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John Brewin profile picture  By John Brewin

Will Liverpool or Arsenal get a much-needed boost this weekend?

Despite the alleged 138 million pound bid rumoured to be on the way for Coutinho, Steve Nicol defends Liverpool's decision to keep the Brazilian.

W2W4 previews the weekend's Premier League action and highlights five key storylines.

Liverpool and Arsenal share similar problems

There are definite parallels between Liverpool and Arsenal, who meet at Anfield on Sunday. For a start, both clubs remain troubled by an unsettled star.

Philippe Coutinho now appears set to stay on Merseyside, with blame for his links to Barcelona being placed at the feet of his advisers and the Catalan giants, though further twists cannot be ruled out before the transfer window closes on Thursday. Manager Jurgen Klopp had "nothing to say" on the subject after Wednesday's 4-2 victory over Hoffenheim booked Liverpool into the Champions League group stage, while multiple reports suggest Coutinho has not yet given up on playing at the Camp Nou.

Similar mixed signals surround Alexis Sanchez. A late bid from Manchester City, or even increasingly desperate Barcelona, may still be in the offing. According to manager Arsene Wenger, Sanchez is "ready" to face Liverpool. That's after Klopp said this week that Coutinho was "ill" after the muscle complaint that has precluded his involvement so far.

Beyond those players, both teams share the obvious defensive frailties. Arsenal lost 1-0 to Stoke last week after Jese's winner, a result of dozy, lax play. Meanwhile Liverpool remain vulnerable to crosses but did manage to withstand Crystal Palace and Christian Benteke in last week's 1-0 win.

Like last week's showdown between Tottenham and Chelsea, this match comes too early to predict Liverpool and Arsenal's destinies but while a title or Champions League qualification cannot be secured in August, it can come close to being surrendered.

Jurgen Klopp and Arsene Wenger preside over talented but flawed title hopefuls. Which one gets the win this weekend?

Mourinho on the march

So far, Jose Mourinho's team are following his title-winning blueprint. A pair of 4-0 victories have seen Manchester United blaze from the blocks, just like Chelsea did in 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2014-15. United brim with the power that Mourinho's trio of champions did; Romelu Lukaku is in a scoring form that will not hasten the return of re-signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic, while Paul Pogba bursts with skill and invention.

Pogba embodies something else. For perhaps the first time in the four long years since Sir Alex Ferguson departed, United seem confident and comfortable within themselves. They are visibly enjoying their football, playing without the crippling anxiety that sunk David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and seemed to envelop Mourinho during last season's Premier League struggles.

At this point, a note of caution should be sounded. United won their opening four league matches of last season and have beaten only West Ham and Swansea, two teams who look headed for the dumper. There does, though, seem something different about United. If they breeze past a tricky Leicester team who have begun the season brightly, having scored five goals in their two matches, then United might be the real deal.

Pep's patience being tested

Pep Guardiola is still not finding things easy. On Monday, he employed deep sarcasm after Manchester City's 1-1 draw with Everton. In Manchester, dry cynicism is the overriding brand of humour; perhaps Guardiola has just been assimilating some local culture, but there was definite venom in the applause he aimed at match officials. He could not conceal his anger with Kyle Walker's second booking after a clash with Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and was perhaps even less enamoured by failing to win the first home game of the season.

Guardiola will also have been aware that Everton's lead came from a move that exploited one of his tactical flights of fancy, using Leroy Sane as left wing-back. He lost the ball, and Calvert-Lewin surged into that sector to lay Wayne Rooney his goal on a plate.

Everton were determined not to let City have their own way and such resistance appears problematic for Pep. For all the attacking riches his team possesses, there has been a lack of fluidity so far. Perhaps Saturday opponents, Bournemouth, a team with which Eddie Howe will always try to attack, might be more accommodating, but over-complication might well stop the preseason favourites and biggest spenders from reaching their potential.

Crisis? What crisis?

Last week, this column along with many others was discussing the latest decline and fall of Roman Abramovich's Chelsea empire. Then came Sunday at Wembley and a match-winning double from Marcos Alonso in a 2-1 defeat of Tottenham. There was irony in that, since Alonso would surely have been on the bench had Antonio Conte got his wish and Juventus' Alex Sandro been signed from Juventus.

Transfers (or a lack of them) have been central to the turmoil, but once Conte could concentrate on what he is best at, he was able to put Tottenham in a tactical squeeze with a most Serie A-style selection of three defensively minded central midfielders in N'Golo Kante, David Luiz and Tiemoue Bakayoko.

On Saturday, Everton present a different challenge, with Rooney and Calvert-Lewin leading the line in front of a well-drilled, experienced defence and a hardworking midfield where Idrissa Gueye provides the lung power and discipline. If Chelsea defeat them, such talk of crisis can finally be decommissioned. Perhaps Conte is not having a "Mourinho 2015-16 season" after all.

Zeroes to heroes?

Talking of potential crises, there remain five teams on zero points at the bottom of the Premier League. Entering a two-week international break with nothing from three matches would be damaging to morale, which means each of Bournemouth, Newcastle, Brighton, Crystal Palace and West Ham should be desperate to claim something this weekend.

Newcastle vs. the Hammers is Saturday's battle of the pointless. With Rafa Benitez at loggerheads with owner Mike Ashley and Slaven Bilic under pressure, there is the added spice of two managers fighting for their futures.

John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.


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