We witnessed an intriguing start to the 2017/18 Premier League season. Both Manchester club had flying starts to the season, and many adopted the opinion that the title would be decided in Manchester. Recent results, however, suggest that the Premier League title might not be a two-horse race after all.
It has thus far been yet another hugely entertaining Premier League season, with shocks, drama and spirited comebacks aplenty. Manchester City, still unbeaten, are the ones looking down on the rest.
The Citizens have, by a long shot, been the standout team in the league, scoring an astounding 38 goals in their 11 games to date. They are tearing teams apart with consummate ease, and, at the moment, seem unstoppable.
Nonetheless, we at Acca Tips have picked out 4 reasons the Premier League won’t be a walk in the park for the Mancunians…
Chelsea not done just yet in the Premier League title race
After a pretty awful transfer window, where Chelsea miserably failed to get most of it’s transfer targets, the season couldn’t have begun any more worse than it did for the Blues.
A 3-2 reverse at home to Burnley followed by defeats at the hands of both Manchester City and lowly Crystal Palace in the Londoners’ first eight game of the season led some to believe the champions would almost certainly fail to replicate last season’s success.
After all, Chelsea now burdened added distractions from the Champions League. And having failed to significantly strengthen in the summer, are pretty much the same side from last term, only with a more robust fixture list. Add to that the uncertainty surrounding Antonio Conte’s future at the club, and Chelsea looked a club destined to struggle.
Three wins in their last three league games, however, has substantially changed the mood around Stamford Bridge. It has seen the Blues come within a point off second place and nine behind leaders, City.
There were question marks over whether the players had lost the fighting spirit they showed for large parts last season, especially in light of the Palace defeat.
Well, the 4-2 victory over Watford where they showed determination to win after going 2-1 behind showed the fight remains in the team. More impressive was the resolve shown to ensure Manchester United left London empty-handed just under a fortnight ago.
Chelsea has already faced four of the five teams that finished in the top six alongside them, so it’s safe to say they have gone past the most difficult part of their season and done fairly well. Exempting the trip to Anfield, the Blues fixtures down to the new year is enviable. It really would be no surprise to see them go on a run identical to last campaign during this period.
Personally, I feel the sooner Chelsea are knocked out of the Champions League, the better their chances of successfully defending their Premier League title. The squad they possess is simply not big enough to cope in both competitions right to the end. And although Chelsea look certain to qualify from the group stages, it’s only a matter of time before European football begins to take it’s full toll on Conte’s men.
United’s old demons resurface
Manchester United started the season brilliantly, scoring goals for fun and looking rock-solid at the back. Indeed, the Red Devils looked genuine title contenders. Recent weeks, however, have seen them struggle for form and, more importantly, goals.
United have scored only twice in the past four league games, and it’s cost them dearly, moving from level on points with City to eight points behind their neighbours in the space of a month.
Last season, it was hard to look beyond Zlatan Ibrahimovic for goals. This term, it’s Romelu Lukaku under similar pressure to deliver. The goals do not seem to be coming from elsewhere, so when he struggles, the whole team is in trouble.
United – and Lukaku – of course, haven’t been helped by injuries to several key players, most notably Paul Pogba, who had an exception start to the campaign. The Red Devils could do with some creativity right about now; the play has become ponderous and predictable as it was for good parts of last season.
United continue to labour against teams willing to get men behind the ball, and we saw at Huddersfield just how costly it can prove. It’s easy to point accusing fingers at Jose Mourinho for his side’s recent struggles, but let’s not lose sight of the fact he has been let down by a few players.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan is one player who has disappointed lately. The Armenian has gone from registering a goal and five assists in the opening five games to no goals or assists in the last six.
It’s not all doom and gloom for United, notwithstanding. The fixtures begin to ease up a little after the international break, and with the aforementioned Pogba and Ibrahimovic soon to return, there is cause for renewed optimism. But if there were any hopes, at the start of the season, that United could run away with the title, they are almost certainly dashed right now.
Over the last few years, Tottenham Hotspur has certainly been one of the more consistent sides in the Premier League. Spurs have finished fifth, third and second respectively in the past three seasons, with Mauricio Pochettino in charge. The Argentine manager has brought with him an exciting brand of football, and the North London club is definitely one on the rise.
Going into the current season, though, there were worries regarding using Wembley as a temporary home for Spurs, while the new White Hart Lane gets completed. The Lily Whites had historically struggled at the iconic stadium.
Last campaign, Pochettino’s men fared badly while using Wembley for their Champions League home games. And the fear that using Wembley as an adopted home, albeit for a season, could really hurt Spurs title ambitions was palpable.
And following Tottenham’s failure to win any of their first three home games in the league, one would have been forgiven to think they’d be lucky to finish in the top four.
11 games in, however, and it’s a whole new picture. The Lily Whites are flying again. They have turned the corner at Wembley, winning thrice in as many games, including a 4-1 thrashing of Liverpool.
In Europe, it’s been a similar story for Spurs. Last week’s victory over Real Madrid means the North Londoners are in pole position to finish top of Group H.
We all saw Spurs falter two years ago, after it was confirmed they couldn’t finish higher than second. I believe they are a better, more matured side than they were that season; the squad is absolutely buzzing with talent. Harry Kane keeps getting better and better, the midfield looks great with a perfect blend of creativity and steel, while the defense remains as water-tight as ever.
Personally, I feel this Spurs side have it in them to go one better this season. They have been among the best sides in the country for some time now, and I won’t be overly surprised to see them crowned champions come May.
Manchester City no Invincibles
City has had a phenomenal 2017/2018 season thus far. The men from Manchester are swatting teams aside without much effort, and, at the moment, it’s difficult to see where they can drop points.
The squad Pep Guardiola has at his disposal is terrifying, to say the least. The fact that the likes of IIkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva have been regulars on the City bench tell you all you need to know, really.
Still, it would be naive to read too much into City’s scintillating early season form. After all, this was the same side that won its first ten games of last season, only to finish third. But then, City fans would argue this is a more stronger City side compared to the one we saw this past term – and rightly so.
There has been so much focus on the City attack that the defenders haven’t really gotten the plaudits they deserve . City has allowed only eight goals thus far, keeping clean sheets in six, which isn’t bad for a team whose strong suit isn’t defending. And while these numbers are impressive, I still think the City defence hasn’t been tested enough. Most teams have faced the Citizens with only one thing at the back of their minds: damage limitation. Not enough teams have been adventurous enough when they have played against the Etihad outfit, in my opinion.
There remains a couple of weakness in this City defence, surely. Fabian Delph, although faring well, isn’t a left back; Kyle Walker, as you know, is more wingback than fullback; John Stones isn’t the complete package just yet, and Nicolas Otamendi remains susceptible to making rash challenges in dangerous areas. Teams just haven’t been wise to all these yet, I guess.
December is a month that could likely see the Premier League title race blow open. Everyone becomes desperate for points around that period, and the heavy fixture list in the festive season could prove a big challenge. And if City are going to drop points at some period, December seems a apt month for them to do so.
All things considered, the Premier League title race is shaping up nicely, and at this stage, it’s somewhat difficult to say for certain which of the contenders will emerge victorious, although one might be inclined to pip the Citizens. But one thing is for sure: the league title won’t be a two-horse race between both Manchester clubs.