Some have suggested it is a sign of standards slipping that a point at Wolves is seen as a positive result, but you have to know almost nothing about football to fail to recognise the importance of the outcome of the trip to Molineux. Manchester United are a work in progress and it isn't that long ago that people were laughing at Jurgen Klopp for leading celebrations after a home draw with West Brom when he was rebuilding a squad and a culture at Anfield.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will know it is going to take some small steps to help recover United to a position they once dominated in English Football, and you can read more of my thoughts about the club here.
Those were written before the game against Wolves was played.
Last week was a really irritating one for the Weekend Football Picks which returned a loss. However I was a Paul Pogba penalty away from actually moving the season totals back into a positive number and I don't think I was wrong in backing Manchester City to beat Tottenham Hotspur considering the stats on the day.
A bit of bad luck is par for the course over a long season, but the hope is that I can at least point to that rather than poor selections if I don't turn this month around.
The Premier League is back underway on Friday this week with another live game that evening and all ten games will be played by Sunday evening.
Aston Villa v Everton Pick: There is little doubt that Aston Villa need to improve defensively if they are going to survive in the Premier League in their return to the top flight, but there have been enough positives to take from their opening two fixtures to believe they can do that.
Twelve months ago Fulham came into the Premier League after making a huge investment in the summer and Aston Villa have done something similar. However I do think Dean Smith will be able to find a way to integrate the players he has purchased compared with Fulham who were looking to make wholesale changes to their starting eleven and there have been some solid play in the final third that have seen Aston Villa creating chances.
Defensively there are gaps that need to be filled, but outside of a really poor opening fifteen minutes last weekend Aston Villa did show enough to believe they will earn plenty of points if they maintain the standards set. On another day Aston Villa would not have lost that game and I think they would be a much shorter price than they are heading into this third game of the League season.
Instead Everton are a clear favourite to win at Villa Park and this is a club that has managed to earn the three points in 3 of their last 4 visits to this ground. The Toffees have made a good start to the season with 4 points earned against Crystal Palace and Watford, but Everton were a touch fortunate last week and the potential absence of Lucas Digne is a blow.
They have been a tough team to break down and score goals against in the final weeks of last season and Everton have continued that to open this one, but both Crystal Palace and Watford have had chances. Aston Villa at home look like a team that will test Everton too and I do think there may be a lack of goals that holds Everton back even with the arrival of talented youngster Moise Kean.
Everton have only won 8 of their last 39 away Premier League games since August 2017 and last season they scored 24 goals in 19 away League games. They have already been held to a goalless draw by Crystal Palace earlier this month and I have to be wary of backing a favourite that has struggled in the final third as much as Everton have done.
Aston Villa look like a team that will create chances at home and I think they can snap what has been a poor recent record against Everton. If the home team score once I believe that will put them in a good position to avoid a defeat, even though The Villains have been poor from a defensive standpoint to open the season.
I do like the balance Marco Silva has found in his Everton team in recent months, but they are a team that are more vulnerable away from home. Aston Villa can underline that by earning at least a point in this one and I will back the home team with a start on the Asian Handicap.
Norwich City v Chelsea Pick: The opening Premier League game on Saturday comes from Carrow Road as the television cameras visit this ground as a top flight one for the first time in three years. Norwich City are coming into this weekend off a very good 3-1 win over Newcastle United last time out, while Chelsea are still searching for their first win under Frank Lampard.
Even though that is the case, Chelsea are the favourites to win this one heading into this weekend, although the price has just drifted slightly.
The layers are perhaps right in having Chelsea in that position when you think this is a team that did finish in the top four last season and have not been as bad as the results may indicate. If they can find some clinical finishing in the final third, Chelsea won't have too many issues, but the feeling is that it could be a season long problem for Frank Lampard to address.
Still, Chelsea have created some good chances and much is going to depend on their mood in any given game as to how they will perform. However, at the moment it is hard to really expect Chelsea to win comfortably and they are going into a tough ground where Norwich City have been very good over the last twelve months.
Last season Norwich City scored plenty of goals at home in the Championship, but the concern remains that they conceded too many too. Even an average Newcastle United scored here last week and I would be surprised if the home team are able to contain Chelsea with the way they approach their fixtures and the tactics used by Daniel Farke.
It will give Norwich City a chance, even against the better teams in the League, and I think this is a confident team that can pose Chelsea plenty of questions in the second live game of the weekend. Last weekend I selected Leicester City with the start at Stamford Bridge and this weekend I do think Norwich City can be backed having caused problems for Liverpool and Newcastle United already.
