Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend | Football

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1) Stretched Spurs squad could be punished by Pogba

Mousa Dembélé’s impending move to Beijing Guoan is a reminder of Tottenham’s lack of depth in important areas. The Belgian midfielder was once a mandatory pick for Mauricio Pochettino but injuries have caught up with him and he has featured in only 10 league games this season. Dembélé’s decline has been a blow for Pochettino and Tottenham’s manager has also had to deal with injuries to Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama, forcing him to ask a lot from Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko in the past month. Sissoko and Winks have responded by forming an effective partnership in central midfield, enabling Tottenham to force their way into the title race, but they looked tired against Chelsea on Tuesday. Manchester United, who visit Wembley on Sunday, will spy a weakness to exploit given that Pochettino’s only alternative in recent weeks has been the inexperienced Oliver Skipp. Paul Pogba is probably licking his lips at the thought of stamping his authority all over midfield – assuming, of course, the United showman’s resurgence under Ole Gunnar Solskjær is the real deal. JS

2) Feast-or-famine season frustrates Foxes

If you want an idea as to why some Leicester fans are frustrated with their team and Claude Puel, then observe their infuriating inconsistency of late. Their past six games in all competitions have been: defeat on penalties to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup after making a number of changes to the team; victory at Chelsea; victory in the league over Manchester City; defeat at home to Cardiff; victory at Everton; defeat to Newport in the FA Cup. Puel’s decision to make wholesale changes against Newport was more defensible than against City, with their opponents 13th in League Two. But now they are out of both cups and have only that big seventh place to fight for as Puel prepares to take on his former club Southampton on Saturday. That is where they are at the moment but they may not stay there if they continue to be so erratic. NM

3) Özil faces fight to force way back in

Unai Emery has an intriguing call to make when Arsenal visit West Ham on Saturday. Mesut Özil is back in training after shaking off the knee injury that has kept him out since Boxing Day, and in previous seasons the German would have expected to walk straight back into the starting lineup. Not in the post-Wenger era, though. Özil’s importance has dwindled, even though he still has the ability to unlock any defence with an eye-of-the-needle pass. The thinking is the team’s defensive structure is not strong enough to carry brittle individuals and, although Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s foot injury means a creative spot needs filling, Arsenal also have to think about containing Marko Arnautovic and Felipe Anderson in West Ham’s attack. With that in mind, it could be a day for Alex Iwobi or Aaron Ramsey to provide extra thrust in midfield. Iwobi is in good form and Ramsey has knuckled down despite his impending move to Juventus; both will have cause to feel aggrieved if they lose out to Özil. JS

Aaron Ramsey



Aaron Ramsey is moving to Juventus but could feature ahead of Mesut Özil for Arsenal against West Ham. Photograph: John Sibley/Action Images via Reuters

4) Silva on shaky ground after Moshiri’s comments

The dismissal of Gary Rowett by Stoke this week called to mind another manager who is talking a good game but not getting the results to back up his words. Marco Silva is different to Rowett in that he does have trophies to his name, most prominently the Greek title with Olympiakos, but even that is worth putting in context: Olympiakos have been champions 10 times since the Superleague was formed in 2006, so he was not exactly dragging a team to success with his managerial brilliance. Troy Deeney recently rated Silva as the best coach he has worked with but that will not be much use with the words of the majority shareholder, Farhad Moshiri, hanging in the air. “I look at the table and it is just not good enough,” said Moshiri, and while he also said the club will “stick with” Silva, things can change extremely quickly. Everton host Bournemouth on Sunday. NM

5) Benítez’s spoiling tactics could scupper Sarri again

Having seen how Chelsea were frustrated by Southampton’s organisation in their previous league game, it is unlikely that Newcastle will be adventurous when they visit Stamford Bridge on Saturday evening. Rafael Benítez often uses a spoiling approach against the big sides and the Spaniard will surely tell his players to sit deep, absorb pressure and try to take advantage of Maurizio Sarri’s issues in attack. Chelsea drew another blank in their midweek defeat by Tottenham, despite dominating territory and possession, and it will not be in Newcastle’s interests to play an open game. Another game of patience will test Sarriball’s foundations. JS

