Premier League talking points: Palmer returns to City, super Saka, Newcastle back pains

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

Cole Palmer has scored 12 goals in 28 games across competitions since moving from Manchester City to Chelsea last summer. PA
Powered by automated translation

Will Palmer show Man City what they are missing?

One of last summer's most surprising moves was Cole Palmer's decision to switch treble winners Manchester City for Chelsea.

Palmer scored for City in the season-opening Community Shield against Arsenal and again in the Uefa Super Cup win over Sevilla. But that victory over the Spanish side was his last appearance before moving to West London in search of regular first-team football.

The 21-year-old attacking midfielder revealed in an interview with Sky Sports in January that a loan move was his preference but Pep Guardiola told him: “You either 'stay or you get sold'.”

Over three seasons at City, he made 41 appearances, scored six goals and provided two assists, playing a total of 1,482 minutes. But in six months at Stamford Bridge, Palmer has played 28 matches, scoring 12 goals and supplied nine assists over 2,178 minutes of game time.

One of those goals came against his old club in November when he scored a last-gasp leveller from the penalty spot to earn his team a point after a pulsating 4-4 home draw.

"I have been surprised by how well it's gone here so quickly, but I always back myself to succeed," Palmer said on Thursday.

"I'm looking forward to going back to the Etihad. It will be strange, a weird feeling, but I'm looking forward to it and the team's looking forward to it."

Will things get better for Phillips at West Ham?

One midfielder who did secure a loan move away from the Etihad Stadium is Kalvin Phillips, although his start to life at West Ham United has not exactly gone to plan.

In his first match for the Hammers, Phillips passed the ball straight to Dominic Solanke who put Bournemouth in front inside three minutes, with the game finishing in a 1-1 draw.

He dropped to the bench for the next game at Manchester United, appearing as a second-half substitute only to lose possession in the middle of the park leading to the home side's final goal in a 3-0 defeat.

Phillips was brought on half time last week with his team 4-0 down against Arsenal at the London Stadium, but the Gunners scored two more and Phillips picked up a yellow card to cap a miserable afternoon for everyone in claret and blue.

“Kalvin has some work to do to,” said manager David Moyes ahead of the chastening 6-0 trashing. “He'll get through it. He needs time and to be given that chance to do so, I hope we're able to give him that opportunity.”

It will be interesting to see whether Moyes gives the 28-year-old England international that chance when West Ham travel to Nottingham Forest on Saturday.

Is Saka heading for best season ever?

While Phillips continued his season to forget, Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka maintained his superb campaign, which looks set to be his best yet.

Saka bagged a brace at West Ham, taking his Premier League tally to 10, and seven assists – meaning only Mohamed Salah (22), Erling Haaland and Ollie Watkins (both 21), plus Son Heung-min (18) have made more goal contributions this season.

The 22-year-old England international is well on the way to beating last season's career-high total of 14 league goals and is just two shy of his best of 15 across competitions, also achieved in 2022/23.

Arsenal next face struggling Burnley at Turf Moor, who have already conceded 50 goals this season, so Saka will fancy his chances of notching a couple more on Saturday.

“When you talk about consistency at his age,” said manager Mikel Arteta, “what he has done in the last two or three seasons is remarkable.”

Are Newcastle's back problems going to ease?

The foundation of Newcastle United's fourth-place finish last season was a rock-solid backline: Eddie Howe's team lost only five games, conceding 33 goals – the same defensive statistics as champions Manchester City.

But just 24 games into the current campaign, they sit seventh in the table having already lost 10 matches, shipping 39 goals along the way, including six in their last two games against relegation candidates Luton Town and Nottingham Forest, with Bournemouth next up on Saturday.

Goalkeeper Nick Pope is currently out with a dislocated shoulder, while centre-half Sven Botman has only played 12 times in the league due to injury.

The normally reliable right-back Kieran Trippier endured a nightmare run of mistakes in December, while on the other flank, Dan Burn's lack of pace down the left is now being targeted by clubs.

Despite their struggles, Trippier insists European football remains their target next season. “Never say never but it's going to be tough,” he said after the 3-2 win over Forest. “It's been mixed emotions for us this season. It's about finishing the season strong.”

Should England pick Toney for Euros?

Brentford's Ivan Toney is firmly back among the goals since returning from an eight-month ban. The striker has scored three times in four games for the London club, hitting the target again in last weekend's 2-0 victory at Wolves.

Bees manager Thomas Frank, who has admitted he expects the 27-year-old to move on in the summer, believes England manager Gareth Southgate should name the striker in his Euro 2024 squad.

Toney has made only one international appearance, coming on as an 81st-minute substitute for Harry Kane during England's Euro 2024 qualifying victory against Ukraine at Wembley Stadium.

“I know what Ivan can bring and I think it's something different [that] England don't have,” said Frank, whose team are at home to league leaders Liverpool on Saturday. “He has always been committed for the team, for the club and his teammates.

“Who knows what is going to happen in the summer? What Ivan is very good at is being in the moment, right now, here, ready. That's what he is focusing on.”

Updated: February 16, 2024, 2:50 AM