This season in the Premier League it’s very hard to pick a winner, it’s hard to pick a favourite and it’s hard to predict even one result…
1) New managers
The most obvious reason is the impact of new managers coming in at the top three sides from last season. David Moyes replaced Sir Alex Ferguson at champions Manchester United, Manuel Pellegrini replaced Roberto Mancini at Manchester City and Jose Mourinho replaced Rafael Benitez at Chelsea.
The teams who kept their managers saw, especially in the first few weeks of the season, a better consistency of performances and results – Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham are the most obvious examples – and it’s no surprise given that Arsene Wenger has been at Arsenal longer than any other manager in the league and the Gunners currently lead the table.
Brendan Rodgers has a tough season last term but this season, his sophomoric term at Anfield, the Reds have enjoyed a much greater level of consistency.
2) New players
Meanwhile, Andre Villas-Boas began his second term in charge of Spurs but he brought in seven new players and Tottenham let their star man Gareth Bale go – they’ve had some inconsistency in their results and performances mostly because these new players and the new system takes time to bed in.
Much the same has happened at Manchester City who currently sit in 8th place (the lowest position of all last seasons top seven) and it’s no wonder when they have a new manager compounded by such a huge influx of new player personnel. Compare that to Arsenal who brought in just one genuinely ‘new’ addition in Mesut Ozil – the rest of the squad have already played at the club for at least one season.
3) Fixture schedules
However, the fixture schedule Arsenal have had has given them a slight advantage in terms of gaining ground on their title rivals – the Gunners had not played a top-four team in the league so far this term until they played (and lost) to Manchester United on Sunday. They had beaten fifth-place Tottenham and seventh place Liverpool but that is compared to United’s start which included Manchester City and Chelsea as well as Tottenham and Liverpool. It’s no surprise the table looks the way it does at present.
The other major factor is the quality of completion – no other top league in Europe has the level of competition the Premier League has. In seasons gone by there was usually just two, maybe three teams that could genuinely challenge for the title. Manchester United and Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City.
This is probably the first season in a couple of decades where at least four if not five or six teams could genuinely be contenders – Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool as well as outsiders like Southampton and Everton have the belief they could actually win the Premier League. You won’t find that in La Liga, Ligue 1, the Bundesliga, or even in Serie A.
We are only eleven games into the season, of course – there are another 27 games to go and six months left to play them in. It’s early days. The indication after ten games played tells just a fraction of the story. By Christmas we’ll know more. There are just six points separating eight teams at the top of the table, one point separating the top two from last term.
At the moment seven or eight teams are in with a shout but I would anticipate by Christmas that number will have halved at the very least. The challenge is strong but over the course of the next couple of months we’ll see who has the capability to sustain that challenge and, I suspect, they’ll be all the usual suspects – Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal. It looks ‘open’ now but it won’t come January.
image: © edwin11