Premier League: 10 things to watch out for this weekend

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Dyche back to square one before Spurs test

Everton marked the first anniversary of Sean Dyche’s appointment by entering the relegation zone on Tuesday. The worrying situation belies the undoubted progress the Everton manager has seen since replacing Frank Lampard, but before he demands games against Tottenham and Manchester City, his team urgently need to rediscover the spark that has disappeared since the 2-1 defeat to Ange Postecoglou . team before Christmas. Injuries and constant demands on a small group of reliable first-team players have caught up with Everton, who have not won in five Premier League games and suffered morale-sapping home defeats in both cup competitions since the last three points at Burnley on December 16. . Dyche’s reign began 12 months ago with a tireless home victory over north London opposition as title chasers Arsenal were defeated 1-0. With the club’s appeal against a 10-point deduction for breach of financial rules offering no guarantees, he is back to square one in terms of another relegation dogfight. Andy Hunter

Brighton is ready for a hectic derby

The M23 derby is perhaps rivaled only by the legendary rivalry between Watford and Luton for its terrifying intensity, and Crystal Palace visit Brighton with both managers under some pressure. After a promising start, Roberto De Zerbi’s side have won just one of their past eight league games, scoring just six goals – and four of them came in that solitary win. They shipped four in a week while heading to Luton, and it’s hard not to wonder if their idiosyncratic style of trapping teams before they pounce has been fumbled. Roy Hodgson, meanwhile, could hardly earn less from his young, talented players. On Tuesday, Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze scored to create all three of his side’s goals as they scraped past Sheffield United, the league’s bottom club, to record their second win in their last eleven games; the atmosphere at Selhurst is not good. As such, it could be a hectic, desperate afternoon in Sussex – exactly what a derby should be. Daniel Harris

Time is running out for Fulham’s Brazilian attackers

Fulham reached an unwanted milestone with the goalless draw against Everton at Craven Cottage on Tuesday. It was the tenth time this season that Marco Silva’s side have failed to score in a Premier League match, surpassing all other goal-shy rivals in the top flight. Raúl Jiménez’s hamstring injury increases the manager’s concerns about where the solution will come from. Since a prolific run of 16 goals in four league games until early December, Fulham have scored in one of their past six Premier League matches. Only Sheffield United scored fewer away from home. Neither Rodrigo Muniz nor Carlos Vinicius have provided the edge a team with creative talent needs as the Aleksandar Mitrovic-sized hole continues to hamper Fulham’s development. The duo must go one step further at Burnley. Their chances are likely to be further limited once the transfer window reopens this summer. AH

Athletic Newcastle is a match for old-fashioned power

After a period of uncertainty, Newcastle may be on the way back, giving Manchester City value for money before challenging Fulham, in the cup, and Villa, in the league, in midweek. They were particularly impressive in dealing with Unai Emery’s side, with Anthony Gordon’s direct, intelligent leadership making him the best of a very good bunch. But where Villa’s high defensive line is inviting to players with its pace and drive, Luton will not be so accommodating, fresh from an impressive midweek win – their third in five league games. Although the first win in that series came over Newcastle, it was achieved at Kenilworth Road and Eddie Howe’s side, 14th in the away record table, are fourth in the home version. Furthermore, with a team full of imposing athletes asking physical questions of opponents, they are well equipped to deal with the Hatters’ old-school style. Expect them to continue their recent improvement. DH

A defensive rethink for Emery?

Unai Emery has done a fantastic job as manager of Aston Villa. It’s fair to say he has inherited a very useful and expensive squad, but how to get the most out of it was a question that confused Dean Smith and Steven Gerrard before him. However, Emery quickly did what they couldn’t: choose a system and personnel and then drill them as they got established. The question now, however, is whether a slight reconsideration is necessary, because against teams with fast, direct attackers and good passers in midfield, Emery’s high line seems to be quite a problem. It has cost Villa two defeats against Newcastle (5-1 on the opening weekend of the season and 3-1 in midweek) and a two-goal lead against Manchester United, who visit next weekend. So while they should tackle Sheffield United – and many other teams in the division – easily enough, it may be time for a defensive adjustment. DH

Is this the solution for Nuno?

