A full weekend of Premier League fixtures never fails to reveal a great deal. Unfortunately, it so often contradicts all that went before it and this is especially true of any games that take place prior to a new season of Strictly airing and the leaves changing their hue.
Even so, five games in to 2018/19 patterns are beginning to form now: probables are becoming definites while knee-jerk ‘hot takes’ to the opening weeks are being flatly denied through sheer embarrassment. We may still be in the dark as to whether Manchester United are mired in any degree of crisis while West Ham’s future amounts to a coin-flip at this juncture but elsewhere there are some aspects to this intriguing campaign that are actually starting to make sense.
Everton are still broken
Nobody expected the arrival of Marco Silva to be an instant cure for the Blues’ blues because what the former Watford boss was inheriting was an ill-balanced squad with an identity that had been pulled in every direction of late. A fairly kind schedule for August and September however did offer up the possibility of the Toffees enjoying a symbolic new dawn with some early wins on the board and who knows, maybe even a handful of cohesive performances to boot.
Sadly six points and a negative goal difference is a poor return while the same old problems remain most notably a worrying lack of a cutting edge up front. Up next is Arsenal away, a fixture that Everton last won in January 1996. Good luck there then.
Matt Doherty is a wolf in wolf’s clothing
That sound you hear is thousands of Wolves fans tapping their watches and asking why it took the rest of us so long to catch up. For the 26 year old full-back is an out-and-out star, a point proven once again on Sunday with a superb individual display against Burnley full of energy and adventure.
Doherty’s rise is one of perseverance having played under eight managers at Molineux in three different divisions and perhaps being part of the fixtures and fittings throughout partly explains why he has avoided significant acclaim. Players such as that tend to be taken for granted.
That is anything but the case now though and among a stellar cast of continental talent it is the Dubliner who is most making a very early claim for a PFA Team of the Year spot.
Chelsea are to be feared
The widely espoused logic pre-season was that the 2017 champions would require a good period of transition under the new regime of Maurizio Sarri in order to fully process his exacting demands. Sure they would lose a few games and perhaps too find themselves adrift of the title race. But from then onwards Sarri-ball would be a welcome addition to the English top flight while Chelsea would be a threat reborn.
To an extent this has played out with glimpses of uncertainty evident at various stages and yet every one of their games so far have been won with relative ease, a clean sweep of three points that sees them presently top of the league. With Eden Hazard now fully powered up too this begs the question: if this is Chelsea mid-transition what on earth will they bring to the party once everything fully clicks?
Burnley’s decline is not due to Europa League commitments
Unquestionably Burnley over-achieved last term and it would have been folly to expect a repeat performance this time out especially with the additional demands of European football fully testing a squad short of genuine quality.
An early Europa exit however has left the Clarets with just league commitments to concentrate on yet already before September is out they look ragged and a shadow of their former selves, with a defence that has conceded over 20 shots per game.
This is not fatigue, this is toil, and it seems like it’s going to be an awfully long and contrasting season for last year’s seventh place finishers.
Liverpool’s defence is the real deal
Hundreds of articles amounting to many thousands of words have been given over to Jurgen Klopp’s fantastical front three in recent times and deservedly so. Yet though they are hardly falling short at present – scoring eight goals between them and posing their usual constant menace – it is at the back where the Reds’ greatest source of joy can be found.
With Joe Gomez and Virgil Van Dyke striking up a fearsome partnership behind the unusual sight of a top class keeper parading his talents confidently at Anfield its little surprise that Liverpool have only conceded twice in five games. And frankly one of them was an individual mistake unlikely to ever happen again.
Whisper it quietly but their title challenge this year might not be engineered around ferocious attacking intent but rather built on the most solid of foundations.
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