Friday, September 29, 2023

Premier League Week 7 Preview

Liverpool visits Tottenham Hotspur for a clash of undefeated top four sides on Saturday as  second place Liverpool begins play two points above a rejuvenated Spurs side. Tottenham Hotspur Manager Ange Postecoglou has brought a sense of excitement to long suffering Spurs supporters despite the club saying goodbye to Harry Kane this last transfer window. The Australian manager’s high pressing philosophy will be put to the test, however, against the deadly forward line of Liverpool. The Reds are also vulnerable in defense so an entertaining shootout could well unfold. Mohamed Salah and James Maddison have orchestrated the attacks for their clubs, each registering a joint Premier League high four assists this season. Spurs’ Son Heung-min is second in the league with five goals, two more than the Reds’ Salah. Only three clubs have scored more than the 15 goals posted by both Spurs and the Reds this season.

The next best game of the weekend sees third place Brighton visiting sixth place Aston Villa. The Seagulls lead the Premier League in goals scored and have lost but once, a surprising 3-1 defeat at the hands of West Ham. Evan Ferguson’s four goals lead five Brighton players with two or more goals for the Seagulls. Aston Villa, meanwhile, has beaten four clubs in the bottom half of the table while looking vulnerable against better opponents in losses to Newcastle and Liverpool. The league performance of both Aston Villa and Brighton has been better than their cup adventures to date. Both lost their opening European matches and were bounced in the third round of the Carabao Cup this week. A victory on Saturday would put Villa, which has won its last nine home matches, level on points with Brighton.

League leading Manchester City travels to Wolverhampton on Saturday looking to remain perfect with a seventh victory of the season. The chances of that happening are quite good because Wolverhampton struggles to score goals. In fact, Manchester City striker Erling Haaland has scored two more goals than the entire Wolves team. It will be difficult for Manager Gary O’Neil’s side to close that scoring gap against a Manchester City defense which has conceded a league low three goals this season.

At least O’Neil has won a game this season, which is more than can be said for the man who replaced him at Bournemouth, Andoni Iraola. Bournemouth is unlikely to deliver that first win when Arsenal visits on Saturday. The Cherries have won but once in 14 meetings with Arsenal over the years and the Gunners are currently unbeaten in seven Premier League matches dating to last season. Bournemouth, meanwhile, is in the company of the three clubs in the relegation places as the only winless wonders this season. A lengthy injury list for Arsenal - which includes Declan Rice, Leandro Trossard and Gabriel Martinelli among others - provides a puncher’s chance for the Cherries.

West Ham will look to get back on track when it hosts Sheffield United at London Stadium, The Hammers have dropped back-to-back matches to fall from fourth to seventh in the table. This week, however, they face winless Sheffield United which was shellacked 8-0 by Newcastle last week and are bottom of the table by virtue of goal differential under embattled manager Paul Heckingbottom. Only Sheffield United has conceded more goals than Burnley and Saturday the Clarets must visit the executioners who put the Blades to the sword last week.

Newcastle returns home to face Burnley riding the high of last week’s destruction of Sheffield United and a midweek Carabao Cup win over Manchester City, a third consecutive win across all competitions.

Manchester United, in a scheduling oddity, will face Crystal Palace for a second time in the past week at Old Trafford. The Red Devils downed the Eagles  3-0 in a Tuesday Carabao Cup match. Sofyan Amrabat made an impressive first start for Manchester United in an unaccustomed left back role. The defensive midfielder is covering for injuries in the Red Devils' back line. Tenth place Crystal Palace are just a point behind the Red Devils in the table but will again struggle to find the net without injured striker Odsonne Edouard.

Fulham is currently level on points with Crystal Palace as they host a London derby versus Chelsea. Fourteenth place Chelsea will hope to build some momentum from Wednesday’s Carabao Cup win over Brighton but won’t be helped by the absence of Wednesday’s goal scorer Nicolas Jackson who is suspended for Monday’s league match due to accumulated yellow cards. Fulham have only beaten Chelsea twice in 32 Premier League meetings between the clubs but this is not the same Chelsea which tormented the Cottagers over the years.

Everton is on a two-match win streak after the Toffees followed up last week’s first win in the league with a mid-week Carabao Cup victory over Aston Villa. The Toffees should have a great chance of extending that run when bottom of the table Luton Town visits Goodison Park. The return of Dominic Calvert-Lewin has had an immediate impact for Everton with the striker scoring in each of the two recent Toffee wins. Luton Town, meanwhile, has scored a league low three goals while only Wolverhampton has conceded more than the 11 goals allowed by the Hatters. Nottingham Forest is home to Brentford in a matchup of two mid-table clubs. The Tricky Trees are normally formidable at the City Ground, unbeaten in six home matches dating to last season, though a draw with newly promoted Burnley in their last home match was a disappointment. Meanwhile, Brentford’s midweek loss to Arsenal in the Carabao Cup marked a fifth consecutive winless outing for the Bees. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Premier League Week 6 Results: North London Draw; Liverpool Goes Second With Win Over Hammers; Brighton Beats Bournemouth On Mitoma Brace; 10 Man Manchester City Defeats Forest; Newcastle Shreds Sheffield United; Everton Shocks Brentford; Fernandez Lifts United

Son Heung-min scored twice as Tottenham Hotspur overcame errors by center back Cristian Romero to capture a point in a 2-2 final at rival Arsenal in north London. Spurs came back twice to frustrate the Gunners as both clubs remained undefeated but dropped points in their chase of league leading Manchester City. A Romero own goal, on a deflection of a Bukayo Saka shot, gave Arsenal an early lead at the 26-minute mark. Son then sent the clubs to the locker rooms knotted at a goal apiece when he found himself on the end of a cross from James Maddison just before halftime. Romero would once again help Arsenal move ahead when his handball resulted in a successful Saka penalty kick for a 2-1 Gunner advantage. Just a minute later, however, Maddison would dispossess Arsenal’s Jorginho and find Son a second time. Son’s second goal of the match, his fifth in his last two appearances, gave the South Korean 150 goals for his Tottenham Hotspur career.

The unfortunate Jorginho was substituting for an injured Declan Rice whose departure at halftime factored into Sunday’s outcome. Arsenal goalkeeper David Raya, meanwhile, conceded his first goals for the club to heighten the selection drama surrounding him and Aaron Ramsdale.

Liverpool jumped over Spurs into second position in the table with its 3-1 win over West Ham. Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez each scored their third league goals of the season as the Reds scored three goals for a fourth consecutive match across all competitions. Salah’s penalty kick opened the match’s scoring while Nunez took back the lead after Jarrod Bowne equalized for the Hammers. Diogo Jota closed out the scoring for Liverpool. The Reds fifth straight Premier League victory left them two points behind Manchester City’s perfect record. A second consecutive loss, meanwhile, dropped the Hammers to seventh in the table. West Ham Manager David Moyes lost to Liverpool for the 24th time in the Premier League, the joint highest loss total against one club in league history.

