The second weekend of the 2014-15 Premiership campaign was highlighted by a couple top-heavy tussles and another missed opportunity from England's most accomplished club.
Similar to the biggest storyline of Week 1, Manchester United once again dropped points, but a draw at Sunderland at least opened new boss Louis van Gaal's account in that all-important department.
Back in Manchester, United's increasingly noisy neighbors turned up the volume on their season's start by besting Liverpool 3-1 on Monday. That win put Manchester City level with Tottenham, Chelsea, and Swansea City on six points at the top of the table.
Just below that quartet, Arsenal overcame a 2-0 halftime deficit at Goodison Park to grab a late equalizer versus Everton.
Like the Toffees, 11 teams remain winless through two matches, including virtually every club sporting a new manager. The only exception to that early development is Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham, the current league leaders following Sunday's 4-0 trashing of Queens Park Rangers.
Those results contributed toward another stellar week from the Best XI, where defensive improvements complemented another shining performance from the stable of strikers.
Swansea City’s Lukasz Fabianski built on his strong opening weekend by keeping a clean sheet in his home debut versus Burnley.
Also earning clean sheet points was Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic, who set up his team’s first goal to add an assist to his haul as well.
Still without a manager, Joel Ward and Crystal Palace leaked three goals at home, while Hull City captain Curtis Davies’ side conceded a late goal to wipe away their clean sheet effort, while he was also given a red card less than 20 minutes in.
Eden Hazard led the midfield with a goal in Chelsea’s 3-0 win. Along with the Belgian, both Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen and Gylfi Sigurddson kept the opponents scoreless, with the latter notching an assist to boot.
Eriksen nearly claimed a goal, but a free-kick effort rocketed off the bar. Thankfully, Juan Mata finished Manchester United’s lone goal to make up for Eriksen’s misfortune and cap off exceptional midfield production.
Up front, Chelsea’s marquee signing Diego Costa made good on his Best XI captain’s designation by finding the back of the net for a second consecutive week.
Likewise, Manchester City substitute Sergio Aguero’s second-half goal versus Liverpool doubled the Argentine’s season tally on Monday, when Daniel Sturridge helped on the Reds’ only score just minutes later.
On the whole, Week 2’s Best XI came away with five clean sheets, four goals, and three assists.
Before next weekend’s hiatus for international matches, Week 3 of the Premiership comes after most teams were involved in mid-week action, including European competition qualifiers or Capital One Cup clashes.
Continuing an unwanted early trend, Manchester United headlined this week’s Capital One Cup results for all the wrong reasons, falling 4-0 to MK Dons.
With pressure already boiling for Louis van Gaal, the Dutchman will be adamant his side takes all three points at Burnley in Saturday’s opening match. To help their cause, the Red Devils’ squad may include Angel di Maria, who joined from Real Madrid for an English record-high transfer fee earlier this week.
Later in the day, Manchester City will host Stoke City, who despite a rough start could take pride in allowing just one goal to the Citizens over their two meetings last season.
Also in the northern part of the country, Newcastle is set to welcome Crystal Palace in what will be Neil Warnock’s managerial debut for the Eagles.
In contrast to Palace’s surprising early season turmoil, Swansea City has enjoyed a fantastic start that they’ll look to extend with a third straight win at home versus West Brom this Saturday.
The Baggies played to a scoreless draw with Southampton last weekend, so Saints’ boss Ronald Koeman will hope Saturday’s trip to West Ham can manufacture his first league win while in charge.
Elsewhere in London, last place Queens Park Rangers plays Sunderland, while fellow capital club Chelsea hits the road for a testy tie at Everton.
In addition to Jose Mourinho and Roberto Martinez splitting 1-0 results last season, Saturday’s Chelsea-Everton encounter will see the Toffees’ record signing Romelu Lukaku face his former club along with Samuel Eto’o, who made a move to Merseyside this week following a season-long spell at Chelsea last term.
Sunday’s schedule features home games for the only remaining teams yet to concede a goal, as Aston Villa hosts Hull City and Tottenham welcome Liverpool.
In the latter match, new Spurs’ gaffer Pochettino will target thwarting a reeling Reds squad that outscored Tottenham 9-0 in last season’s matches.
Spurs’ North London rivals Arsenal will close out the weekend by visiting promoted outfit Leicester City following successful qualification for the Champions League group stage.
Taking those matches into account, it’s time to unveil the Best XI for Gameweek 3.
Joe Hart (Manchester City)
England’s No. 1 nearly kept his second clean sheet in as many meetings, but a late own-goal against Liverpool undid that development. Nonetheless, City’s defense continues to be among the league’s best and has secured five straight home clean sheets against this weekend’s opponents Stoke City. The Potters have just one goal through two matches and haven’t scored on the Citizens since September of 2012.
