x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Weekly update: English Premier League

A quick wrap of on and off field news related to the English Premier League teams.

Arsenal Arsene Wenger's side must face West Bromich Albion at the Emirates Stadium without Cesc Fabregas, their captain, who is ruled out with a hamstring injury. Jack Wilshere, man-of-the-match in Arsenal's midweek Carling Cup win against Tottenham, will deputise for the Spaniard in midfield. Tomas Rosicky, whose missed penalty cost Arsenal three points at Sunderland last weekend as they were held to a1-1 draw, is predicting a "great future" for the 18-year-old Englishman. "He is great talent," the Czech midfielder told The Daily Mail. "For his age he has a great brain." Aston Villa Gerard Houllier has mounting injury concerns ahead of tomorrow's clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers, the Frenchman's league debut as Villa manager. Gabriel Agbonlahor's calf problem saw him substituted during Villa's Carling Cup win over Blackburn Rovers and the striker, along with Stephen Ireland, the midfielder, and Ciaran Clark, the centre-half, faces a late fitness test. "I am collecting injuries at the moment," Houllier said. "It is a good sign because it shows we train as we play." James Collins is expected to replace the injured Richard Dunne in central defence.

Birmingham City Alexander Hleb, a high-profile loan capture from Barcelona, has revealed that he is struggling to adjust to life at St Andrews. But the former Arsenal midfielder, who left the Nou Camp after failing to hold down a starting place, said he is ready to face the Blues challenge head on and make his mark for Alex McLeish's men. "Of course, it's different to Arsenal and Barcelona," Hleb told Sky Sports. "There is not the same quality from players, people don't keep the ball as much. This is a different side and we need to fight for points." Birmingham face Wigan at home tomorrow. Blackburn Rovers Exasperated at Rovers' latest capitulation in midweek, Sam Allardyce, the Blackburn manager, has questioned his side's mental toughness. "We've gone in front in six games out of seven and haven't been able to hold onto things," said Allardyce, after Aston Villa scored three second-half goals to dump Rovers out the Carling Cup on Wednesday night 3-1. "A game lasts 90 minutes, not 45 and it's frustrating for us. We must be more resilient defensively." Blackburn face Ian Hollway's high-flying Blackpool tomorrow looking for their first league victory since defeating Everton on the opening day of the campaign.

Blackpool Despite allowing a total of 10 goals away to Arsenal and Chelsea, Charlie Adam, the Tangerines captain, is confident the Premier League newcomers will avoid relegation. "We have got two of the very top teams out of the way and now we can focus on the games that really matter in terms of us getting points," Adam told The Blackpool Gazette. Ian Holloway's side have taken seven points in their three other league games, and Adam believes the side will continue to improve. "We can learn from the mistakes we've made because we are not used to this league. The more we play in it the better players we will become." Bolton Wanderers Owen Coyle, the Wanderers manager, believes Manchester United's visit to the Reebok Stadium on Sunday can provide the perfect tonic following Bolton's shock Carling Cup exit to Burnley. "It's a very tough game, a local derby, against some of the very best players in world football, but that's exactly why we're in the job," Coyle told The Bolton News. Having made eight changes in midweek, Coyle said many of his rested personnel are in line for recalls against United. "My focus is now on getting the group back together, including the eight lads who didn't play, and turning our focus on Manchester United."

Chelsea Didier Drogba has warned Chelsea against complacency as the league leaders prepare to face their first real test of their Premier League defence against Manchester City at Eastlands tomorrow. "City will be a good test to see if we can deal with better opposition," Drogba told Chelsea TV. "After that it is Arsenal - another big one - so it's a crucial period." Carlo Ancelotti's powerful table-toppers have enjoyed five wins from five games thus far in the league, but travel north without in-form striker Salomon Kalou (thigh) and Yossi Benayoun (calf) after the pair limped out of the midweek 4-3 Carling Cup loss to Newcastle.

Everton Everton submitted plans earlier this week to redevelop Goodison Park's Park End stand, but it is the club's on-field inadequacies, according to manager David Moyes, that are the blue half of Merseyside's most pressing concern. "Our performances have not been too bad, but we just can't score," said Moyes, whose side sit second-bottom, winless after five games. Phil Neville, the Toffees captain, offered a more long-term synopsis: "Everyone says we've been playing well without winning. Well, forget all that rubbish. Forget Champions League football and realise where we are. It's time to stand up and be counted." Fulham One of four undefeated sides remaining in the top flight, Fulham's already depleted strike-force has taken a blow with the news that Moussa Dembele is out for two weeks. Mark Hughes, already without broken-leg victim Bobby Zamora for five months, did not hold back in his review of Andy Wilkinson, the Stoke defender, and his lunge on Dembele. "There is supposed to be a certain code of conduct in such circumstances," the Welshman said of Wilkinson's injury-time tackle, which came with Stoke already leading 2-0 in their Carling Cup tie. "We saw an absolutely ridiculous challenge that was utterly unnecessary."

Liverpool Pressure is building on Roy Hodgson, the Liverpool manager, following a shock Carling Cup loss to Northampton, the lowest-placed club in the competition. Hodgson left out Joe Cole, Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard as Liverpool were eliminated on penalties. However, Gerrard, the club captain, is confident the players will bounce back. "They will learn from this experience. Football isn't just about highs," he told The Liverpool Echo. "These players have to accept responsibility," Hodgson said. "I changed a lot of players because I thought they were good enough to win the game and they weren't."

