Preview and Predictions for Matchweek 2 of the 2021-22 Premier League SeasonAugust 21, 2021
Not the start Arsenal had hoped for this season.
One week down out of 38 in the English Premier League season and we’ve already had some stellar action, with the league’s elite making some real statements, both good and bad. This is all while not one draw was registered across the 10 opening matchday fixtures—10 wins, 10 losses. Tremendous.
Manchester United rolled Leeds United 5-1 and saw the best of both Bruno Fernandes (ridiculous hat trick) and Paul Pogba (four assists), which certainly bodes well for the long haul. Chelsea and Liverpool did what was expected with easy victories against Crystal Palace and Norwich City, respectively. Manchester City lost 1-0 to a formidable Tottenham Hotspur side sans Harry Kane. Not an ideal start, but Pep Guardiola’s side will be fine.
And then there’s Arsenal. The official opener for the EPL season was a thrilling 2-0 win for Brentford against a hapless Gunners side in west London. The Bees’ first top-flight match in 74 years was a lively contest that had fans in the stands with tears in their eyes. The emotional and deserved victory for the home side and the disappointing start to the season for Mikel Arteta’s men was a sight to behold.
Matchweek 2 offers a solid slate of fixtures, headlined by an important second match for Arteta’s side against a difficult Chelsea squad. Hate to say make or break this early, but Arsenal needs a result in this one.
Let us start with Sunday’s match at the Emirates Stadium
Sunday, Aug. 22, 11:30am ET
Streaming: NBCSN, Telemundo
It wasn’t that Arsenal was outmatched against Brentford—that’s a bit silly to type. But the team just never felt that invested in coming away from a noisy and emotional Brentford Community Stadium with a result. Obviously, player availability was an issue. First-choice forwards Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette were both out of the lineup because of illness, but you were hoping for more if you support the Gunners, as jaded as many of their faithful have become.
And that was against Brentford, a first-time Premier League participant with a combined squad value of $185 million, according to Transfermarkt (compared to Arsenal’s near $600 million). Teams start slow sometimes, but the pressure is already dialed all the way up as a first home match of the year signals a visit from a much bigger London rival: Chelsea.
Clocking in at a cool $1.02 billion, the European champions have one of the most expensive teams in the world and have lofty aspirations for the upcoming season, with dominance over their city rivals being a top priority. And the Blues come into this match full of confidence following an opening-weekend victory over Crystal Palace.
To make matters worse for Arsenal, the visitors should have $135 million No. 9 Romelu Lukaku in the lineup ready to cast away any doubters of his ability in the Premier League. His return to Chelsea was a collision course of inevitability, venomous strikes and ludicrous finances, but he is back and he is out to prove a point, with Arsenal being his first victims.
In Week 1 against Palace, three players scored for Thomas Tuchel’s side (Trevoh Chalobah, Christian Pulisic and Marcos Alonso). That balance has both served the Blues well in the past and will be to their benefit this season, though Lukaku will want the lion’s share for himself in his first EPL campaign since 2018-19. Chelsea’s diversity in attack will simply be too much for Arsenal to cope with, even if it has strengthened its options recently with the transfer of last season’s loanee Martin Odegaard from Real Madrid. It just won’t be enough.
A Sunday-evening defeat at home against Chelsea looks the only scenario for the Gunners, though it will be able to regroup and refocus entering a Matchweek 3 contest with *checks notes* Manchester City.
Prediction: Chelsea 2, Arsenal 1
Sunday, Aug. 22, 9:00am ET
Streaming: NBCSN, Telemundo
The first Nuno Derby is here, and it should be a decent match. Wolverhampton Wanderers dropped their opener at Leicester City 1-0, while Spurs, as mentioned, beat Manchester City 1-0 at a packed Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday.