One of the first big questions Nuno Espírito Santo faced when he took charge of Nottingham Forest was how he would play in the goalkeeping situation. Nuno, a former goalkeeper who won the Champions League at Porto under José Mourinho, knows what an elite shot-stopper looks like. Forest had Brice Samba on their way to promotion, then loaned out Dean Henderson and Keylor Navas last season, all of whom quickly developed into fans’ favourites. Nuno made it clear he would give Matt Turner and Odysseas Vlachodimos a chance to stake their claim for the No. 1 spot, but both were unconvincing. The former made another costly mistake in the defeat against Arsenal on Tuesday. Forest’s deadline day move for Matz Sels, who failed to impress at Newcastle with nine appearances in two forgettable years, feels disappointing but Nuno wants it to be a masterstroke. Ben Visser

Blundering Blues seek support from Nkunku

Christopher Nkunku’s goal scorer was one of the few positives from Chelsea’s humiliation against Liverpool. The attacker made a neat finish and unfortunately was not awarded a penalty. Chelsea hopes there will be more to come. Nkunku is regarded as the most talented player at the club but has struggled to stay fit since joining from RB Leipzig last summer. Expect Mauricio Pochettino to bring him in from the start when Wolves visit Stamford Bridge. Chelsea needs an adult on the team. Jacob Steinberg

Ten Hag has the resources to stay at United

If Erik ten Hag wants to save his job, his case will be strengthened by a fully fit selection. But if that group were to blow winning positions like they almost did at Wolves, he will have no more excuses. In the preparation, the plan was to have André Onana protected by a defensive duo of Lautaro Martínez and Raphaël Varane behind Casemiro, while Kobbie Mainoo learned from the Brazilian. That group has barely played together and as a result, Rasmus Højlund has had the steepest learning curve, standing up for himself. At Wolves, United’s engine room spun in the first half as Højlund thrived. As for Marcus Rashford, his selection after his trip to Belfast resembled the action of a weak manager unable to mete out discipline. It proved effective; Rashford’s resurgence would be a useful tool for self-preservation. Just like Mainoo’s continued contribution, although Ten Hag’s team still lacks the means to eliminate opponents. John Brewin

Bradley’s wings are clipped for now

Manchester City are lurking with purpose and course-and-distance experience, so a meeting between Arsenal and Liverpool will be an effective run-off between who will be the serial champions’ biggest challengers. If Jurgen Klopp’s farewell season is to end in title celebrations denied fans by a pandemic in 2020, then avoiding defeat at Arsenal – at least – appears to be a necessity for the leaders. That Liverpool are riding a wave of emotion is only heightened by the romance of Conor Bradley’s breakthrough, but once Trent Alexander-Arnold proved he was capable of converting the final 22 minutes of Chelsea’s 4-1 defeat after doing the same against Norwich, his return for the team became a fait accompli. In post-Klopp Liverpool, the emergence of Bradley could soon push Alexander-Arnold into a more permanent midfield role, but even if the Tyrone Tyro seems a more natural defender, it would be a surprise if the vice-captain plays such a crucial match on the field begins. Bank. JB

Manchester City in battle with the Bees

Pep Guardiola and Manchester City have calculated the precise amount of effort and focus required to gain at least one point more than whoever is chasing them, burning down challengers with previously improbable winning runs that start in the nick of time. And they are ready to do the same this season, beating Newcastle and Spurs in two of the past three games, their number of consecutive league and cup wins now up to eight, with Kevin De Bruyne, John Stones and Erling Haaland all back. However, Brentford did the double over City last season and although the second win came when the title was won, their style – physical, direct and energetic, but also technical – is more than capable of causing problems. In particular, Ivan Toney will be eager to make up for lost time as he earns the transfer he wants and works his way into the England squad for Euro 2024, which should all make for an entertaining evening at the Community Stadium . DH









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AFC Bournemouth




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