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6) Klopp’s defensive quandary for trip to Brighton

Liverpool could head to Brighton on Saturday with Virgil van Dijk as their only fit recognised central defender. With Joe Gomez and Joël Matip sidelined and Dejan Lovren not expected to recover from a thigh injury in time, Jürgen Klopp will likely turn to Fabinho. Chris Hughton’s side are unbeaten in four games and have proved a tough nut to crack at home – only Tottenham and Chelsea have beaten them there in the league this season. But the assured performance of the 16-year-old Ki-Jana Hoever in Liverpool’s FA Cup defeat at Molineux on Monday will have given Klopp food for thought, especially when watching him wriggle away from Hélder Costa and Rúben Neves before freeing Mohamed Salah on the counterattack. Klopp must choose whether to throw the Dutch teenager in at the deep end once more, or opt for a more experienced head. BF

Ki-Jana Hoever



Ki-Jana Hoever impressed on his Liverpool debut despite defeat at Wolves on Monday. Photograph: Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images

7) Wagner turns to Puncheon to end losing run

Huddersfield’s defeat by Bristol City in the FA Cup was the equivalent of a boxer’s shorts falling down after being beaten up for eight rounds, one last indignity after the previous pummelling. They have lost nine matches in a row, eight of those in the league, and while they have got some way to go before reaching the Premier League record (Sunderland’s 2002-03 run of 15 consecutive losses), they have definitely reached the stage where they are looking for any help they can get. In the run-up to Saturday’s away game at Cardiff, David Wagner said he has no idea whether they will be able to address their biggest problem by signing a striker, so they may have to look to another source for goals. Jason Puncheon has not scored this season but, at the very least, his arrival from Crystal Palace will add a little more dynamism to their attack. At this point, anything is worth a try. NM

8) Cleverley’s return eases Watford’s window worries

It has been a tough journey to fitness for Tom Cleverley. An achilles problem kept him out of the Watford team for the best part of a year, but after a few substitute appearances he made his first start against Woking in the FA Cup last weekend. “It’s been a long hard year and a long road back,” he said. “It’s a big moment for me.” In some respects, Cleverley’s return could not be better timed, given the continuing uncertainty over Abdoulaye Doucouré, who this week offered the world’s politest “come and get me” plea to PSG. Central midfield is not an area of massive weakness for Watford, who visit Crystal Palace on Saturday, but if Doucouré does depart then Cleverley being an option again will at least mean they will not have to rush to find a replacement. NM

9) Wolves wary of Guardiola’s goal-hungry side

Pep Guardiola’s side have hammered in 16 goals in two matches and, regardless of opposition, those numbers are frightening. Wolves have an impressive record against the top six, appearing to raise their game when the big boys come to Molineux, having beaten Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham. But when Manchester City – who host them on Monday – are in the mood, especially at the Etihad, they are a different beast. Wolves should arrive with confidence and not total trepidation after upsetting Liverpool in the FA Cup but Nuno Espírito Santo’s side must again bring their A-game. Wolves, so comfortable without the ball, are solid but flexible in defence – they have conceded fewer goals than Manchester United and Arsenal – and given that City will want to dominate possession, they will have to show patience. BF

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10) Dyche’s side on rise thanks to McNeil’s menace

Is it a coincidence that Burnley’s results have improved since Dwight McNeil broke into their first team? Maybe but the young winger has certainly added more of a spark to Sean Dyche’s side, who have won all three games he has started, two in the league and against Barnsley in the FA Cup. They host second-bottom Fulham on Saturday. “It’s not like we put him in for the sake of it, it’s because we think he can deliver performances, which he has done,” said Dyche. “I think we’ve timed our run well with that. It’s not just dropping somebody in, taking them out and you never see them again, it’s been building up slowly but surely.” As well as McNeil’s introduction, Tom Heaton has returned in goal, and praise must go to Dyche: neither decision was hasty but both are paying off nicely so far. NM


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