1/4 way through
It’s still early days in the race for the Premier League with most teams only 9 games deep. Some teams have really hit the ground running whereas some have stalled badly since the busy end of last season. What’s interesting is the change in perception of who people think can make a legitimate race for the title.
Yes I said it! Spurs have really found some good form as of late which was epitomised by their deserved win over Manchester City. Kane and Son are in superb form with both playing selflessly for the team which wasn’t always the case with the former.
But would I be calling them contenders if not for Jose Mourinho? Honestly I think not but there are other factors as well. This will be the first season in years where the title will not be going to a team with 90+ points. The schedule is increasingly busy with both domestic and European games coming quick and fast.
Spurs though are a better outfit than previously. Defencively tough and the addition of Hojbjerg/Bale and Doherty has given them a new dimension. Under Jose he has made them harder to beat and although sometimes uneasy on the eye they have a razor counter attack.
The key for Spurs will be getting to January and still be in contention. Tough fixtures with Arsenal/Chelsea/Liverpool in their next 4 games will tell alot about them and their mentality. But funnily enough I have a feeling they’ll do well against all the big teams. Jose will play a copy exact system as he did with City. Its actually the smaller teams they will struggle against as they will be expected to break them down.
Verdict : The biggest hurdle they will have is changing their belief system. Spurs have not been in a title race for years since Leicester and they were never really in that race convincingly. As they are not expected to reach 90 points this will work in their favour as Jose specialises in not losing rather than winning against the top 6. Previous years this tactic would not yield a top2 finish. Position – 3rd.
Early season form was counting Chelsea out of this year’s title as they seemed to have too many new faces to gel in time. But things have moved quickly at the bridge and Frank Lampard has forged them into the team of superstars that they are.
Werner has added pace going forward with an edge of ruthlessness. Havertz took some time to settle with Lampard failing to play him in his natural position early on. But he now looks a proper player. Most people will point at Thiago having a positive effect in the defence but for me Kurt Zouma has been the standout player in the backline. Aerially exceptional coupled with raw aggression Lampard has found a proper partner for the Brazilian.
As mentioned above the fact that both Liverpool and City are destined not to have such an amazing season will also favour Chelsea. They now have possibly the most complete squad as a whole. No injuries to key players is a huge plus and they have gone under the radar to accumulate a respectable 18 points.
The Chelsea squad literally has an embarrassment of riches. With the Christmas period always one of attrition this is where I fancy Chelsea to pick up more points than their competition. They can rotate Kovacic/Kante/Jorginho and the options in front of them are equally impressive with Mount/Werner/Pulisic. No team can boast these options.
Verdict : This is a huge opportunity for Chelsea to crack the title out of nowhere. The question remains is Lampard capable of guiding them to the top. Funnily enough if this was Mourinho at the helm I’d be hanging my hat on them. Where I don’t think they will come undone at most obstacles there is only one where they might struggle and that’s their striker. Abraham needs another season to see if he can traverse average to class. Giroud will never yield 20+ goals. Maybe in the tighter games that might count. One thing for sure is Chelsea are back at the top end and nobody can doubt their owners motives. Position: 2nd.
Liverpool have been a phenomenon the past 2 seasons. Their winning streak last season which finally yielded their first title in 30 years was worth a particular mention. But this season has dealt them some crushing blows. Losing Virgil Van Dijk for a season to an ACL then losing Gomez for possibly the same amount of time has given many a good reason to doubt them. Aston Villa destroyed them scoring 7 goals and then more losses with Fabinho and Hebderson getting injured have really tested the champions.
But they have not rested on their excuses. Back to back wins over West ham and Sheffield after going a goal down in both showed signs of fight. Then last weekend everyone was expecting a real test if their credentials when Leicester came to Anfield. Liverpool tore down any notions of wilting with an impressive performance.
Their defence was solid despite only having Andy Robertson fit from the regular back 4. Fabinho and Matip played incredibly well and Milner was excellent at fullback. But the most important part of the performance was the way they played to their strengths. Nobody would have realised that the midfield had 19 year old Curtis Jones playing alongside Kieta and Wjinaldum. Diogo Jota has been blistering and his emergence as a top talent really has given Liverpool an extra dimension his season.
Verdict : To win a title you need to show consistancy and fight. Klopp has Liverpool doing this for 2 full seasons now. Despite the problems this year he still has a mentality infused in this side that will still make them dangerous in every game. The acid test though is if Klopp can keep his defence rotated enough to keep them fresh. Their attacking play will always be top notch but if they can steady the ship defencively over the Xmas period I expect them to deliver. Position – 1st.
Of course this could all be early season wonders and the table might not reflect the real winners. Manchester City have had a rough time so far this season and its premature to simply write them off after 8 games. But there is something off about them this year. Teams have gotten at them like never before. But they still have quality. They’ll need Aguero fit and maybe even the addition of another midfielder to their ranks to get firing. From this position though it will take a huge change in their fortunes.