Premier League grades so far: Man United get top marks, Arsenal flop
After a breathless opening fortnight, the Premier League now goes on hold to make way for another raft of World Cup qualifiers. So how did your team do? Iain Macintosh grades the entire division.
MANCHESTER UNITED: A+
Perfect. An entirely unblemished record. Admittedly, this entirely unblemished record has been secured against some of the weaker teams in the league, but that's hardly their fault. Besides, if we all insist that the beauty of the Premier League is that, "anyone can beat anyone," then we really should acknowledge when it turns out that they can't.
HUDDERSFIELD TOWN: A+
Let's be honest, most of us though that it would take Huddersfield until November to get seven points on the board. Even David Wagner, effervescent and optimistic almost to a fault, would never have dared to predict three consecutive clean sheets. The Terriers have surprised everyone, but expect the analysts at West Ham and Leicester, their next opponents in the league, to spend the whole international break feverishly searching for vulnerabilities.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION: A
Tony Pulis was so close to wrapping up this section of the calendar with a hat trick of 1-0 wins, and then a mix-up between his new signing, the impressive Ahmed Hegazi, and his goalkeeper Ben Foster allowed Stoke City to snatch a point. Still, seven points are not to be sniffed at. Thirty-three more and they can clock off early again.
That late equaliser against Watford on the opening day notwithstanding, there's little to pick fault with here. Jurgen Klopp has successfully taken Liverpool into the Champions League group stages for only the second time in eight seasons, and the performance against Arsenal suggests that they can do damage to anyone with that attack. The defence is less than convincing, but there's still time to work on that.
Once again, Marco Silva has made light of the doom-mongers. Watford were an unconvincing transient glop of sweaty global assets last season and could easily have been relegated. Silva has given them shape, stiffened their resolve and picked up five good points. Had it not been for Miguel Britos' horror tackle on Saturday, he might have picked up even more. This has been a very encouraging start.
MANCHESTER CITY: B
Thus far, Manchester City have done little more than the minimum required. Two modest wins against two modest seaside teams, one secured in the 97th minute, will not yet have their rivals tossing and turning with anxiety. However, we have seen glimpses of what City will look like when they eventually click, and they look absolutely terrifying. It will be worth waiting for.
After the shock of that spectacular opening day defeat, Antonio Conte's side have responded perfectly. They fought hard and smart at Wembley to earn themselves a much appreciated victory over Spurs, and then they made short work of Everton at Stamford Bridge. Conte is still far from amused at his club's summer dealings, but he doesn't seem the type to go quietly into the night.
Sean Dyche's legions picked up just seven points on the road last season, most of them in the final weeks. This season, they have four on the board already, thanks to stout-hearted showings at Chelsea and Tottenham. They remain one of the league's most indomitable teams, physically strong and mentally resilient. And all this without big-name departures, Andre Gray and Michael Keane.
SWANSEA CITY: B-
With the Gylfi Sigurdsson saga complete, you sense that Swansea can finally move on now. And move on they did against a surprisingly abject Crystal Palace. Manager Paul Clement needed that, not only the points, but the composure and the control of the performance. Don't read too much into the drubbing by Manchester United. This is a solid enough side to avoid the drop.
Everton's hopes of jelling quickly were soundly dashed by the fixture computer, which cruelly handed them early games against Manchester City and Chelsea with Spurs and Manchester United to follow after the international break. They were flat at Stamford Bridge and could only draw with a reduced City side, but at least they beat Stoke. Only time will tell with this lot.
LEICESTER CITY: C+
Another side to feel the wrath of the fixture calendar, Leicester were far from outclassed by Arsenal or Manchester United, while they quickly subdued Brighton at the King Power Stadium. Roma target Riyad Mahrez's efforts have been crucial, and Harry Maguire is proving an inspired signing. They won't win back the title, but they could easily make a push for seventh.
When you consider how damaging the Virgil van Dijk standoff could have been to Southampton, you have to credit new manager Mauricio Pellegrino for steadying everyone's nerves. The Saints have been blessed with a soft start, beating West Ham at home and sharing the points with Huddersfield and Swansea, but they'll be pleased with the two clean sheets.
STOKE CITY: C
After three consecutive ninth-place finishes, Mark Hughes blotted his copybook with a poor campaign last year and the pressure has been building. But the capture of Jese Rodriguez is a masterstroke. If they could just find some consistency in the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri and Bojan, and if the real Saido Berahino would deign to turn up, they could still finish ninth again. That's the dream, anyway.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR: C-
There's no getting away from the fact that one point from a possible six at home is a poor return. Never mind that it was a lapse in concentration that cost them so dearly against Burnley, or a goalkeeping error against Chelsea. Slip-ups like that are expensive. But Spurs are hardly in crisis. They've had more shots than any other team in the league, and poor old Harry Kane has hit the woodwork twice.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: C-
Boy, did Newcastle need that win against West Ham. After a troubled summer and the continued backroom wranglings that appear to be obligatory at St. James Park, anything less than three points would have made the Magpies the crisis club of the league. But they're not that bad. They lost by the odd goal at Huddersfield and were holding Spurs until Jonjo Shelvey intervened. They just need stability.
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION: D
The Seagulls have a point on the board, but they haven't managed a goal yet. Norwich City fans will allow themselves a wry smile, having experienced Chris Hughton's top-flight caution before. But Hughton is no fool. That team, focused and spirited and will pick up points as the season unfolds. What he really needs is some firepower up front. But doesn't everybody?
Bournemouth were desperately unlucky not to take a point from Manchester City last weekend, but the real damage was done against West Brom (beaten by a set piece) and Watford (worryingly outplayed). Eddie Howe's side will always leave themselves open at the back, but they are inventive and attractive, and you'd still back them to survive.
WEST HAM UNITED: E
West Ham do not sack managers lightly and nor do their much-maligned owners. At Birmingham as in East London, Messrs. Sullivan, Gold and Brady have demonstrated more patience with their staff than you might expect. For this, Slaven Bilic should be very grateful. It's increasingly difficult to see what the plan is at West Ham, and with 10 goals conceded already in three straight defeats, they need to find one quickly.
If the visit to Anfield was an examination, Arsenal turned up 30 minutes late, filled out the sheet in green crayon and then fell asleep at their desk without making it to the second page. They only narrowly avoided defeat at the hands of Leicester, failed to avoid defeat at Stoke despite overwhelming possession, and, by thunder, how much longer can this go on? If they somehow manage to lose to Bournemouth, what happens then?
CRYSTAL PALACE: U
In normal circumstances, talk of sacking the manager after just three games would be considered unhinged. But these are not normal circumstances. We always knew it would be hard for Palace to adjust to a more considered style of play, but it wasn't supposed to be this hard. From the look of the Palace players, they either don't understand or don't want to carry out the instructions of manager Frank de Boer. They may not have to for very much longer.
Iain Macintosh covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @IainMacintosh.