Weekend Watch: AVB can make statement

rss logoFriday 27th September 2013 12:41

Tottenham's clash with Chelsea, Arsene Wenger's Arsenal anniversary and David Moyes' need for wins feature in our weekend preview.

Master vs apprentice

Saturday's lunchtime game sees Tottenham Hotspur host London derby rivals Chelsea. This, of course, pitches Andre Villas-Boas against his former boss, Jose Mourinho.

Villas-Boas was a part of Mourinho's coaching staff at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan but they will now be in opposing dugouts.

For Villas-Boas, who is just one of several Mourinho disciples in the Premier League, it is a chance to add to his burgeoning coaching reputation. For Mourinho, it is a tricky game at a time when the 'Special One' is already being questioned despite only returning for a second spell at Chelsea in the summer. Villas-Boas and Mourinho have suffered a breakdown in their relationship but the latter will also not only have a point to prove against his former boss but also Chelsea after he flopped when in charge at Stamford Bridge.

Add to this the fact that Mourinho signed Willian from under the nose of Villas-Boas in August and there is tension everywhere you look. Can Villas-Boas record his first win over former club Chelsea and upset Mourinho? Pete Fraser

Arsene's anniversary

Arsene Wenger was appointed Arsenal manager 17 years ago to the day of the club's game this weekend at Swansea City on Saturday Night Football before officially taking over in October, 1996.

The Frenchman may have come in for some criticism in recent years but he could not be celebrating this year's anniversary in much better style. If Arsenal win against Swansea, they will equal a club record of eight successive away Premier League wins set in 2002 en route to the title.

The Emirates Stadium club sit top of the table having made their best start to the season in five years. They have been the most clinical team in the division, scoring with 20 per cent of their chances, while they are the only team to have scored first in all five of their opening games.

Add to this the fact Olivier Giroud is the only Premier League player to have scored the opening goal in four games and it could be a long evening for Swansea. Not bad, Arsene. PF

Now is the time for Moyes

David Moyes may be clinging to the comforting statistic that five wins from eight games represents the best start for a Manchester United manager since Sir Matt Busby, but it has been an unconvincing start to his Old Trafford reign.

Seven points from five difficult games may be par for Everton, but at United it will only prompt debate over team selection and tactics. A midweek win over Liverpool in the Capital One Cup offered encouragement but Premier League points are needed now.

The visit of West Brom at the weekend starts a run of league fixtures against Sunderland, Southampton, Stoke and Fulham. Fifteen points would change the mood. Adam Bate

Man City momentum

Gary Neville hailed Manchester City's derby demolition as the best performance from a Premier League team since Manchester United dismantled Arsenal in the second leg of the 2009 Champions League semi final to secure a 4-1 aggregate win.

This time it was United on the receiving end of a 4-1 thrashing at the Etihad Stadium as City overpowered their rivals with ease.

Many have suggested no team will run away with this Premier League - a point emphasised by the fact that Everton are the only remaining unbeaten team - and that might be true. But Manuel Pellegrini's City side have the players to do so and if they click like they did last weekend then they are capable of changing that perception rather quickly.

A trip to Aston Villa awaits at the weekend and with the West Midlands side shorn of their star man Christian Benteke through injury, the expected three points would maintain the momentum. AB

Beached Ball

The Paolo Di Canio adventure is over. A player revolt did for the Italian following a winless start to the Premier League season. And yet, those dismal results feel like just part of the story. In fact, we may have to wait for the autobiographies before anyone can get to grips with what really went on in Di Canio's extraordinary 12 game stay at Sunderland.

There's no time to dwell on it though. Sunderland's battles are just beginning. While Gus Poyet waits in the wings, Kevin Ball is the man temporarily charged with turning things around at the Stadium of Light, and the Black Cats hero will surely start by attempting to galvanise a squad apparently pushed to their physical and emotional limits by Di Canio.

Perhaps this is a team that just needs a bit of luck? What better, then, than "the beach ball fixture" that saw Darren Bent find a way past Pepe Reina with the help of a foreign object. Liverpool travel to Wearside on the back of consecutive defeats and a third here would go some way to lifting the North East gloom. AB

Is Jol next?

With Di Canio gone, the spotlight moves elsewhere. Such is life in the Premier League. And while the geographical leap from Wearside to West London is a big one, it doesn't require a vivid imagination to anticipate trouble for Martin Jol at Fulham.

Craven Cottage does disaffected rather than rage but the home supporters were not happy with a draw against West Brom and were left disappointed by the team's unambitious efforts at Chelsea. A turnaround win over Everton in the Capital One Cup in midweek improved the mood but general dissatisfaction with the side Jol has built appears to be growing.

Youth provides hope. But an ageing side designed to tread water must do exactly that and entertain along the way. If Fulham cannot manage that then questions will continue to be asked. Add to this the presence of a new owner at the club and there is a real feeling that Jol is on train.

A home fixture against newly-promoted Cardiff is exactly the sort of game they have to be winning. AB

Unhappy Hammers?

Yes, several teams have made uninspiring starts to the season but it is worth keeping an eye on West Ham United.

Amid the future prospect of moving into the Olympic Stadium, they had grand plans of improving on last season's 10th-place finish but, ahead of a difficult-looking trip to Hull City on Saturday afternoon, Sam Allardyce's side have taken just five points from five games having won only once on the opening day of the season.

They have scored only four goals in that time, owing much to Andy Carroll's injury and some less than convincing performances from Modibo Maiga.

A confidence-boosting midweek cup win over Cardiff City will have helped but facing a Hull team on a high from a stunning victory at Newcastle United before also beating Huddersfield Town will not be easy.

There will be big pressure on Allardyce, who signed a new two-year contract in May and has just celebrated 100 games in charge, if they lose to Hull and the club will know they cannot allow their early season league slump to continue.PF

Orient Express

Leyton Orient's 2-0 win at Brentford earlier this week maintained their perfect start to the League One season and the club's best beginning to a campaign in their 132 year history. Indeed, only six sides in the history of the Football League have bettered it.

Eight wins from eight games is an emphatic statement from Russell Slade's side in a division where every other team has already lost a game.

Orient are the top scorers and boast the best defensive record - a combination that has taken them five points clear of pre-season favourites Peterborough and Wolves.

Slade has a small squad at his disposal and there are fears that this could cost them in the long run but at the moment it is giving the close-knit team the continuity and togetherness that are hallmarks of success.

Barry Hearn's boys haven't played in the second tier of English football for 32 years but needless to say if they can keep this form up then that will soon change. Leyton Orient aim to make it nine wins out of nine at home to Walsall on Saturday. AB

Madrid derby

After all the hype and speculation of the summer, it's been a low-key start to life at Real Madrid for Gareth Bale. An hour against Villarreal and a brief run-out in the romp over Galatasaray is all that's been seen of the Welshman on the field.

Bale then pulled out of his home debut after picking up an injury in the warm-up against Getafe and subsequently missed the last-gasp win at Elche in midweek.

He is now hoping to be fit for Saturday's Madrid derby at the Bernabeu - and it promises to be an intriguing game. Atletico are looking like the real deal under Diego Simeone with a perfect record of six wins so far.

This is the sort of tough test for which Florentino Perez decided to break the bank and make Bale the word record transfer signing of all time last month. It's a good time for the former Tottenham winger to start repaying the fee. AB



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