LONDON: Arsenal are back on top of the Premier League with ambitions to stay there as they host Wolves this weekend while champions Manchester City play faltering Tottenham.
Newcastle take on Manchester United in a clash of two teams with high ambitions of their own while Chelsea face Brighton, still searching for consistency.
AFP Sport picks out three talking points ahead of the action.
Arsenal’s last-gasp 1-0 win at Brentford last week, which took them back to the top of table, was their fifth Premier League victory by a single goal this season.
The Gunners lack the fluidity they showed in the 2022/23 campaign and attacking numbers are down but former Manchester United defender Gary Neville believes they are now better equipped to win the league.
“Perfect, pretty football is unlikely to win the league unless it’s combined with a doggedness and resilience,” he said on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“Arsenal are better this year in these areas and the football will come in due course.”
But former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher, a Sky Sports pundit alongside Neville, believes Mikel Arteta’s team need to win games more convincingly.
“If Arsenal continue how they are, if this is the Arsenal we’re going to see this season, I don’t think they can win the league,” he told Sky.
He added: “So many games are going to the wire and sometimes that can go against you.... Those games that finish 1-0 can easily go 1-0 the other way.”
Arsenal smashed Lens 6-0 in the Champions League in midweek in a reminder of what can happen when everything clicks.
Early pacesetters Tottenham desperately need to arrest their slide after three straight defeats but champions Manchester City are their next port of call.
Ange Postecoglou’s team, unbeaten in their first 10 games, have developed the costly habit of letting leads slip — losing to Chelsea, Wolves and Aston Villa despite scoring first each time.
Postecoglou is grappling with a lengthy list of absentees and suffered another blow with the loss of midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur, expected to be out until February after suffering a serious ankle injury against Villa.
City last week showed a chink in their armor, failing to win at home in any competition for the first time this year when they were held 1-1 by Liverpool.
But Erling Haaland notched his 50th Premier League goal in just his 48th game at the Etihad — obliterating Andy Cole’s record — and this week became the quickest player to 40 Champions League goals with his strike against RB Leipzig.
City will be confident normal order can be resumed at home.
Newcastle vs. Manchester United pits a team with one of the best home records against a side who have been picking up wins on the road.
Despite a long injury list, Newcastle have won six of their seven Premier League games at their St. James’ Park stronghold this season.
Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United, despite their patchy form overall, have four victories out of six games away from home.
Both teams have ambitions of qualifying for season’s Champions League and they each face a battle to qualify for the knockout phase of this year’s competition after midweek draws.
Newcastle, who recently hammered Manchester United 3-0 in the League Cup, will fancy their chances against a team who, while they have started to score more freely, remain vulnerable at the back.
United have conceded 33 goals in all competitions this season, the most in their opening 20 matches of any campaign since 1962/63.
Saturday (1500 GMT unless stated)
Arsenal vs. Wolves, Brentford vs. Luton, Burnley vs. Sheffield United, Nottingham Forest vs. Everton (1730), Newcastle vs. Manchester United (2000)
Sunday (1400 unless stated)
Bournemouth vs. Aston Villa, Chelsea vs. Brighton, Liverpool vs. Fulham, West Ham vs. Crystal Palace, Manchester City vs. Tottenham (1630)