Winners

Liverpool and their title credentials

Liverpool weren’t all that. I was a bit taken aback at post-match reactions that Spurs could have been 5 goals down, when in actual fact it was Spurs self destructive path that led to unnecessary chances for Liverpool to capitalise. The front three hasn’t quite clicked just yet, the free flowing ebb to Liverpool’s game, which made them so much fun to watch last season, hasn’t returned. Instead, we witnessed a thorough, disciplined display against one of the members of the top six. Liverpool were hardly disturbed.

Were Liverpool too good that they made Spurs look horribly out of depth? Not exactly. But then they didn’t let Spurs feel comfortable enough to respond or repel.

Many have suggested, in Liverpool’s run of four wins, that they haven’t been truly tested. Some still pander this narrative despite the relaxed win over Pochettino’s men. Still, to have 15 points from 15 is to have a position of strength with which to back your claim is not bad at all. Spurs were disappointing but let’s see who cares about that in Merseyside.

Liverpool’s defence 

It speaks volumes of Liverpool’s transformation that they have the best defensive record in the division despite having an attacking reputation. Liverpool had the joint worst ‘goals against’ column in the top five last season but are shedding that panicky feel whenever the opposition attacks their goal. Huge part of that organisation has been the solid back four led by the diminutive Virgil Van Dirk. The 27 year old isn’t a chest-thumping, body on the line defender a la John Terry. He is however a superb reader of the game and a silent leader, organising thongs from the back through to the top.

The purchase of Allison is the sort of understated statement that betrays Liverpool’s desire to get back to the top echelon of Europe’s creme de la creme. For all of the slight negativity concerning Liverpool’s fluidity in attack, there has to be an acknowledgement of where Liverpool have got it spectacularly right this new season. It’s still very early in the season to predict where Liverpool will be situated come May but they are ready to challenge. That much is certain.

James Milner

At 32, he shouldn’t be running harder and further than anyone else on the pitch but there he is, doing it every week, seemingly unperturbed by his growing years. When Keita, Fabinho were brought in to boost the choice in midfield, many thought he would get the sharp end of the stick, but he has persevered and had kept the Frenchman out of the starting lineup. With Georginio Wijnaldum his able ally, that Liverpool midfield will be a very tough nut to crack.

Manchester City and Leroy Sane

Pound for pound, man for man, Manchester City are the best team in England. They may be only third behind Chelsea and Liverpool but no one would be foolish enough to expect them to remain in that position for long. Chelsea and Liverpool have a herculean battle on their hands. Fulham aren’t the sort of team you’d expect to cause City problems and they duly dispatched the London outfit with minimal fuss.

Leroy Sane returned with a bang, scoring within minutes of the game and seemed happier in his first start. Good thing for player, manager and the team as Sane’s quality is never in doubt. Riyad Mahrez hasn’t convinced so far, it’ll be surely more appreciable that they work on his form while Sane gets re-acquainted with proceedings on the field of play: nice headache to have. Welcome back Sane.

Eden Hazard

Will he go? Will he not? Since his breakout season at Lille, many have touted the talented Belgian to wear the white shirt of Real Madrid. Near a decade later, it hasn’t happened, with the crescendo at it’s loudest after a fine world cup showing. Whether or not he is staying at Chelsea, Eden Hazard is a fine player. It looks almost like he likes his football a lot more centralised around the opposition box where he can be very devastating. Sarri, and his philosophy, has gotten the very best out of the 27 year old mini-magician.

There are times when it felt Chelsea’s cautionary football was ill-suited to Hazard. It showed even more last season when Chelsea were starved of the ball in a formation that required reactionary, rather than proactive, passage of play. Had Conte remained, Hazard would surely have left, no doubt about that. Once again, he is at the center of things, orchestrating nearly every attack and dovetailing nicely with Giroud and company. Five premier league goals and two assists in just three starts are a testament to his new found rhythm.

A happy Hazard is a happy Chelsea. Long may it continue.

