Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend

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It is almost 30 years since Southampton beat Arsenal away from home in the league, a state of affairs that seems strangely incongruous with their good recent record against Arsène Wenger’s team. Saints have won three and lost just one of their past six encounters against Arsenal in all competitions and a maiden win for Claude Puel in this match would give Gooners something new to wail and gnash over following a reasonably satisfactory summer spending spree which saw a central defender, central midfielder and forward, for whom fans have been crying out so vocally, added to the Emirates payroll. How Shkodran Mustafi, Granit Xhaka and Lucas Pérez will fare in their first Premier League season remains to be seen and we should get our first sight of the German stopper if, as expected, he makes his debut in place of Rob Holding alongside Laurent Koscielny in the heart of Arsenal’s defence. Pérez is likely to start Saturday’s match on the bench, but will not stay on it for long if Olivier Giroud fails to improve on his reasonable but unremarkable return of less than one goal every two games in Arsenal colours. With so many pieces of his puzzle now in place, one can’t help but feel Arsenal could be just one prolific striker away from winning that elusive league title their supporters crave. No pressure, Lucas. BG

Both clubs were busy on transfer deadline day, with Wilfried Bony signing on loan for the Potters from Manchester City and Moussa Sissoko and Georges-Kévin Nkoudou arriving at White Hart Lane on permanent deals from Newcastle and Marseille respectively. Bony is not the first player to secure a big-money move to the Etihad only to see his career stall, and will be hoping to kickstart it by resuming regular goalscoring duties as a big fish in a comparatively small pond. Sissoko and Nkoudou have been brought in to add some much-needed pace to Tottenham’s attack and it is the £30m man who so often frustrated Newcastle fans with his apparent lack of effort that looks likely to start in place of Érik Lamela, who may be rested following his late return from Argentina’s 2-2 draw against Venezuela in Mérida on Tuesday night. Spurs’ Sissoko acquisition will have prompted both bafflement and the popping of champagne corks at Newcastle, but following his side’s draw against Liverpool, Mauricio Pochettino spoke of Tottenham’s need for a player who is more direct and aggressive than Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-min and Lamela. So pressing was this need that he paid £30m for Sissoko after a £12m bid for Wilfried Zaha was rejected by Crystal Palace. We can only assume it was those performances at Euro 2016 that convinced Spurs to pay such an exorbitant fee because he did little on Tyneside to suggest he is two-and-half times better than Zaha, as his surprisingly large transfer fee suggests. Only time will tell which version of Sissoko Tottenham have got: the often sullen idler who irritated Newcastle fans or the inspirational player who so impressively raised his game in June. The clock should start ticking this Saturday afternoon at the Britannia. BG

With the long international break allowing an unusual amount of attention to be paid to this weekend’s most eye-catching fixture, and with the absence of Sergio Agüero, the teams’ 100% starts to the season and the reunion of Pep Guardiola with two genuine arch-enemies in José Mourinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic providing a panoply of potential excuses for producing princely previews, there is not a lot of ground left uncovered here. However, there is one aspect that has gone – deservedly, you might argue – unnoticed: the date. It is a random historical quirk that although one might expect the two clubs to have met most often in the early months of the calendar year, when domestic cups occasionally throw them together (four of their six League Cup meetings and four of their eight FA Cup encounters have been played out in January), or in December, when English clubs are forced to cope with uncommon fixture congestion, September is by a massive margin the most Manchesterderbiful month. Indeed, even before this weekend, precisely 20% of all games between them have been played in this month, more than October and November combined. In the 21 years following the resumption of league football after the second world war, 14 Septembers featured a Manchester derby, in which time the rivals did not meet at all in either November or April, while October and March only got a game each. Perhaps this match signals a return to traditional values, there having been only three previous September derbies in the Premier League era. Though, then again, perhaps it doesn’t. For what it’s worth, compared with games played in other months City and United’s September encounters are slightly more likely to be drawn 0-0 (11.7% to 9.6%, though the last September stalemate was in 1948), slightly less likely to be won by United (38.2% to 41.9%), but massively more likely to be won by the side playing at home (47.1% to 30.9%). SB

It was rather sweet to see some Chelsea fans embrace the return of David Luiz last week. A central defender whose commitment to actual defending might be described as casual, he was nonetheless welcomed back with an enjoyable degree of sentimentality, a little like he was a good-natured but hell-raising old mate you shared a house with aged 21: entertaining to have around, tinged with nostalgia, but not especially reliable. It was a rather curious signing, though: however you rate Luiz (and he seems to be one about whom nobody shrugs and says ‘no strong feelings’), he is not what springs to mind when one thinks of a typical Antonio Conte defender. This is a manager who for most of his previous career had Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci at his disposal, two hunks of Italian granite who embody defensive solidity and ruthlessness. It will be interesting, therefore, to see how Luiz adapts to his new demands, assuming he adapts at all, and indeed how Conte uses him. The manager confirmed this week that, despite other suggestions, Luiz will be played in defence rather than midfield, but life as an ersatz Chiellini could be an adventure for all involved. It begins against Swansea on Sunday. NM

Following its official opening on Friday, Liverpool’s spanking new £115m Main Stand will host paying fans for the very first time when the club entertain Leicester City the following day. The 8,500-seat extra capacity has been 17 years in the planning and is expected to contribute an additional £20m-£30m per season to club coffers and help narrow the annual matchday revenue chasm that currently exists between Liverpool and clubs like Manchester United and Arsenal. Liverpool currently earn around £60m per year from their attendances, compared to United’s £90m and Arsenal’s £100m, and can expect to generate even more money from their new construction once they find a sponsor. The prawn sandwich brigade will be well-catered for with 14 executive boxes and new banqueting facilities available to those with the money to pay for them. It will be the most exciting day at Anfield in 2016 when we can welcome the additional supporters to the stadium, said the chairman Tom Werner in an interview two years ago. That the day will be marked by a visit from the champions is little more than a happy coincidence, although the outcome should give two clubs, whose prospects this season are among the Premier League’s more unpredictable, a reasonable indication of where, in football terms, they stand. BG

