Sharman’s 3 Thoughts: Tottenham a tough test for Chelsea

Soccer Central’s Craig Forrest and James Sharman preview the Swansea City/Manchester United and Liverpool/Crystal Palace matchups this weekend.

Ahead of every weekend this season I will give you my three thoughts on what’s going on in the Premier League. These might not always be the biggest stories, but rather my personal observations as the games approach each Saturday.

One week into the season, and already we know these things for sure: Antonio Conte will be the first manager sacked, Huddersfield will qualify for the Champions League in its first campaign in the Premier League, and Wayne Rooney will score 38 goals in his return to Everton. 

Here’s what makes me somewhat intrigued ahead of Matchday 2.

Sigurdsson worth the price

Manchester City host Everton on Monday, which just might be the match to watch this weekend. On Thursday, the Toffees paraded 45 million-pound man Gylfi Sigurdsson in front of its faithful fans. I have heard many pundits criticize the price, complaining that the Icelandic playmaker is not worth that sum. I don’t understand that argument at all. 

Sigurdsson is a wonderful player, arguably the best from set-piece situations in the league, and runs more than any other player, too. That last fact is just that, a fact. He is the No. 10 that Everton need, and I am surprised more teams weren’t in on him. How Ronald Koeman lines his team up to accommodate the new signing along with Wayne Rooney will be interesting, but out of all of Everton’s many newcomers, this is the one I have the most faith in.

Watch five games from the Premier League this weekend live on Sportsnet, including Arsenal vs. Manchester City. Coverage begins Saturday at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Spurs a tough test for Chelsea

Tottenham host Chelsea on Sunday at Wembley, which might also be the match to watch this weekend. Let’s not fool ourselves, this one is all about Chelsea.  As much as the Blues were utterly horrific in a home loss to Burnley last Saturday (in the first half at least) the “glass is half full” fans out there must have taken away some positives, considering a nine-man Chelsea managed to score a goal, and once Alvaro Morata came on the side looked dangerous again. 

Antonio Conte has been fired a thousand times this week, but a win at Spurs will switch the narrative in his favour. Will Conte ditch the track suit and return to the suit this weekend? And can this team, already without its captain, as well as three central midfielders find a way to get something at Spurs?  I’m looking forward to it.

Liverpool and a case for the defence

Liverpool return to the friendly confines of Anfield on Saturday following a disappointing draw at Watford, and a workmanlike win at Hoffenheim. The trouble is, Crystal Palace have beaten Liverpool at Anfield in three straight matches. Sorry Reds, but the transfer market appears to have dried up for you, with yet more comments out of Southampton suggesting any deal for Virgil van Dijk will likely go down to the deadline day, or never… you take your pick. 

So then, it’s up to Jurgen Klopp to actually coach a bit, and improve the defence, especially from set-pieces. Palace have width, and have that big bloke in the middle who wasn’t good enough for Klopp, so you can imagine Christian Benteke is licking his chops.  That being said, last week in a loss to new boys Huddersfield, Palace looked completely lost under new manager Frank De Boer, who has since lost Wilfred Zaha for a few weeks. Liverpool will get their chances, but has Klopp improved the defence? 

Sportsnet's Soccer Central podcast (featuring James Sharman, Thomas Dobby, Brendan Dunlop, and John Molinaro) takes an in-depth look at the beautiful game and offers timely and thoughtful analysis on the sport's biggest issues.