Chelsea can't buy a goal in Fulham stalemate; Arsenal renews Premier League title charge

Chelsea coach Graham Potter pleaded for time to gel his expensive collection of new stars after the Blues were held 0-0 at home by Fulham on Friday.

New Everton boss Sean Dyche prepares for a baptism of fire against Premier League leader Arsenal.

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool travels to face struggling Wolves, desperate to shake out of a slump that has left them playing catchup, while Tottenham host reigning champion Manchester City.

AFP Sport takes a look at some of the key talking points ahead of the weekend action in the English Premier League.

Havertz's hat trick of misses

Chelsea's record investment of over $360 million in the January window took the total spend on players in their first season under new ownership to over $600 million.

Co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali were in attendance, but will not have been impressed as another chance to close on the top four slipped by.

Potter's men sit ninth in the standings, still nine points adrift of the Champions League places.

"New players are adapting to a new country and a new league. It's not straightforward. When the price tag is what it is questions will be asked, it's the nature of the business," said Potter.

"The decision we took in the window you can see the profile in terms of age. We feel we have a very strong group of players. We have to gel and become a really good team. That's where the work is."

Fulham had secured a first victory in the west London derby since 2006 when the teams met just three weeks ago.

Marco Silva's men sit two points and three places above their local rivals in the table in their first season back in the top flight.

Kai Havertz had a hat trick of big chances to break the deadlock before half-time.

The German international failed to get enough contact on Thiago Silva's brilliant pass to divert the ball beyond Bernd Leno.

Havertz then could not stretch to turn Mason Mount's dangerous cross on target.

But his best opening came when he hit the post with a lob over Leno from Hakim Ziyech's defense-splitting pass.

Ziyech would have been a Paris Saint-Germain player this week had Chelsea not submitted the wrong paperwork in the minutes before Tuesday's transfer deadline.

The Moroccan is just one of a wealth of wide options now available to Potter and he wasted no time in hooking Mudryk despite his price tag after a disappointing first 45 minutes.

The Ukrainian joined from Shakhtar Donetsk last month for a fee that could rise to 100 million euros ($110 million).

Madueke was introduced in his place and Potter also threw on Raheem Sterling from the bench on the hour mark in the search for a winner.

British record signing Enzo Fernandez ($132 million) was inches away from the perfect debut as the Argentine World Cup winner flashed a shot wide from distance 20 minutes from time.

Connor Gallagher came even closer as he hit the side-netting from the edge of the box.

But the best chance fell to Wesley Fofana as the Ivorian rounded the stranded Leno, but failed to beat the covering Tim Ream on the line.

Dyche's daunting debut

The contrast in mood between Arsenal and Everton fans could hardly be starker ahead of the matchup at Goodison Park on Saturday.

Arsenal is on course for its first league title since 2003-04 with the luxury of a five-point lead over Manchester City, which has played one more game than the London team.

The Gunners hope that their January business is enough to get the team through the rest of the season. While the club missed out on its top two targets — Mudryk and Brighton's Moises Caicedo, Jorginho's arrival from Chelsea this week adds depth and an old hand to Mikel Arteta's young squad while Leandro Trossard boosts his attacking options.

Everton was the only Premier League club not to make a January signing and former Burnley boss Sean Dyche knows he has a mountain to climb. The Toffees' 69-year stay in the English top-flight is at severe risk and further protests from supporters against the club's board is planned for after the match.

"There's a big challenge ahead but one I'm ready for and want to take on," Dyche told Everton TV. "We want to change the shape of this club going forwards, remodel it in our style, but remodel it in a way we can win."

Guardiola's Cancelo culture 

Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola showed his ruthless streak as Joao Cancelo was allowed to move on loan to Bayern Munich this week.

The Portuguese defender was an important figure in City's title wins over the past two seasons, but his departure is further evidence that Guardiola is trying to spark a reaction from his squad. He questioned whether his side had the hunger to hunt down Arsenal despite a dramatic comeback from 2-0 down to beat Tottenham 4-2 last month. Now Guardiola has gambled, knowing that his daring decision on Cancelo leaves his squad short on defender options for the rest of the season.

City might be eight points behind the Gunners before Sunday's game against Spurs, which could be without Coach Antonio Conte after he underwent surgery to remove his gallbladder, but it has title-winning experience and enviable strength in depth.

Friday: Chelsea 0 Fulham 0.
Saturday: Everton vs Arsenal, Aston Villa vs Leicester, Brentford vs Southampton, Brighton vs Bournemouth, Man Utd vs Crystal Palace, Wolves vs Liverpool, Newcastle vs West Ham. 
Sunday: Nottingham Forest vs Leeds, Tottenham vs Man City.
Soccer on TV


© Agence France-Presse

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