Manchester United are beginning to click into gear
We are only one game into the season but there already seems a greater awareness and understanding between Manchester United’s attacking players than there was for most of last year. Marcus Rashford’s delightful through ball for Romelu Lukaku’s first goal was one of many such moments of brilliance from United’s attackers and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, starting in the number 10 berth, linked everything together. Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic ran riot in midfield, with the newly signed Serbian not only sound in his defensive duties but also not afraid to surge forward to support Pogba in attack. This United team look – dare I say it – like the old United for the first time since Sir Alex’s retirement.
Same old story for Arsenal and Liverpool
Arsenal played brilliantly at times on Friday night in their 4-3 victory over Leicester, with Alexandre Lacazette already slotting well into this new system and Olivier Giroud reminding fans he still has a role to play at the Emirates, coming off the bench to net the winner. Similarly Sadio Mané looked devastating in Liverpool’s attack in their 3-3 draw against Watford, and there were signs of promise from Mo Salah. But it was a different story in defence, with Arsenal’s back three not looking at all assured – with the possible exception of new man Sead Kolasinac – and Liverpool still struggling to defend set pieces. Indeed, the first two games of the new season brought to mind these two teams’ encounter on last year’s opening weekend, in which Liverpool surged into a 4-1 lead before clinging on for dear life as the game ended 4-3.
Conte’s patience wearing thin
Regardless of what he said in his post-match press conference, there was definitely the feeling that Antonio Conte’s team selection was an intentional message to the Chelsea hierarchy. Despite spending £130 million new players, Conte is not happy with the club’s transfer business so far. Having failing to land Lukaku and watching Leonardo Bonucci move to AC Milan for roughly the same figure the Blues paid for Antonio Rudiger, the manager clearly feels that the board’s ambition does not match his own. It is not just incoming transfers that are the issue: with Diego Costa still on the books and a whole host of departures on loans and permanent deals – most notably Matic to title rivals Manchester United – a tension between the club and manager is growing.
Summer strikers look ready to prove their worth
While Conte may have some misgivings about Chelsea’s transfer business, the club can at least point to Alvaro Morato making an instant impact as a source of positivity. The Spaniard scored one and assisted another against Burnley in the half an hour he was on the pitch. Lacazette also made a scoring start for Arsenal, finding the net after just two minutes, while Lukaku became the fourth player to score a brace on his Manchester United debut. All three should be vying for the Golden Boot this season, but with Sergio Aguero already off the mark and Harry Kane presumably not wanting to give up the trophy so easily, it is set to be a fascinating battle between the top strikers of the top clubs.
Huddersfield the surprise package?
David Wagner has done little short of working wonders in his time at Huddersfield, guiding them up to the Premier League in his first full season at the club and seeing them top the table for 24 hours before Manchester United leapfrogged them on goal difference. His managerial prowess will be crucial if Huddersfield are to stand a chance of staying up. But if things aren’t looking quite so good after Christmas, wouldn’t it be nice if he were given a chance to stay and fight, rather than most clubs’ trigger happy approach to firing managers? If any recent manager of a club at Huddersfield’s level deserves that little bit of respect and belief, it is surely Wagner.