Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend | Football

1) Klopps’s lack of signings could pay off for Liverpool

A price of success is the fear of following it up with failure and a section of Liverpool fans are twitchy at a lack of new personnel. Kostas Tsimikas is the sole senior summer arrival and as back-up to Andy Robertson. There is also January signing Takumi Minamino, who will be required to build on cameo roles during last season’s run-in. That Rhian Brewster and Harry Wilson are being touted for sales also suggests Jürgen Klopp is parsing down the youngsters he feels can augment his squad. Tsimikas and Minamino cost £21m between them and the football finance guru Swiss Ramble has suggested Liverpool’s parsimony is down to increased costs. Fans yearn for Thiago Alcântara to freshen the midfield but that deal is by no means guaranteed. Does that point to a weakened Liverpool? Not necessarily since Klopp’s team had an easier Project Restart schedule than their peers, having exited the Champions League in March and had all but won the league by the time of resumption. Liverpool’s problem in early season may be rustiness but despite that lack of refreshment and Chelsea’s lavish spending, only Manchester City are likely to stop 19 league titles becoming 20. JB

2) Leeds face early acid test but may wait to test new assets

Fresh after winning the Championship, Norwich visited Anfield on the first day of last season. They gave Jürgen Klopp’s team a scare with slick and dynamic attacking, won some admirers and got absolutely pummelled. By the end of the season they were a musty pat in the Premier League field. So there is the cautionary tale for Leeds. How will Marcelo Bielsa adapt his approach to the higher level? Not very much seems the most likely answer, except in one critical respect – the one that Norwich failed to apply: Leeds have upgraded in some key positions. Mind you, Bielsa tends not to throw players straight into action if he has had little time to work with them, so the Spain striker Rodrigo and Germany defender Robin Koch may start on the bench against Liverpool, who have the potential to run amok against Leeds’ defence but, by the same token, could be shocked if they do not match the visitors’ energy and sharpness. PD

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3) Saliba debut brings hope of new defensive dawn at Arsenal

Almost 15 months have passed since Arsenal signed William Saliba for £27m, delighting their fans into the bargain by fending off Tottenham’s advances for the centre-back. He spent last season on loan with his former club, Saint-Étienne, although injury halted his momentum. Now he is likely to start at Fulham on Saturday and, for most onlookers, it will be a first opportunity to see why the 19-year-old is regarded as one of the most exciting defenders around. Saliba may well find himself holding everything together: for a club overloaded with centre-backs Arsenal have remarkably few available, with an injury to David Luiz the latest headache for Mikel Arteta, so Saliba could start in a back three with Kieran Tierney and the back-in-favour Rob Holding. The game at Craven Cottage probably comes too soon for another expensive newcomer, Gabriel Magalhães, but a solid start for Saliba would inspire confidence that Arsenal’s regenerated backline may be able to banish the ghosts of several years’ incompetence. NA

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4) Pressure on Lampard to get tune from new toys at Brighton

Graham Potter did a better job at Brighton last season than Frank Lampard did at Chelsea but both are under pressure to achieve even more this season, especially Lampard, who has had nearly £200m-worth of new players lavished on him over the summer. Brighton got a sneak preview of Chelsea’s attacking talent when Hakim Ziyech started a move that led to Timo Werner scoring with his first touch for the club in a pre-season friendly at the Amex and since then Chelsea have also signed Kai Havertz. How Lampard uses an abundance of talent will be as interesting as how they are dealt with by Brighton’s defence, who could include Ben White as well as Tariq Lamptey, who made a terrific impression after arriving from Chelsea in January. PD

5) Mourinho begins season to shake off has-been tag

In July, Tottenham and Everton contested one of the dreariest matches – amid some competition – of the fan-free post-shutdown schedule. So it does not exactly lift the heart to see them face off again so soon but there should, at least, be some accent on greater entertainment. Both sides need to be much better than they were last season: more creative, more dynamic, far more fluent. Everton have made particular strides to remedy those failings: Abdoulaye Doucouré and Allan should certainly address the lack of midfield energy while James Rodríguez could yet be revitalised by Carlo Ancelotti’s guiding hand. Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Matt Doherty do not quite match that signing for glamour but should give Spurs the stability to help others flourish. Ancelotti and José Mourinho are both in need of a positive season themselves in order to stave off accusations they are yesterday’s men. Do not expect a see-sawing thriller but do anticipate a little more bite than these two provided last time. NA



James Rodríguez (right) and Allan train in preparation for their Everton debuts. Photograph: Tony McArdle – Everton FC/Everton FC/Getty Images

