Kieran Tierney might be wondering what’s going on this afternoon. Last weekend, Arteta used Tomiyasu on the wrong side – his side – at left-back, which I assumed was so Mohamed Salah would come inside on his strong foot. But Sinisterra hardly demands the same provision, which suggests Tierney might now be third choice.
Here she is in our Premier League Likeable XI:
The Chelsea players have “Get well soon Emma” on the back of their training tops, as message to the manager of their women’s team who’s having time off with illness. We echo that – Hayes is a hero.
“So why not say ‘Manchester’ and ‘Newcastle’ then?” asks Mike Daniels. “Why insist that Manchester have dibs on ‘United’?”
Er, because there’s another team – also playing today as it goes – who have “Manchester” as their first name, and not another who use “Newcastle”. It’s not deep, I promise.
“Good Afternoon Daniel, good afternoon all round, from a cloudy Lewes,” begins Em Jackson. “In this fixture between Man Utd and Newcastle Utd, I’d pick a hybrid player, a United United player if you will: 50% Roy Keane & 50% Alan Shearer. Would give your side 110% vs the opposition and 120% in fights between themselves. Otherwise I’d go with Nicky Butt.”
Meanwhile, Keith Priddle wonders “How about Harry Kane, striker, midfield and goalie. Or Glenn Hoddle can do the same and put gloves on in extremis!”
Indeed, here his is donning the gloves … and keeping a clean sheet at Old Trafford.
I’ve just noticed that Carney Chuwuemeka is on the bench for Chelsea against his old club. I really like what I’ve seen of him, and I’d love to see him get on the pitch for a proper stretch today. Otherwise, that side looks a little strange – Gerrard will fancy his side to outnumber Loftus-Cheek and Kovacic in central midfield, and Mount is not as his best off the right.
Back Arsenal, I said I’m concerned about their back four, and I am. I think they’re all decent players, and Ben White in particular is doing a terrific job at right-back given he isn’t really one. But it’s rare a side wins a title without some of the best defenders around, and I find Gabriel a little wild.
Talking of Kobby Mainoo – and please be aware, I do not say this lightly – this is THE GREATEST calling a player by their fore- and surname there’s ever been.
Public service announcement: I know both Manchester and Newcastle have the same surname. But we’re covering four matches at once here, so please forgive with me if I call one “United” and the other “Newcastle”, it’s nothing personal.
“He could play left-back, right-back, get you a goal, knew how to defend, never injured, a brilliant guy in the dressing room. “Denis would be world class to me x11,” says Alex Newcombe of Roy Keane’s roommtate, Mr Irwin.
Righto, let’s make our way through what these teams mean:
Steven Gerrard has yet another bash at finding an XI that works, binning Philippe Coutinho and Emi Buendía for Danny Ings, that famous left-winger, and Leon Bailey, while Graham Potter brings in Kai Havertz, Marc Cucurella and Ruben Loftus-Cheek for Kalidou Koulibaly, Jorginho and the aggravatingly injured Reece James.
Leeds bring in Luis Sinisterra, who’s back from suspension, and he replaces Patrick Bamford; Arsenal are unchanged.
Man United are without Christian Eriksen and Scott McTominay, so Fred, who started in midweek, is again in midfield with Casemiro and Bruno Fernandes. At the back, Raphaël Varane is deemed ready to regain his place from Victor Lindelöf, while in attack, it’s Jadon Sancho not Marcus Rashford and Ronaldo not Anthony Martial. Also worthy of note is the presence of local lad, Kobby Mainoo on the bench – he looks a ridiculous talent, an all-round midfielder with beautiful balance, skill and weight of pass. As for Newcastle, Eddie Howe brings Joelinton in for Joewillock.
At St Mary’s, Southampton bring in Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Mohamed Elyounoussi for Ibrahima Diallo and Stuart Armstrong, while West Ham field Ben Johnson, Vladimir Coufal and Emerson instead of Craig Dawson, Kurt Zouma and Pablo Fornals.
