An Early Look at the Title Rivals
United’s own start to the season may not have been as impressive as it could have been. Granted they’ve won three out of four but the loss to Burnley was as big a shock as we’ve had all season and the manner in which they defeated Arsenal was not as convincing as perhaps it could have been. That said nine points after four games is nothing to be sniffed at and I’ve decided to do a round-up of how United’s rivals are fairing.
Before the season kicked off I’ll admit I had my doubts that Carlo Ancelotti would be able to do it in the Premier League. After winning the first four and the Community Shield I’ll be the first to admit I was very wrong and the blues could be the team to beat this season. The Italian tactician in the Stamford Bridge hot seat generally uses two variations of the diamond formation and at the moment at least it is working to great effect. However, so far they have faced the likes of Hull, Sunderland, Burnley and Fulham and have not been tested against one of the league’s better teams. They are currently the Premier League betting favourites to lift the title with the majority of bookmakers but in truth their potential under their new boss won’t really be known until they’ve faced teams like United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City.
After a disappointing campaign by their standards last season and the losses of Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure many predicted the Gunners would struggle to finish in the top four this season. In all fairness they’ve started very well and have at times looked as good as any Arsenal team of the past. The loss at Old Trafford was clearly a blow for Arsene Wenger’s side but losing at United is no disgrace at all (as we all well know). Their game with City will be massive at the weekend in the fact that both teams will be trying to demonstrate their title credentials and should be well worth keeping an eye on.
Liverpool are the one team who really are struggling. They’ve lost two of their first four and are yet to look convincing, indeed they’ve looked nothing like the team that gave United a minor scare in the title hunt last season. The betting odds on Liverpool taking the title have doubled since the campaign started but they are still a good team and you get the feeling this slump won’t last forever. Without question Benitez’s men have given themselves a difficult task in having to play catch up but I bet they’d rather be six points off the pace after four games rather than 20 games.
Through the course of this brief round-up I’ve come to the conclusion that it is indeed far to early to really give a decent analysis of each teams credentials but there are indicators of how well each side can do. United and Chelsea are, for me at least, the two sides to be beaten but Arsenal have looked good and City cannot be ignored either. We should have a better idea of whether City and Arsenal can maintain their form and whether Liverpool can close the gap after about more 10 games so I’ll do another similar round-up then.
Harry Redkanpp’s Spurs lie in second place and are also enjoying a perfect start to the season having won their opening four fixtures. They’re worth a mention because of the way they have started and indeed the calibre of team they’ve already faced, having already beaten Liverpool and West Ham at Upton Park, but in all honesty they just don’t have the strength in depth to maintain a serious title challenge. The Londoners could well be Champions League contenders but I expect United to comfortably finish above Spurs at the end of the season.
City’s mega-spending over the summer got everyone talking and their players seem to think they’ve got as good a chance as any of taking the title when the season comes to a close. City have enjoyed a perfect start so far having won three out of three but, as with Chelsea, they’re yet to be truly tested. Mark Hughes’ men have seen off Blackburn, Wolves and Portsmouth – all three of which could well be involved in the relegation scrap through the course of the season. City face Arsenal at the weekend and that game will give us the best indication yet of just how well Manchester’s other team will do this season.