If the opening week of the Premier League was anything to go by, we should be in for one hell of a season. 31 goals, Champions defeated at home, debut win for Huddersfield and a statement of intent from United were all part of gameweek 1. So what should we be expecting in gameweek 2.
Start as we left off.
The week kicks off as the first finished, with United. We travel over to Wales to face Swansea at the Liberty Stadium and the players will be on an absolute high following their demolition of West Ham at Old Trafford. The performance was as good as I can remember for some time, with pace, counter attacks, brilliant debuts from Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku and for the first time in a while, a team playing with confidence. The game versus West Ham would have been a 1-1 draw last term, failing to finish off their dominance, but once the opening strike went in on Sunday, there was only one result. Swansea managed an opening day draw at St Mary’s, but this was more down to the Saints lack of finishing quality than a solid away day performance from the Swans. The loss of Gylfi Sigurdsson will hugely impact the creativity of the side and Paul Clement does not have long to find a replacement, one that they will desperately need if they want to avoid another relegation battle this time out. United will be confident they will continue where they left off at Old Trafford and I can only see one winner in this contest and that will be for the boys in red.
Of the 3 o’clock kick offs, United will have an eye on how Liverpool will react following their dismal defensive performance at Watford in their opening game. The midweek Champions League win at Hoffenheim will help raise the confidence back up, but like last week, the Philippe Coutinho transfer stories will surely cause some distraction amongst the squad and Liverpool will miss his services if he does make the switch to Barcelona. A debut goal from Mo Salah alongside Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino’s opening strikes, show they still possess quality up top without Coutinho, but at the back, if Watford can make them look average, then most teams will be licking their lips at the thought of coming up against this defence. Palace have a great recent record at Anfield, but following their opening defeat to newly promoted Huddersfield, you can not see them getting anything this time round. Liverpool will not want to lose any more ground, even this early on in the season, so expect a fairly comfortable home win.
Close eye on the Leicester game.
Other games kicking off at the same time will see Brighton looking to get their first points of the season following their defeat to City in the late kick off last week. For an hour they gave a good account defensively and managed to cause the odd scare in attack. Chris Hughton will be looking for the team to express themselves a little more and with a Leicester defence who leaked 4 goals in their opening fixture, they should feel a little more confident of snatching at least a point at the King Power. Leicester will be next up for United, so when the dust has settled at the Liberty Stadium, you can bet your last pound that the Special One will be keeping a close eye on this game, ensuring his side are ready to hopefully make it 3 wins from 3 next weekend.
The other interesting fixture will be to see how Burnely react after their shock win at Stamford Bridge. West Brom were typical West Brom last week, conceding a ridiculous amount of possession to Bournemouth at home, but holding on for 1-0 win, Burnley should be expecting more of the same this time round. 2 good sides defensively, will surely mean a low scoring encounter, and a likely draw.
Welcome to the Premier League, Alexandre!
In the late kick off, Arsenal travel to Stoke in what is normally a heated encounter. Ever since the Aaron Ramsey leg break incident, there always seems to be some added spice to the fixture and Arsenal do not always like going to the Bet365 Stadium. For Alexandre Lacazette, it will be his first real test in English football. He got off to a flyer in the opening game that was fast paced and open, just how Arsenal and he would like it. But the trip to Stoke will be a whole different matter. He will no doubt be targeted, kicked, pushed and manhandled on every opportunity, if he comes through this one then Arsenal may well have found the top quality striker they have been craving for so long. In defence they will always be rocky, that’s just the way they play. Stoke’s new signing Jese Rodriguez, will hope to start the game and bring some attacking flair back into the side, lost by the departure of Marko Arnautovic last month. Arsenal will be hoping for a similar result at Stoke as last time out where Alexis Sanchez fired them to a 4-1 win late last season, but, of course the little Chilean will be absent once more for the Gunners.
The first big tussle.
On Sunday we see the first duel between 2 newly promoted sides when Newcastle travel to Huddersfield and the first big showdown on the season when Tottenham host Chelsea in their first game at Wembley. Huddersfield picked up the result of the first week, scoring 3 goals, keeping a clean sheet and picking up 3 points away at Crystal Palace. David Wagner could not have asked for a better start to his sides Premier League debut and will look to continue this when Newcastle come to the John Smith Stadium, who will be looking to bounce back from an opening defeat to Spurs. They will of course be without their captain, following Jonjo Shelvey’s ridiculous sending off at the weekend, so Huddersfield will be confident they can make it 2 wins from 2.
The big game of the weekend is even bigger due to the location, it being a derby and the fact the champions lost their opening game. Spurs versus Chelsea created some memorable games last season, no more so than their last encounter, ironically at Wembley in the Semi Final of the FA cup. Most would have expected both of these teams to be on 3 points but Burnley sprung a surprise at Stamford Bridge last week. Confidence will be low, the Diego Costa nonsense still hanging over the club and have now added the suspended Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas to their long list of absentees, this has a Spurs win written all over it. However, Spurs will be playing their first game at the doomed Wembley Stadium, which could balance this out. How Spurs play at Wembley will have a big say in their season, if they can make it a fortress, they may well go close to winning the league, but if it continues to be a bogey ground for them then they have an issue, which could have greater knock on effect next season in terms of individuals staying at the club. United will be looking closely at 2 of their closest rivals and how they play, and assuming we pick up 3 points on Saturday, will be either moving further ahead of Chelsea or gain a points advantage on Spurs too.
City’s first challenge
The weekend finishes with the first Monday night game of the season, when another huge game kicks off in the Blue half of Manchester, when Everton travel to the Etihad. It will be Pep’s first challenge of the season, with transfer happy Everton, posing a major threat to the top 6. They have now added the talented Gylfi Sigurdsson to their ranks, which will only improve their attacking flair and creativity further. The City defence should be fully tested and all the top 6 will be interested to see how the fresh looking defence copes. City struggled at times to break down Brighton last week, in a game that will become very familiar to them, when the opposition will sit back and ask City to break them down. To me, Pep has no idea on his best attacking formation. He certainly lacked width on Saturday until the arrival of Leroy Sane, but he has serious problems with who to leave out of his team. It is already apparent after one game he is struggling to get the correct balance, then add the returning Ilkay Gundogan to the mix and the apparent ongoing interest in Alexis Sanchez, his decision making will only get harder. Everton played well in this fixture last season, sitting back, asking City to break them down and then hit them on the counter. They will be missing one key factor from that win, in Lukaku who offered them the extra pace and strength in attack that maybe Wayne Rooney will lack. The is no doubt Rooney will still love to get one over City and I can see Koeman settling for a point and snatching one.
The first week was spectacular but the second has the makings to be even better. From a United stand point, they will be eager to make the most of what looks a fairly easy first few games on paper, keep building on the confidence gained from last weekend and try and establish a points advantage on some of their closest rivals.