There will be a noticeable difference at some Premier League grounds this weekend, as a limited number of fans are allowed back into certain stadiums for the first time this season.
The London Stadium, Stamford Bridge, the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Anfield and the Amex Stadium will all have home fans in attendance in what is the first step towards football returning to normality.
On the same weekend as this, however, Aston Villa’s postponed game with Newcastle United due to an outbreak of Covid at the visitor’s training complex offers a reminder of how far there still is to go, but this weekend will prove we are heading in the right direction.
Premier League Game of the Weekend: Tottenham Hotspur vs Arsenal
On a run that has seen them win just one of their last six league games (D1 L4), the last thing Arsenal would’ve wanted is a trip to home of the current Premier League leaders, but that’s what this weekend’s north London derby represents.
Tottenham have really hit their stride under Jose Mourinho this season following the opening day blip to Everton – their only league defeat of the season so far – with only Liverpool and Chelsea (both 22) scoring more goals than them so far (21), while boasting the best defensive record in the division (9 conceded).
Questions over the fitness of Harry Kane – the player with more goal involvements than any other player in the league this season (16 – 7 goals, 9 assists) – were somewhat alleviated following their Europa League game; a major boost for the hosts and a major concern for the visitors.
Despite strolling their own Europa League group, Arsenal have struggled in the league this season, with the biggest concern being their lack of goals. Only the bottom three clubs in the league have scored fewer than the Gunners this season (10), with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang netting just once since the opening day and Alexandre Lacazette last scoring in the league at Anfield in late-September.
Lack of creativity has also hindered Mikel Arteta’s side this season, after reportedly missing out on Houssem Aouar during the previous transfer window, and is something he will want to surely rectify in January, but in the meantime, it could be a bleak end to the year for Arsenal.
Rest of the Weekend
With Aston Villa’s Friday game with Newcastle postponed, Match Day 11 starts on Saturday lunchtime as Burnley host Everton.
Manchester City welcome Fulham to the Etihad, before West Ham United face Manchester United in what will be the first league game this season with fans back in attendance.
Saturday concludes with Chelsea against Leeds United, pitting Frank Lampard against Marcelo Bielsa for the first time since 2018/19 during the former’s days as Derby County manager.
Sunday commences from the Hawthorns as West Bromwich Albion host Crystal Palace, before Sheffield United take on Leicester City.
The day concludes with Wolverhampton Wanderers’ trip to Anfield to face Liverpool, in a game that sees an in-form Diogo Jota face his former club.
Monday’s offering comes from the south coast, as Brighton & Hove Albion host Southampton.
Premier League Player to Watch: James Ward-Prowse – Southampton – £1.11
Despite finishing on the losing side against Manchester United last weekend, James Ward-Prowse gave another fine example of why he’s among the elite across Europe when it comes to set-piece execution.
An assist with a whipped-in corner and a goal direct from a free-kick takes his goal involvements in the Premier League this season to six (4 goals, 2 assists), but when you consider his best in a campaign is eight (2016/17 and 2019/20), he’s well on his way to a career-best campaign.
The Saints captain also has blossomed into an all-round midfielder at the heart of all the good things Ralph Hasenhüttel’s side do, and should he keep his form going, will find himself as part of the England squad for this summer’s Euros.