Each week we preview the Premier League action and discuss some of the division’s major talking points.
Has Havertz turned a corner?
Kai Havertz has been scrutinised significantly since his summer move from Chelsea, with question marks as to how the 24-year-old fits in – and improves – Mikel Arteta’s side. After a tough start, the past week has been positive for Havertz, who has began to show his value.
After scoring during the international break for Germany, he came off the bench to score a crucial winner as Arsenal edged past Brentford in the Premier League last weekend. In midweek, he opened the scoring for the Gunners in a 6-0 thrashing of Lens in the Champions League and looked comfortable in the Arsenal side, breaking forward to link up with the frontline.
This time yesterday… pic.twitter.com/njRfKFs8Wl
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) November 26, 2023
Havertz’s ability has rarely been in doubt, but he lacked consistency in a Chelsea shirt. The past week has offered examples of what he can offer Arsenal, but the challenge will be to find those levels week in, week out.
Now or never for Kompany’s Clarets
As much as a Premier League game can possibly be called a must-win on the first weekend of December, this is a must-win for Vincent Kompany. Burnley have endured a torrid time since returning to the Premier League and enter this weekend’s showdown with Sheffield United on a run of six straight losses.
The Clarets have won once all season and have failed to take a single point on home soil. It’s form which, unless turned around and quickly, will end in relegation. Sheffield United have fared little better and have just one win of their own, with the duo – promoted automatically from the Championship last season – evidence of the growing gulf between England’s top two tiers.
Unwanted history for Burnley 😬
They’ve lost six consecutive top-flight games for the first time in 128 years 😩 pic.twitter.com/ZkMeD8bZd0
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) November 25, 2023
Burnley equalled Newport County’s unwanted record of seven successive home losses from the start of a season (1970/71) after a late collapse against West Ham last time out. Kompany can ill-afford another home reverse.
Ten Hag facing Onana conundrum
A great goalkeeper can have many attributes. Shot-stopping usually ranks near the top of the list of desirables, with distribution, handling and communication all important. The number one asset however, is an ability to spread calm to those in front. Right now, Andre Onana is having the opposite effect on the Manchester United backline.
The club’s Champions League hopes are hanging by a thread after Onana’s errors in the midweek draw at Galatasaray. The Cameroon international twice allowed Hakim Ziyech free-kicks through his grasp, the latest in a lengthening line of mistakes since arriving at Old Trafford.
Ten Hag has, staunchly, defended Onana to date, but the goalkeeper’s individual errors have plagued his team this season, particularly in Europe.
— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) November 29, 2023
United have now conceded 33 goals in all competitions this season, the club’s highest at this stage of a season since 1962/63, a campaign that saw the Red Devils finish the season 19th in the table.
Altay Bayindir is waiting in the wings after his summer arrival from Fenerbahce, should Ten Hag take Onana out of the firing line. The Dutchman faces a difficult decision with Onana’s confidence clearly fragile, but with the 27-year-old departing for AFCON next month, the coming weeks might be an ideal time to get Bayindir up to speed.
Caicedo sale a turning point for Gilmour ahead of Chelsea return
Billy Gilmour’s career seemed to be stalling last season. There were high hopes for the Scotland midfielder after his first appearances for Chelsea, but injury issues and a disappointing loan spell at Norwich saw his fortunes decline.
Gilmour left Chelsea in search of opportunity to sign for Brighton in 2022, but his first season brought just seven league starts.
However, interest from his old side in teammate Moises Caicedo has contributed to Gilmour’s quietly impressive second season with the Seagulls. Caicedo signed for Chelsea in a £115m deal last summer, freeing a space in Roberto De Zerbi’s midfield.
Gilmour’s assurance in possession has filled that role excellently and he has already played more Premier League minutes (695) this season than he managed in 2022/23 (508). The 22-year-old will return to Chelsea this weekend as a central part of Brighton’s impressive team.
Reds riches in contrast to Fulham’s faltering forwards
Such is the depth of Jurgen Klopp’s forward options, the Liverpool boss has failed to settle on a first-choice forward line. Mohamed Salah is a certainty from the right, while Luis Diaz has largely cemented a position from the left. Who starts in a central role continues to change, with Darwin Nunez currently in possession of the shirt ahead of Cody Gakpo and Diogo Jota.
