Premier League talking points: Villa eye Christmas No 1, Trippier rest, Forest's Nuno risk

We pick out the big issues as the manic December schedule continues in the English top flight

Aston Villa will go top of the Premier League if they beat Sheffield United on Friday. AFP
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Will Liverpool find scoring touch against Arsenal?

Liverpool's return to the top of the table proved a brief one after their hopes of adding to the recent woes of Manchester United were ended following a frustrating goalless draw on a historic day Anfield.

A new top deck on the Anfield Road End was open for the first time and the crowd of 57,158 was the biggest for any Liverpool home game since an FA Cup tie against Burnley in February 1963.

But nine months after thrashing their old rivals 7-0 at Anfield, Liverpool failed to find the back of the net against United despite 34 attempts on goal and enjoying 68 per cent of the possession.

“I can't remember such a dominant performance against Man United – even the 7-0 they were more in the game,” insisted manager Jurgen Klopp. “We tried everything and the numbers we created – in terms of shots – is crazy.”

And Liverpool cannot afford to be so wayward in front of goal this week when they take on Arsenal, who returned to the top after their win over Brighton and will show far more attacking intent than Man United.

Can Villa be No 1 at Christmas?

The excitement is building at Aston Villa, who could potentially be enjoying their Christmas Day turkey with all the trimmings safe in the knowledge the Premier League top spot is theirs, at least until Boxing Day.

Unai Emery's side take on bottom club Sheffield United on Friday at Villa Park, where they defeated Manchester City and Arsenal recently to make it a club record 15 straight home victories in the league.

If Villa make it 16 wins on the spin, and top two Liverpool and Arsenal only draw on Saturday, then they will indeed secure this year's Christmas No 1 spot.

It has been an impressive turnaround under Emery, who took over the reins from Steven Gerrard in October 2022 with the team 14th in the table and just three points above the relegation zone.

He then guided the team to a seventh-place finish, back into European football and they are now being talked about as the first champions outside the Big Six since Leicester City's shock title win of 2016.

Emery, though, will not entertain that kind of talk quite yet: “When we are in game 30 to 32 and if we are in the same position as now then maybe I can speak about it.”

Will Trippier be given break by Newcastle?

Kieran Trippier cut a despondent figure at the end of Newcastle United's League Cup quarter-final defeat on penalties to Chelsea on Tuesday.

The 33-year-old full back's error had gifted Mykhailo Mudryk a leveller deep into injury-time and he then fired wide from the spot as the Magpies lost the shoot-out 4-2.

It capped a miserable few weeks for Trippier who was at fault for two goals in the defeat at Everton and was then given a torrid time by Son Heung-min during the loss at Tottenham Hotspur.

Injuries have meant there has been little opportunity for manager Eddie Howe to rotate the squad, but Trippier looks physically and mentally jaded and in need of a break going into Saturday's game at Luton Town.

“As I've said many times he's a transformative signing. Someone that's taken the group on to a totally different level,” said Howe of the player who tops the Premier League assist charts this season with seven, alongside Mohamed Salah and Pedro Neto.

“He's been the heartbeat of that. So when he's given us so much now it's our turn to support him and look after him the other way and that's what we'll do.”

Is Nuno the right man for Forest?

In the least surprising news of the week, Nottingham Forest's owners finally lost patience in manager Steve Cooper, who was given the sack on Tuesday.

Cooper remained immensely popular with Forest fans after guiding the club to the top-flight after a 23-year absence and then securing their Premier League safety last season.

But one victory in 13 games – coupled with an away record that had seen Forest win just twice in 28 attempts over the last two campaigns – meant the writing was on the wall.

Nuno Espirito Santo, sacked by Al Ittihad in November despite winning the Saudi Pro League title last season, is the man chosen by owner Evangelos Marinakis to take over and his first game in charge is at home to Bournemouth on Saturday.

"What [Marinakis] told me was that what Steve did here is huge," said Nuno. "We are trying to improve his legacy, which is amazing."

The Portuguese coach will now be hoping to replicate his time at Wolves – where he secured consecutive seventh-placed finishes, rather than the spell in charge of Tottenham Hotspur, that saw him given the boot within four months.

Will Moyes inflict hammer blow on Man United?

An intriguing battle at the London Stadium on Saturday when West Ham United manager David Moyes goes up against his former club Manchester United.

Moyes was given the thankless task of replacing the great Alex Ferguson in 2013 only to be sacked before the end of his first season in charge.

After disappointing spells at Real Sociedad and Sunderland, Moyes has rebuilt his reputation at West Ham, guiding the club to sixth and seventh-place finishes before winning the Europa Conference League last season.

The Hammers are currently eighth in the table – one point and one place behind Man United – having lost just once in five matches and have qualified for the last-16 of the Europa League after finishing top of their group.

Moyes insists he looks back on his time at Old Trafford with “great fondness” despite the bitter ending. “If I'd been given a bit longer, I could have done better, but ultimately I can only blame myself because I needed to win more games,” he told The Atheltic in 2022.

Updated: December 22, 2023, 7:31 AM