Sportsmail’s 10 things to watch as Premier League football returns
Will Liverpool continue their 100 per cent start? Can Brendan Rodgers take advantage of vulnerable Man United? And are Arsenal about to see the best of Nicolas Pepe? 10 things to look out for as the Premier League returns
- Premier League football is returning following the international break
- Now into match week five, the English top flight is already gathering hot pace
- Liverpool are the only team to retain a 100 per cent winning record so far
- Manchester United face former club of Harry Maguire, Leicester City
- Are Arsenal now ready to see the best of their record signing Nicolas Pepe?
With the international break drawing to a close, we prepare for the eagerly anticipated return for the Premier League and match week five.
While it remains very much early days in the campaign, things are already hotting up.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are making an early surge for dominance, while Manchester United are teetering and new boys Norwich are proving that, under the guidance of Daniel Farke’s philosophy, they can play attractive football among the big boys.
Ahead of the top flight checking back in for action, Sportsmail takes a look at the 10 things to look out for around the grounds.
It was hardly unexpected that Jurgen Klopp’s side burst out of the blocks this season, given how close they came to ending the club’s title wait during the previous campaign.
Any talk of fatigue after the Champions League final victory was soon brushed aside however, with the Reds clicking straight into usual procedure on the pitch.
A slow and mixed pre-season appeared to give off warning signs, but the Reds have steamrollered teams in their path so far, including tricky meetings with Arsenal and Burnley. Steve Bruce’s Newcastle are up next, for the Saturday lunchtime kick-off, and some bookmakers are pricing it as high as at 25/1 for a Magpies win at Anfield.
Liverpool are the only team remaining in the Premier League to have won each of their games
Brendan Rodgers to take advantage of vulnerable United?
An interesting one at Old Trafford, as in-form Leicester roll up to the North West at a time when Manchester United find themselves very much swaying in the ring.
Draws against Southampton and Wolves stunted the campaign so far, while a demoralising home defeat by Crystal Palace has left many unanswered questions.
Leicester meanwhile are yet to lose a game, have clicked into a coherent style of play and are already showing signs of a Rodgers blueprint.
Add into the mix the prospect of the world’s most expensive defender Harry Maguire facing his former employees for the first time since his record summer move, and this should be both a sizzling and perhaps quite unpredictable encounter.
Brendan Rodgers will be looking to capitalise at Old Trafford with his in-form Leicester side
Can Ole Gunnar Solskjaer re-energise Pogba?
The Frenchman cannot get out of the headlines at the moment, despite not even going anywhere this summer.
A protracted move to Madrid did not materialise. Not yet, anyway. And now United are counting upon the World Cup winner to really inject some elite level impetus into their side.
Pogba remained focused and committed during pre-season, but Solskjaer now has his work cut out to ensure the 26-year-old not only steps up every single weekend, but also dominates games. It’s a big ask, particularly of someone who does not necessarily want to be there.
Leicester are the sort of team who could swamp Pogba out of the game, and fans can expect Rodgers to tactically address his side to specifically stifle the midfielder.
Paul Pogba stayed at Manchester United but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must have him firing weekly
Arsenal now set to see the best of Pepe?
The record signing has had time to bed in, and now Unai Emery has a much greater feel for how to use his Ligue 1 recruit.
Already in the short time he’s been in the Premier League Pepe has shown glimpses of why the Gunners sanctioned a £72million deal despite limited resources.
Bottom-of-the-league Watford host Emery’s side for Sunday’s late kick-off, with Pepe expected to have full license to roam in the final third alongside the interchanging Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.
Danny Welbeck could feature for the Hornets, giving Gunners fans an in-person glimpse of past and present.
Winger Pepe has shown flashes of why Arsenal committed to making him their record buy
Frank Lampard to make tactical tweaks?
Chelsea are having a strange season, at this very early stage, in that they have won only one game… but haven’t really played badly at all.
Things are happening at Stamford Bridge, that much is certain. The signs are there already that returning hero Lampard is looking to get the players singing from the same hymn sheet, while adopting a forward-thinking approach of maximum risk, maximum reward.
We saw it in the season opener against United, where they fell to a humiliating 4-0 defeat. Yet the performance had flashes of promise.
Youngsters Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount are already delivering after being handed senior opportunities, and will be expected to make an impact this weekend as the Blues face the tricky task of a trip to Wolves.
Lampard will be well aware that Nuno Espirito’s side are perfectly capable of playing high tempo, measured football.
