Friday, August 12, 2022

Week 2 Preview: London Derby Between Top Four Hopefuls Headlines The Slate

Tottenham Hotspur will look to make an early statement when they visit Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Manager Antonio Conte and his charges have their eyes set not just on another top four finish but scraping closer to the dynamic duo of Manchester City and Liverpool. To do so will mean leapfrogging a Chelsea squad which finished third last season but is undergoing significant change. Spurs were good and Chelsea were barely adequate in their opening matches last week. The north London squad made easy work of Southampton in Week 1 even though Conte hasn’t yet unleashed transfers such as Yves Bissouma, Richarlison and Ivan Perisic and top scorers Harry Kane and Son Heung-min are yet to score their first goals of the campaign. Conte will want to keep building momentum with a win at his former club. Chelsea did just enough to put down a poor Everton side last week and continues to look for attacking answers. The disappointing London run of Timo Werner ended this week with Werner’s transfer to his former club, RB Leipzig. Tuchel’s other German forward, Kai Havertz, has been nearly as much of a disappointment and must quickly learn to work with the Premier League proven Raheem Sterling to generate and convert some opportunities for the Blues.

Arsenal also aims to crack the top four and the Gunners are home to Leicester this weekend. Arsenal improved during this transfer window and looked good in an opening win at Crystal Palace. The Foxes, meanwhile, have supporters worried after a poor offseason and a “come from ahead” draw with Brentford last weekend.

Joint title favorites Manchester City and Liverpool shouldn’t be overly troubled in Week 2. The reigning champion Citizens host newly promoted Bournemouth. While the Cherries triumphed over an underperforming Aston Villa side in their opener, Erling Haaland and friends will pose a far more imposing challenge Saturday at the Etihad.

Liverpool is home Monday to face a Crystal Palace club which will be challenged to mount a threat against the Reds. Liverpool will be motivated after dropping points on opening weekend and have won their last five home meetings against Crystal Palace. The Eagles continue their never-ending search for a goal scorer other than winger Wilfried Zaha.

Manchester United supporters approach the weekend with trepidation as a loss at Brentford would provide yet more validation of the trouble they are in.

The club ended its pursuit of 33-year-old striker Marko Arnautovic this weekend in the face of fan backlash. Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot’s agent mother is demanding premium wages for her son to make a deal with the Devils and a Frenkie de Jong transfer remained in limbo as of Friday morning. Ronaldo still presumably wants out of Manchester and Marcus Rashford is now rumored for possible PSG interest. On the pitch, Christian Eriksen returns to Brentford to face the club he helped to stay up last season. Eriksen began last week in a false nine role where he struggled. The Dane was far more effective when moved to a deeper position where he was able to have more influence on the match. Ronaldo presumably will start at striker as other options are either injured or unappealing.

Brighton and Newcastle both impressed in opening victories and their well-regarded English managers, Graham Potter and Eddie Howe, will engage in a chess match when the sides meet at Brighton’s Amex Stadium.

West Ham will want points after an unsurprising loss to Manchester City last weekend. The Hammers travel to Nottingham Forest this weekend where they will renew acquaintance with Jesse Lingard, the player who performed well for the Hammers on loan two seasons ago. Maxwel Cornet adds options for West Ham Manager David Moyes as the versatile winger should make his debut for the Hammers after his transfer was finalized last week from Burnley. Nottingham Forest have now added fourteen players in the transfer window and question is growing as to whether so much disruption will be justified by the talent which was acquired mostly in inexpensive deals. Lingard, the most interesting of the acquisitions, was a free transfer.

Leeds and Manager Jesse Marsch have a solid chance for back-to-back victories when they visit Southampton this weekend. The Saints looked poor in losing by three goals to Tottenham Hotspur as Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl is gaining ground in the sack race. Leeds emerged with a hard-fought victory over Wolves in Week 1 as American forward Brendan Aaronson impressed supporters at Elland Road in his Premier League debut.

Wolverhampton are home this week to Fulham. Wolves Manager Bruno Lage added yet another Portuguese player to the side with the acquisition of winger Goncalo Guedes. Acquired form Valencia, Guedes is versatile in attack and could help offset the lost production of injured striker Raul Jimenez. Wolves also said goodbye this week to club veteran Conor Coady as the defender signed for Everton. Fulham surprised Liverpool last week when two goals from Aleksandar Mitrovic earned a point for the Cottagers at Craven Cottage. A strange report this week has Fulham close to signing former Premier Leaguer Willian. The Brazilian had a successful seven year run at Chelsea but has flopped miserably in recent stints with Arsenal and Corinthians. Everton travel to Aston Villa this weekend as two former stars on the pitch, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, try to find their footing as Premier League managers. The early results for both are not good. Gerrard, particularly, is being criticized for not getting the best out of a relatively talented roster. Lampard has far less to work with at Everton.


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