Although there no Premier League games this weekend due to the International break, it does give us a chance to reflect on the season so far. Whilst we acknowledge that it is very early in the season to start predicting where teams will finish up at seasons end, we do have some starting evidence to suggest some teams are looking stronger than we may have first thought and vice versa. Below we’ll rank the teams based on their form so far this season and compare this to where we feel they’ll finish up at seasons end. We’ll also discuss which teams are fighting for those coveted top 4 spots for Champion’s league football and which teams are looking like they could end up in a relegation battle.
We’d love to hear where you rank the teams based on their form so far this season and who you think will make top 4 and who will be fighting to avoid relegation.
Chelsea have been almost flawless in their performances this season. They stunned Wigan within 8 minutes and beat a Newcastle team aiming for top 4 2-0. The main reason Chelsea are not the topped ranked team is due to somewhat of a complacent performance against Reading. Looking at the final score line, one would imagine Reading may have had conciliation goals, but the fact that they were 2-1 up after 30 mins suggests that Reading was the only side looking to play early on. Was Chelsea a little complacent early on? Or was Reading just playing out of their skin? Perhaps a bit of both which is why we rank them as our No.2. The question mark we have on Chelsea is their depth in the strikers department – is Sturridge and Torres enough?
2 Swansea City
Although it may seem to some as somewhat of a surprise that we’ve ranked Swansea as our No.2 – they have been very impressive. During pre-season a lot of the talk was that Swansea would struggle having lost manager Brendan Rodgers and key playmaker Joe Allen to Liverpool and more recently winger Scott Sinclair to Man City. But when you look at the players they have brought in and the immediate impact they have had – Michu, Chico and De Guzman (Loan) in particular and also the recent signings of Pablo and Ki Sung-Yeung look to be decent additions to their midfield.
This time last year, Swansea was sitting in 15th spot having suffered an expected 4-0 loss to Man City and then draws with Wigan and Sunderland. You need only look at their blistering start this season with a 5-0 rout of QPR, a sublime 3-0 performance against West Ham and a 2-2 draw against Sunderland. Although they are yet to face an elite team, these results are clear indications that this Swansea team has had a very strong start to the season when a lot was going against them. We can’t expect them to maintain this form, but they will improve their position from last season.
3 West Brom
West Brom has been super impressive so far this season. Their 3-0 victory over Liverpool certainly shocked many and although the score line may have been exaggerated by a penalty and a cracking goal by Gera, the fact remains – they won 3-0. Drawing against Spurs 1-1 late in the game was also a great effort with the dynamic of the game changing with the scary Lukaku coming off the bench. Following up with a 2-0 home win over Everton only emphasises the impressive start West Brom have had to the season. It’s important to also note they have only conceded 1 goal in 3 games. It may not end here either, as they could get onto a little run in the coming weeks with a transfer depleted Fulham side up next followed by Reading and a poor Aston Villa side.
4 Manchester City
It has been a relatively unconvincing start from the champions. A scare against lowly Southampton in week 1 and then a draw against a struggling Liverpool side certainly had a few people asking questions. They got back on track with a 3-1 win over QPR, but are still yet to keep a clean sheet. This surely puts a little doubt over their defence albeit so early in the season. With Aguero soon to return from injury to partner up with a Tevez hungry for goals, expect scoring as always to not be an issue for this team.
Before you give us that confused look as to why we have Arsenal ranked 5th so far, let’s look at a couple of key points. They are the only team to not have a goal scored against them so far which is a great sign for their defence and top 4 aspirations. Arguably they should have beaten Stoke and Sunderland but we must remember this is an Arsenal team that relied heavily on the scoring of Van Persie last year. It was always going to take time for their new strike force in Podolski and Giroud to start firing. It took until the Liverpool game for the shackles to be broken with Podolski and Carzola combining for both goals with an assist and goal each. It should also be noted that this time last year, Arsenal were lingering in 17th position compared to their current 8th spot, so for all their losses in RVP and Song, they have had a decent start to the year.
