Manchester United 3-2 Fulham
It seemed the most enviable of problems: how do you fit Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney into the same side? By leaving the Englishman on the bench and then losing him to injury for a month, Sir Alex Ferguson need not provide an immediate answer. Yet the actual issue is more complicated: how do Van Persie, Rooney and Shinji Kagawa all slot in?
For the second successive game, United showed off their new shape, 4-2-1-3. In effect, it is an attacking diamond with Kagawa at the base and a striker - Rooney at Everton, Van Persie against Fulham - at the tip.
While Rooney's ill-fated cameo came as the spearhead, with Van Persie taking over from the substituted Kagawa in the deeper role, the first three quarters of the game highlighted the merits of the Japanese. Though up against defensive midfielders in both matches to date - first Phil Neville, then Mahamadou Diarra - he finds pockets of space, is always available for a pass and served as a conduit from left to right, or vice versa, as attacks changed direction.
Van Persie's goal provided a headline, but the Dutchman himself served as a decoy; directly up against the defence, he scored with his solitary shot and did not enjoy the room the three support acts enjoyed.
Because of the characteristics of the two wide men, United's attacking quartet was not a symmetrical diamond: Valencia holds his position and stays wide on the right, Young drifts in from the left. While it followed a corner, United's third goal actually involved both in positions they take up in open play, with the Ecuadorian near the corner flag, and the Englishman halfway between the touchline and the goal, before Rafael da Silva scored.
The statistics give an indication of their different positioning and preferences: Valencia delivered 14 crosses, by far the most in the match, while Young, like Kagawa, had four shots. They were in positions to go for goal, Valencia in areas to aim for team-mates.
The stations the wingers occupied also influenced the full-backs. Van Persie's goal was a case in point: the cross was delivered by Patrice Evra from the left wing, which Young had vacated. In contrast, right-back Rafael had a goal disallowed in open play, in addition to the one he scored from a corner, after making a diagonal run infield, with Valencia policing the flank.
It was a different diamond in the final quarter, with Rooney at the top and Danny Welbeck on the left, and it suggested that, slight as the distinction between attacking midfielder and deep-lying forward can be, Van Persie was less involved than Kagawa had been in the hole. The Japanese actually finished with the lowest pass completion rate of United's outfield starters, but as that was still 89%, it was a sign of how Fulham stood off United. Apart, of course, from when Hugo Rodallega accidentally stood on Rooney and delayed Ferguson's decision.
Swansea 3-0 West Ham United
Similar systems can involve very different styles of play. Swansea play 4-2-3-1 and West Ham 4-3-3 but one play with the ball and the other largely without. A game that was decided by two individual mistakes nonetheless illustrated the advantage of the winners' philosophy.
But there was one common denominator. With both fielding three central midfielders, of varying types, the concentration of players in the centre of the pitch can give space on the flanks and both looked to attack on their right wing, but in different ways. West Ham shifted Kevin Nolan, last season's top scorer, from the centre of midfield to the flank, indicating they were attempting to capitalise on his height advantage over Neil Taylor, the Swansea left-back. The presence of Matt Jarvis, who had managed the most crosses in the division last season and who, on his debut, put in more than the rest of the West Ham side put together, on the left wing, hinted at a ploy of aiming for Nolan at the far post. If it failed, it was in part because the Hammers saw too little of the ball; dead-balls are a typical strength of Sam Allardyce's sides but they only forced four corners.
More relevant was Swansea's focus on their right. Crosses from there produced the first and third goals; the first, from Angel Rangel, was turned in by goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen; the third, delivered by Wayne Routledge, was finished by Danny Graham.
Both were in behind the left side of the West Ham defence - first full-back George McCartney and then centre-back James Collins, and both angled from in to out. It offered two conclusions: that Swansea felt there was space behind McCartney and that West Ham did not provide him with enough cover. In their win against Aston Villa, Matt Taylor, sometimes a left-back himself, was positioned in front of McCartney. Here it was the club record buy Jarvis and then Ricardo Vaz Te, a winger and a striker.
When West Ham trailed 2-0 at the interval, they reorganised, bringing on Vaz Te on the left, removing holding midfielder James Tomkins, switching Nolan back into the centre and moving Jarvis across to the right wing.
Yet what followed - and not merely Graham's goal - showed the difficulties of chasing a game against a team who specialise in possession. Swansea out-passed West Ham 614 to 370 and their two holding midfielders, Leon Britton and Jonathan De Guzman, finished with the highest completion rates of any of the 22 starters, 96 and 93% respectively. Meanwhile, the two centre-backs, Chico Flores and Ashley Williams, attempted the most passes; up against one striker, they always had a spare man and an easy outlet. And while they have scored eight goals in two games, they also showed why passing can be a defensive as well as an attacking strategy. Since promotion, Swansea have kept clean sheets in 16 of their 40 league games. If opponents can't get the ball, they can't score.