The Premier League matchday kicked off with Chelsea’s visit of Luton Town on Friday but that was a mere amuse-bouche with plenty more to come on Saturday and Sunday.
Here are five big questions ahead of the weekend.
Will Gabriel return for Arsenal and who will he be facing?
A mistake from Gabriel opened the door for Aleksandar Mitrović to put Fulham into a surprise lead the last time the Cottagers visited the Emirates Stadium. It was Gabriel himself who scored a late winner for Arsenal as they turned things around.
That was exactly 364 days ago as the sides meet again on Saturday but plenty has changed. Mitrović is no longer a Fulham player having completed a move to the Saudi Pro League and the big question facing them this season is where the goals are going to come from: Marco Silva’s side have just one in their two games so far and only the three newly-promoted sides have taken less shots.
As for Arsenal, will Gabriel even play? The Brazilian has also reportedly attracted attention from Al-Ittihad and his surprise absence from the side has added fuel to that particular fire.
The centre-half had started 73 consecutive league games for Arsenal before the season started but has had to settle for two substitute appearances so far this term. With Jurriën Timber and Takehiro Tomiyasu injured that’s likely to change but if Gabriel doesn’t start again expect the transfer talk to heat up..
Are Everton tailspinning into disaster?
Two games, no goals scored, a pummelling at Villa Park last weekend. Any good vibes that Everton entered the summer with, off the back of survival, have evaporated already and another long, hard relegation battle beckons.
To be fair to Sean Dyche and his players, they did play well against Fulham on the opening day and deserved to win, defeat was cruel. But last week’s 4-0 loss to Aston Villa made it look like things have taken a real turn for the worse.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin is injured again, Neal Maupay continues to offer no serious goal threat, Arnaut Danjuma has had no impact to date. And that’s just up front.
Fellow strugglers Wolves have had a very similar start to the season and they arrive at Goodison Park with plenty to worry about themselves. If Dyche and Everton can’t get off the mark here, then you really start to wonder where the points are going to come from.
Any more double yellow mayhem?
There were five red cards in nine Premier League matches last weekend, with four coming as second yellows. It’s a peculiar trend. Two of the four included a yellow for “time wasting”.
In 380 games last season, just 13 red cards (one every 29 games) were shown after two yellow cards. After 19 games we’re already up to four second yellows this season.
The time wasting thing is an odd one: if the time is being added back on anyway, why also show a yellow card? It feels like a double punishment. The red card eventually shown to Takehiro Tomiyasu at Selhurst Park felt very soft and his yellow for “time wasting” came as Arsenal took 24 seconds over a throw in but the Japanese only had the ball for eight of those.
One Arsenal throw-in on Monday took 44 seconds and no yellow card was shown.
It is hard to know where the line is and how consistency is going to be achieved with these new policies so for now, unless referees are a bit more lenient, it seems second yellow cards are going to become a lot more common.
Is Phil Foden ready to explode?
With Kevin De Bruyne out for a while, Phil Foden may have the best chance he’s had in a long time to impress.
The Englishman played plenty of football last season but not as much as he’d have liked. After starting in each of his first 10 Premier League appearances of the campaign, he made just 12 starts in the remaining 22 as Pep Guardiola increasingly relied on Jack Grealish, Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva in the wide positions and Julián Álvarez as De Bruyne’s chief replacement.
The run to the Champions League final was even more disappointing; Foden made no starts and played just 43 minutes in two substitute appearances between the end of the group stage and City’s trip to Istanbul. And 36 of those minutes came in the 7-0 defeat of RB Leipzig.
He’s back in favour again now, though, and played alongside Álvarez superbly last weekend. Tucking in from the right with Kyle Walker overlapping — Guardiola no longer seems entirely wedded to the ‘four centre-backs’ system from the first half of 2023 — Foden had licence to roam between the lines and was at his devastating best against Newcastle last weekend.
A trip to Sheffield United will provide a chance to get on the front foot and could require someone to step up and pick the lock. It’s Foden’s chance to make a place in the side his own again and last week suggested he will grasp it with both hands.
Can Wataru Endō fix the Liverpool in midfield?
With Fabinho and Jordan Henderson gone, a holding midfielder became priority number one for Liverpool this summer.
Alexis Mac Allister has done as well as anyone could hope in the role so far but it is not the one he was signed to play and it probably doesn’t help that his biggest help is Trent Alexander-Arnold, himself learning the ropes of tucking in from right-back when the Reds have possession.
As a result, the midfield has resembled a revolving door at times this season as both Liverpool games have been wide open and end-to-end.
Summer signing Wataru Endō is likely to be handed a first start for the trip to Newcastle. As far as full debuts go, it could be unforgiving. The St James’ Park crowd can be one of the most intimidating in the league and Eddie Howe’s side arguably play the most intense football in the top flight.
There will be no time for Endō to bed in and Liverpool need him to hit the ground running.