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Five talking points ahead of the Premier League’s midweek action

The Premier League returns with a full midweek schedule, featuring some huge clashes at both ends of the table. Ahead of the action, we’ve looked at five Premier League talking points.

Arsenal can expose Forest frailties at set-pieces

Arsenal got their title aspirations back on track after hammering Crystal Palace at the Emirates last time out, with the opening two goals for the Gunners coming from corner kicks. Those goals extended Arsenal’s record as the most effective set-piece team in Europe this season, having scored more goals (13) from such situations (excluding penalties) than any other side.

The Gunners also top the Premier League charts for goals from corners (10), with Gabriel Magalhães a terrific target for deliveries.

The north Londoners travel to face Nottingham Forest on Tuesday and the home side will no doubt fear the worst given their own record from dead balls. Forest have conceded a league-leading 11 goals from set-pieces this season, and the second-most headed goals (9).

Arsenal have not always been associated with such routes to goal, but versatility in their attacking threat will increase their chances of remaining in the title race.

Kompany can expect no favours from ruthless City

Vincent Kompany is set to receive a warm ovation on his return to Manchester City this week, as the Burnley boss takes his struggling side to the Etihad. One of the great figures in Manchester City’s modern success, Kompany will be well appreciated on the terraces at the Etihad.

However, the Belgian is unlikely to earn any favours from his old side who are beginning to find real momentum under Pep Guardiola. The Citizens have reeled off seven straight wins in all competitions and have shown spirit in hard-fought victories at Newcastle and Spurs of late.

 

Burnley have won just three times all season and have an awful record in this fixture. The last 12 meetings have all ended in Manchester City wins, with Burnley scoring just one goal and conceding 43 times. With Kevin De Bruyne back to full fitness and Erling Haaland in contention to feature for the first time in more than a month, the Clarets fans will travel in hope more than expectation.

Aston Villa to end Newcastle’s top-four hopes?

Newcastle upset the Premier League’s status quo to earn a top-four finish last season, only the fifth time a non-Big Six side has gatecrashed the Champions League places this century.

Aston Villa are bidding to make that six after a stunning start to the campaign under Unai Emery, with The Villans just five points from the top of the table as February approaches. Villa have not finished inside the top four of the Premier League since 1995/96 and have not competed among Europe’s elite since the early eighties.

Villa host Newcastle on Tuesday night, and could put the final nail in Newcastle’s coffin when it comes to Champions League football. A win for the home side at Villa Park would leave Emery’s side 17 points clear of the Magpies, all but eliminating Eddie Howe’s team from contention.

After a 5-1 thrashing at St James’ Park on the opening weekend of the season, Villa will be keen to exact their revenge.

West Ham face the one who got away

West Ham’s woeful record when it comes to recruiting centre-forwards is well documented, with big-name arrivals having continually disappointed at the London Stadium. Sebastien Haller and Gianluca Scamacca are among the notable names to have impressed elsewhere, but who failed to click in Claret and Blue.

David Moyes remains determined to sign a striker in the coming transfer windows, having been frustrated in attempts to land a number nine. The Irons saw a £40m bid rejected for Dominic Solanke in the summer, a transfer value which caused surprise at that time, but has now increased after a brilliant season at Bournemouth.

Solanke has scored 12 goals in 20 league appearances for the Cherries and earned December’s Player of the Month award after scoring six times in six games. No player has scored more in the top flight since December 1, with his form having led to calls for an England call-up.

West Ham have got plenty wrong when it comes to signing strikers, but their big bid for Solanke showed an eye for untapped potential. That he’s now realising that potential while still wearing a Bournemouth shirt will cause some regret among the club’s recruiters.

Liverpool look to end stalemate sequence

Liverpool remain in contention for four trophies this season and will look to maintain – or extend – their lead at the top of the Premier League table against Chelsea on Wednesday night.

The Blues have proven to be awkward opposition for Liverpool in recent meetings, however, with Jurgen Klopp’s side having failed to beat Chelsea inside ninety minutes in eight attempts.

Liverpool’s last win inside the regulation period against Chelsea came in September 2020, and each of the last seven encounters have ended in draws.

A transitional Chelsea team will arrive at Anfield in good spirits after improvement of late under Mauricio Pochettino, having won four of their last five Premier League games.

Liverpool, unbeaten at home this season, can ill-afford a slip-up, however, ahead of a trip to title rivals Arsenal this weekend.

Read – Ranking the Premier League players with the most goals in all competitions

See more – Five Premier League players who could move before the deadline

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