Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, Sam Allardyce and Sunderland, Chelsea’s struggles – the Premier League is back this weekend, and we for one, cannot wait.
5) Can big Sam save Cats from big trouble?
Big Dick decided it – (another) relegation scrap wasn’t for him and it was no surprise when the winless Black Cats accepted the Dutchman’s resignation after their 2-2 draw with West Ham last time out.
The popular Dutchman saved Sunderland last season with a brilliant run of form in the new year, just as Gus Poyet and Paolo Di Canio did before him.
And so step forward Sam Allardyce.
But is asking for a fourth Great Escape too much to expect of Allardyce? Evidence suggests it won’t be if he can match his win percentage in management, which currently stands at 37%. Achieve the same stat with Sunderland and they’ll certainly have a fighting chance you would imagine.
What they can’t do, however, is throw away 2-0 leads (as the Cats did in their last outing against the Hammers) and Saturday’s trip to West Brom – themselves yet to win in four home games this season – is an ideal opportunity to get their season up and running.
They’ll also be boosted by the return of Steven Fletcher – the scorer of a hat-trick for Scotland in midweek (albeit against Gibraltar) – and he looks the man most likely for Big Sam’s new charges.
4) Will Leicester and Palace continue to upset the odds?
Both sides have made superb starts to the season, but is it too much to ask for them to sustain it over a season and make a prolonged challenge for the European spots? Having seen both sides this season, you’d argue both look capable of doing so.
Leicester have everything you’d want from a modern-day Premier League side: pace, strength, versatility – but do they have the other vital ingredient: durability?
Foxes boss Claudio Ranieri caused a bit of a stir by resting their player of the year so far, Riyad Mahrez, to the bench for their last match – a 2-1 win at Norwich. Alongside him, Jamie Vardy and Marc Alrighton have also been excellent too.
The Foxes make the tricky trip to Southampton on Saturday for a clash which could have big implications for their challenge to best of the rest and it’ll be interesting to see how the two sides square up.
Palace, on the other hand, face a London derby with away-day specialists West Ham (can we still call them that after they could only draw at Sunderland?), where they’ll be severely put to the test against a side who have already won away at Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal this season.
Both Leicester and Palace go into their fixtures this weekend with an impressive haul of 15 points from their eight games so far, but which (if any) will pick up where they left off this weekend?
3) Can Arsenal continue where they left off?
Their performance against Manchester United – well, the first 20 minutes at least – was probably the best we’ve seen in the Premier League this season. One of those afternoons, where everything you attempt comes off.
Manchester United, top-of-the-table before the last round of fixtures began, were simply blown away by the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott. And you imagine if these two can stay injury-free, and at the very top of their games, then Arsenal will never have a better chance to win a first Premier League title since 2004.
There doesn’t seem to be any mutiny in the ranks either (always a good sign), with the ousted Olivier Giroud vowing to show mental toughness in a bid to displace Walcott from the Arsenal line-up.
Arsenal make the trip to Watford in their return to action on Saturday for the televised game at 5.30pm. We’ve only had a few glimpses so far this season of Watford and they certainly appear harder to beat than many people expected.
Goals at Vicarage Road have been at a premium so far, with only two (one for, one against) scored in their four home games to date. But if ever a match was geared for an on-form counter-attacking side to break down the opposition, then this is it, surely?
Arsenal scored five goals on their last away trip in the Premier League at Leicester – what chance a repeat with Walcott and co in the form of their lives.
2) Will Chelsea arrest their slide under Mourinho?
If they say a week is a long time in politics, then a fortnight in football must have been agonising for Jose Mourinho and his Chelsea players. Battered, bruised and very much beaten in their last clash against Southampton, the Blues have made their worst start to a season since 1978/79 – when they were relegated from the old First Division.
But surely their malaise cannot go on? Surely Mourinho will have spent the week working on his defensive system and tweaking his tactics (?) – especially in light of Ronald Koeman’s criticism of them recently.
Early reports suggest a defensive reshuffle might be forced on them anyway, with Branslav Ivanovic suffering an injury while on international duty this week for Serbia. That could mean a first Premier League start for summer signing Baba Rahman, with Cesar Azpilicueta switching to right-back.
Either way, removing Ivanovic from the firing line is long overdue with his loss of form long being under scrutiny and could help Jose
stumble discover across a far more formidable defensive shape.
The Blues face a home date with struggling Aston Villa this weekend. What could possibly go wrong?…
1) Jurgen Klopp’s first match in charge of Liverpool
Let’s face it, the sacking of Brendan Rodgers and subsequent appointment of Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool have saved what otherwise would have been a pretty tedious fortnight.
But after the hullabaloo and eternal optimism that greats any new appointment at Liverpool, there comes a sudden and immediate reality check: Premier League football. Klopp’s reign at Liverpool gets underway with a testing trip to face Tottenham at White Hart Lane – and that’s easily the match that is most whetting our appetite this weekend.
After a shaky start, Spurs have started to produce some exciting football and their 4-1 win over Manchester City in their last match at the Lane was as good as they’d played under Maurcio Pochettino.
There are a number of first-team issues which Klopp will need to address as Liverpool boss – all of which he can’t possibly solve immediately having only been at the club less than a week.
His first assignment against Spurs is unlikely to display the ‘recognisable brand of football’ Klopp has vowed to implement at Liverpool, but what it will do is show us just how much the Klopp affect has taken hold at Liverpool.
Another thing that is certain is that Klopp will always be good value to the media – a rundown of his top quotes while at Dortmund illustrates that – and we, for one, cannot wait to see him in the Premier League.
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By James Marshment