As Premier League campaigns go, this one has the early signs of one of the most unpredictable and surprising ones to date.
Chelsea, perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, are the early pace setters and appear to be going for an unbeaten season, while Liverpool have arguably already failed in their attempts at replicating last season’s superb title challenge.
Southampton have gone from relegation favourites to top four hopefuls in the matter of a few months and Sam Allardyce is fast dispelling his reputation as a long ball merchant and turning West Ham in to a side playing attractive football fighting for a Europa League spot.
And, to top it all off, we’ve got Alan Pardew still in a job at Newcastle after steering them in to the top six for a couple of weeks and QPR’s Charlie Austin being touted for an England call up.
So we asked the Sunday Express Chief Football Correspondent John Richardson for his thoughts on some of the Premier League’s big talking points of the season so far. Here’s how he sees it…
Which Premier League sides apart from Southampton has surprised him so far this season?
West Ham, because a lot of people thought they would be in relegation trouble. There was a lot of talk during the summer about Sam Allardyce losing his job or maybe even walk out because he was under pressure to play a more expansive game. He was told to bring in an attacking coach.
The Sam Allardyce of old may have walked but he is a bit more mature these days, knows what the game is all about. He brought Teddy Sheringham in to help with the forward coaching. Allardyce is an excellent manager in his own right. They deserve to be where they are at the moment in the top six. They have played some good football, they’re hard to beat.
The fans are off his back, but I don’t think many people would have predicted this. Most would have predicted he would have been one of the first managerial casualties of the season but instead he has gone from strength to strength.
Who is the next manager likely to be sacked in the Premier League?
It changes from week to week in the Premier League. Usually around February/ March time they get twitchy. I would say Mauricio Pochettino has to watch his back, there’s talk about Harry Redknapp under pressure.
I hope Burnley stick with Sean Dyke because they knew it was going to be a tough season. I spoke to one of the directors at the start of the season and he said they would stick with Sean no matter what happens. It’s easy to say that at the start of the season than say January or February when you’re bottom of the league and you’re staring the Championship in the face.
The one under the greatest pressure has to be Pochettino.
Do Tottenham have to finish in a European spot for Pochettino to keep his job?
No and yes. I think Tottenham would like that. He did a fantastic job at Southampton but it isn’t going well at Tottenham. You have to question some of the buys and see who they get in the January transfer window.
As long as he buys well in January and we see some improvement, I think he will be safe but if they drop further and if this supposes unrest between him and the players continues then the pressure increases. He’s a capable manager as he has shown at Southampton but he needs to start doing the business at Tottenham fairly rapidly.
Was Mike Ashley right to stick with Alan Pardew especially after the bad run of form at the start of the season?
It’s a complicated situation there because it’s not always about results at Newcastle. Why a lot of the fans want Alan Pardew out, they feel he is a yes man to Mike Ashley. In an ideal world, they would want Mike Ashley to sell the club because they feel the club won’t go forward with him in charge. He’s a good business man but he doesn’t give the club money, he sells the best players. 52,000 have turned up every other week thinking ‘Where is the club going? There is no ambition’.
They have felt that Pardew has always said yes to what Mike Ashley wanted. That’s why they have had a downer on Alan Pardew. I don’t think it is to do with results. They haven’t been fantastic but they have improved over the past month winning five on the trot. Really it was the case they wanted someone to stick up to Mike Ashley and you would of thought anyone that did wouldn’t be in the job very long so it’s a no win situation. So what I am really saying is nothing has changed.
If Newcastle wins ten games on the run, there will still be people unhappy with Alan Pardew. In certain respects he can’t win.
Should the likes of Charlie Austin be selected ahead of Rickie Lambert for England?
Yeah probably, Rickie Lambert has been a disappointment so far at Liverpool although he could argue he hasn’t had many opportunities. You can’t blame him going from Southampton to Liverpool because it was the club he supported as a kid.
You do wonder about that decision though because he was a regular at Southampton, scoring goals and in form which lead to him being selected by England. Roy Hodgson is very loyal to players and I suppose as far as he’s concerned although Lambert isn’t receiving playing time, he still knows him as the player he selected at Southampton so he stuck by him.
Personally I think the likes of Charlie Austin and Danny Ings probably desire to be ahead of him because they are scoring goals in the Premier League and the under 21s and should be given an opportunity. Rickie Lambert is quite lucky.