Arsenal’s problem area; Chelsea’s away-day blues; goal-shy Tottenham and Liverpool v Man Utd - talking points

Standard Sport
·6-min read
 (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Arteta faces left-back headache

If Kieran Tierney misses Monday’s match with Newcastle, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta will have spend his weekend working out how to solve a left-back crisis. Ainsley Maitland-Niles filled in on Thursday but failed to deliver – and other solutions should be explored. Bukayo Saka is surely the best bet but moving the England international to full-back would mean starving Arsenal of their best attacking player this season. That would seem a strange move on paper but, given Tierney has created more chances than anyone else for the Gunners this year, it shouldn’t be underestimated how important Arteta’s full-backs are to how he wants his side to play. Simon Collings

Mourinho must get his fringe firing

Tottenham's chronic lack of goals outside Harry Kane and Heung-min Son has increased pressure on Jose Mourinho to get his fringe players firing. It said plenty about Mourinho's view of Lucas Moura, Gareth Bale, Erik Lamela, Carlos Vinicius and Dele Alli that he opted to play goal-shy Moussa Sissoko in the front three against Fulham on Wednesday but the manager must not lose faith in his other forwards, particularly with Son having outscored his xG so far this season. Steven Bergwijn is available again for Sunday's trip to Sheffield United but the Dutchman has also left his scoring boots at home this season. One way or another, Mourinho must find a solution. Dan Kilpatrick

Can Antonio hold up?

With Sebastien Haller having joined Ajax – scoring on his first start – all eyes are again on Michail Antonio. The 30-year-old is used to shouldering the goalscoring burden in east London and Haller was never a fantastic replacement – but now Antonio really is alone. The Hammers are working hard to bring in support this month but nothing is certain. David Moyes knows how important Antonio is to how his side play, but will also be wary of just how fragile his hamstrings are. Antonio has missed another big chunk of the season through injury over the past few months and did not look sharp on his first start back against Stockport, though conditions were against him. Tomorrow's visit of Burnley is a big test of his fitness. Jack Rosser

Parker faces Mitrovic dilemma

Aleksandar Mitrovic is back pushing to be involved against Chelsea on Saturday, leaving Scott Parker with a tough call. The Serbian has stuttered this season and does not look like the striker who set the Championship alight last year. Fulham appear to be shifting styles away from Mitrovic's skilset, but a west London derby against Chelsea may just spark him into life. Never one to shy away from confrontation, you suspect the 26-year-old would relish going up against the likes of Thiago Silva. Simon Collings

Palace's new found stability faces huge test

You can usually rely on Roy Hodgson sides to be one thing: solid. This season, however, Crystal Palace have had to chop and change at the back and have only just started to find their feet. With James Tomkins back in the fold and Cheikhou Kouyate still impressing, the Eagles have kept consecutive clean sheets in the Premier League for the first time this season. Just as well they've tightened up; Manchester City have not quite been at their free-scoring best this season, but Pep Guardiola's side have hit their stride in recent weeks and are perhaps the most fearsome opponents in the Premier League at the moment. Palace have history at the Etihad, if they're to create more then that rearguard will have to be at its best again. Jack Rosser

Austin and Dykes hitting if off QPR

There is real excitement at QPR about the potential of their new strike partnership between Charlie Austin and Lyndon Dykes. Austin is back at Rangers on loan and has immediately formed an impressive connection with the Scot. “We trained together on Monday for 10 minutes and it just clicked,” said Austin after scoring on his return in Tuesday’s 2-0 win at Luton. “It felt like we had trained together for weeks. Sometimes it is just natural.” A Covid outbreak at Wycombe means QPR’s game on Saturday has been postponed – but that will only give Austin and Dykes more time to work together on the training ground. Jack Rosser

Millwall await Zohore decision

Ken Zohore's loan deal from West Brom at Millwall will come to an end after this weekend's meeting with Nottingham Forest and it is unclear if the Lions will be able to extend the deal. If Zohore returns to the Midlands, it will leave Millwall boss Gary Rowett needing a new forward before the end of the transfer window. Rowett's side are already the sixth lowest scorers in the division, with Tottenham loanee Troy Parrott yet to find the net this season. Both players are just beginning to find their feet after struggling with fitness so keeping Zohore would be a boost for the Lions. Dan Kilpatrick

Schwartz boost for stuttering Charlton

Charlton have now gone five games without a win in League One but the arrival of new signing Ronnie Schwartz could breathe new life into their promotion bid. Danish striker Schwartz, signed from Midtjylland, came off the bench to score his first goal in England in Tuesday’s 4-4 draw with Rochdale. His nickname in Denmark is ‘plaffeministeren’, which roughly translates as ‘the minister of shooting’. Every one of his 18 goals last season were scored inside the penalty area and he is already targeting a place in the Championship. “Charlton is a massive club with massive history,” said Schwartz ahead of Saturday's trip to Bristol Rovers. “The aim for the season is to get up.” Jack Rosser

Can Chelsea cure travel sickness?

Chelsea haven’t won away from home in the Premier League since their November 21 trip to Newcastle. A lot has changed since then - and their run of four defeats in six has included losses on the road at Everton, Wolves and Arsenal. The short trip to Fulham could be the ideal opportunity to turn their away form around. Failure to do so - and talk of a crisis will only get louder. James Robson

Will United take Jose’s route at Anfield?

It was 2017 when Jose Mourinho took Manchester United to Anfield with his side level on points at the top of the league and stank the place out. That goalless draw led to fierce criticism of Mourinho and accusations that momentum in their title pursuit had been lost. Not since then have United headed to Liverpool with serious title ambitions, so it will be interesting to see what approach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will take with his side defending a three point lead at the top. One suspects a draw on this occasion would be greeted very differently. James Robson

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