Each week we preview the Premier League’s weekend action and assess the division’s major talking points.
This weekend’s action will include the return of Ronaldo to Manchester United, whilst there will be a series of other debutants across the Premier League as the late window captures make their first appearances in new colours.
Here are seven talking points ahead of the weekend’s Premier League action.
A hero’s homecoming for Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo’s incredible return to Manchester United has dominated headlines since the news was first announced, with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner making a romantic return to the club where he shot to superstardom.
Ronaldo’s first spell in the Premier League saw him arrive in the division as a raw but exciting teenager, and he returns 18 years after his first appearance in England as one of the greatest footballers of all time.
There are sections of the media and footballing public who have sneered at the move, and the extortionate wages spent on a footballer who will turn 37 mid-way through the 2021/22 campaign.
Whilst Ronaldo may not be the player he was at his ultimate peak, it is worth remembering that this is no normal 36-year-old footballer and the Portuguese’s almost alien professionalism ensures even this version is a step ahead of most players across world football.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) September 9, 2021
Ronaldo remains a world-class goalscorer and has netted 20+ league goals in every season since first leaving the Premier League in 2009, whilst his dedication and insatiable desire for success will have a positive impact on those around him.
This weekend’s clash with Newcastle provides the perfect platform for a player who often writes his own script on the biggest occasions.
Canaries clash must win as Arsenal’s season starts now
Arsenal have endured the worst start to a season in the club’s history, rooted to the bottom of the Premier League after three consecutive losses that have included no goals scored and nine conceded.
There’s no doubt the pressure on Mikel Arteta is reaching unbearable heights, but a home clash against Norwich provides the Gunners with a chance to get their season up and running.
The north Londoners were awful in defeat to Brentford before similarly poor performances against both Chelsea and Manchester City, but did anyone really expect results from those latter two fixtures?
The visit of the Canaries – a side who often fail to take caution in their approach – is followed by fixtures against Burnley, Brighton and Crystal Palace in their next four and it’s now or never for Arteta to show he can resurrect this side’s faltering fortunes.
Arteta will need his senior players to step up and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is one name who must rediscover his mojo, having scored braces in both meetings against Norwich in 2019/20.
Wolves’ wastefulness to end at Watford?
Wolves join Arsenal in the Premier League’s bottom three and have also failed to score a single goal, losing each of their three fixtures 1-0 in a winless start under Bruno Lage.
Whilst those numbers make for grim reading, the underlying statistics point towards a side who have been wasteful around goal.
Wolves rank seventh in the Premier League for expected goals scored with 4.3, their underperformance on that metric a major reason behind their position in the relegation places.
Adama Traore has been the club’s biggest guilty culprit having posted a personal xG figure of 1.5 goals and Wolves need their forward players to find their clinical touch if they are to climb up the division.
The chances continue to come with both Raul Jimenez and Traore ranking amongst the Premier League’s leaders for key passes, with this weekend’s trip to face newly-promoted Watford a chance for Wolves to right their wrongs.
Liverpool’s ‘new’ front three?
Liverpool’s front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have been at the forefront of the club’s modern successes, the trio working in devastating harmony across the past four seasons.
In need of competition and cover, the Reds secured the signing of Diogo Jota from Wolves last summer and the Portugal international has rotated well alongside the club’s current options.
However, Firmino’s performances in particular have attracted criticism across the past 18 months, with the Brazilian’s diminishing output seeing his long-term role at number nine questioned.
Firmino will miss this weekend’s clash at Leeds through injury and could be sidelined for an extended period, a scenario that will see Jota lead the line in his absence.
𝐉𝐎𝐓𝐀 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐒𝐋𝐎𝐓𝐓𝐄𝐑 🎯
His prolific record in all competitions since joining the Reds means he's currently third on the all-time list for minutes per goal ratio 👏 pic.twitter.com/UObewGEfM2
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) September 6, 2021
Jota ranks third amongst Liverpool’s all-time leading scorers for minutes per goal, his clinical touch combined with an insatiable work-rate raising questions as to whether he has now overtaken Firmino as a first-choice option in the front three?
His performances across the next few weeks will go a long way to staking his claim.
Buoyant Brentford can continue unbeaten run
The Bees are buzzing following a strong start to their first ever Premier League campaign, newly-promoted Brentford having taken five points from their opening three top-tier fixtures.
Thomas Frank’s side have impressed with their fearless approach and the club’s statistical-led method of recruitment has ensured talent continues to pass through Brentford season upon season.
Having maintained the core of their side together this summer however, Brentford will be confident of upsetting the odds as they mix it alongside England’s elite this season.
Brentford are now unbeaten in 15 league fixtures dating back to March and will be hopeful of continuing that run when Brighton are welcomed to west London this weekend.
Who leads the line for Manchester City?
Manchester City’s pursuit of Harry Kane ended in disappointment this summer, the stubborn stance of Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy forcing the Premier League champions into abandoning their pursuit.
With little time left in the window and a lack of a back-up plan, the failure to sign Kane leaves City without a recognised option at centre-forward.
Ferran Torres has done his best to audition for the role in recent weeks and was electric when scoring twice in the win against Arsenal prior to the international break.
Torres has performed admirably as City have won their past two fixtures by a combined score of 10-0, but there will be sterner tests provided than newly-promoted Norwich and an Arsenal side in turmoil.
This weekend’s clash against Leicester shapes as the perfect opportunity for Torres to prove he can be the solution at number nine, with it making little sense to move Gabriel Jesus centrally given the Brazilian’s starring performances out wide in recent weeks.
Kane primed for Palace
The saga of the summer ultimately led to an unsettled start to the season for Harry Kane, having been denied his wish to leave Spurs in search of silverware at Manchester City.
Once it had become clear he would remain in north London, he made his return to the side as a substitute during the win over Wolves, before starting as Watford were beaten 1-0 prior to the international break.
Spurs have made a strong start under Nuno Espirito Santo to sit top of the division on maximum points, though will now be boosted by the presence of a player who has used a break with England to sharpen his game.
Kane scored in each of England’s three fixtures during the international break and will be keen to register his first goal of the Premier League season against Palace, a side he has thrived against in recent fixtures after being directly involved in each of Spurs’ last six goals against the Eagles.