EPL: Chelsea, Manchester United, and the Premier League's Early Contenders
There would be those detractors who would criticise my decision to talk about contenders when the league is a tender four games old, but as we all know, a good start can mean reaching a near unassailable position as quickly as possible; to quote various managers, every point is a prisoner.
These early results can directly shape a team's fortunes for the rest of the season, affecting players' confidence and building, as well as shattering team's reputations.
At the positive end of the scale is Chelsea's blitz start to the season, scoring 17 goals and suffering just one in reply. It's a statistic that's as impressive as it is intimidating to opposing teams.
"The Pensioners" have picked up exactly where they left off at the tail end of the previous season, top of the league and scoring for fun. Should their current form continue (logic dictates it will not last all season but football seems to regularly defy conventional logic), then they will be almost a certainty for a second title.
Chelsea will certainly be keenly looking to European competition and the coveted but elusive Champions League crown and, just maybe, it's their time.
Judging by early form, Manchester United will (as always) be competing realistically for the Premier League. Evergreen stalwarts Ryan Giggs and in particular Paul Scholes have played an integral role in the Manchester midfield—Giggs with his normal guile and wonderfully quick feet and Scholes with a range and accuracy of passing, which puts younger players to shame.
With Rooney's lack of form and tabloid scandals, scapegoat Dimitar Berbatov has finally stepped up and delivered. His vision and skill as well as his finishing are all at the level that Tottenham fans remember and Rooney's loss is not being so keenly felt.
Where Manchester need to, and presumably upon Rio Ferdinand's return will improve, is the defence. Johnny Evans and Co. have leaked several key last minute goals to Fulham and Everton (twice) and this is something that Sir Alex Ferguson will no doubt clamp down on quickly.
One cannot help but feel only minimal sympathy for them, of course. Last minute goals are something of a Manchester United speciality; karma is a fickle mistress.
I will try not to jinx them but Arsenal too look in decent form, but it has been several seasons running that their youths have been pronounced ready by the pundits, only for them to crack under pressure and physicality at the likes of Stoke. Were Robin van Persie ever fit I might back them, but his and Fabregas' constant rotation of injuries I fear will stymie Arsene Wenger's campaign once more.
Firmly at the other end of things are West Ham. The London club have had some hard times recently, and this season will be no exception by the look of things.
Four games and zero points is a sorry state of affairs.
It is true that they have had a reasonably difficult opening including both Chelsea and Manchester United, but it is a crippling blow to players and fans' confidence. Two hard away games then Tottenham at home makes for difficult reading for West Ham fans.
As I'm sure we're all aware, Occam's Razor states that the more simple theory is the most likely and judging by the terrible debts, mediocre management, and misfiring players, the simplest theory may be a 'Hammers' relegation.
Of course, this is all conjecture as I mentioned—it's still "early doors" as Ron Atkinson might have said, and there is plenty of time for injuries to cripple Chelsea's charge and turnaround performances to drag West Ham off the foot of the table. What is not conjecture however is the surprise package so far of the 2010/11 season, Blackpool.
It seems somewhere underneath Ian Holloway's cranium—nestled in between borderline insane and hilarious interview answers—is a rather astute footballing mind. Blackpool currently sit in the Champions League qualifier place. Though I'm not suggesting they stay there (remember Hull?), I don't think I'm alone in supporting them in every single neutral game I see them in, not just because it means being treated to a Holloway comment every week on Match of the Day, but because their in-your-face attitude is refreshing compared to other newly promoted attitudes.
Ultimately, only time will tell whether this article was indeed overly presumptuous (as I have hinted it may be) but early form can be key.
Have I been too quick off the mark? Have I missed a contender or do you think that too much emphasis has been placed on early season form?
Let me know below.
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