No defensive discipline at the Emirates
Pep Guardiola’s decision not to hire a replacement for Vincent Kompany in the summer looks increasingly costly as Manchester City have conceded in each of their last ten games. Likewise, Arsenal’s 2-2 draw at Standard Liege on Thursday night now means that they have gone 13 games without a clean sheet, the last one coming in early October. The Gunners’ defensive instability is nothing new, but this is their worst such run since 2004. Having dropped points in their last two games, City will be keen to remind the rest of England of their attacking prowess. Arsenal, meanwhile, just do not know how to defend. All points to a focus on attack this Sunday.
Former heroes look to showcase their managerial skills
Almost exactly 20 years ago Manchester United thrashed Everton 5-1 at Old Trafford thanks to four goals from a certain Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. In the two decades since, the Norwegian has famously moved to the dugout, where he will be chasing a fourth straight win on Sunday as the Toffees return. Impressive wins over Tottenham and Manchester City last week were followed by a comprehensive win over AZ Alkmaar and suddenly the feel-good factor is back at the club. Everton have a former fan favourite of their own, though. Duncan Ferguson will take charge again following last Saturday’s 3-1 win over a much-fancied Chelsea. Which manager will motivate their old team to a win?
Watford return to Anfield with unhappy memories
Watford’s last three visits to Anfield have seen them concede a total of 16 goals and score just once. Since their last meeting in February, a 5-0 win for the Reds, Jurgen Klopp’s side have not only become the best team in England but in the whole of Europe. In contrast, Watford have gone from fighting for a mid-table spot to facing the very real prospect of relegation. New manager Nigel Pearson would have surely liked an easier first game, but at least Liverpool’s commitments elsewhere mean that some of their star players might be given the afternoon off. If not, it could be another stinging 90 minutes for the Hornets.
Is Pellegrini’s time at West Ham coming to an end?
Victory over Chelsea a fortnight ago could have potentially provided the spark for a West Ham revival. Instead, the Irons remain very cold. A lifeless loss just days later at Wolves was followed by defeat to Arsenal, and once again it looks like the end of the road for Manuel Pellegrini in east London. His side have not yet fallen into the relegation zone but defeat to fellow strugglers Southampton on Saturday night would see the Saints climb above them in the table. Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side have won their last two games at St. Mary’s. A third in a row would surely lead to Pellegrini’s exit.
Palace defence key to derby chances
With just 18 goals conceded in 16 games this season, Palace currently boast the fourth-best defence in the Premier League. The Eagles have kept out the opposition in each of their last three matches while only Wolves, Man City, Leicester and Liverpool have scored at Selhurst Park this season. Their next test comes in the form of bitter rivals Brighton, to whom they lost twice last season. The Seagulls are returning to London having won at Arsenal last week, but they had lost their last four away games before that. Can Palace’s defence hold firm?