It is very clear that the Premier League title race is between Liverpool and Manchester City this season.
The Reds and the Blues slugged it out throughout the 2018/19 season, with Pep Guardiola’s men ultimately coming out on top. The Reds lost just once all season, to City, but it still wasn’t enough to topple the reigning champions.
Already this season, Liverpool have 12 points from a possible 12; City have 10.
The two sides have the best squads in England, the best coaches and the best individuals. Where Liverpool failed in the Premier League in 2018/19, they won in Europe; City won a domestic treble.
There is no excitement to be found there unless you support one of those teams.
The fun this season comes in the battle for the top four.
For the first time since perhaps 2015/16, when Leicester won the title, City finished behind Spurs, Southampton and West Ham both topped Liverpool and Chelsea finished 10th, there is a genuine sense of anarchy to the race to qualify for the Champions League.
Tottenham, of course, are perhaps the best-placed side. They reached the Champions League final and broke their transfer record this summer to sign Tanguy Ndombele from Lyon. They have Harry Kane and have retained Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld. Mauricio Pochettino is also one of the best managers in Europe.
Yet they have their deficiencies. The defence is porous and they have an overload of attacking midfielders. How will they fit Dele Alli, Eriksen and Son Heung-min into the same team?
From there, it’s something of a toss-up.
Manchester United, under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, do not seem to know what they want to be. They beat Chelsea 4-0 but drew with Southampton and lost to Crystal Palace. Paul Pogba is world-class but can that be said of any other player in the squad? Daniel James is excellent but should he have instantly become their best attacking weapon following a move from Swansea City? Defensively, they signed Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka but they seem no more solid than they were last season.
Arsenal, with Unai Emery, have a brilliant attack but their defence is just as poor as United’s and is worse than Spurs’.
Chelsea, too, under Frank Lampard, are being forced to play the kids in what increasingly looks like a Football Manager experiment. They drew 2-2 with Sheffield United at the weekend after taking a 2-0 lead.
Then there’s the chasing pack, the teams that could break out and make 2019/20 a landmark season.
Everton have spent heavily and have some excellent young players. Their back four, with Lucas Digne at left-back, is probably better than Chelsea’s, Arsenal’s and United’s, and if Richarlison and Moise Kean click, they could have an attacking unit that can rival the top four too.
Leicester City, under Brendan Rodgers, have a fun group of players, particularly in attack. Jamie Vardy remains as rabid as ever, James Maddison is exceptional and Youri Tielemans should be playing for a team in the Champions League. Their full-back options – Ben Chilwell and Ricardo Pereira – should be the envy of almost every team in England.
Then there’s West Ham, who have the brilliant Sebastian Haller up front, and Wolves, who have yet to fully click into gear this season but have the likes of Raul Jimenez and Ruben Neves; they are unlikely to struggle for much longer.
This season, then, the established order is under very real threat.
There are rookie managers at the top – Solskjaer and Lampard could both be excellent; they could also be sacked by Christmas – and experience beneath them.
Pochettino and Emery don’t know their best teams yet and Leicester have started the campaign like a house on fire. They haven’t lost yet.
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The Foxes aren’t very likely to repeat the miracle year they had in 15/16 but them and Everton both pose a very real threat to the teams outside of City and Liverpool.
If United and Chelsea struggled historically, they stayed in the top four because there wasn’t anyone to challenge them.
This season, the opposite is true. Don’t be surprised to see both of them fall out, and another power emerge in England.
The opportunity is there for Leicester and Everton or perhaps even West Ham and Wolves to break through and finish in the top six. If they do, they could repeat the kaleidoscope of the 2015/16 season.
Time will tell if they can seize their chance.