Arsenal look to spoil the party at Liverpool and other talking points ahead of the weekend

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A first-versus-second clash between Liverpool and Arsenal headlines the fixtures on the third weekend of the new Premier League season.

Here, PA news agency takes a look at all the key talking points.

All eyes on Anfield

The Premier League table may not mean much after just two games each but a fixture between Liverpool and Arsenal usually does, whether they are first and second or not. Liverpool looked superb for the first 45 minutes of the season against Norwich but since then Jurgen Klopp’s side have been more questionable, certainly in defence, and almost threw away a 2-0 lead at Southampton a week ago.

Arsenal have issues of their own but they offer plenty of threats going forward – so can they punish Liverpool at the back? They will need to do much better than they did on their last visit to Anfield, when Roberto Firmino’s hat-trick helped Liverpool to a 5-1 win.

Will VAR steal the spotlight once more?

How would VAR have impacted this game?

VAR was the centre of attention yet again last weekend and the next controversy is surely not far away. Manchester City have been involved in two of the biggest debates yet with incidents in both of their games so far, most obviously the disallowing of Gabriel Jesus’ late strike in their 2-2 draw with Tottenham last weekend. League officials will surely be hoping that wherever the next incident is, it is not at Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium when they visit on Sunday.

Can Lampard poop the Pukki party?

pUKKI

Whether they have got the rub of the green or not, Chelsea remain winless three matches into the Frank Lampard era. On paper, a trip to newly-promoted Norwich might be just what they are looking for and the Blues will be strong favourites at Carrow Road. But Norwich have looked strong on their return to the Premier League, and Teemu Pukki’s hat-trick in last weekend’s 3-1 win over Newcastle makes the Finnish frontman joint topscorer so far in the early going.

Brighton rocks

After avoiding relegation by the skin of their teeth at the back end of last season, Brighton have started well under new boss Graham Potter. They demolished Watford on the opening day before taking a point off West Ham last weekend – a game they may well have won but for the intervention of VAR. With a pointless Southampton due at the AMEX Stadium on Saturday, there must be every chance they will get even more points on the board early in the campaign.

Worries for Watford and West Ham

Watford and West Ham have both suffered poor starts to the season, each on the receiving end of an opening day hammering at home as Watford lost 3-0 to Brighton and West Ham went down 5-0 to champions Manchester City. They will meet at Vicarage Road with just one point between them, and 10 goals conceded between them. It is too early in the season to panic, but both teams need a win and soon. 

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Unai Emery believes Arsenal must deliver against big guns to fight for top-four

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Unai Emery says Arsenal must improve their record against the Premier League’s best sides if they are to force their way back into the top four.

The Gunners finished fifth last season, just a point behind neighbours Tottenham, as Emery came close to securing a return to Champions League football in his first season at the helm.

Arsenal face Liverpool on Saturday evening, visiting Anfield for the first time since they suffered a 5-1 defeat there last term.

Emery’s side also lost at Chelsea and Manchester City during the 2018-19 campaign, with draws at Manchester United and Spurs meaning they were unable to beat any of their fellow top-six sides away from the Emirates Stadium.

Struggling on the road against their closest rivals is not a new phenomenon for Arsenal, whose away form in general has been poor for the past three years.

Emery takes his team back to Liverpool with both sides looking to continue their winning starts to the season, and he knows improvements are required to overturn recent history.

Asked if Arsenal’s record against the top six needs to pick up, the former Paris St Germain boss replied: “We need to (improve) because, when we are playing against them, it’s three points that you can take and they cannot take.

“But after that you need also to achieve the three points in other matches against other teams.

“In 38 matches you are going to play at home and away 19 matches – against the top four and every team.”

Despite recent woes, Emery insists those results do not impact on his approach as he seeks a victory that would see Arsenal end the weekend at the top of the table.

“Really, really it’s not relevant for me,” said Emery, whose side conceded two penalties at Anfield last season.

“Now relevant for me is each match is different. Each match can be similar to last year, (but) we are different players, a different team.

“Other teams are also different and some different circumstances can come in each match. I hope on Saturday not to receive two penalties against us, for example.

“I am preparing for the match with our best circumstances possible to achieve the victory.”

Mesut Ozil could make his first appearance of the campaign, while Granit Xhaka is also in contention after missing the win over Burnley with back bruising.

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Arsenal boss Unai Emery could hand Nicolas Pepe first start against Liverpool

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Arsenal head coach Unai Emery has hinted he could hand club-record signing Nicolas Pepe his first start as the Gunners travel to face Liverpool this weekend.

The Ivory Coast international has come off the bench in the opening two Premier League fixtures of the season.

He replaced Reiss Nelson at half-time in last weekend’s 2-1 victory over Burnley and showed some good touches as he continues to build an understanding with the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

While Emery has often taken time to bed new players into his side, he feels the 24-year-old could now be ready to step up.

Chelsea v Arsenal - UEFA Europa League Final

“The most important thing is, like a person, to help him and his family to feel comfortable here,” Emery said of the £72million man.

“Now he is three weeks into working here with us. He didn’t do the pre-season here but he’s progressively feeling better.

“For example, in the first match, he played 15 minutes in Newcastle, then he played 45 minutes against Burnley. I think his individual performances are progressively getting better.

“For Saturday, he is maybe ready to have more minutes. I am going to decide tomorrow, but really his progress has been positive and has been good for the team and for him.

“The most important piece of the adaptation is to help him to feel easy and be comfortable with us.”

Both Granit Xhaka and Mesut Ozil are expected to be fully recovered from the issues which kept them out of the Burnley win as Arsenal head back to Liverpool looking to escape the kind of thrashing they have endured there in recent years.

A 5-1 defeat last year was preceded by 4-0 and 3-1 losses under Arsene Wenger but Emery will not be letting the gravity of those results weigh heavy on his players heading into Saturday.

“Each match, each moment, each season is different,” he added.

“We can use last year, two years ago, three years ago, four years ago (to learn).

“But really it’s about our moment and this moment. Anfield is a big atmosphere with their supporters, they are a very good team and they advantage for us in their progress and in the last years.

“In Anfield they have one step more in feeling strong, but it’s not for us, it’s for all.

“We need to take our best performance and to go there with a good feeling and also thinking we can achieve that performance individually and collectively to be strong and to have our chances.

“We are looking forward to going there and showing that.”

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