Each week we preview the Premier League action and discuss some of the division’s major talking points.
Purple patch, or has Edouard finally found feet?
Odsonne Edouard arrived at Crystal Palace with a growing reputation, a forward who had become a firm favourite in Scotland after a prolific period at Celtic.
Edouard twice finished as the Scottish Premiership’s leading scorer at Celtic, where he scored 88 goals in 179 games. He signed for Palace, aged 23, primed to take on the Premier League, but has since struggled to find the net with regularity.
Edouard scored just 11 goals in 63 league appearances across his first two seasons at Selhurst Park, but has began the new campaign with a bang. He’s scored five goals in six games for the Eagles, including four in the Premier League. Only Erling Haaland (7) has managed more in the league so far this season and Palace will hope this is more than a purple patch for the Frenchman.
Can Luton get points on the board?
Luton’s promotion to the Premier League was fairytale stuff, but the reality of competing against England’s top sides has soon set in for the Hatters. Four games have brought four losses and just two goals scored, a run which has raised, admittedly premature, talk of the Premier League’s lowest ever points returns.
Teams have started worse than this and survived in the Premier League, but Luton will view this weekend’s clash with Wolves as one to target points from. Wolves have impressed in patches this season and troubled Manchester United and Liverpool, but familiar flaws remain and a lack of goals has cost Gary O’Neil’s side.
In this together. 🧡 pic.twitter.com/KJmHD0LfEO
— Luton Town FC (@LutonTown) September 17, 2023
Keeping Pedro Neto quiet will be crucial to Luton’s chances, with the Wolves winger topping the Premier League for chances created (17) this season. This will be just the second fixture Luton have played at Kenilworth Road this season and the Hatters will hope a home crowd can roar them on to a maiden result.
Champions can continue ominous start
Manchester City top the table in the early weeks of the Premier League season, with the champions having taken the lead amid minimal fuss to date. Five consecutive wins have been recorded without approaching their top level and Pep Guardiola’s side are overwhelming favourites to make it six straight victories this weekend.
City host Nottingham Forest at the Etihad, a side who have improved on the road this time around, but who were the division’s worst travellers in 2022/23. Erling Haaland hit a hat-trick as the Citizens thrashed Forest 6-0 in the same fixture last season, while the champions lead the Premier League for both expected goals (xG) and lowest expected goals against (xGA) in an ominous sign of their strength at both ends of the pitch.
Rodrigooooal! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/hewHViYNQf
— Manchester City (@ManCity) September 21, 2023
Just once before have the defending champions opened the season with six successive wins, when Chelsea did so in 2005/06. The west Londoners went on to win back-to-back titles that season and City – who boast 11 consecutive wins on home soil – already look tough to stop.
Onana suffering from confidence crisis?
Manchester United are a club who are only ever deemed one defeat away from crisis, so four in their opening six fixtures of the new season constitutes early-season catastrophe for Erik ten Hag.
The Dutchman is under pressure after a torrid start to the campaign, with the credit earned last season fast evaporating as the Red Devils show little sign of progress. If anything, this looks a team going backwards on current form.
One major problem for the manager has been the form of Andre Onana, signed as Ten Hag’s man and the ideal candidate to replace David de Gea. The latter had his flaws, most notably in distribution, but his replacement has so far failed to prove he is an upgrade. Ten Hag knows Onana well from their time at Ajax and brought the Cameroon international in to provide his side with added confidence in possession. At present, Onana is suffering from a lack of just that.
14 – Manchester United have conceded 14 goals in all competitions this season, the most of any Premier League side. Bombarded. pic.twitter.com/02Yq7Zx7dO
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 20, 2023
Manchester United have conceded more goals than any other Premier League team in all competitions (14) this season and have shipped 3+ in consecutive games for the first time since 1978.
Onana, meanwhile, has shown few examples of the distribution which made him so sought after, with only Wolves’ Jose Sa (18.9%) having completed a lower percentage of long distance passes (20.8%). Onana also ranks 15th for defensive actions outside the penalty area and 11th for crosses stopped among Premier League goalkeepers, each actions for which he was praised for upon his arrival. Improvement is needed.
Can Europa League benefit Liverpool?
Liverpool are competing in the Europa League for the first time since 2015/16 this season, following a fifth-place finish in the Premier League. The disappointment of missing out on the Champions League, a competition which the Reds have regularly challenged in under Jurgen Klopp, was evident, but could a season in Europe’s secondary competition benefit Liverpool?
