It’s said you can really start to judge the Premier League table by the second international break of the season. On that score, after eight games, it’s looking like it could be a memorable season on Merseyside, while the worries continue to mount for Watford fans.
Here’s our Premier League review of the season so far.
Premier League September Review Part 2 – Manchester City to Wolverhampton Wanderers
Current position: 2ND
Verdict: Winning a third Premier League title in a row is hard work – no matter how good a side you are. That’s why, despite a mixed month of results, Pep Guardiola will be showing no signs of panic despite the fact that City now trail Liverpool by eight points in the title race. One of the best motivators in the business will be reminding his players that as late as New Year’s Eve last season, City still had to plug a gap of 10 points on Liverpool in the title race. They might have to do it the hard way this season, but a third title success from this position would surely be Guardiola’s greatest feat yet.
Current position: 12TH
Verdict: Ole Gunnar Solksjaer looks a man who is starting to feel the pressure at Old Trafford with Utd’s lacklustre form from the second half of season continuing into this one. Utd have now made their worst Premier League start in history, with little sign an uplift in form is imminent. The 1-0 defeat to Newcastle was arguably a microcosm of their season so far – flat, uninspired and lacking in clear direction. In mitigation, the Norwegian is missing several of his key players. However, he currently resembles the man who relegated Cardiff City rather than the one who engineered a famous comeback win in Paris. Utd have some thinking to do over the international break.
Current position: 16TH
Verdict: It’s been a bumpy ride for Steve Bruce, but as he continues to swim against the tide of popular opinion on Tyneside, he’s at least earned himself a breather after Newcastle showed some fighting spirit against Man Utd. Bruce still needs to get the best out of the pricey Miguel Almiron and Joelinton to assuage the doubters, but in the Longstaff brothers has at least found a pairing that can bring some much-needed positivity to proceedings at St James’ Park. Magpies fans might not like it, but if Bruce has been tasked by Mike Ashley with simply ensuring survival, he can probably squeeze just enough from this squad to achieve it. Don’t expect it to be plain sailing, however.
Current position: 19TH
Verdict: The 3-2 win over Manchester City was only just over three weeks ago. However, it must already seem like three months ago for a Canaries side showing worrying signs of going into a tailspin towards relegation. Injuries have decimated Daniel Farke’s squad, but the German may be rueing the board’s minimalist approach to the transfer market this summer after their lack of depth was brutally exposed by Aston Villa. A defining month awaits with games against Man Utd, Brighton and Watford all offering opportunities to arrest their recent slide.
Current position: 17TH
Verdict: Ralph Hasenhüttl still has credit in the bank after re-energising Saints following the Mark Hughes era but support could start to dwindle sharply if Southampton continue their current drift towards danger. Many fans hoped the Austrian would rekindle the momentum of the Pochettino/Koeman years, but so far, the Saints are showing alarming signs of hitting the repeat button of a season-long fight against relegation. Hasenhüttl looked to have fixed Saints’ persistent Achilles heel of poor home form in finishing last season strongly at St Mary’s, but has yet to record a home win this season.
Current position: 13TH
Verdict: Lazy pundits may finally be taking a second look at Chris Wilder’s bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Blades. Sheffield Utd’s supposed lack of Premier League star power almost saw them relegated without a ball being kicked amongst less informed critics. Anyone following Chris Wilder’s tactically astute rise to the top more closely will be less surprised that they currently look the best-equipped side amongst the promoted trio to extend their stay at this level. Harder challenges lie ahead after the international break, but don’t back against Wilder continuing to ruffle a few feathers as he charts his own path to safety.
Current position: 9TH
Verdict: All is not well at the good ship Spurs after the worst week of Mauricio Pochettino’s tenure. The Argentinian has transformed the club from perennial underachievers to Premier League heavyweights in five years, but if his recent woes continue, all his good work could be undone, with Spurs in danger of regressing back to their mid-noughties mean. Poch and several Spurs players look badly in need of a clean break after a half-decade of being upwardly mobile, but don’t expect any imminent changes. An international break looks perfectly timed to help Spurs take a breath and regroup ahead of a more than winnable game against Watford.
Current position: 20TH
Verdict: Eight games in. No wins. No obvious signs of a ‘new manager bounce’. Things are looking bleak at Vicarage Road, but the Man City result aside, Quique Sanchez Flores appears to have at least added some fight. The Hornets can take some consolation that other teams have recovered from worse positions at this stage of the season – notably Spurs in 2008/09. Juande Ramos’ side picked up just two points from their opening eight games, but eventually finished eighth after Harry Redknapp’s rescue mission. Can Quique be their ‘Arry?
WEST HAM UTD
Current position: 8TH
Verdict: Perhaps more than any side, the Hammers’ season matches the personality of their manager. Understated, unfussy, and happy to do their best work under the radar. Manuel Pellegrini continues to shape his underrated squad into one of the more watchable Premier League sides. As the home defeat to Palace demonstrates, consistency from week-to-week remains a sticking point that may thwart any hopes of a Europa League adventure next season. However, West Ham remain upwardly mobile and, in a change from previous seasons, surprisingly low maintenance when it comes to generating back-page headlines.
Current position: 11TH
Verdict: Fears of ‘second season syndrome’ striking at Molineux have subsided in recent weeks. Wolves look like they’ve finally found the right balance to compete on two fronts both domestically and in Europe. A terrific win away at Manchester City was a result Wolves have been threatening for a few weeks now, and Nuno must be ruing the timing of the international break just as his players look capable of kicking on. With Southampton and Newcastle up next, Wolves now have a small window to take advantage of any more misfires from the usual top six contenders. Start pricing in the possibility they go at least one better than last season’s seventh place finish.
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