Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend

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The world’s most expensive keepers meet at Stamford Bridge, Emeryball is taking hold and time is not up for Marco Silva

Paul Doyle, Barry Glendenning and Nick Ames– The Guardian

1) Mourinho and co will welcome a trip away from Old Trafford

With Old Trafford currently resembling a passable imitation of the snake-filled Well of Souls into which Indiana Jones was temporarily sealed in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Manchester United will probably welcome an away trip, even if it is to the Premier League’s most ludicrous ground. With the exception of their lamentable surrender to Brighton at the Amex Stadium, Manchester United have performed better on the road than at home this season and now face a West Ham side that has rediscovered what passes for its mojo after starting the season with four consecutive league defeats. Declan Rice has been instrumental in their revival, acting as a defensive shield to a back four that has become compact and tight. Having neutralised Chelsea and scored eight past hapless Macclesfield in the past week, West Ham’s confidence is likely to be considerably higher than that of a Manchester United side who were outplayed by both Wolves and Derby County in the same period. Another poor result will prompt more tedious but unavoidable questions about José Mourinho’s future at the club and – far more seriously – may even have an adverse effect on the Apple Store rating of United’s mobile app. BG

2) Appraisal time for world’s priciest goalkeepers

There has been relatively little scrutiny so far on the world’s most expensive goalkeeper, largely because Kepa has not had a great deal to do since Chelsea bought him for around £5m more than Liverpool paid for Alisson three weeks previously. He looked a trifle shaky early on in his debut against Huddersfield and was at fault for Arsenal’s first goal in the following match but neither of those sides, nor any other, were able to put him through a really searching examination. That will probably change on Saturday, when Liverpool can be expected to give him his more serious test of the season so far. Something similar could be said of Alisson at the other end, although he is more experienced and, what is more, has a stronger defence in front of him. PD

3) Emeryball seems to be changing Arsenal for the better

Here is a fact: Arsenal are not playing as well as their recent results suggest. Here is another: it does not particularly matter. Last Sunday they were largely bailed out by wasteful Everton finishing and an egregious misjudgment by the officials; it was hardly fun and games in the wins over West Ham, Cardiff and Newcastle either but the results are, at least against the lesser sides, trickling in. It is a huge help to Umai Emery, who you suspect will need an entire season to really cement the cultural and stylistic changes he requires. There are signs Emeryball is changing Arsenal for the better – they have made more challenges and interceptions, and entered into more duels, per-minute of opposition possession than anyone else in the division – but things are not quite clicking with the ball and for now they may have to be grateful for flourishes like Alexandre Lacazette’s super goal against Everton or Granit Xhaka’s free-kick at Newcastle. Watford will hope their run of good fortune does not last; Arsenal would take three points in whatever form if it means their transition behind the scenes can continue without too much scrutiny. NA

4) Brooks looks like making a bigger impact than Townsend

Crystal Palace need someone other than Wilfried Zaha to start scoring regularly for them. Andros Townsend netted twice in this week’s Carabao Cup win against West Brom but that is all he managed in the whole of last season and he has never scored more than four in a Premier League campaign. Maybe he is about to embark on a hot streak but the suspicion is that Bournemouth’s David Brooks, who has never scored a Premier League goal, will finish this season with a bigger haul than Townsend. The 21-year-old’s exciting play has been a highlight of Bournemouth campaign so far – shining even during last week’s lamentable trouncing at Burnley – and it seems only a matter of time before he starts finishing as well as creating chances from out wide, possibly as soon as Monday’s visit by Palace. PD

 

5) Southampton look for light in the Black Country

Improving with every performance, Wolves are proving a breath of fresh air in a Premier League in which no team more than Southampton increasingly resemble an acrid, eggy fart by comparison. Showing little or no indication so far that they’re either good or bad enough to do anything even remotely interesting this season, they look content to just hang around in the Premier League, as is their inalienable right if they can accumulate the requisite number of points. However, away at Molineux against a team of entertainers fast turning into media darlings, they have a chance to make a statement and turn some heads by putting the Premier League newcomers back in their box with an unexpected slap-down. Instead, expect them to troop off the pitch reasonably satisfied with a 2-0 or 3-1 defeat, after which Mark Hughes will use his post-match interview to grumble about some perceived refereeing injustice that only happened in his head. Surprise us, Southampton. The gauntlet is down. BG

