With a full quarter of the season already having been played, England’s Premier League is beginning to take shape. However, there is an unfamiliar feel to the league so far with Arsenal setting the early pace. Are the Gunners really contenders for the title and where are the usual suspects?
When Arsenal were defeated at home by Aston Villa on the opening day of the season, the knives were out for manager Arsene Wenger. However, his team have been almost faultless ever since then. The signing of German midfield maestro Mesut Ozil certainly added quality to the side, but the key to Arsenal’s early season success has arguably been the form of two players who had previously disappointed. Aaron Ramsey has been perhaps the Premier League’s most impressive midfielder so far this term while Olivier Giroud has proved to be the perfect foil for Arsenal’s intricate approach play. The big question is whether Arsenal can turn a great start into a real title challenge? Much is likely to depend on injuries as Wenger’s squad appears to lack strength in depth.
Among the other early pace-setters, Liverpool have also impressed greatly. Brendan Rodgers’ team is playing with a confidence and belief not seen in a Liverpool side for quite some time. Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has added assurance at the back, but the stand-out performers have been strike partners Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. In an age when coaches rarely play with two strikers, Suarez and Sturridge are bucking the trend and proving that an old fashioned goal scoring duo can work to devastating effect. A rare top four finish appears to be within Liverpool’s grasp.
So, what of the expected title chasers Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City? There was great anticipation ahead of Jose Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge and although the self-styled ‘Special One’ has added colour to the Premier League, his Chelsea team has yet to really catch fire. The Blues will almost certainly finish in the top four but whether they launch a genuine title challenge will likely depend on whether strikers Fernando Torres or summer signing Samuel Eto’o find form. As for Manchester City, the blue half of Manchester is beginning to look awesome. They have regained the attacking swagger which appeared to desert them last season. Manager Manuel Pelegrini has so far used his squad to good effect and should he continue to do so, anyone who finishes ahead of City is likely to be crowned Premier League champions.
All of which brings us to last year’s victors, Manchester United. It was always going to be a tough season for the Red Devils following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes has found the going tough since stepping into the biggest shoes in football. Matters have not been helped by the fact that Moyes’ only major summer signing, Marouane Fellaini has failed to settle so far. However, with quality players including Nemanja Vidic, Wayne Rooney and of course Robin Van Persie, write Manchester United off at your peril. All in all, the Premier League is perfectly poised for an exciting few months ahead.