theScore examines the most important Premier League developments by answering 10 key questions that arose from Saturday’s slate of action.
Tammy Abraham, England’s No. 9?
With his hand forced by the club’s transfer ban, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has relied exclusively on Abraham to lead the line for the Blues this season. It’s worked wonders so far, including on Saturday when the Englishman’s opener against Crystal Palace helped the west London side notch its sixth consecutive Premier League victory.
The 22-year-old wasn’t exactly an unknown commodity coming into the campaign after scoring 26 times for Aston Villa last season. But, understandably, there were questions about Abraham’s scoring prowess in the Championship translating to the top flight of English football.
He’s answered those inquiries, and then some. The lanky striker is second in Premier League scoring with 10 tallies this season, trailing Jamie Vardy by just one goal. With Harry Kane continuing to look sluggish – it certainly seems those ankle injuries have taken their toll – we may not be too far removed from seeing Abraham as the focal point for Gareth Southgate and the Three Lions.
What’s Tottenham’s biggest issue?
We’re past the point of asking what Tottenham’s singular issue is and have now moved on to figuring out which of their faults is the most problematic.
Mauricio Pochettino watched as his team threw away another second-half lead, settling for a 1-1 draw with Sheffield United in a match that, frankly, it was lucky not to lose. Tottenham, languishing in 12th place, have now dropped a league-worst 12 points from winning positions this season. They’ve kept only one clean sheet in the process.
Starting Eric Dier and Serge Aurier in the same backline is never advisable, but the problems extend beyond just the defensive personnel. The energetic pressing that has long been Pochettino’s hallmark is absent, and whether it’s through a lack of effort or something more systematic, holes continue to open up all over the pitch for opponents to exploit.
There are some bright spots – new arrivals Giovani Lo Celso and Tanguy Ndombele look incisive when fit – but, on the whole, the squad’s incumbents have seen their performances crater, dragging Tottenham down with them.
Did VAR make headlines this week?
John Lundstram is listed at 5-foot-9. If he was 5-foot-8, Sheffield United’s first goal at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium wouldn’t have been ruled out for offside after a(nother) lengthy VAR check.
This is the world we live in now.
Is Manuel Pellegrini in trouble at West Ham?
West Ham failed to produce a single shot on target in the opening half of Saturday’s 3-0 defeat to Burnley and ultimately finished the match with only four efforts on goal despite trailing since the 11th minute of play.
Sebastian Haller was red-hot after his summer move from Eintracht Frankfurt, but he’s now scored just once in his last nine appearances in all competitions for the Hammers, whose form has mirrored that of their imposing striker.
With his team winless since September and slowly being dragged near the relegation zone, Pellegrini is surely feeling the heat. Comments from West Ham midfielder Declan Rice after the lopsided loss this weekend won’t help convince the club’s brass that the stately Chilean can right the sinking ship, either.
“It’s been like this since the Crystal Palace game. We were nowhere near good enough. We haven’t kicked on and we have been poor,” Rice said, according to Joe Prince-Wright of NBC Sports. “We need to do the basics – the simple five-yard passing, the tackling. We were bullied all over the pitch … It’s not good enough.”
Can Newcastle survive without goals from forwards?
Nine different Newcastle players have scored league goals this season. Of that group, only Joelinton is an attacker.
Ciaran Clark’s second-half header capped a 2-1 comeback win over Bournemouth at St. James’ Park on Saturday, and in the process, the Irish defender moved joint-top of the Magpies’ scoring chart with Jonjo Shelvey on two tallies.
A win’s a win, but things are … not great up front for Steve Bruce.
Newcastle splashed a club-record fee for Joelinton, but the former Hoffenheim striker has looked cumbersome thus far. Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin are electrifying dribblers, but both are more adept at creating for teammates than they are at finishing chances themselves.
If Bruce and Co. hope to avoid the drop despite their forwards’ inability to find the net, they’re going to need the likes of Federico Fernandez, Fabian Schar, DeAndre Yedlin, and Jetro Willems – each of whom has scored once this season – to continue chipping in with timely goals.
Can Danny Ings save Southampton?
Ings’ fourth goal in his last six league matches wasn’t enough to deliver a much-needed win to Southampton, as the Saints’ vulnerable defense buckled again in a loss to Everton.
Even if you strike the historic 9-0 loss against Leicester from the records, Southampton still have conceded 20 goals this season, which would equal West Ham for the third-worst mark in the league.
“At the moment we are not good enough,” manager Ralph Hasenhuttl told the BBC after the match.
He’s not wrong.
Southampton have racked up just two wins on the campaign, and both of those – against Sheffield United and Brighton – came against opponents that finished the match with 10 men.
Everton getting back on track?
As outlined above, Southampton aren’t exactly a stern test right now, but, nevertheless, Everton finally picked up an away win – their first in the league since March – thanks to a late goal from Richarlison, who continues to be the Toffees’ most consistent attacking threat.
With other perceived European hopefuls floundering around it, Marco Silva’s team needs to put together only a few wins to rocket up a congested league table.
The fixture list may present a problem, though. Everton’s December schedule is a veritable gauntlet. After hosting last-place Norwich City to close out November, the Merseysiders play Leicester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, Leicester again (in the League Cup), and Arsenal. Woof.
Who is Leicester’s most important player?
Amid another superb Leicester City season, it’s important to highlight just how well-assembled and well-rounded this squad is.
The midfield is loaded with slick passers, as Youri Tielemans and James Maddison cleverly orchestrate the attack, while anchor Wilfred Ndidi continues to be one of the most unheralded stars in world football. Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell are among the most dynamic full-back duos out there, and Jamie Vardy provides a consistent scoring punch.
Expecting a repeat of the club’s stupefying title win in 2015-16 may be too much to ask given the presence of Liverpool and Manchester City, but make no mistake: Leicester are a simply excellent side, and their balanced squad absolutely makes them one of the favorites to secure a Champions League place this season.
Sacked in the morning?
Losing away to Leicester is nothing to be ashamed about – the Foxes are legitimately one of the best teams in the Premier League right now. But the limp manner in which Arsenal succumbed to their latest defeat surely has Unai Emery on the verge of the ax.
The Gunners didn’t fire a single shot after the 53rd minute of Saturday’s 2-0 loss, and, as a result, are now winless in their last five domestic matches. The fed-up Arsenal fan base is desperate for a change on the bench; even the Leicester fans were getting in on the act:
Having overseen Arsenal’s worst start to a Premier League season since 1982-83, it certainly feels as though Emery’s time in north London is over. At this point, it’s likely a case of when, not if he’s sent packing.
Liverpool vs. Manchester City, who ya got?
Alright, this isn’t technically a question emanating from Saturday’s slate of action, but let’s not lie to one another: everybody has their eyes on Sunday’s mammoth contest between Liverpool, the league leaders, and Manchester City, the reigning champions.
There was some intrigue today, no doubt – would the Arsenal team bus bolt from the King Power Stadium without Emery, for instance – but it’s all about the heavyweight clash at Anfield this weekend.