Arsenal face title test at West Brom, Man U must stop the rot
Premier League preview: will Gunners keep firing, and can Moyes get things back on track?
THE nights are drawing in, the leaves are starting to fall and the new Premier League campaign is well underway, with the table starting to take shape and the season's main narratives beginning to unfold.
So far the two teams generating the most headlines are the usual suspects, Arsenal and Man United, and both are away from home this week.
Arsenal, on a ten-game winning streak and setting the pace in the title-race, will want to maintain their current form, but Manchester United, the reigning champions, will be hoping their luck changes, after an awful start to the season that's seen them win only two of their first six league games.
Liverpool and Spurs, hot on the heels of the Gunners, will hope to make up ground on the league leaders this week, and Everton have the chance to announce themselves as genuine contenders for a top four finish as they face faltering Man City.
Sunderland v Man United
Last week David Moyes had the chance to win over the doubters as his side faced modest opposition in the form of West Brom at Old Trafford, but a shock defeat has got the alarm bells ringing. It has also ratcheted up the pressure on Moyes, and anything other than a good win over managerless Sunderland, the Premier League's bottom side, on Saturday evening will be considered catastrophic. It will be interesting to see if Moyes tries to invigorate his squad by bringing in some hungry, bit-part players like Shinji Kagawa, Wilfried Zaha and Nani, or keep faith with his current first XI. As for Sunderland, this could be an ideal game for them. They are bottom of the table, without a manager and have nothing to lose. It could be a hairy afternoon for United, but surely they will prevail.
West Brom v Arsenal
A week ago the Baggies downed United at Old Trafford, and this week they will be looking forward to getting the chance to derail rampant Arsenal. But the Gunners are in imposing form, ten straight wins in all competitions (if you include the Capital One Cup win against West Brom on penalties) and a club-record 12 wins in a row on the road. Arsenal also produced one of their finest performances for years against Napoli on Tuesday night, so hopes will be high among the Arsenal faithful. Arsene Wenger's key weapons this term have been inspirational new signing Mesut Ozil and reborn midfielder Aaron Ramsey. But their opposite numbers in the West Brom team, Morgan Amalfitano and Stephane Sessegnon, could be just as crucial. The Baggies will not be overawed and could earn a point to end the Gunners' winning run.
Man City v Everton
The first game of the weekend on Saturday lunchtime is an intriguing affair. Under new boss Manuel Pellegrini, Man City have provided a curious mixture of brilliance and mediocrity. They demolished Manchester United in the local derby, but were completely outclassed by Bayern Munich in Europe this week. The form of Joe Hart in goal is also a major concern. Everton, on the other hand, are up in fourth place, three places higher than City, and are the only unbeaten team left in the Premier League. Young midfielder Ross Barkley and striker Romelu Lukaku have been inspirational this season, but they will sorely miss on-loan Gareth Barry, who cannot play against his parent club, and that could be key, although a draw is not out of the question.
Liverpool v Crystal Palace
Second-placed Liverpool will hope to keep up the pressure on Arsenal, and will go top for one night at least, if they can overcome Palace at Anfield. On paper it looks like a no-brainer, but the old home hoodoo that had dogged the Reds in recent seasons struck as they lost to Southampton in front of the Kop last time out. Luis Suarez will make his Anfield return in the match and it will be interesting to see what kind of reception he gets. He and strike partner Daniel Sturridge looked pretty sharp against Sunderland last week and anything other than a Liverpool win would be a major shock.
Spurs v West Ham
Spurs also have the chance to go top this weekend, provided other results go in their favour. Their task on Sunday afternoon is to overcome local London rivals West Ham, who have only one win to their name this season and are still without main striker Andy Carroll and creative midfielder Joe Cole. Spurs on the other hand have plenty of options, with Jermain Defoe, on target once again in Europe this week, putting plenty of pressure on current striker Roberto Soldado. Tottenham's resourcefulness may be tested against a resolute West Ham side, but given the talent at Andre Villas-Boas's disposal the Lilywhites should prevail.
This week's other fixtures:
SATURDAY Cardiff v Newcastle
Fulham v Stoke
Hull v Aston Villa
SUNDAY Norwich v Chelsea
Southampton v Swansea ·