Premier League Expected/Unexpected: Week 2

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Below we take a look at some of the occurrences in the Premier League that we could have predicted... and some that left us dumbfounded. See if you agree with our thoughts, and if you have any other surprises to highlight.


Ball is in Aguero's Court

Sergio Aguero and Argentina missed out on another major trophy when the Copa America was won by Chile, but after being granted time off by Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini, the striker looks back to his very best. The fast feet, the snap shots, the confidence when chasing a through ball, all looked to be there once again.

City, since the Abu Dhabi takeover, has always relied on Aguero in its best performances. He's the closest the Premier League has to someone like tennis player Rafael Nadal - unstoppable when at his mobile best and unworried by injury, but needing to be 100% to be at his best. City will use Wilfried Bony more this season, to keep their star fresh for the big games.

Norwich Gets Off the Mark

Alex Neil is a smart young man, who knows what he likes from a football team. These include crisp passing, strength in the tackle, and a collective mentality. Norwich had two of these things when the team last played Premier League football, but under Chris Hughton it was prone to long-ball tactics. This time, there seems to be a genuine wish to keep the ball, and to use it smartly. With the talented players Norwich has, the Canaries could surprise the doom-mongers.

The 3-1 away win over Sunderland showed a promoted team that had greater desire and will-to-win than its established opponent. This is to be commended.

Swansea Shows What Stability Can Bring

We predicted a draw between Swansea and Newcastle, so the 2-0 win for the Swans is not the expected thing. Rather, it's the quality of the Swans' performances. Most of the focus was on the signing of Andre Ayew, who indeed has two Premier League goals from two games to his name. However, Swansea's squad is quite settled, and seems to be improving as a consequence.

Last season, Wilfried Bony left, Bafetimbi Gomis took time to get used to a new league, and Jefferson Montero ditto. This time, the latter two are looking sharp right from the off, with Gomis perhaps showing Chelsea the meaning of value, in the light of the Blues' expensive one-year loan of Radamel Falcao, who looks far slower and less sharp than the Frenchman.


Leicester Remembers the Winning Formula

Claudio Ranieri's nickname amongst unimaginative football journalists is "The Tinkerman" on account of his revolving-door approach to squad rotation at Chelsea in the early 2000s. To be fair, the Italian even used the name himself a few times in interviews at the time. The former Valencia and Inter coach is "one of the nicest men in football" according to football journalist James Richardson (on account of the reporter being given a bag of biscotti by Ranieri), but he is also a savvy man-manager.

Ranieri appears to have decided that Nigel Pearson, who kept Leicester in the Premier League but was then sacked due to arguing with the board, had a formula that did not need tinkering. As such, the Leicester team that beat West Ham on Saturday was changed little from the one that played in May. Those players that have been added - especially Shinji Okazaki, an experienced international and a good-value transfer, seem like upgrades.

Okazaki was first to 50/50 situations, he passed well, confused Hammers defenders with his feet, and when the chance came to score, he was smart and brave enough to stick his head up for the rebound. If Gokhan Inler is really coming to the King Power Stadium from Napoli, the Foxes could be looking at a year of consolidation. Let's not get carried away - opponents Sunderland and West Ham are not going to be in the top half in May, but Leicester could be.

Chelsea in Decline?

When Jose Mourinho took John Terry off at half-time in Chelsea's bruising defeat on Sunday, it felt a bit like when that great rock band has a falling-out between two of its main protagonists. Terry had never before been substituted in a Premier League match by the Special One, and to hear Mourinho saying it was because he needed his fastest defender, Kurt Zouma, on the pitch, in a key game Terry would be expected to boss, it seemed to be a watershed.

In the week that Ashley Cole, another Chelsea icon of that first great Mourinho team, had his contract cancelled by Italian club Roma, it gave an impression of the old guard falling. Is Chelsea in decline? Maybe not - but that sense of collective fatigue at the end of last season shows no sign of lifting.

Everton Rediscovers Its Fight, Barkley His Bite

It looked like a home banker: Southampton, a side that had bought well over the summer and maybe even improved its starting eleven, against an Everton team that struggled last season, and saw few embellishments over the summer, barring the icing on a fairly utilitarian cake supplied by Gerard Deulofeu.

Therefore, Everton coming away with a 3-0 away win was not in the script, and rather suggests that Ronald Koeman and the Saints might endure the Difficult Second Season so many teams and managers have had. There will be more games this season with the Europa League on Thursday nights, and it might just be that Everton replaces Southampton as the club expected to struggle that does not.

Romelu Lukaku looked like the striker that persuaded Chelsea to part with £18m all those years ago, while John Stones' performance has probably caused Stamford Bridge to make a few desperate phone calls to Roman Abramovich. The defender would probably benefit from remaining at Goodison Park a bit longer, but, as we know, money talks in football.

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