It’s been a fantastic start to the Premier League season, and after another goal-filled, incident-packed weekend, the table has started to take a familiar shape.
It is my opinion that the top three and bottom six are unlikely to change much between now and May. Chelsea’s comeback victory at Tottenham has ensured their four point gap at the top remains, whilst Manchester United and Manchester City continue to cling onto their coattails, after both recording comeback victories of their own.
Whilst at the bottom, Southampton slipped back into the bottom three after conceding another four goals, this time at West Ham. You feel their leaky defence will see them in and around this position for the duration of the season. Reading showed fight, but were ultimately beaten at Anfield, and like Mark Hughes’ QPR, are yet to record a victory this season. Wigan and Villa both suffered another defeat. The opening eight games have shown they simply do not have enough quality. Whilst Norwich’s shock win over Arsenal has temporarily masked their vulnerability at the back.
Chelsea weren’t many peoples bet for the title, but Roberto Di Matteo’s men have looked a real force thus far. Saturday’s victory over Tottenham will be perhaps regarded as their finest result of the season, with Juan Mata once again superb. The Spaniard has thrived playing alongside summer signings Eden Hazard and Oscar, and with Fernando Torres improving all the time, it could be argued Chelsea have one of the most creative attacks in the Premier League.
Against Tottenham, Ramires partnered Mikel in the middle of the park. The Brazilian’s drive and energy offers a little more than Lampard at the moment, and in my opinion gives Chelsea a better balance. Gary Cahill showed he is in no way intimidated by replacing John Terry, and even scored a superb opening goal, further enforcing Chelsea have tremendous squad depth. The nature of Saturday’s victory also told us that Chelsea have superb spirit. Let us not forget this is by and large the same side that won the Champions League against the odds last season. With the addition of some top quality new players, I also think Chelsea are only going to improve as the season goes on. I wouldn’t bet against them being top of the table come May.
Without doubt the two Manchester clubs will not make it easy. But so far both have looked vulnerable defensively, with City managing to keep just one clean sheet in all competitions, and Manchester United falling behind in six of their eight league games, conceding eleven goals. The return of Nemanja Vidic in the new year will obviously help their cause, and the experience of Ferguson in guiding a team to the title means I simply cannot see United finishing outside the top two.
Roberto Mancini still arguably has the strongest squad in the division. Saturday’s comeback victory at the Hawthorns could be a defining moment for them, given the dramatic circumstances surrounding the result. Edin Dzeko continues to play the role of super sub to great effect, and with the likes of Tevez, Balotelli and Aguero on the books it is impossible to see City finishing outside the top three. Mancini must look to strengthen the defence, and hope that his captain Vincent Kompany rediscovers his form of last season, if they are to retain their title.
The relegation battle is also sure to be enthralling. Reading and QPR need that first victory desperately in order to kick on. Once both have that monkey off their back, it will be interesting to see how they fair. Both sides performances at the weekend showed definite improvement.
Southampton’s obvious problem lies in defence. The 4 conceded at Upton Park on Saturday brings their tally up to 24 goals conceded in eight games. It is a problem that needs to be eradicated as soon as possible if they are to avoid relegation.
Wigan, Aston Villa and Norwich sit just above the relegation zone, and I expect them to remain in and around that area for the remainder of the season. Roberto Martinez has produced the unthinkable at Wigan time and again, and is probably waiting until April to start stringing some wins together.
Chris Hughton will have been delighted with his sides display at the weekend in beating the mighty Arsenal, a result and performance that will give huge belief in their battle to get out of trouble.
Paul Lambert’s misery at Villa continued following a late winner at Craven Cottage. Villa seem to lack real quality, particularly up top. If Darren Bent isn’t firing you wonder where the goals are coming from. Whilst Swansea won at the weekend, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them getting dragged into the battle themselves as inconsistency continues to disrupt their season.
Last season was simply incredible, with everyone declaring there would never be another season like it. I highly doubt it will go to the last kick of the last game again, but the opening eight games have shown it is once again going to be another incredibly close and enthralling title race and relegation battle.
Do you think the table will change much between now and May? Follow me on Twitter @LukeGreenwood89 and let me know your thoughts.