Will Henrikh Mkhitaryan finally be given another chance to shine?
Manchester United face Burnley at Old Trafford this weekend, and with disrespect intended towards Sean Dyche’s team, it should not be one of the Red Devils hardest tasks of the season to defeat the Clarets.
Burnley have shown an impressive resilience at home this season, with their recent 2-1 win over Everton at Turf Moor being a fine example of that, but on their travels difficulties tend to arise.
However, Jose Mourinho’s side have had their own troubles this season, with defeats against Manchester City, Watford and Feyenoord still stinging. Some creativity and freshness is severely needed, and the signing from Borussia Dortmund will surely provide that.
Mourinho has even said that Mkhitaryan needs an opportunity to shine.
“I think it takes time. Some players, their profile is adapted to come and play, some others they need more time to feel the intensity and the aggression, the game without the ball, the competitiveness. Many times players come from different countries. The style of football is different and the reality is different in terms of competitiveness.
“There’s no other country where it doesn’t matter the team you play against, you have to play at the highest level or if you don’t you have no chance. Micky needs time to become the top player he can be.”
Call us cynical, but it looks like a thinly-veiled excuse as to why Mourinho has largely decided to ignore one of the summer’s biggest arrivals in the Premier League.
The whole situation is quite frankly bizarre, and the Burnley match serves as a just time to give Mkhitaryan a platform to display what he can do in an United shirt.
Will Arsene Wenger continue to withdraw Alexis Sanchez?
Three times in each of Arsenal’s last three games has seen Arsene Wenger withdraw Alexis Sanchez from the action earlier than expected.
Such was his disappointment that Sanchez had no issue publicly displaying his discontent with his manager for his decision, but Wenger has made it clear that, although the Chilean is one of the biggest stars at the club, it is he who calls the shots here.
“When I decide to take him off, I take him off,” Wenger says pointedly. “There is no special case. He has his own character but he is not treated differently from everybody else.”
After injury problems hampered another title campaign last season, the Frenchman is evidently keen to avoid such a crisis this time around.
Lucas Perez has already been ruled out for six weeks however, and Chuba Akpom and Danny Welbeck will not be returning for some time.
Therefore, one can understand Wenger’s hesitation in allowing Sanchez to complete a game – his track record with injuries is hardly positive reading for Arsenal fans.
However, his absence on the pitch could mean that a precious three points could escape the Gunners against Sunderland – will Wenger take that chance?
Can Guardiola shake off Manchester City’s losing streak?
There is of course those who calm that Pep is not the world’s greatest manager as many perceive him to be, but the ‘Fraudiola’ nonsense will see some shaking their heads at their stupidity at the end of the season.
True, City’s poor run needs to be rectified, but with the club on top of the Premier League, calling the situation a crisis is beyond sense.
The Citizens travel to West Brom today, boosted by this week’s announcement that Tony Pulis has extended his stay at the Hawthorns until 2018.
The Baggies are no strangers to holding their own against big teams – Tottenham only just managed to nick a last-gasp equaliser through Dele Alli against them last week.
However, City, who drew with Southampton on Sunday, will need to gain maximum points here, being quite fortunate that Middlesbrough were able to hold Arsenal to a draw to prevent the Gunners overtaking them in the table at the end of play last weekend.
The world will be expecting a comfortable result, but can the Citizens deliver?
Will Klopp’s men continue to show their title credentials?
If you asked a neutral fan who have been the most impressive team in the Premier League this season, it would be no surprise if they said Liverpool. Under the guidance of Klopp, they have grown from strength to strength, with no visible hangover from the cup final heartache of last season.
Sadio Mane has been a wonderful, wonderful signing. The acquisition of the Senegalese from Southampton has injected creativity, pace and an extra drive to succeed into the team, and his link up with his fellow attackers has at times been mesmerising.
Credit too goes to captain Jordan Henderson, who has been quietly marshalling his charges from midfield whilst allowing the likes of Adam Lallana and Georginio Wijnaldum to push further forward.
Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace do pose a significant threat to the optimism that is pervading the red half of Merseyside, and a trip to Selhurst Park is a difficult one for any team with such terrific home support on the back of travelling opposition.
Pardew’s risky signing of Christian Benteke appears to have paid off, whilst holding on to Wilfried Zaha, who has subject to intense interest from Tottenham, was crucial.
Nonetheless, if Liverpool want to win the Premier League these are exactly the type of games that they must win. Like City, they are under pressure, albeit a very different form.
Can Southampton continue to defy their doubters?
They really are a remarkably well-run football club. We can trace back to the point when Nigel Adkins was sacked in what at the time was considered a bizarre move considering the strong run they had been enjoying. In fact, it was a 2-2 draw with Chelsea that cost Adkins his job.
In stepped Mauricio Pochettino, who brought a different and brilliant style to Saint Marys. Alas, Tottenham came calling, and the likes of Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana, who had been integral to the team, also departed. Relegation surely awaited, no?
Ronald Koeman arrived next, and with him a plethora of unique additions. The move to sign Dusan Tadic and later Virgil Van Djik were masterstrokes.
However, losing Lallana, Lambert and Luke Shaw should have rocked the club. Instead, they have adapted and thrived.
Claude Puel replaced Koeman in the summer, and his signings, like his predecessors, have been very astute indeed.
Nathan Redmond has been one of the best players in the Premier League last season, whilst Sofiane Boufal has shown signs of what extraordinary things he can do after his arrival from Lille.
Young Sam McQueen has also been allowed the opportunity to impress against teams such as Inter Milan and Manchester City this season and has not let his new manager down. It is quite a step up from playing League One football with Southend, where the Englishman enjoyed a loan spell last season.
Puel has also brought out the best in Charlie Austin, who is enjoying a fine renaissance up front.
Such impressive strides made by the club was highlighted by Sunday’s battling draw, and they will be looking to continue to defy the odds against Antonio Conte’s Chelsea.
We certainly can’t wait to see the encounter, and it will certainly come as no shock to see Southampton take something from the game.
Callum Connolly, Pundit Arena.
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