With the international break upon us, three Sportsmail Wise Men answer 10 big questions on the Premier League, the England side, women’s football… and VAR!
1. Will two teams get 90 points again?
Watching Liverpool, there is so much intensity to the way they play. Jurgen Klopp gets his players so fired up. When I watch Pep Guardiola’s City, I see more of an artistic side.
Both styles got them to 90-plus points last season. I expect nothing less again. The first games back after the international break are important (City at Norwich, Liverpool home to Newcastle). You have to get back to winning.
Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah (L-R) celebrate in Liverpool’s win at Burnley
Kevin De Bruyne was central to Manchester City’s 4-0 victory over Brighton on Saturday
Chris Sutton: It’s a two-horse race and both should pass 90 points again. I can’t see Tottenham or any of the chasing pack troubling them.
Chelsea and Manchester United should be more worried about Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester pushing one of them out of the top six.
2. Who wins it and who makes top four?
Keown: I backed Liverpool in my pre-season predictions, and had City, Tottenham and Arsenal completing the top four. I’m standing by that, but fourth is wide open. Anyone could nick it. United seem to be dropping points for fun – a draw at Wolves when they should have won, a home loss to Crystal Palace, then 1-1 at Southampton.
Sutton: I’m still backing City for the title, followed by Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal. United haven’t got the players to get there. I can’t believe they let Alexis Sanchez go. They had already sold Romelu Lukaku and signed no replacement, so they were already light up front.
I fear Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has cut his nose off to spite his face. He’s now relying on Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, maybe even 17-year-old Mason Greenwood to do a job up front. As for Chelsea, with their lack of signings and no Eden Hazard, the top four is beyond them.
Mancester United have won just one of their opening four games of the new season
3. What did Arsenal vs Spurs teach us?
Keown: There are question marks for Arsenal defensively. We know all about their attacking strength, and Nicolas Pepe’s arrival makes their forward line even better, but there remains uncertainty at the back.
There were times when David Luiz was left on his own against Spurs, and you can’t have that. Sokratis left a big gap for Christian Eriksen’s opener after abandoning his position in a bid to win a header. The most defensively minded player on the pitch was Alexandre Lacazette!
As for Spurs, I just wonder if they’re suffering a post-Champions League final hangover.
Sutton: Arsenal are good going forward, but vulnerable at the back. Those same frailties are still there. David Luiz does not fix that. On Tottenham, Mauricio Pochettino has brought a lot of unnecessary focus on his team.
He was backed in the transfer market, spent more than £100million, yet he can’t help but do cryptic press conferences. There is an unsettled air at Spurs.
There remain question marks for Arsenal defensively despite the signing of David Luiz
Tottenham appear to be suffering from a post-Champions League final hangover this year
4. Will Frank and Ole last the season?
Keown: With what Chelsea are going through, Frank Lampard should be supported. OK, Chelsea should never be 2-0 up against a promoted club at Stamford Bridge and draw 2-2.
But Lampard has demonstrated he can get good performances out of young players. It shouldn’t be a case of him keeping the seat warm until they can find another head coach, once they can sign players again.
Solskjaer has to get results very quickly. It feels like he is struggling. One win in 10 is not good enough. Solskjaer – and Lampard, given Chelsea’s transfer ban – are two young bosses working with hands tied behind their backs.
Sutton: There is a willingness to show patience with Lampard. He is working in the post- Hazard era and putting up with a transfer embargo.
Lampard should last the season, but I’m not so sure Solskjaer will. He took over at Old Trafford last season, finishing with one win in their last seven Premier League games. Now their troubles are continuing.
Frank Lampard has demonstrated he can get good performances out of young players
Manchester United are continuing to struggle under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this season
5. Which three clubs will be relegated?
Keown: It’s so hard to say. I predicted Newcastle, Norwich and Sheffield United in pre-season but Chris Wilder’s side have the same number of points as Tottenham! Watford, tipped to push for Europe in pre-season, are bottom. Maybe Bournemouth and Southampton will start to feel the pressure.
Sutton: I’m standing by my initial guesses of Sheffield United, Brighton and Aston Villa. But I am worried about my old team Norwich. They’ve got a young back line, a talented team, but these are players not used to the Premier League. You have to hope they don’t start to doubt themselves.