6 Manchester United
United have had a huge amount of injuries in their defence to start the season, so much so that they have conceded 5 goals in 3 games which is not Man Utd like, not to mention the loss to Everton 1-0. The Everton defeat was followed up by close games with Fulham and in particular the 3-2 come from behind win against Southampton, thanks to their new saviour RVP. With Rooney out injured, RVP has been allowed to resume his striker responsibilities much in the same way he did at Arsenal. He now has 4 goals in effectively 2.5 games having come off the bench against Everton. The injuries to key defensive players, Rooney, the reliance on Scholes in midfield have pushed United outside of our top 4 rankings. As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see if Rooney and RVP will work as a pairing in the long term.
Everton couldn’t have wished for a better start, a nail-biting 1-0 win over Manchester United. With a 3-1 win over Aston Villa to follow, Everton are looking like a rejuvenated team with a number of new faces adding spark. In particular the permanent return of Pienaar will add much needed creativity to their midfield as well as his ability to score goals. The only hiccup has been the 2-0 loss to West Brom, but for the most part Everton have been looking in good touch and could cause a few more big teams some trouble as the season pans out.
8 West Ham
The Hammers are sitting comfortably in 7th position with 2 wins on the board albeit against a dismal Aston Villa and a transfer depleted Fulham (having lost Dempsey and Dembele). Their loss against Swansea is nothing to get too worried about as Swansea have been absolutely magnificent. The presence of Carroll against Fulham was impressive, though unfortunate with the injury he sustained during the game. With signings such as Jarvis, Benayoun, Collins and Diarra, they certainly have the personnel to stay in the top flight. They’ll always be a challenge to beat at home but their achilles heel could be when they travel.
Who would have predicted the great start the Cottagers had against Norwich City in the opening match. However, the scintillating form that saw Fulham smash 5 goals has dipped against Manchester United and West Ham. The match against the Red devils was a closely contested affair and could have ended in a different result but for RVP to save the day. The future doesn’t look to promising for Fulham as the transfer window saw them lose two key players in Dempsey and Dembele which leaves a massive whole in the midfield for Martin Jol, which was visible against the newly promoted hammers. The loss of Dembele is particularly apparent for his fantastic performance against Manchester United where he was the key for Fulham’s chances and has been compounded by his brilliant start for new club Tottenham.
Wigan has been up and down so far this season, losing their opening match to Chelsea, beating Southampton and drawing against Stoke. With the form this Martinez side showed to the end of last season there’s no reason why they should struggle to stay afloat. Nevertheless, complacency always results in a nervy finish to the season and Wigan are all too familiar with that. Last season Wigan were positioned 7th and by the end of September 2011 they were in 15th position. After the first three matches this season they sit 9th with consistency their main issue and could yet be in the same position as last year by September end. JL predict the Latics will finish 16th with their form inconsistent to break the top 10
Newcastle’s fine start to the season has hit a hurdle after beating Spurs 2-1 on the opening day, a loss to Chelsea was followed up by a draw to Villa to land them 10th. Alan Pardew would be hoping for Cisse and Ba to consistently put the ball in the back of the net and this week is another opportunity against Everton at Goodison Park. JL believe that Newcastle will yet be another tough opponent this season especially at home, however it’s hard to see them replicating their fine form last season. The missing link of Tiote in midfield has hurt them due to injury as well as the somewhat out of sorts Cabaye who has had minimal impact through only creating one scoring chance so far.
Stoke City’s form is one to either applauded or criticise, as their first three games all ended in draws. With a little bad luck in conceding a penalty against Reading in the 90th minute, their position in the table could be much different. The Potters recruited Owen on a free transfer and are still waiting for Charlie Adam to find his feet in the midfield which show promising signs after making a substitute appearance. Their home form at Brittania will help decided where they will finish as it has been a fortress for them for the past few seasons. Their next game against Man City will gauge where they stand compared to last season.
