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

1) Palace to push Emery to the brink? Did Arsenal fans really humiliate the great Arsène Wenger … for this? At no point in Unai Emery’s tenure has it been possible to fathom a plan, and the longer things go, the worse they look. There are just so many questions: why is he so reticent

1) Palace to push Emery to the brink?

Did Arsenal fans really humiliate the great Arsène Wenger … for this? At no point in Unai Emery’s tenure has it been possible to fathom a plan, and the longer things go, the worse they look. There are just so many questions: why is he so reticent to play Lucas Torreira in his position? How can he leave Mesut Özil out of his matchday squads when his team struggle to create chances? Watching Arsenal’s youngsters play in the cups, you can’t help but wonder if their abandon and cohesion will last only as long as it takes for him to impose himself upon them. Realistically, to make the club competitive again will require someone brilliant, and none of the key markers in Emery’s career so far suggest he is that. Whether Stan Kroenke cares about any of this no one knows, but if Emery isn’t on the brink he should be, and another poor performance against Palace would constitute yet more evidence for an already overwhelming prosecution. DH

Arsenal v Crystal Palace, 4.30pm Sunday

2) It’s time for United’s players to stand up

Ole Gunnar Solskjær has copped for a lot of unfair flak lately: clearing up the mess he inherited needs more time than he has had and more money than he has been given, on top of which any team would struggle without six first-choice players. But United’s lack of ideas against opponents who do not oblige their fast players by leaving space in behind for them to run into speaks badly of the work done in training, and until that improves, playing for United will be as much of a struggle as watching them. At Norwich, though, this should not be a problem, because the hosts will look to ask questions of a defence that struggles to keep clean sheets – United have led against Wolves, Southampton, Arsenal and Liverpool, only to end up drawing all four games. The problem here is not one of preparation but of application, and responsibility for that lies not with the management but the players. It is about time they stood up, and for Harry Maguire to grow into as indomitable, influential, inspirational a leader as his reputation tells us he already is. DH

Norwich City v Manchester United, 4.30pm Sunday

3) Will Spurs use extra man in the middle to good effect?

Spurs badly needed their midweek win, but it is hard to gauge how well they played because their opponents were useless. It did, though, seem like Mauricio Pochettino finally found the formation which best suits his best players. The 4-2-3-1 he deployed against Red Star protects what is now a shaky back four, allows Tanguy Ndombele the freedom to attack, and gets Heung-min Son and Dele Alli close to Harry Kane, with Érik Lamela picking up any slack in workrate. We can be sure that Liverpool will test this theory. Whatever happens, they will have an extra man in midfield, and whichever trio Jürgen Klopp selects will have the legs to run Spurs off the pitch. Without Christian Eriksen – upon whom Pochettino seems to have taken a definitive view – they lack the touch and nous to pass around them, so must be prepared to spend a lot of time chasing the ball. They can still win by defending well and hoping for Kane or a counter, but the likelihood is that it will take a cleverer plan than that. DH

Liverpool v Tottenham, 4.30pm Sunday

Christian Eriksen has been heavily linked with a move away form Spurs.

Christian Eriksen has been heavily linked with a move away form Spurs. Photograph: Matthew Impey/REX/Shutterstock

4) Villa’s tempo-setters to give City a tough time

There’s a lot to like about Dean Smith’s Aston Villa, in particular their midfield axis of Marvelous Nakamba, Jack Grealish and John McGinn. Nakamba’s calm intelligence provides the perfect balance to his more energetic partners, who play with the perfect combination of entitlement and desire, McGinn a tenacious tempo-setter and Grealish an intuitive improviser. Against City, they will be extended like never before, but will know that if they can compete, there are goals to be taken from a vulnerable home defence. Of course, the likelihood is that City will be too good for them, but do not be surprised if Villa give them a run for their money. DH

Manchester City v Aston Villa, 12.30pm Saturday

5) Ward-Prowse to step up for Saints

A draw at Molineux enabled Southampton to end a run of three consecutive top-flight defeats, but with back-to-back visits to Manchester City looming in the Carabao Cup and Premier League they could really do with taking at least a point when they host Leicester. Southampton have averaged exactly one goal per game in the league and have recently become overly reliant on Danny Ings to score them since he replaced £15m summer acquisition Che Adams as first-choice striker. “I would like to have three, four or five players who are always able to score because this is more important for the team,” said Saints boss Ralph Hassenhüttl, before name-checking Ryan Bertrand and Yan Valery as players who should be contributing more. They are not the only ones. Adams is yet to get off the mark and with just one goal, a penalty against Bournemouth, to his name so far this season, now would be a good time for the curiously out-of-sorts James Ward-Prowse to step up. BG