I have little doubt Chelsea will cause problems too, but Norwich City can upset them and keep the pressure on Frank Lampard. Both teams scoring won't be a big surprise and I would be disappointed if Norwich City are blown away considering their own levels to open up this month.
Backing the home team on the Asian Handicap looks the right play here.
Brighton v Southampton Pick: It can be very difficult to ignore results and change the way you think about a team and that will be the case for those who have been surprised by the opening results Brighton and Southampton have earned.
The Seagulls are under new guidance this season and Graham Potter has got the squad playing some good football in the first two weeks of the new campaign. They were very unfortunate to not beat West Ham United here last weekend, and Brighton have been pretty sound defensively while creating a fair few chances.
On the other hand Southampton have lost twice, but have won the Expected Goals category in both games against Burnley and Liverpool. Under Ralph Hasenhuttl Southampton have been a decent team going forward and it is only a lack of clinical finishing which has prevented them from earning at least a point from both League games played.
They continue to create plenty of chances, but Southampton have yet to find a shape that makes them tougher at the back. In 24 Premier League games, Southampton have kept just 3 clean sheets under Hasenhuttl, although the manager will be reminding his players that one of those came here at the Amex Stadium where Southampton left with a 0-1 win last season.
This Brighton team have shown a little more ambition going forward than Chris Hughton's one that Southampton last faced and I think that can make a difference for the home team. They look like they have a real creative edge, but I also think Southampton can play their part in this south coast derby with the attacking threat they have posed.
Brighton have scored in 5 of their last 8 home Premier League games so I am anticipating they can get on the scoreboard in this fixture. Southampton have not been as creative away from home as they have become at St Mary's under Ralph Hasenhuttl, but they should find a way to create some chances against a more progressive Brighton team and I think backing both teams to hit the net in this one is the right play.
Manchester United v Crystal Palace Pick: It has become very clear that any revival of Manchester United to join the top of English Football is going to come in slow steps, but the opening two Premier League fixtures in 2019/20 have perhaps shown a decent season is in the offing. No one will realistically expect a title challenge barring Liverpool and Manchester City falling way short of the standards they set last time out, but Manchester United have to believe they are good enough for a top four spot.
A win over Chelsea followed by a draw at Wolves is a good start and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has to be looking for his team to keep the momentum going when they host Crystal Palace this weekend. Last season an 11 game home winning run in League games against Crystal Palace came to an end, but Manchester United have shown some clinical finishing in the first two games to think they will do better than the goalless draw the corresponding fixture ended in.
Crystal Palace can't be underestimated considering they won at Manchester City and Arsenal last season and also drew here, but this has not been a great start to the new season. Failing to score in both League games is one thing, but Crystal Palace barely laid a glove on Sheffield United last Sunday.
Manchester United looked much better defensively in the draw with Wolves than they did in the opening game against Chelsea. With Aaron Wan-Bissaka being familiar with the talent of Wilfried Zaha and Harry Maguire offering some leadership at the back, I do think Manchester United can contain Crystal Palace in this one and match the number of clean sheets they earned at Old Trafford in the Premier League in 2018/19 after just two home games in 2019/20.
The home team have kept clean sheets in their last 6 home games against Crystal Palace and I think Manchester United can earn one here. They will have to be careful of the Crystal Palace set pieces, but with Maguire in the back I think Manchester United will be good enough defensively and show enough attacking threat to win this fixture.
So far this season Crystal Palace have looked far from convincing in defensive areas and I will look to back Manchester United to win this fixture with a clean sheet.
Sheffield United v Leicester City Pick: This is one of two Premier League games this weekend where I genuinely could make a case for all three of the results to be the final outcome.
With that in mind I don't think anyone will be surprised that I am going to move past this fixture and instead add their stats into the books to see whether there is something we can find out about them for matches to come through the season.
Sheffield United have looked pretty good defensively despite the tactics used by Chris Wilder which sees his centre halves making overlapping runs on the wings. The concern in making sweeping statements about the defensive shape is that Sheffield United have played Bournemouth and Crystal Palace, whereas this week they take on a quality looking Leicester City team.
They have created chances too so there is definitely a real opportunity for Sheffield United to continue their strong start to the season. However I was very impressed with Leicester City in their 1-1 draw at Chelsea last Sunday in a game that a mistake proved costly for them early in the fixture.
