1) West Brom have the player Liverpool need
Every team in the world would be better with Luis Suárez in it but, as it turns out, Liverpool have missed the injured Philippe Coutinho even more than they did the Uruguayan during his suspension. Coutinho's control and vision are key to knitting together Liverpool's play and if, as expected, he is fit to return against Arsenal next week, we could have a proper top-of-the-table summit. Before that, however, Brendan Rodgers must try to find a way of muddling past West Bromwich Albion, which will be no easy feat. Steve Clarke's side are just a top striker and left-back away from being a serious force and are inspired by a player whom Rodgers would love to be able to call on and fill in for Coutinho. If Stéphane Sessègnon is on song on Saturday, the Baggies could beat Liverpool for the fourth time in a row. PD
2) The Sagna frustration
A puffin crossing helps pedestrians get to the other side. Bacary Sagna crossing tends to just help the other side. Whereas Kieran Gibbs has been a constant threat going forward this season, Sagna has been a near-constant frustration. Arsenal continually work him into dangerous positions and then he regularly overhits or under-hits his deliveries. If he weren't still a stout defender, Carl Jenkinson could feel aggrieved at not playing more frequently. Having said that, it was the Frenchman's cross that led to Olivier Giroud's goal against Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday so maybe Sagna is starting to rediscover his range – truly, there is no hope for Crystal Palace on Saturday. PD
3) Hughes Variations
Tom Waits reckons there is nothing sadder than a town with no cheer. Stoke fans may or may not agree. A team with no striker is pretty grim too, after all. Mark Hughes is discovering that to his anguish. Stoke have scored just four Premier League goals this season and none in their past three games – and there is no obvious solution before January. There are times when Peter Crouch and Kenwyne Jones could be useful – for instance, they should have been used in the defeat at Fulham, who have been feeble in the air this season – but generally you can see why Hughes does not want to resort to them. The same more or less goes for Jonathan Walters. The manager has been pinning his hopes on Marko Arnautovic but so far the Austrian has been a disappointment as a solo striker. Perhaps Hughes should deploy a West Ham-style 4-6-0 at Old Trafford on Saturday? It's got to be better than the 4-5-0 they've effectively been playing in recent weeks. PD
4) Tight Saints to outfight Fulham
Here are two things that Martin Jol should do this Saturday: observe the effectiveness of Southampton's defence and the dynamism of their pressing to see if there is any possible way he could get his charges to come close to emulating it (Fulham have allowed opponents to take 110 shots against them this season, more than any other team); and take Pajtim Kasami aside before the game and say: "You know that once-in-a-lifetime goal you scored on Monday? We'll probably need you to do that again today." PD
5) Bruce Almighty
Ian Holloway left Crystal Palace on Wednesday and admitted that the club failed to achieve the right team blend with its summer recruitment, a complaint that could also be directed at the other club that have already lost a manager this season, Sunderland. This, then, is an apt time to hail the job done at Hull so far by a former manager of both those clubs: Steve Bruce has produced a solid and spirited side that is looking undaunted by the Premier League and has the ability to trouble Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. PD
6) Tottenham are good enough for Lamela to take his time
Erik Lamela is unlikely to start for Tottenham against Hull on Sunday because, quite frankly, he has looked lost in the Premier League so far. He has hinted at great talent and ideas on his few appearances so far but has palpably found the pace and physicality alienating – indeed, even against Sheriff Tiraspol in the Europa League on Thursday he could not exert any influence (Nacer Chadli was far superior when he replaced him in the second half). But what a luxury for Spurs that they do not have to panic about the non-impact so far of their record signing. The strength of their squad means they can give the 21-year-old time to adapt. The form of Andros Townsend has been a double boon for Lamela, taking the focus off the new recruit and reminding fans of the value of keeping faith with promising youngsters. It is now up to Lamela to emulate Townsend's determination to succeed. PD
7) Taylor's surprising survival
Last Saturday Anthony Taylor controversially allowed a Chelsea goal when he should instead have given Cardiff a free-kick for a foul on their goalkeeper, David Marshall, by Samuel Eto'o. It was reported that Taylor would be dropped, and ordered to take charge of a less high-profile game outside the Premier League this weekend.
