Joleon Lescott column: Red-hot Gunners can keep good times rolling
Three wins from three have left Arsenal fans in dreamland at the top of the Premier League — and I reckon the good times may continue for a little longer yet.
The Gunners host Fulham on Saturday before Aston Villa visit the Emirates next Wednesday, so there’s no reason they can’t make it five straight victories.
Are they going to be competing for the title this season? Realistically, no. But a first top-four finish since 2015-16 looks within reach on the early evidence.
Mikel Arteta and his players will have been quietly confident coming into the new season, even though most of the chat was surrounding their local rivals Tottenham.
Now, people are sitting up and taking notice of Arsenal and it’s up to those players to keep on performing with added levels of expectation.
The two players that have impressed me most for the Gunners have undoubtedly been William Saliba and Gabriel Jesus.
Having watched a bit of him in France last term, I’m not that surprised by how well Saliba has done. He’s so rounded in terms of his defensive attributes, especially considering his age.
His decision-making is excellent. He’s quick but doesn’t look for a race. He can pass yet has no interest in trying to overdo it. He’s very assured.
Without wanting to heap pressure on, I think he has a great career ahead of him.
With Jesus, it appears what Arsenal are demanding of him is a perfect fit and he’s relishing the challenge of being their main man.
At City, I often questioned whether he had that ruthless streak to lead their line.
In Pep Guardiola’s sides, a genuine No9 is expected to apply the finishing touch to attacks and not worry too much about assisting or working off the ball — think Sergio Aguero or Erling Haaland.
For his new club, the Brazilian is doing a bit of everything and I genuinely think he gets the same buzz out of setting someone up as he does scoring, which is unusual for a forward.
It looks like Arteta still wants to do a little bit of business before the window shuts and of all the names they’ve been linked with, Pedro Neto is the one that catches my eye.
He’s become a huge player for my old club Wolves but everyone has their price and I think he’s got ridiculously high potential.
The way Arsenal play also suits him and with Nicolas Pepe having left North London, it’s clear why they are taking a close look.
Anyway, it’s time for my weekend predictions.
Joleon Lescott’s Matchday 4 Premier League predictions
Southampton vs Manchester United (Saturday, 12.30pm, BT Sport)
Erik ten Hag got the desired response from his side against Liverpool and I expect them to follow it up with another victory at Southampton.
Confidence is such an underrated factor in football. It makes you feel quicker, stronger and sharper — and it should be flowing through that United team after Monday’s result.
If they apply the same attitude at St Mary’s out of possession, they’ll have too much quality for their hosts.
Prediction: Southampton 1-2 Manchester United
Brentford vs Everton (Saturday, 3pm)
Make no mistake, Everton’s 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest last weekend would’ve felt like a bad result for players and fans alike, even with their late equaliser.
Expectations at Goodison Park are higher than being in a relegation battle, even if that is the reality of the situation at the moment.
Brentford lost late at Fulham but it’s been a really good start for them and they’re a tough nut to crack at home.
Prediction: Brentford 1-1 Everton
Brighton vs Leeds (Saturday, 3pm)
Two teams who have made excellent starts to their seasons and you just know this is going to be a good watch given how both like to play their football.
Jesse Marsch’s men were brilliant against Chelsea but I really do admire how Brighton have played despite losing two huge players this summer in Marc Cucurella and Yves Bissouma.
I’m not going to rule out any result here but home advantage makes me lean towards Graham Potter’s side.
Prediction: Brighton 2-1 Leeds
Chelsea vs Leicester (Saturday, 3pm)
This looks like a good opportunity for Chelsea to get back to winning ways against a Leicester side in a bad place.
More worryingly, there hasn’t really been many signs of the Foxes getting back to their old selves, whereas the Blues at least played well against Tottenham.
It’s hard to see Tuchel failing to get a response from his side after that humiliation at Elland Road.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-0 Leicester
Liverpool vs Bournemouth (Saturday, 3pm)
Normally, these kinds of games are nailed-on wins for Liverpool but it’s hard to be completely confident about them.
Performances probably haven’t been as bad as results may suggest, though I do think they are missing Sadio Mane so much — especially the threat he carried out of possession.
The Reds should still have too much for Bournemouth, but you can’t count out any upset at the moment.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 Bournemouth
Manchester City vs Crystal Palace (Saturday, 3pm)
Crystal Palace got a famous win at the Etihad last season, which makes you think that City will be extra determined to make sure they settle that score.
One thing that should help the champions is last weekend’s draw with Newcastle — a team who play in a very similar style to Palace with their quick breaks and threats out wide.
You’ve got to think they will tighten things up defensively and while I reckon Palace may get on the scoresheet, I’m going for a home win.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Crystal Palace
Arsenal vs Fulham (Saturday, 5.30pm, Sky Sports)
Nobody will be expecting Fulham to get a result here but I’m sure they’ll quietly fancy their chances of spoiling Arsenal’s party given their own strong start.
Ultimately though, I think they will probably target a clean sheet and it’s hard to see them succeeding against a Gunners side that look so dangerous going forward.
It’ll be fun watching Saliba mark Aleksandar Mitrovic but he appears to never get flustered and I’m sure the young defender will relish the challenge.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-0 Fulham
Aston Villa vs West Ham (Sunday, 2pm)
What a huge game. If there’s a loser of this clash, I can see noise surrounding the losing manager’s position amplifying — something I think is ridiculous, by the way.
Both have had tough starts but Villa being at home should work in their favour if supporters can make it an intimidating atmosphere.
They were poor against Palace but did bounce back in the Carabao Cup, so I’m giving Steven Gerrard’s hosts the benefit of the doubt.
Prediction: Aston Villa 1-0 West Ham
Wolves vs Newcastle (Sunday, 2pm, Sky Sports)
Wolves need a win sooner rather than later and while they were decent in the first half against Tottenham, my old club didn’t ever really look like scoring.
They had a similar start to last season, albeit with better performances, so I think things will improve — though Newcastle arrive in really good form.
It pains me to say it but the Toon Army might have too much for Wolves here.
Prediction: Wolves 0-1 Newcastle
Nottingham Forest vs Tottenham (Sunday, 4.30pm, Sky Sports)
Tottenham are in form in terms of results, even though performances are yet to click — but you’re just waiting for them to really turn up against someone.
Forest will be really happy with their work so far back in the top flight and a cracking atmosphere is guaranteed at the City Ground here.
They did a job on West Ham a couple of weekends ago but I think Spurs will see them off with a degree of comfort here.
Prediction: Nottingham Forest 0-2 Tottenham