The fightback in the second half saw Leicester City finish much the stronger, but I do have to wonder if they have enough goals in the side despite the obvious quality play of the midfield. The feeling is they are perhaps over-reliant on Jamie Vardy, but they should be good for a goal this weekend which may be enough to earn the three points if they can continue to play effectively at the back.
I just don't know how it will go and I would not pay to find out, although if I had a gun to my head I would likely select the draw.
Watford v West Ham United Pick: This is the second of the fixtures I can make a case for all three outcomes.
Watford and West Ham United have both made stuttering starts to the new season, but I would expect both to be much higher up the League table when it is all said and done in May. Out of the two teams Watford have been much unluckier and I wouldn't have minded backing them on the Draw No Bet market, but the layers have understood the situation and Watford are a strong enough favourite to avoid.
West Ham United have continued to look erratic defensively and were fortunate to earn a result at Brighton last Saturday. They will need to be much better at the back if Manuel Pellegrini is going to guide them towards a potential European berth, but at the moment neither team is easy to trust with a lack of goals a real concern.
As I have said, my edge is with Watford who perhaps have shown slightly more quality in the final third, but West Ham United look a team who will score plenty at this level too. Either way I will keep a watching brief on this one.
Liverpool v Arsenal Pick: Unai Emery has been joking that his Arsenal team 'never' want to play Liverpool, but I am not sure that is an ideal way to get his troops ready to visit a ground on which they have taken some serious punishment in recent years. While they have shown signs that they may be a little more effective defensively, Arsenal are going to be tested by a Liverpool team who have scored at least three times in 5 of their last 6 at Anfield against them.
Last season Liverpool thumped Arsenal 5-1 here and it was not a scoreline that particularly flattered the home side either. Chances were created thick and fast and Arsenal were a mess at the back.
This time both come in with 100% Premier League records, but both have been fortunate to have as many points on the board. Last weekend it would have been fairer if both Arsenal and Liverpool dropped points, but they earned narrow 2-1 wins over Burnley and Southampton respectively, albeit while looking very shaky at the back.
Liverpool have had a poor pre-season and that seems to have carried over to their League form from a defensive point of view. This Arsenal team have plenty of attacking threat to believe they can punish any vulnerabilities that Liverpool continue to show at the back, but the flip side is I am struggling to know how Arsenal are going to contain the Liverpool attack.
Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino were all playing in summer tournaments for their nations, but all three have come back looking very fresh and ready to go. They have already contributed 5 of the 9 goals Liverpool have scored in all competitions this season and I do think it will be a real test of Arsenal's supposed improvement here.
Liverpool have played Arsenal 7 times under Jurgen Klopp and it is a stunning statistic that they have scored at least three goals in 6 of those games. They have won 4 of those 6 games and I simply think they are going to out-score Arsenal again when you consider the 3 games at Anfield have ended 12-2 in favour of Liverpool since the German took over at the latter.
I do think Unai Emery will have learnt from the experiences of the last game at Anfield, but I also have to believe Liverpool's current form is enough to see off this opponent. The Gunners lost at 7 of the top 9 last season and 4 of those defeats came by two or more goal margins.
Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United all were beaten by at least two goal margins here last season and I think Liverpool win a high-scoring fixture as well as covering the Asian Handicap.
Bournemouth v Manchester City Pick: The television cameras head to the south coast for the first of the two live Premier League fixtures to be played on Sunday and all eyes will be on Bournemouth and the approach they take to this fixture.
A few months ago Bournemouth hosted Manchester City and had almost no ambition to actually try and test their visitors and instead Eddie Howe decided a deep defensive effort was the best way to approach the fixture. The Cherries did not have ONE shot that day, on or off target, and Manchester City dominated the fixture and unsurprisingly eventually broke them down in a 0-1 win.
It could have been easier for Manchester City that day if they had been a little more fortunate in front of goal, but they were also playing under the real pressure of a title run in as they were still chasing Liverpool back then. That is not the case in August and I expect that will free up Manchester City, while I am also expecting Bournemouth to play with more courage.
That may not be an ideal approach early in the game, especially if Bournemouth continue to offer up chances to teams as they did against Sheffield United and Aston Villa. Now they play the best team in England who are going to be much more dangerous in the final third than the two newly promoted clubs, although Bournemouth have shown they can limit the damage that Manchester City do to them.
