance-creating machine and well worth their current place at the top of the Premier League table.
No team in the Premier League has averaged a higher non-penalty xG per game than Brighton since De Zerbi took charge, with the Seagulls consistently creating the best chances in the division.
Since Roberto De Zerbi’s first game in charge on 1 October 2022, no side have averaged a higher non-penalty xG per game than Brighton (1.97) in the Premier League.
— Opta Analyst (@OptaAnalyst) August 19, 2023
It is a remarkable statistic, but one which matches up to the eye test with Brighton one of the most watchable teams in the league. West Ham will hope to stop the Seagulls soaring higher this weekend, but have their work cut out against a team whose system and style is fascinating. How Brighton perform in Europe this season should be thrilling to watch.
Doku dynamism adds new option for champions City
Manchester City’s business this summer has been done amid minimal fuss, with the champions strengthened following the arrivals of Croatia internationals Mateo Kovacic and Josko Gvardiol. The third major arrival of the summer was completed this week after Jeremy Doku signed from Rennes in a £55.4m deal.
The 21-year-old arrives with a growing reputation and has the potential and style to excite the City crowd. Since the start of last season, only Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior has completed more take-ons than Doku (105) in Europe’s top five leagues.
Jeremy Doku is going to be a nightmare for Premier League defenders 👻 pic.twitter.com/wIqdDdyEiq
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) August 23, 2023
Explosive, direct and with raw pace, his arrival adds a different dimension to City’s attacking options. Against deep-lying defences, Doku’s ability to take multiple defenders out of the game could be invaluable to the Cityzens, while the prospect of the Belgian combining with resident road-runner Kyle Walker down the right will terrify Premier League defences.
St James’ acid test awaits for Endo
Newcastle and Liverpool have produced some of the all-time great Premier League games and this weekend’s showdown at St James’ Park promises to be another cracker.
The Magpies were give a reality check after defeat at Manchester City last weekend, with Eddie Howe’s side unable to lay a glove on the champions. Newcastle should be a different proposition on home soil and will fancy themselves against a Liverpool side who, despite being unbeaten, have been open defensively to date.
Jurgen Klopp’s search for solidity landed at Japan captain Wataru Endo, who made his debut as a substitute against Bournemouth last weekend. The 30-year-old was a surprise signing from Stuttgart, but has arrived with an impressive statistical background after leading the Bundesliga for duels won across the last three seasons and ranking second for possession regained and attempted tackles.
🗣️ “He looks good. He’s a good player.”
Jürgen Klopp says Wataru Endō has settled in well in his first week at Liverpool. 🇯🇵 pic.twitter.com/hiRHmtdj6o
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) August 25, 2023
There will be few tougher tests than the one that awaits at Newcastle this weekend, where Howe will demand his side hound their opposition from the first minute. An acid test awaits for Liverpool’s left-field arrival.