Premier League plotlines: Has Wenger just extended his own contract?

Worries for Roy Keane, Rashford makes case, Cesc freeze - our writers chew on the weekend's talking points.

Chelsea 3 Burnley 0: Is Cesc being frozen out?

The future of Cesc Fabregas may be on the agenda at Stamford Bridge after the midfielder was not only dropped from the Chelsea team to face Burnley on Saturday, having played in the EFL Cup against Bristol Rovers in midweek, but not even included on the bench.

It was the second blow in a week for the former Arsenal and Barcelona player who was also left out of the Spain squad for a friendly against Belgium on Thursday and a World Cup qualifier against Liechtenstein at the weekend.

At the age of 29 can he afford to sit on the sidelines? Rumours at the Bridge suggest he has already been told he can leave - with N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic Antonio Conte’s preferred options in a new-look midfield.

Crystal Palace 1 Bournemouth 1: Will Alan Pardew ever have enough strikers?

The juggling up top goes on for Palace. Having let go Emmanuel Adebayor, Marouane Chamakh and Dwight Gayle this summer, big-money signing Christian Benteke played his first 90 minutes for Alan Pardew on Saturday and looked more of a presence up front that Connor Wickham has provided.

But goalscoring remains Palace’s major issue and Pardew is chasing another frontman, with interest touted in Chelsea's Loic Remy, who he managed at Newcastle.

"We're not really close on anyone at the moment. We were close; it's gone away a little bit, so that's the world we're in at the moment. Everybody's jostling, but it will all happen. Just perhaps a bit of common sense here from agents, chief executives, and then we'll be okay," Pardew assured fans after this one.

For now, Pardew is battling to hang onto wideman Wilfried Zaha, who wants to join Spurs. "The chairman made (Palace's stance on Zaha) very clear and I hope that's true."

Everton 1 Stoke City 0: Concerns for Keano

Saturday afternoon at Goodison Park will have provided watching Republic assistant Roy Keane with plenty of food for thought.

Is it possible to talk Shay Given, at 40, out of international retirement; how did substitute Jonathan Walters miskick with the goal apparently at his mercy and an equaliser beckoning and what do the coming days hold for Everton midfielder James McCarthy?

Absent from the line-up with a groin injury which may require surgery - and a decision on whether that is the case is imminent - the more interesting issue is whether he will move before the transfer deadline.

Even before the injury, his manager Ronald Koeman insisted that he would not and, presumably, any length of time on the sidelines will further diminish the chances of a move which McCarthy, reportedly, seeks.

“No we will not let McCarthy go,” said Koeman testily. “It is the third time I've been asked about interest in that player. But there is more interest in players of Everton, we would like to keep players, and we want James to stay but it is up to the player.”

Hull City 0 Man United 1: Rashford forces Mourinho’s hand

It could be considered one of football’s Sliding Doors moments: What if Manchester United had not loaned Ashley Fletcher out to Barnsley in January?

It is tempting to wonder if Marcus Rashford would have been given his chance last season had Fletcher, then ahead of the teenager in the United pecking order, had not been sent to South Yorkshire shortly before an injury crisis struck the Old Trafford forward line.

Yet perhaps it is true that talent will always find a way, somehow. Rashford may have been fortunate to get his chance in February; he took it gratefully over the closing three months of the campaign.

Consigned to the substitutes’ bench this season following the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the 18-year-old waited for his moment. That moment came at Hull City on Saturday. Given his first league action of the campaign for the final 19 minutes, Rashford pounced for the latest of winning goals in a game that seemed destined to end scoreless.

Jose Mourinho could only admire. “Marcus Rashford has a lot of chances waiting for him,” the United manager said. Fletcher left for West Ham during the close season; Rashford will be moving nowhere.

Leicester City 2 Swansea City 1: Musa the right man for Foxes?

"It is important that Musa understands how we play. The Russian league is very different from English football, they play a slower tempo. The English league is very fast," said Ranieri after the win.