Brighton moved to third in the table as the Seagulls, recovering from a mid-week loss in their first ever European match, defeated Bournemouth 3-1 on Sunday. Brighton began sluggishly as a goal by Bournemouth’s Dominik Solanke and an own goal by his teammate, Milos Kerkez, left the clubs level after a half of play. Brighton’s Kaoru Mitoma changed the game, however, scoring just one minute after entering the match as a second half substitute. The Japanese international would add a second goal in the 77th minute to put away the Cherries.

Manchester City went down to 10 men in the 46th minute but kept Nottingham Forest scoreless in a 2-0 win at the Etihad. Goals by Phil Foden and Erling Haaland in the first fifteen minutes had the league leaders in command before a moment of madness by Rodri saw the Brazilian booted for putting his hands around the neck of Forest’s Morgan Gibbs-White. After going down a man, Manchester City then successfully focused on defending and frustrating the Tricky Trees. City have conceded just three goals in their six victories this season. At the same time, only Brighton have scored more than the Citizens’ 16 goals, half of which belong to Golden Boot leader Haaland.

Newcastle also has 16 goals for the season after smashing Sheffield United in an 8-0 final scoreline. Eight different players scored for the Magpies, the first ever such occurrence in a Premier League match. The goal explosion was shocking for a Newcastle side which had not scored more than a single goal in its previous four league matches and ground out a scoreless draw in Champions League play during the week. The pressure now mounts further on Sheffield United Manager Paul Heckingbottom amid already existent rumors that ownership might replace him with former Blades manger Chris Wilder.

Newcastle’s win kept it level on points with Manchester United, both clubs sitting five points outside the top four. The Red Devils limped to a 1-0 win over newly promoted Burnley with Bruno Fernandes scoring the winner in the 45th minute. Injuries to several defenders gave Jonny Evans his first start for Manchester United since 2015 and the 35-year-old responded. Evans had a goal chalked off by VAR before then assisting on Fernadez’s winner. The defender also contributed to a clean sheet which ended a run of three matches across all competitions where the Red Devils conceded three or more goals. Burnley remains rooted in the relegation zone with Sheffield United and the third newly promoted squad, Luton Town.

The Hatters posted their first point of the season in a 1-1 draw with Wolverhampton. A controversial handball decision led to a winning Luton penalty kick as the Hatters earned their first ever Premier League point at Kenilworth Road. The dropped points could come back to bite Wolves who are currently three points above the drop zone.

Everton are level on points with Wolverhampton after the Toffees shocked Brentford 3-1. Manager Sean Dyche unleashed the hounds as the Toffees emerged from their usual defensive shell to sting the Bees after just six minutes on a goal by Abdoulaye Doucoure. The Bees would level later in the half before the Toffees stuck twice in the second half to notch their first win of the season. The oft injured Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored Everton’s third goal in his 250th appearance for the club. Calvert-Lewin’s return enhances the goal threat for a Toffee side which suddenly has some creativity being provided by players such as Doucoure, transfer signing Beto and central midfielder James Garner, a former Manchester United academy player who assisted on Calvert Lewin’s goal. A second consecutive loss and a four-match winless run leaves Brentford just two points above Everton in the table.

Sitting between Brentford and Everton, 14th in the table, is Chelsea after the Blues fell at home on Sunday 1-0 to Aston Villa. Ollie Watkins provided the winning goal in the 73rd minute after his side gained a man advantage following a red card assessed to Chelsea’s Malo Gusto fifteen minutes earlier. Gusto will miss the next three matches for Chelsea and Chelsea striker Nicolas Jackson will miss the club’s next match for accumulated yellow cards, all for dissent. Things continue to go poorly for owner Todd Boehly’s project as his expensively purchased play pieces failed to score for a third consecutive match as the club matched its worst start to a season since 1978. Only Luton Town and Burnley have found the net fewer times than Chelsea.

Aston Villa, meanwhile, rebounded nicely from a mid-week Europa Conference League loss in Poland. The Villans’ fourth win in their six Premier League matches puts them sixth in the table, just two points off the top four.

In perhaps the most inconsequential match of the weekend, mid-table clubs Crystal Palace and Fulham played to a goalless draw, leaving the two London clubs level on points and 10th and 11th in the table, respectively.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Premier League Week 6 Preview

Sunday’s London derby at the Emirates between Arsenal and Spurs takes top billing this weekend. Both rivals are undefeated in the Premier League this season. Spurs is undergoing a renaissance under the new management of Ange Postecoglou. Arsenal is trying to retool for another title bid after last season’s success fell short in the end. Declan Rice has been a hit for the Gunners, Kai Havertz not so much. Currently there is also a goalkeeper controversy at the Emirates with former Brentford goalkeeper David Raya acquired to compete with and potentially replace Aaron Ramsdale. Postecoglou, meanwhile, has instituted a more attacking style which has so far compensated for the departure of Harry Kane and his consistent goal production. Son Heung-min seems re-energized, James Maddison has proved a valuable addition and Richarlison could be heating up. After a miserable start to the season, the Brazilian forward scored and assisted in last week’s dramatic win over Sheffield United.

Undefeated Liverpool is level on points with Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur as the Reds prepare to host a West Ham side which was humbled by Manchester City last week. The Hammers lost for the first time this season but were clearly outclassed by the Citizens in a 3-1 defeat. Despite that setback, the Hammers will likely once again employ the low block defense which has seen West Ham prevail three times in the league this season, including an impressive defeat of Brighton, the Premier League’s highest scoring club this season. The formidable West Ham defense, however, will be severely challenged for a second consecutive week as it faces a Liverpool attack with a host of attacking options headlined by star Mohamed Salah. Darwin Nunez, Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota are other forward threats which the Hammers must deal with while a new and improved Liverpool midfield has kindled optimism that the Reds could mount another title bid after a disappointing 2022/23 season.

It could be a difficult environment at Stamford Bridge should Chelsea not show improvement when the Blues host Aston Villa on Sunday.

Manager Mauricio Pochettino was critical of Chelsea supporters and their lack of patience after the club’s listless draw last weekend at Bournemouth. The former Tottenham Hotspur manager likely just added fuel to the fire as supporters are unimpressed with the on-field results of the club’s lavish spending spree on young and largely unproven talent. Supporter angst might be mitigated if just one of the many players purchased in the past year would step up and validate their purchase price. Only Everton, excluding relegated and newly promoted clubs, has picked up fewer Premier League points than Chelsea in calendar year 2023. Meanwhile, only Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool have more points than Sunday’s opponent Villa during that same period.