6) Top-flight stalwarts should steady Newcastle ship

There has rarely been a point when one of West Ham and Newcastle are not operating under the label of crisis club. Opening day will see both kick-off under such a cloud. However, despite another failed takeover meaning the Toon Army must accept Mike Ashley’s continuing ownership – even if he is challenging the Premier League on that – Newcastle actually seem far more settled than West Ham when it comes to matters on the pitch. Callum Wilson is no Kylian Mbappé, Ryan Fraser is hardly Frenkie de Jong, Jamal Lewis is no Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jeff Hendrick is no Jadon Sancho, as might have been the dream of those Newcastle fans slugging cans in anticipation of a Saudi takeover, but all are solid Premier League players who can improve Steve Bruce’s team. West Ham have signed precisely nobody and the sale of Grady Diangana to West Brom has caused insurrection among fans, not least the captain, Mark Noble. The club’s owners, Davids Gold and Sullivan, might regret there will no be cash-paying fans in the London Stadium but may appreciate that they have escaped a Saturday evening of being barracked in the stands. JB

7) Injuries in danger of hampering Leicester revival

After practically hobbling to the finish last season, Leicester could do with a strong start. The problem is they are still missing key players, especially in defence, where Wilfried Ndidi may have to drop back from midfield to fill in alongside Caglar Soyuncu. With Ricardo Pereira still injured, new signing Timothy Castagne is likely to start on the right-hand side of that defence. Further forward, Nampalys Mendy will probably be asked to try to do what Ndidi normally does in midfield, while James Maddison’s continuing absence increases the creative burden on other players, notably Harvey Barnes, who enjoyed a thrilling loan spell at the Hawthorns in 2018. It will be crucial for West Brom to subdue him if they are to profit from any failings in Leicester’s rejigged defence and enjoy a happy return to the top flight. PD

8) Batshuayi: the striker Crystal Palace needs

If anyone needed a reminder of Michy Batshuayi’s capabilities it arrived in midweek when he scored twice for Belgium, one of them a cute backheel, against Iceland. He has a phenomenal record at international level and there is the enduring sense more can be coaxed out of him on the club stage. In 2019 he scored five times in 11 Premier League appearances for Crystal Palace in a half-season loan from Chelsea and now, having joined for the entirety of 2020-21, he has a chance to replicate that form over a longer period at a club where he clearly felt at home. It may help, too, that Roy Hodgson intends Palace to be a younger, more vibrant side this season. The arrivals of Eberechi Eze and Nathan Ferguson are an exciting step in that direction and they retain a strong interest in the Ipswich midfielder Flynn Downes. Batshuayi is a reliable finisher, even if other areas of his game require work, and could thrive in Palace side with added creativity. At 26 there is still time for him to arrest a stuttering four years at Stamford Bridge; Southampton, themselves primed for better things, will hope he gets off to more of the same. NA

Eberechi Eze is an intriguing addition and will be asked to add energy and verve to Crystal Palace’s play.



Eberechi Eze is an intriguing addition and will be asked to add energy and verve to Crystal Palace’s play. Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

9) Sheffield United’s new boys take on weakened Wolves

Chris Wilder says that if Sheffield United bring in another forward by 5 October, then they will have had the best transfer window since he has been managing the club. On Monday at least one of his new signings – goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale – seems sure to start, any involvement by Oliver Burke will be even more interesting to watch. Scoring more goals is an obvious target this season and Wilder said he bought Burke from West Brom because United needed more pace and power up front. He also said Burke, who has generally played on the wing at previous clubs, will be used centrally. The wide areas, however, may be where Wolves are most vulnerable in the early part of the season, with injury to Jonny and the sale of Matt Doherty depriving them of both of last season’s regular wing-backs. On the attacking front, however, Wolves could give a debut, most likely off the bench, to Fábio Silva, the 18-year-old bought for £35m. PD

10) Fulham keep it simple to forget relegation nightmare

Fulham’s last spell in the Premier League was nothing short of an embarrassment, a £100m spending splurge yielding a 19th-placed finish that left them 10 points shy of survival. It was all too much, too soon but under Scott Parker – the third manager to occupy their dugout that year – there is a sense of purpose and an impression they will go happily about their business more quietly this time. This pre-season has been unflashy, much as Alphonse Areola and Antonee Robinson are smart signings, and the sense of continuity may stand them in good stead. Two of those expensive flops from 2018-19, Jean Michael Seri and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, are back from loan spells, although there appears little chance they will be given an opportunity to put things right. A little simplicity could go a long way for Parker and, given Arsenal’s squad balance remains questionable, he has a chance to get Fulham off to an altogether more palatable start in the Saturday lunchtime kick-off. NA


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