Big Weekend: Arsenal v Man City, Newcastle’s comedown, Onana’s next test, Klopp

Ian Watson
Manchester United goalkeeper Andre Onana, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, and Arsenal and Manchester City managers Mikel Arteta and Pep Guardiola.
All eyes on Andre Onana this weekend, while Jurgen Klopp needs to change the tone around Liverpool before Arsenal and Manchester City meet.

It truly is a Super Sunday with Arsenal and Manchester City facing off while each missing key players, while Newcastle return to earth at West Ham, and Andre Onana tries not to f*** up…


Game to watch – Arsenal v Manchester City
After last week’s ‘Super Sunday’, we deserve this – a clash of the titans that might not be a Premier League title decider but a game that will give us the best steer we’ve had so far over each side’s prospects.

There’s not much we don’t know about City. The Treble winners are currently sat at the summit, despite going down to Wolves last week in their first defeat of the season. Rodri’s absence was one of the contributing factors to that defeat and Pep’s lynchpin remains sidelined for the trip to the Emirates. How will they cope against an Arsenal midfield that have become as good off the ball as they are on it?

If anyone needs to convince us, it is Arsenal. Mikel Arteta’s men have had a very positive start to their season but questions remain over their title credentials and whether they have the nous and temperament required to push City all the way to the finish line.

They will play with plenty of heart at the Emirates – perhaps too much? The Gunners are perennially a team on the edge of either agony or ecstasy. It makes for a thrilling ride but rarely a sustainable challenge at the top. Such flaws were evident against Tottenham when a modicum of control would have won them the derby and they, not City would be top of the table.

They won’t be helped by the potential absence of Bukayo Saka. Every bit as important as Rodri is to City, in a different way, Saka is to Arsenal. The winger was forced off against Lens in their Champions League defeat on Tuesday. Whether Saka makes it, and more pertinently, whether he is fully fit, ought to have a big say on the outcome because the Gunners have rarely had to prove that they can cope without the England winger.

READ MOREThis really *is* a final for Arsenal – and they absolutely have to beat Manchester City this time


Team to watch – Newcastle
Newcastle will have to peel themselves off the ceiling at some point. Ideally in time to turn up at West Ham on Sunday.

On Wednesday night, the Magpies enjoyed their biggest high in at least two decades. Granted, there’s hardly a hefty 20-year back-catalogue of glory nights to rival the 4-1 victory over PSG in the Champions League, but that in itself is one of the many facets that heightened the midweek Toon euphoria.

Now what? Newcastle are sat at the top of the group of death and long though Wednesday night will live in the memory, especially for their local lads, it could all yet finish in anti-climax. The Magpies can’t be content just with battering PSG.

Nor can they allow their Champions League exploits to derail their domestic business. Like Sir Bobby Robson’s sides a generation ago, Newcastle should be striving to keep their seat at the top table, which means learning to fight on multiple fronts simultaneously.

Eddie Howe needs to take the incredible energy generated on one very special night and harness it over the coming weeks on their more mundane exploits, starting with a trip to east London on Sunday.

Momentum generally serves the Magpies well. They are full of it right now, having won five out of their last six games, scoring 16, conceding just once to PSG. Howe’s side hardly suffered a hangover after the big night in Milan – they went and battered Sheffield United 8-0 – but the Irons are made of sterner stuff than the Blades and Newcastle aren’t yet accustomed to dealing with almighty comedowns.

Anthony Gordon celebrates after Newcastle score their fourth against PSG.


Player to watch – Andre Onana
If it wasn’t for VAR officials snoozing on the job and Liverpool losing their minds over the consequences, we would almost certainly have heard much more about Onana’s latest bollocks up in Manchester United’s goal.

The new keeper was as culpable as any Red Devil for caving in under the merest of pressure while surrendering a couple of leads to Galatasaray on Tuesday night. He got away with his two most prominent mistakes – dropping a cross at a visitors’ foot, and passing it straight to another, prompting Casemiro’s clumsy attempt to bail out the Cameroonian – but even when he wasn’t squarely at fault, he could have done more to prevent Mauro Icardi’s winning goal than simply sitting down. Again.

The ease with which Onana is beaten on one-on-ones has already become a common theme, and some of his other more traditional goalkeeping duties have been carried out similarly unconvincingly. The pay-off was always the summer signing’s quality of distribution. But even that is now prone to error.

Goalkeepers new to the biggest clubs often struggle to shake off shoddy starts and there is no doubt Onana is in the midst of one right now. It doesn’t help that his defence looks like the patched together unit that it is, but an elite stopper should be saving his side in such circumstances, not slumping to the standards of those around him.

For the sake of United’s prospects as much as his own, Onana needs a flawless, drama-free 90 minutes against Brentford on Saturday.


Manager to watch – Jurgen Klopp
Klopp knew he was p*ssing in the wind with talk of replaying last week’s defeat to Tottenham, Liverpool’s first of the season. More prominent in his mind ought to be, and probably is, the trip to Brighton on Sunday.

The AmEx hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for Liverpool. They were beaten twice there last season and in the draw that formed part of a run of one win in four on the south coast, Liverpool were fuming again at what they perceived to be a VAR injustice.

Klopp can do little but moan about the officials but he can effect his side’s performance as they seek to bounce back without five of his first-teamers. It could be a good time to face the Seagulls with Roberto De Zerbi urging the ‘true Brighton’ to show themselves after they were humped at Villa. If the hosts defend in a similarly catastrophic manner this weekend, the Reds’ firepower will be too great.

But given what we know about Brighton, we will most likely see a reaction and Klopp needs a positive one too. The manager received plenty of plaudits for his immediate reaction to last weekend’s injustice before he and the club stewed on it. Doubtless he will be probed again so Liverpool need to give him a more positive subject to steer his answers towards instead.


EFL game to watch – Sunderland v Middlesbrough
There are a couple of Championship derbies to switch on this weekend, with Birmingham hosting West Brom on Friday night before Wear meets Tees in the North-East on Saturday lunchtime.

Sunderland are flying right now. They have won five of their last six, their most recent victory over Watford on Wednesday taking the Black Cats up to fourth.

Boro have finally got going too. After a dreadful start, Michael Carrick’s side have won their last four in all competitions, among them three league triumphs that have prompted the start of what many presume to be an ascent back towards the play-off battle. Eleven places separate Boro from the top six but, this being the Championship, the gap is only five points.


European game to watch – Juventus v Torino
Look, we can’t lie, this is not the most mouth-watering weekend of continental action. Disappointingly little jumps out during a glance at the TV listings aside from perhaps a Turin derby. But even in Turin there is some debate over whether it’s even a derby anymore.

After Juve won the last Derby della Mole back in March, leaving Torino with one win over their local rivals in 28 years, La Stampa wrote: “If more proof was needed that the derby in Turin no longer exists, here it was served on a plate.”

Still, Juve aren’t exactly flying right now. They have won one of their last three, losing to Sassuolo and drawing with Atalanta, and they could be without Dusan Vlahovic. A good time for a rare Torino triumph? They’re hardly in fine fettle either, three without a win and bang in the middle of the table.

We’re not selling this, are we?