Talking points ahead of Saturday's Premier League matches

By James Harding 14 Feb 2023

Get set for eight fixtures as Arsenal look to respond and Haaland targets a rare feat

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As the dust settles on Wednesday's pulsating showdown between title rivals Arsenal and Manchester City, here are the key things to look out for on Saturday.

Can Arsenal bounce back?

For so long the pacesetters, Arsenal now find themselves looking up at leaders Man City.

After suffering their first home defeat of the season, the Gunners will need to show their resolve when they travel to Aston Villa in Saturday’s early kick-off.

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They don’t need to look further than last season for inspiration.

Arsenal also visited Villa in a Saturday lunchtime match in March 2022, grinding out a 1-0 victory thanks to a Bukayo Saka goal, just three days after losing 2-0 at home to Liverpool.

The Gunners will come up against former manager Unai Emery, who has already masterminded impressive victories over Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur since replacing Steven Gerrard as Villa head coach in October.

The Gunners are assessing midfield lynchpin Thomas Partey, who is dealing with a muscle injury, while Mikel Arteta could look to freshen up his side following the quick turnaround, with Leandro Trossard pushing for a first start and Ben White an option to return at right-back, in place of Takehiro Tomiyasu.

The top four

Position Pos Club Played Pl GD Points Pts
1 Manchester City MCI 38 +61 89
2 Arsenal ARS 38 +45 84
3 Manchester United MUN 38 +15 75
4 Newcastle United NEW 38 +35 71
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Haaland targets rare feat

Not only can Erling Haaland become Man City’s leading goalscorer in a single Premier League season, if he nets at Nottingham Forest on Saturday, overtaking Sergio Aguero’s tally of 26 in 2014/15, but he can also achieve a feat managed by only one other player in the competition's history.

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Haaland netted a hat-trick when the two sides met in the reverse fixture in August and can become only the second player to score a treble in both matches against a side in the same season after Emmanuel Adebayor did so for Arsenal versus Derby County in 2007/08.

His case could be helped by Forest’s injury crisis in central defence, with Scott McKenna and Willy Boly both sidelined after being forced off during last weekend’s 2-0 defeat at Fulham.

Pep Guardiola’s side are looking to make it a perfect week after consecutive 3-1 wins over Aston Villa and Arsenal, with a third victory in six days potentially making it a season-defining one.

While the City manager has found the winning formula again, and may be tempted to stick with a settled side, the likes of Phil Foden, Julian Alvarez and Aymeric Laporte provide strong options to freshen up the starting XI.

Crucial battles at the bottom

It promises to be another tense afternoon at the bottom of the table, with Everton hosting Leeds United and AFC Bournemouth travelling to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The bottom six

Position Pos Club Played Pl GD Points Pts
15 Bournemouth BOU 38 -34 39
16 Nottingham Forest NFO 38 -30 38
17 Everton EVE 38 -23 36
18 Leicester City LEI 38 -17 34
19 Leeds United LEE 38 -30 31
20 Southampton SOU 38 -37 25
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New Everton manager Sean Dyche will be hoping to make it two wins from two at Goodison Park, after inspiring his side to a surprise 1-0 victory over Arsenal.

But he will have to do so without injured striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

Ellis Simms led the line in Monday’s 2-0 Merseyside derby defeat, but Dyche could turn to Demarai Gray or Neal Maupay in the search for goals. Gray is the Toffees’ joint-leading scorer this season with three, along with the departed Anthony Gordon.

“We’ve got other good players here," Dyche said when asked about the impact of losing Calvert-Lewin. "I think it’s more important to focus on them at this stage, because facts are facts, and Dom’s not available.

“Until then, my focus is on the players who are available, and the team unit.

“The mentality has to be that we score as a team and defend as a team. The framework of the team is important. It’s not just about individual players. It’s about putting players in an area to score goals, whoever that may be.”

The meeting between Wolves and AFC Bournemouth pits two teams at opposite ends of the form table.

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Julen Lopetegui has reinvigorated Wolves, guiding his side to three wins in their last four matches.

Wolves’ business in the January transfer window has been key to their turnaround.

The addition of the experienced Craig Dawson has helped to shore up the defence, while further forward, Pablo Sarabia and Matheus Cunha have added much-needed guile and energy.

By contrast, AFC Bournemouth have won only one of their last 13 matches.

One positive for the Cherries has been the impact of January signing Dango Ouattara, who has provided two assists in three appearances since joining from Ligue 1 side Lorient.

A second away win of the season could see Gary O’Neil’s side move out of the bottom three and provide a timely confidence boost ahead of daunting fixtures against the top two, Man City and Arsenal.

Race for Europe heats up

One of the stories of the season so far has been the outstanding performances by Brighton & Hove Albion, Fulham and Brentford.

Brighton host Fulham on Saturday while Brentford entertain Crystal Palace, as all three sides continue their battle to secure European football next term.

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Roberto De Zerbi has helped transform Brighton into the great entertainers – the Seagulls have scored 28 goals since the Italian was appointed as head coach, the fourth-best record in the league.

Fulham head to Amex Stadium on the back of consecutive clean sheets.

Tim Ream has been turning back the clock at the heart of the Cottagers’ defence, with the 35-year-old an ever-present under Marco Silva this season.

Brentford, meanwhile, are seeking to extend their incredible 10-match unbeaten run at home to Palace.

The Eagles are without a win in their last six and will be nervously looking over their shoulder, should that sequence be extended to seven this weekend – Patrick Vieira’s side are currently seven points above the relegation zone.

Unlucky No 13 for Liverpool?

Liverpool will head to Newcastle United buoyed by their Merseyside derby success and their impressive recent record versus the Magpies.

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The Reds are unbeaten in their last 12 Premier League meetings with Newcastle, last tasting defeat against them in December 2015.

A win for Jurgen Klopp’s men would leave them six points adrift of their hosts with a match in hand, providing a significant boost in their hopes of securing a top-four finish.

Can managerless Saints make history?

Bottom side Southampton travel to Chelsea hoping to complete a first-ever Premier League double over the Blues.

Saints defeated Chelsea 2-1 back in August, under the guidance of Ralph Hasenhuttl, while Thomas Tuchel was still in the dugout for the west London club.

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Chelsea will be hoping that Joao Felix can kick on after opening his account for the club in last weekend’s 1-1 draw at West Ham United.

The Portuguese star took three shots and created two chances for his team-mates in an eye-catching opening 45 minutes at London Stadium.

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