Manchester City seeks a sixth consecutive league victory when the Citizens host Nottingham Forest on Saturday. Forest seems to have the potential of a mid-table club versus relegation straggler but endured a disappointing home draw to previously pointless Burnley last week. Callum Hudson-Odoi scored his first goal for Forest in that match and Taiwo Awoniyi and former Manchester United forward Anthony Elanga add additional threat for the Tricky Trees. Manchester City, however, are a different talent level altogether and should do some tree chopping on Saturday.

Burnley will seek to build on its solitary Premier League point when the Clarets welcome Manchester United to Turf Moor. The match couldn’t have come at a better time for Burnley as their opponent is racked with issues. Manchester United’s difficult season, which has seen three league losses already, has been marked by injuries and unusual player leaves of absence as Eric ten Hag tries to hold it all together. A reported but-up among four frustrated players in the dressing room following last week’s loss to Brighton only heightened the crisis atmosphere for the Red Devils.

Brighton has won four of five matches this season as they face a Bournemouth side on Sunday looking to notch a first Premier League win for new manager Andoni Iraola. The Seagulls present a difficult matchup, but Iraola desperately needs to show some results to appease ambitious American owner Bill Foley.

Another manager rumored to be on the hot seat is Sheffield United’s Paul Heckingbottom. The Blades have shown a distressing tendency towards late game collapses as they continue to search for their first win of the season. Sheffield United gets another try this weekend when it hosts Newcastle United. The Magpies have won five of the last six contests between the clubs.

Brentford will try to rebound from its loss at Newcastle last week when the Bees return home to face Everton. It should be a pleasant homecoming against one of the league’s poorest clubs in the Toffees. Everton has just a single point this season, earned in a draw with struggling Sheffield United where the Toffees scored their only two goals of the season.

Bottom of the table Luton Town will try to add to its own paltry two goals for the season when the Hatters host Wolverhampton. Both clubs are early entrants to the relegation discussion. Wolverhampton have lost four of five matches under former Bournemouth manager Gary O’Neil, defeating only woeful Everton.

Crystal Palace will try to regroup at home versus Fulham after conceding three late goals to lose at Aston Villa last week. Injured center back Marc Guehi was sorely missed in the late defensive failure against Villa and his questionable return could be key to the Eagles’ prospects this week. Fulham, however, has its own defensive problems. Only Wolverhampton and Burnley have conceded more often than O’Neil’s squad.

Premier League in Europe

Newcastle parked the bus to accomplish a goalless draw in its Champions League match with AC Milan at the San Siro. The Magpies did not have a shot on target until stoppage time but played tenacious defense and received some key saves from goalkeeper Nick Pope to come away with a result in their first taste of European nights in 20 years. Rafael Leao was the danger man for AC Milan but failed to convert the best two chances for the Italian side against the Newcastle defense. Newcastle’s Pope registered a second consecutive clean sheet after blanking Brentford in league action his last time out.

Manchester City dominated first half play but found itself down 1-0 at the break after a 45th minute goal by Red Star Belgrade. Suitably awakened, the Citizens rolled in the second half, Julian Alvarez scoring the first of his two goals on the night just two minutes into the second stanza. Alavarez would convert again in the 60th minute and Rodri would score the third goal for Manchester City in a match where the scoreline probably flattered their opponent. Manchester City had 37 shots, 16 of them on target versus 3 and 2, respectively, for the Serbian side.

A howler from Manchester United goalkeeper Andre Onana opened the door to Bayern Munich’s 4-3 victory over the Red Devils. Onana muffed a shot by former Manchester City player Leroy Sane to give the German side its first lead. Two late goals by Casemiro twice brought the Red Devils back within a goal but it proved a matter of too little, too late. Striker Rasmus Hojlund scored his first goal for Manchester United while Harry Kane, who many once thought would be playing that position for United this season, buried a penalty kick for the Germans.

Arsenal, meanwhile, ran amok over visiting Dutch side PSV in a 4-0 final at the Emirates. Four different players scored for the Gunners whose three first half goals gave Manger Mikel Arteta the opportunity to rest players for this weekend’s north London derby. David Raya made a second consecutive start, both clean sheets, between the sticks for Arsenal as the future of fellow goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale becomes cloudier.

Surprise losers in Thursday matches were Brighton and Aston Villa. The Seagulls stumbled in their first ever European match as they lost 3-2 to AEK Athens in the Europa League. Joao Pedro twice brought Brighton back to level with the Greek side before Athens scored the game winner in the 84th minute. Both Pedro goals came on penalty kicks for a Brighton side which generated little from the run of play despite controlling 75% of possession. The injury absence of Brighton defender Lewis Dunk contributed to a poor defensive effort on a tough day for the Seagulls.

Aston Villa’s 3-2 Europa Conference League defeat at Legia Warsaw was even more surprising as Manager Unai Emery’s Premier League side entered the match as a favorite to win the tournament that West Ham won last season. Overconfidence could well have played a part in Villa’s poor start to this year’s tournament.

West Ham and Liverpool meanwhile, both took care of business by posting comeback wins in their Europa League matches. The Hammers overcame a nervy moment when Backa Topola scored the opening goal before West Ham recovered to beat their Serbian opponent 3-1. The visitors scored the opener when a West Ham defensive error in their own end conceded possession and a breakaway goal. The Serbians gave back the advantage on an own goal before former Ajax player Mohammed Kudus scored his first goal for West Ham to put his new side in the lead. Tomas Soucek provided the Hammers’ insurance goal.

Liverpool also spotted their opponent LASK an early goal before unleashing their own attack. Darwin Nunez, Luis Diaz and Mohamed Salah scored second half goals in front of the roaring Anfield faithful to complete a 3-1 defeat of their Austrian opponents.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Premier League in Europe

Champions League commences on Tuesday with Newcastle visiting the historic San Siro for its opening match with AC Milan. The Magpies got a much-needed win over the weekend to snap a three match Premier League losing run and now return to Champions League competition for the first time in 20 years. The group draws were not favorable for Newcastle as not only AC Milan, but French Champions PSG and Germany's Borussia Dortmund will be vying with the Magpies for the two automatic qualifying spots for the next round. AC Milan will be highly motivated on Tuesday to recover from a weekend Serie A thrashing at San Siro at the hands of arch-rival Inter-Milan. AC Milan employs a host of former Chelsea players in Christian Pulisic, Olivier Giroud, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Fikayo Tomori while Newcastle’s Sandro Tonali returns to the San Siro to face his former club.

The other Premier League club in action on Tuesday is defending Champions League titlist Manchester City which is home to Serbian club Red Star Belgrade.

Reeling Manchester United, meanwhile, heads to Germany to face Bayern Munich and Harry Kane on Wednesday. The Red Devils are battling problems and controversies on and off the pitch as they face the German champions.

