Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend


Issues for Klopp and Frank

Kicking off at their outgoing manager’s least-favourite time slot, this time handy with Luton to face in midweek, Liverpool top the division at the cost of a considerable injury list. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Dominik Szoboszlai are the headline absences, both players likely to miss next week’s Carabao Cup final. A recent flu outbreak was similarly unhelpful to Jürgen Klopp, who comes up against a manager in Thomas Frank who is one of the outsiders to succeed him, even if Xabi Alonso’s coronation seems a fait accompli after Bayer Leverkusen’s feats last week against Bayern Munich. Frank, on significantly lesser resources, has been the charismatic frontman of a similar regime in west London, his team’s foundations built on athleticism and metrics. That this season’s wobbles have come as a surprise reflects the strides Frank, a manager who shares Klopp’s qualities of being both wildly passionate and tenderly holistic, has taken Brentford on. John Brewin


Different Burnley will greet Gunners

Mikel Arteta has no need to tweak the Arsenal lineup following their outstanding 6-0 rout of West Ham on Sunday, which should mean another deserved start for Leandro Trossard at Burnley. The forward has seized his opportunity in the absence of the injured Gabriel Jesus with three goals in his last four appearances and impressive teamwork in the wins over Liverpool and West Ham. Trossard’s contribution is precisely what Arteta requires from all of his squad to sustain a title challenge. On the evidence of Anfield last weekend, however, Burnley are liable to be a tougher proposition than Arsenal encountered at the Emirates. Vincent Kompany’s team missed several good openings at Liverpool and performed with greater conviction than their position in the table would suggest. They must improve on the small details to deny Arsenal a fifth consecutive Premier League win. Andy Hunter

Leandro Trossard is in fine form for Arsenal. Photograph: Javier García/Shutterstock


Watkins needs support up top

Tentative Villa title talk was quickly scaled down to a more realistic conversation about the top four after a fairly barren festive period for Unai Emery’s men. Now, last week’s defeat to Manchester United has cast doubt on Villa’s Champions League qualification credentials. Against a Fulham side who can blow hot and cold much may depend on Ollie Watkins who, somewhat ironically for a side with a far superior home record, seems to relish playing away from Villa Park. Four of the 28-year-old’s past five league goals have been in away games. The onus is on Emery, then, to find the right blend of attacking midfielders and wingers behind his frontman. Fans were irked when Leon Bailey was substituted against United, while Moussa Diaby has been a puzzling omission from the starting lineup of late. In tandem with Watkins, the duo can provide Villa the attacking thrust they need to win on the road. Dominic Booth


Howe meets his inspiration at old club

When Eddie Howe was on sabbatical between leaving Bournemouth and becoming Newcastle’s manager he visited Spain’s Rayo Vallecano and shadowed Andoni Iraola. Howe was so captivated by the hard, high pressing game, then taking La Liga by storm that he implemented a very similar blueprint upon taking over at Newcastle. By one of the coincidences abounding within football, Iraola then took charge of Bournemouth last summer where he immediately set up introducing his new charges to aggressive pressing. It makes for an intriguing encounter at St James’ Park on Saturday and perhaps explains why the two managers are not as ostensibly pally as might be expected. “We are friends but we keep a professional distance,” says Iraola, respecting Howe’s reluctance to form relationships with Premier League rivals. Newcastle’s manager must cope without his injured central strikers Callum Wilson and Alexander Isak, so eyes will be on Bournemouth’s Dominic Solanke, who Howe signed from Liverpool and would dearly love to see relocate to the north-east. Louise Taylor


Moyes under the microscope

It’s almost becoming a running joke at West Ham; David Moyes always seems just a few defeats away from the sack. Even in the seasons when he delivered sixth- and seventh-place finishes, a section of the Hammers’ support remained unhappy with the Scot. Last season’s Europa Conference League triumph may have cast his Hammers legacy in iron, but it is now a distant memory as familiar rumbles of discontent reappear. There’s little doubt this visit to Nottingham Forest, which precedes games against Brentford, Everton and Burnley, is the start of a run that will determine Moyes’ future at the club. Whispers of a summer sacking will grow louder if Forest are victorious at the City Ground. For all the good work Moyes has done – which fans would do well to remember with West Ham still eighth – the end may be nigh. DB

