Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend

Paul Doyle, Barry Glendenning and Sachin Nakrani
The Guardian
Clockwise from top left: Crystal Palace striker Christian Benteke, Newcastle United supporters, West Ham’s Jack Wilshere and Manchester United defenders Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelöf.

Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend

Clockwise from top left: Crystal Palace striker Christian Benteke, Newcastle United supporters, West Ham’s Jack Wilshere and Manchester United defenders Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelöf.

1) History will not help Wolves against City

Wolves have attacked with panache in their first two Premier League games but have also looked vulnerable at the back and conceded two goals in each. In an effort to tighten up his team, Nuno Espírito Santo must be tempted to give a first start in defence to the new signing Leander Dendoncker, although he might decide that throwing in the Belgian against City is too fiery a baptism. Besides, Ryan Bennett, the man most likely to be replaced by Dendoncker, played well when these teams met in the League Cup last season, when Wolves became the first side to keep a clean sheet against the supposedly unstoppable City. So Wolves know it can be done. But if we’re going to dredge up history, then Pep Guardiola could point out to his players that Wolves have been spectacularly ruthless against City in the past (racking up wins of 8-0, 8-1 and 7-2 a very, very long time ago) and City have never properly avenged those thrashings. PD

2) Klopp to tinker with attacking options?

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Two games, two wins, six goals scored and none conceded. It has been a superb start to the season for Liverpool and it is hard to see how Brighton can do anything to stop the red juggernaut in its tracks. Ahead of their trip to Anfield, Chris Hughton and his players can at least take some hope from the performance of Jürgen Klopp’s front three at Crystal Palace on Monday. There was a distinct lack of fluidity between Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah and while they all played a part in the 2-0 victory, they were not at their best, individually or collectively. All three will no doubt improve as the season goes on but Klopp may use Saturday’s game as an early opportunity to mix things up in attack by giving Daniel Sturridge or Xherdan Shaqiri a start, or using Firmino in a deeper role. With plenty of games to come this season, it may be a wise move for the Liverpool manager to keep opponents on their toes, as well as plan for those moments when his main men in attack are injured, suspended or off their game. SN

3) Wilshere to be a wild card at the Emirates

Two new managers, same old problems. Both Unai Emery and Manuel Pellegrini have yet to make headway towards solving woes that are deeply ingrained at their respective clubs. And both have seemed a trifle naïve in their early attempts to address them, providing scant protection to flimsy defences. In that sense, these teams are ideal opponents for each other and, this weekend, one of them could get away with leaving themselves dangerously open – most likely Arsenal, unless Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang misfires as badly as he did against Chelsea. But there is a wild card in the form of a returning Jack Wilshere, who is unlikely to have a quiet game on his return to the Emirates Stadium. PD

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4) Newcastle fans keeping the Faith

“Do you really need an explanation of what this T-shirt is about?” enquires Newcastle fan website and fanzine True Faith in the advert for their “Ashley Out” T-shirts which, at the time of writing, have already sold out in XL (behave). Not any more, is the obvious answer and considering the sentiment involved coupled with True Faith’s donation of a quid from every £5 purchase going to the Newcastle United Fans Food Bank, few local causes seem more worthy. Expect to see plenty of these stylish garments on show when Chelsea and the Sky cameras pitch up at St James’ Park for a high-profile date on Sunday afternoon. The brisk sales suggest that even those Newcastle fans who consider wearing anything warmer than a large tattoo on their torsos to be a sign of weakness are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to get the message across. BG

5) Stick or twist for Silva on south coast

On Saturday afternoon, Everton return to the scene of a crime – a crime against football, if you’ll allow the Alan Partridge quotation. The Merseysiders’ last visit to the Vitality Stadium, in December, saw them lose 2-1 against a Bournemouth side who had to failed to win any of their previous eight games. Everton should have dominated proceedings but instead they were insipid and lost, with Sam Allardyce’s negative tactics seen by many as the root cause. Certainly, his decision to play with three holding midfielders was misguided and set the tone for his brief, unhappy time at the club. Now Marco Silva is in charge and a new energy about Everton, and the expectation is they will take the game to Bournemouth. That could be a risk given Eddie Howe’s side’s excellent start to the season and decent record on home soil, so Silva may well be minded to play things safe. Sit back, defend, deploy three holding midfielders. That feels unlikely, however, and should the Portuguese go for broke and Everton win it could feel as if the club has turned a corner. SN

