1) Merseyside Derby offers shape of things to come
Ten years after their last win against Liverpool, Everton entertain the Premier League champions at Goodison Park in a high-profile game that is as delicious as it gets under the current conditions. Despite losing 7-2 to Aston Villa, Liverpool enter the game as favorites against a team that, under Carlo Ancelotti’s leadership, appear to have finally overcome their almost pathological inconsistency. Their red-hot streak of seven games in all competitions since the start of the season will end at some point, but there are few convincing arguments to suggest that it will against a team that has been looking oddly bad lately. We could learn a lot from this game, not least whether Everton are real title contenders in what is already a very strange season and whether the extraordinary humiliation Aston Villa experienced in Liverpool was a deviation or a leading indicator of a far greater malaise. BG
2) The Saints will ask questions to Chelsea on either end
Southampton has yet to start this season but they are exactly the kind of team that Chelsea won’t want to face: organized, athletic and with the firepower to tax an extremely seedy defense. Danny Ings and Che Adams in particular can cause all sorts of problems for any center-back Frank Lampard sends out – most likely Thiago Silva and Kurt Zouma. No one will appreciate being possessed, and no one has spent much time in man-to-man duels that will impose a real, flashy partnership on them. Chelsea have the attackers to harm any team, as Crystal Palace found out. It will be interesting to see if Lampard stays with Tammy Abraham as the focus and Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Callum Hudson-Odoi pull behind, because since Mason Mount looks sharp and Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech now fit, he has as many options as he could possibly need. The ability is to choose which combination works best against which opponent. DH
3) Partey time for Arsenal at Etihad?
Arsenal had already made two big signings this summer but the addition of Thomas Partey feels different. While Willian offers experience and Gabriel Magalhães has great potential, Partey is a 27-year-old operating at the peak of his strength and coming from a club that has flown to Arsenal on a higher plane in recent years. He could be a game changer and Arteta will certainly be tempted to start him at Etihad. “We knew before we signed him that he was fit, he was very ready to play,” said the manager. There will be temptation to draw conclusions when he plays, but given the praise given to Lucas Torreira shortly after his arrival, immediate veneration or condemnation must be avoided. But Partey is exactly the kind of elite player that is needed for the test City will provide. If he and Arsenal get it, the signs that their revival is gaining traction will look irresistible. N / A
4) United must make changes after Spurs shocker
The international break has widened the distance between United and the 6-1 loss to Spurs, but those responsible should not avoid being punished for the comical rancidity of their portrayal. While David de Gea didn’t make any catastrophic mistakes last time around, his catatonic reluctance to leave his line or command his box is the last thing a stalled defense needs. It’s time for Dean Henderson to give it a try while Alex Telles is a no-brainer for Luke Shaw before him. Throwing Axel Tuanzebe may seem risky, but he’s quick, composed and intelligent – all United are currently lacking. And team balance also needs to be tackled: you can’t use two broad attackers with no defensive duties when you have a slow foursome and midfielder who doesn’t help the full-backs. So Nemanja Matic should be replaced by either Scott McTominay or Fred, whose job it must be to cover the width of the pitch, while Bruno Fernandes and Donny van de Beek – for Paul Pogba – run up and down. If Ole Gunnar Solskjær is not vigilant, the players who helped him into this mayhem could soon help him lose his job. It’s time to step up the Fergie tribute from parking lots and cliff visits to calculated gambling and recklessness at exhibitions. DH
5) An early cellar battle on Bramall Lane
Chris Wilder’s team is still very good and should be on the table soon. But doubts can take root if the Blades still have zero points after the home game on Sunday against the lowest club Fulham. Scoring goals has been United’s biggest problem this season. The young man they signed for £ 23.5million Rhian Brewster could make his debut on Sunday. Fulham stepped up their defense on the day of the transfer deadline by signing two new center-backs, Joachim Andersen and Tosin Adarabioyo. Something has to happen on Bramall Lane, where both sides are hoping to start their season. PD
6) Palace were preparing for a break against Brighton
Crystal Palace is at the bottom of the Premier League’s possession table, having seen less than 37% of the ball in their four games to date. They are unlikely to improve that number in the derby with Brighton as Graham Potter dominates the ball but their counterattack approach has served them well so far. Roy Hodgson could be ready to allow Brighton to take the initiative and invite mistakes: for all their flashy play, the Seagulls have been rather too easily exploited so far this season, even if the circumstances against Manchester United were unfortunate. Eberechi Eze and Wilfried Zaha offer constant speed and threat during the break, so the pattern of this competition may have been set in advance. If they win, Brighton would overtake their hosts and with a particularly difficult start they could get a result to avert premature alarm bells. N / A
7) Ndombele has a chance to consolidate his place in midfield
You don’t have to look too far to find people standing in line to praise José Mourinho’s loving treatment of Tanguy Ndombele. Things are certainly going in the right direction after the French midfielder admitted last week that there had been “a number of disagreements” between the two of them last season. “Since then we’ve all tried to put our egos aside,” said Ndombele, and both men deserve credit for changing the situation. The 69 minutes Ndombele played at Old Trafford, which also saw Spurs’ first goal, was a significant step and now Mourinho will want to see if he can match that intensity over a series of games. West Ham is capable of more or less anything. So whether they are the ideal opponents for a similar mercury talent remains to be seen. N / A
8) Southgate oversees English talent
The King Power is where Gareth Southgate will be on Sunday for a glimpse of an exciting future for England. Alongside Harvey Barnes and James Maddison, he could run the rule of a potential English defense partnership – Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa from Villa – and reconsider his stance on two attacking talents he never seemed to appreciate, Jack Grealish and Jamie Vardy. If fitness allows, all of these players should help turn this Sunday night showdown into a thriller. Brendan Rodgers’ main question will be whether visiting a team that scored seven goals after the champions is the right opportunity to make a Premier League debut for 19-year-old center-back Wesley Fofana. PD
9) Baggies and Clarets have the option to hold on to the slide
Do you have to win or not dare to lose? It’s far too early to read the final rites for anyone, but both West Brom and Burnley need to improve and there can be just a little tension going out at the Hawthorns on Monday. Sean Dyche describes his group as “a little wounded,” if more in terms of injury than in terms of a loss of morale from their pointless start; Johann Berg Gudmundsson is at least fighting for a place again and his creativity should add to Burnley’s threat of attack. You can also turn to Chris Wood, one of the league’s most underrated strikers. The New Zealander scored the winner in the last iteration of that game in March 2018 and is eager to test his old club’s worrying leaky defense. West Brom have conceded more goals than anyone while firing fewer shots. Both sides will appreciate their chances of arresting some grim looking statistics on Monday night. N / A
10) Tactic Against Talent in an old school classic
This is the kind of light fixture the details of which should be reserved for James Alexander Gordon, the video printer, and those in the floor that aren’t played in front of empty stands for a Monday night television audience – but here we are. The Wolves got off to a strange start to the season – good against Sheffield United, both of all places and dominant against Manchester City, which was beaten by West Ham of all places. Although they’ve switched formations and staff during this time, their basics remain the same: you’ll sit low and hold the ball to launch quick counter attacks, a strategy that goes badly against a Leeds team that moves the ball faster and more aggressively advised appears. Despite all of the tactical guesswork this match evokes, the wolves in Raúl Jiménez, Adama Traoré, Pedro Neto, and Daniel Podence have systemic individuals who are good enough to improve all of Marcelo Bielsa’s training efforts in bursts of good, honest, and ancient fashion Talent. That should be good. DH
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