Arsenal is in much better form, undefeated in the Premier League, and gets to stay home Wednesday when the Gunners host Eredivisie side PSV. The Dutch side, however, is also playing well, leading its domestic table after winning all four of its league matches this season.

Europa League takes center stage on Thursday with three Premier League clubs in action. Liverpool travels to Austria to face LASK, Brighton begins its first European competition by hosting AEK Athens and West Ham is host to Serbian SuperLiga side Backa Topola. The Hammers are automatic qualifiers for this year’s competition by virtue of having won the Europa Conference League last season despite their poor league finish. Aston Villa is the Premier League’s representative to this year’s Europa Conference League competition and the Villans begin group play Thursday at Polish side Legia.

Premier League Week 5 Results: Manchester City Stays Perfect; Spurs Use Extra Time To Cut Down Blades; Seagulls Bombard Troubled United; Liverpool Slay Wolves; Arsenal Edges Everton; Villa Grounds Eagles With Late Goals

Manchester City spotted West Ham an early lead before the Citizens scored three second half goals to remain unbeaten and untied on the season. James Ward-Prowse had put West Ham in front and the Citizens were being frustrated early on by West Ham’s low block defense and some outstanding goalkeeper play by Alphonse Areola. The comeback started when Jeremy Doku scored his first goal as a Manchester City player less than a minute into the second half. Bernardo Silva put City ahead at the 76-minute mark and 10 minutes later Erling Haaland scored his league leading seventh goal of the season. Manchester City remained top of the table with their fifth win in as many matches. West Ham, meanwhile, suffered its first loss of the season against two wins and a draw.

Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur also delivered comeback victories to remain undefeated, two points behind Manchester City. Wolverhampton’s Hwang Hee-Chan stunned Liverpool with a goal just seven minutes into the clubs’ match at Molineux Stadium. It wasn’t until the second half that the Liverpool attack began to flash. Mohamed Salah assisted Cody Gakpo’s equalizer and then found Andy Robertson who deposited the matchwinner into the net in the 85th minute. Wolverhampton, which failed to put a shot on the correct target in the second half, was victimized by an own goal in stoppage time to end matters.

Tottenham Hotspur stayed undefeated with late drama in north London. Spurs were surprisingly on the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline with newly promoted Sheffield United at the end of regulation time. Eight minutes into stoppage, a Richarlison goal breathed life into his side.

Two minutes later, the Brazilian striker would assist the winner by Dejan Kulusevski. The 98th minute goal was the latest winning comeback in Premier League history and continues a fairy tale start to Manager Ange Postecoglou’s Premier League career. The Australian was named Premier League Manager of the Month for August and has won both of his September matches to continue a four-match winning run. Sheffield United Manager Paul Heckingbottom, meanwhile, can only bemoan another near miss as all four of the Blades’ losses this season have been by a single goal, the last three defeats coming in the 88th minute or later.

Brighton heaped further misery on Manchester United when the Seagulls soared to a 3-1 victory at Old Trafford. Brighton leads the league in goalscoring, and a porous Manchester United defense was no match for the Seagulls. Saturday’s loss marked a fourth consecutive match in which the Red Devils conceded more than one goal, an undesirable feat which hadn’t been accomplished by the club since 1979. United has also lost three times in its opening five matches for the first time since 1989. Brighton has now won their last four league matches against the Red Devils and are currently fifth in the Premier League table after winning four of five matches this season. The Seagulls will also play their first ever European match this week, hosting AEK Athens in the Europa League.

Aston Villa moved up the table, to seventh position, with a thrilling 3-1 win over Crystal Palace. In yet another Saturday comeback in the Premier League, Villa was losing by a goal after 86 minutes of play against the Eagles. Jhon Duran would knot matters before regulation time ended and a controversial penalty kick would give the Villans the lead eight minutes into stoppage time. A 111th minute goal by Leon Bailey would then remove all doubt. Crystal Palace Manager Roy Hodgson, who became ill before the match, was absent as his Eagles crash landed.

Arsenal eked out a 1-0 victory over Everton in Sunday’s late match. Leandro Trossard scored the only goal of the match in the 69th minute as the Gunners remained two points behind Manchester City and level on 13 points with Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool. Trossard was deputizing for Gabriel Martinelli who was forced off in the first half with a hamstring injury. David Raya, meanwhile, kept a clean sheet in his goalkeeping debut for Arsenal as Everton has now harvested just two goals from five matches, both of those goals coming in a 2-2 draw with Sheffield United.

Luton Town have also scored just twice but have played only four matches, all losses, after the Hatters’ 1-0 defeat on Saturday at Fulham. Carlos Vinicius scored the winner for a Cottagers side which has scored just a goal or less in four of its five matches, managing to win two of those contests, as the club navigates life after the departure of striker Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Newcastle, another former club of Mitrovic’s, ended a three-match losing run with a 1-0 victory over Brentford. It was a close affair with the Magpies earning the victory on Callum Wilson’s penalty kick after Anthony Gordon was taken down by Brentford goalkeeper Mark Flecken. Wilson is unerringly accurate from the spot, converting on his last 11 penalty kicks taken. Brentford lost for the first time in its last eight league matches dating to last season.

Chelsea continued to spin its wheels in a goalless draw at Bournemouth. Both clubs failed to convert opportunities and both goalkeepers played well. Chelsea was held scoreless for a second consecutive match and has just one win, over basement dweller Luton Town, this season. Bournemouth Manager Andoni Iraola continues to search for his Premier League win.

Burnley’s Vincent Kompany can celebrate his first point as a Premier League manager after his Clarets drew 1-1 at Nottingham Forest. The Clarets defeated the Tricky Trees in August at the City Ground in Carabao Cup play and Forest Manager Steve Cooper cannot be happy with his club failing to come away with a victory from two home matches with Burnley. Forest was perhaps fortunate not to lose this second meeting. After former Chelsea player Callum Hudson-Odoi had knotted matters in the second half with his first goal for Nottingham Forest, Lyle Foster looked to have given Burnley a late win but was deprived by a VAR ruling of a handball in the buildup.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Premier League Week 5 Preview

The Premier League returns from international break this weekend with the Champions League set to follow just a few days later. The defending Premier League and Champions League titlist, Manchester City, travels to London Stadium Saturday to take on West Ham. The Hammers are a top four club right now, based on a better goal differential than Arsenal. West Ham has collected ten points after four matches, its best start since 1999/2000 and newcomers James Ward-Prowse and Edson Alvarez seem particularly shrewd transfer additions as the club reinvests after the sale of former star Declan Rice. Expect Manager David Moyes to have his charges concede the vast amount of possession and look for the counter strike opportunity, an unappealing but successful strategy to date for the London club. Manchester City, of course, are perfect on the season despite the transfer losses of Ilkay Gundogan and Riyadh Mahrez and the long-term injury sustained by Kevin De Bruyne. Phil Foden and Julian Alvarez have stepped up into increased roles with the club while Erling Haaland once again leads the league in goalscoring with six tallies to date.