Olivier Giroud 

The one very important reason why Chelsea are at a disadvantage in the race for the title is the lack of supreme firepower upfront. The others surrounding the center forward might chip in with some goals but without a recognised marksman, Chelsea will struggle to cope with Liverpool and City who have an abundance in goal scoring personnel.

That said, Chelsea are still in it because of the player’s admirable adaptability to new ideologies and Hazard. However they owe a huge gratitude to their win on Saturday to Olivier Giroud. At 32, he’ll never be prolific in front of goal, what he possesses in his arsenal in the innate ability to hold up the play and bring others into play as well; far better than most. While Morata has been given starts to prove his mettle, his colleague  has sat on the bench bidding his time, waiting for an opportunity to impress. And impress he did.

Having so many players around you can be a blessing as well as a curse for center forwards. With options in and around the box, you’d get plenty of chances (theoretically, of course) but it also means you’d have to be selfless as well. Giroud is one of the slowest players on the pitch so escaping center-backs attention to thump one beyond the keeper is not among his skill set. He does however makes space for other attacking players to thrive. Hazard benefited handsomely from his two assists. A particular flick to send Kovavic through on goal early in the first half was probably one of the highlights of the game.

The system Sarri employs demands more from the strikers. Judging by what we’ve seen of his options, Giroud looks a lot more suited to this style despite being less than dangerous when shooting. It’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Arsenal

Three wins on the bounce will give Unai Emery some leeway as he sharpens this Arsenal to his taste. WestHam United, Cardiff City and Newcastle might not strike fear into the heart but Arsenal have plodded on without the distraction of outside noises screaming ‘crisis!’. After unwelcome defeats to City and Chelsea, Arsenal have slowly gone about their business assuredly. Of course, the defense needs work as they have conceded the most goals in the top half of the league table. It is, however, better to work out your deficiencies while winning games than doing repair work from a losing position.

Wolves

Wolves have lost just one game, which is remarkable given they are a newly promoted team. There will be sterner tests ahead for the men in Orange. For now, the view from the top half of the table is looking very nice.

Bournemouth

Last season, Bournemouth started so poorly that many even tipped them for the drop (I included Eddie Howe in the list of managers to get the sack midway through the season).

This season, however, Bournemouth have flew out of the traps, banishing thoughts of a pre-matured struggle for safety. Bournemouth finished an admirable 12th last season despite the looming danger of relegation. They have started brightly and should have aspirations for an even higher finish. For now, the fans should look at the table with a sense of pride.

Ryan Fraser 

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 15: Ryan Fraser of AFC Bournemouth celebrates after scoring his team’s first goal during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Leicester City at Vitality Stadium on September 15, 2018 in Bournemouth, United Kingdom. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images,)

One of the smallest men in the premier league is quickly making a huge impact. Fraser isn’t an unknown, he burst into premier league limelight in that wonderful substitute performance as Bournemouth turned a two goal deficit into an exhilarating win against Liverpool in late 2016.

The teams below the top six aren’t exactly stacked full of game changers, but in Fraser, Bournemouth have one of the most exciting wingers in the English top flight. They need his output to stay up and even challenge the status quo.

West Ham and Marko Arnautovic

A win finally. And you couldn’t argue that it wasn’t deserved. Everton weren’t prepared for a well charged and focused Arnautovic. The Austrian was in game mode as he regularly tormented the fragile Everton backline. If Pellegrini had given West Ham the base with which to carry out his instructions (seven changes he made to the starting lineup), then Arnautovic was the torch bearer leading his teammates to an impressive win over Everton, who’re struggling to find their feet at the moment.

Pellegrini, having lost four games, would have been doubted and questions would have been asked but he’s replyied with Arnautovic as his mouthpiece.

Manchester United and Jose Mourinho

Consecutive wins after the horror show at Old Trafford is welcome news. Jose has been given a breather, while journalists frantically search for a new dead meat to feast on.

