From Arsenal to Fulham, how are the Premier League teams shaping up for this weekend's matches.
Premier League previews: Arsenal to Fulham
Keiran Gibbs, the Arsenal left-back, believes Lukasz Fabianski's impressive performance in goal against Partizan Belgrade on Tuesday proved that the Polish keeper has what it takes to be the club's No 1. The Pole produced a commanding display that included a number of high-quality saves - including a late penalty stop. "He is a great speaker and he doesn't hide away," Gibbs told the club's website. "I think he felt like he had a point to prove. We do feel for him [after the criticism he has had]. He is a great keeper or else he wouldn't be here at Arsenal."
Gerard Houllier, the Aston Villa manager, is aiming to find more leaders in his team to help captain Stiliyan Petrov. The Bulgarian took over the armband from Gareth Barry, who joined Manchester City in 2009, but Houllier said he prefers to have two or three leaders on the pitch. "The captain is not only the leader on the field, he is a leader by example," Houllier told the club's website. "He knows what we want to do, anyway. I prefer to rely on a group of leaders, two or three players. One can be the technical leader, one can be the captain, one can be the energiser."
Alex McLeish is confident Nikola Zigic, Birmingham's £6 million (Dh34.8m) signing, will come good despite struggling to adapt so far to the demands of the Premier League. The Serbia international has been confined chiefly to a substitute role as he tries to adjust after playing in Spain with Valencia. Said McLeish, his manager: "Nikola is still adjusting to the English game. It is hurly-burly, 100 miles an hour. On the Continent he is used to balls being laid up to him and cushioning it and laying it off and keeping the play moving. It is a totally different game to the Spanish system."
Junior Hoilett, Blackburn's up-and-coming winger, has drawn inspiration from Brett Emerton's match-winning performance from the bench in the 2-1 victory at Blackpool last week. The Canadian, 20, told the Lancashire Evening Telegraph: "It gives all of us who aren't playing at the moment that bit of inspiration. It shows you how things can change for you quickly. It shows you can make an impact as a substitute and give yourself a chance of getting into the first team. That is what all of us are aiming for. I will keep working hard in training and keep working hard in games and when I get my chance I need to take it."
The Liverpool fan Gary Taylor-Fletcher is dreaming of scoring at Anfield when Blackpool face the 18-times league champions on Sunday. "It doesn't matter who scores, we want the win," the striker told the club's website. "If I do score, it'll be absolutely unbelievable. But the main thing is that we put in a good performance, as well. If we can match the performance that we put in against Blackburn"- an unlucky 2-1 home defeat last week - "then we'll have a great chance of getting a point, if not three. If we keep playing football like we did against Blackburn then sooner or later it's going to start happening for us."
Stuart Holden, the Bolton midfielder, has signed a contract extension which keeps him at the club until 2013. The American international, 25, joined the club in January from the Major League Soccer side Houston Dynamo. He told Bolton's website: "I'm really excited because I love being at the club. I couldn't ask to be around better fans, management, staff and players. I was given an opportunity by the manager [Owen Coyle] to show that I can play at this level and I'm extremely grateful." Holden has started each of Bolton's six Premier League games this season after just one league start because of injury last term.
Carlo Ancelotti will attend Chelsea's match against Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on Sunday despite the death of his father. Giuseppe Ancelotti passed away in Italy on Wednesday night, aged 87, with his Carlo at his side. The funeral will take place tomorrow. "Everyone at Chelsea sends our deepest condolences to Carlo and his family. They are all in our thoughts at this time," read a statement on the club's website. Ray Wilkins, the assistant manager, will appear at today's news conference in Ancelotti's place. Chelsea host their London rivals looking to extend a run of nine wins in their last 13 meetings with Arsenal.
David Moyes' side, surprisingly, find themselves bottom of the table after six games and a large reason for that is a lack of goals. Three strikes in the home draw with Manchester United aside, Everton have scored just once in their other five games including last week's 0-0 draw at Fulham. Stephen Pienaar, Everton's South African midfielder, said the team need to be more clinical when chances do come their way. He told Everton's TV channel: "We are just lacking a goal at the moment. We have to build on the last game and make sure we play with the same confidence and with a bit more sharpness in front of goal we can win there."
Fulham's young goalkeeper, David Stockdale, is fit again after injury curtailed his impressive early season run of form and prevented him from an England call-up. Stockdale, 25, injured his ankle after the 2-2 draw with Manchester United in August. "To miss out on my first England call-up was gutting," Stockdale told Fulham's website. "I'm a proud Englishman and it was heartbreaking. Now I've got to stay patient, keep working hard and wait for my opportunity at Fulham to come again. Obviously Mark [Schwarzer] is our No 1 keeper at the moment, but when my opportunity arises, I'm going to grab it with both hands."