6. Which player has impressed you most?
Keown: Dani Ceballos. His home debut against Burnley was one of the best I’ve seen in an Arsenal shirt. I love his willingness to get on the ball and couldn’t work out why he was benched against Spurs. He seems a special player.
Sutton: It has to be Teemu Pukki. Not many players have come up from the Championship and hit the ground running as emphatically as this guy. After goals against Liverpool and Chelsea and a hat-trick against Newcastle, he must feel he belongs at this level.
If Norwich are to avoid dropping back down, they will need Pukki to carry on scoring. He will believe he can, too.
Dani Ceballos (left) and Teemu Pukki have been two of the best performers so far this season
7. Who will win the Golden Boot?
Keown: If Liverpool are going to be champions, it has to be Mohamed Salah. He will pip Sadio Mane this season, and I’m sure Klopp won’t have let those two leave Turf Moor on Saturday without dealing with their squabble. Salah went through a spell where he struggled to score last season, but I see more in his play this year than I have before.
Sutton: Harry Kane. Fitness permitting, he will always be leading that line for Spurs. Sergio Aguero has come flying out of the blocks, but he may be rested for the odd game. Kane takes penalties, as we saw against Arsenal. He felt he should have been awarded a second one but come on Harry… that wasn’t worth a spot-kick.
8. Can we say VAR is working?
Mark Clattenburg: VAR is working for the factual decisions such as offside or the ball being out of play. Some of the marginal calls have led to criticism of VAR, and I understand that, but if the technology is telling us it’s a centimetre offside, then we have to accept that.
The main reason VAR has not worked in the early weeks is because the Premier League and PGMOL have raised the bar too high for the official to intervene when it comes to subjective decisions. This is causing massive inconsistency.
Referees need to be told to refer to the pitchside monitor more often, rather than the VAR official sticking with the on-field call. It does not matter if this takes time. The most important thing is getting the decision correct.
In time, there are two things I would like to see trialled. The first is to allow fans in the stadium and watching on TV to hear the chat between the officials, so that everyone understands what is happening. The second is to allow two challenges per match to be made by each team via their captains. This works well in cricket.
VAR has proved a hot topic of conversation in the opening weeks of the new league season
Jack Grealish remonstrates with referee Kevin Friend after Aston Villa had a goal disallowed
Keown: I found it intriguing that Michael Oliver, one of the Premier League’s best referees, was not overseeing a match at the weekend. Instead, he was doing a double shift at Stockley Park – Southampton vs Manchester United and Burnley vs Liverpool.
Why was Oliver there and not at a match? Because the Premier League need the right messages coming out of their VAR centre. There are changes needed. Mic up the officials so we can hear what is happening. Show what is happening in stadiums, because it is chaos in its current form.
Sutton: Why aren’t the referees using their pitch-side monitors? That’s the biggest head-scratcher for me. If I was a Premier League referee now, I’m not sure I’d be trusting the officials at Stockley Park. They’re making too many mistakes.
The Youri Tielemans challenge on Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson was a prime example. If I was a referee, I’d want to be reviewing incidents like that with my own eyes from now on.
9. How can we grow the women’s game?
Keown: The BBC are doing a brilliant job bringing women’s football to us. England’s 3-3 draw with Belgium was available last Thursday. The Beeb show the domestic game online and via the red button, too. For the game to grow, maybe showing it live weekly on free TV would help. The audience is there for it.
Sutton: I don’t think we need to do anything drastic. We need to keep going as we are. The women’s game is out there now. We see it on TV, it’s well reported in the media. Everyone is aware of it. There was a lot of love for the England women at the World Cup. The profile of the game is rising and let’s hope it continues.
James Maddison looks set to make his senior England debut against Bulgaria this week
10. What’s your England team to play Bulgaria?
Keown: Pickford; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Maguire, Chilwell; Maddison, Henderson, Mount; Sancho, Kane, Sterling. This is a good opportunity for Gareth Southgate to give debuts to some of his promising youngsters.
England are ranked fourth in the world and Bulgaria are 60th, so the win should not be in doubt. Southgate wants to learn more about these players. The best way is by playing them.
Sutton: Pickford; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Maguire, Chilwell; Maddison, Winks, Mount; Sterling, Kane, Sancho. That is the team I’d like to see, not the team I think we will see!
Southgate has called up several youngsters, and I want to see them used. Mason Mount is in form in the Premier League, so throw him in. James Maddison is another who is thriving for his club Leicester, so hand him his international debut.