Resting on the laurels could well see a repeat of the recent last-gasp 2-2 stalemate against Sheffield United. The Blues must take the game to their hosts from the off, and impose themselves on the tie without fear of being undone.
Chelsea have shown promise under Frank Lampard but the results have not corresponded
Norwich to show what they can do?
Daniel Farke’s side have already earned plaudits for jumping up into the big time and still very much sticking to the free-flowing football which got them to the promised land.
Though easy on the eye, Norwich find themselves with only three points to their name and sit 19th.
It’s a very big ask to go up against Manchester City and expect to get something, but the Canaries are playing at home and will fully expect Pep Guardiola’s side to play high octane possession football from the off.
It will be a pacey game, that’s for sure. Norwich will have to be near perfect, or it could well be a counter-attacking goalfest for the Mancunians.
Norwich can play their free-flowing football against Man City, but it may come at a huge cost
Mauricio Pochettino woes to return?
Tottenham host a Crystal Palace side who pride themselves on a belief that, on their day, they can match anyone in the division.
As the weeks have gone by, Mauricio Pochettino has cut an increasingly frustrated and downbeat figure.
His side defied the odds to make the Champions League final last season and, though unsuccessful, have made some big money acquisition signings since.
Yet all does not feel quite right in north London, and results have been highlighting this.
A defeat to Newcastle was a kick in the teeth, while the recent north London derby saw Pochettino’s men very much holding on in the latter stages. Defeat to the Eagles on Saturday could trigger a very concerning slide.
Tottenham should be at an all-time high right now but Mauricio Pochettino is not content
Everton’s attack to click?
A hard-fought 3-2 victory over Wolves injected some much needed feel-good factor around Goodison prior to the international break.
Yet die-hard Toffees will make the long trip to the south coast for the Bournemouth game on Sunday knowing their day could go one of many ways. Inconsistency has, rather aptly, been a very consistent feature for Marco Silva’s side during the last 18 months.
With two wins from four games, and just a miserable defeat by Aston Villa the only blot against their name so far, Everton are on the rise according to the figures on the form guide.
This will only continue however if their new-look front line clicks into harmony. On paper the combination of Richarlison, Moise Keane and Alex Iwobi looks frightening. A trio of young, hungry players who each pack flair in abundance, with a large dose of physicality for the Premier League fight.
Each has big game experience, with Brazil, Juventus and Arsenal respectively. Now they have to take individual responsibility, address Everton’s issue of inconsistency and make the Toffees a force.
Richarlison, Moise Kean and Alex Iwobi showed huge promise in the recent win over Wolves
Villa Park to shine under the lights?
The final fixture of match day five kicks over to Monday evening, when Aston Villa welcome West Ham to the Midlands.
Villa have taken only three points so far this season – but it came under the Friday night lights at home to Everton last month.
Throughout the years Villa Park has played host to a series of iconic football moments, both domestically and for England. Now it is hosting Premier League football under the lights on a consistent basis.
After being seemingly robbed of a painfully late goal, deep in injury time, in their recent meeting with Crystal Palace, there is no better time for Dean Smith’s side to make amends.
Villa Park welcomes back Premier League football under the famous lights on Monday evening
The VAR state of play
Not a week has gone by so far during the campaign where VAR has not been the epicentre of discussion.
From broadcasters’ sports studios to every pub up and down the country, anyone has a opinion and everyone is keen to make theirs known.
FA chiefs have been in constant dialogue with Premier League sides about the progress of the Video Assisted Referee technology, and have urged all sides to continually provide constant feedback on their thoughts on its usage.
The likes of Manchester City are still smarting from seeing the most minute of details given against their favour and – considering how tight the title race was last season – it’s easy to see why.
Keep a close eye on the monitors this weekend, as the forensic yet still flawed nature of present day officiating returns to the grounds.
Each week of the Premier League season has been shrouded in dispute and debate on VAR
MATCH DAY FIVE PL FIXTURES
Saturday, September 14
Liverpool vs Newcastle (12.30pm)
Brighton vs Burnley (3pm)
Manchester United vs Leicester (3pm)
Sheffield vs Southampton (3pm)
Tottenham vs Crystal Palace (3pm)
Wolves vs Chelsea (3pm)
Norwich vs Manchester City (5.30pm)
Sunday, September 15
Bournemouth vs Everton (2pm)
Watford vs Arsenal (4.30pm)
Monday, September 16
Aston Villa vs West Ham (8pm)
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