It’s said it’s unfair to judge the Premier League table until at least the second international break of the season.
Well, that point has now arrived, so it’s time for our Premier League review of the season so far as the action pauses for a fortnight.
The first part looks at Arsenal through to Liverpool.
Premier League September Review – Part 1 – Arsenal to Liverpool
Current position: 3RD
Verdict: The Unai Emery reign might continue to split opinion amongst the Arsenal fanbase, but the Gunners are quietly manoeuvring themselves into a position where they look the strongest contenders to claim Champions League football beyond pacesetters Liverpool and Man City. Arsenal fans are still waiting to see the best of £72m-man Nicolas Pepe. However, it’s the return from injury of another new arrival, Kiernan Tierney, that could ultimately help determine whether Champions League football will imminently be returning to the Emirates, with the former Celtic man already looking like the talisman needed to shore up Arsenal’s brittle defence.
Current position: 15TH
Verdict: Sometimes, one game can help define the course of a season. Villa might just have had that breakthrough moment. The 5-1 thrashing of fellow strugglers Norwich City sends Dean Smith’s side into the international break with the morale boost the rookie Premier League boss surely needed to convince himself his methods can translate successfully to the top tier. Villa have been more than a match for most sides they’ve come up against so far but haven’t always shown the required character to convert bright displays into valuable points. Another big game at home to Brighton awaits after the international break before a daunting Man City/Liverpool double-header.
Current position: 10TH
Verdict: The Cherries sit slap bang in the middle of the Premier League table – and on early evidence that’s probably just about where they will end up in May. Howe’s side remain one of the most watchable if infuriatingly unpredictable teams in the division. However, the Jekyll and Hyde nature of their performances is perhaps counterintuitively the biggest weapon in their armoury. Teams can never be quite sure which Bournemouth will turn up. The somewhat unlucky 1-0 defeat to Arsenal aside, September’s results (two 3-1 wins and a 2-2 draw with West Ham ) underline exactly why the Cherries are unlikely to be sweating on their Premier League status come May. This team scores goals. Unlike so many of the likely Premier League strugglers, Howe’s side have the firepower to more than compensate for the odd defensive rick.
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION
Current position: 14TH
Verdict: The 3-0 demolition of troubled Tottenham could finally be the result that gives the Graham Potter era lift-off at Brighton. The Seagulls’ performances haven’t necessary translated into points so far this season, but the former Swansea man’s instant impact on all aspects of the club can’t be underestimated. Potter was tasked with breathing new life into a team that failed to show any signs of a Plan B under Chris Hughton in the latter half of last season. On that front, the new Brighton boss is surpassing expectations, transforming the Seagulls into one of the league’s most exciting teams to watch and unearthing academy gems including Steven Alzate and Aaron Connolly.
Current position: 7TH
Verdict: The Clarets are currently partying like its 2017/18 after another confident start to the season that has all the hallmarks of their rise to ‘best of the rest’ status two seasons ago. An away trip to Turf Moor remains a thorn in the side for any middling Premier League outfit. In fact, only runaway leaders Liverpool have so far managed to outclass Sean Dyche’s exceptionally well-drilled team on home soil. Burnley’s ruthless efficiency means they are unlikely to ever achieve top billing on Match of the Day, but that shouldn’t necessarily be taken as a slight. The Clarets can be accused of being boringly middle-of-the-road, but unlike supposedly more-fashionable rivals, they’ll be totting up the Premier League TV money once again next summer.
Current position: 5TH
Verdict: Patience was always going to be the watchword for the Frank Lampard era. Calm heads needed to prevail following the Blues’ sticky start to the season. The Blues are finally reaping the rewards of allowing their favourite son the time and space to bring on an exciting new generation of players. Given the uncertain summer at Stamford Bridge, even the most ardent Blues fan would have been hard-pressed to fight Chelsea’s case for automatic top six billing this campaign. On current evidence, they could finish a lot higher. That transfer ban is fast looking like a blessing in disguise.
Current position: 6TH
Verdict: After an unconvincing campaign last time around, and a pre-season centred around Wilfried Zaha’s latest movements, many pre-season pundits tipped Roy Hodgson to be a leading contender in the sack race. However, the understated elder statesman of the Premier League has made a mockery of those doubters with the Eagles looking towards the Europa League rather than relegation this season. Their performances won’t necessarily leave you coming back for more, but Hodgson has stumbled on a priceless Premier League commodity. He’s found a way to convert fine margins in matches into wins.
Current position: 18TH
Verdict: Marco Silva might just be the luckiest man of Merseyside. That’s if he’s still roaming the Goodison Park dugout in a fortnight after a hugely underwhelming start to the season. In mitigation, the Portuguese hasn’t always had the rub of the green this season, with the Toffees playing well in patches in all three of their last defeats. However, Everton still have little to show for their efforts despite another season of spending close to £100m in the transfer market. Silva’s problem? He remains an enigma as a coach. Expect the powers-that-be at Everton to question exactly what Silva brings to the party as they reflect on another low-wattage start to a season. Are the Toffees too big to go down? Probably. In a 2019/20 Premier League with no signs of a nailed-on Fulham or Huddersfield, however, they can’t afford to keep treading water.
Current position: 4TH
Verdict: The Brendan Rodgers effect is well and truly kicking in at the East Midlands. While a Champions League spot still looks a stretch for a team still in the early stages of their development under Rodgers, the Northern Irishman has enough talent and strength-in-depth art his disposal to firm up a spot in the top six. The narrow defeat to Liverpool has checked momentum slightly. It was a performance that suggests they deserve to be mixing it amongst the major Premier League players. If they can up their consistency levels on the road, the Rodgers revolution should continue to roll along nicely.
Current position: 1ST
Verdict: Flawless. Plus– in even better news from Jurgen Klopp’s perspective – the Reds don’t even look as if they have hit top gear so far this season. If the mark of a likely Premier League title winner is playing below par and still winning with relative ease, Liverpool are ticking all the right boxes. If, as current form would suggest, they can take maximum points from games against Man Utd and Spurs after the international break, they might already have enough of a gap to ride out a wobble when the games come thick and fast this winter.
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