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The Top 5 Things To Watch In Week Four Of The EPL

Yesterday, we wrote about our predictions for the coming weekend of match play in the Premier League. Today, we drill down into the particular dramas to look out for in the coming days.

1. Chelsea To Keep A Clean Sheet (For The Sake Of Jose’s Mental Health)

While the goals rained down at Goodison Park, only one man wasn’t enjoying the 6-3 thriller: Jose Mourinho. Jose doesn’t do chaos. He likes order, he likes structure, and above all he likes clean sheets. Not just any clean sheets, mind. Jose likes crisp, pristine, virgin white clean sheets cool to the touch and neatly tucked in at the corners. The three goals and myriad chances Everton created against Chelsea will have violently soured his post-match Quinta do Vallado, so expect his charges to have been savagely drilled in the intervening days. 

As an aside, few would have predicted before the start of the season that Chelsea vs. Swansea would be a top-of-the-table clash, but that’s exactly what this weekend’s game at Stamford Bridge is. Having picked them for relegation this season, Paul Scholes must be feeling just a little silly (but not much sillier than The18: we chose 3rd place Aston Villa).

2. How Will Liverpool Cope Without Sturridge?

Although not as bad as originally feared, it still looks likely that injury will rule out D-Stu from Liverpool’s weekend sojourn to Villa Park. His absence will provide an early test of the depth and flexibility of Brendan Rodgers’ squad following his summer strengthening. The18 highlighted back in May that a key hurdle for the Merseysiders this season will be their ability to compete on multiple fronts. How Liverpool line up without their 24-goal man from last season will be of interest: we suspect Rodgers will go for a front three of Sterling and Lallana playing off Balotelli as the attacking fulcrum.

3. Can Welbz Justify The Memes? 

The18 likes to refer to its footballers formally, presenting first and then surname just as their parents intended. We have no time for cringe-worthy abbreviations like Wazza, Becks or D-Stu (see just a little above for the rigid consistency of our approach). That said, we couldn’t help but enjoy the kaleidoscope of “Welbz” memes emanating from Twitter following Daniel Nii Tackie Mensah Welbeck’s brace for England on Monday. Only Manchester United can draw such ire. So can Welbeck be “dat guy” (groan) for Arsenal? He’s got a tough assignment first up, as the Gunners host a Manchester City looking to bounce back from an insipid 1-0 loss to Stoke in week 3. But while he may not have quite as many Twitter followers as the Pope, we suspect he’s a damn sight more assured in the lone striker role.  

4. Will This Be The Weekend United Finally Click?

With Marcos Rojo’s work permit finally approved, and Rafael and Ander Herrera back in training, Sunday’s game against QPR could be the first in which Louis van Gaal fields 11 round pegs in 11 equally round holes. The presence of two genuine full-backs will certainly boost United’s cause, both in defence and attack, while Herrera will bring a degree of poise to their midfield play.

Perhaps the more pertinent question is how van Gaal seeks to shoe-horn his gaggle of expensively gathered attacking superstars into one team, if indeed he tries to do so. Rumors have already begun to circle that Juan Mata will be off-loaded in January after just one year at Old Trafford. We find that a little hard to fathom, so whether or not LvG finds space for him on Sunday will be instructive.

5. First Look At All The Shiny New Footballers

Is there anything more frustrating than waking up on Christmas Day, unwrapping your brand-new Xbox One / PS2 / Sega Megadrive / Atari (delete as your age dictates) only to discover that your thoughtful parents forgot to buy you any sodding games? You have to wait a whole 24 hours until the shops open again, sitting there, staring at your sophisticated yet inanimate gaming system. 

Well, that’s a bit like having deadline day during an international break: come Saturday, it’ll have been nearly two weeks since 20 panic-stricken chairmen splurged their hard-earned on some shiny new players, and we’re yet to see any of them grace the EPL in their fancy new jerseys. In particular, we’re looking forward to seeing Nick Powell get some game-time at Leicester, the mercurial Hatem Ben Arfa try to rediscover his form (not to mention his fitness) at Hull and whether Radamel Falcao’s knee will allow him to maintain his career average goal every 1.5 games at Man United.

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