Can Alexis Sanchez and Man United bounce back? Will Liverpool get revenge?
W2W4 previews the week's Premier League action by highlighting its most compelling storylines.
Can Man United bounce back?
If there was any notion that Alexis Sanchez could be a panacea for Manchester United's away form against the rest of the "big six," it was blown away inside the first 11 seconds of the Chilean's Premier League debut for his new club.
In one of the most calamitous halves of football this season, Jose Mourinho's side immediately found themselves 1-0 down to Tottenham, with Phil Jones then slicing home a spectacular second before the half-hour mark. Keep this up, and it won't be long before Sanchez is shooting his teammates the sideways glances that became so familiar towards the end of his spell at Arsenal.
Mourinho's record in trips to Spurs, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal has reached a critical stage. It now reads: one win, three draws and five defeats in nine matches; four goals scored and 12 conceded. On the one hand it might point to a weakness in the team's mentality, but another view, supported by the way Spurs poured through the midfield on Wednesday, is that Mourinho has failed to adapt his tactics accordingly.
When United have taken a solitary point from trips to Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool this season, and Burnley have picked up five in the same fixtures, it might be time to worry.
Regardless, it is a headache that can wait until the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium on April 7, a game in which City could seal the title if they maintain their 15-point lead until that stage. For now, United's present concern is the visit of Huddersfield on Saturday. After drawing at home to stubborn opposition in the form of Burnley and Southampton over Christmas, let's see if this is one problem Sanchez can help to solve.
Liverpool out for revenge
It seems strange to say it, but Liverpool's heavy 4-1 defeat to Tottenham in October might have been the best thing to happen to Jurgen Klopp's side this season. The Reds had won one of their previous five Premier League fixtures before that encounter, and followed it with a 14-game unbeaten run that included 10 victories.
That doesn't mean they won't want to exact revenge on their rivals on Sunday, of course. As Manchester City learned recently, Liverpool are a different proposition at Anfield, where they avenged a 5-0 thrashing by Pep Guardiola's side earlier in the campaign with a breathtaking 4-3 reverse.
Spurs will still be on a high after their commanding victory over Manchester United -- which made it seven top-flight outings without defeat -- but the next two fixtures away to Liverpool and at home to Arsenal could define their season. They remain two points outside the top four after allowing their grip to slip with one win in six matches from the end of October to early December, and will be eager to make up lost ground before returning to Champions League action against Juventus on Feb. 13.
Aubameyang in line for debut
Three wins in 11 Premier League matches is a dismal return from Arsenal over the past two months, with the club's hopes of an immediate return to the Champions League via the traditional route fading fast. Fortunately an embarrassing 3-1 defeat to Swansea on Tuesday didn't deter Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's deadline-day arrival, with the club-record £56 million signing set to be in the squad for Saturday's match against Everton.
With Aubameyang joining Alexandre Lacazette, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil in the Gunners forward options, it will be interesting to see how Arsene Wenger squeezes all this attacking talent on to the pitch. The other question is whether he remembers to bolt the back door -- the returning Theo Walcott, fresh from scoring a brace against Leicester, will be primed to profit from any defensive mishaps.
Aubameyang may start on the bench after suffering from a fever during the week, but he seems certain to make his bow.
It might be difficult to watch for Riyad Mahrez this weekend, considering he is reported AWOL from Leicester after his transfer to Manchester City fell through. Claude Puel might have to learn to live with that predicament for the time being, but the manager needs a result at home to Swansea after leading the Foxes to only two wins in their last eight games.
Giroud to the rescue
Pity poor Olivier Giroud, who was forced to endure Arsenal's 3-1 defeat to Swansea on Tuesday and then watched his new club Chelsea go down 3-0 at home to Bournemouth on Wednesday. Perhaps that proposed move to Borussia Dortmund wouldn't have been so bad after all.
The Blues' midweek humbling at Stamford Bridge only added more fuel to the rumours that Antonio Conte will leave in the summer. That almost seems optimistic. If Giroud can't inspire Chelsea to three points at Watford on Monday, Roman Abramovich could be hitting Guus Hiddink's speed dial once again.
Matthew Stanger covers European football for ESPN and is the editor of The Set Pieces. Twitter: @MatthewStanger