Gary Neville assesses Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea ahead of the Premier League’s return.
Top-flight action resumes this weekend after the international break and the Sky Sports expert has had his say on the sides who finished in the top six last season, assessing their starts to the campaign.
Read on for his views on Liverpool’s title charge, Man City’s potential problem, Arsenal’s promising start under Unai Emery, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Man United rebuild and difficult starts for Spurs and Chelsea.
Liverpool’s Premier League record so far
Neville says: “I was watching Liverpool at Burnley and I had that feeling.
“I said last year I thought they were a championship team. They are a championship team. They are playing at a level that could win the title.
“You watched them at Burnley, and they weren’t brilliant in the first 20 minutes, but they go and get a goal and then a second goal.
“You talk about the clinical element of a team. The defensive bit is right, the attacking bit is right, and the midfield looks solid and experienced. They are a title-winning team and they were last year, essentially with what they did.”
How to watch Liverpool this weekend: Follow Liverpool vs Newcastle with our dedicated live blog from 11.30am on Saturday. Highlights of the game will be published at 5.15pm on the Sky Sports website and app plus the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel.
Manchester City’s Premier League record so far
Neville says: “If Aymeric Laporte’s injury is a serious one, it is a big problem for City. I said a few weeks ago that I was struggling to understand why City didn’t follow through on Harry Maguire with Vincent Kompany leaving the club.
“I thought Kompany won them the league in the last 10 matches of last season when he played in all those games. Forget the Leicester moment which was just spectacular, I thought his leadership held them together at a time when Liverpool were applying pressure like you wouldn’t believe. In terms of that leader-type figure, I think Laporte has got that.
“I think this will cost City points. To be fair, there is no one better in the world at coaching than Pep Guardiola, full stop. And there is no one better at making what would be make-shift centre-backs play well.
“I watched two Champions League finals where Barcelona had Javier Mascherano and Yaya Toure playing centre-back against Manchester United. So, I’m not going to sit here and make the mistake of thinking Guardiola can’t turn a Fernandinho or a Kyle Walker into a top centre-back because they have that much of the ball during games.
“What I would say is that if Laporte is out for a long time, I think it will cost City points because he is a dominant centre-back. I saw him in Spain three times and he’s a great player. It’s a real worry for City. That’s the one downer out of the weekend for City and if I was a City fan it would worry me in the short-term and the medium-term, depending on how long he was out for.”
How to watch Man City this weekend: Norwich vs Manchester City is live on Saturday Night Football from 5pm; kick-off 5.30pm. Sky Sports customers can watch in-game clips in the live match blog on the Sky Sports website and app. Highlights will also be published on the Sky Sports website and app as well as the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel shortly after the final whistle.
Norwich vs Man City
September 14, 2019, 5:00pm
Arsenal’s Premier League record so far
Neville says: “I thought there was good things from Arsenal in their defeat at Liverpool. I came out of it with a level of sympathy, thinking there was something there to build on. I haven’t always been like that with Arsenal. Against Spurs, similarly, you talk about the threat, the intensity, good parts of the game but you still have to mention that they do look sloppy and rash at the back.
“We talked about the goalkeeper, Bernd Leno’s mistake. I don’t quite trust him. I don’t think he’s anywhere near the class of the other top goalkeepers we have in the Premier League. The two centre-backs, Sokratis and David Luiz, are rash.
“You can argue that Hector Bellerin has got to come back in, Rob Holding’s got to come back, and Kieran Tierney has also got to return so that back four can be strengthened. However, you still fear that back four will still not be quite good enough for where Arsenal want to be.
“They somehow need to unearth a centre-back from somewhere that’s going to hold that back line together.
“There’s still that fear about Arsenal that they look all over the place at the back when they have good players against them.
“We saw Tottenham create many chances on the counter-attack against them whereas the really top teams manage the counter-attack. They sustain their own attacks and don’t allow other teams to counter them very often, City and Liverpool in particular.
How to watch Arsenal this weekend: Watford vs Arsenal is live on Super Sunday from 4pm; kick-off 4.30pm. Sky Sports customers can watch in-game clips in the live match blog on the Sky Sports website and app. Highlights will also be published on the Sky Sports digital platforms and the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel shortly after the final whistle.
