United Rampant – can anyone stop them?
Sam: In Jose Mourinho’s first season back at Chelsea in 2013, we were told that the Blues were then a small horse and needed time to become a big horse. The following season they won the league, it looks like history could repeat itself again. Two consecutive 4-0 wins have made United look very impressive. They’re powerful, clinical, and solid in defence. That being said, there will be much stronger tests than West Ham at home and Swansea away, so let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, there’s 36 games to go.
James: I put United to win it and it’s looking good for me so far! However the 4-0 scoreline flattered United a bit. It shows a real ruthless attitude from the Red Devils though and looks similar to the Chelsea side of 2014/2015. I’ve said they’re the most complete team in the league and I stand by that.
Tottenham’s Wembley Curse? And are Chelsea back?
Sam: This was a brilliant game to watch. End to end stuff, last minute drama, controversial decisions, and brilliant goals. I thought Chelsea were in crisis last week and looked set for defeat again at Wembley. But Conte changed the system again to show how good a manager he is. The 3-5-2 formation was mainly used to protect the not-yet-fully-fit Tiemoune Bakayoko but David Luiz was superb in his makeshift midfield role. I also believed Chelsea needed to spend big on the wing back positions but Marcos Alonso, as well as Victor Moses, put in excellent shifts to justify why Conte can still pick them as first choices every week for the Blues. It will be interesting to see if Chelsea stick to the 3-5-2, especially with Eden Hazard very close to a first-team return, how will he fit in? Spurs have only won once at Wembley in over a decade and need to stop the rot so they can get an early run in their title challenge, but it’s clear the Wembley pitch is causing problems. It’s very much bigger than the former pitch at White Hart Lane and perhaps the deal with Wembley was made with the hope that they could change the dimensions. They couldn’t, and the face the prospect of playing 38 away games this season.
James: Not much more for me to add here! I always felt the reaction to Chelsea’s opening defeat was exaggerated. They’ll sign a few more players before the window closes but the important thing is that they’ve got the 3 points and have kick started their season. They needed a result to remind everyone what they can do and Alonso did that for them. They’ll definitely be in the title race this season, I don’t see another Mourinho season happening. With regards to Spurs, they need to get this first Wembley win out the way as soon as possible and continue to build in the transfer market. Is a change of style needed perhaps? It seems strange to me to play a high pressing game on such a massive pitch, so maybe they need to learn to be more patient winning the ball back – the ability to pass and open up defenders is there regardless.
Same Old Arsenal?
Sam: I thought Arsenal were very resilient against Leicester and not that bad against Stoke, despite the result at the bet365 Stadium. They controlled the game, were denied two or three clear penalties and also had a legitimate goal ruled out for offside. They were punished in the only mistake they made in the match, which is what can happen in the Premier League. The Arsenal social media brigade (who somehow think that Arsenal have the divine right to win every match they play) exploded after the game, demanding a raft of new signings, a rethink of formation, and, even already, a new manager. Yawn. I don’t think Arsenal need that much, the sale of Gabriel and the disappearance of Callum Chambers suggests a new centre back could be on the way, but the Gunners still have a very strong squad, and had Laurent Koscielny not been suspended and Alexis Sanchez closer to full fitness, the Arsenal Twitter keyboards may not have been bashed as hard on Saturday evening.
James: I agree with Sam that a few penalty decisions were denied wrongly, however the goal was rightly ruled offside. I don’t think the linesman had any real idea, I think he guessed and happened to get it right, but it was a good guess. Lacazette’s heal was offside and that’s that really. Arsenal did play well. Stoke have some great players in their side and Arsenal created plenty of opportunities, but they weren’t clinical. Ultimately, a signing or two would do the squad no harm, but Arsenal need to stay calm. Chelsea and Spurs also have an L next to their names already, and they finished in the top 2…
Terriers tearing up the league (so far)
Sam: Six points out of six, two clean sheets, Huddersfield are in dreamland! Huge credit has to go to the manager, who for the last 12 months has really stamped his authority on this Terriers side. David Wagner has, rightly, not changed too much of the squad and has given the side who got promoted the chance to show what they can do. Wagner reminds me of a cross between Jurgen Klopp and Claudio Ranieri, a passionate, enthusiastic, motivational but down-to-earth man who takes things one game at a time. Their squad did need improving from last season, especially in the striking department, but Steve Mounie is already a fan favourite at the Kirklees Stadium. We’ve seen this before though, when Hull in 2008, and Blackpool in 2010 got off to brilliant starts in their first Premier League campaign, but were brought quickly back down to earth. Also Crystal Palace were terrible last weekend and Newcastle are very much unprepared for the season ahead. But the Terriers are showing their worth!
James: What a start to life in the big-time! They were immense and clinical against Palace. They seem to have strengthened well in the transfer market however I do think their expansive style may let them down as the season goes on. I still think they’ll get relegated, but if they do it won’t be without a fight. They’re joint top now, so I can’t be too critical!
Where do Liverpool go from here?
Sam: Jurgen Klopp’s men just got over the line against Crystal Palace, but the Coutinho situation is overshadowing proceedings at Anfield. I think the Liverpool board are mad to reject over £100 million for the Brazilian. They could buy 3 very good players with that money, and their front three of Mané, Firmino and Salah is good enough for the time being. My main concern for them is that they have too many similar players in their strike force. The three players mentioned above aren’t really out-and-out strikers, and are more wingers or number 10s who are adapted into centre forwards, while their ‘proper number 9s’ in Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi are slight liabilities. Furthermore, I’m sounding like a broken record, but you can’t win the league with Dejan Lovren in defence. If they cash in for Coutinho, then that opens the door for Virgil Van Dijk, with cash to spare. Liverpool fans, would you take that?
James: They have to sell Coutinho. If that money came in for Sanchez, he would have to go too. There’s this belief that these players are irreplaceable, but there was life before them and there will be after. Liverpool’s rhythm is set through Lallana and Wijnaldum with Sane and Salah offering the options in behind. They have the quality in the XI but not the depth. Sell Coutinho, sign a few defenders, add some depth and battle on 4 fronts next season. I think trying to keep the Brazilian is stubborn and could really cost them, as Coutinho doesn’t look willing to play for the club anymore.