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Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend

·10-min read

Ralf Rangnick makes United bow, Nathan Aké needs to take his chance and Leeds wait on Patrick Bamford


1) More Tuchel tinkering after ‘lucky’ win

Chelsea were far from their best in victory against Watford in midweek and Thomas Tuchel admitted his side were lucky to take all three points. The German was forced to rotate his squad heavily for the trip to Vicarage Road and will reshuffle his deck again before his team’s lunchtime appointment at West Ham after Trevoh Chalobah succumbed to a hamstring injury. The young central defender joins the key players Reece James, Mateo Kovacic, N’Golo Kanté and Ben Chilwell in the treatment room. In better news for Chelsea, Romelu Lukaku got 21 minutes under his belt on Wednesday while Jorginho should replace Saúl Ñiguez, who, not for the first time this season, was hooked at half-time and looks to have played his last game on loan at the club. BG

  • West Ham v Chelsea, Saturday 12.30pm (all times shown GMT)

Related: Ralf Rangnick’s 24-match task: to go fourth with Manchester United | Jamie Jackson

2) Clarets have money-can’t-buy opportunity

Burnley have lost once in their past seven Premier League matches. Despite five being draws it is certainly a platform to build on for the slow starters. Confidence should be relatively high thanks to their disciplined defence picking up a clean sheet in midweek at Wolves and the knowledge they finally have a bona fide match-winner in Maxwel Cornet. It is all well and good picking up individual points but Burnley have a bit of catch-up to do, as they are currently in the relegation zone, two places and three points above Newcastle. If they can open up a gap over Eddie Howe’s side this weekend, they will strike a psychological blow, in full knowledge that the new Newcastle owners will look to spend their way out of trouble in January, while Burnley are unlikely to splash too much cash to solve their problems – and three points in a relegation battle is something money cannot buy. WU

  • Newcastle v Burnley, Saturday 3pm

3) Can Brighton maximise the threat of Lamptey?

Southampton and Brighton go into Saturday’s match at St Mary’s on the back of entertaining draws with Leicester and West Ham respectively, and it would be no great shock to see the points shared here by two sides separated by seven Premier League places but just four points. Against West Ham, Brighton lost Jeremy Sarmiento, Adam Webster and Adam Lallana to injury, and will be without the trio on Saturday, but the excellent form of Tariq Lamptey, who is being carefully managed back from a serious hamstring injury after missing the second half of last season, is a huge positive for Graham Potter’s side. Brighton have won just one of the eight games in which the 22-year-old has featured this season and despite how well they’re currently playing, need to find a way of converting the attacking threat he offers down the right into match-winning goals. BG

  • Southampton v Brighton, Saturday 3pm

4) A Liverpool audition for Traoré?

How do you solve a problem like Adama Traoré? Strong, lightning quick and well able to beat a man or two on his regular rampages upfield, the Wolves winger is undeniably talented but constantly lets himself down with poor finishing and questionable decision-making in the final third. It is a flaw in his game that has been highlighted at length, most recently by Danny Murphy on Match of the Day. Just seven league starts this season suggest he has yet to convince Bruno Lage, and the 25-year-old Spaniard is reported to be on the radar of Saturday’s visitors, Liverpool, despite his appalling scoring record of just seven goals in 152 Premier League appearances. Jürgen Klopp clearly thinks he can get a tune out of him, and he will never get a better chance to impress his potential new employers – assuming he is given a run-out. BG

  • Wolves v Liverpool, Saturday 3pm

5) Akémust make the most of injury crisis

Pep Guardiola has bemoaned Manchester City’s problems with injuries, which is quite fair given he has been forced to pack the bench with teenagers. One benefactor this week was Nathan Aké, who has been a fill-in man since arriving at the Etihad in 2020 for a hefty £40m from Bournemouth. There was a rare outing for him at Aston Villa on Wednesday alongside Rúben Dias, only the fourth time he has started in the league this season, to go with the nine throughout the last campaign, which was blighted by injury. He looked confident alongside his more esteemed colleague, a man signed after the 5-2 defeat to Leicester last season, with Aké notably at the heart of a failing defence. The Netherlands international will be hoping his positive performance at Villa Park will earn him more appearances in a very busy period through to the New Year, aided by the fact he can play at left-back, too. If he can’t convince Guardiola of his qualities at this stage, Aké’s City career might be over before it got going. WU

  • Watford v Manchester City, Saturday 5.30pm

6) A sighting of the lesser-spotted Patrick Bamford

While the programme notes in which the Leeds CEO, Angus Kinnear, crassly compared Tracey Crouch’s fan-led review to a totalitarian collectivisation policy that resulted in the deaths of 15 million Chinese citizens prompted more headlines than the actual match for which it was published, there was a real sense that Raphinha’s late, late winner might have marked a turning point for Leeds after a poor start to the season. They host Brentford on Saturday in what looks a promising game between two attacking sides that may come a bit too soon for the recovering duo Luke Ayling and Patrick Bamford. These two key players have been conspicuous absentees from the Leeds line-up since mid-September but both featured for the under-23s on Monday night, with Bamford playing a full 90 minutes. Even the sight of him among the substitutes would further brighten the mood of the Elland Road collective. BG