Liverpool is also in the top four as they travel to Wolverhampton for Saturday’s early match on the weekend schedule. A rebuilt Liverpool midfield could see another new face as Ryan Gravenberch, a transfer deadline day purchase from Bayern Munich, could make his debut. Gravenberch joins Alexis Mac Allister, Dominik Szoboszlai and Wataru Endo as new midfield additions this season for the Reds.

A suspended Virgil Van Dijk and an injured Trent Alexander-Arnold will be missing this week from the Liverpool defense that has conceded the second fewest goals in the league. Their absences may not matter, however, against a Wolverhampton side which has fewer goals to date than all but the clubs currently in the relegation places. Toothless Wolves scored the fewest goals in the league last season and could contend for that nefarious distinction once again.

Sheffield United, meanwhile, has scored no more goals than Wolves this season and the newly promoted Blades have scratched out just a single league point. They are unlikely to add to that total on Saturday when they face a Tottenham Hotspur side which is thriving under new Manager Ange Postecoglou. A victory on Saturday would mark the best league start for a Spurs squad since the 1965/66 season. Only Brighton has scored more goals than Spurs who sit behind only Manchester City in the table and whose 11 goals match those put in the net by the Citizens. Supporters have applauded the aggressive attacking style of Postecoglou’s club, a marked contrast to former defensive minded mangers Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho. The style creates some defensive vulnerability but that’s unlikely to be a worry against the blunt Blades attack.

Brighton is just a point outside the top four as the Seagulls head to Old Trafford to face “Team Chaos” this weekend. Manchester United has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Antony is on  a leave of absence after abuse allegations were leveled against the Brazilian winger. Jaedon Sancho, a potential replacement in the lineup for Antony, is off training by himself after a heated dispute with Manager Eric ten Hag. Meanwhile, injuries on the back line could see Harry Maguire back on the pitch for ten Hag. The Seagulls will be ready to swoop as Manager Roberto De Zerbi’s club has continued its fine form last season despite key transfer losses such as midfielders Alexis Mac Allister and Moises Caicedo. Brighton’s league leading 12 goals includes 4 by 18-year-old sensation Evan Ferguson who could be a question mark Saturday after a minor knee knock while on international duty with Ireland. On loan Barcelona forward Ansu Fati could be a reasonable backup plan should he make his club debut at Old Trafford. Brighton has defeated Manchester United in their last three league meetings though they tripped up in the FA Cup semifinals against the Red Devils last May.

Arsenal will be on guard for a shock outcome when the Gunners travel to Goodison Park to face Everton Sunday. The Toffees defeated the Gunners at Goodison in Sean Dyche’s debut as Everton Manager last season and have not won at the home of the Toffees since 2017. The case remains, however, that Arsenal is very good, and Everton is very bad. The Gunners are yet to lose while Everton is yet to win this season. Arsenal does have some injury concerns with Thomas Partey likely out for a month with a thigh problem. Midfielder Partey had been seeing some minutes in defense deputizing for the injured Jurrien Timber. Gabriel Jesus, however, has returned from injury to enhance the Gunner attack. Everton received some hope for the future this week with the announcement of the club’s purchase, pending league approval, by American firm 777 Partners. While the proposed new owners already own several other football clubs across the globe, there are some skeletons in the closet, such as unproven past allegations of fraud, which could complicate the approval process. On the pitch, Everton are facing a third consecutive season of fighting against relegation with a below quality roster.

Crystal Palace is a surprising seventh in the table despite having said goodbye to club legend Wilfried Zaha in the transfer window and having played to date without injured winger Michael Olise. Striker Odsonne Edouard has found the net three times for the Eagles, Eberechi Eze has been a creative force in midfield, and only Manchester City and Liverpool have allowed fewer goals than Crystal Palace. Defender Marc Guehi could possibly miss Saturday’s match versus Aston Villa, however, after suffering a knock while on duty with England. Aston Villa are one of the more difficult Premier League clubs to evaluate on results so far. Manager Unai Emery’s men have drubbed relegation battlers Everton and Burnley but have themselves been thumped by an aggregate 8-1 margin in losses to Newcastle and Liverpool. The Crystal Palace test will help measure the quality of the Villans who will be looking to extend a current nine match home win streak across all competitions.

The “Dukes of Draws” will face each other at St. James Park when Brentford visits Newcastle. The two clubs failed to reach a decision in a joint league high of 14 matches last season. The Bees have continued that trend this season with three draws in their four matches to date. Newcastle Manager Eddie Howe should be so lucky. His side has underperformed expectations in three consecutive losses. Newcastle scored only two goals across those three losses after an opening weekend 5-1 defeat of Aston Villa. Bryan Mbeumo has four goals for Brentford to help compensate for the absence of suspended striker Ivan Toney.

Striker Taiwo Awoniyi, meanwhile, has either scored or assisted in each of his last eight Premier League matches for Nottingham Forest and the Tricky Trees are in the top half of the table after winning two of their matches this season. Forest will be trying to win a fifth consecutive match at home when Burnley visits the City Ground on Monday. Burnley are yet to win and have conceded a league high 11 goals despite having played only three matches so far. The Clarets on Monday could become only the second Premier League side to concede at least three goals in each of their first four matches of a season.

Fulham have been leaking goals at almost the same pace as Burnley, allowing 10 goals in its four matches. The Cottagers host Luton Town on Saturday. The Hatters have conceded nine goals in three matches and are the only club beside Burnley not to earn a point this season. Fulham midfielder Palhinha signed a new contract with the Cottagers this week after his deadline day transfer to Bayern Munich collapsed. Raul Jiminez hasn’t scored in his last 27 Premier League appearances but perhaps there is hope after the Fulham striker scored three goals for Mexico during the international break.

Chelsea will be trying to win for just the third time in 17 Premier League matches when the Blues travel to Bournemouth on Sunday. That could prove possible against a Cherries side which has taken only two points from its last eight league matches. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Bedeviling Times At Manchester United

The leave of absence by Manchester United winger Antony adds to the questions surrounding Erik ten Hag’s project at Manchester United. Last year, Ten Hag overcame early controversy surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo and a bumpy start in the league to deliver a successful Premier League debut for the former Ajax manager. Manchester United not only secured Champions League football with a third-place finish in the league but also added more silverware to the club’s trophy case with an FA Cup win. Ten Hag gained in stature with his tough stance on Cristiano, who would depart the club, and for his benching of club captain Harry Maguire.