On Sky, Kevin de Bruyne has just been asked which player he’d pick if he had to compile an XI of the same player. He said Patrick Vieira – I’m not sure why because as amazing as he was, he was a midfield specialist. Now that you don’t ask, I’d picking between Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney but leaning towards the latter because he’s a decent keeper. Feel free to tell me why I’m wrong.
Let’s have some teams…
Aston Villa: Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Mings, Luiz, McGinn, Ings, Watkins, Young, Bailey, Ramsey. Subs: Olsen, Sanson, Buendia, Chambers, Nakamba, Bednarek, Coutinho, Dendoncker, Bogarde.
Chelsea: Kepa, Chalobah, Silva, Cucurella, Mount, Kovacic, Loftus-Cheek, Chilwell, Havertz, Aubameyang, Sterling. Subs: Mendy, Jorginho, Pulisic, Broja, Zakaria, Gallagher, Koulibaly, Azpilicueta, Chukwuemeka.
Leeds United: Meslier; Kristensen, Koch, Cooper, Struijk; Roca, Adams; Aaronson, Rodrigo, Harrison; Sinisterra. Subs: Klaesson, Ayling, Firpo, Bamford, Summerville, Llorente, Gelhardt, Greenwood, Klich.
Arsenal: Ramsdale; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Tomiyasu; Partey, Xhaka, Odegaard; Saka, Jesus, Martinelli. Subs: Turner, Tierney, Nketiah, Holding, Cedric, Vieira, Lokonga, Nelson, Marquinhos
Manchester United: De Gea, Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Shaw, Fred, Casemiro, Sancho, Antony, Fernandes, Ronaldo. Subs: Heaton, Lindelof, Rashford, Malacia, Pellistri, Elanga, Garnacho, Iqbal, Mainoo.
Newcastle United: Pope, Trippier, Brun, Botman, Schar, Longstaff, Joelinton, Guimaraes, Murphy, Almiron, Wilson. Subs: Karius, Lascelles, Shelvey, Lewis, Targett, Wood, Fraser, Willock, Anderson.
Southampton: Bazunu, Walker-Peters, Bella-Kotchap, Salisu, Perraud, Maitland-Niles, Ward-Prowse, Elyounoussi, Aribo, A Armstrong, Adams. Subs: McCarthy, Lyanco, Caleta-Car, S Armstrong, Mara, Djenepo, Edozie, Diallo, Larios.
West Ham: Fabianski, Coufal, Johnson, Kehrer, Emerson, Cresswell, Soucek, Rice, Bowen, Paqueta, Scamacca. Subs: Areola, Randolph, Fornals, Antonio, Lanzini, Downes, Ogbonna, Benrahma, Coventry.
“Have you done your roadwork, you’d better keep your left up” – immortal words for anyone old enough to remember the days when breakfast was the most important meal of the day, not something best avoided by all right-thinking members of society, and when our halves of televised football weren’t bookended by missives from our favourite altruistic “behing caaaantny”. Nevertheless, this early afternoon slot houses a selection of games that are very, very tasty, so let’s climb onto that painful segue and dive right in.
At Elland Road, Leeds entertain Arsenal, the league leaders having won three straight since losing while playing fairly well at Old Trafford. Their defence still looks a little suss – perhaps too suss for a serious title challenge – but on the other hand, if Mikel Arteta’s team have found an attacking style reliably fluent enough for them to beat everyone they should beat twice, you never know.
Meanwhile, we should see a belter at the aforementioned – its first league fixture in six weeks. Manchester United are nowhere near as good as they could be but are perceptibly progressing, and Thursday night’s Fergie-time winner won’t have done them any harm. Newcastle United, though, are in fine form, and their hard-running proactivity and invention looks a decent match-up for a side still trying to assimilate a new way of doing things.
As if that wasn’t enough, old friends Steven Gerrard and Chelsea convene with the former’s Villa under severe pressure. It seems unlikely that his board will tolerate too many more tame reverses, and though Chelsea have major injury issues, the players who are fit have settled well under Graham Potter.
And finally, West Ham, who took a while to get their season going, visit Southampton, who’ve lost four in a row while looking like serious relegation candidates.
Which is to say that there’s a load going on, so stick with me as we watch it all unfold.
Kick-offs/kicks-off: 2pm BST