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PL Sunday preview: Chelsea look to extend perfect start; Arsenal vs. Everton

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Life in the Europa League spells a harsh reality for Chelsea and Arsenal this season: Thursday night games followed by the quick turnaround to Premier League action on Sunday.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 6? ]

West Ham United vs. Chelsea — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Following wins by Liverpool and Manchester City on Saturday, Chelsea enter Sunday’s clash on the other side London, where they’ll take on a West Ham side that only last week picked up its first points of the season, third in the PL table. The Blues are, however — along with the Reds — one of two remaining unbeaten teams in the PL. Maurizio Sarri has stabilized Chelsea following a summer of tumult and turnover, thanks in large part to a series of dazzling performances by Eden Hazard — one of the figures at the center of the controversy this summer — as the Belgian has racked up five goals and a pair of assists in just over 300 minutes. His hat trick last weekend helped the Blues to a perfect 5-for-5 start to the season.

West Ham, on the other hand, finally have something to show for their efforts after appointing Manuel Pellegrini as manager and spending more than $100 million on transfers in the summer. All it took was one win to climb out of the bottom-three. Andriy Yarmolenko bagged a brace in the win over Everton, leaving Pellegrini more than pleased after showing faith in the Ukrainian during his first few weeks in the PL.

“I said at the start that Andriy needs a few weeks to get used to playing in the Premier League,” Pellegrini said this week. “He has a lot of quality, we know that, but in this league you can’t just play with quality.

“He demonstrated against Everton that it was the correct moment. He did it very well. After this performance, we must demand him to give more, because he’s able to be a top player for us.

INJURIES: West Ham — OUT: Manuel Lanzini (knee), Winston Reid (knee), Andy Carroll (ankle); QUESTIONABLE: Marko Arnautovic (knee) | Chelsea — QUESTIONABLE: Pedro (shoulder)

Arsenal vs. Everton — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Another side enjoying a purple patch of results of late is Arsenal, winners of three straight after defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea to start the season. Unai Emery has worked out a decent enough formula, though the Gunners are yet to keep a clean sheet this season (their 9 goals conceded puts them in the bottom-half of the league in the goals-allowed column). Even star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang acknowledged his side’s defensive struggles following Thursday’s 4-2 victory over Vorskla Poltava in the Europa League.

“I think we played well in the first half and at the beginning of the second as well and we scored four goals, but we need to improve and fight to not concede goals like we did in the last few minutes.”

Everton’s season has also been marked by a drastic difference between the first two games and the three which followed thereafter, only in reverse of Arsenal’s turnaround. After impressing in their first two games, the Toffees have collected just two points from the last three games. Their struggles have been, in part, down to the absence of Richarlison, who scored three goals in the first two games of the season before earning a red card and a three-game ban for head-butting Adam Smith during the 2-2 draw with Bournemouth. Injuries throughout the team proved costly against West Ham last weekend, and not much has improved on that front. Defensive pillars Michael Keane and Phil Jagielka remain out, while Seamus Coleman and Yerry Mina will undergo late fitness tests ahead of Sunday’s kickoff.

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Sead Kolasinac (knee), Laurent Koscielny (achilles), Carl Jenkinson (ankle), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (ankle), Lucas Torreira (knee)| Everton — OUT: Phil Jagielka (knee), Michael Keane (head), Andre Gomes (hamstring), James McCarthy (leg); QUESTIONABLE: Yerry Mina (foot) Seamus Coleman (foot)

PL Sunday preview: West Ham chasing first point, visiting Everton

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures is all about place 11 through 20 in the league table, as a pair of early-season relegation battlers are in action against sides occupying placed they presently dream of making their own: mid-table.

[ MORE: What did we learn from PL Saturday, Week 5? ]

Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Burnley — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Burnley finished last season seventh in the PL table, while Wolves were busy winning the Championship and securing their place in the top flight this season. Based solely on their places in the football world five months ago, Burnley should be the mid-table side while Wolves battle every second to leave the relegation zone behind. Fortunately for the Clarets — and regrettably for Wolves — we’re barely 10 percent of the way through the 2018-19 season, so there’s plenty of time to right the early-season wrongs — or, to wrong the rights.

