Premier League questions: Will Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain haunt Arsenal? Can anyone stop Man City?
By Jack Wilkinson
Last Updated: 23/12/17 12:01am
Will Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain show Arsenal what they are missing? Can anyone stop Man City's title procession? We look at the weekend's Premier League questions...
Will Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain show Arsenal what they're missing? (Arsenal v Liverpool - Friday Night Football from 7pm on Sky Sports Premier League)
"There are vast improvements in his game. When he went to Arsenal, for years I felt he stood still. What I am seeing here is that he is becoming a real player under Jurgen Klopp." That was Jamie Redknapp's assessment of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's performance after Liverpool thrashed Bournemouth on Sunday.
Mohamed Salah and Philippe Coutinho rightfully stole the headlines with their sensational displays, but Chamberlain's growing influence under Klopp was telling. Four months after his acrimonious exit from the Emirates, the England international will no doubt be greeted with a frosty reception when he returns to his former employers for the first time.
But, with Klopp claiming his potential finally being fulfilled, he has the chance to show just how far he's come since making the move to Merseyside.
Can Sam Allardyce extend his run over Chelsea to bring an end to the champions' dominance over Everton? (Everton v Chelsea - Saturday, Premier League Live from 11.30am on Sky Sports Premier League)
If this game had fallen a month ago, many would have feared for Everton. And rightfully so, the Toffees had won just one of their previous 12 games in all competitions while Chelsea, who have won their last three Premier League games against Everton by an aggregate score of 10-0, were on a five-game domestic winning streak.
But what a difference a month makes. Sam Allardyce's arrival at Goodison Park has lifted Everton out of their early-season slump and yielded 13 points from a possible 15. Even more encouragingly for the Toffees, Big Sam seems to have found a winning formula against the Chelsea, having won his last two encounters with the Blues.
Will the Seagulls or Hornets stop their respective rots? (Brighton v Watford - Saturday, 3pm)
The form guide doesn't make for pretty reading for Brighton or Watford. Chris Hughton's men last tasted victory at the start of November - seven games ago - while Watford's strong start to the season under Marco Silva has hit rough ground, with the Hornets winless in their last five.
Both sides have lost four games in those respective runs but will be keen to bring those to an end in the first top-flight meeting between the clubs in Brighton since 1983.
Brighton will see their festive fixtures - against opponents with an average league position of 11.75 - as an opportunity to pick up points, starting with the visit of Watford before clashes with Newcastle and Bournemouth, who are both below them in the table.
Can anyone stop Manchester City's title procession? (Man City v Bournemouth - Saturday, 3pm)
What else is there to say about Manchester City that hasn't already been said? Pep Guardiola's side are hurtling towards the title at breakneck pace, overcoming every obstacle laid in their path with a style never seen in the top-flight.
Another victory for the runaway Premier League leaders will see them secure the joint-second longest winning run in one of Europe's big-five leagues and move to within two wins of the all-time record of 19 straight wins, set by Guardiola's Bayern Munich 2013/14.
The latest side tasked with derailing City's title procession are Bournemouth, but a six-game winless streak in the league, coupled with the fact the Cherries have not won in Manchester against either City or United in 11 attempts, leave the odds stacked heavily in City's favour.
Which Huddersfield will rock up on the south coast? (Southampton v Huddersfield - Saturday, 3pm)
Huddersfield's 4-1 win at Watford last weekend ended a run of seven consecutive away Premier League games without a win or a goal (D1 L6). It means their two away wins this season have both been by a three-goal margin after hammering Crystal Palace 3-0 on the opening day.
This will be another tricky test for David Wagner's enthusiastic team as they face a Southampton side that usually put away newly promoted teams with ease. The Saints have lost just one of their last 26 home Premier League games against newly promoted sides (W17 D8), losing 0-1 against Cardiff in April 2014.
Who will seize the initiative ahead of the festive period? (Stoke v West Brom - Saturday, 3pm)
Alan Pardew has yet to taste victory as West Brom manager and will have to hope that changes over the next fortnight. The newly-appointed Baggies boss saw Gareth Barry score the first goal of his tenure in Sunday's defeat to Manchester United, he'll be hoping to follow that with a first win as Albion start the festive period with a trip to the bet365 Stadium before ending it with a trip to West Ham.
Stoke, meanwhile, are hovering a point and a place above the relegation zone, but the good news for Mark Hughes is their festive opponents have an average position of 12.75. They will no doubt target home games against West Brom and Newcastle - the two sides directly below them in the table - as games they simply have to win.
Will Rafa Benitez continue to torment David Moyes? (West Ham v Newcastle - Saturday, 3pm)
Despite the upturn in form under David Moyes, the sight of Rafa Benitez in the opposition dugout will send anxiety through the veins of the Hammers faithful.
Benitez has won seven and lost none of his last nine Premier League encounters with Moyes while the Spaniard has won 10 of his 13 Premier League matches against West Ham.
Newcastle's boss will be desperate for maximum points after a run of nine games without a victory.
Can Paul Clement provide some early festive cheer against Palace? (Swansea v Crystal Palace - Saturday, 3pm)
Monday's defeat at Everton has left Swansea in desperate need of points before they find themselves cut further adrift at the bottom of the Premier League.
Paul Clement's men are propping the division up and are already four points from safety ahead of a daunting run of festive fixtures against Liverpool, Watford and Tottenham.
The Swans only managed to collect three points during the same period 12 months ago and a repeat haul will not make their chances of survival any easier, and could increase the pressure on Clement.
Can Spurs recover from their mauling in Manchester? (Burnley v Tottenham - Saturday, 5.30pm)
It was a result which everyone associated with Tottenham scratching their heads. The 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Manchester City showed just how much of a gap stands between Spurs and taking Mauricio Pochettino's project onto the next level.
Yes, a number of key personnel were missing, but the manner in which they were dismantled at the Etihad and, at times, lost their heads highlighted the frustration currently within the Spurs camp.
Tottenham's points tally after 18 games - 31 - leaves the closer to the bottom of the table than the top, and last season's Premier League runners-up head into a top-flight game against Burnley below them for the first time in 42 years.
A point and a place separate the two sides ahead of kick-off, a testament to the job Sean Dyche continues to do with the Clarets. If Spurs are to get back to winning ways, they'll have to win back-to-back games at Turf Moor for the first time since 1925.
Can United remain on the coattails of City? (Leicester v Man Utd - Saturday, Premier League Live from 7pm on Sky Sports Premier League)
Manchester City are racing away with the Premier League title, and no team are more aware of that than Manchester United. December's derby defeat left United 11 points behind City, and led to many declaring the title race is over. But no one at Old Trafford has publically conceded the title despite the chasm separating them and their city rivals.
The foundation for this defiance is remaining on the winning path, after all, if City do slip up someone has to be there to take advantage, right? To their credit, United bounced back with victories over Bournemouth and West Brom following their derby stumble.
But with City playing beforehand, and with the gap to the top potentially 14 points, United have to win at the King Power Stadium to keep their faint title hopes alive.
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