Ten Hag’s influence was reflected in the purchase of some of his former players from Ajax. Center back Lisandro Martinez was acquired to take Maguire’s place in the lineup. Brazilian winger Antony was expected to add energy to the club’s attack. Unfortunately, Antony will be taking a leave of absence from the team amid accusations of abuse against women in both Brazil and Manchester. The Antony situation follows the recent loan of Mason Greenwood to Getafe after also being the subject of abuse allegations. Greenwood was suspended by the club in 2022 before ten Hag’s arrival. The Dutch manager, however, was subject to the recent criticism of the club’s clumsy handling of the Greenwood situation. Reportedly, ten Hag and others at the club were prepared to restore the talented youngster to the roster after criminal charges were dropped. Uproar from supporters, however, forced the club to change its stance and ship Greenwood to the Spanish league. Ten Hag is liable for more direct criticism if the allegations against Antony prove true as the manager would have been expected to be familiar with the character of his former player.

The Antony situation comes just as another off-field controversy envelops the manager. Failed winger Jaden Sancho has openly questioned ten Hag’s honesty on social media and talks between player and manager are expected this week regarding the player’s future. Ten Hag is surely to feel additional betrayal as he has shown patience with Sancho in the past, allowing the former Borussia Dortmund star to train away from the club in the Netherlands last season until fitness problems were addressed. Sancho scored only 12 goals over his first two Premier League seasons after scoring 36 in his last two years at Dortmund.

The off-field challenges come amidst another difficult start in the league. Manchester United has already lost matches to Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur and the club is sitting outside the top half of the table after four matches. The club’s acquisition of Mason Mount is not looking good. Ten Hag was playing Mount in an unfamiliar deep lying position and the experiment was failing badly before injury sidelined the former Chelsea player. Moroccan international Sofyan Amrabat was acquired in a deadline day loan deal to help address the midfield problem. Hopefully, Amrabat can align alongside Casemiro to provide adequate cover for the Manchester United back line. Scott McTominay, meanwhile, has been starring for Scotland but strangely is not viewed by Ten Hag as a solution to his defensive midfield problems.

Ten Hag’s line up concerns do not stop with the midfield, however. The backline in front of new goalkeeper Andre Onana has been ravaged by injury. Both Luke Shaw and backup left back Tyrell Malacia are hurt, leading to an emergency loan deal at the deadline for Sergio Reguilon, a below average performer for Spurs. Injuries to center backs Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez have seen Maguire return to the mix with both he and former center back partner Victor Lindelof getting minutes in recent matches. The club has also employed 35-year-old defender Jonny Evans at times as an emergency stop gap.

Problems in attack have also contributed to a negative goal differential this season for a Manchester United side which has scored five goals against seven conceded. All top six clubs in the table have scored at least three more goals than Manchester United. Marcus Rashford is the only Red Devil forward to score this season. With the questions now surrounding wingers Antony and Sancho, perhaps ten Hag can rethink his deployment of Mason Mount and put him where he is more comfortable in a more forward position. The jury is understandably out on young striker Rasmus Hojlund whose debut with the Red Devils was delayed by a back injury. Questions need to be asked, however. The striker position was a clear need for the club this offseason. Rather than acquiring a proven performer, the club bet on the potential of a 20-year-old who scored nine goals in Serie A for Atalanta last year.

As ten Hag works to find solutions on the pitch, and player controversies make off the field news, there is yet another issue adding to consternation for Manchester United supporters. The Glazer family, hugely unpopular with the faithful, continue to tease with the potential sale of the club. Plans to explore that option were first disclosed last November. In the meantime, however, bedeviled Manchester United supporters must put their trust in Eric ten Hag if the club’s problems are to be solved in the short term. Not all supporters might be comfortable with that prospect.

Friday, September 8, 2023

England Versus Ukraine Storylines

The Premier League is on pause for international break with Euro Qualification matches front and center. England’s Premier League all-star team, plus current La Liga star Jude Bellingham, takes on Ukraine Saturday in a group qualification match. Manager Gareth Southgate has the England team positioned at the top of their group with victories in their first four matches. Despite the success, Southgate drew criticism with some of his squad selections for the Ukraine match and next week’s contest in Scotland.

Manchester United center back Harry Maguire keeps his place on the national team despite his diminished status and minutes for the Red Devils. But for a recent spate of injuries to teammates, Maguire would be unlikely to arise from the Manchester United bench. The former club captain declined opportunities to move on during the recent transfer window due to complications surrounding his disproportionately massive salary. Another league benchwarmer selected by Southgate is Kalvin Phillips. The defensive midfielder, who starred for Leeds a few seasons back, has seen only a six-minute substitute appearance for Manchester City this season. Last season was the same story as Phillips isn’t good enough to crack Manager Pep Guardiola’s lineup which boasts the stellar Rodri in Phillips’ position. Southgate, however, has little choice due to the dearth of English players who can fill the role protecting England’s back line. Jordan Hendersen, now of the Saudi Pro League after seeing a diminished role at Liverpool, is another such midfielder who Southgate seemingly can’t do without.

The England manager, however, is also giving opportunities and expanded roles to other players with this latest version of England. Creative midfielder James Maddison, a key cog at revitalized Tottenham Hotspur, could be a key player for Southgate. Maddison has two goals and two assists in his four league matches and will be anxious to impress Southgate after the England midfielder missed out on the World Cup due to a knee injury. Twenty-three-year-old Crystal Palace defender Marc Guehi is a potential candidate to displace Maguire alongside Manchester City’s John Stones when England travels to Germany for next summer’s Euros. Stones is currently sidelined by injury, opening up minutes for some other defenders during the upcoming two matches. Twenty-year-old defender Levi Colwill has received his first call-up for England after starring for the Euro 21 campions and playing every minute for Chelsea this season.

Another player making the squad for the first time is Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah who has bagged two Premier League goals for the London club this season. Yet another young player to watch is Crystal Palace’s Eberechi Eze who makes his second England squad. The attacking midfielder has moved out from under the shadow of the now departed Wilfried Zaha at Crystal Palace this season.

A player from outside the Premier League could be the most exciting player on this England squad. Jude Bellingham already has five goals and an assist in his four matches for Real Madrid after his transfer from Borussia Dortmund. A far less successful transfer has been Chelsea’ acquisition of Mykhailo Mudryk. Acquired last January, the Ukrainian is yet to register a goal or assist for the Blues. A good performance Saturday against many of the players he’ll face in the Premier League would do wonders for his shaken confidence.

