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Premier League: A Chance to Take A Breath

Missing Premier League Soccer this weekend? So are we – but we’ve shared some thoughts on what we’ve seen so far!

Villa Park celebrates Aston Villa’s 2-1 win over Hull City in the Premier League by Ben Sutherland is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Premier League: A Chance to Take A Breath


Estimated Reading Time: 8 Minutes

Anyone else feel empty this weekend? Unfulfilled? Yeah, me too. Blame it on the international break. After all, that’s why we weren’t able to enjoy multiple hours of Premier League soccer.

SO – given that, we’ve decided to take a breath and have a good look around the league to see what’s what. Most teams have played 4 games, so there is still plenty of season left, but the first month of action has left us with plenty to talk about, and just as much to look forward to.

We’ve asked our soccer writers for their thoughts on the season so far. What have been the biggest surprises in this young season? How about the disappointments? And lastly, now that the dust has settled on the transfer window – which players and/or transformed teams are you most keeping an eye on? Here are our thoughts:

Morin:

Biggest Surprise

For me, it’s Aston Villa. Sure, Everton is the only team to take all points from four games, but we saw a surge coming for them with their transfer business. Villa on the other hand, has come screaming out of the gates, and don’t look to be slowing down. They’ve handed out two big losses, the latest of which was a 7-2 thrashing of Liverpool. Even on Liverpool’s worst day they don’t get beaten that badly.

Bringing in Emi Martinez from Arsenal, Jack Grealish signing a new 5-year deal, and Ross Barkley joining the club on loan look to be sound pieces of business that may just lift the Villains from barely above relegation, to fighting for a European place. They’re bound to come back to Earth at some point, but their next two matches against Leicester and Leeds could cement their status as a contender this season. If you say you saw that coming you’re a liar.

Biggest Disappointment

This one is a toss up for me. But the only answers, in my opinion, are Fulham and Manchester United. Fulham didn’t have high expectations coming into the season, but they’re desperate to not be a one and done for the second time in as many tries in the Premier League. They’ve lost all four matches so far and have a goal difference of -8. That doesn’t bode well.

Meanwhile, Manchester United should be sitting near the bottom with one point. They’re lucky a Fergie-time penalty was given against Brighton, which gave them a whopping three points from three games. After being thoroughly embarrassed 6-1 by a surging Tottenham team, the Red Devils need to regroup during the international break. They return against a Newcastle team that has been iffy. But their following three games pit them up against Chelsea, Arsenal, and Everton. It’s entirely possible they take zero points from those three matches, and find themselves sitting around relegation with an impossible gap to make up. If that happens? Say bye to Ole.

Transfer players/transformed teams to keep an eye on

I’m going to be a pretty big homer here, but for me it has to be Spurs. And then to appease Wilhelm, Chelsea is my second. But really, these two clubs had an amazing transfer window. And we have yet to see how the new boys will affect their teams due to a number of injuries. When at full strength? They both should be class and an absolute delight to watch.

The number one player for me though is Sergio Reguilón. He has blistering pace, tackles hard, and is a much more forward thinking left back than Ben Davies. His driving down that flank gives a dimension we haven’t seen in North London since that one stellar season from Danny Rose a few years ago. On the other side of that back line is Matt Doherty, who helped an exciting Wolves side punch another European ticket last season. This furthers the potency of the Tottenham attack, which also got better with the addition of a (hopefully) healthy Gareth Bale.

Tottenham XI: Lloris, Reguilón, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Doherty, Hojbjerg, Ndombele, Lo Celso, Son, Kane, Bale

Chelsea XI: Mendy, Chilwell, Zouma, Silva, James, Kante, Mount, Pulisic, Havertz, Werner, Abraham

YIKES TO BOTH!

Wilhelm:

Biggest Surprise

There’s a large part of me that wants to just echo everything Kevin has written about Aston Villa here, but I suspect that wouldn’t make for a very compelling read. So I’ll highlight the team above them at top of the table currently, Everton.

