We’re 10 matches into the Premier League, putting us at just over a quarter of the way through the season. Here are some thoughts from match day nine.
1. Chelsea: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop
As much as it pains me to use an awful Miley Cyrus reference, the song basically fits Chelsea’s season so far. The Premier League is their party, and the Blues can pretty much do what they want. Chelsea are still unbeaten, with eight wins and two draws, only having dropped points against the two Manchester clubs. They hadn’t looked quite the same without goal machine Diego Costa, but his return this weekend should put them back on track. Their derby against QPR this past weekend was a tight affair. A fantastic goal from Oscar was cancelled out by a cheeky Charlie Austin goal. Rangers fought hard, but Chelsea managed to pull away and hold on for the win after Eduardo Vargas brought down Eden Hazard in the box. Chelsea were certainly not at their best this weekend, but a sign of a good team is being able to win when you’re not at your best, and Chelsea have certainly been able to do that.
Plenty of attention has been given to Costa, but many of his teammates have also been playing fantastic football. Cesc Fabregas has been outstanding in midfield, and his partnership with enforcer Nemanja Matic is proving to be deadly. Both Oscar and Eden Hazard have been magnificent as well. In my opinion, however, the plaudits have to go to Chelsea’s defense, with John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic as the standout performers. Both are elder statesmen at the back: Ivanovic is 30 and Terry is turning 34 at the end of the year. However, both of these guys have rolled back the years and produced some fantastic performances. Terry has been a rock in defense, and Ivanovic has offered so much going forward while simultaneously locking down Chelsea’s right flank. The Blues are on an amazing run, and they will ride the wave as long as they can.
2. The Free Ride for Southampton is Coming to an End
If you’ve read my articles recently, you’ve figured out that I really like Southampton. I will take any opportunity I can to talk about the Saints, and that chance was provided this weekend by a win against Hull thanks to a ridiculous and rather lucky goal from Victor Wanyama. (Seriously, what is Eldin Jakupovic doing with that pass? Just awful.) The fact that Southampton is in second place right now has me feeling like this. Seriously.
However, Saints fans should start getting worried, as the real test for their team is coming up at the end of the month. After the November break, they have City, Arsenal and United in an eight-day stretch. I’ve had my doubts as to how long Southampton can continue this impressive form, and this stretch of matches should answer that question. The Saints better start gearing up: the free ride of easy fixtures rapidly approaching its end.
3. Burnley Are Probably Going Down
Oh Burnley. They are the classic relegation zone Premier League club. Every couple of seasons, they get promoted to the Premier League. And practically every single season they get promoted, this small Northwest club struggles to stay above water. We’re ten games in, and Burnley have just four points. They don’t even have a win yet. A 3-0 loss against Arsenal just seems to be another nail in the coffin for Burnley. What are the biggest problems? Burnley are simply too small of a club to be in the Premier League. They lack the type of depth and quality needed to be even somewhat competitive in the top flight. If there’s one definitive bet I’ll make during this crazy season, it’s that Burnley will be relegated.
4. The Premier League is Competitive, Maybe for the First Time Ever
Take a gander at the Premier League table. Something incredible is happening this season. Consider this: in the 2004-5 season, Southampton, who currently sit second, would finished dead last in the league and were relegated. In the 2003-4 season, Manchester City, who are third, barely avoided relegation by finishing sixteenth. Manchester United experienced their lowest finishes in the Premier League under Sir Alex Ferguson at third place in the 2003-4 and the 2004-5 season. Right now, they are tenth. Since the Premier League’s first season over twenty years ago, it seems that the English game has become less and less competitive. Manchester United largely dominated the League from its birth up until Ferguson’s retirement in 2013. Along with United were the rest of the “Big Four” of the League: Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal. These four clubs were dominant forces: they had huge international fan bases, star players and a lot of revenue. When Manchester City moved into the spotlight, the Sky Blues arguably replaced Liverpool. But it appears that the domination of the “Big Four” is over. For potentially the first time in the League’s history, it is competitive. There is no clear differentiation between the “elite” and the “others.” The old storyline seems to be over, and it looks like a new one is being written this season. Hold on to your seats, people.
Photo: Chris Brunskill