Eight talking points from the Premier League this gameweek

Manchester United's face-off with Arsenal headlines this weekend's action as Liverpool and Manchester City are again threatening to streak clear in the title race.

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Manchester United will lock horns with Arsenal this game week.   -  Getty Images

Liverpool and Manchester City, the two front-runners in the Premier League, will each expect to pick up another three points this weekend despite being on their travels as Liverpool goes to Sheffield United and City visits Everton.

Leicester, Arsenal and West Ham are their closest challengers and early leaders in the fight for the final two Champions League places despite just three wins apiece after six rounds of matches.

Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United, all of which have struggled badly, are under pressure to get back on track on home soil this weekend.

Here are eight talking points ahead of the Premier League weekend:

1) United's attack vs Arsenal's defence

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Anthony Martial, despite completing the full 90 minutes against Crystal Palace, hurt his thigh and had to limp through the closing stages.   -  Getty Images

 

Solskjaer might have left the London Stadium intent on remaining "very positive" but there was no masking the weaknesses which were on display in his team's 2-0 defeat to West Ham last weekend.

United mustered a single shot in the first half, threatened sparingly thereafter and, to compound the concern, lost Marcus Rashford to a groin injury.

Anthony Martial's fitness now becomes a matter of extreme interest with the Red Devils in desperate need of a cutting edge in attack. 

Could they rediscover a sense of adventure against the Gunners, though?

Newly promoted Aston Villa managed to put two past Arsenal, as did both Watford and Tottenham before them.

Emery's men also shipped three against Liverpool at Anfield and are now on the cusp of conceding two or more goals in five successive top-flight games for the first time since 1985.

Chelsea is the only team above the bottom five to have conceded more Premier League goals this term, the kind of generosity a shot-shy United must look to exploit.

 

2) Sweet 16 for Liverpool?

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Liverpool is at the top of the Premier League table with 18 points, with a five-point lead over defending champion Manchester City.   -  Getty Images

 

City showed no mercy against Watford last weekend, hammering the Hornets 8-0 in a staggering display of dominance that even visiting goalkeeper Ben Foster admitted could have resulted in an even more damaging scoreline.

Yet Pep Guardiola’s men could find themselves eight points behind in the title race come kick-off at Goodison Park on Saturday should Liverpool maintain its relentless run.

Jurgen Klopp’s side has the chance to win its 16th consecutive Premier League game in the early kick-off on Saturday in Sheffield. Liverpool has not lost in the league to a side outside the traditional “Big Six” since January 2018.

But Blades boss Chris Wilder is demanding his players are not star-struck by the European champions.

“I don’t want the players speaking to their players before, ‘can I swap shirts and any chance of signing this?’ And they won’t,” said Wilder.

“I don’t want Liverpool to come here into our backyard and go, ‘Well, thanks very much, that’s the easiest three points we’ve picked up all season’ If they do win, I want it to be over our dead bodies.”

 

3) Struggling Spurs in must-win situation

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Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen.   -  Getty Images

 

Tottenham fluffed another chance to land a first trophy under Mauricio Pochettino in midweek, with an embarrassing third-round League Cup defeat by fourth-tier Colchester on penalties.

Spurs has won just two of its opening eight games in all competitions and four of their past 17 dating back to last season.

With Bayern Munich to visit on Tuesday in the Champions League, that record threatens to get even worse unless Pochettino can get a response from his stale-looking side against Southampton on Saturday.

But a relaxed Pochettino said there was a fine line between success and failure, pointing to the disallowed goal at Leicester last week, which stopped them going 2-0 up in a game they ended up losing 2-1.

“I become more relaxed in these tough moments because in the end it’s only one result,” he said. “Rather than losing the game against Leicester, which we deserved to win, three points more and we’re third and everyone is talking about fantastic season, performance.”

 

4) Chelsea still in search of first PL home win

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Reece James (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring Chelsea's fifth goal against Grimsby Town.   -  Getty Images

 

Chelsea fared far better in the League Cup as a 7-1 rout of Grimsby handed Frank Lampard his first victory in charge at Stamford Bridge.

