Manchester City tops the Premier League table after the second game week with rivals Manchester United second. A solitary goal scored by the Citizens is the difference between the clubs.
It is only early days as far as the table is concerned and it would be harsh to judge the quality of a team based on their position, but the performances on the pitch are speaking volumes for intent and can be taken as a possible portrayal of how the Premier League season is going to pan out.
Pep Guardiola admitted to being surprised at how well City began the season after the 4-1 victory at Stoke City on Saturday. Not to be discounted was their 2-1 win against Sunderland on the opening day and their five goals without reply at Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League play-off which punctuated their two Premier League games.
"We have had a short time together and in spells in our last three games my players have shown me how intelligent they are…We will improve many things but I am little bit surprised in the short time the level we played in Bucharest and here (Stoke). To win 4-1 here is very good and we have scored nine goals in two games. It was a nice week for us," Guardiola said after the 4-1 victory at Stoke City.
What stands out for Guardiola’s team is the ease with which they have got past opponents. The influence of his decisions off the field have told in their performance as he brought in quality players like John Stones and Nolito, is bringing the best out of Sergio Aguero and Nicolas Otamendi, and took strong calls when it came to benching players that don’t fit into his system like Joe Hart.
Stoke City manager Mark Hughes summed up City’s quality in his reaction to how easily they beat his team: "The scoreline was a little bit flattering for City but they are a good side. They are going to run the league title very close and run everybody else who has ambitions to win it this year,"
Across the city
Jose Mourinho’s United haven’t been as dominant as their city rivals but have shown their quality on the field as well.
Wins against Bournemouth on the opening day and Southampton this weekend have shown their strength in depth as Zlatan Ibrahimovic has matched Aguero’s three-goal tally in two games while fitness-lacking Paul Pogba showed glimpses of why the Red Devils paid a world record transfer fee to acquire his services.
"We are becoming better and better. It's a good start. We need to get used to winning," Ibrahimovic said after the 2-0 win against the Saints in the Premier League’s first-ever regularised Friday night match.
Mourinho was full of praise of his players as well; in particular for Pogba.
"Pogba was so good. He needs the freedom he had. I couldn't be happier with him. For 10 days' work, first match of the season, not even 10 minutes of a friendly, I think he played phenomenal," were Mourinho’s words in summing up Pogba’s second debut for United.
Chelsea under Antonio Conte has managed to win both their matches so far, although with not the same level of ease as the Manchester clubs.
Apart from Chelsea and the teams from Manchester, only one other team still holds a perfect winning record two games into the season. Most unexpectedly, the team is the recently promoted Hull City who set two Premier League records in the bargain. In beating Leicester City in the season opener, Hull became the first promoted team to beat the Premier League champions on the first day of the season, and in beating Swansea City this weekend, they equalled Bolton Wanderers’ record of best start to a Premier League season by a promoted team which was set in 2001.
But while Hull’s superb performances are probably the exception to the rule, teams which would have been expected to play a part higher up in the table are currently struggling with poor results.
After edging an exciting 4-3 against Arsenal on the opening weekend, Liverpool struggled in defeat against Burnley on Saturday. Despite dominating 81% of the ball in the match, the Reds were beaten by a two-goal margin. Arsenal has also struggled without a win as they held Leicester to a goalless draw on Saturday.
Liverpool’s condition has been a matter of players losing focus and failing to live up to their potential. Unfortunately for the Merseyside club, considering much of their transfer business has been done, it remains a matter of their manager Juergen Klopp having to galvanise the side which means such results may been seen in the future.
"We have to accept it. Burnley deserved to win with a very passionate performance. We have to say it was not enough today,” Klopp said after the 2-0 loss to Burnley.
On the other hand, Arsenal has only brought in one major signing in Granit Xhaka, who has only played a bit part so far because of lack of match fitness — something which has irked Arsenal fans when compared to Pogba who played very well in the same situation.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has repeatedly put off the need to spend big to bring in players and seen numerous deals meet their death before fruition in this transfer window. Unless Arsenal changes their rhythm, little might actually work in their favour over the course of the season.
Leicester and Tottenham Hotspur are other teams expected to fight for the title. Tottenham has been in good form, picking up where they left off in last season’s title challenge whereas Leicester finds itself in territory manager Claudio Ranieri predicted would be their condition this season.
To sum up, the first two weekends of Premier League action have only pointed to one thing — United and City are the front runners and will likely be for most of the season.