Premier League preview
Arsenal hope to bounce back against Swansea as both Manchester clubs look to continue their fine starts.
By James Riach
Last Updated: 10/09/11 9:10am
A lot has occurred since the last round of Premier League fixtures - the transfer deadline has passed with its usual ebullient ceremony and international fixtures have been and gone.
The top flight returns and, after an early taster with three matches played for the majority of sides, the season can now move up the gears as the battle for coveted league points hits full speed.
A myriad of players will make their debuts at various clubs this weekend following the deadline-day hysteria, when even Arsene Wenger had the chutzpah to dabble in a few hasty purchases.
Surely the Gunners hit their nadir against Manchester United last time out? Well, anything less than a home victory against Swansea would see them sink further into the mire.
Elsewhere, United go to Bolton, Tottenham have the opportunity for their first points at Wolves, Manchester City host Wigan and Chelsea travel to Sunderland.
After Arsenal's spectacular defeat at Old Trafford a fortnight ago, Arsene Wenger did not say anything in the dressing room at the final whistle. He did not have to, really. An 8-2 humbling against a side you are supposed to be challenging for the title speaks for itself. Even the most dedicated United fans so used to savouring schadenfreude could not help feeling a twinge of sympathy towards their North London opponents. It was a result that convinced Wenger a spree in the market was required and he has strengthened with the purchases of Mikel Arteta, Andre Santos, Per Mertesacker and Yossi Benayoun on loan. Swansea go to the Emirates having not scored in the league so far, anything less than a win for Arsenal would see the doubters find their voice once more.
Leading the way
Both Manchester clubs have made impressive starts and defending champions United go to Bolton looking to continue their ruthless form in front of goal. Owen Coyle's Wanderers have amassed three points from their three games so far and will hope an evening kick-off at the Reebok can galvanise the fans and players into making life as difficult as possible for their fellow North Westerners. Wayne Rooney is currently the man to watch having demonstrated his sharpness for England in Bulgaria - while Gary Cahill remains a Bolton player despite interest in him during the window.
Manchester City have a plethora of options available to them after their powerful spending, and going forward they are now arguably the most dangerous outfit in the division. Chief executive Garry Cook has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons this week and City will be keen to get back out and make heads turn because of their football. Wigan Athletic make the short journey to the Etihad stadium but it would be a real turn up for the books if Roberto Martinez's men come away with anything other than a comfortable beating - but as we all know, anything can happen in the Premier League.
It is fair to say that Chelsea have made a tepid start to the campaign under the stewardship of Andre Villas-Boas, but despite not setting the world alight with their performances, they remain unbeaten and have earned two wins and a draw. There is no doubt the Portuguese Villas-Boas needs time to exert his authority and stamp on his team at Stamford Bridge, but there are signs that things are beginning to fall into place. Juan Mata scored on his debut last time out although Didier Drogba will miss the trip to Sunderland after a head injury against Norwich. Steve Bruce's Black Cats need a victory to give them a kick up the proverbial derriere, having lost to Newcastle and drawing to Swansea, while falling to Brighton in the Carling Cup.
Tottenham have suffered two defeats in two but to be fair to Harry Redknapp and company, those results were against the Manchester clubs in imperious form. It is difficult to say whether the home reverse at the hands of City at White Hart Lane was more down to the bravura of Roberto Mancini's team or the hapless display by Spurs. Luka Modric is still in the ranks which is a major boost but Rafael van der Vaart is sidelined for the foreseeable future. Tottenham face a tough challenge to end their mini-rut when they take on Wolves at Molineux. Mick McCarthy's side have made a fine start to the season and have conceded just one goal so far.
Another team that has hit the ground running is Liverpool. Kenny Dalglish did a fantastic job last season after taking the reins from Roy Hodgson - a period in the club's history that was perhaps forever destined to end in tears. The miasma around Anfield has well and truly been lifted by the Scot, who has seen his charges continue where they left off last year so far this term. Yet the Reds have a tough trip on their hands when they go to Stoke City, who were one of the busiest teams at the close of the transfer window. Tony Pulis caught the eye with the capture of Peter Crouch, and the striker could make his Potters debut against his former club.
All is not well on the other half of Merseyside, however. Short of cash, with protests against the board and Bill Kenwright, there is unrest at Goodison Park. Losing Arteta was a major blow for Everton while Jermaine Beckford, not exactly prolific but one of few options up front for David Moyes, departed for Leicester City in the Championship. In the Darwinian, cut-throat world of the Premier League, nowadays if the cash is not available, then what usually follows is a slide down the rankings. Moyes will be desperate for a positive result at home to Aston Villa to lift the gloom, but Alex McLeish's men look relatively solid at the moment.
The first of Sunday's games sees Norwich host West Brom at Carrow Road, live on Sky Sports 1 and HD1 from 1.30pm. Hodgson's Baggies have put in a few decent performances but have yet to get off the mark and if they slip to another defeat the pressure will be on their experienced boss - no matter how perplexing that sounds at this early stage of the season. Paul Lambert's Canaries seem to have a swashbuckling spirit in their play and they will need that if they are to stay up - another display like the one at Chelsea last time out and they will prove stern opponents.
Finally, Blackburn are one of three clubs yet to pick up a point and they travel to the capital to take on Fulham, who have just one draw to their name. Steve Kean is still the favourite to be the first top-flight manager ousted this term, although Rovers made some shrewd purchases late on this summer - most notably Scott Dann from Birmingham. Martin Jol's Cottagers have not really got going yet - they will see this home tie, also live on Sky Sports 1 and HD1, as the perfect opportunity to do so.