Premier League talking points: Havertz relief, prickly Pochettino, Man United Euro blues

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

Kai Havertz celebrates after scoring Arsenal's winner against Brentford in the Premier League on November 25, 2023. AFP
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Has Havertz turned corner at Arsenal?

It will be a week to remember for Kai Havertz if he manages to find the back of the net again for Arsenal when the North London club take on Wolves on Saturday.

Before scoring last weekend's winner against Brentford – that took Arsenal top of the Premier League in what was manager Mikel Arteta's 200th game in charge of the Gunners – Havertz had managed just one goal and one assist since his summer move from Chelsea.

The Germany forward was only a substitute against the Bees but came off the bench with 12 minutes remaining to head home the only goal of the game.

He was rewarded with a starting place in the midweek 6-1 Champions League demolition of Lens and it was his goal after 13 minutes that opened the floodgates at the Emirates Stadium.

“Scoring goals, playing well, participating in wins – those are positive attributes,” Arteta said of Havertz's performance against the French club. “You saw the reception of his teammates and the crowd being with him, singing his name. He's a tremendous player.”

Will VAR make Wolves howl again?

It is fair to say Wolves and VAR have not exactly been comfortable bedfellows this season with an unfortunate number of incidents going against Gary O'Neil's side.

The Midlands club had already seen three VAR decisions this season that the Premier League's Independent Key Match Incidents Panel has admitted were errors.

The first came on the opening week of the season (Wolves lost 1-0) when no penalty was given against Andre Onana despite the Manchester United keeper committing an obvious foul, while Newcastle United (2-2 draw) and Sheffield United (Blades won 2-1) were both given penalties which should have been overturned.

Last week's 3-2 defeat at Fulham saw two penalties scored against Wolves, the first of which – given when Nelson Semedo caught Tom Cairney in the area – referee Michael Salisbury admitted after the game that he got wrong. “He regrets the fact that he wasn't sent to the screen to overturn the first penalty,” said O'Neil.

“Maybe tonight has finally turned me against VAR,” added the Wolves manager. “The impact that you are having on my reputation, and the club and people's livelihoods is massive. We should be able to talk about the game and not decisions, but unfortunately we can't.”

Can Man United pick themselves up from Euro woes?

While Arsenal enjoyed an unforgettable night of European football this week, Manchester United were left staring down the barrel of a disastrous early exit from the Champions League after drawing 3-3 at Galatasaray.

Qualification for the knockout stage is now out of their hands as they need to beat Bayern Munich in their final game and hope Copenhagen and Galatasaray draw the other match. Lose, and the Red Devils will finish bottom of the group without even the consolation of a Europa League spot.

On a bad night in Istanbul, United twice squandered a two-goal, while goalkeeper Andre Onana had another night to forget when he was at fault for two of the goals.

It means Erik ten Hag's side have won just once in five Group A games – leaking 14 goals along the way – and they now face an tricky trip up to Tyneside on Saturday where they face a Newcastle United side on a run of five home league victories in a row.

“I am responsible for this,” insisted the Dutch coach after Wednesday's defeat. “We know we are in a project. We are making improvements, so that's very hopeful.”

Andy Mitten's hot take on Manchester United's Champions League draw with Galatasaray

Andy Mitten's hot take on Manchester United's Champions League draw with Galatasaray

Can Chelsea improve mood of prickly Pochettino?

Hopes that Chelsea were finally starting to find momentum after beating Tottenham and then drawing with Manchester City were brought to a halt in spectacular fashion last weekend.

A dreadful defensive performance at Newcastle saw Chelsea concede four goals, two coming within 90 seconds of each other, the second of which courtesy of an error by the usually ultra-reliable Thiago Silva.

Add to the fact captain Reece James was also sent-off for two yellow cards – the first for kicking the ball away, the second for hauling down Anthony Gordon after gifting possession to the Magpies winger – and you can certainly say it was a bad day at the office for the boys in blue.

“We talk about being a young team and we have to learn, but I think these type of games make me very, very, very, very, very angry because it's about showing your personality and character,” said Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino after the game.

Chelsea now find themselves 10th in the table, 14 points behind leaders Arsenal, 12 points shy of Aston Villa in fourth and six points short Sunday's opponents Brighton who are eighth.

Will Spurs prove thorn in Guardiola's side again?

Manchester City head into their clash with Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday having been knocked off the top spot after drawing their last two games – against Chelsea (4-4) and Liverpool (1-1).

And it looked like their 100 per cent record in this season's Champions League was coming to an end on Wednesday when they went in at the break 2-0 down against RB Leipzig.

But a second-half fightback saw Pep Guardiola's side score three second-half goals to make it five wins from five in Group G, with Erling Haaland becoming the quickest player ever to score 40 goals in the competition – reached in 35 matches, 10 fewer than previous record holder Ruud van Nistelrooy. “He's a fantastic player. I tell you many times,” said Guardiola.

Now they will be looking to make it four defeats in a row for a club who have actually been a thorn in Guardiola's side since his arrival at the club in 2016.

The Spaniard has lost more top-flight games to Spurs (six) than any other opponent while also conceding the most goals to (19, level with Liverpool).

Updated: December 01, 2023, 3:45 AM