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TravelGuides – Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend | Premier League

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TravelGuides – Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend | Premier League

1) Harmony and points required for Villa

Dean Smith’s reversion to a 4-3-3 formation against West Ham last weekend was undermined by the red card shown to Ezri Konsa on 50 minutes. The dismissal forced the early withdrawal of a visibly displeased Emi Buendía so Tyrone Mings could slot into defence having started the game fuming on the substitutes’ bench to which he had been dropped. These obvious signs of player disquiet are to be expected but do little to dispel rumours that all is not harmonious behind the scenes at Villa Park. Smith takes his side to Southampton on the back of four straight defeats in which they have conceded an average of three goals per game. Their hosts are inconsistent and have just two league wins to their name, so there are far more difficult tests Villa could face. One suspects another defeat will seriously drain any of the remaining credit we keep hearing Smith has in the Villa bank. BG

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2) Maguire’s form and fitness a derby concern

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Vibechester United go into the international break with their good work against Spurs and a draw at Atalanta potentially about to be obliterated in the Manchester derby. City might not have a No 9 to utilise, but their forwards will spend 90 minutes dragging United’s defenders around as they move the ball quickly to create openings against a porous backline. One of the pillars at the back is Harry Maguire, but his form and fitness have forsaken him this season. The England centre-half was rushed back from a calf issue as Ole Gunnar Solskjær hoped his captain could shore things up at Leicester, a game United lost 4-2. Since Maguire’s return, United have conceded 13 goals in five games, a sign of the issues the individual and team have at the moment. He will almost certainly feature here, and it may have been better for him to miss the England games in the international break. WU

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United defender Harry Maguire could be in for a tough derby day.
Harry Maguire could be in for a tough derby day. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

3) Conte’s need for new system to kickstart revolution

Antonio Conte is a terrific appointment for Spurs. Though it’s fair to note that the title he won with Chelsea, he won when Liverpool and the Manchester clubs were rebuilding – and the overall standard of the league is much higher now – that is not where Tottenham are at the moment. Rather, they need a manager with the force of personality to inspire talented players who’ve looked jaded of late, and a CV which gives him the authority to savage whoever he wants, whenever he wants, if they don’t do what he wants – there would be few complaints if, as well as televising the match, broadcasters also screened his tête-à-têtes with Tanguy Ndombele. Otherwise, the fact that just five teams in the league have conceded more goals than Spurs and only Norwich have scored fewer tells us not just that signings are necessary – transfers do not solve everything – but that a new system is essential, and few managers pick and inculcate them as wisely as Conte. DH

4) Liverpool’s talent finally stopping Hammers in tracks

It’s relatively infrequent that two sides on a roll meet one another, but this will be the case at the London Stadium so we should steel ourselves for a beautifully devastating collision. On the face of things, West Ham have the tools to compete: they defend with discipline, denying space around the sides and in behind; their midfield is athletic enough to compete physically; and in attack they have the means to target gaps left by Liverpool’s playmaking full-backs. But football is practice not theory, and for all the nice chatter about systems, the visitors have a significant and potentially insurmountable advantage: talent. Mohamed Salah is showing no signs of slowing down, while alongside him, Sadio Mané has rediscovered his goalscoring knack and Diogo Jota is also in the goals. It may well be that pattern of the game plays into West Ham’s hands, but Liverpool’s individuals are good enough to override it at any moment – and probably will. DH

Mohamed Salah during Liverpool’s draw with Brighton.
Mohamed Salah during Liverpool’s draw with Brighton. Photograph: Paul Greenwood/Shutterstock

5) Clarets trying to nullify Blues in midfield

Just as Arsenal seemed to spend entire seasons playing Charlton at home and Manchester United spent two decades playing teams whose managers were either friends or former players of Sir Alex Ferguson, Chelsea have reached that rarefied stage of at-oneness where they never seem to face a difficult opponent. But Burnley, as Sean Dyche keeps reminding us, are actually performing well, and will feel that last weekend’s 3-1 victory over Brentford represented a turning of the corner. Their 4-4-2 formation is a decent match-up for Chelsea’s 3-4-2-1, able to suffocate a midfield that can lack creativity and exploit the spaces behind the wing-backs and down the sides of the centre-backs, at the same time as giving Chelsea’s three centre-backs two centre-forwards to deal with, rather than the usual one. A home win remains the likely outcome, but if Burnley can avoid conceding early, they can make this a difficult afternoon for the European champions. DH

