Premier League returns: Gabriel Martinelli hoping for lift-off at Arsenal and Aston Villa eyeing revenge over Newcastle

The Premier League resumes with a full round of midweek fixtures, including Nottingham Forest vs Arsenal and Aston Villa vs Newcastle on Tuesday; follow every game live on our digital platforms; free match highlights available shortly after full-time

Lift-off for Martinelli against Forest?

Image: Gabriel Martinelli scored twice in Arsenal's 5-0 win over Crystal Palace

Gabriel Martinelli had only scored twice in the Premier League all season before Arsenal’s 5-0 win over Crystal Palace. Could his stoppage-time double against the Eagles be a turning point?

The hope is that he will head to Nottingham Forest on Tuesday with his confidence restored. “Sharing the goals is really important but, for individuals, there is also confidence and taking some anxiety away from it,” said Mikel Arteta of the Brazilian on Monday.

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His cool finishes against Palace were reminiscent of his performances last season, when he scored 15 times in a brilliant individual campaign. How Arsenal have missed that productivity this time around – and not just from Martinelli.

Arsenal’s left flank has been a problem throughout the season but Martinelli was not alone in finding some end-product against Palace. There was also a goal for Leandro Trossard, starting in his place.

The Belgian had not scored in his previous 10 games, compounding Martinelli’s struggles. The question now is whether the pair can continue their improvement at the City Ground.
Nick Wright

Reverse fixture, reverse result at Villa Park?

The recent histories of Aston Villa and Newcastle include a bizarre blend of relegations and promotions, with a newfound, heady optimism for elite-level success among the powerhouse rungs under Unai Emery and Eddie Howe, respectively.

Howe’s side appeared to be starting where they left off this term with a 5-1 win against Villa on the opening day – having secured Champions League football ahead of schedule with a fourth-placed finish in 2022/23.

It would not be hard for Villa to improve on that result, having themselves secured an impressive seventh-placed finish under Emery the previous season to qualify for the Europa Conference League. But Villa have not just improved since that curtain-raising shocker, they have exceeded all expectations.

Despite that result, signs of promise were there. After the game, former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was asked which team had impressed him most after the opening round of games – his reply? “I watched Aston Villa and Newcastle and I can’t believe the scoreline. Aston Villa played fantastic football and just lost bad goals,” he said.

In fact, Aston Villa drew level on points with Newcastle the following week and have maintained a lead over the Magpies ever since.

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The Villans were just one result away from topping the Premier League for the first time this century in late December. More than one month later, Villa have slipped only a couple of places into fourth and remain merely five points shy of league-leaders Liverpool.

For Newcastle, the scoresheet from that convincing win over Villa in August reveals glaring clues to the Magpies’ contrasting fortunes.

Big-money summer signing Sandro Tonali was banned from competitive football for 10 months in October following illegal betting charges.

Alexander Isak and Callum Wilson were also among the goals on that day, but both have struggled with fitness issues this term, an ongoing issue for Wilson – who has been linked with a move away from St James’ Park, along with talismanic duo Kieran Trippier and Bruno Guimaraes.

Finally, Harvey Barnes sealed the win on his league debut for the club following his £38m summer move from Leicester – but, one month later, the 24-year-old suffered a foot injury and has been sidelined ever since.

All these issues are indicative of a troublesome campaign so far for Howe. It is quite the opposite for Emery.

As it stands, Villa have outgunned Newcastle for goals, assists, shots, chances created and dribbles this term, while shipping fewer goals and facing fewer attempts at their own goal. It is a surge on a par with Newcastle’s charge last term, but can Emery’s men maintain their dominance by beating Newcastle on their own patch?
Adam Smith

Win or bust for Hodgson at Palace?

Image: Roy Hodgson is under pressure at Crystal Palace

Is this the end-game for Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace? It may well be if they are unable to beat bottom-side Sheffield United at Selhurst Park. This is must-win territory for the Eagles boss.

