The Premier League is finally back. After an FA Cup weekend, we are thrilled to welcome back a weekend of league action. The FA Cup has its own magic, but it is the league that all football fans live for and we are sure Klopp is with us on this one. The transfer window will come to an end as well, and we are here to discuss some of the key talking points.
A massive, massive weekend for the teams at the bottom
Liverpool can afford to lose the next three games without Jurgen Klopp having to lose any sleep, such is the commanding lead they have. The title race is almost definitely over, so let us shift our focus to the opposite end instead, where things are heating up nicely as we approach the final quarter of the season.
The weekend is set to serve up some crucial matches for the relegation candidates, starting with Aston Villa making a trip to the Vitality Stadium to face Bournemouth. It’s 16th up against 18th in the league: will the Villians be able to ride on the momentum of their successful League Cup run and pile on more pressure on Eddie Howe’s side? Both teams grabbed vital victories over other relegation candidates leading into the weekend’s game, but we have a feeling that the winning team here will ultimately survive the jaws of the relegation battle – and we are putting our money on some Jack Grealish’s magic.
Brighton Hove and Albion’s early season sparkle seems to have fizzled out, as Graham Potter’s men find themselves dragged back into the relegation battle. Fortunately for the Seagulls, West Ham United are in a pretty dire situation themselves – with the Hammers putting on some really recent dire performances. The problems are there for all to witness: their talisman Manuel Lanzini looks like he is an imposter this season, Felipe Anderson is out with a back injury and the team is currently relying way too much on a 32 year-old Mark Noble to produce miracles on a weekly basis that Dimitri Payet once did.
Newcastle United are sitting pretty comfortable in the league, but their fans will know all too well about counting their chickens before they are hatched (ask Kevin Keegan). They host cellar-dwellers Norwich City, where you would think a victory for the Magpies should cement their place in the top-flight next season and surely send the struggling Canaries back to the Championship. It’s the battle of the two birds, but we do not see Pukki and friends soaring too high for much longer.
Should Martinelli be starting for Arsenal?
Mikel Arteta will welcome the return of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to face Burnley after his suspension, as the team’s top scorer looks to add more firepower for the Gunners. But where does this leave Gabriel Martinelli? The 18 year-old Brazilian have been sensational each time he is on, most recently scoring back-to-back goals to fill the void left by the Gabonese forward. Martinelli is a huge fan favourite too, as his desire and work-rate on the pitch is very much appreciated by the Gunners faithful – something they have been yearning for ever since Mesut Ozil showed up in an Arsenal kit in 2013.
Could Alexandre Lacazette be dropped to make space for the teenager, with Aubameyang deployed centrally instead? The Frenchman has been going through a poor run of form, and this will be a good opportunity to see the approach Arteta will adopt, as well as provide us a good glimpse of the ruthlessness of his managerial style – a trait that he claimed he had picked up from Pep Guardiola.
We definitely would like to see Martinelli start this Sunday; his recent performances have warranted it and we can see him causing Matthew Lowton a handful of problems with his pace and directness.
Regardless, we think it’s one of those nice problems for Arteta to have, as he devises a way to beat Sean Dyche’s physical side. The Spaniard will surely be aware that once upon a time it was a certain Nicklas Bendtner lurking on the bench, and he will be counting his lucky stars that he has now an embarrassment of riches in attack to call upon, including their marquee signing Nicolas Pepe.
Will Bruno Fernandes make his debut for Manchester United?
Manchester United have confirmed the signing of Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon on a five-and-a-half year deal, but will that be enough to push the Red Devils into a Champions League spot? Fans will expect to see the Portuguese feature as early as Saturday, when they host Wolverhampton Wanderers who are level on points and stand as much of a chance to finish in the final top four position. It will be a massive game for Ole Gunner Solskjaer, who is under immense pressure despite the victory over Manchester City (which ultimately meant little).
The Norwegian has to surely start Fernandes on Saturday, with Nemanja Matic’s suspension adding to their recent midfield woes. We would think an unsettled Fernandes will surely still be more effective than the pair of Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira combined, as he looks to win the midfield battle over his compatriots Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho.
A revelation in the Primeira Liga, the United fans will definitely be hoping the technically gifted midfielder can replicate his form in the physical English league and move on from the long, dark days of JLingz. Solskjaer has a knack of securing a positive result after seemingly waddling in the lowest of lows; and this Saturday’s encounter might just be the most important response he has to muster – as he prays that his new signing will take on the path of a certain Portuguese that went on to become arguably the world’s best player, rather than well, another countryman by the name of Bebe.