Mourinho's Stamford Bridge return; Arsenal try not to pull an Arsenal
W2W4 previews the weekend's Premier League fixtures and highlights five key storylines.
How will Jose Mourinho approach his return to Stamford Bridge?
If nothing else, it will be interesting to see what sort of mindset Jose Mourinho arrives back at Chelsea with on Sunday. Against Liverpool on Monday his primary aim seemed to be to stop his opponents -- a perfectly sensible, if not massively entertaining strategy. But that was against a team that looked like they were hitting their attacking stride and thus a containing approach was more justified, but Chelsea have looked less certain going forward. Indeed, there are clearly areas in their side Mourinho could exploit with a more positive mentality, if he chooses to do so.
Antonio Conte's experiment with a three-man defence is two games old, and while two clean sheets have been kept, those haven't been against attacks which offered much. Victor Moses is still getting used to playing as a wing-back, and whichever trio play in that three-man backline won't exactly be experts either. With the pace United have available on the wings, encouraging Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and/or Jesse Lingard to attack a little more than they were asked/allowed to at Anfield could cause big problems for Chelsea. If nothing else, on Monday it was extremely frustrating to see a side with as much talent in it as United's essentially acting as spoilers, to take a reactive rather than proactive stance in a big game. Mourinho might not want to take too many risks, and we expect this of him in this sort of game, but it would be nice to see him take the shackles off a bit.
Will Manchester City's blip continue against Southampton?
Four matches without a win. Given that two were draws and two were against Tottenham and Barcelona, perhaps the best opponents Manchester City will face in the Premier and Champions Leagues this season, it's doubtful Pep Guardiola will be panicking excessively. But that still represents a very unusual dip for one of his sides: the only time a Guardiola team has gone longer without a victory was in his first year at Barcelona, when they drew three and lost two in spring 2009. This is probably just a blip, but a win against a fine Southampton side at the weekend is not a given. After that five-game run in 2009, Barcelona won their next seven games and embarked on an unbeaten run which included that famous 6-2 win over Real Madrid in the Bernabeu. The way City were playing before this slip-up, they could easily repeat that.
Will Arsenal avoid being 'Arsenal'?
Arsenal are playing superbly at the moment. They've won their last seven games in all competitions, and haven't lost since that madcap 4-3 defeat to Liverpool on the opening weekend. Theo Walcott finally looks like the player we all thought he'd be, nobody has scored more goals and they're level on points with Manchester City. They haven't even got many injuries, which is surreal. And yet, there's always the suspicion with Arsenal -- because we've had years of evidence pointing this way -- that they could make a frustrating mess of things at any moment. That could come in the form of a careless defeat to a team they should beat handily: a team like Middlesbrough for example, this weekend's visitors. Beating Aitor Karanka's side won't convince anyone further that they could win the title, but each passing week does offer more evidence that things might actually have changed.
Can Sunderland go backwards any further?
This week, Jermain Defoe commented that Sunderland appear to have "gone backwards" this season. As they're bottom of the table with just two points to their name, that might seem a fairly self-evident statement, but it was rather surprising to hear it from their star (only) striker, and in an interview with their official website, no less. Opinion seems to be solidifying that David Moyes, only eight league games into his tenure, is already on borrowed time. One would think that if they don't get a result against West Ham on Saturday then the clamour could grow much louder. They're the only side in the top four divisions without a win so far this season, and should results go against them they might be seven points from safety by the end of the weekend. Is Sam Allardyce back from his holiday yet?
Can Stoke confirm the party is over for Hull?
Hull City have one point from their last six games. The first five of those featured defeats to Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea, with a handy draw at Burnley thrown in -- all of which can be filed under the "no disgrace" category. However, last weekend they were taken to the cleaners by Bournemouth, the 6-1 defeat exposing that this is still not a squad ready for the challenges of the Premier League. Stoke, on the other hand, are showing signs of life after a rotten start to the season, taking five points from the last available nine and recording their first win last weekend. The initial performances from both teams were rather unexpected, but should the Potters win on Saturday then it should be an indicator of the directions both these teams are heading in.
Nick Miller is a writer for ESPN FC, covering Premier League and European football. Follow him on Twitter @NickMiller79.