Gakpo sent his manager a message with a match-winning performance in midweek, scoring twice and winning a penalty as Liverpool eased to a 4-0 win over LASK. The Dutchman’s double has put him in contention for a more regular role, as Fulham visit Anfield this weekend.
“He’s doing great” 🤝
Cody Gakpo enjoying the competition with Darwin Núñez to lead Liverpool’s forward line 🔴 pic.twitter.com/c7HCDguEjd
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) November 29, 2023
Fulham boss Marco Silva must be casting envious looks in Klopp’s direction, with the Cottagers short of firepower this season. Aleksandar Mitrovic’s exit to the Saudi Pro League has left Fulham without a regular goalscorer, with Carlos Vinícius and summer signing Raul Jimenez having just two league goals this season combined.
Only the three promoted teams have scored less goals than Fulham (13), whose leading scorer is 35-year-old Willian, with 66% of his three-goal haul having come from the penalty spot. Additions are needed in January, if Fulham are to remain clear of trouble.
Soucek shining in new Moyes midfield
When Declan Rice departed West Ham for a record fee last summer, much of the talk surrounding how the Hammers would cope centred around new additions. Edson Alvarez, James Ward-Prowse and Mohammed Kudus have each excelled since moving to the London Stadium, but one of the old-guard has also benefitted from the midfield makeover.
When Tomas Soucek arrived at West Ham from Slavia Prague in January 2020, he forged a reputation as an effective goalscorer from midfield. The Czech struck 10 goals in his first full Premier League campaign, but managed just seven over the following two seasons combined as Moyes used Soucek in a more defensive role.
3 – Tomás Soucek has scored in three games in a row for West Ham for the first time. All three goals have been the winner:
88th minute vs Nottingham Forest
90th minute vs Burnley
89th minute vs Backa Topola
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 30, 2023
The arrival of Alvarez and Ward-Prowse has unleashed Soucek from those shackles and West Ham are reaping the rewards of that change. A late winner at Burnley last weekend was followed by the decisive goal at TSC Backa Topola in midweek, to book West Ham’s place in the Europa League knockout rounds.
Soucek has now scored seven goals in 19 games in all competitions this season and has scored in five consecutive games for club and country. Crashing the box with regularity, he’s become a major threat for David Moyes’ side once again.
Wasteful Everton must improve
Everton resume their bid to beat their Premier League punishment and relegation this weekend, after a disappointing defeat to Manchester United last time out. Hopes of a big response to the club’s 10-point sanction ended in a 3-0 loss, despite a positive performance.
It continued a trend for Everton this season, who have often dominated games without tangible reward. No team has underperformed in terms of xG (+9.30) more than the Toffees, who had 24 shots on goal to United’s nine last weekend, despite the optics of the final scoreline.
Three times this season, Everton have had 10+ more shots than the opposition and still ended up as the losing side. Set-pieces could be the route to success at Nottingham Forest this weekend, with Everton’s six set-piece goals only behind Arsenal and Manchester City. Forest, meanwhile, have conceded a league leading seven set-piece goals, the most in the division alongside Bournemouth.
Can Spurs stop slide?
Ange Postecoglou’s brilliant start at Spurs is in danger of unraveling, as the club’s injury problems threaten to derail their campaign. Spurs topped the table after going unbeaten in their first 10 games, but have since lost their last three.
The north Londoners are just the third team in top-flight history to lose three consecutive games after opening the season 10 unbeaten, and the first for 52 years. Each of those defeats have come despite leading, as Spurs have become only the fifth Premier League team to throw away three consecutive leads to lose.
🗣️ “Some of the goals we could have scored would have been show reels for us in the way we want to play our football”
Ange Postecoglou says the positives of Tottenham’s game with Aston Villa outweigh the negatives of the match result pic.twitter.com/318l2td7CG
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) November 27, 2023
Postecoglou’s plans have been impacted by the loss of key personnel in Micky van de Ven and James Maddison, while Rodrigo Bentancur has joined the lengthening list of absentees after injuring his ankle against Aston Villa last weekend.
Up next is a daunting challenge, as Spurs travel to face Manchester City. The returns of Cristian Romero and Yves Bissouma from suspension are a timely boost, but Spurs’ stretched squad face an almighty task against the champions.