Jurgen Klopp set for excessive scrutiny on Liverpool debut at Tottenham
Premier League Spotlight previews the weekend's fixtures, highlighting the key points to keep an eye on.
Tottenham vs. Liverpool
Chelsea vs. Aston Villa
Crystal Palace vs. West Ham
Everton vs. Man Utd
Man City vs. Bournemouth
Southampton vs. Leicester
West Brom vs. Sunderland
Watford vs. Arsenal
Newcastle vs. Norwich
Swansea vs. Stoke
Battle of the Weekend: Tottenham vs. Liverpool
There is a new dawn at Anfield. Jurgen Klopp's appointment as Brendan Rodgers' successor has seen Liverpool fans mirroring the German's broad smile, and why shouldn't they? Those who have been snarky about the former Borussia Dortmund coach's arrival are probably only acting out of jealousy. After the increasing gloom of Rodgers' tenure, Klopp's appointment is a genuine coup. His winning of back-to-back Bundesliga titles combined with a genuinely captivating persona has rightly stirred those on Merseyside. It has re-energised the supporters, and will probably re-energise the players, too.
Because Rodgers had lost his way. He had overseen such thrilling football in 2013-14, but there was very little evidence of a return to such on-field ferocity. So it was not a 1-1 draw at Everton that determined his sacking but a culmination of months of misdirection, and owners Fenway Sports Group acted accordingly. Rodgers, with his David Brent-isms, was ripe for mockery at times, but it should not be overlooked that his excessive positivity regarding his team's prospects -- until the end, at least -- had foundation on occasions. Football moves on speedily, though, and already a line has been drawn in the sand.
This sport's thirst for the now means, however, that some will demand immediate results from Klopp. This is, frankly, silly. He only took the job on Thursday last week, while the majority of his squad have been on international duty. Klopp's Dortmund side were famed for their intense squeezing of the opponent. While this approach is similar to that which Liverpool enjoyed in their pomp under Rodgers, actually steering them back on that path will take time -- weeks, or probably months. Klopp must be granted that time to implement his methods.
That said, the "new manager bounce" will be anticipated on Saturday lunchtime at Tottenham. By their very nature, people will look to impress a new leader, so Klopp can expect that the XI he selects will play with heightened effort compared to the twilight of Rodgers' tenure. Tottenham should be aware of this. There is no science as to how long the initial upturn in exertion might last, but it is up to the Reds boss to maintain it or -- better -- to build on it. Certainly how he sets up his team at White Hart Lane and with which players will be intriguing, but so will the way in which he handles Spurs' threat.
For example, Klopp's tactical acumen will be scrutinised should he not have a plan for Tottenham's Christian Eriksen, a fabulous player who drifts into pockets of space. Also, while more aggression is expected from Klopp's Liverpool, giving away free kicks around the penalty area would be a dangerous game considering the Dane's talent from dead balls.
Expect every iota of Klopp's involvement to be under the microscope, from how he conducts himself on the touchline to what he says to the media postmatch.
His Spurs counterpart Mauricio Pochettino, meanwhile, will hope the fortnight break hasn't disrupted a momentum founded on 12 points from their last six outings. The one saving grace for Pochettino was that England's Harry Kane did not pick up an injury -- even with just one top-flight goal to his name this season, the striker remains essential to leading the club's line. The Spurs boss has not been so lucky with the fitness of Son Heung-Min, who, having offered a directness since his arrival from Bayer Leverkusen, misses out through injury. Regardless, roll on Saturday's early kickoff, because we're excited.
Under pressure: Jose Mourinho
It was thought that Chelsea would snap out of their funk and start to look like the champions they were last season. But as each rank display passes, it seems unlikelier that this malaise is one Jose Mourinho's team can simply jolt themselves from. The list of problems -- aggression, speed of passing, defensive shape, the tracking of runners -- in their recent 3-1 home loss to Southampton was staggering. It now remains to be seen if the two weeks away from what is presumably a dismal atmosphere at Stamford Bridge will have helped to lift the players, or if what they instead needed was 14 days on the training pitch with Mourinho.
This column said in the middle of September that Mourinho is the right man to save Chelsea's season. That opinion has not changed, and it is one certainly shared by the Portuguese, who said he is the "best manager this club has ever had." During that postmatch rant in the wake of the loss to Southampton, Mourinho stressed he would not quit, almost daring the club to sack him. By doing this, and having used up his diversionary tactics, he is putting the focus and pressure back on himself. He has, typically, made it about himself. It's a risk, but one he can probably afford to take when the next match is at home to out-of-form Aston Villa, whose manager Tim Sherwood appears more likely to get the boot than Mourinho.
Finding form: Everton
Everton play a Manchester United side left wincing off the back of their 3-0 horror show at Arsenal before the international break. Roberto Martinez's side, meanwhile, are unbeaten in five matches and have the brilliant Romelu Lukaku at their disposal, not to mention the gifted Ross Barkley. In last season's corresponding fixture at Goodison Park, Everton were 2-0 up inside 35 minutes as they went on to win 3-0. It was also a ponderous and timid start that undid United against Arsenal, and that's something Louis van Gaal must address in this match and the rest of the campaign. There is also the matter of Wayne Rooney's form, as he closes in on a year without scoring away from home in the Premier League.
- Jurgen Klopp makes his Liverpool debut this weekend with a team that has struggled on offense. Liverpool has eight goals this season, tied for 14th in the league entering the weekend. Luck hasn't been on their side though. Liverpool has 10.8 expected goals this season, which is based on the number and quality of shots taken. That ranks 11th in the league.
- Liverpool has eight goals this season from 119 shots, a 6.7 shooting percentage. That's the second-worst shooting percentage in the league, just ahead of Watford (5.8 percent).
- Manchester City will be without Sergio Aguero this weekend against Bournemouth and that has meant offensive struggles since he joined the club. With Aguero on the field, Man City has scored 1.67 per 90 minutes. With him off the field, just 0.78. For reference, 0.78 goals per 90 minutes would have ranked 17th in the Premier League last season, just ahead of Aston Villa, Sunderland and Burnley.
- Everton host Manchester United on Saturday having won each of the last three home meetings in league play with United. The last team to win four straight home matches in league play against Manchester United was...Everton from 1984 to '87. Everton has not conceded in each of the three home wins and can be the first to win four straight league matches at home against United without conceding since West Brom from 1976 to '79.
- Wayne Rooney will attempt to end his run of away games without a goal in the match with Everton on Saturday. Rooney has no goals in his last 17 Premier League matches away from Old Trafford, the worst run of his career. His last away goal in league play came nearly 11 months ago - Nov. 22, 2014 versus Arsenal.
For more stats previewing the Premier League season, check out Paul's team-by-team notes here.
Any other business: Sunderland
It's good to have Sam Allardyce back. His booming cackle has been missed. He only went away a few months ago, leaving West Ham at the end of last season, but now he's in charge at Sunderland, whose dreadful start has left them level on points with Newcastle at the foot of the table. Remarkably, Allardyce is the eighth manager owner Ellis Short has worked with on Wearside since taking ownership in the summer of 2009.
Allardyce's appointment as Dick Advocaat's replacement at least feels right. This is a Sunderland side spiralling toward the Championship, and ultimately probably lower. Allardyce has been criticised for his low-risk and simplistic football. But that's exactly what they need: a safety-first approach to iron out the errors. First up are West Brom away, then it's the small matter of Big Sam against his former club, and the Black Cats' arch-nemeses, Newcastle.
James Dall is an associate editor at ESPN FC. You can follow him on Twitter @JamesDallESPN.