A managerial masterclass but players lack pedigree
Huddersfield Town were well set up by David Wagner when Newcastle came to visit on Sunday. Well organised at the back, they rarely allowed Newcastle to threaten. But while their organisation was to be applauded, there was a distinct lack of quality – more often than not promising moves would break down because of a simple misplaced pass. This was true of both teams on the pitch. Time and time again possession was ceded in the middle of the park. Dwight Gayle, always impressive in the Championship, was hooked after less than an hour. Wagner and Rafa Benitez might both be exceptional coaches, but both teams may lack the quality to avoid a relegation battle.
Jesé shines amongst Champions League winners
It’s safe to say that Stoke’s policy of buying the European Elite’s nearly-made-its hasn’t worked that well so far. Despite the exciting attacking prospects they could do worse than looking to Burnley or West Brom for an example of strength and defensive stability. But perhaps Jesé is the exception, after fitting seamlessly into this Stoke City team against Arsenal. After winning three points for his club on his debut, Stoke might find themselves heavily indebted to Jesé come the close of the season if he can help them avoid a relegation scrap.
Never write off the champions
Regardless of the murmurs of discontent growing between Antonio Conte and the Chelsea board, it was still a little premature to write off the champions after one game. Despite their almost comical level of implosion against Burnley last weekend, this was still a team full of champions. They might not look quite as strong as last year, but even without Eden Hazard playing, they still managed to find the quality to beat a very good Spurs side.
Flat back four offers defensive solidity
Huddersfield Town, West Brom and Manchester United are not only sitting pretty atop the table with two wins out of two, they are also the only three teams yet to concede a goal. What is striking, on a weekend when nearly half of the teams in the Premier League started with three at the back, is that all these teams played with a back four. While it would be premature to draw conclusions from this oversimplification – and some back threes have thrived in the Premier League following Chelsea’s example – perhaps there is a word of caution here: it is not always wise to make changes just because it is in vogue.
Pulis and Mourinho bucking the trend
It is not just their continued use of a flat back four that stands out for West Brom and Manchester United – after all, there are other teams who still use four at the back in the Premier League and Mourinho’s United themselves experimented with a back three in pre-season. It is also the height of the two teams. They are the tallest teams in the league at a time when shorter, more technically gifted players are commonplace and this has certainly been to their advantage. West Brom’s winner came from a set piece last weekend and Eric Bailly got his maiden club goal following a corner against Swansea. For West Brom this is nothing new, but being a threat from set pieces may be another important string to United’s bow in their title challenge.