6) Spurs can exploit United muddle on Monday

After Harry Maguire pitched up at Old Trafford for Manchester United’s first home match of the season, their second sees a visit from Toby Alderweireld. It appears even the fixture computer is taunting poor old José Mourinho these days. Oh well, the Portuguese is just going to have to learn to put a brave face on things – like Mauricio Pochettino does – and carry on entrusting the centre of his defence to Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelöf, a pair for whom he did, after all, approve an expenditure of more than £60m. When Bailly first arrived he looked exactly like the dependable stopper around whom Mourinho could build his defence but the Ivorian has regressed alarmingly since then, perhaps debilitated by the chaos around him both on and off the pitch. Too many people at United seem to be pulling in different directions. If they do not pull themselves together pronto, they could be on the end of a humiliating lesson from Spurs. PD

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7) A more settled Leicester defence

Leicester City have at times looked worryingly ramshackle in defence in their opening two matches. Despite keeping a clean sheet in victory against Wolves, their opponents roared out of the traps and could conceivably have put the game to bed before Claude Puel’s side scored against the run of play. Against Manchester United, Daniel Amartey was a surprise inclusion at right-back, gave away a daft early penalty and was subsequently dropped in favour of Ricardo Pereira. Of the four defenders who lined up against United, only Harry Maguire and Ben Chilwell kept their places, with Wes Morgan demoted to the bench so another new signing, Jonny Evans could make his Leicester debut. Maguire is a first-team staple, while Chilwell has played well enough at left-back to suggest his position is not under threat from Christian Fuchs. Having managed Ricardo at Nice and paid £17.5m to Porto for his services, Puel clearly holds the Portuguese defender in high regard and he looks destined to be first choice. Morgan may also have to grow accustomed to life as a back-up. The availability of what looks a decent first-choice defence should enable Puel to further allay fears surrounding his future with the club. BG

8) Huddersfield and Cardiff seek confidence boost

Huddersfield’s last game in the regular season of the Championship, a little over a year ago, was a 3-0 home defeat against Neil Warnock’s Cardiff. David Wagner’s side were in leisure mode that day because they were saving themselves for the imminent play-off semi-final against Sheffield Wednesday. This, by contrast, will be a proper battle and, after sinking to the bottom of the table through predictable defeats against Chelsea and Manchester City, Huddersfield need to get their season going. Although it will be far from easy, this might be Huddersfield’s best chance in the whole campaign of getting a win. Cardiff probably have similar thoughts, at least in terms of away assignments. It is clear how Warnock will approach the game. The most positive stance for Wagner would be to revert to a back four and start with wingers on each side – perhaps the new signings Adama Diakhaby and Isaac Mbenza. PD

9) Further familiarisation at Fulham?

Fulham entertain Burnley in the Premier League for the first time in eight years, with both sides still looking for their first win of the season. The Cottagers have lost their two opening games against Crystal Palace and Tottenham, but can take plenty of positives from both games. The club’s record signing Jean Michaël Seri spoke this week about how Fulham’s dozen summer signings are finding their feet. “I think we are seeing that the team is starting to familiarise themselves with each other,” he said. “We are going to get better, we are going to get stronger, because it’s clear to see the quality in this group of players.” With just three new acquisitions to bed in, Burnley’s Europa League adventures mean they have five more matches under their belts. Sean Dyche said recently that Burnley “are trying to evolve into a side that can hurt teams in many different ways”, but their habit of ceding possession could cost them against a team managed by a man who is never happier than when his players have the ball at their feet high up the field. Sunday’s match should offer some interesting pointers to what lies ahead for both teams. BG

10) Time for Benteke to deliver

There was a moment during Crystal Palace’s defeat against Liverpool on Monday when it felt almost impossible not to pity Christian Benteke. Having freed himself from the attentions of the imperious Virgil van Dijk, the striker lined up a shot from just outside of the area. It was 1-0 to Liverpool at the time and this felt like Palace’s chance to get back into the game. Benteke pulled back his foot, fired and sent the ball ballooning so high and wide you feared for the safety of passers-by outside Selhurst Park. The Belgian’s demise has been startling, from one of the most deadly strikers in the Premier League to a figure of tragicomic proportions. It is now reaching a stage where Roy Hodgson has a decision to make over a player who cost £27m to sign, from Liverpool, in 2016 and last season scored only three goals in 31 appearances. Hodgson is likely to hand Benteke a third successive start of the season at Watford on Sunday but, should the 27-year-old fail to score and be substituted for a third successive time, it may be time for him to be taken out of action altogether. SN

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