No roaring shock, there, is it? Nine goals from four league matches in August, including two hat-tricks for Manchester City’s laughably effective Norwegian.
He’s now up to 13 goals in all competitions this season. Anyone betting against him reaching a half-century at this point? I’m certainly not.
Interim Bournemouth manager Gary O’Neil, you should not be surprised to hear, hasn’t got a huge amount to say about a potential takeover.
He said: “Obviously I am not involved in any discussions like that. I have been hard at work over on the other side, on the grass … My wife and kids will tell you, every minute of my day so far [since the postponed Brighton game] is Newcastle, either on a laptop or on the grass with the lads.”
And his findings before Saturday’s trip to the north-east? “Newcastle are a very good side. Every game I have watched, they have been on the front foot, aggressive and caused teams problems, so probably should have more points than they have. I would expect them to be high up the league this year.”
Midfielder David Brooks, who in May was given the all-clear to resume his playing career after stage-two Hodgkin lymphoma, is yet to feature this season and suffered a setback while playing for the club’s under-21s.
O’Neil added: “He had some pain in his hamstring … it’s not unusual for any player who has been off grass long-term. When players come back, there’s always a spell where they need to get their body used to being on the grass. They have to adapt to the stresses of playing football every day. I am not surprised that it’s happened, but I am disappointed for him. We were never going to rush him back, so we’ll see how he is in the coming weeks.”
ICYMI … here’s Suzy Wrack’s video primer on the new WSL season …
Speaking yesterday, Southampton’s Ralph Hasenhüttl said it would have been understandable if this weekend’s Premier League fixtures has also been postponed.
“It was, for me, an absolutely clear decision not to play football last weekend and I would also completely understand if we wouldn’t play this weekend because it’s a special moment for this country.”
Of their trip to Villa, Hasenhüttl added: “They are full of high individual quality in the team. After a not so easy start, which is normal in the Premier League, they are starting to play better and I think the last game against Man City showed how good they can be at home.
“It was maybe the worst away game we had last season and it’s a good chance to show we can do it better.”
Tino Livramento and Romeo Lavia remain on the injured list for the Saints.
Steven Gerrard has some calls to make at Aston Villa, before tonight’s match against Southampton. Ollie Watkins has been “a little bit unwell”, while his two main goalkeepers – Emiliano Martínez and Robin Olsen – both missed training on Thursday. Gerrard was hopeful Martínez “will pull through … I think he’ll be available”.
Gerrard added: “We’re on the end of a real positive performance against Manchester City, a good strong team performance, and of course you want to back that up as soon as you can.”
Important Ian Rush news: the former Chester and Sydney Olympic star has a whole new suit to don, having been appointed advisor and football ambassador by the Welsh FA “with a mission of promoting Welsh football on both the local and global stages”.
Now, cards on the table, Rushie is a personal hero … but let’s be honest, he’ll be going some to advance the cause for football in Wales any better than Michael Sheen managed this week …
Conor Gallagher’s adjustment back to life as a little fish continues … with word that he has been named as part of England’s Under-21s squad for friendlies against Italy and Germany. The Chelsea player has just 158 minutes to his name in the league this season, having been so pivotal on his loan at Crystal Palace that led to his breakthrough in England’s senior side.
Liverpool’s Harvey Elliott also features, along with Spurs’ Ryan Sessegnon and Everton’s Anthony Gordon.
Manager Lee Carsley said: “We welcome Conor Gallagher back to the group which is another example of us having a fluid pathway across our national teams. I know Conor will take to the pitch with as much pride in wearing an England shirt for the under-21s as he would for the seniors.
“He – like all of our players – can continue to take comfort in the fact that Gareth will always keep one eye on their progress. There is no glass ceiling.”
Brighton manager Hope Powell, the former England coach, knows first-hand the trajectory the game has embarked on in recent decades. Of tonight’s match, she said: “It’s a sellout which is good for the women’s game and good for us. I think the expectation would be for Arsenal to win the game – we’re under no illusions there – but we’re not going to give it to them.
“We’re going to make it very difficult and the plan is to get something out of the game as we do every game. A Friday night under the lights suits me perfectly.”
Over in the WSL, the managers for tonight’s curtain-raiser at Meadow Park have been speaking. Arsenal’s Jonas Eidevall said of their opponents, Brighton: “I’ve been very impressed by Brighton during the pre-season because I also saw that they had a huge turnover.
“I’ve seen them play against Bayern Munich, Manchester City and us, and they looked like a good team in those games. Some of the players they got in over this window are really high quality, so we are expecting and preparing for a competitive game.”
Eidevall also spoke about how the league must work to keep the momentum from the summer Euros: “In the end, it’s about creating a product that means so much to people that you go there and you watch the game even if it’s a snowstorm.
