BIG questions for the weekend's matches

By Alex Keble 17 Apr 2024

Alex Keble looks at the main talking points for the Matchweek 34 fixtures

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Alex Keble analyses where the upcoming fixtures in Matchweek 34 could be won and lost, including:

- Can Burnley turn it around?
- Will tough away run end Arsenal's challenge?
- Villa to put pressure on S
- Can Fulham to add to Liverpool's woes?
- Glasner to build on statement Liverpool win?
- Will set-pieces prove decisive for Everton?
- Can Luton claim another crucial home win?

Can Burnley still turn things around?

Burnley have come agonisingly close to getting back into the fight against relegation, losing just one of their last six matches in the Premier League and winning seven points.

Were it not for goalkeeping errors it would have been 10 points, putting them within three points of Nottingham Forest in 17th.

The relegation battle

Position Pos Club Played Pl GD Points Pts
16 Brentford BRE 38 -9 39
17 Nott'm Forest NFO 38 -18 32
18 Luton LUT 38 -33 26
19 Burnley BUR 38 -37 24
20 Sheffield Utd SHU 38 -69 16
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A fortnight ago Arijanet Muric fired a pass straight at Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and the ball looped into the net, giving Everton a 1-0 win at Goodison Park. Seven days later, Muric let a backpass slip under his foot, gifting Brighton & Hove Albion an equaliser.

Muric and Burnley cannot let those errors eat away at them. Instead they must take solace from a newfound competitiveness this month – and take their chance at three points this weekend.

It is now or never. With Forest and Everton playing each other, victory at Sheffield United will take Burnley to within at least four points of one of the sides, and Forest are still to play at Turf Moor on the final day.

Burnley supporters will be quietly confident of the right result. Vincent Kompany’s side won the reverse fixture 5-0 back in December and Sheff Utd, winless in eight, have conceded at least twice in each of their last seven home matches.

In fact, they have already conceded 84 goals in the Premier League, more than any other side at this stage of a top-flight season since Ipswich Town in 1963/64.

It has been a long and difficult campaign for both clubs. There is still time – just about – for Burnley to turn things around.

But it has to be now.

How will Arsenal fare as away matches get tougher?

Defeat in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday night means Arsenal have won only two of their last six matches in all competitions.

They cannot afford another slip-up, and yet a trip to Molineux is no easy task. Wolverhampton Wanderers have won against sides who started the day in the top two twice this season, beating Manchester City 2-1 in September and Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 in November.

And although Arsenal’s away form has been immaculate in 2024, they have rarely been tested.

So far they have played at Forest, West Ham United, Burnley, Sheff Utd, Man City and Brighton, with the latter on a run of one win in five when they hosted Arsenal earlier this month.

That’s a kind run to say the least. Before that, Arsenal won just three of their final 11 away matches of 2023 in all competitions.

Their remaining three away fixtures of 2023/24 are against Wolves, Spurs and Manchester United.

Things get a lot harder from here, which is why the 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa could hardly have come at a worse moment.

Arsenal fans don’t need reminding it was around this time last season that their title challenge collapsed.

Beginning with a draw at Liverpool on 9 April, Arsenal won only three of their final nine Premier League matches of the season.

Mikel Arteta has reason to believe it won’t happen again. His team is stronger, more experienced and more resilient. But their remaining fixtures are starting to look tough.

Doubt might start to creep in. The ghosts of last season may haunt them. Arsenal need a win.

Can Villa put distance between themselves and Spurs?

Villa’s win at Arsenal last weekend was monumental. Not only did it hand them back the advantage in the race for the top four, it provided a much-needed reset following some mild underperformance in recent weeks.

It was a typical Unai Emery tactical masterclass; a flashback to the form that had Villa as outside title contenders back in December and a timely confidence boost.

Defeats for Arsenal and Man City in midweek have all-but confirmed that Germany will get a fifth Champions League spot, not England. There is no safety net anymore in the battle between Villa and Spurs.

The visit of AFC Bournemouth is a chance for Villa to put some distance between themselves and Spurs, who do not play this weekend.

In fact, Villa play twice – hosting Chelsea next Saturday – before Spurs play again, at home to Arsenal, meaning Emery’s side have a chance to pile the pressure on Spurs and gain a huge psychological advantage.

If Villa win their next two, Ange Postecoglou’s players will enter a daunting north London derby nine points behind Villa.

Chelsea will be tough, but Bournemouth’s away form tells us Villa really ought to win on Sunday.

Bournemouth have had a superb season under Andoni Iraola, who recovered spectacularly from a slow start.

Having won just six points from their first 11 matches, only the Premier League’s top four teams have won more points than their 36 since 11 November.