Mathieu Debuchy (Arsenal)
An attack-minded right-back, Debuchy has made the transition to Arsenal pretty seamless to date. The Frenchman is coming off a mid-week Champions League clean sheet and this weekend’s counterpart Leicester City appeared vulnerable along their left side at Chelsea last Saturday. Like Ivanovic in Week 2, Debuchy could enjoy freedom in the final third and will be boosted by the Gunners’ first-choice central defense pairing of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny slated to make their Premiership season debut next to him.
Ashley Williams (Swansea City)
Anchoring the surprise side of the first two weeks of this season, Williams has averaged a merciless 13 clearances for Swansea City. The center-half posted a clean sheet at home last weekend and could duplicate that with another versus West Brom this time around. The Baggies failed to score at Southampton in Week 2 and mustered just one goal per road game last season. With Williams’ setup riding a high, they’ll be keen to keep the floodgates closed heading into the international break.
Daryl Janmaat (Newcastle)
The Dutchman has done alright for himself through his first couple Premier League games, recording a clean sheet last weekend while also averaging 1.5 shot attempts from his right-back post. This Saturday, Janmaat will return to his new stomping ground of St. James’ Park in search of his first win as a Newcastle player. With a Crystal Palace team fielding a new manager and putting a league-low 6.5 shots per game at goal thus far, Janmaat holds decent clean sheet prospects that are bolstered when considering Newcastle has held Palace scoreless in an outstanding seven consecutive meetings.
Alexis Sanchez (C) (Arsenal)
With Olivier Giroud (ankle) likely out until 2015, Alexis is expected to fill-in at center forward quite often for the Gunners, a situation fantasy owners could take advantage of, especially in leagues that list the Chilean as a midfielder. The former Barcelona man worked wonderfully up front in Champions League play Wednesday, when he also opened his Arsenal account with a close range goal. Come Sunday, Alexis will line up versus a Leicester City team that allowed two goals in both of their games since resurfacing to the Premiership. Alexis is still regaining match sharpness following this summer’s World Cup, but given the Gunners’ armory of attackers, the versatile front man should be afforded steady service in dangerous areas and earns this week’s captain’s armband.
David Silva (Manchester City)
On the heels of a comfortable home victory over Liverpool on Monday, Silva’s Manchester City remains almost unplayable at the Etihad Stadium. This week’s opponents, Stoke City, fared admirably versus City last season, but have kicked-off this term fairly sluggishly. Dating back to last campaign, City has now scored at least two goals in 10 straight league games, a streak that could very well continue against the club’s former manager Mark Hughes. Silva is always a threat in the final third and already has a goal to his name this season, so expect the Spaniard to be highly involved Saturday.
Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)
Tied with others for the league-lead with two goals thus far, Ramsey has done so without really putting his best foot forward just yet. Both of the Welshman’s scores came from close range tap-ins, but the fact remains that a healthy Ramsey seems to be a good bet to find the net. A matchup versus Leicester City bodes well for the Arsenal man this weekend and unlike some of his teammates, Ramsey should be fresh for the occasion after being suspended for Wednesday’s Champions League match.
Raheem Sterling (Liverpool)
Despite this weekend’s enemies, Tottenham, currently sporting a flawless defensive record, Sterling and Liverpool should take confidence into their visit to White Hart Lane after embarrassing Spurs in both of last season’s meetings. Last time Sterling played at Spurs, the youngster scored the final goal of Liverpool’s 5-0 triumph. With summer signings Adam Lallana and Mario Balotelli available to make their club debuts, Brendan Rodgers has an increasing amount of attackers at his disposal, which could take attention off the dynamic Sterling, whose starting place is cemented. Expect goals at The Lane on Sunday, with Sterling representing an attractive candidate.
Stevan Jovetic (Manchester City)
After an injury-riddled first season in England last term, Jovetic responded with a sensational preseason and has carried that form into the league campaign thus far. To his credit, the Serbian has led Manchester City with four shot attempts per game and bagged a brace at home versus Liverpool on Monday. Those returns figure to allow Jovetic to keep hold of his place in the starting lineup this weekend, despite Sergio Aguero and Eden Dzeko both being fit. With momentum on his side and determination to prove himself further, Jovetic should test Stoke City’s defense in a favorable setting Saturday.
Robin van Persie (Manchester United)
In his season debut last weekend, van Persie looked a bit off the pace, but should be better acclimated with another week of training under his belt. The Dutchman will be looked upon to lead Manchester United’s line and his managing compatriot will demand final product at league newcomers Burnley this weekend. In their first home match of the season, Burnley shipped three goals to mighty Chelsea, which should encourage United to throw things forward. Also, with Angel di Maria entering the fold, van Persie will embrace chances created by the leading assist-man across Europe’s top five leagues last season.
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
With United’s recent struggles well documented, the on-field onus will rightfully be placed on the club captain Rooney to turn things around. A road trip to Burnley marks a ripe opportunity to do such, so the Best XI is doubling down on United strikers by adding Rooney to van Persie. Between the accomplished duo, at least one goal should be expected, but the possibility for multiple scores seems within reach.
Debuchy – Williams – Janmaat
Alexis (C) – Silva – Ramsey – Sterling
Jovetic– van Persie – Rooney