“You go there and watch even if it’s not convenient because you care so much about the team and you want to be there so much. We try to do our best on the pitch to create that.”
Erik ten Hag says he will not take his foot off the gas despite an elongated break in the schedule for Manchester United. With their match against Leeds postponed this weekend, immediately followed by the international break, his side suddenly found themselves with a 17-day lull, following Thursday’s Europa League win over Sheriff Tiraspol.
No let up for the manager, however, who said: “We have many meetings, we have to improve the structures in and around the club. We will also look to the window in January or next summer already and also to improve our way of playing by making plans.”
They return from the break with the Manchester derby on 2 October, the first of what is scheduled to be 13 games in 43 days. “It’s coming, a period with a game every third day and we have to get ready for that,” Ten Hag said. “The players, 90% are away [on international duty], but the others we will train properly. We have to prepare very well. Then I hope that everyone stays fit, returns back healthy and then we have to get in to attack.”
David Moyes backs Jarrod Bowen to hit the giddy heights he managed last season in time for the Qatar World Cup. After 18 goals last season, the forward is yet to score in the league so far this season – his only strikes have come in the Europa Conference League.
The West Ham manager said: “I’m just beginning to see Jarrod getting back to it, there are little bits coming back … we’re just beginning to see good signs from Jarrod and hopefully I’m right.”
Bowen is in England’s squad along with Declan Rice, about whom Moyes lit up, raised an eyebrow and grinned approvingly (I imagine, I wasn’t there).
Moyes added: “At the start of last season after the Euros, I thought Declan Rice was fantastic, whereas a lot of the England players didn’t find their levels quite as much, so it can happen. The international football, the little rest time you get during the summer can play a part in that.
“The boys who were on international duty in the summer had a really late return, Declan especially – Declan had more time off to recover. I think most of our players played roughly 60 games last year, so our players have had a real busy time.
“From that point of view, we hope it will improve Declan but, on the other side of it, we’re always trying to look after him as well.”
With her post-Euros haze starting to dissipate, Suzy Wrack’s back on the WSL beat … and she reckons it’s all set for Chelsea v Arsenal for the title, with last season’s third-place Manchester City vulnerable to the chasing pack, following a string of high-profile departures.
Here are this morn’s 10 things to look out for in this weekend’s Premier League action …
FEATURING! A keeper conundrum for Steven Gerrard, Diego Costa’s lupine love-in, plus fraying patience for Brendan Rodgers at the Foxes.
News to catch up on from late last night … manager-less Bournemouth are being eyed by a Las Vegas-led consortium. Intriguingly, if it was successful with a takeover, that would mean more than half of Premier League clubs had minority or majority US shareholders. Current owner Maxim Demin might have a decision to make with a £150m offer on the table.
Having pulled its opening weekend in the wake of the Queen’s death, the Women’s Super League kicks off tonight with last season’s just-pipped, Arsenal, hosting Hope Powell’s Brighton.
The champions, Chelsea, kick off at promoted
Birkenhead Liverpool on Sunday. Meanwhile, Aston Villa and Leicester showcase their teams at Villa Park and the King Power Stadium respectively, as clubs hope to capitalise on the post-Euros bounce with the first of what everyone hopes is an eventual move away from the increasingly patronising-looking Chigwell Construction Stadium/Kingsmeadow/Leigh Sports Village/Man City Academy Stadium merry-go-round.
On many levels, this looks like a HUGE season for the women’s game in England!
Friday (all times BST)
Arsenal v Brighton (Meadow Park, 7.30pm)
Manchester United v Reading (Leigh Sports Village, 12noon)
Aston Villa v Manchester City (Villa Park, 12.30pm)
West Ham v Everton (Chigwell Construction Stadium, 3pm)
Leicester v Tottenham (King Power Stadium, 3pm)
Liverpool v Chelsea (Prenton Park, 5pm)
The Premier League is back! Well, some of it.
Seven fixtures take place in England’s top tier this weekend …
Premier League fixtures
Friday (All times BST)
Aston Villa v Southampton (8pm)
Nottingham Forest v Fulham (8pm)
Wolves v Manchester City (12.30pm)
Newcastle v Bournemouth (3pm)
Tottenham v Leicester (5.30pm)
Brentford v Arsenal (12noon)
Everton v West Ham (2.15pm)
Two of the three postponements – Chelsea v Liverpool and Manchester United v Leeds – are to ease pressure on policing and other logistics surrounding the Queen’s funeral on Monday. For example, the queue to file past Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin in central London is now approaching five miles … which needs more than a little bit of managing.
Brighton v Crystal Palace, however, had already been pushed back due to the planned rail strike … which has since been un-planned out of respect. Suffice to say that’s a fixture that may also have seen the odd supporter needing a little talking-to from the girls and boys in blue, and it remains on the postponed list.