This match, however, will be the return of former Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo to Molineux as Spurs boss. The drama! We all know about Tottenham’s calamitous coaching search this summer, so there likely won’t be a ton of animosity directed at Nuno given that he wasn’t first choice to take over at the London club. Regardless, both sides will want to prove themselves as the attention of both sets of supporters will be on the bearded Portuguese frowning in Spurs’ technical area.
Against Leicester, Wolves were asleep for 45 minutes and decided to wake up in the second period with a flurry of good opportunities, but they couldn’t beat Kasper Schmeichel. Three attempts on target out of 17 shots is preseason form. And what did they have to show for it? A lot of nothing, as they were blanked on the scoresheet and bludgeoned by some Grade A trolling from Jamie Vardy, who scored a phenomenal goal and then howled at the Wolves supporters in the away end. Double blow.
They’ll need to be much quicker and more precise in front of goal against Tottenham, which will be buoyed by its exuberant performance against the champions Sunday despite a shocking UEFA Europa Conference League defeat to Pacos de Ferreira on Thursday with a weakened squad.
Once again, Heung-Min Son was central to the win against City, and if Harry Kane does leave the club, the South Korea international will be the main attacking force for Nuno this season. There’s no reason to think Son won’t be up to the task, however, as he has been fantastic in white for the better part of the past five seasons, with 2020-21 being his best campaign to date (17 goals and 10 assists in the league).
If Nuno and Co. can work attacking prodigy Bryan Gil into the mix and alter the team away from being built around one hulking target forward with quick feet, they should cause most teams in the league problems in the attacking third. This match should be no exception, Kane or no Kane.
It will be tough for the home side against a motivated set of visitors from the capital. Hard to see anything but a Tottenham win here.
Prediction: Wolves 1, Tottenham
Monday, Aug. 23, 3pm ET
Streaming: NBCSN, Universo
The last match we’re looking at here should be an interesting one under the lights at London Stadium on Monday evening. Both teams started the season with wins. West Ham United outlasted Newcastle United in a back-and-forth 4-2 match, while Leicester was a bit more sensible in its 1-0 victory against Wolves.
Finishing next to each other in the table last season, with the Foxes in fifth and West Ham in sixth, there is something of a mini rivalry growing between these clubs as they look to break through the class divide in the Premier League. An early-season contest between the pair should give us a good idea of where they are both headed and the levels which the clubs are punching at.
Leicester has entered the season as strong as it has since its return to the Premier League during The Great Escape season of 2014-15. There have been no major departures and a host of fresh talent (Patson Daka, Boubakary Soumare, Ryan Bertrand and Jannik Vestergaard) has arrived for manager Brendan Rodgers to work with. Yet in the opening-match win against Wolves it was the dependable core of Vardy, Schmeichel and Wilfred Ndidi keeping the Foxes on track. Ndidi, who is one of the most undervalued players in the league, was everywhere and restricted Wolves’ movement through the middle. West Ham has a more talented midfield, and Ndidi’s play will be central to the outcome Monday.
The Hammers, who have had a quieter summer in the transfer market (their only notable addition has been goalkeeper Alphonse Areola on loan from Paris Saint-Germain), have looked to keep their core intact and see whether David Moyes can take them to that next level this season. Against Leicester, it will be an intriguing matchup, where the midfield battle of Ndidi and Youri Tielemans against Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek will be where the match is won.
Given the strong starts from both sides and a level playing field on the talent front, a draw is feasible between these two hungry squads.
Prediction: West Ham 1, Leicester 1
Saturday, Aug. 21
Liverpool vs. Burnley (7:30 a.m. ET): 4-0 Liverpool
Aston Villa vs. Newcastle (10 a.m. ET): 2-1 Aston Villa
Crystal Palace vs. Brentford (10 a.m. ET): 1-1
Leeds United vs. Everton (10 a.m. ET): 3-2 Leeds United
Manchester City vs. Norwich City (10 a.m. ET): 4-1 Manchester City
Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Watford (12:30 p.m. ET): 2-2
Sunday, Aug. 22
Southampton vs. Manchester United (9 a.m. ET): 3-1 Manchester United