Friday, August 26, 2022

Week 4 Preview: Red Devils Look To Remain Hot Versus Saints; Manchester City Prepares For Eagles’ Landing; Table Leading Gunners and Undefeated Cottagers In London Derby; Newcastle Visits Tame Wolves; Top Six Clash When Brighton Hosts Leeds; Villa and West Ham Look To Turn Season

Manchester United fans set their eyes on the south coast as they look to determine whether last week’s trouncing of Liverpool by the Red Devils was a mirage. Manchester United looked organized, energetic and aggressive as Eric ten Hag made some key lineup changes to facilitate his desired style of play. Yet just as Manchester United is far too talented to have been so outclassed in its first two matches, it’s unlikely the club has turned on a dime and is now ready to be a force at the top end of the table. The answer is likely somewhere in between, and Saturday’s match versus Southampton may give some hint.

Southampton encouraged their own supporters by beating Leicester last week while fielding the youngest starting lineup by a Premier League club in five years. Newcastle was another club making a statement last week when the Magpies took a point from Manchester City.

Newcastle showed further ambition this week with the signing of Real Sociedad and Swedish international forward Alexander Isak. This week the Magpies travel to Wolverhampton as Wolves try to put an end to their ten-match league winless streak dating to last season. The anemic attack of Wolves has not scored a goal since the sixth minute of this season’s opening match.

Manchester City is home to a Crystal Palace side which looked dangerous in a 3-1 whipping of Aston Villa last week. The Eagles have held the Citizens without a goal over the last two meetings between the clubs which included a 2-0 win for Crystal Palace at the Etihad last October. Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola will not let his club take the Eagles lightly given that history and the dropped points by the Citizens versus Newcastle last week.

Liverpool continues its search for a maiden win this season when the Reds return to Anfield to face Bournemouth. Mohamed Salah’s performances have been fruitful versus the Cherries in the past. The Liverpool star has scored in each of the six Premier League matches he has played against Bournemouth, putting eight goals in total past the Cherries.

Two undefeated sides face off in a London derby as Fulham visits league leading Arsenal this weekend. Fulham registered its first win of the season last week after taking a point in each if its first two matches. Striker Aleksandar Mitrovic has three goals this season for the Cottagers. Arsenal have been the class of the league to date, winning all three of their matches while accumulating the best goal differential in the league. Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard each have scored two goals for the vibrant Gunners attack.

Chelsea, meanwhile, have three goals in total and none by a forward or midfield player but for a lone Jorginho penalty kick. The Blues are at Stamford Bridge on Saturday to face struggling Leicester. Leicester center back Wesley Fofana has been training separately from his teammates amid speculation that he’s headed to Chelsea in a transfer deal. Reports have circulated that Chelsea has already made three failed bids and plans a fourth attempt to secure the young defender. Leicester has a history of driving tough bargains as it fleeced Manchester United for the highest fee ever paid for a defender when the Foxes sold the contract of Harry Maguire some years back. Fofana is said to be anxious to move on from what appears a deteriorating situation at winless Leicester.

Two clubs that have surprised to the good so far are Brighton and Leeds who meet at the the Seagulls Amex Stadium on Saturday. Both Leeds and Brighton are undefeated after winning two of their opening three matches. Leeds has the league’s leading scorer in Rodrigo who has four goals for the club and the Whites have incorporated Red and Blue into their personality under American Manager Jesse Marsch and US Men’s team players Brendan Aaronson and Tyler Adams.

Brighton has shrugged off the loss of players such as Yves Bissouma and Marc Cucurella to burst from the gate this season under Manager Graham Potter.

Struggling clubs collide at Aston Villa Sunday when West Ham comes to town. Villa was able to defeat a bad Everton side but has lost by two goals to both Bournemouth and Crystal Palace as pressure mounts on Manager Steven Gerrard. West Ham occupies the table basement with no goals or points after three matches as the Hammers have hit a wall this season after two impressive seasons of European qualification. The club has added to its attack with transfers Gianluca Scamacca and Maxwel Cornet, but Manager David Moyes is only slowly integrating them into his plans.

Spurs try to maintain their top four position when Manager Antonio Conte takes his squad to Nottingham Forest. Harry Kane accounted for the tying and winning goal in their past two matches which were tougher battles than a season opening laugher over Southampton. Manager Antonio Conte hasn’t yet allotted substantial minutes to his transfer purchases, a situation likely to change as cup competitions ramp up. Nottingham Forest continues to be active in the transfer window. Striker Emmanuel Dennis and midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White were the latest acquisitions to debut for the team in the last week.

Brentford is reportedly receiving inquiries from several Premier League clubs regarding striker Ivan Toney. One of those clubs, along with far wealthier Manchester United and Chelsea, is Everton who will be visiting the Bees on Saturday. Everton are desperate for a striker solution to address a lack of threat due to the perpetual injury absence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and the move of Richarlison to Spurs this window. Whether the Toffees could mount a winning bid for Toney versus more deep pocketed rivals is questionable. Losing Toney would be a difficult blow for the Bees after Christian Eriksen’s departure earlier in the window.

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