Palace fans aired their frustrations after the dismal 5-0 thrashing by Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium last time out, unfurling a banner bemoaning the club’s “wasted potential on and off the pitch” and the “weak decisions taking them backwards”.

That result ensured any relief from their 3-1 win at home to Brentford on December 30 was short-lived and the atmosphere could turn again if they start poorly at Selhurst Park on Tuesday.

It is hardly surprising the locals are restless. They have only seen their team win twice at home all season. Poor results and insipid performances have left them only five points from the drop zone.

In Sheffield United, they face one of few sides in even worse form. Hodgson survived the fall-out from the Arsenal game. But anything less than three points in this one could spell the end.
Nick Wright

Will Everton beat Fulham without Doucoure?

Image: Everton manager Sean Dyche needs to turn around the team's poor form

This is an awkward moment for these two clubs after both were dumped out of the FA Cup following disappointing home defeats on Saturday. For Fulham, there was the added blow of having missed out on a trip to Wembley after losing the Carabao Cup semi-final.

If that has made for a bleak mood at Craven Cottage, amid complaints about ticket prices, that is nothing compared to the travails of their visitors on Tuesday evening. There was talk of Everton being ‘galvanised’ by their 10-point deduction but that chat has faded.

Sean Dyche’s side have taken only one point from their last 12 in the Premier League and go into this week only one point ahead of Luton – their FA Cup conquerors. And Luton have a game in hand. Injury to key man Abdoulaye Doucoure has seen Everton unravel.

They were on their way to a fourth consecutive win when he first picked up a problem in mid-December but they have lost every single game that he has missed since then. Dyche might need to find a way to get a result without him or risk Fulham pulling away too.
Adam Bate

Can Luton stop Brighton’s in-form Pedro?

Image: Joao Pedro sealed a Europa League last-16 spot for Brighton

Luton have not been beaten by more than one goal at Kenilworth Road this season, but can they stop Brighton’s red-hot Joao Pedro?

The Brazil striker has hit seven goals in his last five games although Roberto De Zerbi’s side have played out consecutive 0-0 draws in the Premier League during that time.

Brighton have been plagued by injuries and are yet to hit top gear this season although they are resilient, losing just seven times in the 30 matches they have played across all competitions despite a club-record, 23-game run without a clean sheet.

Their strange form has seen them win just three of their last 15 league matches yet remain within touching distance of the top six. Meanwhile, Luton have hit a purple patch, losing just once in seven in all competitions which has moved them one point adrift of safety and into the FA Cup fifth round.

Belief is growing within Rob Edwards’ squad that their Premier League survival mission is achievable and a victory over Brighton would only increase that.
David Richardson

Maddison set to start as Spurs push for a successful finish to the season

Image: James Maddison made his return to action against Man City in the FA Cup after three months out

The end of Tottenham’s bid for a cup success under Ange Postecoglou this season also signals the start of the business end of their Premier League campaign to achieve a top-four finish. While Postecoglou has played down suggestions of a ‘target’ in his first term in charge, with no cup football Spurs have plenty in their favour to push for Champions League qualification.

Heung-Min Son’s absence was felt in that 1-0 defeat to Manchester City, where Spurs uncharacteristically managed just one shot at home. But James Maddison’s return from injury brings hope the team can recapture the better form they have shown this year.

It was a chastening comeback for Spurs’ creator – Maddison had just six touches during his 18 minutes on the field before Nathan Ake’s 88th-minute winner for City – but a role from the start beckons against Brentford on Wednesday.

Two of his five Premier League assists this season came in the opening weekend away game at Brentford and it is fitting his season restarts in earnest against those same opponents. Spurs fans will hope for a similar output from the summer signing who quickly became a key figure at the club before his three months out with an ankle injury.

Tactically, a first pairing with Rodrigo Bentancur intrigues, but with Son still away on international duty, Spurs will be looking for leadership and some magic from Maddison.
Peter Smith

Man City run starting? Burnley beware

Image: Manchester City's Erling Haaland

Almost imperceptibly, Manchester City, the reigning Premier League, European, and now world champions, have accumulated seven consecutive victories in all competitions. It has become almost trite to note their capacity to ‘go on a run’ but here we are.

