Premier League talking points: Tonali troubles, Arsenal test, Liverpool derby dominance

We pick out the big issues ahead of this weekend's English top-flight fixtures

Mikel Arteta takes his Arsenal side to Chelsea on Saturday evening aiming to keep their momentum going. AFP
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Will Man City avoid worst run since 2016?

Erling Haaland returns to club action with Manchester City this weekend on the back of another frustrating international break.

Haaland's Norway, who have not appeared in a major tournament since Euro 2000 (the year Haaland was born), were beaten 1-0 by Spain when the big striker barely had a sniff of goal all night in Oslo.

The 23-year-old's record for Norway is as impressive as you would expect – 28 caps, 27 goals – but his last hope of reaching next year's Euro 2024 finals in Germany now rest on a potential route through the play-offs.

Haaland's focus now shifts back to City – where he has scored 44 goals in 43 Premier League appearances – who are looking to avoid three top-flight defeats in a row for the first time since 2016 when Manuel Pellegrini was in charge.

They followed up a shock defeat at Wolves by losing narrowly at Arsenal which saw City players including Haaland involved in a heated exchange with several of the Gunners' backroom staff.

On Saturday, they face a Brighton side who have never won an away league game against City and have lost all seven of the Premier League games they have played at the Etihad Stadium by an aggregate of 16-2.

Can Arsenal pass another title test?

Arsenal will be looking to build on that statement win over last season's title rivals at the Emirates when they travel across the capital to take on Chelsea.

The Gunners are currently joint-top of the table, alongside North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, with both teams still unbeaten this season.

That record will be put to the test against big-spending Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Maurico Pochettino's side appear to have turned a corner with convincing wins against Fulham and then Burnley coming on the back of what was a stalled start to the campaign.

But Arsenal will be hoping momentum is with them following the win over defending champions City, their first over Pep Guardiola's side in eight years. “So proud. It was the moment with the right people and the right players,” said manager Mikel Arteta after the match. “It feels like a big win.”

Will Newcastle play troubled Tonali?

Newcastle United manager faces a big call over midfielder Sandro Tonali ahead of their game against Crystal Palace at St James' Park on Saturday.

The Italian could be set for lengthy spell on the sidelines due to a potential worldwide ban for breaching betting rules while at former club AC Milan.

Toanli was Newcastle's marquee summer signing when he joined the club from AC Milan in July and made a flying start to his Magpies career when he scored six minutes into his debut against Aston Villa.

A thigh injury then hindered his progress and time on the training pitch, although the 23-year-old looked the part again during Newcastle's stunning 4-1 Champions League win over Paris Saint-Germain. Tonali's loss for any period of time will clearly be a huge blow to Eddie Howe's plans.

“He’s adapting really well,” the Newcastle manager said last month. “He’s an incredible personality, very stable, committed to the project here and I think he’ll grow as time goes on.”

Can O'Neil stick the boot into Bournemouth?

Bournemouth's summer sacking of Gary O'Neil was considered harsh even by the Premier League's ruthless standards.

Last season, in what had been his first managerial role, O'Neil helped guide the Cherries away from the relegation zone and up to the safety of 15th in the table, five points clear of the bottom three.

His reward? A brutal exit as Bournemouth moved quickly to appoint former Rayo Vallecano coach Andoni Iraola as O'Neil's replacement. “A change is in the best interests of this football club,” said owner and chairman Bill Foley at the time.

The change, though, has yet to pay dividends. Bournemouth sit second bottom of the table with Iraola yet to win after eight games in charge. “We have to find a way and turn this around,” admitted the Spaniard after their dispiriting 3-0 defeat at Everton before the international break.

O'Neil, meanwhile, found himself quickly back in work when he took over as Wolves manager from Julen Lopetegui, who had grown frustrated at the Midlands club's financial restrictions.

And O'Neil appears to be having a positive influence at his new club as Wolves followed up their win over Manchester City – ending the champions' 100 per cent record – by drawing with in-form Aston Villa.

“He’s very forward thinking, very driven, like he has a point to prove because he did a great job at Bournemouth,” said Wolves sporting director Matt Hobbs after O'Neil's appointment.

Hammering that point home to Foley and Bournemouth will very much be on his mind this weekend.

Will Everton break Liverpool's derby stranglehold?

It is Merseyside derby time on Saturday with Liverpool going into the game having lost just once in their past 25 games against Everton – a 2-0 home defeat in February 2021.

Everton manager Sean Dyche would love a repeat result at Anfield and there have been signs of improvement of late with two wins in their last three games, including a 3-0 demolition of Bournemouth last time out.

“I am not saying it was a 'complete' performance but certainly a very good one,” said Dyche after the Cherries match that ended Everton's run four consecutive defeats on home turf.

But beating winless Bournemouth is a very different ball game to facing old rivals Liverpool at Anfield. “Our record needs changing – we know that,” Dyche said on Thursday. “It's been a long time with not many wins but it is a tough place to go.”

Updated: October 20, 2023, 3:31 AM