Bournemouth have not conceded more than two goals in any of their last 3 home games against Manchester City and I have to believe they are going to take a similar approach here. It makes the Asian Handicap unappealing as I don't like opposing Manchester City who have won all 6 games in the Premier League played after a draw in the last couple of seasons.
The Champions have shown they can be clinical on their day as they were at the London Stadium two weeks ago, and Bournemouth have the tendency to take at least one big home defeat to one of the top six clubs in each season they have been in the top flight.
They have been more competitive for the most part though and Bournemouth have not rolled over for Manchester City in the three games played against them since Pep Guardiola arrived on these shores. Bournemouth have lost all of those though and I expect Manchester City will leave with a win on Sunday too, although I will back them to do so in a game that features less than five goals combined.
Bournemouth don't score a lot of home goals against the top teams in general, but they also don't concede a hatful either. They have found a way to limit the damage Manchester City can produce against them in recent seasons and I think Eddie Howe will go back to that blueprint, although his team will still likely end up coming up short.
7 of the last 39 Manchester City away games in the Premier League have seen five or more goals shared out and I will look for them to win a fixture with fewer than that number produced in this game.
Tottenham Hotspur v Newcastle United Pick: To say Tottenham Hotspur were a little fortunate to leave the Etihad Statement with a point may be a huge understatement if the Expected Goals are looked at and I don't think many fans or neutrals will argue that point.
Mauricio Pochettino won't be too worried about that though and will be very happy with another point to put on the board as they look to remain unbeaten ahead of the North London derby to come next weekend. His Tottenham Hotspur side were very, very strong in their opening win over Aston Villa and the return of Heung-Min Son is a boost for a team who will be looking for more clinical finishing in the final third.
They will be expected to create chances against Newcastle United despite needing narrow 1-0 wins to beat this opponent in each of the last two seasons. Both of those games were played at Wembley Stadium, and Tottenham Hotspur will feel their fans can make a big difference for them in their new Stadium.
So far this season Newcastle United are perhaps not playing with the same resiliency as they were under Rafael Benitez and that is an area Tottenham Hotspur will feel they can exploit with Christian Eriksen, Harry Kane and a returning Heung-Min Son. The Magpies will have to be a lot more careful defensively than they were in the 3-1 defeat to Norwich City, while Newcastle United are perhaps lacking a goal threat.
It was a concern in pre-season with Joelinton expected to come in and hit the ground running for a team who had lost plenty of goals when selling Ayoze Perez and not re-signing Solomon Rondon. The new signing might be absent this weekend which just makes it all the more difficult for Newcastle United who are going to have to go to basics to try and make life tough for their hosts.
The new season is too early to make sweeping statements, but I do think Newcastle United are going to struggle to contain Tottenham Hotspur. The hosts created a lot of chances against Aston Villa and Newcastle United were poor defensively a week ago. A week on the training ground may not be enough time to really turn that around and I think Steve Bruce is already feeling the pressure at St James' Park.
Backing Tottenham Hotspur to beat Newcastle United by two or more goals is the selection for me here. The Magpies showed some resilience when playing the top teams away from home last season, but they have lost some key performers and Tottenham Hotspur should be able to ride the momentum from the first two weeks to earn a solid win in the second of the live Sunday offerings.
Wolves v Burnley Pick: We have seen the early Europa League fixtures being a real detriment to clubs in the Premier League and Wolves have yet to win a game in the top flight despite putting together 5 straight wins in European competition.
They haven't played badly in draws with Leicester City and Manchester United and Wolves are strong favourites to beat Burnley on Sunday. However they have to make sure they have enough rest having put in a big effort to beat Torino in Italy on Thursday evening and knowing the game with Burnley is going to be another physical challenge.
Both matches against Burnley were tough last season, but I do think Wolves have to be given an edge being at home. Defensively Wolves have been pretty good in both games played in the Premier League so far this season and they look like a team who are going to be difficult to beat.
I have to credit Burnley for the performance they produced against Arsenal last Saturday and they have not played a game in the time Wolves have had to play two competitive fixtures. It should be mean a well rested team heads to Molineux and Sean Dyche will be all too aware of the impact the early season Europa League Qualifiers can have on a squad having seen his Burnley team struggle in that spot twelve months ago.
Burnley are a team that can surprise if opponents underestimate them and they are not likely to roll over. I still fancy Wolves to win though and I think it may be another narrow, tight encounter between these teams as the home team looks to build some momentum to close out the month.
