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Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend | Football

1) Maguire should look to Keane for inspiration

The knives are out again for Ole Gunnar Solskjær following Manchester United’s slapdash defeats to Arsenal and Basaksehir. Beating Everton is the only acceptable way to fight back. Solskjær is likely to go with a counterattacking formula that has generally worked well for him, although his job stability could still hinge on Harry Maguire’s ability to subdue Dominic Calvert-Lewin. As Maguire struggles to play his way out of a prolonged wobble, he might do well to seek inspiration from Michael Keane who, Everton’s two recent defeats notwithstanding, has improved hugely this year. One aspect of Keane’s play that has become especially noticeable in silent stadiums is how well he communicates with and guides his teammates. PD

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2) Will Manchester City fade against Liverpool?

A great deal will be said and written about this game elsewhere but here’s a curious statistic: Manchester City have the Premier League’s 16th-best record in the second half of matches. Across their six second halves they are losing 6-3 (skewed, admittedly, by losing the second half of their game against Leicester 4-1) and have outscored their opponents only once (when coming back from a goal down to draw at West Ham last month). In the first half of games they have the division’s best record (adjusted to factor in the fact they have played a game fewer than most other teams), and a 6-2 aggregate lead. Last season they had the best second-half record, but were outperformed by one side – Liverpool, inevitably – in the first. SB

3) Barkley and McGinn not giving Villa enough protection

After transforming themselves into the meanest rearguard in the Premier League, Aston Villa suddenly crumbled in their past two matches, conceding a combined tally of seven goals in the losses to Leeds and Southampton. Villa will need to tighten up again to avoid defeat at Arsenal, even if Emiliano Martínez might relish the chance to show he is a better goalkeeper than Bernd Leno. Villa need more from their midfield in terms both of protection and creativity, with Ross Barkley and John McGinn not offering enough in the most recent two outings. They will have to regain their best form if they are to exert any influence on Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny. PD








Can Emiliano Martínez win his battle of the keepers against his former Arsenal teammate and rival, Bernd Leno? Photograph: Eddie Keogh/NMC Pool

4) Blunt Blades look to put things right at Chelsea

0, 0, 0, 1, 1, 1, 0 – the number of goals scored by Sheffield United in their league games so far does not suggest that Chelsea’s five-game clean-sheet run will be particularly tested on Saturday. Between the 13th minute, when Sander Berge scored from the penalty spot against Liverpool, and the 84th minute, when David McGoldrick scored a consolation at Arsenal, lie 71 minutes in games in which they have not yet scored at all. But the Blades have lost narrowly – 2-1 on both occasions – at Liverpool and Arsenal in their last two away games, as well as 1-0 to Manchester City at home last weekend, putting together evidence that a positive result against a major side is achievable. One statistical curiosity: players on the average Premier League team have been fouled 81 times so far this season, or 11.57 times a game; Sheffield United’s players have been fouled 48 times, 6.86 times a game, the lowest total by a considerable margin. This suggests they spend less time on the front foot and don’t have as many dangerous dribblers as other sides (or alternatively that they habitually stay on their feet when others don’t). The second least-fouled side, as it happens, are Chelsea. SB

Football Weekly

Manchester United malaise, pressing and handballs

5) Southampton face test of toughness with top spot in sight

Victory at St Mary’s on Friday would put Southampton top of the table, 12 months after a run of defeats – including that 9-0 loss – left them mired in the relegation zone. Ralph Hasenhüttl has done a remarkable job since then, transforming his team with relatively little investment and squeezing every drop of potential from his players – even tidying up the squad numbers to create a more cohesive unit. Southampton’s strength in depth will be tested; talisman Danny Ings is out for up to six weeks, while Ryan Bertrand, Jan Bednarek and Ibrahim Diallo are unlikely to have recovered from the bruising win at Villa Park. Every surprise leader in this frantic season has suffered a fall from grace – Everton, Leicester, Villa themselves – and Newcastle will arrive unbeaten in the teams’ last six meetings. Steve Bruce’s inconsistent side have injury woes of their own, but this will still be a big test of Southampton’s new mental and physical toughness. NM