  • Leeds v Brentford, Sunday 2pm

Patrick Bamford is eyeing a return to fitness.
Patrick Bamford is eyeing a return to fitness. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

7) Rangnick must be better than before

Sunday’s game at home to Crystal Palace will be Ralf Rangnick’s first in the Manchester United dugout, and it will be fascinating to see how he goes about his new yet temporary job. So far in his career, Rangnick has managed very good players and very good teams but relatively few brilliant players and no brilliant teams, but if he is to succeed at United he must be able to differentiate between them. Though he has done fantastic work while inspiring a generation of coaches, Leipzig were the best side he has managed, and handy though they were, if he and whoever follows him cannot build a better one, they will depart Old Trafford having failed. Moreover, Rangnick is a systems guy, but the best teams have managers who make allowances for spontaneity and superstars, and given the squad he finds, he will need to do this too – while operating at a level he has not previously reached. DH

  • Manchester United v Crystal Palace, Sunday 2pm

Related: Ally McCoist’s joy and Roy Keane’s rage: how pundits can eclipse the action | Max Rushden

8) No excuse for Spurs’ impotence

Structural change takes time, so Spurs’ continuing travails under Antonio Conte should not be entirely alarming. But the shortage of new manager bounce, until Thursday’s win against Brentford, is concerning. Though there are defensive problems that cannot be solved in four weeks, especially now Cristian Romero is injured, in no circumstances should a squad boasting the attacking talents of Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, Steven Bergwijn, Lucas Moura, Bryan Gil, Sergio Reguilón, Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso and Dele Alli be so shot-shy or impotent. In theory, a home fixture with Norwich is exactly what is required to get things going – only Newcastle have conceded more than their 28 goals in 14 games. But things have improved markedly since the appointment of Dean Smith, making this a difficult fixture: all the pressure of one Spurs must win, against opponents brimming with renewed belief. This will probably not be the best game of the weekend, but it might well be the most interesting. DH

• Tottenham v Norwich, Sunday 2pm

9) Chukwuemeka has opportunity at Villa

Carney Chukwuemeka is keen to leave Aston Villa due to a lack of first-team opportunities. Needless to say, that is a very strange concept when taking about a player who turned 18 in October and was sent on against the Premier League champions Manchester City to help turn the game in Aston Villa’s favour. He almost scored the equaliser, only for Ederson to produce a fine save to divert Chukwuemeka’s shot, after a fine run into space, away from goal. Chukwuemeka made his first-team Villa debut younger than the £100m man on City’s bench, Jack Grealish, so he is a step ahead of a future England international. Steven Gerrard obviously has faith in the midfielder coveted by the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool, too. The teenager looks set to be given more opportunities to appease him by a manager with a thing or two to explain about playing in midfield. Chukwuemeka would be well advised to seize his chance and make the most of a clear pathway rather than listen to his agent. WU

  • Aston Villa v Leicester, Sunday 4.30pm

10) Time Arsenal’s senior players took responsibility

It’s been a strange season for Arsenal, who are handily placed to finish fourth – the best they could possibly do. Nevertheless, the balance in Mikel Arteta’s side is not right and, like their north London rivals, there is no excuse for their constipated attacking given players as creative as Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Martin Ødegaard, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pépé and Alexandre Lacazette. The first two can be absolved of any blame – without them, Arsenal would be nowhere – but their centrality should be a cause of great shame to the last four, who have accumulated the princely total of seven goals and two assists between them, in a combined 41 league appearances; by way of comparison, Saka and Smith Rowe have seven and four in 28. But however good they are, relying on players so young is probably unsustainable, and though Arteta is also responsible for the malaise it is about time others stepped up. DH

  • Everton v Arsenal, Monday 8pm

Pos

Team

P

GD

Pts

1

Chelsea

14

27

33

2

Man City

14

21

32

3

Liverpool

14

31

31

4

West Ham

14

8

24

5

Arsenal

14

-3

23

6

Tottenham Hotspur

13

-4

22

7

Man Utd

14

0

21

8

Wolverhampton

14

0

21

9

Brighton

14

-2

19

10

Leicester

14

-3

19

11

Crystal Palace

14

-1

16

12

Brentford

14

-2

16

13

Aston Villa

14

-4

16

14

Everton

14

-7

15

15

Leeds

14

-7

15

16

Southampton

14

-7

15

17

Watford

14

-7

13

18

Burnley

13

-6

10

19

Norwich

14

-20

10

20

Newcastle

14

-14

7

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