When the two sides meet at Molineux Stadium on Sunday, Sean Dyche‘s side — no longer dealing with the possible distraction of the Europa League — will be seeking its first win of the season, and first point(s) since their opening-day draw with Southampton. Dyche isn’t panicking yet, though, because he’s been through plenty or periods just like this one before.

“When you are good you are never that good and when you are bad you are never that bad, and we have to bear that in mind. The players are close to something, but we have to tidy up at both ends.”

INJURIES: Wolves — OUT: Raul Jimenez (knock), Ivan Cavaleiro (back) | Burnley — OUT: Ben Gibson (abdomen), Steven Defour (calf), Nick Pop (shoulder), Robbie Brady (hamstring)

Everton vs. West Ham United — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Things could actually be worse for Burnley, though: they could be West Ham, who are without a single point after four games and face the typically tough task of an away trip to take on ninth-place Everton. The arrival of Manuel Pellegrini was supposed to stabilize the Hammers and turn them into a force to be reckoned with sooner than later — at least, that was the place. So far, not a single thing has gone right: just two goals scored while conceding 10. After spending well over $100 million during the summer transfer window — including a club-record fee of $45 million on mercurial attacker Felipe Anderson — the expectation was that a manager with Pellegrini’s pedigree, a Premier League winner himself, would finally lift the east London club out of years of mid-to-lower-table mediocrity.

Perhaps the climb begins on Sunday, with Everton missing a number of key figures due to injuries and suspension. With Michael Keane, Seamus Colemand and Phil Jagielka suffering from various injuries, Marco Silva will have to piece together a makeshift defensive unit. Further up the field, Richarlison is serving the second of his three-game ban for head-butting Bournemouth’s Adam Smith.

INJURIES: Everton — OUT: Richarlison (suspension), Seamus Coleman (foot), Phil Jagielka (knee), Michael Keane (head), Andre Gomes (hamstring), James McCarthy (leg) | West Ham — OUT: Manuel Lanzini (knee), Winston Reid (knee), Andy Carroll (ankle)

PL Preview: Arsenal vs. West Ham

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  • Last time Arsenal lost its first 3 league games was 1954
  • West Ham has beat Arsenal once in its last 22 meetings
  • Arsenal is unbeaten in last 9 home London derbies

Arsenal has its best chance yet to gain its first points under Unai Emery as they host West Ham at the Emirates on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

The Gunners are without a point after losses to Chelsea and Manchester City, and the team has struggled to show improvement under Emery to this point. Should they falter again, pressure could build with the built-in excuse of a difficult first two fixtures now passed.

[ LIVE STREAM: Arsenal vs. West Ham ]

Emery has no new injury problems to deal with, as other than Carl Jenkinson, Sead Kolasinac, Laurent Koscielny and Ainsley Maitland-Niles all out long-term, everyone is fit. West Ham, meanwhile, will be missing captain Mark Noble who picked up a back injury, while Andy Carroll, Manuel Lanzini and Winston Reid all remain out.

The Hammers sit 19th in the table with zero points and a -5 goal differential after losses to Liverpool and Bournemouth. They squandered a lead last time out, wasting a 1-0 lead to the Cherries to fall 2-1. They have just four wins since January 20th. Midfielder Jack Wilshere is set to play his former club and lead the midfield in Noble’s absence.

What they’re saying

Arsenal playmaker Henrikh Mhkitaryan on the team’s struggles: “We don’t feel any pressure. We are not thinking that something is going wrong because we are moving in the right way even if we lost two games. I don’t know why people are criticizing so much. I’m not paying attention because I know if I’ve played bad or well.”

West Ham attacker Marko Arnautovic on Arsenal: “They have a new coach and a new team and they are trying to achieve big things because they are a top club. But there is no reason why we can’t take points there because they are also human beings.”

