10 things to watch this weekend

1) Leicester improved against champions

Brendan Rodgers revived? Five matches in October brought three wins, just one loss and four clean sheets. Knocking out fellow strugglers Leeds and then Wolves in a resounding 4-0 win took Leicester out of the bottom three, but there is a lot of work to be done. Rodgers’ immediate target is to reach the World Cup break away from the relegation zone, although facing Manchester City may be pointless. Leicester’s newfound defensive strength has largely been attributed to Wout Faes’ form, but the aggressive, tousled-haired Belgian could be saved from the ultimate test against Erling Haaland given he’s in doubt with the foot injury that got him prevented from playing the second half at Borussia Dortmund. . Leicester have sometimes been a troubling opponent for Pep Guardiola. His first visit to the King Power in October 2016 ended in a 4-2 loss inspired by Jamie Vardy and the moment he was famously asked: ‘What is tackle?’ John Brewin

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2) Case where Emery could have been

It was a classic sliding door moment. Unai Emery has changed his mind about swapping Villarreal for Newcastle last November and Eddie Howe has taken charge of St James’ Park instead. But what would have happened if the Spaniard had accepted the job? Would Newcastle have won last season’s fight against relegation? Could they fly so high in the chart now? And where would Howe have landed? Given Newcastle’s drastic improvement under the latter, there is a widespread feeling that they had a lucky escape with Emery allied with intrigue as to how the former Arsenal manager might do at AstonVilla. Work permit issues dictate he won’t be in the technical area on Saturday – Emery officially starts working at Villa on Tuesday – so with caretaker manager Aaron Danks on the touchline there will be no competition tactics with Howe. Louise Taylor

3) De Zerbi tries to break the duck during Potter’s visit

Graham Potter returns to Brighton after seven weeks at Chelsea, a period in which his former club failed to win a game. After Tuesday’s 2-1 win at RB Salzburg, he remains an unbeaten Chelsea manager. Casemiro’s header equalizer last week for Manchester United robbed Potter of a first win, but fans at his new club are beginning to understand how he made a name for himself at the seaside. Thomas’ Chelsea Tuchel often suffered from his rigidity while Potter’s flexible tactics made the team more attractive to watch but hard to beat. Players like Mason Mount, Kai Havertz and especially Ruben Loftus-Cheek had a chance to shine. Roberto De Zerbi’s two-point output from a possible 15 has not been promising so far and Brighton’s previous defensive strength has been lost due to the Italian’s demand to play the ball from behind every round. So far he’s done the best job of showing off Potter’s good work. J.B.

4) Marsch on the brink at Anfield

Anfield is no place for a struggling manager who needs respite. Last season, Marcelo Bielsa arrived under pressure at Leeds and looked doomed after a 6-0 defeat. The end was confirmed after another heavy home defeat to Tottenham three days later. His replacement, Jesse Marsch, faces Liverpool in a similar but arguably weaker position given the fans rotated in a way that hasn’t happened under the revered Argentine. Two points from the last 24 available also fueled the unrest. However, Leeds’ strongest performances have been against the strongest sides this season, including Chelsea and Arsenal, and their manager is in desperate need of a repeat as he struggles to earn support and time. This is a daunting task at a precarious time. Liverpool are unbeaten in 29 Premier League home games. Andy Hunter

5) VAR rage comes in handy for O’Neil and Conte

An undesirable by-product of the VAR system has been its use as a weapon of managerial misdirection. On Monday, Gary O’Neil passed the post-match ramp to being skewed against his Bournemouth side. “There were 10 serious VAR checks and none passed,” he said after the loss at West Ham. “It’s getting ridiculous.” After Harry Kane’s winner against Sporting withdrew on Wednesday, Antonio Conte launched an even fiercer attack. “I don’t see the honesty,” he said. “I would like to see if this type of decision is made with a top team in an important match.” This challenged his view of Tottenham’s position. Both managers boiled over perceived injustice but, in both cases, contested decisions cast a fig leaf over poor performance. Bournemouth rarely threatened Lukasz Fabianski’s goal, while Tottenham struggled against Sporting’s not particularly tight defence. Beyond the dark plot hints are two teams struggling for form. J.B.

