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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.

Underlying data offers Everton derby hope

Everton’s wretched record at Liverpool will be much discussed this week, with the Toffees having won just once at Anfield in the Premier League since the turn of the millennium. Even that win came during the Covid-enforced absence of fans from the stadium, with the Everton supporters having last celebrated a winner at Liverpool in the flesh in 1999.

Liverpool will start as strong favourites this weekend after a solid start under Jurgen Klopp this season, but the underlying data indicates a shock might not be as far-fetched as some would imagine.

Everton rank fifth in the Premier League for expected goals (xG) – their nine goals scored is the biggest underperformance in the Premier League – and behind only Tottenham for shots per game (16.6), averaging more efforts on goal than Manchester City, Brighton and Liverpool.

Liverpool, meanwhile, have over-performed on defensive metrics. The Reds have conceded nine goals, despite an expected goals against figure of 12.05. That should offer hope for Everton.

O’Neil looks to increase pressure on old side

Gary O’Neil’s dismissal at Bournemouth caught many by surprise. The novice coach had inherited a squad branded ‘ill-equipped’ to compete at Premier League level by predecessor Scott Parker, before overseeing a turnaround that led to top-flight survival.

A job well done, most thought, but Bournemouth decided on change as the club’s new owners sacked O’Neil last summer. In came Andoni Iraola with a growing reputation from Rayo Vallecano, but it’s been a tough start for the Spaniard who is without a win in eight games this season.

O’Neil was back in business after taking the Wolves job, vacated by Julen Lopetegui just days before the new season. His tenure has began in satisfactory fashion, with four points from recent clashes with Manchester City and Aston Villa lifting Wolves to 14th.

Hwang Hee-Chan and Pedro Neto have been in fine form and Wolves can pile the pressure on Bournemouth – and move further clear of trouble – with a win at the struggling Cherries. No matter what his public stance is, that would be a sweet moment for O’Neil.

Battle of the possession kings at the Etihad

Manchester City will be looking to bounce back from consecutive Premier League defeats this weekend, but face a difficult challenge in Brighton. Pep Guardiola has been full of praise for Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi in recent months, labelling the Italian one of the most influential coaches of the past two decades.

De Zerbi led Brighton to Europa League qualification last season and has done so with an attractive style. Brighton’s expected goals (xG) figure this season is higher than Manchester City, while the two teams rank first (City) and second (Brighton) for pass success percentage.

Both sides will look to dominate the ball at the Etihad and the return of Rodri to the Manchester City midfield will aid their hopes of asserting control. City lost all three games the midfielder missed during his recent ban for a red card against Nottingham Forest.

Palace defensive record faces tough Tyneside test

Crystal Palace have quietly recorded more clean sheets than any other team in the Premier League, with the Eagles having gone three games without conceding a goal.

Roy Hodgson’s side face a tough challenge to extend that record this weekend however, against a Newcastle team fresh from beating Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, and who lead the Premier League for xG.

Palace will also be without Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise to blunt their threat at the other end, but Matheus Franca could debut after his £26m arrival from Flamengo during the summer. The onus will be on centre-back pairing Marc Guehi and Joachim Andersen – a reported transfer target for Newcastle and Eddie Howe – to stand strong at St James’ Park.

Dealing with the delivery of Kieran Trippier, who has created more chances from set-pieces than any player in Europe’s top five leagues since the start of last season – will be key for the Eagles.

Forest need more from Gibbs-White

Morgan Gibbs-White sent an emphatic response to those who doubted his price-tag last season, with the midfielder named as Nottingham Forest’s Player of the Season. The 23-year-old scored five goals and laid on eight assists to spark talk of a senior England call up, but has started the new campaign slowly.

Involved as England u21s won the European Championship over the summer, Gibbs-White could be feeling the impact of a long summer and little rest. However, Forest will need their talisman to step it up ahead of a crucial clash with Luton in the Premier League this weekend.

Forest have struggled offensively this season, ranking 19th in the Premier League for shots per game and 18th for average possession. The spark Gibbs-White brought last season has been lacking and Steve Cooper will hope the midfielder can get back to his best, with added pressure following the sale of Brennan Johnson to Tottenham.

Arsenal true test of Chelsea improvement

Chelsea take on Arsenal in a London derby this weekend with the Blues bidding to maintain an upturn in form shown before the international break.

Chelsea held the upper hand in this fixture for much of the Roman Abramovich era in west London, but the tables have turned of late with Arsenal dominant. The Gunners have won five of the last six Premier League meetings between the teams, including the last three in succession.

The fixture begins a daunting run of games for Chelsea, who next face Brentford, Tottenham, Manchester City, Newcastle, Brighton and Manchester United in succession.

Mauricio Pochettino will be hoping Raheem Sterling can pick up where he left off before the break, having bounced back from his England snub with an electric performance in the win over Burnley. Sterling was involved in all four goals at Turf Moor and has shown flashes of his Manchester City best during the season’s opening weeks.

Pochettino could look to station Sterling on the right-hand side, where Arsenal have looked vulnerable on occasion this season. Mikel Arteta’s side have conceded 28% of their shots from the left-sided defensive zone, the highest percentage in the Premier League.

A chance for Bayindir?

Make no mistake about it, Andre Onana is struggling at Manchester United right now. The goalkeeper has endured a nightmare start to his career at the club, with a series of mistakes having placed the Cameroonian under pressure.

Onana’s error cost the Red Devils in a Champions League defeat to Galatasaray before the break, while only Scott McTominay’s heroics off the bench prevented a third consecutive defeat against Brentford last time out.

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Erik ten Hag faces a decision on his goalkeeper, whose confidence has clearly waned amid a disastrous introduction into English football.

However, Onana was not the only goalkeeper signed this summer with Altay Bayindir arriving from Fenerbahce. The 6ft 6in shot-stopper has won six caps for Turkey at international level and Ten Hag could consider a chance for the 25-year-old at Sheffield United this weekend.

Clarets clash with eyes on Europe

Aston Villa and West Ham meet in the clash of the clarets this weekend, with both teams eyeing European qualification once again. Each have made strong starts to the Premier League campaign, while the prospect of a fifth Champions League place for English clubs has opened up the race for continental qualification.

UEFA’s expanded format for next season means two places will be allocated to the associations with the best collective performance in Europe this season. For six of the last seven seasons, the Premier League would have claimed an additional place on that metric and with eight teams in Europe this season, the chances are strong once again.

Villa and West Ham are fifth and seventh in the table respectively ahead of this weekend’s games, while both teams have managers with experience of winning European silverware. Unai Emery is a record four-time winner of the Europa League, while West Ham lifted the Conference League under David Moyes last season. With the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea stuttering in the season’s opening weeks and a potential Champions League place for the team who finishes fifth this season, games such as Sunday’s showdown at Villa Park could be crucial.

Read – Iconic Performances: The memorable night in the San Siro when Bale announced his genius

Read Also – Four Premier League players who impressed during the international break

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