Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Eight talking points ahead of the weekend’s Premier League action

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

Wolves’ window reason for optimism

Wolves are winless in nine Premier League games dating back to April last season, having started the current campaign with just one point from their opening two fixtures.

The club’s supporters would have expected more from clashes with Leeds and Fulham, but the recruitment of Bruno Lage this summer has now raised optimism around Molineux.

Nathan Collins has already proven an astute signing at centre-back and has the potential to develop into one of the division’s leading defenders, while the excitement levels have been raised following the arrivals of Goncalo Guedes and Matheus Nunes.

Guedes scored 13 goals in all competitions for Valencia last season and will improve the invention of a side lacking goal threat. The capture of Nunes however is a real coup, with the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool having been credited with an interest in the midfielder in recent windows.

Ruben Neves has remained and has inherited the armband from Conor Coady, with the Neves-Nunes axis in midfield looking like a formidable prospect. With Guedes and Pedro Neto – regaining his rhythm after a long spell on the sidelines – providing the creative spark, Wolves have the foundation of a side that can challenge for Europe. If a reliable forward arrives before the deadline, Lage could have the tools to fulfil his ambitions.

Forest spending shows no sign of stopping

Nottingham Forest are throwing the kitchen sink at consolidation in the Premier League, with the club’s summer recruitment drive dominating the headlines.

Already this summer Steve Cooper’s side have brought in 15 new additions, while a 16th appears on the way after a club-record deal was agreed for Wolves’ midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White.

The deal for Gibbs-White has stunned with the figure potentially reaching £44.5m with add-ons. The 22-year-old has struggled to establish himself at Premier League level with Wolves, but excelled during a season-long loan spell at Sheffield United in 2021/22.

His arrival could take Forest’s spending north of £150m this summer, a gamble that Cooper has called necessary as the club look to survive this season. The task now will be to gel a squad of new faces together, with this weekend’s opponents, Everton, a club well-versed in the pitfalls of spending big to chase their lofty goals.

Championship record-breakers go head-to-head

Brentford’s promotion to the Premier League was built on a record-breaking season from Ivan Toney, as the forward scored 31 league goals in 2020/21 to set a new goalscoring landmark in the Championship.

Toney’s status as the division’s record holder lasted for just one season however, as Aleksandar Mitrovic obliterated the Championship goal record to fire Fulham to promotion last term.

Mitrovic’s 43 goals in 44 games was an astonishing run of form that earned Fulham promotion and the Serbia international marked his return to the division with an opening weekend brace against Liverpool.

Toney also opened his account on the opening weekend, before a starring performance in the Bees’ destruction of Manchester United last time out. The 26-year-old will have ambitions of breaking into the England fold after proving he can make an impact at the highest level.

Which of the duo performs could be the deciding factor when Fulham and Brentford meet in a west London derby this weekend.

Martinelli coming of age

Gabriel Martinelli has impressed ever since arriving at Arsenal as an unknown. Signed as a teenager from Brazil’s second tier, his first season saw the forward score ten goals in all competitions and demonstrate a fearlessness that instantly endeared him to the Emirates faithful.

Injuries halted the progress of the 21-year-old across the following two campaigns, but after returning to the side over the second half of last season he has not looked back.

With a full pre-season under his belt, Martinelli has started the campaign with a bang, scoring in each of Arsenal’s opening two games as the Gunners have begun with back-to-back wins.

Not since beginning the 2004/05 campaign as defending champions have Arsenal won their first three games of a season, but they travel to Bournemouth this weekend hoping to extend their perfect record.

Martinelli’s infectious energy has been a feature of their strong start and his relentless running – alongside compatriot Gabriel Jesus – has been the spark of the side so far. Improving with each performance, the forward appears a potential superstar.

Moyes needs a response ahead of tricky test

Only goal difference keeps West Ham off the bottom of the early Premier League table, with the Hammers having opened the season with successive defeats.