This reminds me a little bit of Everton when I took over, said David Moyes, upon his appointment as Sunderland manager. Everton had been in the bottom six, I think, four out of the five years before I came in. In my last eight years, I never finished outside the top eight. Hopefully we can do a bit of an Everton. The journey to the top eight hasn’t started especially well for the man who’ll face his old club on Monday. Three games, no wins, two defeats, one point, a lot of injuries and not much luck in the transfer market. Moyes obviously did a brilliant job to turn Everton around, but one wonders if the two really are comparable, and whether it’s as realistic to hold a team together with electric tape and bits of string and hope for Premier League survival, never mind progression, in 2016. Perhaps Moyes can repeat the trick, but this is a team who had to ask Fifa very nicely indeed to sign goalkeeping cover in Mika, who have played chunks of this nascent season without a recognised central midfielder and who better hope that Jermain Defoe stays fit, or else they’re in big trouble. Reviving Everton was a big task for Moyes 14 years ago, but doing the same at Sunderland could be much bigger. NM

Eddie Howe’s meticulous attention to detail has been well documented and during the week, the Bournemouth chairman Jeff Mostyn revealed that a study of training sessions, each of which is recorded for posterity, since the arrival on loan of Jack Wilshere revealed that more scoring opportunities than ever before are being created on the Kings Park training ground. Howe says he has already seen a difference in our players and hopes Wilshere’s presence on the south coast will inspire us to be better coaches to our players and it will inspire the players onto another level. In their three Premier League matches to date this season, Bournemouth have scored two goals, with Adam Smith bagging a late consolation against Manchester United and Joshua King scoring the opener in their 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace just before the international break. Wilshere’s creative mettle should be tested for the first time against West Brom, who kept six clean sheets but conceded two or more goals on eight occasions on their top-flight travels last season. Mostyn says strikers King and Callum Wilson are foaming at the prospect of lining up in the same team as Wilshere. It will be intriguing to see how long it takes them to get on the same wavelength of a provider whose speed of thought may initially leave them a mite bamboozled. BG

Towards the end of Sofiane Feghouli’s time at Grenoble the club’s director general, Pierre Wantiez, called the winger a petit merdeux – little shit – after, amid rumours of an imminent transfer, he played so poorly in a 4-0 defeat against Rennes that he was taken off after half an hour. He was picked for only two more games that season, and five in total, missing the remainder with a knee injury before leaving for Valencia on a free. I’ll tell you what I think in all honesty, Wantiez told the press. You can write this, I stand by what I’m saying. I think he is being very badly advised. I think that he has around him people who, to make him feel better about himself, are telling him he’s God’s gift. Towards the end of his time at Valencia Feghouli was suspended by the club for repeatedly missing training, and for refusing to take part in a post-match warm-down, claiming he had a sore ankle. Feghouli’s agent said Pako Ayestarán, Valencia’s coach, was trying to build his own career by knocking down others, but the player was not selected again and ended the league season with one goal and two assists, making it his least productive in Spain, before again departing on a free transfer. Once considered perhaps the most exciting young talent in France, Feghouli is now 26 and whatever is to follow for him at West Ham, it is unlikely to be dull. His first two competitive appearances, against Domzale in Europa League qualifiers, were promising, and having missed five club games with a hamstring injury, as well as Algeria’s 6-0 thrashing of Lesotho last week, he is now ready to make his Premier League debut. He may have picked a good game to do so, with Watford yet to win this season and pockets of space on the right flank likely to open up when the visitors’ wing-back – probably José Holebas – pushes forward. Should he be chosen in the starting XI, Dimitri Payet’s more hotly-anticipated return from injury could be upstaged. SB

Were it not for their run to the FA Cup final last season, it’s difficult to imagine Alan Pardew would still be in charge of Crystal Palace. Since Boxing Day, Palace have won only two of 24 Premier League matches, taking eight points from the 22 they failed to win: relegation form by any standards and an apparent inability to arrest such slumps has long been a trait of Pardew’s career in management. Mathieu Flamini has just become Pardew’s sixth high-profile summer signing and although he arrived on a free, the Palace chairman Steve Parish has splurged the thick end of £51m on assorted players. On loan from Chelsea, Loïc Rémy has just been ruled out for two months with a thigh injury. While Palace’s appalling league form must be a huge source of concern for Pardew, he can at least take heart from the fact that his team played some of their best football under his watch in the second half of their match against Bournemouth just before the international break (having played some of their worst in the opening 45 minutes). Unless they pick up where they left off on their trip to the Riverside, he must be considered a good bet to win this season’s sack race. BG

After Hull City added to their famously threadbare squad on deadline day, the caretaker manager Mike Phelan and his staff will monitor the fitness of Ahmed Elmohamady and Abel Hernández after the duo clocked up more than 13,000 air miles between them during the international break. Elmohamady was part of the Egypt squad that played friendlies against South Africa and Guinea, while Hernández was a sparingly used substitute for Uruguay’s World Cup qualifiers against Argentina and Paraguay. If he is deemed too jetlagged to play at Burnley on Saturday, Will Keane will almost certainly make his debut following a £1m transfer from Manchester United. Beyond that, the record signing Ryan Mason looks like being the only new arrival to break straight into the first team. Phelan is now faced with the tricky task of blooding new recruits without upsetting the players who have served him so well thus far. For the first time he has options and the manner in which he uses them could dictate whether or not he gets the job on a full-time basis. BG

News Source TheGuardianNews

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