Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend

  • Football
  • 03/11/2017
Pootling along nicely enough but already nine points off the pace set by Manchester City, the haunting sound of the Arsenal crisis klaxon will once again ring out over north London if they ship the hiding some expect at the Etihad. There is no shame in losing to a Manchester City side averaging 3.5 goals per Premier League game so far this season, but Arsne Wenger will be painfully aware of the aggravation he will be forced to endure, should his team become the seventh to ship three or more goals in league defeat against City this season. Sitting back in a bid to cop from the Jos Mourinho Safety First playbook goes against every fibre of the Frenchmans being, but on this occasion it might be worth thinking about in the hope his side can at some point take advantage of the obvious frailties showcased by Manchester Citys defence at West Brom last week. BG

Since January 2015, Jose Mourinho has led his teams into nine away games against other members of the Premier Leagues so-called big six. Mourinhos team has scored in only one of them the 2-1 defeat to Spurs at the tail end of last season. Of Mourinhos last nine away games against top-six sides, five have finished goalless. This is precisely as many stalemates as in the other 73 games played in that time by all the other top-six sides put together. No other manager has drawn more than one away game in that period 0-0, with Pep Guardiola, Antonio Conte, Mauricio Pochettino and Louis van Gaal yet to be involved in any, having played 32 top-six away matches between them. In short, dont get your hopes up. SB

This is the 100th meeting of these teams, with their record in the previous 99 being deliciously even: Stoke have won 33, Leicester have won 33, and 33 have been drawn. Though both sides won last weekend Leicester are in the finer form, with a 100% record in the three games they have played since Craig Shakespeares departure. For periods of last Sundays 2-0 win over Everton, the Foxes played with the speed and directness that has become the hallmark of their finest performances in recent years. At the heart of it was Demarai Gray, man of the match in his second league start of the season. I have been waiting a long time so hopefully this could be the start of a run of games for me, he said afterwards, because that is what I need for my confidence and to get some momentum to help me develop as a player. This will be a harder test: not only are Leicester away from home but Mark Hughess savvy, cynical Stoke side are sure to be less obliging than Everton proved. If he starts, Grays running and cunning could make the difference again. SB

Theres a very real possibility that the majority of Burnleys fans have seen their team play under Sean Dyche for the last time. The man who claims he rarely gets the credit he deserves takes his team to Southampton on Saturday and could well get said credit by being appointed Everton manager as soon as Monday. Dyche celebrated his fifth anniversary as Burnley manager with victory over Newcastle on Monday night and should he get the Everton job, will leave the Lancashire club in a very healthy state indeed regardless of the outcome at StMarys. Victims of their own astute, successful recruitment policy, Burnley may be left with the derisory sum of just 2.5m in compensation and the nagging feeling that after Dyches departure, the only way is almost certainly down. BG

Fans of sturdy defences should probably look elsewhere. Liverpool have four clean sheets this season only one more than West Ham. The home sides rearguard is further weakened by an injury crisis Slaven Bilics running tally is four or five injuries and one suspension. Jos Fonte and Aaron Cresswell both limped out of the 2-2 draw at Crystal Palace, though the latter is expected to recover in time, while last weeks cartoon villain Michail Antonio is also out and Pablo Zabaleta is suspended. Liverpools defence is sufficiently wobbly at present to give hope even to an injury-ravaged, managerially-threatened, bottom-five-dwelling team. If you have a good transition and players in the right positions you can hurt them, says Bilic. They are a good team, they play offensive football and it can leave them a little open at the back. In his pre-match press conference Jrgen Klopp was asked whether Liverpool are becoming more adept at overcoming ultra-defensive sides, an ability which might not be so important on this occasion. Liverpools injury problems are largely confined to midfield, with Georginio Wijnaldum out and Philippe Coutinho unlikely to play. Perhaps this is the moment for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to make his full league debut, after making his first Champions League start against Maribor on Wednesday. SB

