10 Narratives Dominating Early Premier League Season
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The new Premier League season is three games in, and there have been plenty of talking points. Here are the ten most talked about plots of the new season:
1. Liverpool’s defensive strength
The Premier League’s biggest summer spenders have started the season with a bang and sit on top of the league after three games. It is not the goals they have scored that have grabbed the attention, but it’s the three clean sheets that are winning the plaudits. Much like Manchester City a year ago, the signing of a top-class goalkeeper has brought confidence to a defense that began last season radiating uncertainty.
Virgil Van Dijk is looking the best central defender in the league, and with Joe Gomez alongside him, Liverpool has found a perfect central combination to hold the line. Veteran James Milner has provided a reliable defensive screen from midfield, providing another means to hold teams out. It’s still early, but Liverpool finally look as solid in defense as they are devastating in attack.
2. Can City cope without Kevin De Bruyne?
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City was never likely to surrender their title as meekly as the 2013 and 2015 incarnations of City. In saying that, they’ve already suffered a major blow with the news that Kevin De Bruyne won’t play until November. Despite a strong start to the season, City missed De Bruyne’s invention when trying to pick their way through Wolves’ defense on Saturday. City has depth to their squad and will have Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden competing for De Bruyne’s place in the lineup.
3. Jose Mourinho’s Manchester meltdown
When Jose Mourinho started complaining about his academy players not being enough, Manchester United has been in crisis mode. The disconnect between Mourinho and CEO Ed Woodward has been the subject of endless column inches, as has Mourinho’s lack of a relationship with the club’s World Cup winning poster boy Paul Pogba. United has lost back-to-back games in August for the first time since 1992. Their brand of football has been pedestrian when compared to the likes of City, Liverpool and Tottenham.
4. Happy days on the pitch at Chelsea, troubling rumors off it
After the combustible reign of Antonio Conte has come the calm assurance of Maurizio Sarri, he has now guided Chelsea to three straight wins. It seems Eden Hazard is staying for at least one more season, and new goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has seamlessly filled the void left by Thibaut Courtois. In saying that, it’s been widely reported that Abramovich is considering selling the club. It follows his publicized UK visa delay, which has already seen him halt progress on a new stadium. Officially, Chelsea is denying Abramovich is looking to sell, but anyone who happens to have £2 billion may want to consider making a call to West London.
5. Tottenham’s fast start
Tottenham was supposed to be in trouble after a summer where they signed no new players and saw the move to their new stadium postponed until at least October. However, Mauricio Pochettino and Chairman Daniel Levy never looked out of step this summer and have been rewarded with three straight wins. Slow starts have cost Tottenham making a serious title bids over the last three seasons, but signing Lucas Moura provides a new dimension to the attack.
6. Difficult days for Mesut Ozil
The winds of change are sweeping through the Emirates Stadium, and it seems Arsenal’s marquee player is not immune. After a troubled summer with Germany, Mesut Ozil has returned to North London and appears to be finding that new boss Unai Emery won’t indulge him the way Arsene Wenger did. After a poor display against Chelsea, Emery substituted Ozil, prompting a lengthy exit. Then against West Ham, Ozil was missing from the Arsenal squad due to a cold. It seems odd that a player suffering a viral condition would be allowed into a dressing room on match day, prompting plenty of speculation about his future.
7. The Hornets Sting
If Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool’s starts to the season were expected, the other team with a perfect record is a real shock in Watford. The Hornets were tipped to battle relegation, but currently sit in the top four, two points ahead of City. This is Watford’s best start to a season since 1982-83. Surely the club isn’t about to repeat what Leicester did, right?
8. West Ham in crisis
After two seasons dominated by displeasure with their new stadium and a perceived lack of ambition from the unpopular owners, things appeared to be looking up for West Ham after signing a title-winning manager in Manuel Pellegrini. However, West Ham’s defense looks as frail as ever, and Pellegrini is struggling to fit an abundance of creative talent in his team. For now West Ham fans are getting behind their team, but three of their next six games are against Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United.
9. England Reloaded
The last time England made it to a World Cup semifinal, it led to the formation of the Premier League within two years. How will England’s success in Russia impact the modern Premier League? In the past, Premier League fans have begun the new season excited by new imports, while this time home grown talent dominated the buildup.
As the season started, the homegrown numbers dwindled, with a little over 30% of the players starting Premier League games being eligible for England. This runs contrary to the re-connection that occurred between the England team and fans during the summer.
10. Tough at the bottom
After only two games of the season, Huddersfield’s match against Cardiff was being described as a relegation battle. With the emergence of an improved middle-tier of Premier League sides such Everton, Leicester, Bournemouth and Crystal Palace, it seems the relegation battle is being fought among a handful of teams. Alongside Huddersfield and Cardiff, both Southampton and Newcastle have made worryingly poor starts. Burnley has struggled to cope with the dual pressures of Europa League and Premier League football, leaving the relegation battle poised to be a tantalizing dog fight.
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