Man United threat looms large over Arsenal’s dire defence

The United attack will look to put the Arsenal defence through a thorough test with goalkeeper Bernd Leno and defenders Mustafi and Luiz far from reliable.

Arsenal is just six points above the drop zone and new boss Mikel Arteta would probably have preferred an easier opponent than Manchester United.   -  REUTERS

Liverpool appears to have the Premier League title wrapped up with a 13-point advantage over second-placed Leicester but the fight to avoid relegation looks like being a down to the wire tussle.

Just nine points separates ninth-placed Crystal Palace and third from bottom Aston Villa.

We pick out three pivotal matches in Wednesday’s action:

READ : Van Dijk says Liverpool 'can still improve' despite Premier League dominance

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New Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta will want his boys to get back to winning ways as soon as they can.   -  Getty Images

 

Arteta needs to get Gunners firing

The old adage ‘too good to go down’ should apply to Arsenal, a team that has been a fixture in the top tier since 1919/20.

However, the club is just six points above the drop zone and new boss Mikel Arteta would probably have preferred an easier opponent than Manchester United as he bids to win his first game after a draw and defeat in his opening two matches in charge.

The United attack will be licking its lips at the thought of giving the weak Gunners defence a thorough test with goalkeeper Bernd Leno and defenders Skohdran Mustafi and David Luiz far from reliable.

Arteta will want to see more of what his side produced in the opening half hour of the 2-1 defeat by Chelsea if it is to avoid a fifth successive home loss in all competitions -- its present run of four is its worst since 1959.

“Individual errors cost you games but I can’t fault the effort, commitment and for putting in place what we practised,” said Arteta.

However, with confidence at a low, a defeat for Arsenal on Wednesday and victory for third-from-bottom Aston Villa at Burnley would suck the Gunners deeper into the relegation battle.

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“It feels great to be home,” said Moyes. “I feel like I’ve got unfinished business”   -  Getty Images

Hammers pray Moyes delivers in second coming

David Moyes may not be welcomed back universally by West Ham fans but if the 55-year-old saves the Hammars from relegation for a second time like he did in the 2017-18 season, before being dispensed with, then all will be forgiven.

A home game for the side fourth from bottom against Bournemouth, which is just a point above them in 16th, represents a seemingly ideal first challenge.

However, West Ham's home form has been as woeful as Arsenal’s with four successive defeats -- equalling its worst run in the Premier League since November 2005 -- and it would not be a surprise to see Moyes energise the attack by selecting both Michail Antonio and Sebastien Haller.

The Cherries have largely escaped attention in their terrible run -- just one win in nine -- but the pressure may begin to mount on Eddie Howe with a defeat.

“It feels great to be home,” said Moyes.

“I feel like I’ve got unfinished business.”

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Can Nigel Pearson do for Watford what he did for Leicester City in 2014-15?   -  Getty Images

 

Watford’s revival faces stern Wolves test

Nigel Pearson engineered a remarkable rescue act for Leicester in the 2014-15 season -- at the time it was only the third side to escape the drop having been bottom at Christmas -- arguably laying the foundations for its even more miraculous title win the following campaign.

The 56-year-old -- who was relieved of his duties prior to the league winning season -- could be on course to do the same for second from bottom Watford. The club's third manager this term has guided them to two wins and a draw in four matches since taking over.

This new found confidence was reflected in easing to a 3-0 win over third from bottom Aston Villa on Saturday -- scoring two of its goals after it had been reduced to 10 men -- and this will be a much needed weapon when it hosts Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Wolves arrive sitting pretty in seventh place and on the back of an impressive win over champions Manchester City and considered unlucky to have lost to Liverpool on Sunday.

Pearson for his part will be looking for more of the same of what he witnessed against Villa: “We showed good intensity. We showed incredible unity on the pitch and bench. We have to make sure that remains high on our agenda -- to keep the players together.”

Fixtures

Wednesday:

Brighton vs Chelsea 6pm IST

Burnley vs Aston Villa 6pm IST

Newcastle vs Leicester City 8.30pm IST

Southampton vs Tottenham 8.30pm IST

Watford vs Wolverhampton 8.30pm IST

Manchester City vs Everton 11pm IST

Norwich City vs Crystal Palace 11pm IST

West Ham vs Bournemouth 11pm IST

Thursday:

Arsenal vs Manchester United 1.30am IST

Friday:

Liverpool vs Sheffield United 1.30am IST

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