Wolves

Could have won by more. They were impressive and easy on the eye. Everyone’s new favourites?

Losers

Tottenham and a meek surrender

Consecutive losses after the brilliant win at Old Trafford. The fortunes of the two clubs are in dire contrast. Watford got in Spurs and they crumbled. More than anything else, it was the strange lack of fight back that was starling to witness. The same happened as Liverpool cut through Tottenham as they watched detachedly as if the game was a prep to the real game. It was strange. the passes were horrendous as were the attempts to rectify the countless gaffes in midfield. In truth, Liverpool weren’t spectacular, they sensed fear – or was it tiredness – in Spurs and capitalised. The scoreline, if Liverpool were clinical, would have been unfair and lopsides but that’s the risk you face when you allow your opponents time and space to pepper shots at your goal, not of their own ingenuity but of your own making.

This could be a blip in the rise of Tottenham’s story or could be the beginning of the end of a story that has promised so much. it is left in the hands of everyone at Spurs that it is the former and not the latter.

Harry Kane 

If this is scapegoating, i am apologising in advance. I mean no disrespect as i say this, but isn’t it obvious that Kane isn’t fit. Since ‘recovering’ from an injury in March, he has seemingly lost an extra yard, that inexplicable danger he carries as he bears on goal. Don’t let the Golden boot at the just concluded world cup delude you: Kane has looked less than himself.

The problem is that there’s no one with remotely a fraction of his output on the bench. Son is a good player and can do a job at centerfoward but he is far better drifting in and around the box that fighting centerbacks for crumbs; it’s simply not his game. So where does that leave Spurs?

Should he be played until he regains his form or be rested while he recovers fully from an injury we know nothing of? Tottenham’s next five relatively easy fixtures should give Pochettino to think about squad rotation.

Rafa Benitez

It seems like deja vu as Newcastle continue a terrible run of form. This was the story last season but of course they got things under control and avoided the drop. It could happen again as Rafa Benitez is still a good coach but there has to be worry about the progress the Mappies are making. The football is dire, the performances level is near disgrace and the results are making it harder to look at the league table.

These days, it’s just not enough to plodder along while winning enough games to realise safety at the last. The academy isn’t churning out talents which is a particular worry as Mike Ashley have turned off the tap for playing personnel.

The fixture list hasn’t been kind but the fans expect a lot more fight. Soon the blame would shift from an imcopetent owner to a addled manager. The signs aren’t great.

Burnley

Have Sean Dyche taken Burnley as far as he can? This is the question playing on lips that view the happenings at Turf Moor. Finishing seventh last season was great. Sean Dyche, deservedly so, won rave review but he has to now di it all over again. Times are changing and Burnley have to flow with the tide.

Emphasis on defense will not bring confidence to a side lacking any sort of attacking plan. While i acknowledge the meagre funds left for squad building, it still doesn’t look good when a team which finished behind Arsenal are looking like the runt of the litter.

Everton

Abject performance. Abject reaction. Everton fans must be dreading the return of the dark days when Ronald Keoman and then Sam Allardyce sunk Everton so low that they could fetch crude oil and still look very unpleasant. The vibrancy that Marco Silva seeks to inculcate was sorely lacking, there has to be a collective effort now more than ever.

Huddersfield

David Wagner has time on his hands to fix things. We’re after all only five games in but with only two goals all season, trouble looms. They are the worst scoring side in the division and have also let in more goals than twice the games played. It will take a mighty effort to resurrect a side lacking any sort of firepower in attack and a leader in defence. It gets harder each season and Wagner knows this.

Has time called on Huddersfield in the Premier League?

 

 

Michael Okoye
Blogger/Football Analyst at Sportskick
Michael Okoye is an ardent football fan as well as a writer. He lives somewhere in West Africa with Lions and Leopards for company. He takes interest in football and detests mediocrity in sports writing. He has a massive man crush on Juan Mata. A Chelsea fan and a great lover of wits and sarcasm.
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