After what seemed like a month long international break, the Premier League is back once again with all of the thrills and spills to go along with it.
As the season progresses, we're beginning to learn more and more about each team—mainly who their key players will be this season, where on the table they'll be battling, etc. That said, four matches isn't really enough to draw any conclusions, and there are still plenty of teams that seem just as likely to be fighting in the relegation battle as they are to be fighting for a European spot if we're looking purely at early-season results.
With plenty of action in the Premier League this weekend, here are five things we learned.
There's always that team or two that starts out the the season in flying form before eventually settling down into a comfortable midtable position.
This time around, it was Swansea City and West Bromwich Albion. While Swansea outscored their first two opponents eight goals to nil, West Brom made a statement by beating Liverpool 3-0 on the opening weekend before drawing at Tottenham and beating Everton 2-0.
Both teams seemed to have cooled down since then. Swansea fell in a disappointing 2-0 loss at Aston Villa, while West Brom were dealt a harsh reality check in their 3-0 loss at Fulham.
The Premier League season is a marathon, not a sprint. It'll be interesting to see where these two teams fall in the table come next May.
After starting off the season with two scoreless draws, Arsenal were praised for their defensive improvement, but criticized for their inability to score against Sunderland and Stoke, respectively.
The 2-0 win at Liverpool a fortnight ago silenced those critics, and the 6-1 battering of Southampton this weekend made up for the lost goals in those first two stalemates. Now, the Gunners can't get ahead of themselves here—it's a 38-game season and Arsene Wenger's side have always struggled for consistency in the grueling portions of the campaign.
But with that said, Arsenal's title credentials are just as valid as the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea.
At the moment, the Gunners have the best defense in the league with just one goal conceded, compared to United's five and City's six. Their attack is, quite frankly, looking more balanced than it did last season, with the goals spreading out rather than falling on the shoulders of a certain Dutchman—and the passing and counterattacking displayed against Southampton was much more fluid than it was in the 2011-12 season.
Arsenal look like a real force at the moment, but will they be up to the test of Manchester City and Chelsea in the next two weeks? Their title chances depend on it.
With outrageous wage demands, twitter outbursts and even racism rows, it's easy to forget that respect still exists in the game.
So it gave all football fans a bit of a reality check and a look at the big picture when clubs across the Premier League showed their respect for Liverpool Football Club and the anniversary of the tragic events that happened at Hillsborough through messages on TV screens, commemorative flags, you name it.
You can see Everton, Liverpool's Merseyside rivals, showing their own gesture of respect in the image above, with the "96" remembering the 96 lives that were lost that day in 1989.
With nasty chants here and thrown bananas there continuing to blemish football, it was refreshing to see that there is still some respect present in this beautiful game.
It's 2012, and poor refereeing decisions still change the outcome of football matches.
Seriously, just about every other sport has some kind of technology to make sure the right call is made, but football, the world's most popular sport, is still ridden with ghost goals, incorrect offsides calls and general human error.
Thankfully, goal line technology is set to make its debut in the near future, and it really couldn't come sooner. Goal line controversies continue to decide important football matches, with the 2010 World Cup, Euro 2012, last season's FA Cup, and most recently, the 2-2 draw between Everton and Newcastle all seeing perfectly good goals disallowed.
Human error should not decide the winner of a match, football should. Period.
Last season, the title favorites—namely the two Manchester clubs—kicked off their campaigns in incredible form, pumping out nearly unimaginable results (cough cough Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal cough cough Manchester City 5-1 Spurs) left and right.
This season, it's a bit different. Despite flashes of brilliance like Arsenal's win over Southampton this weekend, Manchester United's second-half blitz against Wigan (also this weekend), Eden Hazard's artistry for Chelsea or Manchester City's character to come back from behind on opening day, no team has been able to produce the wow factor that we so often see early on from title contenders.
Sure, the three points have still been cranked out by those top of the table sides, but the defenses of Manchester United and Manchester City in particular have been suspect. To concede more than five goals in only four games isn't something you'd expect from teams as strong as the Manchester clubs, and although they say champions win ugly, this is the part of the season where a contender really looks to make a statement.
There just hasn't been any team so far this season that looks untouchable, so keep an eye out for a shock or two in the title race.