Four games into the 2019/20 Premier League season and the top of the table is already settling into a familiar pattern, with last season’s title rivals Liverpool and Manchester City pulling clear from the chasing pack.
We’ve graded each team’s performances for the month of August.
Who’s top of the class?
Part 1 looks at Arsenal through to Liverpool…
Premier League August 2019 Report Card – Grading Every Team on Their Performances So Far
Current position: 5th
Verdict: A mixed bag for the Gunners so far with some signs of progress but some niggling doubts. Unai Emery will be encouraged his three-pronged strike force has the potential to help his Arsenal side close the gap on the Top Four, but defensive lapses still look likely to hold them back. Time will tell whether Emery has learned lessons from his first season in charge.
However, the Spaniard can take heart from the fact his side at least showed some character in avoiding complete collapse against Liverpool, something that might not have been the case in previous seasons. That result shows just how much further Arsenal have to travel to return to the top table. Gritty wins against Newcastle and Burnley suggests Emery might finally be putting a stop to the self-inflicted wounds that ultimately cost the Gunners the chance of Champions League football last season.
Current position: 18th
Verdict: Dean Smith’s side still look a little unsure of themselves as they settle back into life at this level after three years away, albeit far more competitive than the side that limped out the league with a whimper in 2016.
Villa can consider themselves a little unlucky not to have an extra point on the board after VAR controversy denied them a valuable draw as they went down 1-0 to Crystal Palace prior to the international break. The patient waiting game that led to a 2-0 victory against Everton should be the model for Smith to build on, with strong form at Villa Park likely to be the key to their survival chances.
Current position: 15th
Verdict: Four points is just about on a par with what Eddie Howe could have expected from a difficult start to the 2019/20 season which included games against reigning champions Man City and an energetic Leicester City side.
Howe would probably have preferred to take on Sheffield United and Aston Villa once the afterglow of promotion started to wear off, although the Cherries showed that when in the right mood, they’re still capable of showing no mercy against out-of-sorts opponents as they raced into a 2-0 lead at Villa Park.
On current evidence, Bournemouth don’t look much like a side set to improve on last season – but they don’t look like one that need to be looking over their shoulders, either.
BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION
Current position: 16th
Verdict: A bruising defeat to Man City aside, this is a Seagulls squad that looks revitalised under new boss Graham Potter, arguably without the points return their improvement currently merits.
The major concern is how long it will take the former Swansea and Östersunds FK to translate improved performance levels into a healthy points return. The Seagulls are carving out more chances thanks to a shift in formation and the addition of playmaker Leandro Trossard, which suggests the goals should start coming if they can learn to be more clinical.
Potter has taken a huge gamble, however, in offloading former squad regulars Jurgen Locadia and Florin Andone. With no wriggle room to replace them, yet again the Seagulls seem to be putting most of their eggs in the Glenn Murray basket. Can the inexperienced Premier League duo of Neal Maupay and Aaron Connolly help take the pressure off the Seagulls’ evergreen front man?
Current position: 12th
Verdict: Burnley are being, well, ‘reassuringly Burnley’. Pundits routinely write off the Clarets’ chances every year, but Sean Dyche continues to rise above the noise to set up his well-drilled side so they can regularly upset the odds against more fashionable opponents.
Bar last season’s top two, Burnley are more than a match for any side in this division and could easily have left the Emirates with a share of the spoils. Dyche’s side have a gameplan and won’t apologise for sticking by it. With games against Brighton, Norwich and Aston Villa coming up, they have an excellent opportunity to effectively banish any talk of relegation before the clocks go back.
Current position: 11th
Verdict: No need to panic just yet. However, it’s hardly been the dream start Frank Lampard would have been hoping for from his opening month as Chelsea manager. That said, from the moment the Blues were handed their transfer ban, this was always going to be a ‘work-in-progress’ kind of season at Stamford Bridge. Lampard has been resolute in his determination to blood Chelsea’s exciting young talent. The encouraging form of Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham suggests he is right to keep the faith with that strategy.
However, both Lampard and his fledgling Blues side need to tighten up their game management to avoid leaking goals against inferior opponents – a trend that has proved costly during his first few weeks in the job.
Current position: 4th
Verdict: Two quickfire wins – including a signature victory at Old Trafford – have left the Eagles sitting pretty in the Champions League places despite a sluggish opening fortnight.
That could be a sign of an incredibly open 2019/20 season to come, or reflect the fact for all their indifferent form, Roy Hodgson’s hide have enough about them to regularly pick up the wins needed to make relegation a non-issue. Four points from their first two home games and no goals conceded at Selhurst Park is an encouraging turnaround from last year where the Eagles too often froze in front of their home fans.
Current position: 6th
Verdict: Seven points from their opening four points represents a solid start for Marco Silva in his second full season at Goodison Park. However, there’s a sense that there is more to come from a Toffees squad that now looks far healthier for the additions of Moises Kean, Alex Iwobi and Fabian Delph in this summer’s transfer window.
Silva’s mission this season must be to break into the Top Six or at least run them close. At this early stage, they still look some way off reaching the level of consistency needed to bridge the gap. Getting Kean fully up to speed after the international break could see them kick on.
Current position: 3rd
Verdict: There has been plenty of buzz around Brendan Rodgers’ Foxes side potentially breaking the top six monopoly this season. On current evidence, those predictions look like they could hold up.
Leicester signed off for the international break in clinical fashion with a convincing 3-1 win over Bournemouth and are so far showing few signs of missing Harry Maguire, with Çağlar Söyüncü comfortably slotting into his place after a season adapting to English football.
Rodgers’ side were arguably unlucky not to take maximum points away at Chelsea. Expect other ‘Big Six’ sides to be on their guard when the Foxes come to town – starting with Man Utd on Saturday week.
Current position: 1st
Verdict: A flawless start – and one that suggests Man City won’t be able to show any signs of complacency if they want to make it three titles in a row. Both of the two title heavyweights look lightyears ahead of the rest, but it’s the Reds who currently sit in the box seat with four wins from four.
A two-point advantage may seem trivial at this stage of the season, but Jürgen Klopp will be aware even just one off-colour performance could open the door for City to set the pace. Encouragingly for Klopp, Liverpool haven’t even needed to be at their free-flowing best to get their goal difference already pushing double figures. He’s also stumbled upon a more than able deputy ‘keeper in Adrián as Alisson continues his recovery from injury.
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