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Eight talking points ahead of the Premier League weekend

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

Can Blades bounce back and chop down Forest?

Sheffield United’s return to the Premier League has been challenging in its infancy, with the club’s financial issues having reduced the usual feel-good atmosphere. The Blades opened their campaign with a narrow defeat to Crystal Palace at Bramall Lane, a fixture which saw Paul Heckingbottom’s side second best for much of the contest.

Sheffield United have strengthened their squad this week with the capture of Gustavo Hamer from Coventry City and the Dutchman appears a shrewd addition. Hamer contributed nine goals and 11 assists for Mark Robins’ side last term, as Coventry reached the Championship play-off final.

After the disappointing departures of Iliman Ndiaye and Sander Berge, Hamer’s arrival feels a positive step as the Blades look to compete in the top division.

While there are no easy games in the Premier League, the newly-promoted side will have targeted opening fixtures with Palace and Nottingham Forest for much-needed early points. After defeat last weekend, a trip to the City Ground on Friday night appears an ideal time to bounce back.

Another west London cracker?

Fulham and Brentford might not be the biggest all capital clash in the Premier League, but recent west London meetings between the two have proven to be enthralling encounters.

The two teams shared ten goals in their two Premier League clashes last season, with the home side winning 3-2 on each occasion. Aleksandar Mitrovic’s late winner against the Bees at Craven Cottage last August earned newly-promoted Fulham a first top-flight London derby win in 25 attempts.

Fulham later secured wins against Crystal Palace and Chelsea, but ranked only fifth in the seven-team London mini-table last season. Meanwhile only Arsenal and Tottenham took more points than Brentford in all capital clashes, with the Bees beaten just twice in 2022/23 London derbies.

Fulham will need to tighten up defensively against a Brentford team who showed they remain more than capable in Ivan Toney’s absence. Only Aston Villa and Luton, beaten 5-1 and 4-1 respectively, conceded a higher xGA figure than Fulham on the opening weekend, despite the Cottagers’ 1-0 win at Everton.

The End-o of Liverpool’s transfer window?

Liverpool’s transfer window had appeared to be going swimmingly after the early captures of Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai, the initial disappointment at missing out on Jude Bellingham compensated with the addition of two exciting midfield arrivals.

Since then, however, it’s been a car crash. After hesitating over a move for Romeo Lavia, Liverpool launched a record bid for Moises Caicedo, only to miss out on both players to Chelsea in an embarrassing turn of events.

Jurgen Klopp is nearing a much-needed addition in midfield with the capture of Wataru Endo from Stuttgart, but the surprise deal for the 30-year-old Japan captain has hardly got pulses racing after a British record bid for their preferred target just a week ago.

Liverpool will hope Endo can plug the midfield gaps Chelsea exploited on the opening weekend and the impending addition arrives with strong statistics from his time in the Bundesliga. That said, if Endo – a Plan B alternative for the Reds’ anchor role – is the only new arrival before the deadline, there will be more concern than expectation at Anfield this season.

Maddison can exploit Manchester United midfield gaps

Manchester United opened the Premier League season with a 1-0 win over Wolves, but Erik ten Hag will be concerned with how his team was consistently opened up at Old Trafford.

Wolves cut through the club’s new look midfield with ease, registering 23 shots on goal – the second-highest tally an away side has recorded at Manchester United since the data was first collected in 2004/05.

Casemiro’s leaden-footed performance was criticised, while Mason Mount failed to provide a defensive contribution as Wolves created chance after chance. Wolves were the lowest scorers in the Premier League last season and a side with more firepower would certainly have punished the Red Devils.

One player who will be licking his lips at taking on the Manchester United midfield this weekend is James Maddison. Spurs’ summer signing was impressive on the opening weekend to provide two assists in the club’s 2-2 draw with Brentford and revelled in the responsibility of being Ange Postecoglou’s creative hub.

Adorning the number ten shirt vacated after Harry Kane’s exit, Maddison created six chances – five of which came from open-play – in an effective performance. He will be a central part of Postecoglou’s plan to implement a more front-footed approach this season.

Scandinavian shootout at the Etihad

Erling Haaland picked up exactly where he left off last season with an opening day brace for Manchester City at Burnley, with the Norwegian taking an early lead in the race for the Premier League’s Golden Boot.

