Big Weekend: Tottenham v Arsenal, Manchester City, weary Klopp, revitalised Calvert-Lewin

Dave Tickner
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp, Manchester City player Phil Foden and Ange Postecoglou of Spurs
A North London derby is always good fun

A very hefty North London Derby takes top billing on what truly is a very Big Weekend indeed. A lot of things are likely to be much clearer by Sunday night.


Game to watch: Tottenham v Arsenal
Not really a game that needs embiggening, but you look at this particular renewal of the NLD and ask how much bigger it could be and the answer is none. None… more big.

The narrative persists that only perfection will be good enough for Arsenal in this title race, even though they are still in this title race having lost at home to Aston Villa at a time when we were also all being told and nodding along and agreeing and saying ourselves that only perfection will be good enough for Arsenal in this title race.

It remains possible that City will drop some more points. They are not playing quite as well as vintage run-in City sides of the past. The terrifying part of that is that actually it probably will still require perfection from Arsenal because this current City are still the sort of side to saunter down to Brighton and toddle back with a 4-0 win safely pocketed.

This fixture has long been circled as a significant danger point for the Gunners, but it’s now coming round at a good time for the title-chasers. Spurs have gone entirely off the boil and, crucially, appear to have forgotten almost entirely how to defend.

Such is the mess their defending has become that the absence of Destiny Udogie to be replaced by the less exciting but also less error-prone Ben Davies may actually be for the best against an Arsenal side as rampant as this.

Spurs’ recent plodding form also makes this a far less important fixture for their own needs than appeared likely to be the case for months and months. By the time this game kicks off, it’s probable Spurs will be nine points adrift of Aston Villa in fourth. It’s the clearest example you could ever ask for as to why points in the bag trump games in hand because with Spurs’ remaining games there is almost no way they overturn that deficit no matter what happens here.

And nobody behind them appears capable of reeling them in for fifth either. Spurs are likely to end up marooned there, and any points they win for themselves in this fixture may be of less importance to some fans than the ones they deny Arsenal.

That ‘three games in hand’ at this time of the season is a madness in itself. Spurs are a curious and unusual team and have been handed a fittingly unusual fixture list.

Despite not being in Europe and having no cup runs to speak of, they’ve managed to find themselves with more games left to play than just about anyone. And despite having more games left to play than anyone, they’ve also managed to find themselves with two weeks off to stew on their latest horror show at Newcastle.

After 15 days off, Spurs now finish the season with six games – including all of the top three and Chelsea – in the space of 21 days. Which begs the question: can a fixture list be Spursy?

It’s certainly a quirk. Arsenal have played four games since Spurs so magnificently shat the St James’ Park bed. Spurs are either going to look enormously fresh or catastrophically rusty.

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Team to watch: Manchester City
We still have the feeling Manchester City are not really playing quite at their best. This probably says a lot about us, but also about the sheer scale of nonsense that we expect from Manchester City.

Only beating Chelsea 1-0 in an FA Cup semi-final isn’t a worrying sign for any other club, is it? Losing a Champions League quarter-final on penalties to the most successful team in the history of the competition is not a crisis.

Ah, but they’ve not been that convincing recently in the league either, have they? Don’t quite seem their normal unstoppable selves. The big idiots have dropped six whole points this year, in draws against Liverpool and Arsenal and – fair enough this is a bit sh*t – Chelsea.

Since being really rather effectively shut down by Arsenal, they’ve won four Premier League games in a row by the following scorelines: 4-1, 4-2, 5-1 and 4-0. And yet… we still think there’s more to come from them.

We want the moon on a stick, frankly. Anyway, they should be well worth watching at a very relegation-haunted Nottingham Forest in what look absolutely ideal conditions for Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden to score two goals each in a 5-0 win that for reasons we can’t entirely fathom still has us going “Hmm, not sure.”

The good news for everyone is that all their remaining games apart from Tottenham away fall into this exact same category.


Manager to watch: Jurgen Klopp
The media narrative has decisively shifted this week. Klopp’s Farewell Tour is no longer energising Liverpool and spurring them on to greater heights but is now a millstone around their neck. “He should never have made the announcement! Remember Fergie!” comes the cry from a media who were definitely saying this when Liverpool were slapping teams silly through the winter.

