Premier League 2017/18: What We Learned From The First Three Weeks
To say it’s been a breathtaking start to the new Premier League 2017/18 season would not be an understatement. Manchester United have come out all guns blazing and Liverpool have started where they left off last season – both scoring and conceding goals and Arsenal? Well, they’re busy being Arsenal once again.
So, what have we learned from the start of the new season?
#1: Manchester United Are a Serious Force
Look at Jose Mourinho’s second season record at all of his previous clubs, and you’d see why Manchester United fans were buzzing even before the start of this season. Be it Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan or Real Madrid, Mourinho has won a domestic title at each of his previous clubs during his second season at the helm.
Still, as veteran fans might testify, stats don’t tell half the story about football. Therefore, for his enviable second season record to stay intact, Mourinho had to strengthen his team to improve on last season’s fifth placed finish.
And as their positon in the Premier League table might suggest – United have won all three of their opening games, without conceding a goal, the Red devils have done just that.
Yes, there are some problems, which Mourinho failed to address – like the failed pursuit of Ivan Perisic from Inter Milan. But Mourinho’s experience, Manchester United’s history and the hunger of players like Pogba could prove to be the difference come next May.
#2: Liverpool might surprise neutral fans
When their first match of the season ended in a stalemate with Watford, Liverpool fans couldn’t help but recall their painful memories from last season. For, despite not losing a single game against the Premier League’s top six, each of Liverpool’s six defeats came facing the bottom half sides of the Premier League.
However, if the first match was a throwback to the last season, the next four games – including two from the Champions League, point toward a better future for the club.
Liverpool have got some serious pace upfront so this shouldn’t surprise the neutral fans. After all, pace is a given when you employ a front three of Mane, Salah, and Firmino. Rather, it is the Liverpool’s defense which has surprised the pundits of late.
For, if we take into consideration last season as well, Liverpool have kept four clean sheets in their last five matches at Anfield. In contrast to the start of last season – when Klopp didn’t know who his first choice goalkeeper was, Simon Mignolet has cemented his place in the Liverpool Starting XI with a string of brilliant performances.
While Dejan Lovren has a way of giving Liverpool fans mini heart attacks with his inconsistent performances, the other three Liverpool defenders – including Trent Arnold, Joel Matip, and even the scapegoat Alberto Moreno have progressed immensely of late.
Add to the mix Joe Gomez and the currently-injured Nathaniel Clyne and the hugely impressive Andrew Robertson, the Reds may surprise the onlookers with their defensive prowess over the coming months.
#3: Manchester City don’t look THAT good
For a team which spent north of £200m in the summer transfer window, even the most reasonable of pundits expected Manchester City to be better.
After all, here was the team with the most expensive defense in history, a midfield combining the skill and ability of David Silva, Kevin De Bryune and Bernardo Silva with the raw, unsheathed pace of Sterling and Sane, and an attack combining the promising youth of Jesus with the finishing prowess of Aguero.
If you have such a team at your disposal, you’d expect them to at least defeat Bournemouth without what turned out to be the last kick of the game. However, as Manchester City did exactly that, signs of weakness are already being shown in this star-studded team.
Hence, while these are still early days and Pep Guardiola can still work with his boys to sort out the discrepancies, early signs suggest that it is the Red and not the Blue Half of the Manchester enjoying a head start.
#4: Same Old for Arsenal
Even though they won their first game – a helter-skelter 4-3 win over Leicester City, Arsenal were nowhere near the level Arsene Wenger promised to take them after signing his new, 2 year contract with the club.
Even before the start of this season – and after the unveiling of 2017/18 fixture list, seasoned Arsenal fans knew that if anything, their first three matches would determine the direction that the whole season would take.
Leicester at home, even though they aren’t the same side which won the League two seasons ago, was a formidable opening day fixture. After that, an away trip to Stoke wouldn’t fill even the most optimistic of Arsenal fans with hope. Finally, an away trip to Anfield – considering the recent history of this fixture – was also going to fill Arsenal fans with dread.
Come out of these three fixtures with three wins, and Arsene Wenger might already have justified his new contract. Two wins against Stoke and Leicester, even if Liverpool defeated Arsenal, wasn’t too bad a scenario either.
However, the reality was painfully different. After conceding three goals against a side whose last win away to Arsenal was way back in 1966, the Gunners were defeated by Stoke before Liverpool justified the recent history of this fixture to humiliate Arsenal.
Thus, while Arsenal are expected to make a comeback after the International break – they should, considering the quality of players they have, Arsenal fans know expecting anything more than a top four finish from this team isn’t anything more than a fantasy.
#5: Stuttering Chelsea comes back to life
For a team that won the Premier League last season with 93 points under their belt, it was probably surprising to see the way Chelsea started this one. No matter how bad the transfer window had gone for the club, you’d expect the defending Premier League Champions to defeat Burnley at home.
What actually happened was no less than a nightmare for the Chelsea fans as they conceded three goals and looked like a team all at sea. Connections were starting to be made with the nonsensical 2015/16 season – when Chelsea flirted with relegation before the sacking of Jose Mourinho.
However, as the next two games were going to show, this Chelsea side hasn’t suddenly forgotten how to play football. After breaking the hearts of Tottenham at the latter’s new home, Chelsea soundly defeated a rejuvenated Everton side on home turf.
Thus, while we are just three game weeks into the new season, Chelsea have already seen what could be the worst case scenario, before coming back to be the side which won the Premier League last season.