This time last year few would have expected that a fixture between Manchester United and Leicester at Old Trafford would bring together the home team not playing in the Champions League and visitors who are the defending champions in the Premier League. It’s too early in the season to be talking about a must win match but Jose Mourinho will be under extreme pressure if the outcome is not a home win.
The live TV match between Arsenal and Chelsea later on Saturday will decide bragging rights in London. Arsenal are in the better form and can make a statement that the Manchester clubs will not be having it all their own way this season. Already there is a feeling that 19 teams are playing for second place because Manchester City look head and shoulders (even without Joe Hart) above the rest. In Kevin De Bruyne they have a player who looks the best in the league and everything else is falling into place under the coaching of Pep Guardiola.
The Sunday fixture between West Ham and Southampton at the Olympic Stadium will raise as many issues in the ground as on the pitch and the home side need a win to calm things down but the Saints look good enough to avoid defeat. Watford are making a name for themselves and have the players to pick up three points on the road at Burnley in the Monday Night Football fixture.
Mourinho’s price to be the first manager sacked has been slashed after three defeats for United in just over one week. The win in the EFL Cup at Northampton didn’t say much as the performance was unconvincing. More concerning was the nature of defeat in the Manchester derby. Losing away from home in the Europa League is not too damaging and United were not far off securing a decent point at Watford before some defensive errors allowed Watford to score two match-winning late goals.
Leicester have made a solid start to the new season as champions and mid-table safety could be their level. Last season was a freakish one-off and Leicester will not be the champions this time. Two wins and a draw from five matches, scoring and conceding seven goals, is the epitome of an average team which is about right but nobody can take the memories and achievement of 2015-16 away from them. Avoiding defeat at Old Trafford looks beyond them so United and Mourinho can win three crucial points.
Arsenal and Chelsea have similar records after the first month of the season but home advantage can be key to the outcome of their fixture this weekend. Both London clubs have lost to Liverpool at home but Chelsea’s defeat was more comprehensive. Arsenal are unbeaten in six matches and have scored four goals in their last two outings. Chelsea beat Leicester in extra-time in the EFL Cup but drew with Swansea in the league in their previous fixture which means Arsenal have a form edge.
West Ham look like a team in trouble and are now in the bottom three. The move to the Olympic Stadium has been fraught with problems off the pitch and that atmosphere seems to have been transmitted to the players. Before squeezing past Accrington at their new home in the EFL Cup the Hammers conceded a total of eight goals in two fixtures which ended in 4-2 defeats to Watford and West Brom.
The media probably exaggerated the crowd problems but clearly there is an issue with spectators standing during matches and the stewards don’t look able to cope. More importantly ex-players are saying the stadium does not lend itself to a good atmosphere which was often worth a goal to West Ham at Upton Park. Southampton look a bottom-half of the table outfit but can deepen the problems for Slaven Biloic by beating his West Ham side at their own ground.
Watford are a decent outfit that contains solid players who fit into the team ethic and with a bit of sparkle up front. In beating West Ham and Manchester United Watford have suggested they are now at home in the Premier League. Burnley are possibly the least wealthy club in the division and were outclassed by Leicester in their last league fixture. Watford can continue their winning run next Monday by which time things should be looking brighter for Jose Mourinho and Manchester United.
Have a fantastic weekend!