After 5 games of the campaign so far, and that horrific opening day of the season against Aston Villa, Arsenal find themselves top of the Premier League with 12 points.
Tottenham Hotspur are second on goal difference, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool are on 10 points and Manchester United find themselves in 8th position, on 7 points.
So 5 games in, who are the favourites for the Premier League?
Before the season began, Chelsea were installed as favourites with the bookies and Manchester City second. Manchester United were third favourites while Arsenal were well down in fourth, being around 14/1 if I remember correctly (which I thought was fair at the time but I’m sure those odds have gone down a little with the signing of Mesut Ozil).
At the time of writing, the current odds for the Premier League title are as follows:
Manchester City – 7/4
Chelsea – 3/1
Manchester United – 9/2
Arsenal – 6/1
Tottenham Hotspur – 10/1
Liverpool – 14/1
And they all seem fair enough at this moment in time.
Manchester City have the strongest squad in the Premier League and look determined to win the title back after losing out to Manchester United last season. And their performance on Sunday was one of hunger and intent, and it was clear they really wanted to send out a message to the rest of the Premier League.
Chelsea were the easy season favourites but their form has dipped recently and their performances have been less than convincing. They lost against Everton last week, and made tough work of Fulham at the weekend. There seems to be a bit of funny business with the striker situation as well, with some not convinced that Samuel Eto’o or WIllian were actually Jose Mourinho signings. It was obvious Mourinho wanted Rooney as the spearhead of his new Chelsea attack and with Juan Mata out in the cold, there seems to be a small amount of discontent at the Bridge. Of course, Jose Mourinho is a born winner and his track record is the best in the business, so underestimating Chelsea would be extremely foolish. If Chelsea are struggling now, then what will they be like once they start firing on all cylinders?
Then we have Manchester United. David Moyes has had a tough run in already this season, having played Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City in his first 5 games. While some rate David Moyes and the job he did at Everton, I completely disagree with that. I know Everton supporters who were glad he left because his brand of football was boring and tactically he was very limited. It is interesting to note that he has never won a big game. He failed to win a single Merseyside Derby in his 11 year career at Everton, and last season I remember this vividly, he failed to beat Wigan Athletic at home in the FA Cup. Victory would have seen a clear path to the final as the next opponents were Millwall in the semi-finals. And then he had the Champions League Qualifier against Villarreal in the 2005-2006 season and lost that too.
So it was hardly surprising he has failed to win any of the “big” games this season. Against Chelsea he ran out of ideas, against Liverpool he had no answer and the Manchester City game was a shambles. Like Chelsea, if they go a goal down then they don’t know how to respond. A lot was made about the absence of Robin van Persie yesterday but with a powerful midfield with Yaya Toure and Fernandinho, playing with Carrick and Fellaini and not with a midfield three was suicidal. But then again maybe I’m being too simplistic.
And we have Tottenham Hotspur. They sold Gareth Bale and brought in a lot of quality players. They have yet to gel but once they do then they will be a very good side. Do they have the mental capacity to mount a real title challenge? AVB was disastrous at Chelsea and bottled 4th place last season, but he has had success with Porto – although the merits of that success are under dispute as his road to Europa League success was relatively easy (he didn’t have to face a single side from Germany, Italy, France, England or Holland). I think they best that can hope for is a Top 4 finish, and that is being optimistic.
Liverpool are an interesting side. They bought a lot of players over the summer and they have been solid (Southampton aside) this season. They have definitely improved on last season but I can’t see them finishing in the Top 4. They have Suarez to come back and he will improve the team, but will he be as effective as he was last season? If he’s looking for a move away in the January Transfer Window then who knows.
Then our beloved Arsenal. How will they fair this season? Since losing to Tottenham Hotspur last season (when AVB famously said we were in a “negative spiral of results”) we have played 18 games, won 15, drawn 2 and lost 1 – which puts the Aston Villa result into perspective. Like it or not, our form has been excellent and is that of a title challenging team.
But the $64,000 question is can we do it?
At the moment, the signs look positive. We have a settled squad and have only a couple of new players (and even then one of them used to play for us) to get used to the “Arsenal way”. Defensively we look better than we have for a long time (with Sagna an excellent deputy centre back) and cover in the full back positions. In midfield we have a lot of top quality options, when everyone is fit (Arteta, Wilshere, Ramsey, Rosicky, Santi, Flamini, Diaby, Oxlade-Chamberlain) and in terms of attackers we have Ozil, Theo, Ryo and Oxlade-Chamberlain. The only position where we are a “little light” is upfront, with Giroud and Podolski our only recognised strikers (I don’t even want to think about having to use TGSTEL).
A lot has been made of the management changes at Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United. Personally, I only believe the team that will suffer from this is Manchester United. They are incapable of winning any big games which can be decisive in the title run in. They won’t have any problems winning the smaller games so they will still be up there or thereabouts. Pellegrini is a manager who likes attacking football and they will entertain this season – they have a formidable squad and will always have an excellent defence marshalled by Vincent Kompany, who is immense. Playing the way they are, they will win most of their games. Chelsea, are a team that could struggle but this is Jose Mourinho that we’re talking about. By hook or by crook, he will find a way to start bulldozing teams and getting the results he needs. Don’t be fooled over the talk of finding a “new style” of playing football – this man is in the results business and is very good at it.
For me, it is a 3 horse race between Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal. Manchester United look off the pace to me, and I don’t think Tottenham and Liverpool can sustain any real title challenge.
So what do you think? Leave your opinions in the comments section below.