6) Silva deserves more time to find winning formula

There is a lot to be said for wielding the axe quickly and decisively but calls for Everton to give Marco Silva the chop already are premature. He inherited a hotchpotch squad and, owing mainly to injuries and suspensions, has not been able to field his strongest team in his six league matches so far, yet Everton could still have won all of those if they had finished better. That, of course, is the team’s biggest problem – they have yet to find an adequate replacement for Romelu Lukaku despite all the money spent – and Silva needs to address that problem as best he can. On Saturday it could pay to deploy either Richarlison or Theo Walcott as a central striker, especially if Bernard is given a start out wide after his impressive introduction at Arsenal. If Silva persists with Cenk Tosun or Dominic Calvert-Lewin, he might find himself wishing that Everton, rather than Fulham, had signed Aleksandar Mitrovic last summer. PD

7) Lack of options spells trouble for Wagner at Spurs

The statistics do not look especially good for Huddersfield. Twentieth in the Premier League table tells its own story but few of the trends underpinning it give hope of an imminent upturn. Their “expected goals” tally of 3.57 sits rock bottom of the pile, too, a good 1.3 shy of its closest rival; their number of touches in the opposition box lags well behind everybody except Brighton while only Newcastle have managed fewer shots. They are leaking goals at the other end too and, while a fiendish opening couple of games against Chelsea and Manchester City are partly to blame, David Wagner’s side have not exactly served up much encouragement since. Quite simply they do not get enough players into enemy territory and they may find it difficult to commit too many men forward against a Tottenham team that, having cleared their heads with a 2-1 win at Brighton on Saturday, do not appear as vulnerable as they might have a week ago. These two teams have used more players (Tottenham, 23, Huddersfield 22) since the season began than any others in the division bar Manchester United; Mauricio Pochettino can point to strength in depth but Wagner really needs to find a combination that works. NA

8) Montoya will need to shine on Guardiola reunion

Martín Montoya was once tipped as the obvious heir to Dani Alves at Barcelona but things did not quite pan out like that. The 27-year-old has had a decent career so far, nonetheless, and has made a good impact at Brighton since joining the club in the summer. On Saturday he may have to produce his best performance yet for Chris Hughton’s side as he comes up against the team run by the manager who nurtured him when he was young at Barcelona, Pep Guardiola. Manchester City are likely to omit a couple of key players to preserve them for Tuesday’s Champions League mission to Hoffenheim, which they can ill-afford to botch after losing at home to Lyon, but this will be a fearsome challenge for Brighton whose only win this season has come against the lesser of the Manchester teams. PD

9) At least Rafa can look forward to the fixtures

Having accumulated just their second point from six games in a dire scoreless draw against Crystal Palace last week, Newcastle entertain Leicester at the end of a week in which a tedious row has rumbled over whether or not they are a “big club” and Kevin Keegan has confirmed what many suspected about the cavalier, borderline cowboy manner in which Mike Ashley runs his St James’ Park operation. Only Rafael Benítez knows why he’s still bothering to man the tiller of this permanently listing ship, but having been handed a nightmare start to the season by the fixture generator, Newcastle can at least look forward to a comparatively kind set of fixtures – including Manchester United at Old Trafford next week – between now and their visit to Anfield on Boxing Day. By then, we should have a fair idea whether or not this side is well-equipped enough to continue treading water in the manner that so pleases its depressingly unambitious owner. BG

10) Warnock bids to avoid return to more interesting league

Neil Warnock repeated this week that he prefers the Championship to the Premier League and it is not hard to understand why: a better balance of abilities thought the second tier makes intrigue run deeper. All the same, the Cardiff City manager will do his utmost to keep his team in the top flight this season. But the longer they go without a win, the harder it will be to fend off fatalism. Beating Burnley this weekend – after three defeats in a row – would do a power of good to the Welsh team and pull Sean Dyche’s side right back into bother after they got their first league victory last weekend. Warnock has several difficult selection posers to resolve, including whether to restore Sol Bamba to the centre of his defence and whether to entrust main attacking duties to Josh Murphy or persist with Bobby Reid. Whoever he plumps for, this is sure to be a full-blooded contest. PD

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 Liverpool 6 12 18
2 Man City 6 16 16
3 Chelsea 6 10 16
4 Watford 6 5 13
5 Tottenham Hotspur 6 5 12
6 Arsenal 6 3 12
7 Man Utd 6 0 10
8 AFC Bournemouth 6 -1 10
9 Leicester 6 1 9
10 Wolverhampton 6 0 9
11 Crystal Palace 6 -2 7
12 Everton 6 -3 6
13 Brighton 6 -3 5
14 Southampton 6 -3 5
15 Fulham 6 -5 5
16 Burnley 6 -3 4
17 West Ham 6 -6 4
18 Newcastle 6 -4 2
19 Cardiff 6 -11 2
20 Huddersfield 6 -11 2

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