Premier League: Five Key Talking Points Ahead of The Weekend’s Biggest Games

Roy Hodgson
Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace Training Ground, Beckenham, England, September 15. Warren Little/Getty

The Premier League is beginning to take shape. Jose Mourinho, as he has done so often before, has guided Manchester United to an early lead in the Premier League, with Manchester City and Chelsea just behind.

This weekend, the league enters the fifth weekend of the season. Brighton and Hove Albion, which got its first win of the season on Saturday against West Brom, travelled to lowly Bournemouth on Friday night.

Seven games take place on Saturday with high-flying Watford, fourth in the table, hosting second-place Manchester City at Vicarage Road, while Tottenham looks to get its first league win at Wembley when Swansea City visits.

Super Sunday sees Arsenal travel to Stamford Bridge having beaten Antonio Conte’s Chelsea in the Community Shield last month and the FA Cup final at the end of last season. The final match of the weekend involves struggling Everton visiting Mourinho’s Manchester United.

Here, Newsweek looks at five key talking points ahead of this weekend’s games.

Hodgson’s Back to Redefine Himself

Iceland. The word that will haunt Roy Hodgson for the rest of his career, however long that may be now. There was a suggestion that the defeat at Euro 2016 to a nation of 334,000 people may have been too painful for the former England manager, now 70, to return to the dugout. But he has, and in south London, tasked with saving Crystal Palace from relegation. It is too early for crisis talks at Selhurst Park but Steve Parish, the Palace chairman, was not willing to find out how far the club could fall under former manager Frank de Boer, who was sacked after just 77 days in charge. The Dutchman oversaw just four games in the Premier League, four point-less games that saw Palace score a total of zero goals. Time for a change, and the steady hand of Hodgson takes the reins, with Southampton standing in the way on Saturday.

Pressure on Bilic Eases—But For How Long?

De Boer may have been the first casualty of Premier League managers, but Slaven Bilic wasn’t expected to be too far behind him. West Ham is 18th in the Premier League having lost its first three games of the Premier League: mullered by Manchester United, then Southampton turned them over, before being embarrassed by Newcastle in a 3-0 defeat. But the noose was loosened on Monday when the Hammers beat newly promoted Huddersfield Town 2-0—and at the club’s London Stadium, which is yet to feel like home let alone a fortress. West Ham is on the road this Saturday, though, travelling to the Midlands to take on Tony Pulis’s West Brom. The pressure may have eased on Bilic, but the points need to keep coming.

Rooney’s Return to Extend United’s Blip

Jose Mourinho said a “real legend” was coming back to Old Trafford this Sunday. Wayne Rooney, back in the blue of Everton after 13 years at Manchester United, will be taking on his former club for the first time since his departure this summer. Nostalgia and sentiment will be left at the door, as Rooney and Everton are in need of a return to form. Ronald Koeman’s team is 16th in the Premier League and has conceded eight goals without reply in its last three games. United, meanwhile, is looking to get back to its fine start to the new season. A blip at Stoke City last weekend, drawing 2-2, slowed down Mourinho’s charge, but Everton will be looking to cause more damage.

Spurs Wembley Hoodoo

Mauricio Pochettino hopes that Tottenham’s 3-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday will end talk of a Wembley jinx for his team. But a win against Swansea will make that certain. So far, in the league, Pochettino has seen his side beaten by Antonio Conte’s Chelsea and Burnley's Chris Wood score a late equalizer to deny the first three points at the national stadium. But Spurs are beginning to shine under the arch. On Wednesday, in the Champions League, new signings Davinson Sanchez and Serge Aurier slipped into the team with ease, strengthening the starting XI and, certainly, the squad. With Harry Kane in formidable form, and a victory in midweek, Spurs will feel a greater confidence when Swansea travels to the capital on Saturday.

Chelsea, Arsenal’s Bogey Team

Arsenal fans, in recent years, rarely return from Stamford Bridge in high spirits. Only once in their last eight visits have they seen their team win, a dramatic and resounding 5-3 victory in 2011 when Robin van Persie scored a hat-trick against Andre Villas-Boas’ Chelsea. Other than that, the record is dire; Arsenal has conceded 13 goals in the last four trips to Stamford Bridge and scored just once. It may be comforting to Arsene Wenger to go into Sunday’s game knowing he has beaten Antonio Conte’s team in the last two games, both at Wembley, in the Community Shield last month and FA Cup final in May. Plus, of course, Alexis Sanchez is back in an Arsenal shirt and scoring, having hit the back of the net in the Europa League on Thursday. He will hope the curse of the Bridge can be broken.