Arsenal and Chelsea have chance to show true Premier League colours
W2W4 previews the weekend's Premier League fixtures and highlights five key storylines.
Arsenal and Chelsea are both flawed but gifted opponents
It was not expected that Chelsea would be so meek in their home loss to Liverpool last Friday. Under new manager Antonio Conte the very least that can presumed of the Blues is that they will be ferocious. But Chelsea were shown up by Liverpool's intensity. Without the gusto that had saved them in previous games this season -- seven of their 10 points have been snatched late -- their weaknesses were exposed. Defensively, no matter David Luiz or Marcos Alonso's arrivals in the summer, there remain the concerns of 2015-16's disastrous campaign. And without Cesc Fabregas, who scored twice in the EFL Cup on Tuesday, Conte's side lacked an orchestrator.
Their chance to get back on track comes against Fabregas' former club, Arsenal, on Saturday evening. Like Chelsea, the Gunners have been impressive in flashes but also looked capable of crumbling in other moments. This weekend's game is the opportunity for the two teams to send out a clear message of their true capabilities, having both been schooled by Liverpool on their own turf this term. "I must work more to improve my players," Conte said after their 2-1 loss to the Reds, and you cannot begrudge him that intention -- he only took over in the summer. For his counterpart Arsene Wenger, losing to the Blues twice in their catastrophic guise last term was a significant low point. It should not be repeated.
Will Jose Mourinho get the desired response from his Man United players?
This was not how it was meant to be for Manchester United manager Mourinho. To be in September and for questions to be seriously asked about his work at Old Trafford must sting. Perhaps too much has been made of Mourinho calling out left-back Shaw for his performance in the 3-1 defeat to Watford. But then again when Jose talks, people listen -- especially when he does something out of character from his usual management style by criticising one of his own. Previously what has worked for Mourinho has been developing a siege mentality. Yet, turning the argument on its head once more, maybe this is exactly what the United players require, for they've been underperforming since Sir Alex Ferguson left in 2013. Let's see how they respond against champions Leicester City on Saturday lunchtime.
How will Tottenham cope without striker Harry Kane?
Now, Tottenham Hotspur's Kane has hardly been pulling up trees so far this season. He didn't open his goal-scoring account until the fourth match of 2016-17 and the two strikes to his name have both been absolute sitters. That said, his absence with what looks like a serious ankle injury will surely be felt -- this is a player who has scored 46 league goals in his past two campaigns. "This is a big opportunity for him to show what he can do," were the words of manager Mauricio Pochettino regarding summer signing Vincent Janssen this week. While the Netherlands international has not been short on bluster during his opening games for Spurs, he has yet to find the back of the net in the Premier League -- although he did score from the penalty spot in the EFL Cup on Wednesday. Now is the time to see how he fills Kane's shooting boots for a sustained period.
Mark Hughes must address Stoke's awful defence in Tony Pulis clash
If Hughes was under pressure going into last weekend's fixture at Crystal Palace then consider the magnitude of the scrutiny surrounding his Stoke City side in the wake of a 4-1 loss. To reiterate their plight, particularly in defence, the Potters have now conceded four in three of their previous four league matches. Unsurprisingly, after four losses and one draw, they sit bottom of the table and have a cringeworthy goal difference of minus 11. This week, Hughes has received the backing of the club's chairman -- construed as the foreboding vote of confidence by some. The chance to address what is relegation form comes against former manager, Pulis, whose West Brom side did a very un-Pulis-like thing by scoring four in their last outing. This is a massive game for Hughes.
Slaven Bilic's West Ham look alarmingly out of sorts
Last season, Bilic's West Ham United were superb and finished seventh in the table. But they also conceded 51 goals. Were that trend to be carried into this season and the goals to dry up at the other end of the pitch then trouble might be afoot. And so it has proved during the opening five fixtures of this campaign with the Hammers seeing 13 efforts thumped past them, with only seven hit back in return. As mentioned, nobody should concede four against a Pulis side. "We have a problem, starting with me," Bilic said last weekend. That much is true, Slaven, because with the transfer window closed you must work with the squad -- which looks to have several holes in it -- at your disposal. That starts at home to Southampton on Sunday.
James Dall is an associate editor at ESPN FC. You can follow him on Twitter @JamesDallESPN.