David Moyes is once again under pressure after the loss to Arsenal. Photograph: Dave Shopland/REX/Shutterstock


Wolves count cost of striking injuries

Wolves have never had two players in a single Premier League season rack up double figures for goals. But with Hwang Hee-chan on 10 league strikes for the campaign and Matheus Cunha nine, they are on the brink of breaking new ground, as Gary O’Neil’s effervescent team continue to catch the eye this season. It was no coincidence that with Cunha hobbling off after 20 minutes against Brentford and Hwang deemed not fit enough to feature in the match-day squad – he’d picked up a few “niggles” while on Asian Cup duty for South Korea – Wolves fell flat last weekend and were beaten 2-0. A front three of Hwang, Cunha and Pedro Neto represents utopia for Wanderers fans right now, though injuries mean it’s unlikely that they’ll see it at Tottenham this weekend. O’Neil, therefore, may have to opt for the more pragmatic approach against Ange Postecoglou’s side. DB


Foden continues to shine for City

After reaching 251 career games with 74 goals to his name, with five Premier League winners’ medals, a Champions League, four League Cups and two FA Cups all by the age of 23, there really ought to be no argument over Phil Foden’s world-class status. Rio Ferdinand felt compelled to wade into the debate after another spellbinding Foden display in another Manchester City win in the Champions League knockout stages. The case against Foden seems to centre on his England returns: he’s scored four goals in 31 caps while often being peripheral for the Three Lions. For City, however, he’s a cold-blooded killer. That Foden has stolen the plaudits as Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne have returned to the team and returned to form is a mark of his quality. He should be anyone’s definition of world class. DB


Blades look to Archer to follow up

Sheffield United may be bottom of the Premier League and seven points adrift of safety but they won their first away game of the season at a previously ascendant Luton last weekend. With Chris Wilder at the managerial helm they are not about to abandon hope of survival. If the South Yorkshire side’s concession of 31 goals in 12 home top-tier matches this term – the worst record at this stage in Premier League history – hardly helps their cause, Brighton have failed to win any of their last six league matches on the road. Something has to give. Much depends on whether Cameron Archer – a scorer in that 3-1 victory at Luton – can locate his shooting boots. The former Aston Villa forward, who excelled on loan at Middlesbrough last season, has scored only four times since joining the Blades and has much to prove. Louise Taylor


Ten Hag must maintain momentum

Defeat to Sheffield United last week meant Luton failed to live up to the novel expectation of being favourites to win a game. They will have no such status against United – even this United – as Erik ten Hag’s team are on their best run of results this season. Last week, dominating possession meant Luton were unable to use the speed of Chiedozie Ogbene or Carlton Morris, and Ross Barkley ended up conceding the ball for the final goal of a 3-1 defeat. A first league meeting at Kenilworth Road since a 1-1 draw in 1992 – goalscorers Lee Sharpe and Mick Harford – will conclude a week where the news from United has come off the field, in the shape of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s minority shareholding being ratified and Newcastle’s sporting director, Dan Ashworth, and Southampton’s director of football, Jason Wilcox, being courted. Should Ten Hag wish to be part of that fresh corporate structure next season, he cannot afford his team’s winning run to end in Bedfordshire. JB


Hodgson’s health most important

It would be unseemly for Crystal Palace to sack Roy Hodgson while their manager is ill in hospital, as well as a sad way for the 76-year-old to presumably end his managerial career, but the wheels are clearly in motion for Oliver Glasner to take over at Selhurst Park and lead the club’s fight against relegation. The appointment of the former Eintracht Frankfurt head coach may not come before Monday’s visit to Everton, where Hodgson’s assistants Ray Lewington and Paddy McCarthy are expected to lead the team in what would be extremely complicated circumstances. Both sides are in desperate need of victory amid poor runs of form – Everton have won only once in 11 games, against Palace in the FA Cup, while the visitors have three wins in 19 – but, really, that is secondary to Hodgson’s health and his prospects of a full recovery. AH

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