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What has gone wrong at Spurs and Big Sam's return - 5 Premier League talking points

There are a couple of big matches down for decision over the weekend.

Image: Mike Egerton

Big Sam is back

Sam Allardyce File Photo Source: Richard Sellers

A COUPLE OF months after declaring he was finished with management following his departure from Crystal Palace, Sam Allardyce is back in the Premier League and he has an almighty job on his hands.

While the former England manager was not Everton’s preferred candidate to take over from Ronald Koeman — Everton’s attempts to lure Marco Silva and Sean Dyche to the club failed — Allardyce has been tasked with restoring the Toffees’ fortunes after a miserable start to the campaign.

He watched on during the week as a Wayne Rooney-inspired Everton thrashed West Ham to get back to winning ways after three consecutive defeats, and while that result has certainly lifted some of the gloom over Goodison Park, there is still much work to do.

The visit of Huddersfield Town to Merseyside on Saturday should be a gentle first game for Allardyce but he will need to get off to a fast start to win over the fans who are disgruntled with his appointment.

What’s gone wrong at Spurs?

Leicester City v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League - King Power Stadium Source: Mike Egerton

Tottenham make the short trip to Watford hoping to avoid a fourth consecutive away defeat having seen their promising early-season form fall away.

Just last month, Maurico Pochettino’s side were being hailed as an emerging force in the Champions League after a dazzling win over holders Real Madrid secured their passage through to the knock-out stages, but that success hasn’t concealed Spurs’ wretched form in the Premier League.

A dismal run of one win in their last five league games has left Tottenham languishing in seventh — their lowest league berth since October 2015 — and during the week Pochettino denied the decline is down to the publication of a book on his time in charge of the North London so far.

Hopes of replicating their second-placed finished from last season have already evaporated with Tottenham now 16 points off Man City and four points adrift of the top four — at the root of the problems is their Wembley woes but, equally, their form away from home has costly.

Damaging defeats to Man United and Arsenal this season have contributed to the slide, and overall Tottenham have managed just one win in 17 trips to the Premier League’s ‘big six’ since Pochettino took charge in May 2014.

The manager has also had to defend Dele Alli, whose form has dipped markedly in recent weeks, his travails coinciding with Spurs’ poor run of results.

Alli has only scored one Premier League goal since August and struggled to make an impact in defeats the United, Arsenal and Leicester City, as well as a 1-1 draw with West Brom.

Tottenham need their big players to stand up at Vicarage Road on Saturday as they can ill-afford another defeat on the road.

Benitez’s Chelsea return

Soccer - UEFA Europa League Final - Benfica v Chelsea - Amsterdam Arena Source: EMPICS Sport

Five years after his brief spell as Chelsea’s interim manager, during which he guided the club to victory in the Europa League, Rafa Benitez returns to Stamford Bridge for Saturday’s early kick-off.

The Spaniard — unlikely to get a warm welcome from the home support because of underlying tensions stemming back to his time as Liverpool boss — brings his out-of-form Newcastle side to west London in the hope they can arrest a recent slump.

Although, his record at Stamford Bridge, coupled with Newcastle five-game winless streak, doesn’t suggest it will be a happy return for Benitez. He has won just one of his 12 visits as an away manager and the Magpies’ record is even worse with just one win to their name from their last 23 league fixtures at Chelsea.

The Blues, for their part, are looking to close the gap on second-placed United ahead of their teatime clash at Arsenal, and the hosts should have few problems in dispatching Newcastle and extending the visitors’ miserable away form.

Hughes walking a tightrope

Stoke City v Liverpool - Premier League - bet365 Stadium Source: PA Archive/PA Images

You’d get good odds on Mark Hughes becoming the next managerial casualty with his Stoke City side now hovering perilously close to the red zone after just three wins all season.

The Potters were hammered by Liverpool midweek and are a shadow of the hard-working, hard-to-beat side they had become over the last few seasons.

The problem for Hughes is that expectations have soared during his four seasons in charge at the Bet365 Stadium, and becoming embroiled in a relegation battle isn’t the standard his squads have previously set.

Hughes has guided Stoke to three successive ninth-placed finishes but having gone four games without a win, the manager admits Saturday’s trip to Swansea is a ‘must-win’ for his side.

“It feels a little bit like that,” he said. “Just for our own benefit really so it reinforces our view, and the people who watch us play, that we are a good side and can compete at this level.”

The pressure is on.

Mourinho needs to do more than park the bus

Arsenal v Manchester United - Premier League - Emirates Stadium Source: Nigel French

As Man United manager, Jose Mourinho has yet to win an away game against a fellow ‘big six’ side with seven games at Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham yielding just three points and one goal.

If United are to push arch-rivals City and make anything out of the title race, that’ll need to change — starting with Saturday’s visit to the Emirates Stadium to take on a resurgent Arsenal.

One of the marquee fixtures of the season, this clash may have lost some of its edge in recent seasons but it still carries huge weight and in the context of United’s season, it’s massively important.

Both come into it on the back of three consecutive Premier League wins and neither can afford to slip-up, with many predicting Mourinho will eye a clean sheet in north London and hope his side can catch the Gunners on the break.

When asked if he thought Mourinho would park the bus at the Emirates, Arsene Wenger said he expected to see the visitors come out and attack but it would be a major surprise if the Portuguese boss — renowned for his defensive tactics in such matches — allows his side be exposed by Arsenal’s dangerous forward line, even if the hosts are without the influential Alexandre Lacazette.

Arsenal are suddenly building momentum, too. Key to that has been the form of Alexis Sanchez and, in particular, Mesut Ozil with the German destroying Huddersfield midweek while the win over Tottenham a couple of weeks ago was a shining example of the Gunners’ renewed swagger.

Wenger’s side are growing defensively stronger, as evidenced by three successive clean sheets, and having held the upper hand in this fixture since United’s last victory at the Emirates in 2014, the odds are certainly stacked in their favour again.

By sitting back and looking to play on the break, Mourinho would simply be inviting Arsenal on, particularly with Nemanja Matic a major injury doubt.

Source: The42 Podcasts/SoundCloud

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