Five things: Talking points ahead of Premier League weekend

Jose Mourinho will inevitably be the centre of attention as he takes charge of Tottenham Hotspur for the first time this weekend.

Jose Mourinho is back in the Premier League! The former Manchester United boss will take charge at Tottenham Hotspur.   -  Getty Images

Jose Mourinho will inevitably be the centre of attention as he takes charge of Tottenham for the first time this weekend while Manchester City will look to get its Premier League title challenge back on track against Chelsea.

The former Chelsea and Manchester United manager has been charged with rescuing Spurs’ season after this week’s sacking of Mauricio Pochettino, with the club desperate to claw its way back into the top four.

At the top of the table, runaway leader Liverpool has a winnable-looking fixture away to Crystal Palace but the chasing pack cannot afford to allow the gap to widen further. City, licking its wounds after a 3-1 defeat by Liverpool earlier this month, hosts Frank Lampard’s Chelsea, which is one point above it in the table, eight points behind Jurgen Klopp’s side.

Leicester, in second place, ahead of Chelsea on goal difference, travels to England’s south coast to take on Brighton.

Here are some of the talking points ahead of the weekend’s matches:

The Mourinho factor

Mourinho’s first match in charge of Tottenham will be away to West Ham at the London Stadium on Saturday but he will not have the luxury of a honeymoon period. The Portuguese boss has a number of issues to sort out, including addressing the woeful away form -- Spurs have not won on the road in the Premier League since January.

Last season’s Champions League finalist has had a shocking start to the season, languishing in 14th place in the Premier League after just three wins in its opening 12 games.

With its new stadium to pay for, Tottenham is reliant on Champions League revenue but the outlook is not bright. No team with as low a tally as Spurs have after 12 games -- 14 points -- has ever gone on to record a top-four finish.

Mourinho, often labelled a cheque-book manager, has made the right noises so far, saying at his first press conference he will not demand millions to spend in the transfer market.

“I don’t need players, I am so happy with the players I have, I just need time to understand them better, to know everything about them,” he said. “My gift is this squad, the squad is very, very good,” he added.

Liverpool’s mental strength

Over its past 38 league games, Liverpool has tallied 101 points and lost just once, overcoming defending champion Manchester City in its most recent outing. The side starts a daunting run of 13 games in 41 days at Crystal Palace on Saturday that will define its season and, quite possibly, how the Jurgen Klopp era will be remembered at Anfield.

The spectacular, and controversial, 3-1 victory over defending champion Manchester City before the international break has left Liverpool nine points clear of Pep Guardiola’s side. The side holds an eight-point edge over second-placed Leicester and is expected to end a painful 30-year wait for a league title.

The visit to Selhurst Park also starts a sequence of five league games against opponents who appear, on paper at least, not to offer too stern a test for a team that has dropped just two league points all season -- in a 1-1 draw at Manchester United.

Manager Klopp last season labelled his players “mentality monsters” and captain Jordan Henderson says that is a crucial factor in their success.

“Our mentality is just as important as the technical ability of the team,” Henderson told the club’s website. “I think everybody sees how talented the squad is, how many good players we’ve got in the team, but mentality is huge in football.”

Time running out for Emery to prove he can kickstart Arsenal

Arsenal manager Unai Emery was given a reminder of how cut throat Premier League management can be with Tottenham’s sacking of Mauricio Pochettino this week and needs a quick turnaround in fortunes if he is to avoid the same fate.

Emery’s side faces Southampton at the Emirates on Saturday with the Spaniard’s position coming under increasing scrutiny after a dismal run that has brought just two wins in the last ten Premier League games.

Many anticipated a lack of cover at centre-back could cause Emery problems in his second season at Arsenal, but failings at the back are now being mirrored at the other end of the pitch.

A forward-line built around star strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette and supported by record signing Nicolas Pepe, Mesut Ozil and on-loan Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos was expected to be the side’s major strength. But Emery’s men have managed just five goals in their last six league games to fall nine points off the top four.

Aubameyang has shown his class to score eight league goals despite largely living off scraps, but Lacazette and centre back David Luiz are the only other Arsenal players to have scored more than once in the Premier League this season.

The visit of a struggling Southampton side, which lies second-bottom, should provide Arsenal with the perfect opportunity to kickstart its season, with anything but a convincing win and the pressure on Emery is likely to only intensify. “I am optimistic. I know we need better performances with the team, individually and collectively,” added Emery.

“We need to play better and control the game better in 90 minutes.”

Lampard returns

Frank Lampard, who spent a season playing for Manchester City after leaving Chelsea, takes his young side to the Etihad for his first visit as a manager.

Pep Guardiola’s side hosts Chelsea in the unusual position of being fourth in the table, a point and place below the visitor, which has had six successive league wins.

Chelsea will also be eager to gain revenge for its 6-0 mauling by City last season -- its biggest-ever Premier League defeat.

Leicester riding high

Former Leicester and Tottenham forward Gary Lineker believes Brendan Rodgers’ side is better than the team that lifted the Premier League title in 2016.

The club has already played all the members of the “Big Six” apart from Manchester City and sits in second spot in the Premier League with a winnable set of matches to come.

Academy graduate Harvey Barnes, who has played in 11 of Leicester’s 12 Premier League fixtures, said confidence was key. “It’s a great place to be at the minute,” he told the club’s website.

“You can see the buzz around the club and as a player, being involved in it is great.

“We’re going into most games at the minute thinking we’re going to win. It’s a great feeling to be as confident as we are as a team and as individuals as well,” he added.

Leicester travels to Brighton on Saturday.

(With inputs from AFP)

  Dugout videos