The Premier League So Far: The League of Unpredictability

The first five weeks of the new Premier League season has flown by and with it has come a reminder of why football is so dearly cherished: unpredictability. The Champions, Chelsea, sit precariously close to the relegation zone on just four points with an equally surprising minus five goal difference. Meanwhile, a Riyad Mahrez-inspired Leicester City have managed to find a remarkable second place spot after five games. The three new arrivals in the Premier League find themselves outside the bottom three and have generally acclimatised well to life in the top flight.

It’s been far from a disappointing start to the Premier League season. The only predictable aspect of the new campaign has been the excitement, whether it be a dramatic 4-3 win for Bournemouth, a miraculous 3-2 comeback for Leicester or a memorable bicycle kick by Christian Benteke – football has returned with a bang.

 

The Premier League So Far: The League of Unpredictability

Slow Starters – Do Not Despair

Not everyone will be enjoying the new season so much, though. The North East has seen a fairly miserable return to life in the league. Under Steve McClaren, Newcastle have started very slowly, managing just two goals in their opening five games. This run of form is particularly concerning considering Newcastle had one of the highest net spends in the league during the transfer window this summer. It goes to show, yet again, that throwing money at a problem doesn’t always solve it. The hope for Newcastle fans will be that the bigger names that have been brought in, such as Georginio Wijnaldum, produce their best, and, in the case of Aleksandar Mitrović, simply keep their temperament in check.

Sunderland fans have seen their team have a very disappointing start to proceedings thus far as well. The opening two weeks in particular showed signs to worry fans, conceding seven goals in two games and, perhaps most worryingly, letting the newly promoted Norwich City find the net three times at The Stadium of Light.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though; Sunderland created far more chances in their last game against Tottenham. Despite eventually narrowly losing, there seemed to be a genuine belief that goals would eventually have to come. Teams lower down in the table this early simply have to believe that – on another day, Jermaine Defoe’s agonising strike against the post will find the net, and Sunderland will find the extra bit of luck they so desperately need.

The new signings have looked promising, most noticeably Jeremain Lens and Yann M’Vila, both of whom will be essential to Sunderland’s survival chances. The truth is that it will most probably be a challenging spell for both the North East clubs. Hope can be taken from the end of last season for both, though; Sunderland managed to stay up in a brilliant defensive display against Arsenal in the penultimate game of the season, and Newcastle managed survival on the very last day. Although a bottom three spot feels like the end of the world at this point, momentum can be everything; a look at the likes of Leicester City, for instance, should be enough to inspire anyone. In football – and especially in the Premier League – anything is possible.

 

Chelsea’s Chances for the Title: Faint Hope or Already Irretrievable?

José Mourinho isn’t someone who is used to falling short of standards, yet, so far, that’s the only way Chelsea’s season could be judged. Arsenal at home will prove a chance to show that their standards have not slipped so dramatically, and fans will hope the excuses of pre-season insufficiencies and unwanted international breaks will subside. In simple footballing cliché terms: ‘its early days’.

The most concerning and disruptive problem has certainly come from the very first week for Chelsea. The touchline argument between Eva Carneiro and Mourinho was certainly a strange one, with its effects looking as though they had at least some bearing on the 3-0 defeat the following weekend at Manchester City. It seems extremely difficult to justify Mourinho’s handling of the situation and, in truth, a simple apology may have gone a long way. Despite no clear resolution fathomed, time may do something to lessen the impact it has on the squad itself. Altogether, it has to be said that the controversy surrounding it has been an unnecessary and surprising distraction, one the club will certainly want to quickly forget.

Mourinho seemed fazed, but still far from undefeated in his post-match interview after the Everton game. There seems to be an inherent refusal to truly accept defeat, that is, without some form of justification and hope to follow it. Perhaps this is an essential ingredient to success, or cynics may argue a questionable lack of acceptance of the reality of the situation.

Regardless, Mourinho seems confident to defend his players saying “don’t touch them, touch me,” and “they deserve better results” (even in the Manchester City game). There also seems to be a part of him relishing the challenge that lies ahead; he’s achieved so often and so frequently, the change in position is unknown but one he seems to have the utmost motivation in resolving. Already being 11 points adrift of Manchester City makes the task of retaining the title seem to already be verging on impossibility. However, so does the concept of entirely writing off Mourinho and his Chelsea side.

 

Manchester and Leicester City: The Tremendous Top Two

Manchester City have found perfection so far this year. Eleven goals scored and no goals conceded, as well as winning all five of their opening games gives them a deserved spot at the top of the league. There was some concern going into the season that the problems they encountered last year may replicate themselves yet again. Manuel Pellegrini deserves a great deal of credit for the way he has handled himself at Manchester City; it’s near enough an impossible job to keep if you spend as much as Manchester City do and don’t win the league. However, the club has stuck with him and are now reaping the rewards.

The signings brought in will of course be significant, but it’s the old heads that have made the greatest impact and may continue to do so. Vincent Kompany has seemed much sturdier at the back, as well as Aleksandar Kolarov stepping up to the plate and producing some highly impressive performances. As well as this, both have done their bit going forward and have vitally contributed goals to show for it. Meanwhile, Yaya Touré seems settled at the club and with this his play on the pitch has been outstanding too.

The only downside may be the fact that Sergio Agüero has managed just one goal as well as suffering a minor injury against Crystal Palace. If injuries do become a problem, this may be an opportunity for Manchester City to showcase what separates them from the rest of the league: their depth. Whether it be Wilfred Bony or man of the moment, Kelechi Iheanacho, the support of Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Raheem Sterling just behind is enough to frighten any team in the Premier League.

The greatest surprise of all, though, has certainly been Leicester City. The way they’ve played has been thoroughly entertaining and encapsulated what makes the Premier League so great to watch. When Nigel Pearson was sacked by Leicester, it was hardly a universally popular decision; he may very well deserve a great deal of credit for the success Leicester are now indulging in. Claudio Ranieri has settled back into Premier League life well, though, and has witnessed Riyad Mahrez and indeed a number of other highly motivated, in-form players reach unprecedented new heights for the club. He, too, deserves credit for keeping the momentum going at Leicester City; unsurprisingly, his popularity has grown immensely since his initial replacement of Pearson.

The only question that remains is whether or not Leicester can possibly continue their current run of form.  The warning signs were apparent against Aston Villa, but the way they came back will have perhaps only energised the team further. With reflection to last season and ‘the great escape’, Leicester fans will have managed their expectations. There are a few reasons, despite the ever present likelihood of injuries, why Leicester can’t manage a top half finish this year. Of course, there will be those fans who have their eyes set on a highly improbable European spot, but, after the start Leicester have had, who can blame them for adjusting their sights?

 

Your Biggest Surprises So Far:

 

@lastwordimogen – How frustratingly average Southampton have been. It could be residual Europa fatigue, but their structure is just poor.

@EricWSoccer  – [Arsenal’s] place in standings is fantastic considering the product we’ve seen on the field.

@MCFC_Central – Chelsea’s start really, thought Mourinho would’ve had them desperate to go again.

@MikeDingDong –  Amongst Leicester’s rampant start and Chelsea’s struggling start, I’d say how solid Man City have been so far.

@patmoore97 – Definitely Leicester’s start to the season.

@ruffellhma  – Other than Chelsea, Leicester’s cracking start.

 

 

With credit to BBC Sport and BT Sport for Mourinho’s thoughts.

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