Already the new Premier League season is proving to be unpredictable, with big signings hitting the ground running.
As Manchester City thrashed Manchester United a fortnight ago, it felt like the Premier League season had finally got going. Over that weekend 26 goals were scored and the vibrant nature of several matches was in direct contrast to the first few weeks of the season. Games back then often lacked fluency and ultimately petered out as low scoring affairs. With the transfer window closing on 2 September, however, recently teams across the division have been able to stick with a first choice eleven and integrate new players.
So what have we learnt from the season so far? Starting with the form teams, Arsenal has surprised quite a few people. Aside from their opening day aberration against Aston Villa, the ‘Gunners’ look full of goals and will surely rack up some comfortable victories against the weaker teams with their fluid attacking style. Their obvious weakness is of course the paper-thin nature of their squad, and in particular what Arsene Wenger will do if his only top-quality out-and-out striker, Olivier Giroud, gets injured.
Elsewhere, Tottenham’s squad depth should mean that they won’t run out of steam in the latter part of the season like they have in previous years. All in all, with Liverpool bolstered by the sublime form of Daniel Sturridge this calendar year, it is quite possible that one of the current ‘Big Four’, Man Utd, Man City, Arsenal and Chelsea, could miss out on the top four and Champions League qualification. At the other end of the table, the early signs are not good for a few teams. Crystal Palace, unfortunately, have a group of players who would fit in better in the Championship.
The shambolic start to the season by Sunderland has gone from the bizarre to the ridiculous, to such an extent it is difficult to summarise the goings on in such a short article. I can understand Paolo Di Canio’s desire to revamp the squad, and introduce a bit of discipline to a group who narrowly avoided relegation last year. But what I can’t fathom is why he wanted to change things so quickly and in such a confrontational style. Although his sacking came as a surprise so early in the season, it is likely that is was his very approach to player management which wore on the patience of Sunderland Chairman Ellis Short.
Fulham’s start has also been inconsistent at best. They have an exciting attacking trio in Bent, Ruiz and Berbatov, but it is at the other end of the pitch where they need to worry. They have kept only one clean sheet all season. Finally, Norwich have also struggled, but I think they’ve shown just about enough quality, thanks to players such as Snodgrass and Van Wolfswinkel, to suggest that once the new players gel they will comfortably be able to survive.
Finally, I cannot write a review of the early Premier League season without talking about the impact of some of the major signings. The stand out arrival over the summer was Mesut Özil, and he has made an impressive start to his career in England, which has gone some way to justifying Arsene Wenger’s investment. Personally I believe Özil will flourish at Arsenal and live up to his reputation as the ‘King of the Assist’, which has been coined in reference to his status as the top assist provider for any player across Europe from 2008-2013.
At Tottenham, Paulinho and Christian Eriksen look like wonderful, technically gifted players who will certainly aid Tottenham’s push for a Champions League place. Overall, although one could be forgiven for moaning that the table already has a familiar look to it, I would argue that the table only tells half the story. An exciting facet to the new season is the fact that results aren’t always predictable, and the failure of the top contenders to maintain unbeaten records suggests this season could be a competitive one.
Although in the end, given the financial might of some of the big teams, the spoils will probably go to the same old suspects, we could be in for some surprises along the way. A consequence of the attacking approach taken by many teams is a degree of defensive susceptibility. I would contend that that’s no bad thing.