• Premier League Spotlight

Can Liverpool bounce back?

James Dall | ESPN FC
August 15, 2014
Liverpool fans will hope to see plenty of Daniel Sturridge's dodgy dancing this season © Getty Images

Premier League Spotlight previews the weekend's top-flight fixtures, highlighting the key points to keep an eye on as the action unfolds.

Any other business: Liverpool

The scars will still be raw after last year's face-plant off the top of the Premier League cliff, while they've also sold their talisman Luis Suarez to Barcelona. The alleged solution? To buy three of Southampton's players after the Saints had a good campaign. And as fate would have it, the Reds face their "feeder" club on Sunday. With the heart and head of the South Coast side ripped from them, the Saints, now under Ronald Koeman, are in theory ripe for three easy points at Anfield.

But it remains to be seen how psychologically fragile Liverpool are at present, and in particular their captain Steven Gerrard off the back of "The Slip" and a rotten World Cup with England. Their manager Brendan Rodgers, a massager of words, has a task on his hands not only in picking up the players who endured last campaign's near-success but also in integrating seven new faces while compensating for the absence of a bitey, but brilliantly talented, star.

Under pressure: Jose Mourinho

Imagine Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger addressing the media in May 2015, pursing his lips, spitting in the direction of West London and then branding Chelsea's Mourinho an "authority on defeatism" as now three years have passed since the Portuguese did that thing where he gets a winners' medal around his neck but then immediately looks nonplussed about it.

Managers at Stamford Bridge have been dismissed for less than a trophyless campaign, and thus silverware really is a prerequisite for Mourinho in 2014-15. He made his excuses last season: something about a horse, an apparently young team, having no proper striker. But it's been a good summer for Jose, perhaps as a result of his complaining. The signings have been excellent and ergo the excuses now flimsy. Heck, he won't have to deal with this as first choice:

£32 million signing Diego Costa will terrify defenders, Cesc Fabregas will slickly supply the attack in place of creaky Frank Lampard, Nemanja Matic will tower over opponents and bellow, Filipe Luis will buccaneer down the left flank and Thibaut Courtois will nonchalantly pat away shots with his hands like shovels. Mourinho should, and possibly must, be glorious - a runner-up at the very minimum. The Blues begin at Burnley on Monday, by the way. Good luck, Burnley.

Finding form: Jack Wilshere

Pick Arsenal's best starting XI, each player in his natural position. Is there a place for Jack Wilshere?

Potentially add a proper defensive midfielder to the squad, and what about Jack now? There's a possibility that the England international will spend more time on the Arsenal bench in the new season than on the field. Form, with niggling injuries to blame, has too often deserted him, and now he finds himself playing catch-up to Aaron Ramsey's dramatic and continuing improvement.

So patchy has the midfielder's development been that it is now unclear just how good he can go on to be, having demonstrated genuine brilliance but also jarring it by carelessly hanging onto the ball too long and also spending far too much time lying on the turf than running on it. At 22 years of age, this is not exactly a "make-or-break" season for Wilshere, but it is important. A footballer's career is short, and six years after making his Arsenal debut, it's uncertain even what Wilshere's best position is.

Form, Jack - you need to find it.

Statistically speaking

* Chelsea have the longest active unbeaten streak in Premier League openers, going undefeated in 15 straight (13 wins, 2 draws) since losing to Coventry City in 1998

* Defending champions Manchester City take on Newcastle on Monday. In each of their Premier League title seasons, City won their opener 4-0, including last season against Newcastle

* Arsenal are winless in four straight league openers - tied for the longest active streak with Stoke City and Sunderland

* Wayne Rooney has 173 Premier League goals, two shy of tying Thierry Henry for third-most all-time. On Saturday, the new Manchester United captain faces Swansea City, the only British club he's played three times without scoring while with United

* In the 22 Premier League seasons, only three times have the champions lost their opener, and it was Manchester United all three times (1992-93, 1995-96, 2012-13)

Courtesy of @ESPNStatsInfo

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