For the first time since 2013 we’ve got a Mancunian dogfight at the top of the Premier League. Spearheaded by the two main heavyweights in football management, Manchester City and Manchester United have both made alarmingly strong starts to the 2017-2018 season.
Such a statement is perhaps a tad harsh to the white and blue factions of London. Tottenham and Chelsea have both also built solid platforms to mount a title challenge. Spurs are top of a very strong group in the Champions League, whilst very few Chelsea fans can be unhappy about the beginning of their title defence. Alvaro Morata has certainly been the brightest spark in a Chelsea team that cannot be written off just yet.
“As disappointing as it is that there’s still no sequel to the Leicester story of a few years ago, the league is still as exciting as ever.”
Liverpool and Arsenal headline the chasing pack. The former demolished the latter 4-0 on an August afternoon the Gunners won’t want to hear about for a long time. But Klopp’s side have been indifferent, and that result was sandwiched by a 5-0 thrashing from City, and a more recent 4-1 drubbing from Tottenham. Arsenal have also experienced a mixed bag of results, which have included shock losses to Watford and Stoke.
Up to the ordering of the teams, the top six is identical to the top six that finished the season last year. As disappointing as it is that there’s still no sequel to the Leicester story of a few years ago, the league is still as exciting as ever.
Burnley and Watford have both made incredibly plucky starts to the season, occupying 7th and 9th position respectively. Resilience is probably the best word to manifest the reason behind that success. Combined, these two teams have taken points off Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs, Everton and Liverpool. Sean Dyche has more than proven his ability to construct a solid team and Marco Silva is beginning to look like an incredibly shrewd managerial appointment.
Many of the teams occupying the middle of the pack will consider themselves proud to be there. This includes newly promoted Newcastle, who’ve just poked their noses into the top half. St James’ Park is beginning to resemble more of a daunting away trip – times are looking up for Toon fans. Travel 350 miles down the A1 and you’ll find Brighton, who in the fantasy and sensational nature of their maiden PL season, find themselves in a remarkable 8th place. But the season’s biggest surprise is Huddersfield, who lie in 10th place. An astonishing feat for David Wagner’s men, their 2-1 win at home to Manchester United was indicative of the plucky nature of a team who were most people’s favourites to go down at the beginning of the season.
The 2017-2018 taste has been sour for Stoke and West Ham, who both ship about 2 goals per game. Indeed, any Potters fans that made the trip to Manchester got on the receiving end of a 7-2 hammering, which came only three weeks after a 4-0 humiliation at home to Liverpool. The Hammers can sympathise – the only performance at the London Stadium worthy of Olympic standard was Brighton’s performance against them, which resulted in a 3-0 rout.
The award for the most dismal start to the season is shared between Everton and Crystal Palace. The Toffees, boasting valued players such as Wayne Rooney and Ashley Williams, find themselves languishing in 15th amid a managerial crisis. Palace on the other hand wrote their place in history for being awful, going seven games without scoring a goal, let alone getting any points on the board.
“For now though, Pep’s Blues look untouchable and the bookies will be smiling the way things are going.”
So 2017-2018 clearly makes no promise to be a free-for-all that we saw two seasons ago. But there is scope for more than a two horse race at the top. Indeed Tottenham and Chelsea at least will be ready to pounce on any slip-ups. If Everton can’t find their feet we may be in for a shock relegation battle, and I don’t think there’s any doubt we’ll be seeing Crystal Palace fighting for their lives come next April. For now though, Pep’s Blues look untouchable and the bookies will be smiling the way things are going.