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Eight talking points ahead of the Premier League weekend

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

 

Casemiro can boost uplifted United

After the rain clouds of the season’s opening weeks, Manchester United’s win over Liverpool provided a glimpse of the sunshine the club will hope to bask in under Erik ten Hag.

It was an emphatic response from the Red Devils, who outran and outplayed opponents who had thrashed them 9-0 on aggregate over two fixtures last season.

Marcus Rashford was reenergised and Jadon Sancho scored a superb opening goal, while the partnership of Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez showed encouraging signs.

The task for Ten Hag will be repeating those levels across the coming weeks, though the arrival of Casemiro will provide a boost to the side. The Brazil international arrives as a five-time Champions League winner after a decorated career at Real Madrid and will inject a combative quality that has been lacking from the club’s maligned midfield.

Fofana narrative difficult to ignore

Leicester travel to face Chelsea this weekend and are likely to do so without Wesley Fofana among their ranks. The centre-back has missed the club’s last two fixtures, after becoming unsettled following approaches from this weekend’s opponents.

Fofana has been forced to train with the u23 side after skipping a senior session, such is the defender’s desire to force through a move to Stamford Bridge.

Brendan Rodgers will be far from pleased with how the situation has unfolded, but has retained his stance that Fofana is not for sale.

Fofana’s absence will be felt this weekend however, as Leicester look to improve from a winless start to the Premier League season without their best defender in the side.

A chance for Carvalho?

While not quite at crisis point, there has been no shortage of criticism directed at Liverpool following Monday night’s loss at Manchester United.

Liverpool have began the season without a win in their opening three games for the first time since 2012/13 and are already seven points off the early pacesetters at the top of the division.

A home clash with Bournemouth represents a must-win for Jurgen Klopp, whose ability to change his side is impacted by a vast number of senior stars on the treatment table.

The one positive from a dreadful display at Old Trafford was a lively cameo from Fabio Carvalho, who has been restricted to brief substitute appearances since his summer arrival from Fulham.

The teenager provided a spark that had been lacking before his introduction and could be in contention for a first Premier League start this weekend. Given the lack of creativity in midfield and continued absence of Diogo Jota and Darwin Nunez further forward, he could provide new impetus in either role.

Just how good is Wilfried Zaha?

Despite endless rumours of an exit in recent windows, Wilfried Zaha has remained – much to the Eagles’ delight – at Crystal Palace. The perennial big fish in a medium-sized Premier League pond, his importance to Palace has been unquestionable in recent campaigns.

So often the club’s talisman, his value to Palace has outweighed the fees interested sides were willing to part with, making Zaha a player difficult to truly assess.

It could be argued, however, that the Ivorian is playing the finest football of his career right now. Three goals in three games make Zaha the joint-leading scorer in the Premier League, while it’s now 11 goals in his past 19 appearances.

A brilliant opener at Liverpool was followed with a match-winning brace against Aston Villa last weekend and Zaha will travel to face Manchester City this weekend in confident mood.

Last season he was the architect of a shock 2-0 win for Palace at the Etihad, tormenting Aymeric Laporte with his trickery and turn of speed. Pep Guardiola will be well aware of his threat, a footballer whose ceiling – even as he approaches 30 – has been difficult to determine.

‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ for Gunners

After agonisingly missing out on Champions League football last season, Arsenal have began the season with three straight wins and lead the table as the only side to boast a 100% record at this stage.

Mikel Arteta has settled on his preferred XI over the opening weeks, naming an unchanged team for each fixture. That appears set to continue against Fulham this weekend, with Ben White likely to continue at right-back.

Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Martinelli will support the impressive Gabriel Jesus, with encouraging understandings already forming between that quartet across the final third.

A return to Europe this season means depth will be required this season and the likes of Emile Smith Rowe, Kieran Tierney, Eddie Nketiah and Takehiro Tomiyasu will hope to use any minutes to stake a claim for more regular first-team football. Fabio Vieira will also want to make an impression as he gets up to speed, but breaking up a winning team is difficult for Arteta at present.

Scamacca set to start for misfiring Hammers

West Ham’s hopes of a strong season have began in disastrous fashion, with the Hammers bottom of the Premier League without a win or goal scored.

Last weekend’s 2-0 loss to Brighton was another setback for David Moyes’ struggling side, who need a response ahead of a clash with an underperforming Aston Villa team.

Both teams are under pressure after difficult starts and West Ham need to address their lack of goals. The solution could be found in Gianluca Scamacca, who has been restricted to cameo appearances since completing his £30.5m arrival from Sassuolo.

Scamacca scored 16 league goals last season and netted in both legs of West Ham’s Europa Conference League play-off with Viborg, with Moyes admitting the summer signing is close to a Premier League start.

“I thought Gianluca did a lot of good things,” Moyes told the club’s website after the 3-0 win over the Danish side on Thursday.

“Again, we can’t be expecting too much from him too soon. We need to give him a chance to get ready, but he certainly did a great job for us. Look, he scored two goals for us in two games, so he’s certainly getting a lot closer to being ready to play now.”

Jimenez return can add bite to Wolves

Wolves are winless in nine Premier League fixtures, with a disappointing conclusion to last season rolling into the current campaign.

Despite that streak there is little panic at Molineux however, with the recent arrivals of Goncalo Guedes and Matheus Nunes greeted with excitement. The duo made debuts in a narrow loss at Spurs last time out, but will be introduced to a home crowd for the first time against Newcastle this weekend.

One player who will be relishing the service of the Portuguese duo is Raul Jimenez, who made his first Premier League appearance of the campaign as a substitute at Spurs. After starting – and scoring – in the midweek win over Preston in the League Cup, he should be included in the XI for a clash with a Newcastle team on the rise.

Dier heading towards England recall?

Antonio Conte’s arrival has transformed a Tottenham team underperforming under the previous regime, with the Italian’s appointment leading to a turnaround in performances and Champions League qualification.

Spurs have began the new season with seven points from nine, with even dropped points at Chelsea demonstrating a fighting spirit – earning a result despite a below-par performance – not often associated with the north Londoners in past campaigns.

One of the players to most benefit from Conte’s arrival has been Eric Dier, who has established himself as a leader of the side. The club’s back three formation has seen Dier find a home in the centre, where his previous experience in midfield has aided his ball distribution from deep.

Dier has completed more successful long balls (27) than any other outfield player in the Premier League this season, with his role one that Gareth Southgate should be monitoring. The England boss has preferred a back three on occasion and Dier could find himself in contention for a first international appearance since November 2020 if he maintains his current levels.

Read – Seven talking points from the Champions League draw

Read Also – Defensive Rocks: Sol Campbell – The immovable Invincible

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