Perhaps the other side of the Merseyside Derby didn’t like having to watch Liverpool celebrate their first Premier League Championship a couple of months ago, because Everton look completely different to start this season. When Carlo Ancelotti was brought in as the manager last December, it seemed maybe things were finally heading in the right direction, and after winning Manager of the Month honors in September it is clear they are.

There used to always be an air of impending disappointment surrounding Goodison Park, like it was only a matter of time before Everton shot themselves in the foot. So far this campaign though a perfect 12 points from 4 matches and that feeling is nowhere to be found.

Biggest Disappointments

It’s hard to choose so I’ll rattle a few off

Fulham. Was this performance to be expected? Probably. Doesn’t mean it isn’t disappointing.

Manchester United. Was this performance to be expected? Well, I picked them to finish third so… no. Maybe a couple signings will turn it around?

West Brom has conceded a league worst 13 goals. That’s not really too disappointing but the two teams tied for 2nd in that category with 11 goals let in are United, and Liverpool. With Arnold and Virgil anchoring many a fantasy defense, this is extremely disappointing.

The biggest disappointment might have to be Sheffield United’s offense, or lack thereof. 1 goal in 4 matches is not going to cut it. They need to find the back of the net and they need to do it quickly.

Transfer players/transformed teams to keep an eye on

Edouard Mendy. Ben Chilwell. Timo Werner. Kai Havertz. Thiago Silva. Hakim Zieych. Of all the amazing talent listed there amongst my squad, Mendy is the biggest one to keep an eye on. Because the Kepa situation at Chelsea is/was miserable but looks to be turning around when Peter Cech tipped the club into signing Mendy from his old club of Rennes.

Honestly, homerism aside, the player to really keep an eye on is James Rodriguez. He is a very big reason for Everton’s turnaround thus far. Some players just seem to perform for certain managers and James and Ancelotti are another of those pairings.

Other notables: the Center Back situation at Manchester City, the new look Spurs (terrifying), Leeds. Seriously watch every Leeds match you can. You will not regret it.

Danbusky:

Biggest Surprise

There have been many to be sure, both good and bad. The boys already covered a few of them above, but for me it’s the tightening of the gap from top to bottom of this league. Most years we talk about the “big six” (Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Tottenham) followed by “everyone else”. Usually there are a couple of also-rans who factor into the conversation when it comes to Champions and European spots, but this season there are more than a handful who could shake things up.

Squads like Everton, Aston Villa, and Leeds have all gotten off to impressive starts and, if their form continues, some of the big boys may be looking over their shoulders **cough cough, United, cough cough**. The level of competition from 1st through 20th is what makes this one of, if not THE, best domestic leagues in the world. This season may be one of the most competitive we’ve seen in a long time.

Biggest Disappointment

My obvious answer, given my “homerism” is Manchester United. But I’m not going to get into it here – there’s too much pent up anger and frustration to fit into this particular piece. Instead, I’m shifting gears a bit. I’m going to look to the officiating, and more specifically – VAR. Shocking, I know.

My father was a referee for as long as I can remember. There are countless memories I have of him coming home at the end of the day and standing in our kitchen, still in uniform, recounting all of the craziness he endured through as many as 4 or 5 matches he’d officiated. So when it comes to the officials, I get a bit prickly.

When the league adopted the use of VAR, it was with good intentions. Everyone wants to see the correct calls made. To be sure, there have been plenty of instances when it’s done its job and caught something that the naked eye might have missed. However, there has also been A LOT of controversy resulting from it as well. This season, with some of the rules being tweaked, it’s seemingly only gotten worse. I think there’s been an overcorrection and a “happy medium” needs to be found.

Transfer players/transformed teams to keep an eye on

I think I’m going to boycott transfers, kind of like Ed Woodward. Instead of keeping an eye on some player or team specifically, I’m simply going to fume at Ed Woodward as I watch teams who actually made significant improvements feast on United, who didn’t do much business until the 11th hour after getting completely embarrassed by Spurs. It’s baffling, considering they were linked with a laundry list of players (Jadon Sancho, Ousmane Dembele, Kalidou Koulibaly, and Sergio Reguilon just to name a few).

The countdown is on. The Premier League season picks up again this coming Saturday, October 17th, with the Merseyside Derby between Everton and Liverpool.

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