Premier League burning questions: Man City, Man United, more
As the Premier League resumes this weekend following a two-week international break, fans are not short of debating points after the opening salvos of the campaign. You could argue that it’s all going with the form book, as title favorites Manchester City lead the early standings with promoted Burnley and Luton Town both pointless and filling the bottom two positions in the league table.
But who thought Spurs would race into second place while moneybags Newcastle United — who finished fourth last season — would be languishing in 14th place?
Yet much can change between now and next May. So what are the burning questions ahead of the weekend restart?
Can any club dethrone Manchester City?
Probably not. City have won the first four games of the season, with Erling Haaland the league’s top scorer with six goals. Frighteningly, they’ve yet to hit their best form. Indeed, they needed a late Rodri goal to overcome promoted Sheffield United.
It is possible the loss of Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gündogan’s goals from last season — who left Manchester for Saudi Pro League club Al-Ahli and LaLiga’s Barcelona respectively — and the injury to Kevin De Bruyne might catch them up, but Pep Guardiola’s team still look a cut above any other side in the league. Full of confidence, a trip to West Ham is a significant test on Saturday, but one you’d expect City to pass.
Is the Liverpool revival real?
It’s too early to say, but keeping Mohamed Salah (188 goals in 309 games) away from his suitors in Saudi Arabia reinforces their challenge after an unbeaten start to the campaign. The amazing win at Newcastle, when they came from one goal down to win with two late Darwin Núñez goals, spoke of a spirit and resilience that had perhaps gone missing for a while. And Liverpool’s clean-sheet, 3-0 win over a dangerous Aston Villa made something of a statement.
Questions remain over defensive lapses, but so far Liverpool are living with that problem and still prevailing. With a new-look midfield (Alexis Mac Allister, Dominik Szoboszlai, Wataru Endo) and plenty of firepower, manager Jurgen Klopp may feel he has a team capable of cashing in on any slips from Manchester City.
Can Tottenham continue to be the surprise team of the season?
For Spurs, it’s been a spectacular start with 10 points out of a possible 12, and it seems new manager Ange Postecoglou is already a cult figure among Tottenham fans, who’d grown so tired of watching the turgid football served up under Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte.
Even without the goal-scoring machine that is Harry Kane, who left for Bayern Munich this summer, they have rattled in a league-leading 11 goals. James Maddison is providing the creative spark and Son Heung-min’s hat-trick at Burnley might be the springboard for a return to better times for the South Korea international.
However, Tottenham need to replace Kane properly in January to sustain their challenge for long-overdue silverware. While that process plays out, they are a team worth watching, and it will be fascinating to see whether their new adventurous approach — affectionately known as “Ange Ball” — can pass tougher tests ahead.
Can Arsenal be title contenders again?
The Gunners go to Everton on Sunday on the back of that dramatic late win over Manchester United. Mikel Arteta’s team are only two points off the pace and are aching to atone for their fade-out last season, when they let an eight-point lead slip in the final weeks. But therein lies a risk: At times, Arsenal have looked almost too fired-up, playing at such a high intensity that you wonder if they’ll burn out at business end of the season.
There are other questions, too: Will Arteta, who has become something of a tinkerer with his lineups, think himself out of the title? And is Kai Havertz the team’s weak link? Bottom line: Arsenal will need a bit more than they have shown so far to stay the pace at the top.
Dawson: Man United will back Ten Hag’s decision on Sancho
Rob Dawson explains the situation between Jadon Sancho and Erik ten Hag after their public fallout.
What is wrong with Manchester United?
Quite a lot. For some reason, they’ve started the season looking undercooked and passive, while the issues surrounding Mason Greenwood, Jadon Sancho and Antony have only added to the unsettled vibe at Old Trafford. A home game with a confident Brighton on Saturday is hardly the kind of fixture they need right now, but winning it might help manager Erik ten Hag kick-start the team’s season.
Defensive midfielder Sofyan Amrabat, on loan from Serie A club Fiorentina, will bring much needed solidity and energy to the midfield providing his back injury clears up quickly. United started last season badly and recovered to finish in the top four, but it will be harder this time on the evidence so far.
Has the Newcastle bubble burst?
No. But they have momentarily lost their way after a 5-1 win over Villa on the opening day, losing three in a row. The freakish defeat to Liverpool in a game they’d been dominating has clearly dented their confidence. A home game with Brentford on Saturday will be no easy rehabilitation mission.
Adding to the intrigue: Newcastle travel to AC Milan on Tuesday for their first Champions League campaign since the 2003-04 season. A win away could revive their spirits all around.
Are Chelsea going to come good?
There are more comings and goings at Stamford Bridge these days than at Heathrow Airport. Somewhere amid all the player transfers, new manager Mauricio Pochettino is trying to build a team and a pattern of play that can bring back the good times. In cameos, there have been some promising signs, but the 0-1 home defeat by Nottingham Forest was a reminder that Chelsea are a team in transition.
Most of all, they need to get their captain Reece James fit again. With him on one flank and Ben Chilwell on the other, they have the basis of a good attacking team. It might take until the New Year until all the moving parts gel.
How about the relegation scrap?
There are several teams struggling in the first month to make the relegation picture look extremely crowded. Burnley, so dominant in winning the Championship last season to earn promotion, have started with three losses at home. Manager Vincent Kompany may have to tweak their bold approach because they look too fragile in the top flight.
Luton are also pointless from three matches and need something from Saturday’s trip to Fulham. The other promoted team, Sheffield United, look a little better equipped to compete now that they’ve signed striker Cameron Archer and creator Gustavo Hamer.
Wolves’ inability to score is likely to keep them in fear of the drop, while relegation-threatened Everton might improve with Beto and Arnaut Danjuma giving them more attacking bite. Plus, Everton have Jack Harrison and Dwight McNeil waiting to add extra thrust from the wings.