Just three weeks into the new Premier League campaign, the signs have already been ominous. Already – Manchester United, Tottenham & Chelsea have dropped questionable points, while Arsenal were lucky to leave Anfield at 3-1 last weekend.
While there has been substantial investment into the Manchester United backline, it is the taking of opportunities which has proved problematic for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, resulting in just one point from Wolves & Crystal Palace, games that their Premier League rivals have won at canters in recent times.
Arsenal also splashed the cash, and do look relatively improved, but with their defence still lacklustre at best, it is seemingly unlikely they will challenge to be Premier League winners for the first time in 15 years, and with the North London Derby on the horizon, more dropped points remain a possibility.
As for Tottenham, there’s no denying they have done well bringing in Tanguy Ndombele and Gio Lo Celso, but the reality remains that they are overly reliant on Harry Kane, and should he suffer injury, there is little experience to turn to in the goal department. They are a side lacking in leaders and devoid of character of late, their Champions League run last season perhaps shadowing that.
Chelsea on the other hand, unable to spend any money this summer given their transfer ban, will not challenge. Frank Lampard’s men are in a period of transition, forced to turn to youth. Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham, as well as new man Cristian Pulisic look exciting prospects, but like Arsenal – it is their defence that will cost them, as they’ve leaked 7 times in the opening 3 Premier League games.
The reality of the situation is quite simple. Last seasons title race was two horses from the offset, and despite investments and gradual improvements, it will remain the same – largely down to the competitive nature of the league but also due to ruthlessness.
Liverpool and Manchester City have been relentless. Liverpool have gathered maximum points at 50%, and arguably hold the best front trio in European football at present. Their best football remains ahead of them, and having now got a trophy under their belts, Jurgen Klopp’s side have displayed a winning mentality and character of champions, they have to grind out results occasionally, but winning while not at your best is the hallmark of any fantastic side.
Pep Guardiola has won games for fun in the last two seasons at Manchester City, with depth like no other side. Yet still, he goes out and purchases Rodri and Joao Cancelo in the window, relentless in his pursuit of excellence and success. City are in a position where squad rotation means that there is zero weak links, and that is the difference between them and the rest of the Premier League top six.
At City and Liverpool, there is no room for passengers. The likes of Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard, Tottenham’s Dele Alli, Arsenal’s Shkodran Mustafi and Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso all seriously underperformed so far in the calendar year – but were they at the clubs competing on all fronts, the reality is they would be nowhere near the first team picture.
With all due respect to Solskjaer, Lampard, Pochettino and Unai Emery – they lack the managerial prowess that Guardiola and Klopp possess. This is becoming a huge pull factor for top players, they want to play for the top managers, and these two are arguably the two best coaches in world football at present. Emery is the only of the other managers to have won a major trophy, and it speaks volumes in how far behind others are.
The four sides chasing the pack are all in periods of transition, Manchester United adopting to a blend of youth and counter attack which has served well in past, Arsenal choosing the Liverpool model of an electrifying 4-3-3, while Pochettino struggles to work out his best midfield, and Lampard implements a new philosophy at Stamford Bridge.
Liverpool and Manchester City are still improving all of the time, and at a much faster rate than the chasing pack. For them, despite growth, they will again look to be best of the rest this campaign. It is merely a matter of closing the point gap, but based off action so far, if anyone thinks there is serious competition, they may want to think again.