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.  

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