Starts to the new season rarely get harder than Manchester City and Chelsea back to back, but that is what Unai Emery has had to face in his welcome to the Premier League.
Nobody will fault Arsenal for losing 2-0 to Manchester City, after all every team lost to the Champions last season, but it became clear that Emery will need time to inject his style into the team. It was clear that he wants Arsenal to play from the back, but the issue is that the personnel are not built to play that way. Petr Cech, Sokratis and Granit Xhaka were not comfortable playing this way and they found the high press difficult to deal with.
Lucas Torreira may be drafted into the starting 11 after observing the City game from the bench and that should add extra stability at the back. Going forward Arsenal looked dangerous but a lack of quality with the final ball and finishing prevented them from getting on the score-sheet.
It will take Emery time to get the right players to fit his system and that will mean Arsenal fans may have to be patient in waiting for success. Losing to Man City and Chelsea is far from disastrous, but it is not an ideal start to the season.
Whilst Emery struggled on his Premier League debut, Maurizio Sarri started perfectly with a 3-0 win at Huddersfield. The Blues overall looked comfortable against the Terriers, but Arsenal provide a much tough proposition.
Chelsea will welcome Eden Hazard back into the starting XI though and that will be huge for their chances. The Belgian looked sharp in his 15 minute cameo against Huddersfield and he should thrive under a more attacking manager. One cause for concern is the confidence of Alvaro Morata who once again failed to get on the score-sheet last weekend. Chelsea will need their main striker firing if they want to challenge for the top four.
Not only is this a big game in the race for the top four, it should be an entertaining one to watch. Chelsea and Arsenal will play attack minded football under their new managers and that should allow for plenty of goal scoring chances. Home advantage and a quality midfield may see Chelsea over the line here with Hazard being a key factor in a winning performance.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal
Niall’s One to watch: Tottenham Hotspur vs Fulham (Saturday, 15:00)
My one to watch this week one pits potential top four challengers Tottenham Hotspur against newly promoted Fulham in an-all London clash.
This was meant to be Tottenham’s last game at Wembley before moving into their new stadium, but delays have forced them to remain away from their next home for the foreseeable future. Tottenham have become accustomed to the home of English football though after spending the whole of last season playing their home games at Wembley.
After not spending a penny in the transfer window, many fans and pundits predicted this season to be a tough one for Mauricio Pochettino’s side, but despite not adding to their squad they kicked off the new season with a 2-1 away win at Newcastle. It was far from convincing from Tottenham as Newcastle created numerous chances to grab a draw, but Spurs hung on to their lead to kick off the new season with a win.
Fulham were not so fortunate in their opener against Crystal Palace. Despite playing some nice football, the Cottagers fell victim to the counter attack and lost 2-0 on their return to the Premier League. Despite suffering a defeat there were some positive signs for Fulham. They pass the ball well and looked threatening going forward which is a good sign for their future in the Premier League.
Tottenham will be a much different proposition to the one posed by Crystal Palace but this could be an entertaining game. Both teams like to play and it should be a good showcase for some young English talent like Dele Alli and RyanSessegnon. Chances are that Tottenham will be too strong, but Fulham will pose a threat going forward and this is a game that entertains fans and neutrals alike.
Prediction: Tottenham 2-0 Fulham
Neil’s One to watch: Crystal Palace vs Liverpool (Monday, 20:00)
It’s very possible that Liverpool will come under our focus for much of the season, and for the second week running the Reds are involved in a one to watch.
After dismissing West Ham United last weekend, Jurgen Klopp takes his side to south London and a trip to Crystal Palace. The Eagles looked defensively very sound against Fulham at Craven Cottage, but more interestingly, Roy Hodgson has his side playing an extremely fluid counter attacking system, which caught the Cottagers on the hop last Saturday.
Slavisa Jokanovic’s men I expect to be a top half side come next May, so toppling the west Londoners on their own patch was an impressive feat on the opening day of the campaign. Here however, the Eagles will be come in for a far greater acid test.
The Merseysiders began the season as they ended it, but it was Sadio Mane who upstaged Mohamed Salah at Anfield – for the time being at least. With flying full-backs of either flank, coupled with the addition of Naby Keita in midfield, Klopp’s men look the real deal this season and could push all the way for their first league crown.
Whilst the Palace defence will come under severe scrutiny here, Liverpool’s defence will come under similar fire, with both Patrick van Aanholt and Aaron Wan-Bissaka starting the season in impressive form on their respective flanks and having firmly consigned memories of last term’s eight-straight losses to open last year, the hosts will not be giving away their early unblemished record easily.
I fancy Palace to find the net here in a really open, counter-attacking contest, but such is the potency of Liverpool’s front three – now front five or six – I just don’t see Palace doing enough to the thwart the visitors, but it should be fun watching them attempt to do so.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-2 Liverpool
Chelsea host Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in Game of the Week on Saturday evening at 17:30pm.
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