Goals may be at a premium in this one and I think backing Wolves to win a largely low-scoring encounter is the way to go with this fixture. They should have just enough quality in the final third to break down Burnley and I will look to back Wolves to win in a game that features less than four goals at odds against.
MY PICKS: Aston Villa + 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Norwich City + 0.75 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Brighton-Southampton Both Teams to Score @ 1.85 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Manchester United Win to Nil @ 2.15 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City to Win & Under 4.5 Goals @ 1.72 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Wolves & Under 3.5 Goals @ 2.25 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Season 2019/20 Update: 7-8-1, - 3.02 Units (32 Units Staked, - 9.44% Yield)
The two Free Transfers were both used this week as I needed one to make the other due to the prices of the players. One was a transfer I always had in mind and the other has come about because of what I have seen through the first two weeks of the season.
First up I have made the move to replace Mohamed Salah with Sadio Mane- from day one I knew this was a realistic option for me as Mane had been in a very similar high level of form for Liverpool over the last six months of the previous season as Salah had been and being able to save 1 million for the squad was a bonus.
Three goals in his first two starts for Liverpool suggests Mane is yet to drop off from the standards he has set and he has a good record against upcoming opponents which made him the pick. I decided to keep Josh King rather than bring in David McGoldrick for a similar saving because of the fixtures both are due to play over the coming weeks.
It has opened the door for the other transfer and that is bringing in Harry Maguire for Tyrone Mings. Aston Villa are still learning at this level and I am not convinced they have a lot of clean sheets coming up, while Manchester United were impressive enough at the back last week at Wolves to make me want to invest in a defender.
This may not be a long-term choice with some very difficult looking matches to come up, but Maguire has also been targeted in set pieces and I think he may offer a threat for Manchester United. I also think United have shown some improvement defensively which could lead to more clean sheets than they managed last season.
My GameWeek 3 team is below with the changes made- it looks like a 4-5-1 formation on paper, but with the positions players have started in over the first couple of weeks, the look of the team is more of a 3-5-2 (Lundstram midfield/Martial up front).
Harry Maguire: A home game against Crystal Palace was one of only two clean sheets for Manchester United at Old Trafford last season and the predominantly solid defending last week impressed me. Harry Maguire is also going to be a big target from set pieces so can always add to his points in the air.
Youri Tielemans: He hasn't had the impact I was hoping for, but Leicester City face Sheffield United and Bournemouth over the next two weeks and I will re-evaluate his position in my squad following the international break.
Sadio Mane (C): Mohamed Salah has scored in three of his four appearances against Arsenal so this may not be the best time to take the Egyptian out of the line up, especially as he can be on penalties. However he has not scored in his last three against Burnley, who Liverpool face next and Sadio Mane has looked at peak condition with three goals in two starts.
Sadio Mane has scored in four of six appearances against Arsenal and he has also scored three times in his last three against Burnley, while I am also getting on before what could be an expected price rise if he overshadows Salah again this weekend. He is also my Captain choice as someone who could be involved in multiple goals against a weak looking Arsenal defence, although Raheem Sterling has proven me wrong to have him as Vice for two weeks in a row.
Raheem Sterling (VC): The Manchester City forward has seen his price rise in back to back weeks in the game and has scored in both Premier League games played. Has a winner at the Vitality Stadium under his belt once already and it's not the time to remove Sterling from any squad.
Bernardo Silva: Riyad Mahrez had a much bigger impact in his Premier League start than Bernardo Silva, but I think it says a lot that the latter started the 'bigger' game. His price has surprisingly dropped this week, but patience is a virtue and I am sticking with the Portuguese players who came on leaps and bounds last season.
Anthony Martial: I picked him at the start of the season with the belief that he would be the Number 9 for Manchester United in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's preferred system. The Frenchman has responded with a goal in each start and facing a Crystal Palace defence that has looked far from watertight through the first two weeks of the season.
Che Adams: The underlying statistics show Che Adams is not far away from opening his Premier League account, but I am keeping a watching brief on him. At some stage I would expect Ralph Hasenhuttl will take him out of the starting line up if he can't find a way to goal soon, but I would expect Adams to have chances to score in the final two games this month.
Bench: Michael McGovern (Norwich City backup to the backup GK), Caglar Soyuncu (a chance of a clean sheet and he has impressed so far, but I prefer picking the Sheffield United player who may offer a chance of goals), Joshua King (home game versus Manchester City is a tough place to make an impact), Xande Siva (injured, cheap back up to main squad at this stage of the season).