Southampton v Leicester, 8pm Friday

6) Hard done by Hornets to get that elusive first win

Despite being without a win in their past three games, Bournemouth are likely to be full of confidence as they travel to Vicarage Road to take on a Watford team already on their second manager of the season and winless at the bottom of the table. Or are they? Against Tottenham last weekend, Watford were vastly superior in almost every department apart from the scoreboard and had every right to feel extremely aggrieved at being denied all three points by the reluctance of officialdom to implement VAR as they should. Rather than stew on the comical injustice of it all, Quique Sánchez Flores is likely to have spent the week instructing his players to dwell on the positives of an excellent performance. A repeat at home ought to be enough to see them past their visitors. BG

Watford v Bournemouth, 3pm Saturday

7) Webster should be on Southgate’s England radar

His Premier League career may only be six matches and 540 minutes old but the early evidence is that there is another Brighton defender worth Gareth Southgate keeping an eye on in the form of Adam Webster. It is almost a year since the Brighton skipper Lewis Dunk was capped by his country but, on current form, one of his colleagues could usurp him in the England stakes. Signed for £25m from Bristol City this summer, Webster is comfortable in possession, adept at playing out from the back (so much so he has also operated in defensive midfield) and happy to waltz forward and kick-start attacks – staples of Southgate’s mantra. That Tyrone Mings was called up to the England squad in September suggests Southgate is open to looking at defensive alternatives, with Michael Keane and John Stones not covering themselves in glory in recent outings. Webster, who scored his first Brighton goal at Aston Villa last weekend, has impressed in blue-and-white stripes and it may not be long before the clamour for the 24-year-old to appear in an England shirt builds. BF

Brighton v Everton, 3pm Saturday

Gareth Southgate could soon take a look at Adam Webster.

Gareth Southgate could soon take a look at Adam Webster. Photograph: David W Černý/Reuters

8) West Ham need to showcase top-six mettle

Things were looking relatively rosy for West Ham but three defeats from their past four matches, including a 4-0 loss at Oxford United, has given Manuel Pellegrini’s side something of a reality check. It has been a case of one step forward two steps back for some time at West Ham and an insipid performance at Everton was the latest infuriating result. A home match against Sheffield United represents a chance to get back on track but if Chris Wilder’s side, who upset Arsenal on Monday, were to earn successive wins, they could leapfrog West Ham in the table. If West Ham are serious about cracking the top six, they must develop some consistency. “They’re one of those teams in that bracket,” said Wilder. “They’re an established Premier League team and when you’re in that position you’ve always got to be looking ahead at what’s above you and trying to climb to that next bracket. West Ham will definitely have ambitions and ideas to climb into the top six.” BF

West Ham v Sheffield United, 3pm Saturday

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9) Dubravka deal brings back Pardew memories

Martin Dubravka signing a new shiny six-year contract at Newcastle was well received on Tyneside but such a reward will inevitably bring back memories of the decision to hand Alan Pardew and his staff eight-year extensions until 2020. Pardew left Newcastle for Crystal Palace two years later but fans will hope Dubravka, who will be 36 when his contract expires, is there to stay. The 30-year-old has started every Premier League game since joining Newcastle from Sparta Prague last year, keeping 17 clean sheets in 59 appearances. Karl Darlow and Rob Elliot are both out of contract next summer so it will likely fall on Freddie Woodman, the 22-year-old who has impressed this season on loan at Swansea and whose godfather is Gareth Southgate, to compete with the Slovakian for the number one jersey. BF

Newcastle v Wolves, 2pm Sunday

10) Will Gilmour be next Chelsea youngster to blossom?

With Callum Hudson-Odoi returning to the fold and another three academy graduates central to Chelsea’s six-match winning streak – Fikayo Tomori, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham – it begs the question as to which youngster could be next in line to flourish in the first team. The 18-year-old Billy Gilmour was on the bench in Amsterdam in midweek and Frank Lampard handed the Glaswegian, who joined Chelsea from Rangers for an initial £500,000 two years, a start against Grimsby last month after giving him his debut off the bench at Bramall Lane. Lampard rates the defenders Reece James and Marc Guehi very highly but it is in midfield where he is blessed with a wealth of options, including teenagers Ethan Ampadu and Conor Gallagher, who has impressed on loan at Charlton, but there was a reason the Chelsea manager was reluctant to allow Gilmour to head out the door on a temporary basis in the summer: because he felt the teenager could make a splash in the first team. BF

Burnley v Chelsea, 5.30pm Saturday


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Susan E. Lopez

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