When this new Premier League season begun back in August many would have expected few teams to still remain unbeaten going into October’s fixtures. Champions Manchester United? Probably. Massive spending Manchester City? Almost certainly. Aston Villa and Newcastle United after losing various key players? Ye…..hang on a minute! Don’t you mean now perennial title challengers Chelsea? Nope. Or how about big spending and revitalised Liverpool? Certainly not. Finely balanced and attacking Spurs? No no no! Strange as it may seem, as the first league fixtures of October ended, there are four Premier League teams who are still yet to taste defeat this season in the league; first placed Manchester United, second placed Manchester City, fourth placed Newcastle United and seventh placed Aston Villa.
Undefeated and flying under the radar of some of the supposed ‘bigger’ clubs in the Premier League Newcastle United and Aston Villa are enjoying a fine start to this season. Even the most ardent supporters of these two clubs would have struggled to believe they would be unbeaten after 7-league games, after the extremely turbulent summer they witnessed. To be honest, many must have feared the worst. Let’s start in the north-east on Tyneside.
Newcastle were still reeling from the loss of local lad Andy Carroll as the summer began, but with the transfer window now open again, here was a proper chance to use the huge sum of money they received for their former striker and replace him. Instead, talk was of an exodus of more key players, due to broken promises and contract issues. Captain Kevin Nolan was first high profile name to leave. What must have confused (and maybe embarrassed) fans of the Toon Army was the fact that he left to join a side in the Championship! Next to leave and following in Carroll’s footsteps was the much vaunted Spaniard Jose Enrique, amidst a flurry of unhappy Twitter messages. Finally, never to be outdone in the controversy stakes (and certainly not on Twitter) was a certain Joey Barton, who appeared to spend most of his time fighting with the board but staying on the right-side of the fans, before making-up with the management team, then leaving for newly promoted QPR on transfer deadline day.
Three more key players had departed, and their replacements seemed a little underwhelming. In came midfielders Yohan Cabaye, Sylvain Marveaux and Mehdi Abeid from France, followed by another Frenchman, albeit from Manchester United, Gabriel Obertan who had endured a nightmare career thus far with the Champions in England. The striking role was filled by yet another Frenchman with experience of the English league with West Ham in Demba Ba. Enrique’s replacement was found in one time promising Italian left-back Davide Santon. Those six players were hardly household names to the average supporter, but somehow manager Alan Pardew has moulded an impressive unit with Cabaye in particular standing out from the bunch. The retuning Ben Arfa from long-term injury also seems like a new signing. Other than an Arsenal in turmoil, Newcastle are yet to face any side fighting for a top-four finish and beyond so sterner tests are to come, although they have beaten their derby rivals and a tough Wolves side away from home, whilst drawing with fellow surprise packages Aston Villa.
Villa also had their fair share of traumatic events during the summer and many feared they too, would be left worse off. Against the backlash of appointing Alex McLeish, former manager of their most hated rivals Birmingham City, Villa fans with disgruntled from the off, to say the least. Making things seem worse, something Villa fans have had to become accustomed to during the summer transfer window also occurred; they lost their best players. Off went Ashley Young and fans player of the year Stewart Downing to Manchester United and Liverpool respectively, whilst also losing ever-green keeper Brad Friedel. In fairness, a great replacement in Shay Given was signed to take his place in goal, and Spurs duo Alan Hutton and Jermaine Jenas also came in, adding Premier League experience. The long pursuit of Charles N’Zogbia also ended and came in as a perfect wing replacement for Young/Downing.
However it is the return to form of Gabriel Agbonlahor that has helped Villa remain unbeaten in the league this season, firing in 4-goals in 7-games. Perhaps even more influential in keeping their unbeaten status is new keeper Shay Given who seems to perform highlight saves every fixture. Similar to Newcastle however, tougher tests are yet to come for Villa as they too are yet to face any of the clubs who are challenging for honours this season.
Are both clubs getting the credit they deserve thus far? Probably not. Will they remain unbeaten all season? Again, probably not….but who knows? It’s a funny old game!
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