Prediction

West Ham is struggling to find its way, and the Gunners need a win desperately, and Arsenal will channel that motivation to a 2-0 road victory.

Premier League transfer needs: All 20 clubs

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With the transfer window shutting in just 17 days time for Premier League clubs, we can expect transfer activity to crank up a few notches in the coming days.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live

Bearing that in mind, let’s focus on the business each PL club has done so far and look at their biggest transfer need which remains.


Arsenal

Biggest need: They have strengthened in central defense and in central midfield and added competition at right back for Hector Bellerin. Honestly, a decent window for Arsenal so far. Torriera will add competition for Elneny and Xhaka in the holding role but the Gunners probably need one more truly defensive midfielder

In already: Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus), Bernd Leno (Bayer Leverkusen), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Dortmund), Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria), Matteo Guendouzi (Lorient)


Bournemouth

Biggest need: Um, yeah, I think we can call this a quiet window for Eddie Howe‘s side. In the end Bournemouth stayed up very comfortably in their third-straight season in the PL, back in their fourth campaign in the top-flight they may need to add at least one more center back and another central midfielder. We all know Howe loves to promote youngsters through the ranks and some of his long-time favorites may be just over the hill.

In alreadyDavid Brooks (Sheffield Utd)


Brighton & Hove Albion

Biggest need: Another striker is needed as Florin Andone scored six times in La Liga last season but Glenn Murray may not be able to replicate his fine 2018-19. Apart from that, pretty set after a plethora of additions to strengthen the depth of their squad.

Already inLeon Balogun (Mainz), Joseph Tomlinson (Yeovil), Florin Andone (Deportivo), Jason Steele (Sunderland), Bernardo Fernandes da Silva Junior (RB Leipzig), Hugo Keto (Arsenal), David Button (Fulham), Yves Bissouma (Lille), Percy Tau (Mamelodi Sundowns)


Burnley

Biggest need: When you look at this Burnley team, you wonder if Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood and Sam Vokes will be able to deliver the goals they need for another top 10 finish. Sean Dyche may well be waiting to see if Burnley reach the Europa League group stage before he adds to his squad. The main thing for Burnley is to keep hold of their stars, which they’re likely to do.

Already in: Nobody


Cardiff City

Biggest need: Neil Warnock has picked up plenty of gems from the Championship but you’d think Cardiff need at least two or three need additions, especially in the creative department, if they’re going to secure their PL status. The Bluebirds don’t seem to want to splash the cash.

Already inJosh Murphy (Norwich), Greg Cunningham (Preston), Alex Smithies (QPR), Bobby Reid (Bristol City)


Chelsea

Biggest need: A new goalkeeper is their main aim as Thibaut Courtois edges towards the exit door. Eden Hazard‘s potential departure will change plenty too, while a new striker to replace Alvaro Morata could be needed and Gonzalo Higuain has been linked. Olivier Giroud and Michy Batshuayi will likely move on. Everywhere else they are set as plenty of youngsters will be given a chance by Maurizio Sarri.

Already in: Jorginho (Napoli)


Crystal Palace

Biggest need: Full backs or wing backs are needed for Palace to strengthen Roy Hodgson‘s defensive unit if they’re going to kick on and make the top 10. Keeping hold of Wilfried Zaha is their biggest need but if he doesn’t deliver goals, who will? Moving on Christian Benteke and bringing in a replacement in the final weeks of the window would be a smart move.

Already in: Vicente Guaita (Getafe)


Everton

Biggest need: In all honesty, the bloated squad Ronald Koeman put together needed to be cut down and Marco Silva has done that very well indeed. Richarlison‘s impending arrival from Watford takes care of one of their big needs, a new creative winger, while a new center back must be at the top of their list in the final weeks of the window.

Already in: Nobody


Fulham

Biggest need: You have to say that the Cottagers are looking a little light in defense, especially after losing Ryan Fredericks to West Ham over the summer. A new right back, left back and a back-up center back is needed.

