There’s still one more fixture left to be played in the second round of Premier League fixtures, but it’s time to take an early look at the winners and losers from the weekend’s action.
Chelsea and Liverpool have gotten their title challenges off by taking maximum points from their first two league ties and are assured of sitting atop the table at the end of Monday night, but they aren’t the only ones with a reason to feel good as a new week commences.
However, things are not nearly as rosy for some other sides, who have a little something to say for themselves after the weekend.
So, let’s take a look first at the winners.
Chelsea and Liverpool
Not only have both Chelsea and Liverpool gotten off to a 100% start through their first two matches, but they already have some separation from their title rivals out of the gate.
Liverpool seem intent on giving their fans many a heart attack this season, but as long as they keep getting the three points, it’s welcome excitement. The late victories aren’t always the most deserving ones, but once again, three points is three points.
On the flip side, Chelsea have wrapped up the points early on against Portsmouth and Wigan, and Deco, well, he’s proven to be quite the bargain thus far, hasn’t he?
You can be sure that Manchester United, and very likely Arsenal, won’t let them get too far away too quickly, but the Blues and Reds have definitely thrown down the gauntlet early on.
After letting an early 1-0 lead slip away in a 2-1 defeat at Hull on opening weekend, the only way for Fulham was up, and boy, did they go up. They took full advantage of a poor Arsenal side to take a deserved three points in a 1-0 victory over the Gunners, and after seeing their early lead disappear against Hull, made sure Brede Hageland’s 21st minute strike held up, withstanding Arsenal’s late pressure where we’ve seen many falter and let points slip away.
Spending as they did this summer shows that this is a side that has ambition, and you can imagine that they’ll be even more competitive when they have a healthy Andy Johnson in their ranks. If they can maintain that fighting, nothing-to-lose spirit that helped them escape relegation last season, there’s hope for Roy Hodgson’s side to push for more than just being safe this time around.
Sure, there were far too many empty seats at St. James’ Park on Saturday, but the ones who were there got to see the Magpies pick up three points in a 1-0 triumph over Bolton. It’s certainly good to see Michael Owen upright and doing what he does best (score goals, not injure himself), and maybe, just maybe, there’s some hope for Newcastle after all.
It’s much too early to be overly excited, but Kevin Keegan has got to be encouraged about coming out of the first two weekends with points. Maybe the supporters are waiting a little longer before spending their money on watching their side play, but if they can go to Arsenal and put in another good performance, then that might give reason for more butts to fill the seats.
Two rounds in isn’t exactly time to panic if you’re Arsene Wenger, especially considering how Manchester United stuttered out of the gate last season and ended up winning the title. But, while he may be trying to stay as cool as a cucumber, he can’t be happy. After an underwhelming performance in a 1-0 win over West Brom, the Gunners were equally as unconvincing at Craven Cottage on Saturday, and it resulted in a 1-0 defeat to Fulham.
You can talk about their failure to sign so on and so on thus far all you want, but it’s not about who you don’t have, but who you do, and there’s not a lot inspiring about Arsenal right now. Maybe all that went on this summer with players leaving/wanting to leave/being linked with moves has taken its toll, but Arsene needs to lay the boot into his boys, and fast.
There might be a signing or two in store before they take on Newcastle, but whatever side Arsene puts out on the pitch on Saturday, they need to step it up to make sure they don’t suffer the same fate that United did.
This isn’t how it was supposed to be for Tottenham. Yes, the absence of Dimitar Berbatov doesn’t help, and neither does his attitude, but to be one of only four sides not to have a point (and that could be three, if Portsmouth can get a good result against Manchester United today) right now is going completely against the script.
You’d have expected at least a win and a draw against Middlesbrough and Sunderland, but alas, second-half defensive lapses in both matches have proved to be Tottenham’s downfall.
With a visit to Stamford Bridge looming next Saturday, Spurs really need to
sell Berbatov get it right, otherwise they’re going to be in full-on catch-up mode the rest of the way if they want that top-four finish.
If the first couple of weeks are any indication, when you tune in for an Aston Villa match this season, you’re going to be in for plenty of excitement.
Villa’s first two matches have produced 11 goals, which is all good and well when you’re coming out on top in those goalfests, but they can’t afford to throw away points or have regular defensive lapses if they want to make a legitimate challenge for a top-four or top-six finish.
Saturday, Martin O’Neill’s side came back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits against Stoke, but allowed Mamady Sidibe to head in the winner off of a last-second throw-in (?!).
Last season, dropped points from the start of the season against Liverpool to the end against West Ham proved to keep Villa from earning an automatic place in Europe and instead having to make their way into the UEFA Cup through the now-defunct Intertoto Cup; I’m pretty sure Martin O’Neill doesn’t want to see it becoming a recurring theme again. Firepower certainly isn’t an issue with the likes of Agbonlahor and Carew bagging goals, but you know what they say about defense and championships.
Are Chelsea and Liverpool the two to beat? Can Tottenham kick their early funk and get their push for a high finish back on track, or are they bound for another mid-table showing? Do Arsenal need to make a couple of big signings to be a serious contender, or can they do it with the squad that they have? We’re not out of August yet, but there’s already plenty to talk about, so discuss away!