Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend – The Guardian


1) Lukaku ready to show Anfield he’s the finished article

Romelu Lukaku’s first eight league games against Liverpool, when he was a much rawer prospect, yielded five goals, with Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho among those buffeted relentlessly and remorselessly by his bulldozing presence. Yet he failed to score in his subsequent seven against the Reds and it’s eight and a half years since his only goal at Anfield – a fine effort for West Brom while on loan during his first time under Chelsea’s umbrella. Thomas Tuchel is the man delighted to be holding the handle this time around, however, though Virgil van Dijk offers as stern a challenge as can be provided when it comes to strutting your “I’m the finished article” stuff. Chelsea won the equivalent fixture in March, resigning Liverpool to their worst ever run of home losses, but with Jürgen Klopp’s side in better nick now, will the Belgian prove the difference between two well-matched sides? SG

Liverpool v Chelsea, Saturday 5.30pm (all times BST)

2) Aubameyang the key for Arsenal

Few but the most optimistic Gooners give Arsenal a snowball’s chance in hell of coming away from their Saturday lunchtime appointment with Manchester City with any kind of positive result, but having served his managerial apprenticeship under Pep Guardiola, Mikel Arteta knows better than most how to get at his former master’s team. With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang back from Covid and among the goals in midweek, Arsenal have a potentially lethal weapon when it comes to targeting City’s equivalent of the Death Star’s thermal exhaust port by getting in behind their defence at high speed. While it’s something for Arteta to cling to, only time will tell if this potential source of goals is anywhere near enough to help beat a team that looks vastly superior in almost every other position on the field. BG

Manchester City v Arsenal, Saturday 12.30pm

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang found form in the week.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang found form in the week. Photograph: Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images

3) Kane needs to restore the faith

Harry Kane is staying, which is good news for Spurs, but not for the man himself. He wanted to go, there is no denying the fact he was keen to depart for Manchester City but the move was made impossible by the powers that be. Whether Kane likes it or not, he will need to motivate himself after a summer of lull and two goals against Paços de Ferreira was a god way to start. Nuno Espírito Santo will be keen to get his striker up to speed in the Premier League as two goals in as many games will need to be improved upon if Spurs are to challenge the top four. The visit of Watford is the real start to the Spurs season in many ways, as without Kane the squad was not complete. WU

Tottenham v Watford, Sunday 2pm

4) Varane and Pogba reconnection to boost United

Raphaël Varane had to watch from the bench at St Mary’s last week, as he found out a little more about the rigours of the Premier League. At Molineux he could be pushed into the starting lineup as Ole Gunnar Solskjær plans to create his long-term centre-back partnership consisting of Harry Maguire and the Frenchman. It is not a bad choice of opposition to start the former Real Madrid man against, as Wolves are yet to trouble the scorers this season, after enduring blanks in their opening two league matches. Goals win matches but defences win titles, so Solskjær will be desperate to get his back four together as soon as possible in the hope they can become a cohesive unit. Varane’s compatriot Paul Pogba has looked at his best early on, something that could help his international teammate settle at Old Trafford and, at the same time, convince Pogba to stay with the club for years to come, if they combine to turn United into a force once more. WU

Wolves v Manchester United, Sunday 4.30pm

Raphaël Varane will be looking to start.
Raphaël Varane will be looking to start. Photograph: James Marsh/REX/Shutterstock

5) Can Palace end their early season goal drought?

Crystal Palace have yet to score under Patrick Vieira. It’s early days but despite his mini-revival towards the back end of last season, Christian Benteke looks well past his pomp, while Jordan Ayew’s return of 12 goals during his three full seasons at the club suggests the Ghanaian is unlikely to start banging them in for fun any time soon. Jean-Philippe Mateta has scored just once since his arrival last January and Palace will be under obligation to make the 24-year-old’s move permanent – at a cost of £13.4m they may not be prepared to invest – if he starts another 12 Premier League games for them. While keeping him in reserve is always an option, Palace are in dire need of a starting striker who will get them goals. If they fail to break their early season duck against West Ham, an unedifying last-minute scramble to find one before the transfer deadline seems inevitable. BG