It was Taylor who, on the first day of the season, rather harshly awarded Aston Villa a penalty for a challenge on Gabriel Agbonlahor by Laurent Koscielny, and then sent the Frenchman off for another foul, on Andreas Weimann. "I didn't like his performance, but more than his performance I didn't like his spirit of how he refereed the game," said Arsène Wenger on that occasion, describing the penalty decision in particular as "amazing". And it was Taylor who, a couple of weeks later, failed to award Everton a penalty at Cardiff despite Gary Medel's foul on Leighton Baines. "It's as clear a penalty as you'll ever see," moaned Roberto Martínez. And it was also Taylor, harking back to last season, who bizarrely sent off both Carlton Cole and Darron Gibson when West Ham hosted Everton – both decisions were roundly criticised and both red cards swiftly rescinded.
Taylor has somehow avoided a temporary relegation, and will be at Villa Park on Saturday. This may be welcomed by the home side, who benefited from his questionable decision-making in August, but is unlikely to be celebrated by Everton, who did not. SB
8) Millen time
The last time Keith Millen managed a team – Bristol City, in 2010-2011 – they won only one of their first 10 games of the season and he was sacked following a humbling defeat to a team managed by Ian Holloway in October. This time Crystal Palace have won one of their first eight games and Millen has been appointed as their caretaker following the humbling defeat of a team managed by Ian Holloway in October. From here Palace could appoint a hard-nosed, high-ambition manager with plenty of Premier League experience – and Tony Pulis is favourite for the job, so this would appear to be the direction the board favour.
Or they could find someone with an affinity to the club and ask him to make the best of a bad situation until next season and the possibility of a promotion push arrives. For all his uninspiring managerial experience Millen might fit the latter mould: not only did his own football career start in Palace's youth system, his father, Derek, played and scouted for Palace and formed, managed and is currently life president of Selsdon Junior, the local club whose alumni include Gareth Southgate, Jason Puncheon and Nigel Reo-Coker, among many others. "I nearly signed twice as an apprentice," Millen told the Croydon Advertiser when he was appointed Holloway's assistant last December. "Palace have always been my No1 club. I've gone off and played and managed other clubs, but Palace is certainly one I've always looked out for." On Saturday he'll be looking out for them as caretaker manager as they seek to end their dismal record against Arsenal. It may well be his only match in charge. Time will tell. SB
9) Crunch time for Chris Hughton
Norwich lost four times in 19 league games at home last season, winning 42% of their matches. They are already halfway to that total of defeats this season after only four games (even if both the teams to have beaten them at Carrow Road so far, Aston Villa and Chelsea, also won there in 2012-13). Since their one home win, against Southampton on the last day of August, they have lost four out of five league games and struggled to beat Watford in the Capital Cup, needing extra time having first fallen 2-0 behind, and after Arsenal beat them 4-1 last Saturday Chris Hughton was asked if he was worried about his future. "It's a horrible question to ask but, no, I am not worried," he replied.
Such talk seems harsh, given that Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal have been among recent opponents and in their other defeat, a 1-0 home reverse to Aston Villa, Robert Snodgrass failed to convert a penalty. It would be harder to explain a defeat to Cardiff, whose former Norwich contingent includes Craig Bellamy, David Marshall and the Cardiff manager, Malky Mackay, himself. These are bellwether opponents for a side of Norwich's ambitions, and failure of any sort on Saturday – particularly if their misfiring attack once again fails to score – would give the manager's critics some genuine ammunition. SB
10) Distant and recent memories of the Tyne-Wear derby
Sunderland and Newcastle have played only once before on 27 October – in 1928. On the previous day Newcastle had pipped their local rivals to the signing of Burnley's England international centre-back, Jack Hill, for a fee of £8,100. The 11 top-flight matches that Saturday brought 46 goals, seven of them at Roker Park, where even Hill – though praised by local newspapers after his debut – couldn't prevent Sunderland scoring five. More hurtful still, two of the home side's goals were scored by Bob McKay, who had only just signed for them – from Newcastle.
Eighty-five years later the teams meet again, and if Sunderland, despite a full week of Gus Poyet's motivational magic and the added impetus provided by a derby, are as listless as they were in losing 4-0 at Swansea last Saturday then they really are in trouble. As Poyet himself said this week: "If any of the players need lifting when we play Newcastle at home, they don't deserve to be Sunderland players."
Such was Paolo Di Canio's recruitment drive over the summer there may not be many players left who recall April's 3-0 derby victory, the undoubted highlight of the Italian's rocky reign. The same will certainly not be true of Newcastle, who will be hell bent on revenge on Sunday. "They are bottom, but this game is out there on its own, it has its own league really," said Tim Krul. "Derby days are what they are. Anything can happen." SB