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Six talking points ahead of the Premier League weekend

Six talking points ahead of the Premier League weekend, featuring crucial clashes in the title race and David Moyes’ farewell at West Ham.

Arsenal hoping for Fulham favour

The weekend’s early kick-off sees Manchester City travel to face Fulham, perhaps the toughest examination remaining for the Citizens given the circumstances of the run-in. Pep Guardiola’s side have their fate in their own hands and have been down this road before, though Fulham have proven this season that Craven Cottage is no easy trip for any side.

Only the top three and Everton have conceded fewer goals than Fulham (20) on home soil this season, while the West Londoners have shown their punch with impressive wins over Arsenal and Spurs at The Cottage. Joao Palhinha is a hugely disruptive presence in midfield, Antonee Robinson has been outstanding at left-back, and Rodrigo Muniz a bulldozing revelation further forward.

Arsenal, who have dropped points in both games against Fulham this season, will be praying their London neighbours can do them an almighty favour against the Premier League’s reigning juggernaut.

Freedman a suitable successor for Ashworth at St James’

Newcastle might have dug their heels in on the inevitable departure of Dan Ashworth to Manchester United, but negotiations this week with potential replacements indicate all will go ahead.

Dougie Freedman, current sporting director at Crystal Palace, has held talks with the Magpies and looks an ideal option to replace Ashworth at St James’.

Freedman’s work has helped consolidate Crystal Palace in the Premier League and the Eagles are quietly sitting on a gold mine. Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise were each signed from the Championship and could be sold on for five-fold the club’s initial investments as ‘Big Six’ sides circle.

Elsewhere, Marc Guehi has gone from Chelsea cast-off to established England international, while Adam Wharton is pressing his claim for a place at Euro 2024 this summer. The 20-year-old has made a huge impact since swapping a Championship relegation battle for the Premier League in January and will have registered on the radar of Gareth Southgate. Freedman has an eye for talent.

Hudson-Odoi leading Forest fight

In a chaotic period of recruitment at the City Ground that has contributed to Premier League sanctions, Callum Hudson-Odoi’s arrival might just be among the most astute additions.

The winger made his England debut as a teenager and turned down interest from Bayern Munich after an exciting emergence at Chelsea, but has seen his stock fall and career stall in recent campaigns. He joined Forest in the summer for an initial fee of just £3m, reuniting with former England youth boss Steve Cooper. However, it is under successor Nuno Espirito Santo that he has begun to thrive, earning a regular role and adding verve to the Forest attack.

The 23-year-old has scored six goals in 14 games since Nuno’s appointment in December, including two in the crucial win at Sheffield United last time out. One more win should be enough to preserve Forest’s top-flight status, ahead of a clash with Hudson-Odoi’s former club Chelsea this weekend. In form and improving, he will want to make a point.

Moyes deserves proper send-off

David Moyes will take charge of his final home game as West Ham manager this weekend, after the announcement that he will leave in the summer. It will bring an end to a paradoxical tenure, in which Moyes has given West Ham the best times of their Premier League existence while failing to win the true appreciation of large sections of the support.

Continued criticism of his pragmatic football and some heavy recent defeats suggest change might be the right move, though the Scot should be treated to a proper – and grateful – send-off at the London Stadium.

Moyes has saved West Ham from relegation, led them to their highest Premier League finish and points total, and delivered memorable European runs that culminated in Conference League success – the Irons’ first trophy in 43 years. He deserves respect.

Manchester United fighting for their futures

Manchester United need a response. In a season of lowlights, the club’s campaign reached arguably its lowest ebb with Monday’s 4-0 thrashing at Crystal Palace. Down to eighth in the Premier League after wins for Newcastle and Chelsea, the Red Devils are in real danger of missing out on European football for next season.

It’s old rivals Arsenal who arrive at Old Trafford this weekend, a team in contrast, on the up and with clear direction.

Erik ten Hag’s position at Manchester United is in increasing jeopardy, but the Dutchman is not the only one. An underperforming squad has let previous managers, and the badge, down before and those in positions of power at Old Trafford will be keeping a close eye on events over the run-in.

Mass change will take place at Manchester United in the summer, both in the dressing room and above. Having worked to bring in the best decision-makers possible, few appear safe in the plans for a much-needed rebuild.

Aston Villa in touching distance of promised land

Aston Villa might be running out of steam but Unai Emery’s side is agonisingly close to the end goal. One more win will confirm the club’s place in the Champions League next season, while their participation could be secured if an out-of-sorts Spurs fail to beat Burnley on Saturday.

Villa have won one of their last six in all competitions ahead of the visit of Liverpool on Monday. A disappointing European exit to Olympiacos ended hopes of a first trophy since 1996, though the finish line is in sight in their top-four pursuit.

Should Villa get over the line, it will be a monumental achievement for Emery who has enhanced his fine reputation since returning to English football. Villa have not competed in Europe’s elite competition since the early eighties, but are almost, almost there.

Read – Premier League awards: Biggest nominee omissions in 2023/24

See more – Ranking the favourites to become the next Manchester United manager

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