Arsenal’s Oleksandr Zinchenko is also part of the Ukraine squad as is former West Ham forward Andrij Yarmolenko. Saturday’s match, technically a home contest for Ukraine, will be played in Poland due to the ongoing war. Ukraine sits second in the qualifying group, having won twice after an earlier loss to England. A result this weekend would greatly help Ukraine’s qualification chances. The group winner and runner up automatically qualify for Germany, and Italy poses a threat in the group to overtake Ukraine in the chase behind England.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Premier League Week 4 Results: Hat Trick Of Hat Tricks In High Scoring Weekend; Haaland Nets Three In Rout Of Fulham; Ferguson And Seagulls Send Newcastle To Third Straight Loss; Son Shines in Spurs Blitz; Arsenal Stikes Late To Beat Manchester United; Liverpool Blanks Aston Villa; Oh, Chelsea…

Three different Premier League players performed hat tricks over the weekend as the early season table begins to take form. Manchester City tops the Premier League table after four matches as the Citizens remained perfect in a 5-1 win over Fulham. Erling Haaland’s second half hat trick was more than enough to defeat outmatched Fulham. The league’s leading goal scorer, with six on the young season, also assisted on City’s opening goal versus a Cottager side impacted by transfer drama of the previous day. Fulham was playing without star Joao Palhinha who was yet to return from Germany where he spent Friday completing his medical and a picture shoot for an expected transfer to Bayern Munich. The Cottagers pulled out of the deal at the last minute when they were unable to find a suitable replacement for the Brazilian midfielder.

Son Heung-min scored his fourth Premier League hat trick as Spurs sprinted past Burnley 5-2 at Turf Moor.

The Clarets began the match promisingly with a fourth minute breakthrough against the London club. The Spurs defense would stiffen, however, and Tottenham Hotspur would score five consecutive goals, including Son’s trifecta, before Burnley would score again in the 94th minute. Burnley has lost all three of its matches played and is bottom of the table with a worse goal differential than Luton Town, the only other league team to have lost all its matches.

Luton Town were 2-1 losers to West Ham on Friday in their Premier League home debut. West Ham took a comfortable two goal advantage on goals by Jarrod Bowen and Kurt Zouma before the Hatters scored a consolation goal with their first shot on target in the 92nd minute. The Hammers are one of four clubs with ten points in the table, two points behind league leading Manchester City.

Liverpool and Arsenal join the Hammers and Spurs in that pack of pursuers. The Reds thrilled the Anfield faithful with a decisive 3-0 home win over Aston Villa on Sunday. Newly acquired Dominik Szoboszlai set the tone for the victors with his first Liverpool goal just three minutes into the contest.

Villa would lose hope after a 19th minute injury to Villa center back Diego Carlos was followed one minute later by an Aston Villa own goal as a Darwin Nunez shot ricocheted off the post and the back of Villa defender Matty Cash. Nunez would also assist Mohamed Salah’s second half clincher for Liverpool. The weekend’s joy for Liverpool supporters was tinged with anxiety, however, amid the Saudi Pro League’s continued pursuit of Mohamed Salah. The Reds rejected an offer by the Saudis on Friday but were expected to receive a significantly larger bid this week as the Saudi Arabia transfer window remains open.

Arsenal stayed in the thick of the title chase with late match fireworks in 3-1 defeat of Manchester United at the Emirates. Manchester United thought they had snatched victory in the 88th minute on a breakaway goal by 19-year-old Alejandro Garnacho. That goal, however, was deemed offside and the Red Devils were undone by fatigue and a thin bench in stoppage time. Emergency signing Jonny Evans and the unwanted and seldom used Harry Maguire were anchoring Manchester United’s back line and defensive midfielder Casemiro was exhausted, with no suitable replacement at hand, when Arsenal struck for its two late goals. Declan Rice put Arsenal ahead with a deflected shot off Evans in the 96th minute. Gabriel Jesus would seal matters five minutes later.

Brighton is just a point behind Arsenal in the table after the Seagulls rocked Newcastle with a three-goal performance by 18-year-old Evan Ferguson. The striker became just the fourth Premier League player to register a hat trick before their 19th birthday. Newcastle, meanwhile, went down to defeat for a third consecutive match as the grumbling grows louder among the Tyneside Geordie faithful.

Brentford was tied with Newcastle for the most draws in the Premier League last season and the Bees are continuing that run of inconclusive results after a 2-2 result against visiting Bournemouth. Brentford has started the current campaign with three draws from four matches after a joint league leading 14 non-decisions last season. The Bees were happy to salvage the point from Saturday’s contest after Bryan Mbeumo bagged the equalizer in the 93rd minute. Bournemouth would have been satisfied with a point leading into the match but the late concession heightened whispers regarding the viability of its new manager’s aggressive tactics. Former Rayo Vallecano manager Andoni Iraola remains in search of his first win in England. That win might come against Chelsea when the clubs return from international break.

The euphoria of Chelsea supporters following a win over temporary league resident Luton Town quickly evaporated with the club’s first loss to Nottingham Forest at Stamford Bridge since 1995. Nottingham Forest has been a notoriously bad away club, winning just once in the 20 tries away from home prior to Saturday. Former Manchester United forward  Anthony Elanga scored in the 48th minute to hang the embarrassing loss on the homestanding Blues. Chelsea’s record signing Moises Caicedo was culpable for the loss of possession which led to Elanga’s winner. Despite another expensive transfer window, the London club ended the weekend in 12th position, the same place the Blues finished in the table last season. Nottingham Forest’s second win of the season put the Tricky Trees in the top half of the table entering the international break.

Crystal Palace is a point above Forest after slaying Wolves 3-2 at Selhurst Park. The Eagles have players taking wing in attack to compensate for this summer’s departure of winger Wilfried Zaha. Odsonne Edouard had a brace on Sunday while fellow forward Jean-Philippe contributed two assists after bagging a hat trick in EFL Cup play on Tuesday. Midfielder Eberechi Eze scored the other goal for Palace and was a constant threat for the Eagles. A Wolves consolation goal in the 95th minute made the final score more flattering than deserved for a Wolverhampton club which has now lost to all its opponents this season save for Everton.

The Toffees faced off with another relegation candidate in Sheffield United on Saturday. The two clubs each earned their first point of the season in a 2-2 draw. If the season were to end today, Everton would go down on goal differential, joining pointless Luton Town and Burnley. 

Friday, September 1, 2023

Premier League Week 4 Preview

Three blockbuster matches dominate this weekend’s Premier League schedule. Brighton hosts Newcastle in Saturday’s featured late match as both clubs seek to rebound from Week 3 disappointment. The Seagulls were rocked at home last week by West Ham and a second consecutive loss in front of the home supporters could dampen the enthusiasm from two opening wins over bottom half opponents. Brighton’s transfer window losses of Alexis Mac Allister and Moises Caicedo were recently exacerbated when Julio Enciso, the club’s promising 19-year-old Paraguayan midfielder, incurred a knee injury pointing to an extended absence. The Seagulls responded this week, however, with a shocking loan deal for Barcelona forward Ansu Fati. The 20-year-old Spanish international was one of the top prospects in the world just a few years ago when he became the youngest player to score a Champions League goal. Following injury setbacks, he is now poised for a restart under Brighton Manager Roberto De Zerbi. Newcastle, meanwhile, needs to revive an attack which has all but disappeared after a promising opening weekend. A five-goal outburst to start the season has seen only a single tally since. The Magpies’ highly touted chances for this season may need to be revisited if Eddie Howe’s club loses for the third time in four matches.

