It’s never too early to start asking questions. We may only be through two days of the new Premier League campaign, but here are five things to ponder in England’s top flight so far.
Is there something wrong with Harry Kane?
Before you freak out: no, probably not. It’s one match, and it comes in Harry Kane’s famous hoodoo month – he’s never scored a Premier League goal in August.
But the 25-year-old’s inability to find the net in Saturday morning’s 2-0 victory over Newcastle is not the primary concern for Tottenham. Instead, the England captain’s continued lack of explosiveness since returning from last season’s ankle ligament issue is worrying.
Kane is talented enough to score goals in multiple ways, even when he’s not in peak physical condition – as he showed at the World Cup, where he captured the Golden Boot despite clearly lacking his typical sharpness. The concern for Spurs, however, stems from Kane’s role as both primary finisher and influential creator. The striker often drifts out into intelligent positions to create space for the likes of Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen to get into the area.
Again, it’s only one match – and one which comes just a month after his grueling World Cup participation ended – but Tottenham need Kane to get back to his physical best if they hope to shrug off their woeful summer and take another step forward this season.
How quickly will Chelsea adopt Sarri-ball?
So far, so good for Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea.
The Blues opened their season with a comfortable 3-0 win over Huddersfield on Saturday, getting goals from unlikely midfield sources in N’Golo Kante and debutant Jorginho, before Pedro solidified the result with a crafty dink over the ‘keeper in the latter stages of the contest.
Chelsea, coming off two years of working under Antonio Conte’s defense-first system, enters the campaign as arguably the league’s biggest wild card. How will the squad adapt to Sarri’s nuanced system, which values aggressive pressing and, above all else, ball retention and quick, incisive passing?
The Italian bench boss even admitted Friday that it would take plenty of time – “months,” in his estimation – for his players to be totally comfortable with his tactics, the way his former side Napoli were.
It wasn’t perfect at the John Smith’s Stadium on Saturday – and the quality of the opposition needs to be considered – but there were reasons for optimism. Jorginho, the midfield fulcrum, controlled the tempo for large portions of the match, and Mateo Kovacic’s arrival will prove a massive upgrade on Ross Barkley, who completed the midfield trio along with Kante against the Terriers.
The lovely passage of play that created the first-half penalty – which Jorginho cheekily slotted home – was a brief glimpse into what Chelsea fans are hoping becomes commonplace under Sarri.
Who’s the best player outside the top 6?
Riyad Mahrez, one of only five players to hit double figures in both goals and assists last season, previously held the crown as the Premier League’s best player not employed by one of the division’s six heavyweights.
The Algerian winger rectified that this summer, earning his desired big-money move to Manchester City for a reported £60-million fee.
That leaves a handful of players vying for the distinction as the league’s best outside of City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal, and Manchester United.
Chief among that list, though, is Crystal Palace’s marquee man, Wilfried Zaha. The 25-year-old winger scored the insurance marker in the Eagles’ 2-0 win over Fulham on Saturday, and was, as is often the case, the main attacking outlet for Roy Hodgson’s side.
An excellent dribbler – his 4.2 successful dribbles per 90 minutes last season were good enough for third in the Premier League – Zaha’s electric skill set is always a joy to watch. If Christian Benteke can rebound from last season’s horrible run of finishing luck, Zaha may very well rack up a double-digit assist total, and could follow in Mahrez’s footsteps next summer.
Why did Porto let Ruben Neves go for so cheap?
A reported Championship-record fee of £15.8 million isn’t exactly a pittance, but there’s no denying that Portuguese giant Porto would probably love a mulligan on the 2017 sale of young midfielder Ruben Neves.
The 21-year-old scored a gorgeous free-kick in Saturday’s draw with Everton, giving Jordan Pickford the eyes before whipping a perfect curler into the top corner.
His long-distance shooting is no secret, but Neves’ well-rounded game continues to impress. His inch-perfect ball that teed up Raul Jimenez’s equalizer was just as wonderful as his first-half strike.
We could be looking at the PFA Young Player of the Year.
Did we all overreact to Richarlison’s transfer fee?
Worth every penny?
Plenty of jaws hit the floor when Marco Silva’s men splashed £35 million – which could reportedly hit £50 million in additional bonuses – to pry Brazilian winger Richarlison away from Watford.
The 21-year-old was coming off a season in which he scored just five goals and crafted only four assists, leading many to exclaim that Everton had thrown a significant chunk of cash away.
They may be singing a different tune now.
Richarlison scored both of his side’s goals in the exhilarating 2-2 draw with Wolves – including a sweet strike for his second. He was the main attacking threat for the Merseyside club at the Molineux.
Despite his mediocre stats on the surface, his strong underlying numbers in 2017-18 suggested that he may very well be worth the significant financial outlay.
Surrounded by better talent this season, and working once again under a manager in Silva who got the best out of him with Watford, Richarlison could make plenty of pundits retract their criticisms of the move.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)