After a couple of stunning pre-season goals against Barcelona, Ahmed Musa, Leicester’s big-money arrival from CSKA Moscow has had a slow start to his King Power career. Interestly, Leicester are reportedly on the chase of another frontman, Sporting Lisbon’s Algeria forward Islam Slimani, for whom they would need to shatter their transfer record.

For now, Ranieri is urging patience with his Nigerian: "He must increase his fitness and understanding. He can play together with Vardy."

Manchester City 3 West Ham 1: Suspending judgment until the big one

Five wins out of five certainly suggests Pep Guardiola is making the desired impact at City, even if two of those came against the inept Romanians Steaua Bucharest.

However, all will become far clearer on City’s next outing, the Manchester derby with United on September 10, which now represents the most eagerly-awaited Manchester derby since … well, the last one.

The difference with this edition of one of the game’s fiercest rivalries is that it should hold fascination for all football fans as Guardiola comes face to face with his old rival Jose Mourinho for the first time in English football.

If, as seems entirely possible, the Premier League champions are to come from the north-west city, this derby may offer an early hint as to who it will be. Whether Sergio Aguero can participate in that game remains to be seen after the Argentinian appeared to elbow Winston Reid yesterday and may face retrospective punishment.

The consolation for Guardiola if that is the case is that big summer signings Ilker Gundogan, Leroy Sane and Claudio Bravo should all be available.

Southampton 1 Sunderland 1: Need for another Black Cat between the sticks?

The three-month layoff Vito Mannone faces with his elbow injury has given David Moyes another headache. Stand-in goalkeeper Jordan Pickford's error gifted Southampton the late equaliser on Saturday that denied Sunderland three points on the road. Moyes also has Max Stryjek but may have to move for an experienced keeper to tide him over.

"Part of it is what becomes available," said Moyes. "We've been thrown a thousand keepers. Some would probably see themselves as number one, some of them might see themselves competing with Jordan and some would feel they are genuine number twos.

"So that will all get ironed out somewhere this week because obviously we need a goalkeeper."

Tottenham 1 Liverpool 1: Have this pair been left behind?

Given the money spent by the two Manchester clubs – and Chelsea's  resurgence under Antonio Conte – what should Tottenham and Liverpool be aiming for this season?

Spurs came close to winning the league last season while many have predicted that Jurgen Klopp, who has now been in charge for 10 months, will inspire a title challenge once he has enough time to get his point across to the Liverpool players.

However these two sides, neither of which have done particularly inspiring summer business, looked average at White Hart Lane. Furthermore, it is still not clear whether either manager really knows his best XI, and, with a  fierce battle for a top-four spot likely, it would be of little surprise if one or both of these miss out.

So what would constitute a success for both clubs with expectations higher than ever? At the moment, it looks like they could well fall short.

Watford 1 Arsenal 3: Has Wenger just extended his own contract?

Arsene Wenger delivered the perfect response to those critics who think he has lost the plot or doesn't like spending money. 

Xhaka was his big signing before Euro 2016 and the young Swiss has already showed that he can bring something different – and vital – to Arsenal's midfield.

Mustafi and Perez will make Arsenal stronger in defence and attack, and the way they took apart Watford suggests they are certainly capable of challenging Chelsea and the two Manchester giants for the title this season.

Also those latest transfers, which will be completed today, take his summer spending close to €100m – behind City and United, but not bad for a man with a reputation for keeping his hands in his pockets when it comes to the transfer market. And his words afterwards suggested he is planning for the long term – not good news for those who want “Wenger Out”.

West Brom 0 Middlesbrough 0: Can Pulis keep fans happy?

Survival is one thing, but eventually fans also demand excitement. This looked a nailed-on nil-nil as soon as Sky Sports selected it for the Super Sunday treatment. And restless Baggies fans jeered the team off, the EFL Cup shock at the hands of Northampton doubtless also on their minds. A cup run might, at least, have taken minds off the slog.

For now, Pulis needs reinforcements, with midfielders Nacer Chadli and Ignacio Camacho getting that ball rolling.

And the wily old campaigner is so far managing to deflect fan unrest onto the club hierarchy: "There's no problems with the boardroom, they know my feelings. They don't need people to boo to know my feelings."


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