Already in: Jean Michael Seri (Nice), Maxime Le Marchand (Nice)


Huddersfield Town

Biggest need: The Terriers have once again done their business early and after signing Kongolo and Lossl after their impressive loan spells, David Wagner is sticking with who he knows best. Durm will be a great signing but you struggle to see which of their current strikers will score over 10 goals this season. A poacher is badly needed.

Already inBen Hamer (Leicester), Terence Kongolo (Monaco), Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke), Juninho Bacuna (Groningen), Jonas Lossl (Mainz), Erik Durm (Borussia Dortmund), Adama Diakhaby (Monaco)


Leicester City

Biggest need: A very solid window for the Foxes as they’ve added a new right back, center back and talented winger as well as a back-up goalkeeper. Riyad Mahrez‘s replacement is Maddison but they may need to look at bringing in a more experienced winger.

Already inRicardo Pereira (Porto), Jonny Evans (West Brom), James Maddison (Norwich), Danny Ward (Liverpool)


Liverpool

Biggest need: Jurgen Klopp has spent plenty of cash and has strengthened his defense with Alisson coming in as a new goalkeeper, while Keita and Fabinho will beef up the midfield and Shaqiri is a great secondary option to Salah, Mane and Firmino. They could really do with a new center back though as Klavan, Matip and Co. just aren’t cutting it alongside Virgil Van Dijk.

Already in: Fabinho (Monaco), Naby Keita (RB Leipzig), Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City), Alisson Becker (AS Roma)


Manchester City

Biggest need: What do you get the kid who has everything? Seriously, though, Pep Guardiola could maybe do with an extra center back to challenge Stones, Kompany, Laporte and Otamendi but that’s not a big need. Arguably a long-term replacement for Fernandinho is their biggest need but after Jorginho chose to join Chelsea, they’re still on the hunt.

Already in: Riyad Mahrez (Man City)


Manchester United

Biggest need: Not the most inspiring transfer window so far but with Alexis Sanchez arriving in January, Jose Mourinho is largely happy with his squad. If the likes of Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba or Luke Shaw move on then we can expect movement, but Fred‘s arrival in the heart of their midfield was their biggest need. Job done, pretty much, although a new center back could be a game-changer.

Already in: Diogo Dalot (Porto), Fred (Shakhtar), Lee Grant (Stoke)


Newcastle United

Biggest need: Rafael Benitez continues to play a game of cat and mouse with owner Mike Ashley and once again Newcastle aren’t really spending anything. Bringing in Dubravka and Kenedy (on loan) was great business after they starred in the second half of last season and Ki will be a solid squad player. With a solid defensive unit intact, the big question is whether or not Rafa will be given the cash to spend on a clinical finisher in attack.

Already inMartin Dubravka (Sparta Prague), Ki Sung-Yueng (Swansea), Kenedy (Chelsea)


Southampton

Biggest need: After losing Dusan Tadic over the summer, Saints need Armstrong and Elyounoussi to deliver goals and assists right away. Even their forwards, Charlie Austin, Manolo Gabbiadini and Shane Long, look particularly lean in the goals department so Mark Hughes may have to work some magic to bring in a new strikers in the coming weeks. Danny Ings a good option? In midfield they look solid, but another new center back may be necessary.

Already inStuart Armstrong (Celtic), Mohamed Elyounoussi (Basel), Angus Gunn (Man City), Jannik Vestergaard (Borussia Monchengladbach)


Tottenham Hotspur

Biggest need: The squad is now deep and Mauricio Pochettino will be hoping Fernando Llorente and Lucas Moura step up as back ups to Harry Kane and Dele Alli respectively this season. Getting in a new center back is their biggest need, especially if Toby Alderweireld leaves

Already in: Nobody


Watford

Biggest need: In central defense. Watford let in 64 goals last season, the second most in the entire Premier League, and they have to start getting things right defensively. Ben Foster should help out with that.