A home loss to Manchester City was a setback, but last weekend’s loss to Nottingham Forest represented a huge disappointment. David Moyes’ side were unfortunate on occasion, twice hitting the woodwork and missing a penalty at the City Ground, but their failure to find a breakthrough resulted in defeat.

Moyes will want a response from his side ahead of this weekend’s clash with Brighton, an opponent who will have ambitions of challenging the Hammers for a European place this season.

After two goalless games, West Ham could offer a first league start to Gianluca Scamacca. The summer signing opened his account for the club during the Europa Conference League win over Viborg FF on Thursday and will be itching for a full Premier League debut. Ensuring the Italian is less isolated than he was during a cameo appearance at Forest will be central to success against the Seagulls.

Loftus-Cheek has a Chelsea chance

Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s career with Chelsea has been a curious one. Perhaps the most hyped of all the academy graduates to have progressed to the senior side, his time with the west Londoners has seen the midfielder fail to develop as hoped.

Luck has had its role in that, but Loftus-Cheek could now be handed a chance to impress and claim a permanent place in Thomas Tuchel’s plans. The 26-year-old was excellent in the draw with Spurs last weekend, a game in which he began at wing-back.

Loftus-Cheek’s dynamism provided plenty of problems for Spurs and it was his tactical intelligence that allowed Tuchel’s tactical plan to work, as he drifted into midfield to provide space for Reece James on the overlap.

His multi-functional use has perhaps been to his detriment on occasion as he has failed to nail down a role, but with N’Golo Kante and Jorginho sidelined there are expected to be minutes available in the coming weeks.

Linked with an exit for much of the summer, he now has a short window in which he could reignite his Chelsea career.

Newcastle take on their toughest test

Two games into the Premier League season and Manchester City’s title-winning machine is purring, with back-to-back wins having moved the champions to the top of the division. While last season’s runners-up Liverpool have stuttered, City have breezed through contests with West Ham and Bournemouth to set the early pace.

Erling Haaland has added a new and potent profile in attack, Kevin De Bruyne is in fine form, and Ilkay Gundogan has regained his role as a central part of Pep Guardiola’s plans. Add in a defence that has conceded just two shots on target across the 180 minutes of Premier League action so far and it’s a formidable test for Newcastle this weekend.

Eddie Howe has overseen marked improvement at St James’ Park and the Magpies are also unbeaten so far this season, failing to concede a goal in taking four points from Nottingham Forest and Brighton.

City pose a much tougher test, however, having won the last six meetings between the teams at an aggregate score of 22-3.

Howe will need his side to make the most of Kieran Trippier’s set-piece delivery, with Dan Burn and/or Sven Botman formidable targets. Bruno Guimarães and Joelinton will be tasked with unsettling City’s control of the midfield, in what should be a raucous atmosphere at St James’.

Old rivals meet in unfamiliar territory

Neither Manchester United or Liverpool would have anticipated their starts to the new season. Each are winless after two games and inside the Premier League’s bottom half.

It’s only early days in the campaign, but United’s start has been nothing short of disastrous with last weekend’s 4-0 defeat at Brentford as humiliating as any the club have suffered in the Premier League era.

Amid the anger of planned pre-match protests, there will also be an atmosphere of apprehension ahead of Liverpool’s visit to Old Trafford on Monday evening.

The Reds’ have also started in disappointing fashion with successive draws to Fulham and Crystal Palace, but ran riot in both fixtures against United last season.

The corresponding clash last season saw Mohamed Salah become the first opposition player to score a Premier League hat-trick at Manchester United, as Liverpool hit four in the first half on their way to a 5-0 win.

It’s worth pointing out that a United win would move Erik ten Hag’s side above Liverpool, perhaps context in the hysteria that has surrounded a season still in its very infancy. Given their performances thus far, however, that is a faint hope rather than expectation.

Read – Why do scattergun Chelsea avoid criticism for their ludicrous spending?

Read Also – Picking the best XI from players Man United have been linked with this summer

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