Image from Mirror Sport
We aren’t even in November yet and this season is already starting to provide one of the most exciting title races the Premier League has ever seen. The twists and turns are already at a premium high, with the top five teams currently separated by a single point, three of whom being level at the top on 20 points. While many managers tend to go for the classic “judge us after ten games” cliché during their early season press conferences, we are so excited by this season so far at Fanalysis that we cannot help judging them after only nine.
Chelsea cheering up, while its Gory Gory Man United
It may be too early to start calling Sunday’s clash at Stamford Bridge a six-pointer, but the match was a clear indication of the progress, or lack of in Manchester United’s case, of the two sides. Following their 3-0 defeat to Arsenal four weeks ago, Antonio Conte’s Chelsea look a revived team, with an important and convincing victory over the champions Leicester City, as well as triumphing over Jose Mourinho’s men. The Italian has not only changed the formation, but also brought in new personnel to freshen up the side. One of these changes that has gone under the radar a bit has been the re-introduction of Victor Moses to the Chelsea starting eleven, whose constant direct running and excellent link-up play has brought a new dimension to the team. On top of this, key individuals such as Diego Costa and Eden Hazard are back on form, while N’Golo Kanté is feeling more at home at his new club.
At Old Trafford however, it is starting to become a bit of a mess. Mourinho’s Red Devils record at this stage of the season is worse than that of Louis Van Gaal’s, and his was worse than David Moyes’! There is also a clear lack of leadership in this Manchester United team, and in its place are a large amount of egos, which makes many question the exclusion of experienced players such a Michael Carrick, or Bastian Schweinsteiger from the starting eleven. The form of summer signings Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic give off the impression that they were signed simply to boost shirt sales, while Marcus Rashford is being deployed ineffectively out on the wing, despite having a large amount of success last season while being played as a central striker. Not only does Mourinho not have a clue what his best eleven is, but the style of play has been so negative in their big games at Liverpool and Chelsea in recent weeks, that Marouane Fellaini, whose ability to harm players and head balls away overshadows his ability as a footballer, started both games. Would Sir Alex Ferguson have even dared using this type of strategy in games that mean a great deal to the football club? United have been a fading shadow of their former selves since his retirement in 2013, and it shows no sign of improving.
They’re figuring out your puzzle Pep!
After the perfect start with six wins from six Premier League games, the blue half of Manchester have stuttered recently, with no wins in their last 5 games in all competitions. This is down to the fact that teams are starting to press City high up the pitch a lot more, instead of sitting back and giving too much time and space for Guardiola’s tika taka style of play to weave round them. Spurs did this two weeks ago to earn victory over City at White Hart Lane while Southampton bravely did the same to earn a point at the Etihad. While City are under new leadership in terms of management, the team and the players are still mostly the same as previous seasons, meaning that they still have the same defensive vulnerabilities. While Vincent Kompany is sorely missed when absent through injury, he still possesses the risk of a major defensive error, while John Stones still shows the signs of the disastrous moments he endured last season at Everton. Moreover, Guardiola has to have a Plan B if the attractive style of play is not working. Teams in the Premier League do not give Man City the same respect that teams in La Liga or the Bundesliga give Barcelona and Bayern Munich, and this could hinder Man City and Guardiola in their quest for the title if they don’t make slight changes to their current set-up.
Big month ahead for the Gunners
After seven wins in a row in all competitions for Arsenal, the Gunner’s 0-0 draw at home to Middlesbrough came at a surprise to many, and while the fans aren’t quite jumping on Arsene Wenger’s back just yet, it shows the important task of squad management that the Frenchman has to undertake in order for Arsenal to be as successful as possible. While Boro must be praised highly for their game plan, which was executed to perfection, it was obvious that Arsenal missed the skill and tenacity of Santi Cazorla on Saturday afternoon, as they weren’t creative enough with the midfield duo of Francis Coquelin and Mohammed Elneny. The height of Olivier Giroud was also a big miss, with players such as Alexis Sanchez and Lucas Perez not being able to compete with the Middlesbrough centre back partnership of Daniel Ayala and Ben Gibson in the air. This shows that Wenger must manage his squad properly, which means using as much as the already large squad when possible, as most of the player are starting to look tired following several unchanged Arsenal line-ups. With important games such as Spurs and PSG at the Emirates, a trip to Old Trafford, as well as ventures in the Capital One Cup and a trip to Ludogorets in November, this is the perfect opportunity for Wenger to rest key players if he has that option. This is a big season for the Arsenal manager, whose future is on the line if he stutters over the coming months.
Liverpool and Lilywhites look ok, but old problems lurk
Both Spurs and Liverpool have looked impressive in recent weeks, with wins in big matches over Manchester City and Chelsea respectively, and many believe that they will both have a big say in the title race. Liverpool are one of the best teams in the league at the moment when it comes to attacking football, and Jurgen Klopp is showing what an excellent manager he is, following a full pre-season with his own players. Spurs are not conceding many goals at the moment, with Hugo Lloris and Toby Alderweireld providing most of that support. However, it is at the other end of the pitch for both these teams where their Achilles heels lie. Spurs have missed the natural goal-scoring ability of Harry Kane in their last few matches, and while Vincent Janssen has deputised in his absence, he is still getting used to the style and the standard of the Premier League, so Spurs are a bit short up front. For the red half of Merseyside, their main concern is still their defence, and it is proving to be a problem, even in the games that they win! Their defeat to Burnley at the start of the season shows how easily their back line can be penetrated, while their wins over Arsenal, Chelsea and West Brom would have been so much more comfortable had they not conceded silly consolation goals to put their then-potential three points into serious doubt. Is it possible to win the Premier League with Dejan Lovren as your first choice centre-half? Time will tell.
Who do you think will win the league? Are there any other teams that are in the frame? Is it too early to rule any of the above teams out of the race? Let us know in the comments below.