Already inBen Wilmot (Stevenage), Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona), Marc Navarro (Espanyol), Adam Masina (Bologna), Ken Sema (Ostersunds), Ben Foster (West Brom)


West Ham United

Biggest need: With Winston Reid to miss the opening months of the season with injury, Manuel Pellegrini may have to bring in another center back to help shore things up for the Hammers. Elsewhere they’ve added plenty of quality in Wilshere, Fredericks, Yarmolenko, Fabianski and Anderson. A very good window for West Ham, at least on paper.

Already in: Ryan Fredericks (Fulham), Issa Diop (Toulouse), Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Andriy Yarmolenko (Dortmund), Fabian Balbuena (Corinthians), Felipe Anderson (Lazio)


Wolverhampton Wanderers

Biggest need: Plenty of wheeling and dealing at Wolves over the summer, especially from Portugal, due to their close connections with super agent Jorge Mendes. The newly-promoted club have made some big statements of intent with Jimenez and Patricio arriving, with Joao Moutinho set to join them. Biggest need is probably another center back.

Already in: Benik Afobe (AFC Bournemouth), Willy Boly (Porto), Raul Jimenez (Benfica), Rui Patricio (Sporting Lisbon), Leo Bonatini (Al-Hilal), Ruben Vinagre (Monaco), Paulo Alves (Liverpool)


Anderson arrives: Can Pellegrini unlock West Ham’s potential?

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West Ham United has sealed another impressive deal, adding $48 million winger Felipe Anderson from Lazio.

It’s a club record deal from the Irons, whose ambitions have been short-circuited in recent seasons by stop-start play under Slaven Bilic and David Moyes.

[ MORE: FIFA awards Golden Ball, Golden Glove ]

Now Manuel Pellegrini is in charge, and has made a series of purchases including Anderson, Andriy Yarmolenko, Issa Diop, and Jack Wilshere amongst others.

Anderson was fantastic for Lazio last season, though he was part of a loaded attack with Ciro Immobile, Luis Alberto, and Sergej Malinkovic-Savic.

Now the challenge is gelling quickly inside a short window. As we’ve seen in the past with markedly changed mid-table sides — see: Everton’s 2017-18 season — hitting the ground running is key.

Players have been convinced of West Ham’s ambition. Here’s the latest, Anderson, from WHUFC.com:

“West Ham is a club with a lot of tradition, lots of great players have played here, like Bobby Moore, Carlos Tevez and Di Canio. They were great players and idols here, and I’m aiming big, who knows, maybe I could hit their heights and be a legend here too.”

But turning that into on-field success and in-room culture has been a challenge. The move to London Stadium didn’t help, and managerial instability has been anything but a boon to the Irons. There have been plenty of self-inflicted wounds, too.

West Ham’s lineup could be frightening, even in the face of injuries to Andy Carroll (surprise!) and Winston Reid. But managing egos new and old is a challenge, which is why the Pellegrini hire could be a masterstroke.

Consider this possible XI from Pellegrini, who largely operated his Manchester City with a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-2 with two holding/defensive/deep-lying center midfielders (There have been rumors West Ham could sell Cheikhou Kouyate).

There are a lot of options for Pellegrini’s front four. Anderson and Yarmolenko both prefer right wing, while Arnautovic likes the left but has proven adept as a center forward if Pellegrini becomes the latest manager to eschew the idea of Javier Hernandez up top. Manuel Lanzini‘s injury does seem to put Wilshere in the No. 10 role.

Fabianski

Fredericks — Diop — Balbuena — Masuaku

Obiang — Kouyate

Anderson — Wilshere — Yarmolenko

Arnautovic

So the ingredients are there, with Aaron Cresswell, Pablo Zabaleta, and Jordan Hugill joining Chicharito in keeping training competitive.

But Pellegrini will have to navigate a culture that saw a seedy finish to the season, with protests and ugly incidents amongst supporters and players on the field in London.

And he does seem the man for the job. But if he can’t do it… well, stay tuned.