Everything you need to know about this weekend’s Premier League action, all in one place.
Jump to: Will Kane’s injury hurts Liverpool | Saints to suffer from PTSD | Moyes passes the first test | Man to watch | Game not to be missed | Weekend statistics | A team that needs a little luck| Something that will certainly happen | Predictions
The big questions of the weekend
Does Harry Kane’s absence make things more difficult for Liverpool?
The short, nuanced answer to this question is: “No, obviously not, fool.”
The slightly longer and more nuanced answer is this: maybe. Tottenham have actually coped pretty well without Kane in the past, his annual injury of one to three months generally negotiated as well as one would expect for a team that hasnot had another centre-forward worth talking about for a decade. But in this case, with Jose Mourinho leading a team against a thrilling Liverpool team chasing the league title, this could mean Mourinho will … Well, even more Mourinho.
The Spurs manager likes the role of the spoiler, his mentality in these games is a bit like a child crushing their brother’s toy: the “if I can’t have it, no one can have it”. With Kane available, in a home game with his side in need of a result, Mourinho could still feel compelled to attack and compete like a normal football team. But without Kane, he might think Spurs can’t win by conventional methods, and there’s a stronger-than-average chance that he’ll bunker down and get his team to just do everything they can to frustrate Liverpool and win a draw, by any means necessary. It could be a long night for Jurgen Klopp’s elected champions.
Will Southampton suffer from football ptsD?
At the time it felt like the end of the world for Southampton, but eventually it seems that the only medium/long-term victim of their 9-0 defeat at Leicester in October was goalkeeper Angus Gunn, who has not played a minute of league football since. Which makes sense. Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl survived despite suggestions, after a calamitous defeat, that his position was untenable, and the Saints hierarchy was rewarded for sticking with the Austrian.
The two sides meet again for the first time since Friday night’s rout, and that’s where the illogical psychology of football comes in. Southampton have slowly recovered since tonight, winning five of their last eight to climb to 12th place and in terms of points, are within the same distance from Spurs in sixth as they are at Bournemouth in 18th. But the Saints players would not be human if the sight of those blue shirts and Brendan Rodgers and Jamie Vardy Did not give them flashbacks, a kind of light form of sSPT footballism, which could easily affect the way they play on Saturdays. It will be fascinating to see if that is the case.
Will David Moyes take a real test at West Ham?
If you feel uncharitable towards David Moyes, you could write his first two wins back at West Ham off as gimmes, a beating from besieged Bournemouth followed by a solid win against league One Gillingham in the FA Cup. But if the Hammers get a result in their next meeting, it will be a little harder to quibble with its impact. Travelling to Sheffield United is a difficult task as Chris Wilder’s team are one of the most punishing opponents in the Premier League, so it’s a real test for Moyes. If his side passes then there may be real reasons for optimism in east London.
Man to watch
Maybe it was a move to help win on the locker room, where Xhaka Granite is apparently very popular, but it was a great appeal for one of Mikel Arteta’s first acts as Arsenal manager to persuade Xhaka that he should refuse Hertha Berlin and stay at the Emirates. Xhaka’s break with the Arsenal crowd seems to be behind both sides now, but a more pressing question is whether the Swiss midfielder’s performance will actually be worth the effort.
Xhaka was calamitousbad bad in the first half of their fa Cup win over Leeds (with the caveat that no Arsenal player was good), and was extremely lucky not to give a couple of goals for the Championship side. Xhaka owes Arteta a performance to justify his manager’s faith, starting with Crystal Palace on Saturday. And if you believe in stories like this, Palace were the adversaries when it collapsed minor against the Emirates crowd.
The game you do not intend to watch, but should
Bournemouth vs Watford
This is arguably the biggest game of the weekend, a clash between one side on the top and another very not. Watford’s form was recovering at the same time as Bournemouth completely collapsed. Just one point separates the two teams now, compared to the eight when Nigel Pearson was named to Watford a month ago and six games ago. So a classic relegation “six-pointer” then; one team is looking to continue its recovery and another is trying to start one. For Bournemouth’s part, they hope that the goals scored by Callum Wilson And Dominic Solanke in the FA Cup is going to trigger some kind of form for them, because boy do they need.
– Tottenham-Liverpool put forward the Premier League slate on Saturday. Liverpool have gone more than a year (3 January 2018) since their last defeat in the Premier League and are on a run of 37 league games unbeaten. The Reds are also unbeaten in their last eight pL matches in London, and are looking to win four in a row in London for the first time since October 1989.
Crystal Palace host Arsenal, who see the Premier League’s oldest head coach (Roy Hodgson, 72) face the Youngest Head Coach in the Premier League (Mikel Arteta, 37) – an age difference of almost 35 years (34 years and 229 days). Hodgson was six years into his managerial career when Arteta was born.
– Leicester City beat Southampton 9-0 earlier this season in what equalled the record for the greatest win in Premier League history and broke the record for the biggest away win. The most goals scored by a team against an opponent in a single PL season is 12; Leicester need three goals to match the 1995-96 total Blackburn scored against Nottingham Forest and Tottenham scored against Wigan in 2009-10
The team that needs a little luck
Aside from Bournemouth, Aston Villa must be the unluckiest team in the Premier League in terms of injuries this season. They have lost their first-choice goalkeeper and the only centre-forward to talk, and it is only to the excellence of coach Dean Smith and various players, most prominently Jack GrealishThat they managed to win their last league game against Burnley and get an honourable draw against Leicester in their Carabao Cup semi-final.
By the time Sunday’s game against Manchester City comes around, they may have recruited replacements in these two key positions, but if they don’t then they will need all the luck in the world to get out of it in one piece.
Something that will certainly happen
Everton want to be frustrating, whatever the result against Brighton
The irritation for Everton fans in losing the Merseyside derby last weekend was not defeat – they are used to it. It probably wasn’t even that defeat came against Liverpool’s B team – they have so much talent at Anfield, that kind of thing can happen. The irritation was more the performance absolutely without spine, going to their local rivals with barely a groan.
So whatever happens against Brighton, they’ll probably frustrate their supporters: if they don’t win, it’s another set of points in the toilet and they’ll look over their shoulders at the relegation places. But if they win by showing some gumption (and they’ll have to against Brighton), then we should be right wondering where this moxy was last weekend.
Sheffield United 2-0 West Ham United
Crystal Palace 1-2 Arsenal
Everton 3-1 Brighton
Leicester 3-1 Southampton
Manchester United 1-1 Norwich City
Chelsea 2-0 Burnley
Wolves 3-0 Newcastle
Tottenham 1-3 Liverpool
Bournemouth 1-2 Watford
Aston Villa 0-3 Manchester City