The Football Season So Far13th October 2016
After the unimaginable and meteoric rise of Leciester City last season, this Premier League season begun with a renewed sense of excitement and unpredictability unmatched in other European leagues. Managerial changes dominated the pre-season news cycle, but what have we learnt about the star-studded managerial cast list and their assembled squads from the first six games of the season?
Whilst Leicester appear to be relishing their opportunity in the Champions league this season, kicking off their European campaign with two victories, they have failed to produce their scintillating league form from last season. This season Leicester have already recorded the same number of losses that they did in their entire league campaign last season, and after particularly heavy losses at the hands of Liverpool and Manchester United it appears that Leicester’s opponents may simply have developed systems to cope with the Fox’s unique brand of counter-attacking football. Whilst this is certainly not the only potential factor it is fair to say that Leicester fans and neutrals alike are deeply disappointed not to see the Premier League Champions jostling for the top spot this season.
It appears that Guardiola has introduced a much needed polish to the raw talent that existed amongst Manchester City’s ranks. This is particularly true for Raheem Sterling who is flourishing under the Spanish coach. His new-found confidence being displayed against Swansea when he ignored the option of playing an on-a-hat-trick Aguero through, but opted to take-on Kyle Naughton before slotting the ball in at the near post. Guardiola’s achievement is particularly impressive for a team that is incorporating so many new players though their ability to continue this form over a full season is still very much an unknown.
The next five places are separated by just a single point. Though Tottenham don’t look the title-challenging side of last season, they are the only other Premier league side to have avoided defeat this season. After losing to Liverpool on opening day, Arsenal have been impressive, particularly in their first half demolition of Chelsea. Whilst this probably won’t be the year that Arsenal compete for a title they should once again be assured of a Champions League place. Liverpool’s free-flowing scoring has been too much for most teams to handle, but with only one clean sheet so far they have frailties at the back waiting to be exploited. Everton have put together an impressive run with Lukaku finding his scoring form. However, with arguably the easiest run the in the league they are yet to convince everybody. Finally, bringing up the rear of the title contenders, Manchester United have shown glimpses of form that match the great United teams of recent history, but slip-ups against seemingly lesser teams have many asking questions.
Liverpool’s free-flowing scoring can mask frailties at the back… Manchester United have shown glimpses of form
Crystal Palace and Chelsea find themselves on the same number of points but will view their seasons so far very differently. After only two victories recorded in the whole of 2016 before the start of this season, Pardew will be overjoyed that a run of three wins has arrested the slide that was surely leading to his firing. Benteke has shown signs of the player that took the Premier League by storm and Pardew will hope this can continue. Conte on the other hand will be worried as, although his team dealt comfortably with lesser sides earlier on in the season, they have failed to look convincing against either of their fellow title-challengers in Liverpool and Arsenal.
The newly-promoted trio of Hull, Middlesbrough and Burnley have all made a statement that they are here to stay with none of them currently finding themselves in the bottom three. Burnley have been the only side to defeat Liverpool and, in doing so, recorded the lowest total possession by a winning side in recorded history.
At the bottom end of the table Sunderland only have a one-all draw against Southampton as a highlight. After Moyes started the season with an announcement that fans should expect a relegation battle, even the ever-reliable Defoe may not be enough to save them. Swansea boss Francesco Guidolin is facing mounting pressure as reports of the chairman meeting with potential alternatives mount and the likes of Ryan Giggs announcing interest. The loss of Ashley Williams may prove costly as the Swan’s have managed to record a single clean sheet.
Stoke and West Ham are two sides whose form does not match the quality of their squads. Last season Stoke boasted the most Champions League champions and although this is probably not a true reflection of their squad, they do boast talents such as Shaquri and Arnautovic that should be doing better. Similarly, West Ham’s Dimitri Payet was arguably one of the Premier League’s best players last season with his deadly free kicks and defence-splitting passes. However, this season, West Ham have really struggled, albeit partly due to the need to adjust to their new tax-payer funded stadium. Neither side should hope to find themselves here this time next May, but in the Premier League momentum is key and their form must be turned around soon.