·15 September 2023
·15 September 2023
A Big Weekend looms for Arteta, Dyche, Hojlund, Paqueta and Loftus-Cheek.
Will Arsenal avoid another Dyche-ing? How will Eddie Howe spark a reaction from Newcastle? Who will win the battle of the apprentice hit-men – Rasmus Hojlund or Evan Ferguson? It’s a biggie alright.
Game to watch – Everton v Arsenal Winless Everton should hold no fear for an Arsenal side buoyant after their last-gasp win over Manchester United. But Sean Dyche has form for p*ssing on the Gunners’ chips.
His first game after taking over from Frank Lampard was this very fixture, when the Toffees had not won in eight games and looked Championship-bound upon Mikel Arteta’s league leaders’ arrival at Goodison in February. The Dyche bounce prompted Everton to remember how to defend and scrap, while Arsenal wilted to turn in one of their worst performances of the season.
Evidently, the novelty of Dyche has worn off for the Toffees, who have a stunning added-time Jordan Pickford save last time out to thank for their solitary point this term. The hosts should be able to pair Dominic Calvert-Lewin with Beto for the first time, assuming Dyche is feeling brave – or daft – enough to play two up top. Which he almost certainly won’t. It will most likely be one, then the other. Regardless, something needs to change in Everton’s attack. Their xG this season: 7.3. Goals scored: two.
Arteta has decisions to make with his own front line. Gabriel Jesus, who averages a goal against Everton every 71 minutes, or England’s Eddie Nketiah? Kai Havertz or literally anyone else?
Everything about this season and the last couple screams away win. But the Toffees are looking for their fourth consecutive home victory against the Gunners, something they last achieved 110 years ago. Everton 1-0 Arsenal kicks off at 4:30pm on Sunday.
Player to watch – Lucas Paqueta The West Ham midfielder’s hopes of a big summer move to Manchester City broke down amid betting allegations. And he seems intent on taking it out on the rest of the Premier League.
Paqueta has been outstanding, arguably the biggest driving force behind the Hammers’ unbeaten start to the season. That record faces the toughest test yet when David Moyes’ European champions host the European champions proper, the side Paqueta had hoped to be lining up for.
The Brazilian is the most eye-catching cog in one of the best West Ham midfields in years. Where they looked perilously weak after selling Declan Rice, with Paqueta perhaps lining up alongside James Ward-Prowse and Mohammed Kudus, they suddenly look formidable in the middle of the park, while Jarrod Bowen seems to have rediscovered his mojo over the summer.
Paqueta could line up against the man who got his move – Matheus Nunes. The Portugal midfielder joined City on deadline day before making the bench as an unused substitute against Fulham. Expect Paqueta to be eager to prove a point.
Team to watch – Manchester United There are many reasons to keep an eye on Old Trafford from 3pm on Saturday. Firstly, the football. United facing Brighton should make for a stonking 90 blacked-out minutes, with the Seagulls one of the worst possible opponents for a home team in need of bouncing back after the defeat to Arsenal.
Then there’s all the lovely narrative. Will we get a glimpse of Jadon Sancho after he called his manager a liar in the wake of being dropped for the Gunners trip? No, apparently. How will Harry Maguire fare upon his return to club duty amid a debate of whether the grief the England defender receives has crossed a line? His Mum certainly thinks so.
Maguire will have his hands full with Evan Ferguson, one of the Prem’s most-wanted strikers, as the Brighton hitman faces the club he supported as a boy. United are said to be monitoring Ferguson, perhaps with a view to pairing him with another young striker making his Old Trafford debut on Saturday.
Rasmus Hojlund has had to wait for his United bow, which belatedly came against Arsenal. In 23 minutes at the Emirates, the young Denmark striker showed more spirit and spark than Anthony Martial has mustered in Christ knows how long. Losing so late was a crushing blow for United, and the Sancho situation became a circus, but Hojlund’s cameo was certainly the big positive for Ten Hag at the Emirates.
Denmark kept in Ten Hag’s good books by using the striker sparingly during the international break, playing him for 31 and 45 minutes, keeping him fresh to be unleashed on one of the top five defenders in Europe, Lewis Dunk.
Manager to watch – Eddie Howe Newcastle’s start has been bad enough for the Saudis to offer Howe a vote of confidence. Chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan wants it known that the manager retains his full support, which is handy since he’s not a man you want to get on the wrong side of.
It was a gesture deemed necessary after three defeats in the Magpies’ opening four games. Which ought to be put into context. Newcastle have lost to Manchester City, Liverpool and Brighton, though the manner of those defeats slid from creditable to calamitous then just plain crap.
Howe needs to prompt a response from his players at Brentford on Saturday evening, especially before their Champions League campaign commences next week. How, Eddie?
The midfield has been too easy to play through, with Sandro Tonali still settling alongside Bruno Guimaraes and Joelinton. Teething problems, you would think, and the run of fixtures after the Milan trip offers Tonali a chance to find his feet.
More concerning than Tonali’s failure to set the Prem on fire has been the drop off in performance from the Brazilians alongside him. Howe could opt to rest one of them with Milan in mind and Sean Longstaff straining on the leash.
EFL game to watch – Cardiff v Swansea Friday night offers the opportunity to check in with Southampton and Leicester when they meet for the first time since they were both binned off by the Premier League, while Sunday lunchtime sees Leeds visit Millwall. Even spicier than that, though, especially for those in South Wales, is the derby at the Cardiff City Stadium.
The hosts may be languishing down in 19th after losing three of their first five games of the season but there is optimism around Cardiff that the Bluebirds are on the up. New manager Erol Bulut is implementing a possession-based strategy and after an exciting summer recruitment programme, this weekend would be a swell time for everything to come together.
The mood is rather less optimistic around Swansea. They are three from the bottom of the table and still looking for their first win under Michael Duff, who doesn’t appear to grasp the magnitude of the derby: “It’s an important game, but it’s not the be-all and end-all. I’d rather win promotion and get beat by Cardiff twice.”
Hard to argue with the cold logic but few Jacks will be thinking about promotion if they get turned over here.
European game to watch – Inter v AC Milan Both Milan clubs have enjoyed perfect starts to the season. At least one of those records will go in the Derby della Madonnina on Saturday night.
The scooter-chucking clash at San Siro represents the first time in 61 years the two sides have met while top of Serie A, with Inter and Milan flying out of the traps with three wins from three. Both have score eight goals, with Inter at the summit by virtue of the fact they are yet to concede.
The Nerazzurri are going in search of a record fifth consecutive derby win, with Lautaro Martinez in lethal form with five goals already. English interest comes in the impressive shape of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who has started his Milan career with two assists in his first three games for the Rossoneri. Fikayo Tomori will watch from the sidelines due to suspension.