Last Sunday, Manchester City recorded their second 3-0 victory in as many games to start the season and propelled themselves to the top of the early table. What made this win all the sweeter for City was the fact that the opponents they vanquished were the reigning champions, Chelsea.
City controlled from the outset and Sergio Aguero missed three early chances, two of which were well saved by Asmir Begovic, playing in goal for the Blues in place of the suspended Thibaut Courtois. Just after the half hour mark, Aguero did finally break the deadlock and gave his team the lead with a well taken goal. Jose Mourinho opted to remove John Terry from his back line, the first time he had substituted the club captain in a league match in either of his spells in charge at Chelsea. In the end, the change made no difference and two late goals from Vincent Kompany and a cracker from Fernandinho made the scoreline as convincing as the performance had felt throughout.
Or, if you believe Chelsea’s website and Mourinho, City were very fortunate to come away with a victory and the turning point was a Ramires’ goal being incorrectly ruled out for offside. Maybe I was watching a different game, but I thought that Manuel Pelligrini’s men were impressive, while Chelsea put in their third (including the irrelevant Community Shield) consecutive weary looking performance of the young campaign and really need to improve if they are to have any chance of repeating their success from last season. To help their chances, they have added Pedro to their attacking ranks, as he signed from Barcelona in midweek, choosing the London club over Manchester United, who had previously shown interest in signing the Spaniard. One final note, the best moment of the game for me was when Chelsea’s replacement medical staff – in for the sidelined Doctor and physio who Mourinho vilified for daring to enter the pitch in the opening week when Eden Hazard was feigning injury – came on to treat a player and the City fans sang that they would be “sacked in the morning”.
Louis van Gaal and the Red Devils need not be too disappointed on missing out on Pedro, as they have started the season with six points from two games, even if they are yet to play well. Last Friday, they defeated Aston Villa 1-0 in Birmingham, with Belgian youngster Adnan
Syed Januzaj scoring the only goal in his first start since February. The Manchester clubs are joined at the top of the table by two other clubs who have 100% records thus far: Liverpool, who beat Bournemouth 1-0 thanks to a Christian Benteke goal that should have been disallowed as Philippe Coutinho attempted to play the ball from an offside position; and Leicester, who stunned West Ham by winning 2-1 at Upton Park.
The defeat for Bournemouth means they are still yet to pop their Cherries with a top flight point or goal, but things could be worse, they could be Sunderland. The Black Cats are bottom of the table following their 3-1 home defeat by Norwich and if they keep playing this way, they will be heading for relegation. One small comfort for the Sunderland supporters – many of whom got an early getaway on Saturday as they left with their side 3-0 down before the hour mark – is that their local rivals, Newcastle, are only a point above them after they were beaten two nil by high-flying Swansea.
After a week of talks about them potentially being in crisis following their opening day defeat to West Ham, Arsenal established themselves once more as title contenders with a 2-1 victory against their favorite opponents, Crystal Palace, who have now lost their last six against the Gunners. There was also an inevitable capitulation for the other North London team, as Tottenham threw away a commanding 2-0 lead with fifteen minutes to go and ended up being lucky to take a point in their match with Stoke. While Eric Dier played relatively well in the defensive midfield role, neither Ryan Mason nor Nabil Bentaleb offered any sort of creativity alongside him going forward. And so, my now weekly refrain…
Tom Carroll should be starting in central midfield for Tottenham
Harry Kane played some brilliant passes in the first half and looked to be in good form, but he missed a great chance after the break (the pass from Chadli was sublime) that would have made it 3-0 and ended the contest. My season preview suggested that any sort of drop in production from Kane would mean a serious amount of points lost compared with last season and now FiveThirtyEight have reinforced this view with a look at the striker’s over-performance last term. Spurs, unsurprisingly, could be in serious trouble this year.
The other two matches last weekend saw Everton record an impressive 3-0 victory away at Southampton, with two goals from Romelu Lukaku and another from Ross Barkley, who also played a nice pass for the Belgian’s second goal; and Watford earned their second point in as many games with a 0-0 draw against West Brom.
This weekend, the highlight of the fixtures is the Monday night contest between Arsenal and Liverpool at the Emirates. The day before, Manchester City go to Goodison Park to face Everton on a ground where they have lost four of their last six league games, winning only once in that spell. Also on Sunday, Chelsea will try to get their campaign kick-started away at West Brom, though they lost the corresponding fixture 3-0 last season, that was at a point when they had already wrapped up the league title. The early game on Saturday is between Manchester United and Newcastle; while later in the day Leicester will try to maintain their 100% record when they take on Spurs at the King Power Stadium. Elsewhere, Crystal Palace take on Aston Villa; Norwich face Stoke at Carrow Road; Southampton have a trip to Watford; Sunderland fans will be walking out in disgust at their side’s defeat against Swansea; and Bournemouth look for a point or a goal or both away at West Ham.
Last week, 3-7; Season, 6-14 (why do I pick games?!)
Home team listed first
Manchester United vs Newcastle – Home win
Crystal Palace vs Aston Villa – Draw
Leicester vs Tottenham – Draw
Norwich vs Stoke – Away win
Sunderland vs Swansea – Away win
West Ham vs Bournemouth – Home win
West Brom vs Chelsea – Away win
Everton vs Manchester City – Draw
Watford vs Southampton – Home win
Arsenal vs Liverpool – Home win