The two marquee matches on Sunday involve four of the top eight clubs in the current table. Liverpool makes a triumphant return home to Anfield to face Aston Villa after a dramatic road victory at St. James Park last week. The Reds completed their midfield overhaul during the week with the purchase of Bayern Munich’s Ryan Gravenberch. Travel difficulties, however, will delay his debut while Virgil van Dijk will also miss Sunday’s match due to suspension. Aston Villa has recovered from a disastrous visit to Newcastle on opening weekend to subsequently post dominant wins in its last two outings. Transfer addition Moussa Diaby already has two goals for the Villans. Center back Tyrone Mings’s season ending injury, meanwhile, is being addressed with a loan deal for Barcelona defender Clement Lenglet. Manager Unai Emery approaches the match at Anfield having won seven of his previous 14 Premier League away matches for Aston Villa.

The final match Sunday pits Arsenal versus Manchester United. Both those clubs seem unsettled after some questionable transfer moves. Arsenal’s midfield looks unbalanced with the perpetually underperforming Kai Havertz having been inexplicably plucked from Chelsea. There has been a domino effect as Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta has toyed with his formation and player deployments to optimize Havertz’s talents in a way that Chelsea could not. Good luck with that. Manchester United also acquired a player from Chelsea in Mason Mount and tried to deploy him in a deeper role than he had played for the Blues. The experiment failed for two matches and Mount is now injured. Replacement Christian Eriksen scored a goal Last week but also provided little more than Mount in helping Casemiro defend the Red Devils back line. Opponents have found little resistance in penetrating Manchester United’s midfield and bearing down on defenders and goalkeeper Andre Onana. The Red Devils’ back line has also been riddled with injury as center back Raphael Varane and fullback Luke Shaw are sidelined. Both the Red Devils and Gunners will be anxious at the Emirates to shake off their current troubles and resume expected top four pursuits and, just maybe, potential title bids.

Two other clubs will be hoping to just improve their chances of survival when Everton visits Sheffield United on Saturday. The Toffees have been snake bit in front of goal and face a Blades defense that remained sharp for much of a losing 2-1 effort against Manchester City last week. The Blades could see debuts from two new players in forward Cameron Archer, who has joined on loan from Aston Villa, and midfielder Tom Davies who has joined on a free transfer from Everton and could face his boyhood club Saturday. Everton Manager Sean Dyche may have glimpsed some hope for his club’s goal scoring problems when newly purchased Portuguese striker Beto scored in Everton’s League Cup win this week less than 24 hours after signing up for the Toffees.

Promoted side Luton will unveil newly renovated Kenilworth Road when the Hatters welcome West Ham to their unusual residential neighborhood venue on Saturday. Despite some renovations mandated by Premier League requirements, Kenilworth Road remains the smallest stadium in Premier League history and its approximately 10,000 fans exert enormous vocal influence on the proceedings from their perches situated unusually close to the pitch. West Ham refreshed its attacking options this week with the acquisition of Mohammed Kudus from Ajax. Kudus has received kudos for having already scored four goals in only three appearances this season for the Dutch club.

More than 50,000 fans are likely to be in attendance at the Etihad when Manchester City hosts Fulham on Saturday. Phil Foden assisted the winning goal for a second consecutive week as the young English international helps compensate for the injury absence of Manchester City assist wizard Kevin De Bruyne. Fulham grabbed a late point against Arsenal at the Emirates last week as they move from the frying pan into the fire this weekend. The club is having a tough transfer window as Bayern Munich are set to acquire midfielder Joao Palhinha who scored the late equalizer for the Cottagers last week and was the club’s most influential player following the earlier departure of striker Aleksandar Mitrovic. Manchester City said goodbye this week to Cole Palmer who was seeing little league action after scoring in both the Community Shield and Super Cup for the Citizens.

Chelsea is the beneficiary of Palmer’s move as the London club’s cumulative spending under the ownership of Todd Bohley and his investor group now approximates £1 billion. Palmer, who starred for England’s U21 Euro champions this summer, can play from right wing or as a number 10 for Chelsea and represents a potential solution to the goals lost with Christopher’s Nkunku knee injury. The Blues are home to face Nottingham Forest on Saturday. Forest Manager Steve Cooper has been getting goals from Taiwo Awoniyi, the attacker making the scoresheet in seven consecutive league appearances. Forest is trying to hold onto another front-line player, however, in young attacker Brennan Johnson who is being targeted by several Premier League rivals. Johnson, who scored eight goals for the Tricky Trees last season, was suspiciously out of the lineup on Wednesday as Forest were knocked out of the League Cup by Burnley.

Tottenham Hotspur was closing in on a Johnson signing as Friday’s transfer deadline approached. Spurs were humbled during the week by a loss to Fulham in the League Cup which ousted the north London side from yet another trophy competition. New manager Ange Postecoglou, seemingly oblivious to the club’s tortured trophy past, rotated his Spurs squad and paid the price. The north London side will try to get back on track at Burnley this weekend. A third Premier League loss by Burnley on Saturday would equal the number of losses the Clarets experienced all of last season in the Championship.

Like Burnley’s Vincent Kompany, Bournemouth’s Andoni Iraola is seeking his first win as a Premier League manager when the Cherries head to Brentford Saturday to confront the Bees. Bournemouth’s encouraging opening week draw versus West Ham was followed by two unimpressive losses. Things won’t get any easier this weekend against an undefeated Brentford side which has prevailed over the Cherries in four of the last six meetings between the clubs. Brentford’s counter attacking style seems tailor made to take advantage of Bournemouth’s high line. Brentford forwards Bryan Mbeumo and Yoane Wissa are expert at punishing opponents who leave space in the back.

The Bees dropped points last week in a draw against London rival Crystal Palace. Having executed a late “smash and grab” against the Bees, Palace heads home this weekend to face Wolverhampton. Wolves have had their struggles on the road, losing five of their last six league away matches dating to last season. It could be a long season under new manager Gary O’Neil as the club is struggling under financial constraints which caused former manager Julen Lopetegui to head for the door. Wolves midfielder Matheus Nunes is the latest to leave the pack. Nunes was sold to Manchester City this week after “going on strike” to facilitate his departure.