Haaland scored a record-breaking 36 goals on route to the Golden Boot last season and it would be a brave person to bet against the Norwegian retaining the award this season. Level with the 22-year-old after the opening fixtures however, is another Scandinavian sharp-shooter in Alexander Isak.

Isak provided a reminder of his class with two goals as Newcastle beat 5-1 Aston Villa last weekend, the second an audacious chip as the Magpies ran riot at St James’ Park. Isak has been irresistible on occasion since signing for Newcastle last summer and, despite arriving with a modest goal record, has now averaged a Premier League goal every 132 minutes.

The 23-year-old struggled with fitness problems last season and managed just 17 league starts, a number Eddie Howe will hope swells this time around. If Isak can remain fit for the entire campaign, Newcastle appear more than capable of another top four finish. This weekend’s meeting between Manchester City and Newcastle shapes as a fascinating shootout between the strikers.

Dyche must find forward fix

Everton’s goalscoring woes are not a new issue, but the club’s opening weekend defeat to Fulham emphasised the need for a reliable presence at centre-forward. Sean Dyche’s side dominated and carved out a succession of clear-cut chances, recording an xG of 2.73 – the third-highest in the Premier League last weekend – but fell to a 1-0 defeat at Goodison Park.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s continued fitness issues and Neal Maupay’s prolificacy are both problematic for the Toffees, who need more to survive this season. Jack Harrison’s loan arrival from Leeds will aid the club’s creativity, but it is the taking and not making of chances that is Dyche’s dilemma.

Youssef Chermiti has arrived from Sporting Lisbon and has promise, but pinning the club’s survival hopes on an untried teenager who scored just three league goals last season appears unwise. Securing a recognised goal threat should be paramount for Dyche before the deadline, though looks a complicated task given the club’s tight finances.

Tactical Analysis: Can Sean Dyche help Everton stay up?

Can Caicedo arrival unleash Gallagher?

Chelsea have broken the British transfer record to land Moises Caicedo from Brighton, with the Ecuador international turning down Liverpool to join the Blues’ big-spending project. The need for reinforcements in midfield was apparent despite an encouraging performance from Chelsea on the opening weekend, with neither Enzo Fernandez or Conor Gallagher best suited to the demands of a defensive role.

Gallagher could be the player to benefit most from Caicedo’s arrival. The 23-year-old has failed to establish himself at Chelsea since returning from a successful loan spell at Crystal Palace and was used in a two-man pivot for much of last season. Gallagher started as Chelsea’s most defensive midfielder against Liverpool last weekend, but his game thrives when given licence to venture forward and harass opponents higher up the pitch.

Caicedo’s arrival as Chelsea’s defensive screen could provide Gallagher with opportunity further forward and, with Enzo Fernandez having demonstrated his more dynamic side against Liverpool, give Chelsea a midfield balance of graft and guile.

Gallagher’s future remains unclear with lingering rumours of a potential exit, but Pochettino will want to run the rule over the England international is his preferred role before a decision is made. This weekend’s encounter with a new-look West Ham midfield featuring Edson Alvarez and James Ward-Prowse looks the perfect chance to prove a point.

Nketiah ready to take Arsenal opportunity

Eddie Nketiah has been handed an unexpected opportunity in the season’s opening weeks, with Gabriel Jesus’ injury having thrust him into the Arsenal side.

Mikel Arteta had said the forward had trained like ‘a beast’ after being overlooked for the Community Shield and Nketiah repaid his manager’s faith with the opening goal in last weekend’s 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest.

It feels like Nketiah has been on the fringes of the Arsenal side forever, but the academy product is no longer an emerging name and at 24 will want to nail down a regular role. Since the start of last season, Nketiah has scored an impressive 10 goals in 17 starts across all competitions, but Arteta will want to see more from the forward’s all-round game.

Nketiah has not made more than nine league starts in any of his seasons at Arsenal, but now has a chance to prove he is worth a regular role. Monday night’s clash at Crystal Palace is a chance to build on an encouraging opening weekend.

Read – Fantasy Premier League: Five essential tips for FPL Gameweek 2

Read Also – Five of the best Japanese players in Premier League history

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