There is no denying now, though, that his team is starting to display all the symptoms he spotted in himself when deciding to walk away from his beloved Anfield. They have run out of energy and run out of road.

Something broke in them during that absurd FA Cup defeat at Old Trafford. They have simply not been the same side since. Their only wins in eight games since that day have been against Brighton, Sheffield United, Fulham and futilely against Atalanta. After losing just twice in their first 31 Premier League games, they have gone down twice in their last three.

It is still in the round a season of overachievement even if the Klopp Farewell Quadruple has been downgraded to a Klopp Farewell Single, but the shift in expectations makes it inevitably and powerfully overwhelming.

Does Klopp have any energy left for one last push? Does his team? They had nothing at Goodison Park of all places, and the sight of Klopp responding to Dominic Calvert-Lewin doubling Everton’s lead with a resigned smile felt significant.

At the weekend he faces West Ham and another manager who is almost certainly on a farewell tour of his own, albeit a far more reluctant one.

Liverpool are almost certainly now going to finish third, but we still expect their weary legs and tired minds to give us at least one more proper Klopp showing before the curtain falls. Might be here, who knows. They have to offer some kind of response to the Goodison performance, surely.

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Player to watch: Dominic Calvert-Lewin
It’s been an intensely frustrating few years for Dominic Calvert-Lewin, whose career has stagnated in stop-start purgatory. Injured here, feeling his way back there, expected to hit the ground running for a team very often in a deeply grim fingertip battle against relegation.

But there remains a captivating and brilliant striker lurking there, and he has had a superb April. Having ended a five-month goal drought with a precious late equaliser at Newcastle he scored the vital winner against Burnley and another against Liverpool in the week.

That fine header in the Merseyside derby capped what must go down as one of the best No. 9 performances of the entire season. It contained absolutely everything one could want from a striker. The goal was just the cherry on top of a clever, physical, relentless display of line-leading that left Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate thoroughly miserable and entirely without answers.

And while we know it’s probably foolish to expect Calvert-Lewin to sustain these kinds of levels for an extended period of time, we also know not to take our eyes off him when he’s on one of his streaks of form.

He’s got three goals in his last four games. He scored four goals in six games back in the autumn. These are his only goals of the season.

Last season was an almost total write-off, but in 2021/22 he scored three goals in the first three games of the season, two in the last three games of the season and nothing in between. Even in his very best season, 2020/21, he followed a run of 11 goals in his first 11 games of the Premier League season with a seven-game blank.

Who knows how long this current hot spell will last, but we should definitely all be watching to find out.

📣 TO THE COMMENTS! Can Calvert-Lewin sustain his current form and fitness? Join the debate

European game to watch: PSG v Le Havre
It has not been a vintage year for title races across Europe’s major leagues. Inter have already pocketed the Serie A title. Bayer Leverkusen’s win in Germany has been a stunning story but nobody could live with them. PSV have a commanding lead in the Netherlands, while Real Madrid’s latest La Liga title just awaits rubber-stamping.

And – surprise, surprise – it’s a similar story too in France. PSG will wrap up their 12th Ligue 1 title if they can somehow manage to eke out a home win against a Le Havre side who are probably, let’s be honest, looking at the other three games they have left to try and scrape together enough points to clamber out of the bottom three.


Football League game to watch: Hull City v Ipswich
A rogue Saturday 8pm kick-off time means Ipswich will have a full 24 hours to process whatever Leeds have done at QPR on Friday night and formulate a response at Hull, who will themselves spend Saturday afternoon with a keen eye on Carrow Road and Hillsborough to see what Norwich and West Brom are up to in the play-off picture.

It’s what makes this such an interesting game; we simply don’t yet know what the dynamic is going to be. Hull may go into the game six points behind Norwich and West Brom and, given their inferior goal difference, almost doomed. Or they may have been buoyed by an unexpected slip from one of their rivals.

Ipswich will still have things in their own hands come what may; at worst they will go to Hull four points adrift of Leeds but with two games in hand. Again, though, they have goal-difference concerns that mean a Leeds win 24 hours earlier would leave them no margin for error over a pair of tough away games here and at Coventry before the final-day freebie against Huddersfield.