Eight talkings 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.

Forest facing six-pointer?

Nottingham Forest are on a run of three consecutive Premier League defeats and Steve Cooper will have had chance to mull over his side’s capitulation last time out.

Forest were two goals up and cruising at home to fellow promoted side Bournemouth, before a second half collapse allowed the Cherries to come back and claim all three points. That result will have been a difficult pill to swallow for Cooper and his team and one which leaves Forest 19th ahead of Fulham’s visit to the City Ground.

This weekend’s visitors – boosted by the fine form of Aleksandar Mitrovic – arrive in good form and have made a strong start to their own Premier League return, but Cooper will have targeted this game for much-needed points.

Forest’s frantic summer has had chance to settle and the time is now for Cooper and his side to get points on the board.

Gerrard must find solution for shot-shy Villa

Steven Gerrard will hope Aston Villa’s draw with Manchester City can act as a springboard to improved form this season, with the pressure mounting on the Villa boss following a poor start to the campaign.

Villa have won just one of their opening six games and are 17th in the table, with Gerrard having chopped and changed between his front line in a bid to solve their attacking issues. In systems that have lacked genuine width he has been undecided on Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins as centre-forward pairing, while Leon Bailey has been shoehorned into central roles and Philippe Coutinho has lacked the spark of last season.

Across the Premier League this season, only Bournemouth have registered fewer shots and created a lower xG figure than Villa, a statistic that must change ahead of Friday’s clash with Southampton.

Southampton are without a clean sheet in 12 league games but in Armel Bella-Kotchap and Mohamed Salisu have a defensive duo who have shown encouraging signs. There has been notable improvement during their four games in tandem, a run of games which has included clashes with Chelsea and Manchester United.

The return of a Premier League pantomime villain

Wolves take on Manchester City in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off, in a clash which could see the debut of Diego Costa. Wolves have lacked bite so far this season with Raul Jimenez struggling to recapture his old form and summer signing Sasa Kalajdzic enduring the misfortune of an ACL injury on debut against Southampton last time out.

In search of presence and goals, Wolves have turned to Costa, who has signed a short-term deal after being without a club since leaving Atlético Mineiro in January. The 33-year-old’s match fitness is understandably short, but Bruno Lage will be tempted to turn to a forward who knows better than most how to ruffle feathers.

Costa scored 52 goals in 89 league appearances during his previous spell in the Premier League and while not the same player that tormented defences at Chelsea, he could provide a useful focal point to bring the best out of Wolves’ cast of creatives. City’s centre-backs will at least know they’ve been in a game at Molineux.

Is Haaland bailing out City?

Erling Haaland’s incredible impact at Manchester City has dominated the early weeks of the Premier League, with the Norwegian racking up the goals at an extraordinary rate. It should come as no surprise to see a centre-forward of such calibre thrive in this team, but elsewhere, City do not appear to be hitting top form despite an unbeaten start.

Questions have been asked of Pep Guardiola’s side defensively with Newcastle and Crystal Palace each finding methods to exploit the Blues’ backline, while their midweek win over Borussia Dortmund saw the champions toil for the opening 80 minutes.

It took a speculative effort from John Stones and an outrageous moment of quality from Haaland to turn the game around against Dortmund, with Jack Grealish among those to have struggled at the Etihad.

Haaland has offered a trump card so far this season, for a team who have relied on the patience of monopolised possession to break teams down, lacking the pace and explosiveness of past campaigns. A Wolves team whose strength lies in defensive organisation will provide another test of City’s patient approach.

Key run coming for Newcastle’s European hopes

The positives of the season so far are that Newcastle have lost just once in the Premier League, a cruel stoppage-time loss to Liverpool at Anfield. The negative however, is that the Magpies have won just once and are without a victory since beating Nottingham Forest on the opening weekend.

Eddie Howe will want to end a five-game winless run this weekend, one which has included four draws, when former side Bournemouth visit St James’ Park.

The visit of the Cherries is the start of a winnable-looking run of games for the Magpies, as Newcastle face Fulham, Brentford and Everton in their following four fixtures.

The absences of Callum Wilson, Allan Saint-Maximim and Bruno Guimaraes have understandably impacted the side, but if Howe’s team are to have genuine aspirations of reaching Europe this season, these are the sort of games that Newcastle must begin to take maximum points from.

Does Conte stick with Son?

Harry Kane aside, Son Heung-min has been arguably the first name on the Tottenham team sheet for much of his time in north London. The South Korean has reached world-class levels in recent campaigns, including a 2021/22 season that saw Son share the Golden Boot with 23 league goals.

The clinical touch that Son found last season has deserted him during the current campaign however, with the 30-year-old goalless in eight games in all competitions. He has taken 19 shots, with seven hitting the target, but has failed to score and Antonio Conte has a decision to make on whether Son starts this weekend.

Spurs have strength in depth this season following the recruitment of Richarlison and Dejan Kulusevski across the past two transfer windows. Each of that duo have impressed already this season and together with Kane would form an in-form front three for this weekend’s clash with Leicester.

The Foxes arrive bottom of the league and on a run of five consecutive defeats however, while only Bournemouth have conceded more goals. Could Brendan Rodgers’ side prove the perfect opposition for Son to rediscover his touch around goal?

Can Arsenal tame latest Lion?

Ivan Toney is celebrating a call-up to the England squad, with the Brentford forward’s fine form recognised with an international inclusion.

It’s a fine achievement for a footballer who had featured for just ten minutes in the Premier League before last season, but has since scored 17 goals and laid on seven assists in 39 top-flight appearances for the Bees.

Toney’s inclusion comes after five goals in six games this season, including a hat-trick against Leeds last time out. Arsenal are the latest team tasked with shackling the striker, who was a brutish presence as Brentford beat the Gunners on the opening weekend of the 2021/22 campaign.

Both Arsenal and Toney have improved and increased in confidence since then, in what should be an intriguing match-up in west London. Thomas Frank is in no doubt that Toney warrants his chance with the Three Lions, hailing his progression to the club’s official website.

“The most credit must go to Ivan, who has performed exceptionally on the pitch ever since he joined us and has shown that he has the potential to play for England.

“He is one of our leaders and has excelled as a player and a person. Every match, Brentford fans can see what he brings to our team, all over the pitch, and I hope England fans get a chance to see it as well.

“To have someone in the England squad is a huge achievement for everyone at the Club. To have an English player, at an English club, in the England squad, given the competition for those places, is a moment for us to cherish.”

Bowen call shows Southgate trust

Jarrod Bowen has been included in the England squad for the upcoming Nations League fixtures with Italy and Germany, despite a disappointing start to the season for the West Ham winger.

While Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were overlooked despite upturns in form, Bowen was selected in a real show of faith from the England manager. The 25-year-old was outstanding last season to win the Hammers’ Players’ Player of the Year, with Bowen one of just three Premier League players – alongside Mohamed Salah and Mason Mount – to reach 10+ for both goals and assists.

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This season he has failed to provide a goal or assist in six league games, with the pressure now on for Bowen to rediscover his form with the World Cup fast approaching.

David Moyes believes there have been recent signs of Bowen’s best and the West Ham boss needs his most creative talent to hit the heights of last season, with the Hammers in the division’s bottom three at present.

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