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6) Newcastle not putting off overhaul until January

In the history of football, no club with the resources that Newcastle now have has failed to win things. But increasingly, it looks like their new owners have acquired the club without a precise plan of what to do – strange, given their profound love of football and the Toon – and relegation is a serious possibility. Below them, Norwich look doomed, while above them, though Watford could easily sink, Burnley, Leeds, Villa, Southampton and Brentford are far superior teams. It is possible that not Saudi Arabia try to spend their way out of trouble in January, but convincing players of requisite quality to sign up for a relegation battle will be difficult, so they need to start winning and quickly. Though Brighton have started the season well, in Callum Wilson and Alain Saint-Maximin, Newcastle have attackers good enough to cause problems, and though it’s fair to wonder if their defence can limit damage at the other end, as a team they cannot afford to keep losing games of this ilk. DH

Allan Saint-Maximin will again be crucial for Newcastle.
Allan Saint-Maximin will again be crucial for Newcastle. Photograph: Newcastle United/Getty Images

7) Arsenal finally showing signs of depth

Mikel Arteta thinks Arsenal’s goalkeeper and defence could be together for “five or six years”, which would make them into an impressively cohesive unit. To go with their back five, Arsenal are starting to have credible options as backup, too. Nuno Tavares, a summer signing from Benfica, has replaced the injured Kieran Tierney in recent weeks and proven himself an able deputy despite his arrival going under the radar. Benfica’s academy is famed for creating talent, but Tavares barely got a chance to shine in Portugal, playing 25 league games before leaving aged 21. The left-back’s ability has shone in recent games thanks to his work going both ways, making Tierney’s absence an irrelevance. The Scot could be fit to face Watford but Arteta has a decision to make on whether he sticks with Tavares or recalls the former Celtic man. Either way, it is good news for the future of Arsenal’s defence and proves the club finally have some strength in depth. WU

8) Gallagher continuing his rise with Palace

Patrick Vieira has changed Palace into a completely new side since arriving in the summer; they possess style and flair, something that could not be said of the team moulded by Roy Hodgson. One of the key reasons behind the shift in dynamic can be found in central midfield where Chelsea loanee Conor Gallagher is proving himself to be an exceptional player. He was instrumental in defeating Manchester City last time out, in addition to his man-of-the-match display at Arsenal the previous week. The 21-year-old pressed the City defence and midfield to stop them playing and utilised the ball effectively in attack, capping his performance with his third goal of the season. Gareth Southgate will be keeping tabs on the midfielder, who is aiming to avoid the Chelsea loan cycle and is going the right way about it by standing in an exciting team. WU

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9) Gelhardt getting chance to replace Bamford

Leeds United go into their eighth consecutive match without Patrick Bamford and it is no exaggeration to say the 28-year-old striker’s Nike Phantom GTs have proved big boots to fill. Marcelo Bielsa has clearly struggled to find adequate cover for a player whose hold-up play and work ethic are almost as irreplaceable as the goals he provides. Dan James, Tyler Roberts, Jack Harrison and Rodrigo have all spent time deputising for Bamford, often swapping positions during the same game, while Joe Gelhardt was hugely impressive off the bench in their draw against Wolves. The 19-year-old Scouser was withdrawn at half-time during Leeds Under-21s’ midweek defeat at the hands of Salford in the Football League Trophy, a substitution that suggests he may be given another chance to test his Premier League mettle against Leicester. BG

10) The importance of Mbeumo for Bees

Last week’s shellacking at Burnley will have been a wake-up call for a side who have impressed almost everyone since promotion. Burnley’s well-organised and disciplined team kept Marcus Forss and Ivan Toney quiet, as Bryan Mbeumo was only fit enough for the bench. Mbeumo is expected to return, and his partnership with Toney will be key against the Premier League’s bottom side. Despite dominating possession at Turf Moor and having 12 shots, Brentford could only muster a single goal, as Mbeumo’s absence was felt by a team lauded for their play in the final third. They were also missing David Raya in Lancashire, with many thinking his long-term injury will have a big impact, but it was at the other end where the problems were most clear. Without Mbeumo’s attacking flair, the Bees showed they can be blunted quite easily and they need to reignite against a side who have conceded 25 goals in 10 games. WU

TravelGuides – Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend | Premier League

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