Liverpool are strong favourites to win the Europa League and began their campaign with a 3-1 win at LASK on Thursday, a fixture which saw Klopp make 11 changes to his starting side from the weekend win at Wolves. The Reds have enough depth to navigate the early stages of the competition without the use of key personnel, providing potential rest for the club’s big hitters when it comes to Premier League action.
Europa League football also offers a chance to experiment, with Ben Doak and summer signings Wataru Endo and Ryan Gravenberch handed opportunities to impress.
An assist for Ryan on full debut 😁👍 pic.twitter.com/zDOvyLZ1lB
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) September 21, 2023
Darwin Nunez was also handed a chance to find his rhythm and found the net from the penalty spot against LASK, as Liverpool came from behind to win in Austria. Liverpool will demand Champions League football returns for next season, but a campaign away from Europe’s elite might not be the disaster it’s painted out to be.
Which number 10 can decide north London derby?
This weekend’s north London derby shapes up as one of the most exciting in recent seasons, with both Arsenal and Tottenham level on points after starting the season in unbeaten fashion. Arsenal have not always convinced in the Premier League, but provided a reminder of their quality by thrashing PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League.
Tottenham, meanwhile, are thriving under the management of Ange Postecoglou and while early in the project, there’s a wave of optimism surrounding Spurs. At the centre of both team’s success has been creative inspiration in midfield, with Martin Odegaard and James Maddison two players capable of deciding this weekend’s meeting.
Who else is excited for more Martin Odegaard magic? 🪄 pic.twitter.com/SqLzunQkB1
— Premier League (@premierleague) September 22, 2023
Maddison was named as the Premier League’s Player of the Month for August after a superb start at Spurs, one which has seen the England international score twice and provide two assists in five league appearances. The 26-year-old has 23 goal involvements in the Premier League since the start of last season, a total just one midfielder in the division can better.
That midfielder will be in opposition colours this weekend with Odegaard continuing his evolution into one of the world’s best creative talents. The Norwegian was outstanding during the midweek win over PSV and whoever shines on Sunday could have a major influence on the final result. Spurs are looking for a first league win at the Emirates since November 2010.
Brighton brought back to earth
The Amex Stadium was electric on Thursday evening as Brighton welcomed European football to the venue for the first time in the club’s history. The Seagulls have been celebrated for their achievements last season and remain one of the Premier League’s most impressive outfits, but Roberto De Zerbi’s side suffered an unexpected blow after losing to AEK Athens on their Europa League debut.
The Seagulls struggled in the absence of Lewis Dunk at centre-back to concede two goals from first-half set pieces, with AEK hitting a third to secure a 3-2 in on the south coast. With Ajax and Marseille still to come in a challenging Group B, the loss to AEK was a bitter blow for Brighton, who have been installed by the bookmakers as second favourites to win the Europa League this season.
◉ Brighton are the first English side to lose their debut European game since Blackburn Rovers in 1994-95.
◉ AEK Athens have beaten English opposition for the first time since 1977.
Not the welcome to European football the Seagulls were hoping for. 😩 pic.twitter.com/iqQJAWG0iW
— Squawka (@Squawka) September 21, 2023
De Zerbi’s task will now be ensuring heads don’t drop as Brighton return to Premier League action, where the Seagulls will look to continue a strong start against Bournemouth this weekend.
Digne defending a worry for Villa
Lucas Digne’s career at Aston Villa appeared to be over after losing his place in the team last season, with the arrival of Alex Moreno from Real Betis having pushed him out of Unai Emery’s plans.
Moreno’s extended absence after undergoing hamstring surgery provided Digne with a chance during pre-season and a run of creative displays have earned him a run in the side. The Frenchman has long been a fantastic weapon going forward and has already recorded five assists in seven appearances across all competitions this season, but his defensive work is questionable with the full-back’s flaws evident in Poland this week.
Digne was arguably culpable for all three goals conceded in the Europa Conference League loss to Legia Warsaw. The 30-year-old lost his runner for the host’s opener, failed to stop the cross which led to the second, and gave away possession with a slack pass in the build up to the third.
A stunning goal of his own offered some redemption, but Emery will be concerned given his side have already capitulated defensively in Premier League defeats at Newcastle and Liverpool this season. Villa travel to Chelsea this weekend, where Digne is expected to be tasked with shackling Raheem Sterling.