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.

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