But most of that is down to their home form. They have only won five away matches all season, and only one of those opponents, seventh-placed Man Utd, currently sit above Bournemouth, who are 13th.

Bournemouth’s PL away wins in 23/24
Opponent Score Date
Sheff Utd 1-3 25 Nov
Crystal Palace 0-2 6 Dec
Man Utd 0-3 9 Dec
Nott'm Forest 2-3 23 Dec
Burnley 0-2 3 Mar
Will Fulham’s defence exacerbate Liverpool’s goalscoring problems?

Liverpool’s wastefulness in front of goal threatens to derail their season.

Their 2.81 Expected Goals (xG) in the defeat to Crystal Palace was the most by a Premier League side who failed to score this season - and formed part of a worrying new trend.

Across Liverpool’s three-match winless run – against Man Utd, Atalanta, and Palace – they scored just two goals from an xG of 9.10.

In the last six Premier League matches, they have scored nine goals from 15.9 xG, a worrying underperformance.

A trip to Craven Cottage is not at all what Liverpool need right now.

Only the current top three have conceded fewer home goals than Fulham's 16 in the Premier League this season.

They have also kept six clean sheets at home, and since losing 3-0 to Brentford in their first home match of the season, have conceded only 13 goals in 15 matches (0.9 per game).

In better news for Liverpool, both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Diogo Jota should be fit to start.

Alexander-Arnold has created the second-most chances (54) in the Liverpool squad despite only starting 19 Premier League matches this season, while Jota is the only Liverpool forward who has outperformed his xG, scoring nine goals from 4.91 xG.

Diogo Jota

Jota in particular needs to hit the ground running if Liverpool are to break Fulham’s mean defence and save their season.

Can Glasner build on victory at Anfield?

The Oliver Glasner era started on Sunday. He’s been in the job since 19 February and taken charge of eight Premier League matches, but the new Crystal Palace head coach didn’t really get going until last weekend’s stunning 1-0 win at Anfield.

It had all the hallmarks of Glasner’s football: hard pressing to unsettle the opponent, fast transitions and sharp pre-meditated interchanges in the final third. It was hugely impressive and an exciting glimpse of what’s to come.

Replicating that performance at Selhurst Park is the next step, but it won’t be easy.

CRY tackles v Liverpool

West Ham represent an entirely different kind of challenge and their propensity to sit back might force Palace into a slower possession game of the sort Glasner would prefer to avoid.

Then again, West Ham have won just two of their nine league matches following a European midweek match this season, drawing four and losing three. Any tiredness will be pounced upon by Glasner’s aggressive midfield.

Will set-pieces give Everton the edge in six-pointer?

Only one point separates Everton and Nott'm Forest in 16th and 17th respectively, making this arguably the biggest match of the Premier League weekend.

Sean Dyche’s side have a clear advantage, both in this meeting and in the battle against the drop.

For starters, they have played a match fewer than Forest, as well as the benefit of playing four of their final six matches at Goodison Park, whereas Nuno Espirito Santo’s side only have two more encounters at the City Ground – and the visitors are Man City and Chelsea.

As for Sunday’s contest, Everton’s set-pieces give them the edge. They have scored 15 non-penalty set-piece goals this season, the second-most in the division, and are top of the charts for non-penalty set-piece xG, with 16.06.

Non-penalty set-piece goals 23/24
Team Set-piece xG Set-piece goals
Everton 16.06 15
Brentford 14.82 9
Liverpool 12.71 12
Arsenal 12.49 18
West Ham 12.36 10

That’s significant because Forest have conceded more non-penalty set-piece goals, with 21, than any other team in the Premier League this season.

Everton’s corners and free-kicks will be a constant threat, then, even if the hosts are still struggling to score goals, netting two or more goals in a match only once in 2024.

Can Luton build on home form at this crucial juncture?

Luton Town beat Bournemouth 2-1 in their last match at Kenilworth Road.

They are yet to win back-to-back home Premier League contests this season, something that has to change if Luton are to pull Everton, Nott'm Forest or this weekend’s opponents Brentford into the bottom three.

The 5-1 defeat at Man City last weekend got their final big match out of the way.

Their only remaining opponent in the current top 10 is West Ham, who sit eighth, and more importantly Luton have three winnable matches at Kenilworth Road: Brentford, Everton and Fulham.

Win all three, and Luton – just one point behind Forest – will surely stay up.

Luton's remaining fixtures

Rob Edwards has got a little unlucky with the timing of this first one.

Brentford are unbeaten in their last four Premier League matches, a significant improvement on a run of 14 defeats from 18 before that, and will be highly motivated to get the victory that would probably secure their Premier League status for another season.


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