David Unsworth says this game is a cup final for me and I think weve got to play it like a cup final. In great cup-final tradition he left several key players out of their trip to Lyon with morale-bruising results. If Evertons caretaker manager is indeed auditioning for the permanent job, it has been an inconsistent attempt: there was much to applaud in the Carabao Cup defeat to Chelsea but the 2-0 defeat at Leicester last Sunday was a personal failure. The loss in Lyon Evertons fifth in a row was not as bad as the scoreline suggests but nevertheless was far from inspiring. Unsworths commitment to playing on the front foot is in many ways admirable, but to ask a side low on confidence to commit so strongly to attacking at the home of Leicester City, perhaps the nations premier counter-attacking side, proved extremely foolhardy. Watfords failure at home to Stoke last week represented their first genuine disappointment of the league season, and their captain, Troy Deeney, now has a three-game suspension to deal with. This may not be quite the blow it at first appears: he has not started any of the Hornets victories this season and in their three away wins at Bournemouth, Southampton and Swansea he played a combined total of 10 minutes. SB

Things could be a lot worse for Jermain Defoe; the fact that he could still be at Sunderland springs immediately to mind. But having clambered aboard one of that particular death-ships life rafts and paddled down south to Bournemouth, the striker has failed to provide much bang for the rumoured 130,000 hes trousering a week. That may prove to be a source of disgruntlement in a dressing room where the next highest earners are thought to be on less than half that amount. Defoe has scored one goal and provided no assists since picking the Cherries, starting six league games and completing none. His hopes of making Englands World Cup squad are hanging by a thread. Defoe scored just one goal in his final 10 appearances for a struggling Sunderland side last season and has picked up where he left off with a Bournemouth team enduring similar difficulties. His inability to nail down a place in a side that has drawn six blanks in 10 Premier League games must be a source of great concern to the player. At the age of 35, it is not inconceivable that his mojo might have deserted him forever. BG

With Real Madrid stylishly vanquished, at least we can forget about the Wembley curse. There may be some question about whether, with this match sandwiched between encounters with the European champions and after the international break Arsenal, Tottenham will find it so easy to motivate themselves for the visit of the leagues bottom team. That is, of course, the kind of question that Mauricio Pochettinos team have routinely answered over the last few seasons. Asked about Harry Kanes potential presence in the side for this match surely extremely likely after his performance against Real Madrid Andros Townsend gave the obligatory response: With or without Harry Kane in the team they are a fantastic side. But Kane has historically struggled against Palace, scoring just two goals in seven starts against them, one of those in a 2-1 defeat. Kane appears to be a player who finds some opponents considerably easier to score against than others there have been two goals in six league appearances against Burnley, two in seven against Newcastle and two in nine against Southampton, but 10 in nine games against Leicester, six in six against Arsenal, six in five against West Brom and six in four against Bournemouth. SB

Despite masterminding victory in just two of West Broms past 19 Premier League matches, Tony Pulis is not believed to be in danger of losing his job should they fail at Huddersfield this weekend. Pulis was quick to stress the positives after West Broms defeat at the hands of Manchester City last weekend, but the fact of the matter is they lost again and have now failed to win any of their past nine matches. The local press insist Baggies owner Guochuan Lai and his chief executive John Williams have no plans to sack Pulis in the event of another defeat, possibly because hes exactly the kind of firefighter clubs in West Broms position turn to when relegation looms. Nevertheless, victory for Huddersfield would leave Pulis and his employers with two weeks worth of international break to stew over a bad situation. A much needed win away from home against difficult opposition would help brighten the mood of all concerned. BG

In an avian battle youd back 11 swans to beat 11 seagulls in a fair fight, not least because the latter would retreat mid-brawl to terrorise some innocent bystander and steal their chips. On the football field, the battle between the Premier Leagues Swans and Seagulls is just as hard to call, but having lost four of their past five league matches against less-than-stellar opposition, Swansea City can at least call on Wilfried Bony, who missed the entire month of October with a hamstring injury. The Ivory Coast striker has failed to score in five outings since his return to his new club, but declared himself fit on social media, even if his manager Paul Clement rates him at 50-50. With Renato Sanches, Martin Olsson, Leon Britton and long-term absentee Kyle Bartley all ruled out, Clement needs all the help he can get even if it looks as if a string of injuries have taken their toll on a striker that looks a mere facsimile of the player who left for Manchester City in 2015. BG
  
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