6) Boly and Fofana face off in Midlands clash

The Midlands’ re-emergence as a footballing powerhouse owes much to Leicester and Wolves, though the less said about their two goalless encounters last season the better. Actually, that is not fair: the match at Leicester would probably have ended in a victory for Wolves if Willy Boly had not had a goal disallowed by VAR. Boly is a player who does not often get the credit he deserves, quietly serving as one of the Premier League’s best centre-backs in recent seasons. Leicester look to have got themselves a similarly classy operator in Wesley Fofana. If victory eludes both these sides again despite all their attacking talent, their excellent French centre-backs will probably have something to do with it. PD





Wesley Fofana stretches out a leg to nullify the threat from Leeds United’s Jack Harrison.



Leicester’s Wesley Fofana stretches out a leg to nullify the threat from Leeds’ Jack Harrison. Photograph: Michael Regan/AFP/Getty Images

7) Tottenham’s ‘Antwerp Four’ should get another chance

The quartet of players José Mourinho hauled off at half-time in the defeat to Royal Antwerp are slowly returning to the fold. Steven Bergwijn and Carlos Vinícius made second-half appearances in the win at Ludogorets on Thursday, although Dele Alli stayed on the bench. Mourinho says he did not discuss the painful Europa League defeat until his pre-game pep talk in Bulgaria where the final member of the “Antwerp Four”, Giovani Lo Celso, started and scored a redemptive goal. The other three will hope to get another chance on Sunday against West Brom. After the international break Spurs play Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Leicester inside a month alongside Europa League and Carabao Cup commitments. Mourinho may need to be more forgiving of his second-string players during that run; he could start by giving Alli, Bergwijn and Vinícius a chance to find form against the Premier League’s leakiest defence. NM

8) West Ham have done well to be 14th after tough start

Since their opening-day defeat to Newcastle, West Ham have played Arsenal, Wolves, Leicester, Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool, four of them away from home. To end that nightmare sequence in 14th and with eight points is a decent achievement (the Hammers also have the bad luck to be facing two of the teams that have made the worst starts to the season – West Brom and Burnley – in their 18th and 19th league games, by which time they may have improved). But in their next half a dozen matches the only team they play that are currently in the top half of the table are Aston Villa. Fulham meanwhile got their first league win on Monday to climb out of the bottom three but follow this game with fixtures against Everton, Leicester, Manchester City and Liverpool. SB

9) Brighton show lack of spending is not Burnley’s only issue

The weekend begins with a meeting of two sides without a league win since Brighton’s opening-day success at Newcastle. Sean Dyche has said Burnley’s next opponents and likely relegation rivals “have put a lot of investment in the last two and a half years or so”. It’s a familiar refrain from a coach frustrated at a lack of spending, but it feels disingenuous to imply Brighton are financially in a different league. Graham Potter and technical director, Dan Ashworth, have brought youth players and bargain buys into a competitive, versatile squad. That would have once been an apt description for Burnley, but they seem stuck in a rut. Last season, 30 of their 43 goals came from the forward line but the goals have dried up this term, and Plan B has not materialised. A lack of investment has caught up with a stale squad, but Dyche’s desire to deliver more than the sum of their parts appears to have faded too. NM

10) Who will Bielsa choose to deputise for Phillips?

The absence of Kalvin Phillips continues to trouble Leeds, who with the England midfielder unavailable lack an obvious replacement in defensive midfield. Against Aston Villa, the first game after Phillips’s shoulder injury, centre-back Pascal Struijk was pushed forward into midfield, as he was a couple of times last season when Phillips was absent, but was so uncomfortable that he was taken off after 21 minutes. Last week, Leeds were soundly beaten against Leicester, with. Mateusz Klich, who normally plays further forward, dropped back and the team were deprived of his creativity in attacking areas. The question here, potentially the last game before Phillips’s return, is which of those imperfect options Marcelo Bielsa prefers, or if he has conjured another one entirely. SB