1. It can all go very wrong, very quickly
A matter of months ago Chelsea were champions of the Premier League, cantering to the title with games to spare. How the mighty have fallen. After twelve games of the new season the Blues have experienced their worst ever start and sit just three points above the relegation zone, in 16th place.
It’s a scenario that none would have predicted, and Jose Mourinho is under pressure to turn things around quickly. His team are a shadow of the side which dominated the league last season, with every player – Brazilian Willian aside – playing well below the high standards expected at Stamford Bridge. Plenty of possible reasons have been suggested for Chelsea’s sudden downturn, from the constant controversies courted by Mourinho and an unsettled dressing room to a late pre-season return. Barring a sensational run which doesn’t appear to be coming anytime soon, a respectable top-half finish is probably the best that Chelsea fans can hope for.
2. The competition is becoming fiercer
The staggering amount of money in the Premier League compared to its other European counterparts is nothing new, but the extraordinary television deal about to come into place means that even middle ranking English clubs can attract high quality players.
Two cases in point: Dimitri Payet and Yohan Cabaye both made moves to the Premier League in the summer, to West Ham and Crystal Palace respectively. Both have made flying starts, and proven catalysts for two teams all of a sudden pushing for positions in the top four. The startling wealth of Premier League clubs will only serve to make the competition fiercer in the coming years. This is just the beginning.
3. Tottenham must be taken seriously
No team has lost fewer games than Spurs this season, whilst they also boast one of the finest defences in the league. With just a single defeat from their opening twelve games, Mauricio Pochettino’s side look close to shaking off their reputation for being mentally fragile and inconsistent.
The Tottenham squad boast the youngest average age in the Premier League and, built around a core of talented English players, look set for big things. The ambition this season will be to break into the top four and secure Champions League football, but next season their ambitions could be higher.
4. Manchester United have changed
For the time being at least, gone are the days of Manchester United fans sitting on the edge of their seats at Old Trafford. Louis van Gaal has developed a much more patient approach, and his team’s methodical style of play is certainly winning matches, if not the support of the neutral. The Premier League is a marathon of 38 games, and should United continue to have the best defence, they’ll be in contention for the title at the end of the season.
5. Jamie Vardy is a goal machine
Twelve games in the top scorers list in the Premier League isn’t looking anywhere close to what many fans expected at the start of the season. Out in front with twelve goals is Englishman Jamie Vardy, who has scored in a record nine consecutive league games.
The closest contenders are the trio of Everton’s Romelu Lukaku, Watford’s Idion Ighalo and Vardy’s Leicester teammate Riyad Mahrez – who are all on seven goals. Spurs and Manchester City fans will be hoping that last campaign’s top finishers Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane will hit form soon.
6. New boys Bournemouth are the league’s unluckiest team
Coming into the Premier League from the Championship is a huge step up in quality, and the gap is only going to grow wider as TV revenue continues to rise for English football’s top tier. Promoted teams need all the help they can get and, sadly for Bournemouth, luck hasn’t been on their side this season.
After a promising start to the campaign they lost record summer signings Tyrone Mings and Max Gradel, as well as top goalscorer Callum Wilson – all as a result of serious cruciate ligament injuries. Staying up would have been hard enough, but their form has plummeted since the loss of their influential trio. In Eddie Howe, Bournemouth have one of the country’s top young managers, who will be hoping for some serious investment during the winter transfer window to replace the side’s long-term absentees.
7. Arsenal CAN challenge for the title
Surprisingly, Arsenal were the only team in Europe’s top leagues not to sign an outfield player during the summer. Such is the faith that manager Arsene Wenger has in his squad, he only chose to bring in goalkeeper Petr Cech from Chelsea. Once again this Arsenal side look capable of competing with the very best; indeed, not long ago they beat Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
The Gunners currently sit joint top of the table but, going into a fixture-congested Christmas period, injuries have started to stack up, exposing a thin squad without the depth needed to challenge over the course of a full season. Admittedly, there has been a freakish amount of players on the treatment table at Arsenal, but this appears to happen to Wenger’s side every year, suggesting that a deep-rooted training factor is to blame. Either way, without adding to the squad in January, this could well be another season of ‘what if…?’ in North London.
8. Fourth spot is up for grabs
As Chelsea already seem out of contention for a finish in the Champions League places, there’s an opportunity for a new club to feature in Europe’s elite competition next season. Tottenham’s early season form and general upward trajectory make them likely contenders, whilst Liverpool fans will hope that Jurgen Klopp can guide them back into the top four in his first season at the club.
If Leicester City and West Ham manage to keep their miraculous form going past the New Year, we may well see one of the two making a Champions League debut, although both would have to be considered outsiders. Southampton and Everton will also look to push on after decent starts to the campaign.
9. The title is Manchester City’s to lose
Chelsea’s inexplicable implosion means that really, the title is Man City’s to lose. On paper they have by far the strongest squad in the league. As a result their fate will largely be a result of motivation – something the squad certainly hasn’t been short of this season – and fitness. Key players Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany are arguably the finest in their positions in the Premier League, but both have struggled with injury problems in recent seasons. If City’s key duo stay fit, it’s hard to see anyone keeping pace with them.
10. Newcastle are undermined by the same old problems
Despite the appointment of respected head coach Steve McClaren and the second highest net spend in the Premier League in the summer, Newcastle United continue to disappoint. Over the summer, controversial owner Mike Ashley took a marked step back from football matters at the club and provided the funds for an overhaul of the squad, but his decreased influence hasn’t led to improved performances on the pitch.
In many ways McClaren’s side look exactly what they are: a team of talented mercenaries capable of operating at both ends of the Premier League spectrum. They currently sit 17th, but with two wins and a draw in their last four, McClaren will be given time to turn things around.