7 games into the Premier League season and it looks like the title race is already down to two, with Liverpool and Man City both overcoming tough tests to keep their title bids on track, while there are signs the party might be over for the newly-promoted clubs.
7 things we’ve learned from last weekend’s football…
Liverpool get a bit of help from lady luck
Over 38 games, every prospective title winner needs the occasional rub of the green en route to glory. Liverpool were hardly at their fluent best against a spirited Sheffield Utd but still managed to grind out all three points as Dean Henderson’s brief lapse in concentration handed the Reds victory. As Liverpool found out the hard way last season, even the smallest slip-up can be terminal for your title chances. Klopp will happily take 31 more scruffy 1-0 wins if that’s enough to finally deliver a first Premier League title to Merseyside.
Leicester look ready to make the step up
True, the Foxes hardly had to move out of second gear to comfortably outgun a poor Newcastle side, but a five-star display underscored how quickly Leicester have progressed into a genuinely classy outfit under the tutelage of Brendan Rodgers. With Arsenal and Man Utd all too capable of misfiring, and Chelsea in transition, a top four finish does not look beyond the 2016 title winners.
Things are starting to click into place for Frank…
A workmanlike 2-0 victory for Chelsea over a lacklustre Brighton doesn’t seem much to write home about at first glance. However, the routine nature of that win is surely the most encouraging sign for Blues fans that Frank Lampard is finally starting to settle into his management stride at Stamford Bridge. A first home victory and a clean sheet suggest Lampard’s methods are starting to pay dividends.
Newcastle need to find some fight
Long-suffering Magpies fans don’t expect their side to be world-beaters – after all, they rarely were even under Rafa Benitez. However, as a bare minimum what they do expect is some hard graft and application. On that score, Steve Bruce will be having sleepless nights as his side folded completely against a rampant Leicester. With Man Utd, Chelsea and Wolves to come next month, Bruce could be looking at a nightmare on St James’ Park by Halloween.
Norwich and Villa need to arrest their slides
Two of last season’s promoted Championship clubs are sleepwalking towards a long season of struggle, albeit the Canaries have the caveat of a crippling injury list. Villa continue to look bright in patches in the Premier League but have developed a bad habit of throwing away points from winning positions. Too much more of that, and it could be a long winter for Dean Smith’s men, while Norwich’s decision not to invest in the summer could leave them unstuck if injury concerns continue to mount.
Woodgate a man under pressure at Boro
As a hometown boy, he’ll be given time to turn things around, but the jury looks decidedly out on whether Jonathan Woodgate is the right man to take Boro forward in a league as cruel as the Championship. Boro were always facing a transitional season whoever took charge of this campaign, but a 4-1 home hammering against Sheffield Wednesday means Woodgate’s side are now sitting uncomfortably close to the relegation places after the first nine games. Will the notoriously patient Steve Gibson continue to hold his nerve?
Ipswich’s quiet revival under Paul Lambert continues
After a miserable 2018/19 campaign brought an end to their 16-year spell as the Championship’s longest-serving club, Ipswich have shown little enthusiasm for similarly treading water at League One level after a ruthlessly efficient start to the season. The Tractor Boys’ 4-1 demolition of Tranmere leaves them top of the table on 24 points after 10 games. With few of their rivals catching fire, Paul Lambert looks in a strong position to claim another League One winners’ medal with his second East Anglian club.
The week’s Top 5…
Player of the weekend: Franck Ribéry – a standing ovation for the veteran Frenchman after a match-winning performance against Milan in Serie A.
Manager of the weekend: Garry Monk – off to a flyer at Sheffield Wednesday.
Result of the weekend: Derby 3-2 Birmingham – the Rams salvaged an important win after a difficult week for all concerned at the club.
Team of the weekend: Rangers – early days, but a title race genuinely looks on in Scotland.
Biggest loser of the weekend: Quique Sánchez Flores – the Hornets boss looks to be facing an uphill task at Vicarage Road.
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