The fit-again Kevin De Bruyne has already showcased his ability to decide games with his match-winning contribution against Newcastle last time out in the Premier League and the impending return of Erling Haaland further shifts the dial in Pep Guardiola’s favour.

The City head coach said recently that De Bruyne and Haaland do not necessarily help his team to play better football – he has Rodri and Bernardo Silva for that – but they do help his team to win matches. It is all beginning to look a little ominous in the title race.

Ominous sums up the situation for Vincent Kompany as he returns to City with Burnley. Two of their next three after this are against Liverpool and Arsenal but now eight points from safety there are no free hits at this stage. A favour from his old club? Not likely.
Adam Bate

Rising stars to shine as Chelsea visit Anfield

Image: Jurgen Klopp has put his trust in young players, including full-back Conor Bradley

The notion you do not win anything with kids has long been quashed and when Liverpool and Chelsea meet in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley next month the point will be underlined.

The academy graduates have been delivering for Liverpool this season. Assists for Conor Bradley (aged 20) and James McConnell (19) against Norwich in the FA Cup on Sunday caught the eye, while Jarell Quansah’s (21) assurance at centre-back is almost a given now.

Bobby Clark (18), Kaide Gordon (19) and Owen Beck (21) stepped off the bench in the previous Premier League game at Bournemouth, with the former trusted to help see out the Carabao Cup semi-final tie with Fulham last week. The number of players currently aged 21 or under used by Jurgen Klopp this season is now at a staggering total of 13.

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Chelsea are just one behind, with Cole Palmer (21), their standout starlet this term. However, while much has been made of their expensively recruited young players, homegrown Alfie Gilchrist (20) was among their better performers in the FA Cup tie with Aston Villa on Friday night.

Expect the rising stars to shine brightly at Anfield on Wednesday.
Peter Smith

Unconvincing Man Utd face Wolves test

Image: Erik ten Hag is coming under increasing pressure

Even a 4-2 FA Cup win was not enough to keep talk of a Manchester United crisis at bay. Not when that win came against League Two opposition in Newport County. Not when the build-up was overshadowed by reports of Marcus Rashford’s nocturnal activities.

Such is life for Erik ten Hag. With Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s new era now under way, any stumble puts the spotlight back on the United coach and a trip to Molineux to face in-form Wolves provides the next opportunity for a referendum on all things United.

Gary O’Neil’s side are unbeaten in their last seven games in all competitions and come into this in good spirits after defeating rivals West Brom in a fraught Black Country derby on Sunday. Wolves have not lost in front of their own fans in four-and-a-half months.

A win on Wednesday would be enough to lift them above United in the Premier League table – and increase the pressure on Ten Hag once more. He has players returning from injury and insists all it will take is time. But a win – and a performance – is needed.
Adam Bate

Phillips steps into central role at West Ham

Image: Kalvin Phillips has joined West Ham on loan until the end of the season

A new year and a new start for Kalvin Phillips. After just 31 appearances in two-and-a-half seasons at Manchester City, he will hope to play a major role for West Ham. In fact he could go a long way to matching that number of games in the remainder of this campaign, should he help the Hammers go far in the Europa League.

The new chapter starts at home to Bournemouth on Thursday and in his interviews since his arrival Phillips has looked like a player with renewed enthusiasm for the game and the fresh challenge ahead for him. The encouraging comments from David Moyes about his quality will have boosted his confidence and given him belief he can be a central figure in east London.

It seems like a perfect fit, with the Hammers looking for a player to bring energy and quality on the ball in the middle of the park following Declan Rice’s departure. Euro 2024 is an obvious target for Phillips but becoming an influence at the heart of a Premier League club is his more immediate goal. This week he can begin to prove to his doubters he can still deliver on that remit.
Peter Smith


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