6) Ten Hag needs a real centre-forward

Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Cristiano Ronaldo: will the real Manchester United n°9 be announced? This, in private, may well be Erik ten Hag’s sentiment. The question of who leads the attack is a major threat to success this season. Rashford is the top scorer with five but is not a ruthless Kane-esque marksman. Martial, a top finisher, is injury prone (three appearances, not a single 90mins completed). Ronaldo, 38 in the spring, manifests an attitude problem anathema to Ten Hag’s all-for-one team philosophy. Absent from the roll call of the Dutchman’s five summer acquisitions – Christian Eriksen (playmaker), Casemiro (main midfielder), Antony (winger), Tyrell Malacia (defender), Martin Dubvraka (goalkeeper) – was a centre-forward. January is rarely the best time to dip into the market, but Ten Hag may have to ask his director of football, John Murtough, to try and sign a new striker. The chosen man against West Ham can score, but there is still a structural problem for the manager to address. Jaime Jackson

7) Forest target another big shock

A leaner and meaner visit from Nottingham Forest to the Emirates, buoyed by a clean sheet at Brighton and last week’s heroic win over Liverpool. Steve Cooper knew his team needed to get back to basics before they regain some of their attacking enthusiasm from the start of the season and they struck the right balance on a noisy occasion at the City Ground. It will be tougher against an Arsenal side that usually crush their opponents into submission with fast and intense starts, but Forest may feel a little pressure has been taken from them on Sunday. Any kind of result would be a huge bonus and they will be hoping that, with Arsenal not so fresh after a fourth straight week of Europa League effort, their chances of securing one will have gone up a notch. Arsenal’s recent second-half performances have been relatively sluggish: if Forest can last 45 minutes, the leaders’ legs could start to feel much heavier. Nick Ames

8) Will Calvert-Lewin offer England a recall?

It’s probably too late for Dominic Calvert-Lewin to make a late push for a place in England’s World Cup squad. The striker has missed too much football recently and has been powerless to stop Tammy Abraham and Ivan Toney moving past him in Gareth Southgate’s plans. However, Calvert-Lewin, who went to Euro 2020 as Harry Kane’s assistant, remains vital for Everton. Frank Lampard’s side struggled in the final third as Calvert-Lewin was absent, but he made a huge difference when he started against Crystal Palace last weekend. His touch to pull away from Palace’s Marc Guéhi, followed by an emphatic shot to put Everton ahead, offered a timely reminder of his class. It was the kind of goal that got Calvert-Lewin into the England squad in the first place and he will be hoping to push further at Fulham. Jacob Steinberg

Related: VAR fury at Tottenham and Atlético a sign of what football has lost | Luke McLaughlin

9) The Saints of Sunak face other puzzles

For their first game as the UK Prime Minister’s favorite side, Rishi Sunak’s beloved Southampton travel to Selhurst unbeaten in three and fresh after holding Arsenal last Sunday. Lyanco, the fourth-choice centre-back, made a sharp turn to stifle the threat of Gabriel Martinelli as an emergency right-back. If Ralph Hasenhüttl stays with the Brazilian, as may be necessary with Kyle Walker-Peters out for the foreseeable future with a hamstring problem, he will likely come up against Wilfried Zaha. The Palace captain disappointed in Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Everton, as did Patrick Vieira’s entire attacking unit. Zaha’s winning goal against Wolves last week was his first since August and yet he remains his club’s top scorer with five. Zaha, Michael Olise, Jordan Ayew, Odsonne Édouard, and Eberechi Eze all share a quality that would probably fit right in among Hasenhüttl’s puzzles. For both teams, inconsistency is the most obvious quality. J.B.

10) Where will Wolves get a goal from?

It’s a truism, but Wolves need goals if they are to avoid relegation and see the costly Fosun Group project crumble. They’ve only managed five this season and none of them have been scored by a striker. Raúl Jiménez will return to England from Friday to continue his recovery from a groin injury but, for now, they must continue with Diego Costa, whose mind seems more willing than his body. A bit of encouragement could come in the form of Brentford’s recent defensive record: although Thomas Frank’s side did well to shut out Chelsea and Brighton over the past fortnight, there have been some alarming meltdowns at Newcastle and Aston Villa, while Arsenal scored three times in west London last month. Brentford are generally strong at home but Wolves will be hoping that, if they dominate possession and shot count to the point of somehow bringing a 4-0 loss to Leicester last week, they can open them up on Saturday. N / A

Pos

Crew

P

GD

Points

1

Arsenal

2

City of Man

3

Tottenham Hotspur

4

Newcastle

5

chelsea

6

Man Utd

seven

Fulham

8

liverpool

9

Brighton

ten

West Ham

11

Brentford

12

Everton

13

crystal palace

14

AFC Bournemouth

15

AstonVilla

16

Southampton

17

Leicester

18

Leeds

19

Wolverhampton

20

Nottm Forest

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