Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the only man not looking forward to Manchester United v Tottenham on another Big Weekend…
Game to watch: Leicester v Arsenal
Arsenal looked directionless against Crystal Palace before a decent performance against a very poor Aston Villa side caused many to start ‘trusting the process’ of Mikel Arteta. Such is football.
Other than that win over Villa and the 3-1 defeat of Spurs, a side transitioning into increasing disrepute, the only other teams Arsenal have beaten this season are Norwich and Burnley, both bottom-three sides mauled 1-0. There may well be green shoots of optimism at the Emirates, but Arteta and his side are yet to pass a proper test this season and have failed some dramatically. They’ll need their cheat sheets this weekend.
Now level on points with Arsenal, Leicester are starting to look more like Leicester. They’ve been credited with the home truths aimed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s way after their 4-2 win over Manchester United, Patson Daka’s stunning Europa League performance hinted at a bright future and a shootout victory over Brighton in the EFL Cup will have buoyed them further ahead of the lunchtime kick-off on Saturday.
Team to watch: Burnley
“The attitude is correct and the belief in what we are trying to do is correct and we just have to find those moments.”
Sean Dyche’s pre and post-match interviews have been similar all season. His view being that the effort and general quality is there, they just need one to go in off a backside and the wins will come rolling in. Maxwel Cornet scored a brace against Southampton last time out, including a screamer from 25 yards, but they still failed to claim their first three points of the season.
And that’s a big problem for Dyche. They’ve never been a free-scoring side and if two isn’t enough in a game then they will go down. Dyche also said that his side have “had these challenges before,” but they haven’t really: this is Burnley’s worst start to a Premier League season.
He will be feeling the pressure having been handed a bumper contract by the new owners and following the record arrival of Cornet. A win will do wonders for the confidence of the side, but the longer they go without one, the less the impact will be on their hopes of survival. Brentford at home is a massive game on Saturday.
Manager to watch: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Knives at the ready. Surely the only man not looking forward to Manchester United’s clash with Tottenham on Saturday evening is Solskjaer himself.
United fans will either see their team win – which is presumably still deemed by most as a good thing – or see the pressure mount on their manager to levels unbearable even for the most lenient of owners. Fans of other clubs will get their jollies from a win that will see United retain the PE teacher taking them nowhere, or from the lack of one as United not winning will always be a cause for celebration. The players have another chance to leave their tools on the floor and accelerate the exit of the man the majority clearly can’t wait to see the back of. And us in the media? Bring on the clicks.
Solskjaer will surely ring the changes. The same team producing a similarly lackadaisical performance will give him no leg to stand on. Starting Jesse Lingard, Donny van de Beek, Edinson Cavani, maybe Alex Telles, will at least give him the ‘well I tried something different’ comeback. Then again, in the face of a complete lack of tactical organisation, the team selection is unlikely to matter, even against Spurs.
Player to watch: Richarlison
Richarlison made his return from the bench after a four-game absence with a delightful diving header to no avail against Watford last weekend, and Rafa Benitez will be desperate for an even greater impact from the start against Wolves on Monday.
Something of a mercurial player, he drifts in and out of games and form, but is capable of the extraordinary and remains an Everton leader and their talisman.
A striker of his quality playing so frequently for Brazil will always be linked with bigger and better things, specifically Paris Saint-Germain, whose own Brazilian star appears to be tapping up Premier League compatriots all over the place.
He’s better than a mid-table Premier League side and has previously stated his desire to play Champions League football. That said, to his credit, he’s made clear that he will only move if any deal is the best thing for him and the club.
In the short term, Everton need him somewhere near his best to arrest a slide down the table after just one point from their last three games. If Benitez isn’t already under pressure after they were spanked by Watford, defeat to Wolves will have their namesakes at the door come Tuesday morning.
European game to watch: Barcelona v Alaves
Barcelona start life after Ronald Koeman at home to Alaves, who have climbed out of the bottom three with consecutive victories. Barcelona sit ninth with just four wins from ten games – it’s no wonder Koeman was shown the door.
Xavi is unlikely to be in the dugout come Saturday, but the current Al Sadd boss and legendary Barcelona midfielder is reportedly now in talks with the club. Those talks are set to focus on what Xavi wants in terms of his coaching staff and transfers moving forward, with personal terms not expected to be a problem. He’s as good as got the job.
Since taking over the Qatari side, Xavi has led Al Sadd to seven trophies, including one league title. They have won seven out of seven in the Qatar Stars League this season and are unbeaten in 34 matches dating back to the previous campaign. But Barcelona, as Xavi is well aware, will be a far greater challenge. The club has no money to speak of and is still reeling from the loss of their greatest ever player. A win on Saturday – under an interim coach – would give arguably their second greatest ever some much-needed breathing space when he takes the wheel.
Football League game to watch: Fulham v West Brom
Two members of the not-good-enough-for-the-Premier-League-but-too-good-for-the-Championship mini-league do battle at Craven Cottage on Saturday.
It currently looks as though it will be one of these two, along with unbeaten Bournemouth, that will return to the promised land automatically, before of course sliding back down. The trio are four points clear of high-flying Coventry in fourth and all have a vastly superior goal difference to any other team in the division.
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