Manchester City As City prepare to face Chelsea tomorrow, the Manchester outfit are believed to be on the verge of replacing the Londoners as Disney's official Premier League partner. The deal, which would significantly boost City's presence in the lucrative North American market, remains unconfirmed. On the pitch, Roberto Mancini has defensive personnel issues ahead of the visit tomorrow of league leaders Chelsea to Eastlands. "We have big problems," said the Italian coach. "If [Micah] Richards doesn't recover, I don't know who can play at left-back." England duo James Milner and Gareth Barry are possible candidates. Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson will return to the managerial hot seat for the Premier League trip to Bolton, after missing United's 5-2 Carling Cup win at Scunthorpe on Wednesday. Ferguson travelled to Spain to watch Valencia, United's next Champions League opponents, in action against Atletico Madrid, leaving Mike Phelan, the assistant manager, to run things against the Championship side. It is believed Ferguson was also using the trip as a chance to scout David de Gea, the Atletico goalkeeper. United will be looking for their first away win of the season, at Bolton, having been held to draws at Fulham and Everton.

Newcastle United Having watched his second-string beat Chelsea's reserves 4-3 in the Carling Cup, Chris Hughton, the Newcastle manager, has welcomed the selection dilemma his side's display has given him. "The manner in which we did it has given me a [selection] headache," Hughton told The Shields Gazette. Shola Ameobi is hoping his brace against Chelsea will yield more opportunities, starting at Stoke on Sunday. "For the players who haven't been playing a lot, like myself, and are trying to get back into that first team this was a chance to show what we can and I think we managed to do that," the striker told The Daily Telegraph. Stoke City After playing his first full game for Stoke's reserve team, Eidur Gudjohnsen has promised the club's supporters he is closing in on a much-awaited first-team debut. The Icelandic international, a transfer-deadline-day signing, completed 90 minutes in Stoke's 4-1 win over Walsall earlier in the week, and was then an unused substitute in Wednesday's 2-0 Carling Cup victory over Fulham. "Getting through the 90 was a big step for me," Gudjohnson told stokecityfc.com. "It has not been an ideal situation and I would have preferred to have done a full pre-season. Once I am ready, I will play a big part in Stoke's season."

Sunderland Titus Bramble, the former England Under 21 defender, could play some part in Sunderland's trip to Liverpool, after being released on bail following rape allegations. Niall Quinn, the Sunderland chairman, vowed to help the summer signing clear his name. "This has been very difficult for everyone at the football club, no one more so than Titus, who categorically refutes the allegations that have been made against him," Quinn said in a statement released yesterday. In other news, George McCartney, the Northern Ireland international defender, has joined Championship side Leeds United on a one-month loan deal. Tottenham Following their Carling Cup exit to Arsenal on Tuesday, Spurs have allowed highly-rated youngster Jake Livermore to join Roy Keane's Ipswich on a three-month loan deal.Meanwhile, Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham manager, has said he will do everything in his power to prevent Gareth Bale, the club's prodigiously talented left-sided player, suffering burnout. "I can't destroy Gareth Bale," Redknapp said. "He's still a youngster and he's running on empty. I've got to protect him a bit." Spurs have also been linked with a possible January move for £20million (Dh115m)-rated Wolfsburg striker Edin Dzeko.

West Bromwich Albion After scoring the goal which knocked Manchester City out of the Carling Cup, Simon Cox, the Albion forward, has admitted he may be forced to leave or go on loan to secure regular first-team football. Championship sides Derby and Reading are thought to be leading the chase for Cox's services and the player himself is open to a loan switch "I'm aware of the interest and if there is someone out there who would benefit me then that is something I would look at," Cox told The Birmingham Mail. He has featured only once this season - as a substitute at Chelsea on the opening day - for the Baggies in the Premier League this season. West Ham United With two local derbies on struggling West Ham's immediate fixture radar, striker Frederic Piquionne, a summer recruit from Ports-mouth, has backed Avram Grant to lead the Hammers to Premier League safety. "The boss knows what to do," Piquionne said. "We had some tough times at Ports-mouth together, but everyone at West Ham knows we'll be okay." Grant believes Piquionne's partnership with Victor Obinna, a loanee from Inter Milan, will boost the Hammers. "They work very hard, move very well and play well together," said the Israeli manager. Wigan Athletic Roberto Martinez and Charles N'Zogbia, the winger who masterminded Wigan's second-half Carling Cup renaissance in a 2-1 victory against Preston, appear to have ended their feud. The problem began when N'Zogbia attempted to engineer a summer departure from the DW Stadium, but with any exit on hold until the next transfer window, Martinez is eager for N'Zogbia to rekindle his best form. "It is quite clear the talent Charles has got," said the Spaniard. "The way he has acted since the window closed has been an example for everyone." Wolverhampton Kevin Doyle has predicted Wolves will bounce back in style against Aston Villa tomorrow following two league defeats. Mick McCarthy's side have lost their last two Premier League games, away at Fulham and Spurs, but Doyle insisted the club's Carling Cup comeback against Notts County, which they won 4-2, has lifted spirits at Molineux. "It wouldn't have been nice to lose three on the bounce," the Irish forward told The Birmingham Mail. "It would have made the next few days a bit more stressful, but now we can go into the Villa game looking forward to it."