Premier League clubs on Wednesday voted unanimously to return to contact training, including tackling, as the English top flight moved a step closer to a resumption after the shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
We are now two rounds deep into the EPL season and the table is taking shape. Here are five quick takes and some predictions for next week.
1. Manchester mauling
Manchester United once again showed why they are deserved favourites for this season’s crown. A four-goal rout of a helpless Swansea has done enough to send a shiver down the rest of the competitions spine. After a relatively quiet first half, Eric Bailly struck on the button of half time to send them in to the break with a positive.
Come to the second half and nearing the 80th minute Henrikh Mkhitaryan was playing balls into the box for Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba goals which continues their scintillating starts to the season.
Enter Anthony Martial who came on as a sub and made his impact known with a creative strike into the back of the net. Swansea looked a little lost without their main man Gylfi Sigurdsson after his departure to Everton and I fear they will linger near the bottom this season without him.
2. Boring Bromwich
The side that will probably always be looking to win 1-0 managed it again this past weekend against Burnley, their stifle and steal game plan has delivered twice this season as they were able to shutdown Burnley’s attack and eventually cause an upset when Hal Robson Kanu netted in the 71st minute after coming on as a sub.
Funnily enough 12 minutes after his goal he was red carded for a stray elbow and the baggies were forced to hold off Burnley with ten men. Bromwich although however boring their game plan is have seemed to find a niche and they have every chance for pushing towards a higher finish this season.
3. February already?
Arsenal are noted for some less than impressive performances when February rolls around and this past game week it looked as if it came early.
It is true that the Gunners were dealt a tough hand from the referees as multiple penalty opportunities were not paid and a questionable offside was given despite an equaliser. But the fact is that their midfield play simply was not up to scratch.
Granit Xhaka was less than impressive, while Mesut Ozil who is held in the highest esteem for his attacking midfield play passed the ball backwards all day.
Arsenal are bathed in transfer controversy as it seems that all their star players are looking to join the biggest clubs and I feel this could be the start of a very frustrating season for the Gunners faithful.
4. Mooy oh Mooy!
I feel like we as Australians bang on about Aaron Mooy quite a lot, but in the words of Brian Taylor “boy oh boy, wowee”. Now truthfully it wasn’t the best goal the EPL has ever seen but it was still as classy as any, Mooy had controlled the midfield for much of the game as Huddersfield dominated possession.
It was his first real crack at the Newcastle defence when he played this ball to Elias Kachunga and had it retuned well enough for him to gets the ball of to his right foot and sliding into the side netting.
Mooy has drawn praise from much of the UK media and football pundits this weekend, but perhaps most pleasing are comments from teammates and his manager David Wagner.
Aaron Mooy has a lot left for us yet and at this stage he looks the catalyst if Huddersfield are to stay out of the relegation zone.
5. Rooney record
Seems selfish to have one player featured two weeks in a row but it’s been that sort of start for Wayne Rooney. After his spectacular return goal at Goodison Park last week, this week he managed to net his 200th Premier League goal which is second to only Alan Shearer.
The milestone came in the 35th minute when the ball was played to him inside the box and a sharp left footed prod put between Ederson’s legs shot Everton into the lead. Who better to do it against than his long-time Rivals Manchester City?
Round 3 predictions
Bournemouth versus Manchester City: 0-2
Crystal Palace versus Swansea: 0-0
Huddersfield versus Southampton: 1-2
Newcastle versus West Ham: 0-3
Watford versus Brighton: 4-1
Manchester United versus Leicester: 4-1
Chelsea versus Everton: 2-1
West Brom versus Stoke: 0-0
Liverpool versus Arsenal: 3-3
Spurs versus Burnley: 4-0