Romelu Lukaku’s first spell with Chelsea consisted of 12 competitive first-team appearances and zero goals. Having re-joined the reigning European champions in a £97.5m deal from Inter Milan this month, the Belgian striker needed just 15 minutes to open his account.
Before he tapped the ball into Bernd Leno’s net from close range to open the scoring against Arsenal in his second Chelsea debut, it was evident how big of a difference-maker the returning 28-year-old is going to be for Thomas Tuchel’s side this season by his desire to get into scoring position.
He burst into the danger zone in the build-up to the goal as Chelsea worked the ball wide to Reece James - who added to his assist for the former Everton and Manchester United striker by himself scoring to cap a routine 2-0 win. It was evidence, were any needed, of why Roman Abramovich was willing to sign off on the club-record signing.
Lukaku‘s presence as an out-and-out No.9 at the point of attack, a determined goal-scorer intent on providing a willing target for the array of creative attackers at Tuchel’s disposal, has asserted Chelsea’s status as genuine title contenders this season and is a major factor in why they are now available to back at 3.65 in the Premier League Winner market on the Betfair Exchange, down from 4.84/1 just a week ago.
City bounce back
Champions Manchester City remain title favourites, however. Pep Guardiola’s side bounced back from their opening-weekend defeat to Tottenham in style at the Etihad on Saturday afternoon, thrashing Norwich City 5-0 as £100m new arrival Jack Grealish crowned his home debut with his first goal for the club - albeit thanks to a large stroke of fortune, the ball bouncing in off his thigh after Gabriel Jesus’ low cross.
City are available to back at 2.285/4 in on the Betfair Exchange Premier League Winner market. And in such form as they displayed against Norwich – with all their trademark patterns of play, incisive build-up and whipping cut-backs from wide – they have shown last week’s loss to Spurs will have no lingering ill effects.
The fixture calendar couldn’t have been any harsher on newly promoted Norwich, pitting them first against Liverpool at Carrow Road and then taking them to the Etihad to face a scorned City. Manager Daniel Farke will have been realistic about his team’s chances in these games, but two defeats, with eight goals conceded and none scored, have inevitably made them early favourites for a swift return to the second tier. You can back the Canaries at 8/11 in the Relegation market.
United slip against Saints
In their Sunday-afternoon kick-off at St. Mary’s Stadium, Manchester United showed little of the efficiency and urgency that marked out their cross-town rivals’ performance, slipping to a 1-1 draw with Southampton.
A deflected Che Adams strike from 20 yards – officially credited to United midfielder Fred as an own goal – gave the home side a first-half lead. And while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men drew level in the second period through Mason Greenwood’s low drive – for which Paul Pogba, one of United’s few high performers on the day, provided his fifth assist in two games – it was Southampton who had the best chance to claim all three points, with David de Gea saving brilliantly to deny Adam Armstrong when clean through on goal.
After a thrilling start to the campaign thanks to a 5-1 win over Leeds at Old Trafford last week, this was United at their most frustrating, wasteful in possession and unable to control midfield. The Red Devils are now available to back at 11.521/2 in the Premier League Winner market on the Betfair Exchange, a marked drift from the 7.613/2 last weekend.
Spurs find their style
Tottenham‘s 1-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux on Sunday might not have been pretty. And it might have been a little less comfortable that Spurs fans would have liked, with Dele Alli’s ninth-minute penalty enough for the away side to eke out the win in a game that saw Wolves match them for shots on target (6) and enjoy a greater share of possession (58% to 42%).
But a second single-goal victory and another clean sheet will have pleased new manager Nuno Espirito Santo. This win over his former club, adding to their impressive victory over Manchester City last week, showed that the Portuguese coach is already beginning to effectively implement his style in north London.
Under Nuno, Wolves consolidated their Premier League status on the back of defensive ballast, efficiency in possession and an ability to make the most of the chances they created. Two games in, those tenets have been abundant in Tottenham’s maximum-points start to the new campaign. Spurs are available to back at 3.814/5 in the Betfair Exchange Top 4 Finish market.
A return to Champions League football would certainly help make Nuno’s pragmatic style palatable.