The five biggest talking points ahead of the Premier League weekend
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1. Recent history is the only hope for an Everton upset against Arsenal.
Arsenal are five points clear at the top of the Premier League table, with a game in hand over second-placed Manchester City. The season has just reached the halfway point, and there is a lot of football still to be played, including a double-header between the top two. Yet, the Gunners will never have a better opportunity to end their 19-year wait for a league title.
Everton are next up for the north London side. The Toffees are deep in relegation trouble and haven't won in the Premier League since October. Arsenal have won four of their last five games, while Everton have lost four of their last five matches.
The Toffees, however, have won this fixture in the last two seasons - beating Arsenal 2-1 at Goodison Park in December 2021 and 2-1 in December 2020.
The Gunners, of course, have improved since those results and are in fantastic form. Everton, however, can at least take solace from having the recent upper hand in this fixture.
2. Chelsea attempt to integrate multiple new players.
Chelsea signed seven new players in January, to bring their total spend on transfers this season to almost €612m. Needless to say, no other club in Premier League history has spent so heavily on new players in such a short space of time. The club has recouped just €68m on player sales in the same period.
Chelsea's new owners have spent big, but the practical reality of life in the Premier League means that it may take a while for fans to see many of these new players bed in. Yet, the Blues will need an instant return if they are to qualify for the Champions League, starting with the game at home to Fulham on Friday night.
Chelsea are currently in 10th place, with 29 points from 20 matches. This is an average of 1.45 points per game. The average Premier League points per game total needed to qualify for the Champions League has been 1.83. So, Chelsea's form must improve, and their new players must settle quickly, or they will miss out on qualification for the tournament just three years after winning it.
3. Tottenham can derail Man City's bid to retain the Premier League.
Tottenham are arguably underperforming so far this season, and they face a fight to finish in the Champions League places. Spurs, however, have the upper hand in this fixture in recent seasons.
Tottenham beat Man City at home in the last two seasons, winning 3-2 last year and 1-0 in the previous season. The pair met a few weeks ago, and City mounted a second-half comeback to win 4-2 after trailing 2-0 at half-time.
However, there were enough warning signs from the first half to make sure City don't get complacent on Sunday. If they do Spurs could derail their title bid and help north London rivals Arsenal extend their lead.
4. Brighton's push for Europe.
Brighton are experiencing the best season in their history. The Seagulls have never finished higher than ninth place in the Premier League. And they have spent almost as many campaigns in the fourth tier of English football as they have in the top flight (seven versus 10). Yet, they are currently in sixth place and one of the most in-form teams in the division.
In recent months, Brighton lost several key players to richer clubs, their manager and his coaching staff left for Chelsea in September and their director of football left for Newcastle United last year. Meanwhile, last week, their star player publically stated he wanted to leave the club.
Yet, the Seagulls just keep powering ahead, unearthing talented players and playing in an exciting way. They have bloodied the nose of almost every elite team they've faced this season and are currently five points behind Tottenham Hotspur, but with two games in hand.
Could Brigton upset the odds and qualify for Europe? Or will the exits from the club lead to an unfortunate crash in the second half of the season? The signs at the moment suggest that the Seagulls are capable of beating any side in the Premier League, and European football next season beckons.
5. Liverpool face a must-win game against Wolves.
Liverpool won two trophies last season and narrowly missed out on winning the Premier League title and the Champions League final.
Yet, less than a year later, that seems like a distant memory. The Reds are having their worst season for almost a decade, sitting in ninth place with 29 games from 19 matches. Liverpool are below teams with significantly smaller budgets, such as Brentford, Fulham and Brighton, in the table.
Until the World Cup break, it appeared as though the Reds were suffering from the fixture congestion, and would be ready to return to form after the break.
Since the Premier League restart, however, they have won just two Premier League games and none in January. To make matters worse, their rivals - especially Chelsea - signed new players, and there was only one new arrival at Anfield in the transfer window.
The Reds need to beat an-improved Wolves to prevent their season from potentially collapsing. If they put together a run of form, they can still finish in the European spots ahead of an inevitable squad rebuild in the summer.
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