As the international break looms, let’s look back at what we’ve learned from the opening 4 Premier League games of the season.
I think it’s fair to say Manchester City and Liverpool are a gulf above the rest of the league and with just 4 games gone it’s already looking although it will be a 2-horse race between Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp’s men. The Reds go into the international break with a slight 2 point advantage over City after they dropped points against Tottenham.
City have started the season in typical fashion, and look the same slick goal-scoring machine as last year, scoring 14 goals in the opening 4 fixtures, and looked very comfortable in those games with Kevin De Bruyne looking back to his very best.
I have no doubt that City are the team to beat, as they are blessed with such great squad depth. However, City have shown that you can take points off them if you’re lucky or you take your chances like Tottenham did at the Etihad in what was a very one-sided game.
With the loss of Aymeric Laporte needing to have knee surgery, City are left with one recognised centre-back in Nicolas Otamendi, and depending on how well City deal with their issues at the back could be what proves crucial in how Liverpool can close the gap between the two sides.
12 points from 12 make it look like it’s been a routine start to the season for The Reds, but I think it’s fair to say their opponents have all given Liverpool a good test.
A team that was built on a solid defence last year with 21 league clean sheets, has so far managed just one clean sheet from four this season- the Liverpool defence already looks as though it’s being asked more questions than last year.
Liverpool haven’t looked the same defensive unit they were last season, and on the opening day in their 4-1 victory of Norwich, the Canaries managed 12 shots on goal, the most shots on target Liverpool have faced at Anfield, including all of last season.
Liverpool often have their front three to thank for getting them the goals required to win games like this, so if they can keep them fit and firing all season, then there’s always a chance.
It’s looking like we might have another year of ‘who wants it the most’ when it comes to deciding who finishes in this year’s top 4.
I think most people perhaps had Tottenham as an almost certainty to finish 3rd behind Man City and Liverpool, but with a rather unconvincing start to the season, it’s looking like they’re going to be in a close battle with Arsenal and Manchester United.
None of these sides have made blistering starts to the season, but I think the 2-2 stalemate in The North London Derby showed how evenly matched the two sides are as Arsenal try to finish above Spurs for the first time in 3 seasons.
A 4-0 win on the opening day against Chelsea perhaps gave United fans false hope of what to expect from their team, as they haven’t won a match since with two 1-1 draws to Wolves and Southampton, and a 2-1 loss to Crystal Palace at Old Trafford.
Man Utd have shown they can be dangerous at times with a lightning-quick attack including Daniel James who’s made a superb start to the season. Although it looks as though we’re seeing the same United side as last season that struggles to see out games against weaker sides, if they can find someone who can consistently score them goals, then they’re well in with a chance of top 4.
Best of The Rest?
Chelsea just slip out of contention for a place in the top 4 and with how they’ve started the season I don’t think you can argue against it. There have been areas of Chelsea’s performances that Frank Lampard would be proud of as well as obvious rooms for improvement as the Blues have won only 1 game conceding 9 along the way.
Chelsea have however shown positive signs in attack particularly through their youth with the likes of Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount, who have scored all of Chelsea’s league goals this season. But the problem with Lampard is finding his best 11 with the right balance as they have conceded sloppy goals which have already cost them crucial points.
One team that Lampard’s blues have already met this season are perhaps their biggest challengers for a Europa League spot is Brendan Rodger’s Leicester, who left Stamford Bridge with a 1-1 draw and remain undefeated this season sitting in 3rd position with 8 points from 12.
Winless in the PL but undefeated in 6 European games, the Wanderers find themselves in the group stages of the Europa League, although they may not quite have the squad depth to push on both fronts.
Everton have already played one of their rivals in the race for the top 6, and they came out on top in a thrilling 3-2 victory at Goodison Park. A new look attack with Moise Kean and Alex Iwobi looks like it could be exciting business if they can settle in well under Marco Silva.
West Ham have had a decent start to the season, with new signing Sébastien Haller adapting well to the league with 3 goals already. However, it remains to be seen whether they can find the consistency in performances needed to push for Europe.
Most people’s hot tips to be relegated were probably Sheffield United, but the newly-promoted side have shocked most and have made a good start to the season, the pinnacle of those performances was when they snatched a late point in a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge.
The Blades have shown resilience and have only suffered a 2-1 loss to Leicester, if they can continue their fighting spirit throughout the season, then they’re in with a chance of avoiding the drop.
Norwich and Newcastle were also many people’s favourites to go down, and both have picked up 1 win from their opening 4 games, but it’s Norwich who’ve looked the more impressive, playing well in defeat to both Liverpool and Chelsea.
Watford, Brighton and Aston Villa are also a few clubs down near the foot of the table. Watford, currently in 20th position shouldn’t find themselves in a relegation battle this season with the quality they have in their team, although last season’s FA Cup finalists have had a poor start to the season picking up just 1 point.
Brighton always seem to pull a result out of the bag every now and then, and they’ve already done so again this season with a 3-0 away win against Watford. It’s results like this that could see Brighton just survive the drop.
For Aston Villa, probably the newly promoted side tipped to do the best having spent more than any other PL club in the summer, it’s been a steady start as they were controversially denied a goal that would have seen them get a point against Crystal Palace.
Whether Villa can find some form and get their summer signings playing well together could be the difference between a mid-table scrap and relegation battle.