Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 June 2019

Liverpool face challenge to maintain perfect start: Premier League talking points

As English top flight clubs return to action after the international break, Richard Jolly addresses some talking points
Jurgen Klopp has led Liverpool to a perfect start to the season but big tests await in the coming weeks. Getty Images

After a two-week hiatus the Premier League returns to action this weekend.

Liverpool, Chelsea and Watford all have 100 per cent records at the top, while West Ham United are the only side yet to have a point to their name.

Here is a look at some of what to watch for when the season restarts on Saturday.

Can Liverpool keep up their perfect start?

Tottenham Hotspur, Paris Saint-Germain, Southampton, Chelsea, Chelsea, Napoli, Manchester City: it amounts to one of the most demanding months any club will have this season.

In Liverpool’s case, it has come early. It would be remarkable if their immaculate start continues for the next seven games. It would be an achievement if a defence that has only conceded once so far boasts a similarly formidable record by the next international break.

It represents a test of both Alisson, Jurgen Klopp’s new goalkeeper, and their title aspirations. Two seasons ago, Liverpool were defined by their results against the top clubs.

Last season, their league results against the best, apart from beating Manchester City, were less distinguished. With a tough Uefa Champions League group, they need to excel against the peers on either an English or a European stage.


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Can Mourinho improve Manchester United’s defence?

Jose Mourinho should reintegrate Eric Bailly into his Manchester United team. Getty Images

When the fixture list pitted Watford against Manchester United in September, there was always the chance one of them would have a 100 per cent record; few, however, thought it would be Watford.

Instead United have been beaten twice and go to Vicarage Road with a worse defensive record than Bournemouth, Cardiff City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, as well as Watford.

They go there without the concussed Luke Shaw, their one defender to enhance his reputation this season. Jose Mourinho’s frustration at not landing another centre-back in the summer is well known; now he has to work with the five he has got.

Reintegrating Eric Bailly, United’s best central defender but a player who has gone unused since the defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion, would be a help a manager who has proved he can build frugal back fours before.

Can Manchester City cope without Kevin de Bruyne?

Manchester City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne, centre, has missed the start of the season with injury. Reuters

Manchester City made a superb start to the season without Kevin de Bruyne, beating Chelsea in the Community Shield and then taking the lead against Arsenal in the Premier League before his introduction.

Once the Belgian was ruled out with a knee injury, they initially coped wonderfully, hammering Huddersfield Town 6-1. Yet his absence was felt more in the draw at Wolves and the narrow win over Newcastle.

Even in a City squad with many technical players and plenty of match-winners, De Bruyne’s long passing and ability to shoot from range make him unique. It can make him feel irreplaceable.

Is life going to get easier for West Ham?

Andriy Yarmolenko has not yet cemented a starting place for West Ham, despite the club's struggles. Reuters

Bottom and pointless, West Ham United’s next three home games are against Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham.

It makes it very possible that a club who spent £100 million (Dh478.3m) in the summer will have to wait until November for a first league win. Vice-chairman Karren Brady has already felt compelled to say the board are backing manager Manuel Pellegrini.

For his part, the Chilean could do with discovering his strongest side – Ukraine international Andriy Yarmolenko has been strangely benched so far and the midfield requires a ball-winner to give the rest of the side a platform to play – and tightening up a poor and porous defence. Because, already, they risk being cast adrift by relegation rivals.

Will clubs belatedly unleash their summer signings?

Bernd Leno is yet to make his Arsenal debut since arriving at the club from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer. Getty Images

Not everyone rushes to use their new purchases. The opening month of the campaign was notable for the summer signings who, while some were injured, did not feature – Liverpool’s Fabinho, Arsenal’s Bernd Leno, Everton’s Yerry Mina and Bernard, Wolves’ Leander Dendoncker, Manchester United’s Diogo Dalot – or who did not start, such as Crystal Palace’s Max Meyer and Cheikhou Kouyate, Arsenal’s Lucas Torreira, Brighton's Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Burnley’s Matej Vydra, Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaqiri, Wolves’ Adama Traore, in the top flight.

With more time in a new environment and with some clubs needing to rotate because of European commitments, they may belatedly be given a chance to show what they can do.

Updated: September 12, 2018 08:31 AM