Liverpool has lost back to back at Anfield after not losing there in four years, and got spanked by City. Tottenham has lost three in a row for the first time since I lived in London in 2012. Chelsea, despite not conceding in any of Tuchel’s three matches in charge, can’t seem to find a way for their nine-figure strike force to find the back of the net consistently. Arsenal is in shambles, sitting outside the Top 10. Take a deep breath.
It’s time for me to eat crow
I was wrong. Okay? I admit it. Did I think I had it all figured out? No. But I did think that my preseason predictions were pretty spot on. So let’s dive into how badly I effed things up.
Starting from the bottom, now we’re…no I can’t finish this stupid reference. The Blades had a pretty fantastic first season back in the Premier League, finishing 9th. Even though they are largely the same group, they sit at rock bottom. They’ve taken 11 points from 23 matches, and it’s only in the past couple weeks that they’ve won anything at all.
Aside from a shock defeat of Manchester United, they have looked largely unimpressive. They sit 12 points from safety, which sounds like a lot to make up in 15 games when they haven’t been able to hit that in 23. Barring a miracle, the Blades are relegated. I guess Dean Henderson really did make all the difference.
Villa may be the surprise of the year. They have two games in hand on most clubs at the moment, due to some early season cancellations and a recent COVID outbreak. If they take all six points from those games in hand, they’d be sitting in fifth as the current table holds. Ollie Watkins and Jack Grealish have been in fine form, but the real revelation has been the summer signing of Emi Martinez. Amazing what a little stability between the sticks can do for you. I had Villa just on the outside…of the relegation zone. Instead they’re more likely to finish just outside Champions League contention. And they have a real shot at Champions League based on the play of the supposed big six clubs. While I think they’re Europa League bound, we can’t sleep on the Villains.
West Ham United
What I’m about to say is likely to make me throw up in my mouth a little. West Ham are sitting fifth, and that makes them the top London club in all of English football as things stand. Take a beat. Yep, I definitely threw up a little. The East London club was supposed to be fighting relegation. If I remember correctly I had them going down.
But no. David Moyes has regained the magic he once had at Everton and is leading team bubbles to the prospect of a top four finish. Michail Antonio had a fast start, and now will be aided by Manchester United loanee Jesse Lingard. Lingard made his debut against Villa last week and netted a brace. The Hammers are poised to finish in a European spot. And if they do so, they’re leaving some big clubs on the outside looking in.
Okay, Everton is less of a surprise. I think we all expected them to be pretty much where they are. What’s surprising though is that they came out of the gates HOT. They were top of the league for a handful of weeks and then hit a bit of a dry spell when James Rodriguez went down with an injury. Since his return, Carlo Ancelotti’s squad seem to be turning the ship back around.
They currently sit seventh with two games in hand. If they win those two? That would be good enough to hop Merseyside rivals Liverpool into the top four. And they truly look like they can do it.
When I said the Foxes were likely to tumble back down to earth, they must have been slighted. Currently playing without talisman Jamie Vardy, and it doesn’t seem to matter. James Maddison is finally coming good, and they’re putting in team efforts match after match.
If they can tread water until Vardy is back to full health, he should provide the jolt of energy they need to finish in a Champions League spot yet again. It’s been six years since Leicester improbably raised a trophy before descending into a multi-season hangover. They never tumbled too far out of contention, though. So the real question is can they keep this up? And, if so, is it time to consider Leicester one of the “big” clubs of the Premier League?
The top four
So I was wrong about Manchester City. For a bit there I was excited because they looked like they may actually fall out of the top four. Now it’s their title to lose. Winning their game in hand would put them six points clear, and I don’t think anyone catches them. Manchester United seem to have caught lightning in a bottle for the moment, but can they keep in form? I don’t have high hopes for them. Nor do I ever.
While not likely, we could be looking at a top four with Manchester City and three “non big six” clubs. Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham, and Arsenal have been inconsistent. The Gunners don’t even look like they should be part of that conversation anymore.
So let’s sit here, and think about what we’ve done. We’ve watched a world emerge that could see some combination of Everton, Leicester City, West Ham, and Aston Villa in the top four. Woof.
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