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John Brewin profile picture  By John Brewin

Manchester United vs. Arsenal still a big-ticket item despite faded stakes

Gab Marcotti goes toe-to-toe with Alexis Nunes to predict Arsenal-Man United, Man City-West Ham and more ahead of round 15.
Steve Nicol assesses the chances Sam Allardyce and Alan Pardew save Everton and West Brom from relegation this season.
Arsene Wenger has no fears that rumours linking Mesut Ozil to Man United will have any impact on the German's performances.

John Brewin previews this week's Premier League action and highlights five key storylines in this edition of W2W4.

Arsenal and United take centre stage

These days, there is something of a faded grandeur to a meeting of Arsenal and Manchester United. It was once the hottest rivalry in English football, a turf war that dominated the late-1990s and early 2000s Premier League landscape before teams such as Chelsea and Manchester City started throwing money around and snaffling silverware.

Times move on: Sir Alex Ferguson is in his fifth season of retirement, while Arsene Wenger is now more a supporting actor than leading man.

Even his rivalry with Jose Mourinho is not what it once was, with Manchester United's manager having mellowed a little with age. As their careers enter their autumn, perhaps there is recognition of how hard the other has fought to stay at the top, though a touchline flare-up cannot be totally ruled out.

The last time Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger shared a pitch, Arsenal shut out Manchester United 2-0.

Wisdom has not completely calmed them, though on Thursday Wenger was not rising to tittle tattle that Mesut Ozil, Wednesday's match-winner in a 5-0 destruction of Huddersfield, might join up with Mourinho, his one-time boss at Real Madrid, in January as his contract ticks down.

"Look, that's all speculation," said Wenger, and Ozil will be one of the players in focus. Having put a newly-promoted team to the sword, can he now do it on a big occasion? Even if Saturday's game is fourth against second with both trailing miles behind City, rather than first against second as it was in those glory days, it is still a big ticket item, between two entities boasting vast wealth. 

Football finance gurus Vysyble say this will be the first time a Premier League match has featured two clubs of a combined revenue of £1 billion. United's latest accounts showed they made £581.2 million while Arsenal raked in £423.96m, making a combined £1,005.16m between them. 

All that money has not made them a match for City this season, and both need a victory to stay anywhere near in touch.

Sterling worth his weight in goals

Talking of the runaway leaders, things have got a bit tougher for Pep Guardiola's City in the past week. Neither Huddersfield nor Southampton rolled over. That eight-point lead over United looked under severe risk on Sunday and Wednesday, but infuriatingly for their rivals, City are perfecting the art of the late winner -- itself a mark of champion teams.

Guardiola's doctrines keep his team playing football until the end and Raheem Sterling has become the man to finish off opponents, his goals securing nine points of City's current total of 40. He has scored in the 82nd, 84th and 88th while his Southampton decider was the second time he had scored in the sixth minute of injury time; he scored at a similar juncture in August to beat Bournemouth.

Perhaps the tension is getting to his manager whose confronting of Nathan Redmond at full-time has drawn unfavourable comparisons with Mourinho's antics but the league table and the form lines suggest City have little to worry about.

And especially not when Sunday's opponents are hapless, hopeless West Ham, where David Moyes is struggling badly. City needing another late show would be a sincere shock.

Big Sam's latest gig

Watching Moyes' latest humiliation on Wednesday was Sam Allardyce, whose very presence in the Goodison Park stands seemed to inspire Everton, his new club, to their 4-0 win. Wayne Rooney's hat trick, including his goal-of-the-season, halfway-line howitzer, soothed the club's recent ills.

Having accepted an 18-month contract, Allardyce is at his biggest club yet of the seven Premier League outfits he has managed, with due apologies to Newcastle a decade ago. With Everton in 13th place, and now five points clear of the relegation zone, he might not have to carry out his usual rescue job on a new club, and he has definite talent to work with.

Having never been relegated, Sam Allardyce should provide Everton with the shot in the arm they need.

He begins his latest assignment with what looks a distinctly winnable home game against Huddersfield, who have lost four of their last five matches, and scored just twice along the way.

Publish and be damned?

Mauricio Pochettino's current problems remind of another manager from a previous Premier League era. David O'Leary was Leeds United boss during the club's rise of the early 2000s, and then put his name to an ill-starred book, "Leeds United On Trial", in January 2002, just as his club began coming apart at the seams. 

Pochettino's book, "Brave New World", was published a month ago, and Spurs have managed to win just three of eight matches. Two of them were victories over Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, and the other Crystal Palace, but losses to Manchester United, Arsenal and Tuesday's 2-1 slump to Leicester have seventh-placed Spurs closer to the bottom of the table to the top, and behind Burnley.

A win at Watford on Saturday is required, not only for sales of Pochettino's tome.

Can Brighton clip Salah's wings?

How long can the Mohamed Salah party continue? He did not even arrive on the pitch until the 67th minute of Liverpool's Wednesday visit to Stoke and still scored twice to secure a 2-0 win. That made it 12 Premier League goals in 14 matches in which he has taken 51 shots, the same as Romelu Lukaku, on eight goals.

Brighton might be the latest victims on Saturday but manager Chris Hughton's tactics stopped goalscoring wingers Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford in their tracks last week at Manchester United. The same went for Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha on Tuesday in a 0-0 draw.

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

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