Even though Arsenal sit the top of the Premier League, questions are being asked of the team’s title credentials ahead of Saturday’s standout match against Liverpool.
Home losses to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League and Chelsea in the last 16 of the League Cup have been seized upon by critics who believe the Gunners still lack the class and squad depth to last the course in the title race.
Liverpool, third in the standings and level on points with second-placed Chelsea, will be only the second opponents with a genuine chance of finishing in the Champions League positions that Arsenal have played this season.
Chelsea and Manchester United are starting to run into some form ahead of matches at Newcastle and Fulham, while Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has a goalkeeping dilemma for the home game against Norwich.
It wasn’t the results against Dortmund and Chelsea but the manner of the performances that got many Arsenal fans worried.
Largely outplayed by both visiting teams, the Gunners managed only three shots on target in those games and there is a dependence on striker Olivier Giroud.
Manager Arsene Wenger, though, has seen his side win seven of the past eight matches in the league and isn’t panicking.
“I believe that, over a longer distance, you’ll see more of the quality of the team than in the last two games,” he said.
Between them, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have scored 10 goals in Liverpool’s past four league matches and their pace, movement and finishing prowess is proving to be a nightmare for defences.
Suarez goes into the game on the back of a hat trick in the 4-1 win over West Bromwich last weekend, while Sturridge has only failed to score in one of Liverpool’s nine league games.
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has stuck by Joe Hart despite a string of mistakes this season but the goalkeeper’s late blunder in the 2-1 loss at Chelsea on Sunday may have been one too many.
Pellegrini has yet to decide whether Hart or second-choice keeper Costel Pantilimon will start against Norwich on Saturday.
The English Premier League has a new derby match to look forward to – and it takes place in Wales.
Cardiff and Swansea, Welsh football’s two biggest clubs, will meet Sunday for the 106th time in a rivalry that has often been marred by crowd trouble and animosity.
“They are special games, whether it’s Real Madrid vs. Barcelona, Lazio vs. Roma, FC Copenhagen vs. Brondby or Juventus vs. Torino,” said Swansea manager Michael Laudrup, who played in a slew of big derby matches over his distinguished career.
“You just know how much it means to the people, especially the fans.”
It’s the first time the two rivals will have met in the top division.
Routine victories have been hard to come by for David Moyes since replacing Alex Ferguson as Manchester United manager, so Tuesday’s 4-0 win over Norwich in the League Cup will have been gratefully accepted.
It was the third straight win in a week for United, after beating Real Sociedad 1-0 in the Champions League and Stoke 3-2 in the Premier League, so maybe Moyes’ ideas are finally kicking in.
“It is your job now to get behind the new man,” Ferguson told the crowd at Old Trafford at the end of last season after his final home match in charge.
And United fans have just done that, despite a rocky start to the new campaign that has left United in eighth place after nine games – eight points behind Arsenal.