West Ham v Crystal Palace, Saturday 3pm

6) Time for Toney to help consolidate Bees’ buzzy start

Ivan Toney has been industrious in his first two tastes of the Premier League, giving Arsenal’s backline a torrid time in particular on opening night, but returning to goalscoring ways early in the season will help to bat away any lingering mumbling that he’s a forward operating above his true level. Few expect a blockbusting tally of 33 as he managed in the Championship last season, but getting him back on the scoresheet can help ensure that Thomas Frank’s side stay clear of the early relegation chatter. Two good chances went begging in the 0-0 against Crystal Palace last Saturday but his manager was unruffled afterwards, saying: “He will give us some goals at another time.” Saturday at Villa Park, with Dean Smith’s side starting to click in the post-Grealish era, would both be a fine time to reassert Toney’s striking credentials and potentially complete an excellent month for the Bees. SG

Aston Villa v Brentford, Saturday 3pm

7) Clarets needs to wise up to avoid repeat performance

There will be a clash of styles at Turf Moor as Sean Dyche and Burnley host Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds. The Clarets have started the season with two defeats and fewer signings than a Piers Morgan book launch. Without the boost of expensive arrivals – Aaron Lennon did return on a free after a year in Turkey this week – a first point could work wonders for morale. There was a clean sheet and penalty shootout win over Newcastle in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday which will offer some degree of optimism but it is not a great success in the current climate. Leeds were 4-0 victors on their most recent visit to Turf Moor, as Burnley were ripped apart by a high-tempo side. Dyche rarely changes things but he will need to adapt on this occasion to avoid another damning blow. WU

Burnley v Leeds, Sunday 2pm

Sean Dyche will be hoping for a first Premier League point.
Sean Dyche will be hoping for a first Premier League point. Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Reuters

8) Farke’s young guns suggest route to stop Norwich rot

First things first: Norwich supporters are right to highlight that they got the rawest early output from the Premier League’s fixture computer, with Liverpool and Manchester City probably the grimmest opening appointments any promoted side could find themselves up against on consecutive weekends. Saturday’s visit of Leicester marks the third instalment of their rough start, and Daniel Farke’s side risk ending August with three defeats and a minus-double figures goal difference. Their 5-0 thrashing at the Etihad offered almost no glimmers of hope, but much-altered green and canary yellow shoots came midweek with a youthful side cathartically hammering Bournemouth 6-0 in the Carabao Cup. Farke was keen to emphasise that “the Premier League is a different animal”, but 21-year-old US international forward Josh Sargent – a late substitute in both of Norwich’s opening losses – will hope his two goals on Tuesday remind his manager that chance-bereft Teemu Pukki is not his only hope of turning things around up front. SG

Norwich v Leicester City, Saturday 3pm

9) More precious minutes for Everton’s Gbamin

While Everton beat Huddersfield Town in their midweek Carabao Cup game, fingers were pointed in the direction of Michael Keane for failing to pick up Terriers goalscorer Tom Lees for a first-half corner. It has been an inauspicious start to the season for the centre-back, whose dithering on the ball has already cost his side goals against both Southampton and Leeds. Now out of quarantine, it would be no surprise to see Ben Godfrey replace him and start alongside Yerry Mina. Everton’s victory over Huddersfield also marked Jean-Philippe Gbamin’s first start for Everton in 738 days, the luckless midfielder having played just 236 minutes of football since his £25m move from Mainz in August 2019. Everton fans travelling to Brighton will be hoping to get another glimpse of the Ivorian, who deserves some long overdue good fortune after three serious injuries in quick succession. BG

Brighton v Everton, Saturday 3pm

10) Mutinous fury in the stands at St James’ Park

Already unpopular at Newcastle, Steve Bruce further antagonised fans by fielding a weakened side in the midweek Carabao Cup tie against Burnley. While his team probably deserved to win against Burnley’s second string, his gamble backfired when they went out on penalties, making a mockery of Bruce’s stated intention of going all out to try to win a cup for his beloved club. While resting players is all very well, electing to do so this early in the season with an international break looming almost resembled an act of masochistic self-sabotage from a man in Bruce’s position. With Southampton due at St James’ Park on Saturday, a fourth consecutive defeat for Newcastle will almost certainly provoke mutinous fury in the stands. BG

Newcastle v Southampton, Saturday 3pm

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