In contrast to Spurs, though, Chelsea is at the start of a new era and there were encouraging signs for Lampard in last weekend’s 2-1 loss to Liverpool.

Defensive issues remain, with the Blues yet to keep a clean sheet in nine games under Lampard, but N’Golo Kante’s return from injury does offer some much-needed protection for the backline.

Brighton’s visit to the Bridge on Saturday also starts an enticing run of fixtures for Chelsea to haul itself back into the top four, with Southampton, Newcastle, Burnley, Watford and Crystal Palace to come.

 

 

5) Goal-shy United turns to Greenwood

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Manchester United teenager Mason Greenwood.   -  Getty Images

 

United also narrowly avoided a League Cup shock by beating League One Rochdale on penalties, but the Red Devils’ lack of goal scoring threat was again exposed.

Teenager Mason Greenwood scored the only goal of the night for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men, who have not found the net more than once in a game since the opening weekend of the season.

A groin injury to Marcus Rashford exacerbates that problem and Anthony Martial is a doubt to face an Arsenal side that has conceded nine goals in its past four league games.

Solskjaer may therefore be forced to hand 17-year-old Greenwood just his second Premier League start.

“He must be a nightmare for defenders having him one-on-one in the box,” said Solskjaer. “He can go both ways, which is for me fantastic and you can just see he has got quality and he will get his share of games.”

 

6)  Everton could lend inadvertent hand to Liverpool's title charge

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Marco Silva's maiden season in Merseyside saw Everton finish behind the top six and a resurgent Wolves side.   -  Getty Images

 

Everton played its part in denying Liverpool a long-awaited Premier League title last season, but could now come to the aid of its local rival on Saturday when Manchester City travels to Goodison Park.

The gap between the top two could easily increase to eight by the time City and Everton do battle if Jurgen Klopp's men pick up a 15th straight Premier League win away at Sheffield United earlier on Saturday.

The Toffees are desperately in need of three points that could kickstart their campaign, but inflicting another defeat on City would only strengthen Liverpool's grip on the title race.

Everton certainly has the talent to cause a City defence shorn of the injured Aymeric Laporte problems. Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson have failed to live up to their £50 million price tags so far this season, while Italian international Kean is yet to score his first goal for the club.

But at the other end, a defence that has struggled to cope with Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Sheffield United in recent weeks risks being carved open by a City side keen to show its season will not be defined by one bad night in Norwich.

 

7) Battle of bottom two as Watford, Wolves clash

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Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores   -  Getty Images

 

Coming on the back of 8-0 thrashing at the hands of clinical City, Watford locks horns with Wolverhampton Wanderers on the weekend.

With four points from six games, Watford sits 19th, while Wolves is at the bottom of the league standings, with two points.

The two teams are yet to clinch a win and this face-off would be their best bet to seal full points.

Wolves, which hasn't sealed a big result since the 1-1 draw against United, has a good chance to prey on the wounded Watford.

 

8) Francis return a boost for Bournemouth

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Bournemouth captain Simon Francis.   -  Getty Images

 

Bournemouth captain Simon Francis' return to fitness is a massive boost for the south coast club as it looks to extend a run of two straight Premier League victories.

Francis, who overcame a knee injury that kept him out for nine months, played his first game of the season in Wednesday's 2-0 defeat by Burton Albion in the League Cup.

Howe said he was also pleased to give defender Lloyd Kelly and winger Arnaut Danjuma their first minutes of the campaign.

“Having our captain back is a huge lift for everyone and the two players we signed in the summer we have high hopes for,” Howe said. “We still have two or three to come back to make us even better.”

Howe's side is sixth in the league having won its last two games against Everton and Southampton and faces another top flight team humbled by League One opposition during midweek, following West Ham's 4-0 defeat at Oxford United.

(With inputs from PTI and Omnisport)

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