Watford vs Arsenal
September 15, 2019, 4:00pm
Manchester United’s Premier League record so far
Neville says: “When you have a young team like the one Manchester United have – it’s got a lot of players who are developing and trying to improve themselves – I think they are going to get a lot of results like this where they do OK in the game. I thought they performed okay against Southampton, but they just don’t have that clinical element which would allow them to see the game off and win the game.
“There is an element of frustration from United fans because of where the club have been. There’s still that recent history of big success under Sir Alex Ferguson but there’s been six or seven years now since that and there’s an element of frustration building – real frustration – that they are not on the right track.
“I think they are on the right track in terms of what they are doing because the first thing United must do, you have to have a group of people in that changing room that want to be there.
“Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, in what he is doing, is trying to play the long game. To play the long game he is going to need the support from up above. He’s going to need strong leadership over the next two or three seasons to be able to have those four or five transfer windows that he needs, not just to actually get people in the dressing room all facing the same direction, but to get the quality in that’s needed. You need the quality to go with the alignment in the dressing room.
“What Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have done at Man City and Liverpool, it took time to get right. It took Guardiola 12 months, three transfer windows, because he had a better squad in the first place. It’s taken Klopp three or four years to affect the culture fully and get a team fully in what he would say is his style, his culture and what he wants to do.
“It does take time. Solskjaer is working more with a squad like the one Klopp picked up at Liverpool than the one Guardiola inherited at City. From that point of view, this is going to be a long game at Old Trafford and it’s going to be frustrating at times. There are going to be results like Southampton, Wolves and Crystal Palace along the way, but when you watch the team a lot of the principles are correct.
“They seem to be playing the right way. You see Daniel James score that goal and you see the way in which they are trying to play. The style of it is right, the bones are there. But there’s still a very long way to go and it’s going to be bumpy along the way.”
How to watch Manchester United this weekend: Follow Manchester United vs Leicester with our dedicated live blog from 2pm on Saturday. Highlights of the game will be published at 5.15pm on the Sky Sports website and app plus the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel.
Tottenham’s Premier League record so far
Neville says: “The draw at Arsenal was a big moment for Spurs. In the lead up to the game, there was an element of pressure towards Tottenham in terms of Mauricio Pochettino. There were suggestions that he could be on his way out. There were suggestions the dressing room wasn’t quite as it should be when you’ve seen over the last three or four years the most perfect harmony between coach and players.
“I don’t think that’s not there anymore. Ultimately there’s just been some unsettling elements in terms of players maybe wanting to leave and maybe wanting to run their contracts down.
“However, to have withstood that pressure in the second-half at the Emirates before the international break and come away with a point was a big moment for Pochettino. It’s something for him as a coach to build on.
“I don’t buy into this Arsenal are going to finish above Tottenham stuff, to be honest. There’s talk Spurs are on the way down, but I still think they are an excellent team.”
How to watch Tottenham this weekend: Follow Tottenham vs Crystal Palace with our dedicated live blog from 2pm on Saturday. Highlights of the game will be published at 5.15pm on the Sky Sports website and app plus the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel.
Chelsea’s Premier League record so far
Neville says: “Like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United, I think the same for Frank Lampard at Chelsea. We are seeing Lampard try to change what has been a machine for the last 15 years at Chelsea. They’ve been a physical machine that’s had that experience. You’ve always looked at Chelsea and thought they know their way around the pitch. They are wise, they are mature.
“You look at this team now and it has less experience. It has less know how and it has more youth and immaturity about it. With that comes more mistakes and some bad results.
“Lampard is a young manager, but having made the decision to appoint him, it doesn’t seem right that they’re not going to go with them and back them with what they are trying to do – because he’s trying to change the culture at the club.
“If you are trying to do what Lampard’s doing, which is bringing through the likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and other academy-type players, you are going to have to give him time. That’s the big question for both Chelsea, and Manchester United. They are going to need strong leadership, they are going to have to withstand some pressure, particularly on social media, and stand firm. They need to say: “We know what’s being built here, it’s right and we’re going to go with it.”
How to watch Chelsea this weekend: Follow Wolves vs Chelsea with our dedicated live blog from 2pm on Saturday. Highlights of the game will be published at 5.15pm on the Sky Sports website and app plus the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel.