SportsPass: Premier League predictions: Lawro v Ride bassist Steve Queralt..


1) Saka’s swap could fill a gap for Arsenal

Arsenal’s injury problems at left‑back have led them to explore signing Layvin Kurzawa from Paris Saint-Germain. But what if the solution lies closer to home? Bukayo Saka is 18 and earlier this season was being rightly lauded for his rich promise as a flying winger. But he has filled in at full‑back four times in the past month, most recently against Sheffield United on Saturday, and looks the part. Saka is tenacious, diligent, has speed and energy to burn and a knack of picking out teammates with his deliveries. “I think he could,” Mikel Arteta said when asked if Saka could carve out a long-term future in the role. “He is someone that’s never played there before but he’s really trying to do it as well as possible. You can see that he’s got many strengths to play in that position.” Club and manager might have hit upon something far more exciting than they expected. Nick Ames

2) Grealish’s positive attitude gives Villa confidence

England fans will have only Gareth Southgate to blame if Jack Grealish is not in their next squad. The player could hardly do more to prove he deserves a chance. His terrific goal at Brighton was the latest evidence of his exceptional ability. He has the skills and attitude to fit into a variety of positions and has shown at Aston Villa that he thrives on responsibility. “He’s turned into an all-round player,” said Dean Smith, Villa’s manager. “He keeps pushing us as coaches to make him better. When you’ve got that attitude, that application, then he’s going to be a top player. People will take notice of him, that’s for sure, and he’s doing what he can to get himself noticed for the England squad.” Grealish has scored seven league goals this season – his best haul. With him and Villa’s new striker, Mbwana Samatta, the club can be confident of climbing out of relegation trouble. Paul Doyle

3) Rodgers detects Leicester’s lack of confidence

Brendan Rodgers was not being peevish when he said Leicester deserved to win this game. They created most of the chances and, but for an exceptional goalkeeping performance by Nick Pope, would probably have gone home with something. “Somehow we lost,” the Leicester manager said. Crucial saves from Pope were the most obvious reason, particularly when denying Jamie Vardy from the penalty spot in the second half, though Rodgers also thought he could detect a drop in desire and motivation. Leicester’s passing ability was superior but they were unable to make it count. While they remain a good bet for a top‑four finish it is possible they are finding it hard to keep up their earlier pace. “The character is strong but maybe the confidence isn’t as strong as it has been,” Rodgers said. “I’m sure we’ll get it back.” Paul Wilson

4) De Gea’s meekness becoming a regular failing

Roberto Firmino’s disallowed goal could be argued over for eternity but there is no debating that it involved a desperately timid piece of goalkeeping from David de Gea. The Spaniard was impressive thereafter but he plays in an unforgiving position and what will stick in the mind is his meekness in coming to meet a high ball – strikingly similar to his costly mistake against Everton last month. Watford, Chelsea, Arsenal, Barcelona and Portugal have also benefited from De Gea blunders in recent memory and they are only the most glaring. The 29-year-old has been a rare jewel in the rubble of the post-Ferguson years but it is no exaggeration to say that he is in danger of becoming a liability. His club can, however, lay claim to a keeper with the joint‑most clean sheets in the division: Dean Henderson. Time for De Gea to worry? Alex Hess

5) Hodgson decides not to throw at Stones

Roy Hodgson felt compelled to defend John Stones after the defender had another shaky outing that culminated in him allowing Wilfried Zaha to force Fernandinho’s late own-goal equaliser. Hodgson, who gave Stones his international debut when England manager, said: “John is a good player – young, too. He still has his best years ahead of him, he’s still learning the game, learning it in a fantastic environment with very good players around him. I still think that John Stones is every bit that we expected him to be. But he’s playing in a very important goldfish bowl at the moment. Every mistake or every good thing is magnified 10 times over. He’s very much a player that City and England will have good use from in the future. It’s for Pep to decide.” Guardiola voiced rare public criticism of the “mistake” that prompted Fernandinho’s blunder. Jamie Jackson

6) Reinforcement can add to Newcastle’s happiness

Matt Ritchie celebrated Isaac Hayden’s last-gasp winner by kicking the corner flag into the crowd – where it hit a Newcastle fan in the groin, leaving him in agony. Frank Lampard and Chelsea probably felt much the same after monopolising possession and having 19 shots on target. What the bald statistics do not reveal is the visitors often passed sideways and created mainly half‑chances. While Reece James shone for Chelsea at right‑back the other contenders for man of the match were all Newcastle players. They should shortly be joined by the Austria winger Valentino Lazaro after a provisional loan agreement was reached with Internazionale. Lazaro can expect some expert “out of possession” training‑ground tutelage from Steve Bruce and his assistant Steve Agnew. The defensive masterclass here was not accidental. Louise Taylor

7) Duda adds sparkle to Norwich’s fight against relegation

The January transfer window has offered little of note so far but one move that flew under the radar when it went through last week was Norwich’s signing of Ondrej Duda on loan from Hertha Berlin. On the face of it a slight, technical midfielder is hardly the sort of player required in a relegation dogfight – especially by a team who have conceded the most goals in the division and already possess Todd Cantwell and Emiliano Buendía. Yet Duda – who scored 11 times in the Bundesliga last season – slotted into the team alongside both and was his side’s standout performer, dictating the tempo with his crisp passing and denied a debut goal only by the illegal acrobatics of Steve Cook. If Norwich go down, they will go down playing sparkling football. But if Duda plays like that every week, they might just get the best of both worlds. Alex Hess

8) Nuno accepts Wolves have to invest in transfer window

After a stirring comeback victory it would have been easy for Nuno Espírito Santo to be cavalier but the Wolves head coach acknowledged such a result does not alter the need for reinforcements. The shirt numbers of his substitutes at St Mary’s read akin to lottery numbers and the average age was 22. As it happened, Nuno’s tactical switch changed the game – Adama Traoré caused havoc centrally – but Wolves had few options on a bench which featured two teenagers, including Ryan Giles who was recalled from Shrewsbury last week. Wolves rallied but Nuno recognised he needs to add to his supporting cast, with backup for the match-winner, Raúl Jiménez, in short supply after Patrick Cutrone joined Fiorentina on loan. “This window is not the best one to do things but we need to,” he said. “We already have a good team but we need to improve.” Ben Fisher

9) Chalobah rules roost in midfield for Watford

Watford looked the equals of Tottenham during this largely drab draw. Their midfield three outfought their opponents but they had more to their game than just strength. Most intriguing of the trio was Nathaniel Chalobah. The 25‑year‑old’s fitness history is chequered but even when fit he has struggled to play under some of Watford’s frequently changing managers. Nigel Pearson trusts him, however. “He’s been fabulous again,” he said. “He’s a gifted player but he’s had to find a way of regaining his form. It’s been a difficult year or so for him [but] he’s the type of player that is very important for us.” From the base of Watford’s midfield Chalobah was effective in breaking up Spurs’ attacks but his distribution high up the field was also crucial. He has a broad range of attributes for an English defensive midfielder and another manager who trusts him is Gareth Southgate. Paul MacInnes

10) Bench shows West Ham’s lack of options

The West Ham fans who protested against David Sullivan and David Gold before this draw with Everton will be paying close attention to whether the board reacts to a growing injury list by backing David Moyes in the transfer market. Missing Felipe Anderson, Michail Antonio and Andriy Yarmolenko, West Ham lacked ideas in the second half and did not have many attacking options on a bench containing three centre‑backs, an untried youngster, a left-back and Albian Ajeti, a forward whose only contribution was jutting his head into Mason Holgate’s jaw after replacing Manuel Lanzini. Moyes admitted concern about the lack of support for the £45m striker Sébastien Haller. With a trip to Leicester on Wednesday, a double‑header with Liverpool, games at Arsenal and Tottenham and visits from Chelsea and Wolves, West Ham need reinforcements. Jacob Steinberg

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