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Six talking points ahead of the Premier League weekend

Six talking points ahead of the Premier League weekend, featuring huge games in the relegation battle and an Eagles midfielder for England?

Can Luton up the pressure on their relegation rivals?

Luton face Everton in Friday night football with the Hatters having the chance to up the ante in the relegation battle. A win would lift Rob Edwards’ side out of the bottom three, temporarily at least, and pile the pressure on Nottingham Forest and Burnley.

Luton’s fight to survive has stalled of late with just one win since January and a run of three consecutive defeats, though Edwards will hope his side can rediscover the punch that saw them bloody the noses of bigger sides earlier in the season.

The Hatters can take inspiration from the reverse fixture, where Luton claimed their first Premier League win at Goodison Park. Everton are on a run of three straight wins, but with Premier League status confirmed could ease up. Elijah Adebayo’s return, after two months out, is a huge boost for Luton.

Saka finds form as Arsenal title challenge reaches crunch time

Some were suggesting Bukayo Saka’s form had tailed off just a week ago. Such has been the standards the Arsenal winger has set, a run of one goal and one assist from six games was deemed a relative drought.

The 22-year-old burst back into life with a goal and assist in last weekend’s North London derby, helping title-chasing Arsenal to a precious three points in their, on paper at least, most difficult assignment of the run-in.

Spurs struggled to cope with Saka who is closing in on reaching double figures for goals and assists in successive seasons. Not even Thierry Henry achieved that in an Arsenal shirt, with Dennis Bergkamp in 1997-98 and 1998-99 the only player to previously do so for the Gunners.

Howe celebrates a century but next steps unclear

Eddie Howe will celebrate 100 league games in charge of Newcastle this weekend as the Magpies travel to face Burnley. At surface level, his tenure has been one of huge success after leading a struggling side to safety when taking the reins, before a return to the Champions League after a 20-year absence. Of course, the caveat is the significant investment and it is the fierce ambition of the club’s wealthy ownership that makes his second full season feel somewhat underwhelming.

After a tough start and dreadful run of six defeats in seven during the winter, the Magpies sit seventh in the table. Europa League qualification is still possible, but with £400m spent will that be enough to satisfy the ownership after last season’s success?

The run-in and summer appear crucial for Howe if he is to turn his Newcastle tenure into a long-lasting dynasty. Keeping together the star names of Alexander Isak and Bruno Guimaraes is essential, as Europe’s elite circle, if the Magpies are to push on in their project.

Time for excuses is over for Forest

It’s now or never for Nottingham Forest. Forget the fury at VAR and controversial complaints on social media, the dismay at their Premier League sanctions, and grievances at the sub-standard state of officiating.

Plenty has gone wrong for Forest this season, that much is true, but it matters little now. This weekend’s trip to Sheffield United is do-or-die for Nuno Espirito Santo and his side, a fixture with the division’s basement side that can not pass without maximum points.

Hovering above the drop zone by just a single point, Forest’s fate is in their own hands ahead of a three-game run-in. A win this weekend, against a side already relegated, would be a giant step towards safety.

It’s time for Forest and their players to park the complaints, look in the mirror, and save themselves. No one will do it for them, and the consequences of failure could be catastrophic.

Postecoglou can not be so dismissive of Spurs flaws

Ange Postecoglou was dismissive of Spurs’ set-piece record earlier this week, insisting he was ‘not interested’ in the criticism of his team’s defensive record from such situations, after conceding twice from dead balls against Arsenal.

“I’m not interested,” said the Tottenham boss ahead of Thursday’s trip to Chelsea.

“Never have been. Not in the least. It’s not the first time I’ve been questioned about set-pieces in my coaching career. There is an underlying reason for that which I’m very, very comfortable with. To quote Billy Joel, you may be right, I may be crazy, but it’s maybe a lunatic you’re looking for. Eventually, I will create a team that has success and it won’t be because of working on set-pieces.”

After watching his side crash to a third consecutive Premier League defeat at Chelsea, with the opener coming from a set-piece, Postecoglou can not afford to be so naive. Spurs have now conceded 14 set-piece goals this season, excluding penalties, with only the bottom four having a worse record. Their top-four hopes have unravelled as a result of vulnerability from set pieces and burying his head in the sand is not a good look.

Wharton will be on Gareth Southgate’s radar

Crystal Palace have had huge success in taking talents from the Championship of late. Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise have each evolved into talents the top-six are targeting after arriving at Selhurst Park from the second tier and Adam Wharton is the latest turning heads.

The midfielder signed from Blackburn for an initial fee of £18m in January and already looks a snip at that fee. He’s arguably taken to the top division quicker than either Eze or Olise did with the Eagles, slotting seamlessly into the side. His awareness and composure in midfield stand out for a player who only turned 20 in February, receiving and releasing the ball with minimal touches to always ensure space.

On Monday night, he will go head-to-head with Manchester United midfielder Kobbie Mainoo, a player whose meteoric rise resulted in an England debut in March. It shouldn’t matter, but if Wharton was wearing a similar shirt, the clamour for England inclusion this summer would be greater.

Read – Midfield Magicians: David Beckham, Golden Balls

See more – Ranking the best young players in world football right now

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