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Premier League: Weekend talking points

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Cole Palmer celebrates against Manchester City Photo
Cole Palmer celebrates against Manchester City. Photo/ Chelsea FC
  • We go over some of the key talking topics in the Premier League, including Cole Palmer’s return to the Etihad, Liverpool’s track record in London, and Arsenal’s set-piece danger.

We go over some of the key talking topics in the Premier League, including Cole Palmer’s return to the Etihad, Liverpool’s track record in London, and Arsenal’s set-piece danger.

Arsenal’s set-piece threat

Arsenal beat West Ham 6 0 Photo

Declan Rice of Arsenal. Photo/CNN

Arsenal’s last gameweek solidified their reputation as the Premier League’s set-piece experts by destroying West Ham in a record-tying 6-0 victory at the London Stadium. Both William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhães scored after converting deliveries from Declan Rice. The club record signing made an impression right away after switching to dead-ball duty.

In the Premier League this season, Arsenal has scored 16 goals from set-piece scenarios under Mikel Arteta’s leadership, three more than Everton in second place and, critically, a large amount more than the title contenders Manchester City (10) and Liverpool (7). This is evidence of Arsenal’s transformation into masters of the set-piece. The striking visual appeal of the front line’s clever connections is further threatened by their prolificity from set-piece scenarios, which further reinforces their title claims with a variety of goal routes.

With his 14th league goal for Arsenal last weekend, Gabriel—who has been the main target for passes into the box—became the division’s highest-scoring defender since joining the Emirates.

This week, Arsenal takes on a squad that is among the weakest in the league in set-piece defense. For most of the season, Burnley’s defense has appeared disorganized, and only Nottingham Forest has given up more goals from set pieces than Burnley has (12 total). This weekend, Vincent Kompany will have to devise a strategy to handle Arsenal’s risky deliveries.

No love lost for Cole Palmer

In November, Pep Guardiola said that Cole Palmer made the decision to leave Manchester City and acknowledged that he had hoped to keep the 21-year-old at the Etihad.

“He got what he wanted. It is good for him. He is a young player, a huge talent otherwise he would not have been here. He is a nice lad and is doing really good.”

“Doing really good” may be a way of downplaying Palmer’s contribution to Chelsea and allaying concerns about his £42.5 million transfer to west London. Palmer has made 29 appearances for Chelsea in slightly over half the season, resulting in 20 goal involvements and an average of one goal or assist per 93 minutes in the Premier League.

Palmer made his full England debut in the fall, and most people agree that he has been Chelsea’s Player of the Season and is vying for a spot in the Euro 2024 team. He has been a shining light on a squad that has had consistency issues.

Manchester United face the Luton test

Rasmus Hojlund

Rasmus Hojlund of Manchester United celebrates after scoring his first Premier League goal in a match against Aston Villa on Boxing Day. Photo/ Goal.com.

Last weekend’s dramatic victory against Aston Villa gave Manchester United new life in their ambitions of finishing in the top four. The Red Devils edged closer to the Champions League spots as a consequence of a spectacular winner scored by Scott McTominay, who entered the game off the bench.

Due in part to Rasmus Hojlund’s play, Erik ten Hag’s club has been winning three games in a row lately and is beginning to show indications of improvement. Following an unsteady beginning, the Danish international has found the goal in five straight Premier League games. Should he score at Kenilworth Road, he would become the youngest ever to score in six successive games.

McTominay’s form is a concern for Ten Hag, as the Scotland international has been a key player off the bench. The 27-year-old is Manchester United’s leading league scorer (7), leads the Premier League in goals from the bench (4) alongside Brighton’s Joao Pedro, and has a league-leading 12 points from his goals.

However, McTominay’s finest performances have come when given the freedom to enter the box, a role presently held by Bruno Fernandes, who leads Europe’s top five leagues in chances created. With Casemiro and Kobbie Maino excelling behind the Portuguese, McTominay may have to settle for a super-sub position.

Liverpool’s poor record in London

Liverpool beat Norwich City 5 2 Photo Liverpool FC

Liverpool. Photo/ Liverpool FC

Jurgen Klopp will undoubtedly have complained about the game schedule as Liverpool travels south to London for Saturday’s midday kickoff against Brentford.

If Liverpool keeps up its dismal recent record in the city—the Reds have only triumphed twice in their previous eight trips there—Klopp’s complaints will be heard even more loudly.

Liverpool lost both of its games this season—against Tottenham and Arsenal—in London, and the Merseysiders lost this matchup 3-1 the year before. In their two prior Premier League trips to Brentford, Liverpool has come away empty-handed both times.

Following a hamstring injury, Mohamed Salah may make a comeback, but Liverpool will probably exercise caution considering the recent injuries to Dominik Szoboszlai and Trent Alexander-Arnold and the upcoming EFL Cup final against Chelsea.

I am an ardent sports enthusiast interested in writing about football, motorsport and athletics.

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