The recruitment of Fletcher, Adam Johnson and Saha has shown dividends particularly with Fletcher and have so far had two draws away from home which is a promising start. A nil all draw against Arsenal showed good defensive signs and two goals from Steven Fletcher against an in form Swansea. With Sunderland playing a game less due to their home match with Reading postponed match their ranking could be much higher. The next match sees the Black Cats host for the first time this season against a Liverpool side short on confidence with both looking for their first win. Look for Sunderland to continue their good early form.
Spurs have certainly not had the start to the season they were after, much the same as last year. However the difference with this year is they have drawn games they should have won. The Newcastle game in week one was always going to be a tough ask with a new manager and a yet to be completed through transfer dealings. If they had not conceded late goals to West Brom and Norwich, Spurs would be ranked much higher. Importantly Dembele looks class and with the additions of Dempsey and Lloris, there is no doubt they have strengthened in key areas. This time last year Spurs were sitting last on the table but by the end of September 2011 they were in 5th place. So if they get a roll on, you can expect Spurs to climb the table pretty rapidly.
Despite being on the receiving end of a 5-0 thumping to Fulham in week 1, Norwich have done well to claw back some credibility with draws at Tottenham and against QPR. Snodgrass adds some quality to the team with dangerous corners and free kicks. They are a little more solid in defence with the addition of Bassong and will no doubt sneak a few more draws and wins against top teams like they did last season. They did well to finish 12th last season, but it doesn’t look like they’ve added enough quality to maintain that position and could well be fighting to avoid relegation this season.
As predicted newcomers Reading were always going to struggle with the move up to the top flight. With a draw against Stoke and an entertaining match against a Chelsea side who made life hard for themselves it’s hard to see the Royals achieving a safe position this season. In stark contrast from last season’s top finish in the Championship, JL predict Reading to finish last and a long daunting season lies await for them, but who knows they could surprise a few. The postponed match against Sunderland and the International break will have been a good chance for them to regroup and assess their position in the short term.
It has been a start to forget for Brendan Rodgers with a humiliating loss to West Brom 3-0. They’ve conceded 7 goals and in front of goal they’ve been poor having only scored 2 goals in the draw with Manchester City. The signing of Allen looks promising and with loan signing Sahin it is starting to look like they have finally got a replacement for Xabi Alonso. These are the types of players Rodgers needs for his style of play, players who can pass fluidly and creatively. Liverpool are a much better team than the one we have seen so far but are well behind their start from last season where they were 3rd with 2 wins and a draw on the board. The loaning of Carroll may not be the right move when they now have just Suarez and Borini up front.
18 Aston Villa
Villa has had a shocker of a season so far and looks to be an early favourite for a relegation battle. Losses to West Ham and Everton at home have dented their confidence. A draw against Newcastle showed a little promise for Paul Lamberts men however hosting the form Swansea in the next fixture at home will be a tough match considering the last time these two met the visitors left 2 goal victors. The only hope Villa have of improving this season is for main man Darren Bent to hit the back of the net, they can’t rely on their midfield and Defenders to score their goals.
It’s been a tough reintroduction to the Premier League for the Saints particularly for the fact they had come close to snatching a draw and potentially wins against two of the big guns, Manchester United and City. One would hope this has had a positive impact on their mentality that they can mix it with the best. They have brought in a couple of decent players particularly in Ramirez who will add some much needed class and creativity. Although they fought well against City and United, they didn’t have the same fight against Wigan losing 2-0. Surely these are the games they should have more chance of winning? They’ll find it tough to avoid the drop at this rate.
Rangers have had a shocking start to the season being belted 5-0 in the opening game at home to Swansea. Their transfer activity to follow soon prompted questions of panic buying particularly in their search for a new goalkeeper after they had only recently acquired the solid Robert Green from West Ham. If their new signings can gel, and gel quickly, they are certainly capable of capturing a mid-table finish. Names such as Cesar, Bosingwa, Granero, Hoilett, Park Ji-Sung and M’Bia is reason enough to think QPR will come good over the course of the season.
JL Predicted Table – Blue fighting for 4th spot, Red fighting to avoid relegation
|Predicted season finish||Team|
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