Tuesday, October 13, 2020

So, What Have We Learned After Four Weeks? A Refresher on Returning from International Break

 Top of the Table

Everton -Things are great at Goodison as the Toffees sit atop the league with four victories in four matches.  The league and its fans are becoming believers, helped in no small part by the presence of legendary manger Carlo Ancelotti.  James Rodriguez has so far acclimated to the Premier League better than anyone could have hoped.  Fellow acquisitions Allan and Doucoure have helped solidify a midfield in need of repair. Holdover striker Calvert-Lewin has justified his manager’s faith and flashed star potential, jointly leading the league in goals with the mutually hyphenated Son Heung-min.

Aston Villa - Our second feel good story to date is the Villans, victors in all three of their matches to date and conquerors of defending champion Liverpool.  They re-signed home grown star Jack Grealish and have now provided him a midfield running mate in Russ Barkley.  New striker Ollie Watkins exploded for a hat trick in the big win over Liverpool.  Mings and Konsa have been solid at center back. The acquisition of Arsenal goalkeeper Emi Martinez was a statement of serious intent by a team which survived by only a point last season. 

Leicester - Winners of their first three matches before a stumble to West Ham, Leicester will go as far as thirty-three-year-old Jamie Vardy will take them. The striker has already contributed five goals in their four games.  Harvey Barnes, recently called to his first England National team cap, may help production. Midfielders Tielemans and Maddison must maintain consistency for the Foxes to go far. Acquired right back Timothy Castagne has had immediate impact.

Arsenal - Arsenal pushed their chips to the center of the table with the deadline day signing of midfielder Tomas Partey from Atletico Madrid.  A European place could still be derailed by back line concerns where the young William Saliba has not become the expected center back mate to Gabriel.  The Gunners should be firing up front and hopefully Partey and Granit Xhaka can help shield the back line.

Liverpool - A historic 7-2 defeat at Aston Villa has resulted in a lot of head scratching.  For now, they get the benefit of the doubt.  Expect the Reds to strongly defend their title with what remains perhaps the world’s best front line in Salah, Mane and Firmino.  Jota and Thiago are helpful additions.  One must think the star filled defense will return to form.  The next few weeks may remain tricky till the return of goalkeeper Alisson Becker.

Tottenham Hotspur - Spurs currently sit sixth and look top contenders for the European places (perhaps more?) after their demolition of Manchester United.  Add drama surrounding the return of Gareth Bale and the uncertain standing of Dele Alli and Jose Mourinho’s team will be prominent in the headlines.  And, oh yes, they have the league’s top joint goal scorer in Son Heung-min and England’s top striker Harry Kane.

Chelsea - Chelsea need quickly incorporate several newly acquired players, and others returning from injury, into a cohesive line-up.  Unfortunately, defender Ben Chilwell who was impressive in his league debut may have picked up another injury on international duty.  Goalkeeper concerns can hopefully be laid to rest with the acquisition of Edouard Mendy.  The success of a vast array of young attacking talent (Pulisic, Werner, Havertz, Mount, Abraham etc.) will likely determine both the club’s top four hopes and the fate of Chelsea Manger Frank Lampard.

Mid Table

Leeds - These exciting newcomers, losers only to defending champion Liverpool to date, should continue to be pleasing to the eye and ultimately rest comfortably mid table.  The aggressive style of Manager Marcelo Bielsa maximizes the on-field talent.  Much traveled, and often criticized, striker Patrick Bamford has found a home leading Bielsa’s line.

Newcastle - Their chances to stay in the upper half of the table could be largely contingent on striker Callum Wilson’s good health.  The club though has made more player moves than normally expected of Owner Mike Ashley.  Manager Steve Bruce has opportunity to perhaps solidify his status with the club.

West Ham - Credit to the Hammers, winners of two straight, for a remarkable turnabout following two bad losses and internal discord. There’s talent here in players such as young and improving midfielder Declan Rice.  Recent results would point to a more comfortable mid table finish versus last year’s late relegation escape.  Another striker would help.

Southampton - The club remains heavily reliant on Danny Ings for goals.  The acquisition of Theo Walcott is a feel-good story but unlikely to solve any problems at this stage (or perhaps any stage) of his career.  To stay clear of any relegation concerns Southampton needs to beat teams it should beat and did so in its recent victories over West Brom and Burnley.

Crystal Palace - A surprise three points earned at Old Trafford may prove helpful to a team which could struggle this year.  Goals remain elusive and they need make good use of newly acquired striker Michy Bartschuai.  The jury remains out on young winger Eberiche Eze.  Eyes will be on the play Wilfried Zaha following another transfer window that has passed him by.

Wolverhampton Wanderers - It has been an underwhelming start for Wolves with their two victories coming against cellar dwellers Sheffield and Fulham.  Two losses were by a 7-1 aggregate margin.  It remains to be seen whether new defender Nelsen Semedo proves adequate replacement, or perhaps even upgrade, for the departed Matt Doherty. Wolves look a continuing mid table force but perhaps not much more.

Manchester City - One win from their first three matches has generated all form of concerned conversation from fans. The attack has sputtered in the absence of Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus. Phil Foden has not made the splash anticipated. The club hopes Ruben Dias solves their center back problem. There is too much talent here, thought, for this team not to begin once again climbing the table.

Bottom of the Table

Brighton & Hove Albion - Graham Potter has his charges playing an attractive style of football, but the schedule has not been their friend in the early going.  Two of three losses were to top four teams from last season and the third loss was to current table leader Everton.  Brighton should have enough to steer clear of the drop.

Manchester United - Center back has been front and center as the biggest problem area which was evident in the 6-1 debacle suffered to Spurs.  At least left back issues are hopefully solved by new transfer addition Alex Telles.  Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to figure out how to employ creative midfielder Donny van de Beek.  If striker Edinson Cavani has anything left in the tank, does Mason Greenwood lose valuable developmental minutes?

West Bromwich Albion - West Brom gave us some entertainment in their draw against Chelsea but they are probably just marking time this season until they return to the championship level.  Witness a 10-2 goal differential in their three losses.

Burnley - The struggling Clarets, pointless after three games, look headed for a relegation battle. Survival prospects rest on the return of some healthy players and the track record of Manager Sean Dyche to do more with less.  This transfer period was strikingly uninspiring for the always frugal club. 

Sheffield United - Former Liverpool striker Rhian Brewster scored eleven goals in twenty-two appearances on loan for championship squad Swansea last season.  Hopefully, he can score premier league goals for this offensively challenged team.  If they stay up, though, it will be by the width of a blade.

Fulham - The loan addition of Ruben Loftus-Cheek from Chelsea cannot hurt but will not be the answer for survival at Craven Cottage. Loftus-Cheek was impressive in a loan stint at Crystal Palace two years ago but full recovery from his Achilles injury is still uncertain. The Cottagers have otherwise seemed out of their depth, accumulating the league's worst goal differential in their four losses.


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