Friday, September 23, 2022

As Premier League Pauses For International Break, How Do We See The Table Races ?

The Title Chase

There was debate before the season began as to whether Arsenal could mount a meaningful top four challenge. The Gunners have done better than that as they have taken the league by storm in leading the table after seven matches. Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko have proven to be wise transfer acquisitions and Mikel Arteta has his club playing with flair. The club seems to be surviving a recent injury crisis in midfield where transfer acquisition Fabio Vieira is beginning to flash his talent. Young players such as Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka have helped to ignite a Gunner attack which trails only Manchester City and Spurs in goals scored.

Arsenal has won six of seven matches, but should a rough patch invariably materialize, Manchester City will be ready to pounce. Erling Haaland has wasted no time in answering questions regarding how he would adjust to the Premier League and how Manchester City would adjust to him. Haaland has burst from the gate with 11 goals in his first seven Premier League matches. Despite dropping points in two matches so far, Manchester City seems well poised for another title run, currently trailing surprising Arsenal by a single point.

Liverpool, on the other hand, is troubled right now. The front line has not been producing. The midfield lacks depth and possesses little creativity but for the oft injured Thiago. The defense has been a shambles as Virgil van Dijk has delivered some of his worst performances since joining the club and the offensive minded fullbacks are being consistently caught up field. Manager Jurgen Klopp and his talented roster will figure most things out, but this doesn’t look like a title year for Liverpool.

Undefeated Tottenham Hotspur deserves mention as a potential dark horse title contender, but Spurs haven’t really been challenged by an accommodating early season schedule. A draw with now seventh place Chelsea has become less impressive with the turmoil at Stamford Bridge which has largely removed Chelsea from title consideration this season. More might become clear regarding the title potential of both Arsenal and Spurs when the two clash in  the north London derby October 1.  

European Places

The top four would seem to have a reserved place for Manchester City and, despite early troubles, Liverpool would still seem to have too much talent to fall from the Champions League places. The remaining two Champions League berths should be a battle among four clubs. An exciting prospect for Premier League watchers should enfold as historic and bitter London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur cross swords in the battle for the top four.

Chelsea and Manchester United are the other two clubs with Champions League aspirations. Chelsea is under new ownership which acted much like old ownership in firing Champions League winning manager Thomas Tuchel after a ragged start to the season. Former Brighton Manager Graham Potter has replaced Tuchel. While respected for his tactical acumen, Potter has no big club experience and his Brighton clubs struggled to score much as Chelsea does. Expect the Blues to be in the mix but most likely drop to a Europa League versus Champions League berth.

Manchester United Manager Eric ten Hag has made some bold personnel decisions and is molding the Red Devils to his style of play. After two embarrassing opening losses, United has rattled off four consecutive victories culminating an upset of table leading Arsenal. The Red Devils, currently fifth in the table, should be in position to qualify for Europa League once again and just possibly could bid for a Champions League berth. Brighton and Hove Albion is fourth in the table entering the international break. The loss of Manager Graham Potter to Chelsea, however, will be difficult to overcome. Robeto De Zerbi, with prior experience at Sassuolo and Shakhtar Donetsk, takes over for Potter but could find it difficult to keep the low budget Seagulls aloft.

Fulham are another early season success with the newly promoted side sitting sixth at the break, though having played a match more than Chelsea and Liverpool who trail the Cottagers in the table by a small margin. Brighton could potentially contend for a Europa or Europa Conference berth. Fulham can be expected to fall back to where a mid-table finish would be a major success. An ambitious ownership group will be disappointed if Newcastle does not make a run for a European place. If the Magpies don’t improve from their current 10th place position, it could spell problems for Manager Eddie Howe.

The Middle of the Pack

Brentford currently sit one place above Newcastle in 9th position. The Bees seem to have alleviated concerns they would falter measurably due to the loss of Christian Ericksen. A midtable finish would mean success and the Bees under Manager Thomas Frank should have the roster to do so. Brentford striker Ivan Toney is in good form and is joined by other scoring options for the hardworking Bees.

Everton, Crystal Palace, and Aston Villa should also have enough to steer clear of relegation worries and finish midtable. Everton appears headed in the right direction with its rebuilt defense and now needs to work on its attack. Crystal Palace is also thin in attack but should be safe absent an injury to star Wilfried Zaha. Notably, the Eagles’ only two losses to date have been to the table’s top two clubs, Arsenal and Manchester City. Aston Villa has a roster deserving of a mid-table finish despite questions surrounding Manager Steven Gerrard. A recent draw with Manchester City did much to improve the club’s outlook after confidence waned earlier this season.

Leeds and Southampton reside in the mid-table neighborhood currently. The performance of both clubs has been inconsistent, however. Both should finish mid-table, but no one would be surprised if one or the other were to be drawn into the relegation scrap. Fulham will be more than happy to finish midtable and stay above the relegation fray.

Relegation Race

West Ham, Nottingham Forest and Leicester are currently on pace to be relegated. Oddly for a club that has won its first two European matches, West Ham sits in relegation infamy. The Hammers should be able to recover if Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen can awaken from their early season slumbers and if transfer acquisitions Lucas Paqueta, Maxwel Cornet, and Gianluca Scamacca can begin to make meaningful contributions.

Forest and Leicester, however, seem solid candidates to leave the division next year. A record number of signings has seemed to only create chaos for Forest which has conceded more goals than any club but for bottom dwelling Leicester. Leicester appears in a death spiral amid little investment from the club’s ownership. Defensive failings for the Foxes have seemed irreparable under Manager Brendan Rodgers who likely already would have been dismissed but for a lucrative severance arrangement in his contract.

Bournemouth is currently 12th in the table after a three-match unbeaten run under interim Manager Gary O’Neil has followed upon the sacking of Manager Scott Parker. There is little expectation that the “new manager bounce” effect will continue for much longer before the Cherries take their rightful place in the relegation fight.

Wolverhampton, currently hovering just above the relegation zone, can’t be excluded from the discussion of who will go down this year. The club’s desperation for scoring options is such that Diego Costa was recently signed, likely several years beyond when he might be expected to offer a meaningful contribution.

Southampton and Leeds also could be pulled into the fight for survival. Southampton has a young, unproven roster. Leeds must prove that Manager Jesse Marsch’s system can work over a full Premier League season. Newly promoted Fulham, despite its lofty current standing in the table, might also experience some relegation threat over the course of the long season.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a comment: