5️⃣ big questions ahead of the Premier League weekend | OneFootball

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Dan Burke·2 December 2023

5️⃣ big questions ahead of the Premier League weekend

Article image:5️⃣ big questions ahead of the Premier League weekend

There is another fascinating round of Premier League action coming our way this weekend.

And here are the five biggest questions on everybody’s lips.

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Are we looking at a title race for the ages?

Article image:5️⃣ big questions ahead of the Premier League weekend

It feels like an eternity since we last had even a three-horse race for the Premier League title.

Not since Leicester’s against-all-odds triumph in 2015/16 have we entered the final weeks of a season with more than two clubs still in contention for the big prize, but this year could be about to buck the trend.

Arsenal are the current league leaders, one point ahead of reigning champions Manchester City, who themselves are just one point ahead of third-placed Liverpool.

And we shouldn’t discount the threat posed by Aston Villa and Tottenham this season either. This is only the second time in Premier League history that just two points have separated first (Arsenal) and fourth place (Villa) after 13 matches of a season (the last time was 2006/07).

With Arsenal and Liverpool having potentially winnable home fixtures this weekend, and Manchester City facing Tottenham and Villa in their next two, the top of the table could be about to really take shape.

Can Tottenham halt their slide at the Etihad?

Super Sunday sees Tottenham travelling to face Manchester City in what should hopefully be a more exciting contest than the one we saw at the Etihad last weekend.

Spurs began the season in fine fettle, with summer signings James Maddison and Micky Van de Ven quickly making Harry Kane’s departure feel like a distant memory.

But injuries to those two in particular have seen Ange Postecoglou’s side suffer three consecutive defeats, and with their injury list only growing in recent weeks, they could have done without one of the hardest away trips in the league coming their way this weekend.

The Lilywhites have a good record in this fixture having won five of the last eight league meetings between the two sides, but City are out to end a miniature slump of their own following draws with Chelsea and Liverpool in their last couple of Premier League outings.

With the respective managers cut from the same cloth tactically it should be a cracking game, and as City boss Pep Guardiola said in his pre-match press conference on Friday: “I encourage fans to come to the stadium, we will have a lot of fun.”

What are Manchester United?

Article image:5️⃣ big questions ahead of the Premier League weekend

The most Jekyll and Hyde team in the Premier League this season, that’s what.

It was a 3-0 EFL Cup defeat to Saturday’s opponents Newcastle that condemned the Red Devils to their worst start to a season since 1962/63, but that result also inspired a change in fortunes, with Erik ten Hag’s side winning their next three league matches without conceding a goal, leaving them sixth in the table and just six points off the top.

Their Champions League form has been less impressive recently, however, and if any player sums up their paradoxical nature it’s goalkeeper André Onana.

As Ten Hag pointed out in his press conference on Friday, Onana is statistically one of the best goalkeepers in the league having kept the joint-most clean sheets (5) this season, but his blunders in Wednesday’s 3-3 draw with Galatasaray means the Cameroon international has also conceded the most goals in the Champions League this season (14). Make it make sense.

Onana and his team-mates face an incredibly tough test on Saturday evening against a Newcastle side who are a wounded animal after a controversial penalty cost them two precious points in Paris on Tuesday. “It is an evening kick-off, which are always more special at St James’ Park,” said Magpies boss Eddie Howe on Friday.

We should get a firmer idea of just how good both Uniteds are in this mouthwatering clash.

Is Vincent Kompany drinking in the Last Chance Saloon?

Article image:5️⃣ big questions ahead of the Premier League weekend

Cast your mind back to the summer, and many pundits were tipping newly promoted Burnley to go from strength to strength under manager Vincent Kompany.

And with good reason. The Clarets made light work of the Championship last term, storming back to the Premier League at the first time of asking with 101 points, while playing some beautiful football along the way.

Their form was so good that Kompany was being earmarked as a potential successor to Pep Guardiola at his old club Manchester City, but the Belgian’s side go into this weekend’s meeting with fellow newly promoted outfit Sheffield United rock bottom of the table with the lowest goals scored and the second-worst defensive record.

Burnley’s start has in fact been the second-worst in Premier League history (behind only Sheffield United’s in 2020/21) and the fluid, attacking style of play that served them so well last season has not translated well to the top flight at all so far.

Things have to change and quickly, with Saturday’s clash at Turf Moor surely a must-win from the hosts’ point of view. Another defeat and Kompany could well be a very unexpected first managerial casualty of the season.

Will Everton begin their revival at the City Ground?

Article image:5️⃣ big questions ahead of the Premier League weekend

After being hit with that landmark 10-point deduction during the international break, last Sunday’s meeting with Manchester United was billed as the beginning of Everton’s fight-back.

But a stunning Goal of the Season contender from Alejandro Garnacho took the sting out of Goodison Park inside three minutes, and though the Toffees had chances to get back into the game, their siege-mentality couldn’t prevent the visitors strolling to victory in the end.

Many believe Sean Dyche’s side have enough about them to survive relegation even with the points deduction this season, but they cannot afford to take anything for granted and must get out of the relegation zone as quickly as possible.

Saturday’s opponents Nottingham Forest are one of the clubs Everton will be hoping to reel in, with Steve Cooper’s side on a run of just one win in their last nine matches, putting their manager’s job in jeopardy.

This looks like a good chance for Everton to reignite their season, but their composure in front of goal has to be much better than it was against Manchester United last weekend if they are to get a result here.

Only Sheffield United (four) and Luton Town (five) have scored fewer open-play goals than Everton’s eight this season, while their shot conversion rate of 7.3% is the worst in the division.

The appeal against the points deduction the club lodged on Friday could ultimately get them out of trouble, but scoring goals will help them even more.