Arsenal's Ghanaian midfielder Thomas Partey (right) passes the ball during the English Premier League football match between Crystal Palace and Arsenal at Selhurst Park in south London on Aug 5, 2022. (JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)
LONDON - The new Premier League season is only one week old, but the coming weekend already has some matches that already look as if they will be vital to the long-term future of several clubs involved.
The weekend's opening game sets the tone as Aston Villa entertains Everton. Steven Gerrard's side produced a tame opening day defeat away to Bournemouth and needs to improve to satisfy pre-season expectations against rivals who also kicked off with a setback.
Everton lost Yerry Mina and Ben Godfrey to injury last weekend but has compensated by signing Conor Coady on loan from Wolves to shore up their defense.
Arsenal lived up to its billing as top-four hopeful with a convincing win away to Crystal Palace to kick off its season and will be optimistic of following it up with three more points at home to Leicester City.
Leicester let a two-goal lead slip against Brentford a week ago and has Youri Tielemans and Wesley Fofana in its side, with Arsenal still keen on signing the former and Chelsea chasing the latter.
Brentford's fightback last week showed they know exactly what they are doing and that the team has personality and spirit - something that can't be said of Saturday's visitors, Manchester United.
Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (left) and Fulham's Antonee Robinson vie for the ball during the English Premier League soccer match between Fulham and Liverpool at Craven Cottage stadium in London, Aug 6, 2022. (IAN WALTON / AP)
It took less than an hour for the pre-season optimism around Old Trafford to disappear in a 2-1 defeat at home to Brighton and Erik ten Hag clearly has work to do to give his side an identity. Defeat in southwest London would certainly start alarm bells ringing at a club whose fans are becoming increasingly fed up by what is happening on and off the pitch.
Brighton impressed last weekend but face a tough home opener with Newcastle United visiting the Amex Stadium. Expect a tactical battle between teams coached by two of the best English managers in the game (Graham Potter and Eddie Howe) where Newcastle's extra firepower could be decisive.
Manchester City strolled to victory away to West Ham and will expect to do the same against Bournemouth, who returned to the top flight with a win against Aston Villa.
This marks the start of a tough run of matches for the visitors, with Arsenal and Liverpool on the horizon and anything Scott Parker's men can get from these games will be a bonus.
Southampton needs to improve drastically on its 4-1 thrashing away to Spurs when it entertains Leeds United, otherwise, there will be justified early relegation worries at St Mary's.
Arsenal's English defender Ben White wins a header during the English Premier League football match between Crystal Palace and Arsenal at Selhurst Park in south London on Aug 5, 2022. (JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)
Meanwhile Wolves will want to improve on its opening day defeat to Leeds when it faces a Fulham side, who will be boosted by its opening day display at home to Liverpool and looking for Aleksandr Mitrovic to put fear into a Wolves defense without Conor Coady.
Sunday sees the biggest match of the weekend with Chelsea at home to Tottenham, who travels on the back of its thumping win over Southampton. A win for Antonio Conte against his former club, would only strengthen Spurs' title hopes, while raising more question marks over Chelsea, whose attack was further depleted by the sale of Timo Werner this week.
Premier League football returns to the City Ground when Nottingham Forrest entertains West Ham, while Liverpool is at home to Crystal Palace on Monday, knowing it can't drop points after its opening day slip-up.
Palace disappointed against Arsenal and there were signs they will miss Conor Gallagher, who returned to Chelsea after last season's successful loan spell.