EPL Early Contenders and Pretenders
We've only had two weeks of the 2012/13 English Premier League season, but already the premiership candidates are beginning to reveal themselves.
The quality teams of the league are separately themselves from the rest as the title race begins to take shape this year—thus giving us early contenders and pretenders for the Premier League trophy.
Who are are genuine contenders for the Premier League title this season and who are the teams that are simply pretenders?
Read on to find out.
Chelsea sit atop the English Premier League table with nine points from three matches—yet to be beaten and yet to have a result that didn't see them finish with a two-goal victory.
Granted their win against Reading was a little closer than the scoreline reads, but the fact remains that this is a very, very good team that simply must be considered a Premier League threat.
New arrival Eden Hazard has Stamford Bridge buzzing with anticipation—especially if he can play Fernando Torres back into the form that saw him make that sensational transfer from Liverpool all those years ago.
There's nothing more that Roberto Di Matteo's men can do than win—which is exactly what they have done in every match so far this year. Looking very good early.
Manchester City haven't been the clinical, attacking superpower that we so often saw at times last season, but they have achieved results when it mattered most.
We know exactly how good this squad is after we watched them clinch the 2011/12 English Premier League trophy, and we know that they have plenty of potential game-winning players.
Roberto Mancini has no doubt had some frustrating times after barely getting a win against Southampton and a draw against Liverpool, but you have to think that with a fully-fit Sergio Aguero, City are still one of the danger teams in the league this year.
Andre Villas-Boas replaced Harry Redknapp at White Hart Lane and was supposed to usher in a new wave of quality football at the North London club. The former Chelsea boss bought well over the summer transfer window, and Spurs were primed for a big year in the Premier League.
But so far, it's just been a flop.
Tottenham didn't offer a great deal against Newcastle United, and whilst away to the Magpies was a tough fixture to begin the season on, a home match to West Bromwich Albion should have been a formality.
Spurs have the players, but they aren't what they were last season in terms of cohesion. They simply are not "gelling" like they were last year, and whilst that will happen eventually, it won't happen any time this season for Tottenham.
Make no mistake, Liverpool were a whole lot better against Manchester City than they were in their opening round against West Bromwich Albion, but the fact remains that Liverpool aren't a title threat in anyone's minds this year.
One good game doesn't prove anything—especially when the match itself features some glaring issues in defense and momentary brain failures by the team in question.
Players like Raheem Sterling and Joe Allen give Liverpool fans hope that the future is still strong at Anfield—which it is—and the Reds will challenge the top teams at times this season.
But consistency is key, and it simply isn't there for the Reds. Not this year anyway.
With the arrival of Shinji Kagawa and Robin van Persie, Manchester United have the potential to be a very good attacking team this season. And if their defense can stay healthy this year, there's absolutely no reason why the Red Devils cannot win the Premier League.
Backed by one of the greatest managers in world football, United have the pieces to challenge once more for the premiership and now boast the attacking components that they lacked at times last year.
United haven't started the season in the most convincing fashion, but similar to City, given time, they'll prove why they're one of the best sides in the EPL. Once Rooney, Van Persie and Kagawa all get on the same page, it could be one heck of a ride for Manchester United this year.
Arsenal have had two games and haven't scored any goals. They might have started the same way last year, but this time around, they don't have a Dutch international striker to single-handedly bring them back into Premier League and Champions League contention.
They have two strikers in Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski that haven't found their feet in the Premier League this year, and whilst Santi Cazorla is tearing it up in midfield, he doesn't have the support or assistance around him.
Yes, Arsenal started the same way last season and proved to be one of the league's best, but without a go-to striker and a goal-scoring threat, this year doesn't look like featuring the same resurrection that last year did.
Finishing top-four looks tough enough for the Gunners.
Tell me why Everton shouldn't be considered Premier League contenders this season—their defense, midfield and attack are all capable of stopping and beating the big-names in the EPL as they've already proven in their defeat of Manchester United.
In that match, the Toffees simply had too many options in midfield and attack, and with explosive talent like Marouane Fellani, Kevin Mirallas and Nikica Jelavic, they simply must be considered a genuine danger team this year.
A top-four spot is by no means out of reach for David Moyes' men, and they'll have the added bonus of no Champions League fixtures to focus on during the latter stages of the season.
Crazy maybe, but Everton are genuine contenders this year for mine.
The Jury's Still out On...
No Brendan Rodgers. No Gylfi Sigurdsson. No Joe Allen. All Swansea had was some midfielder called Michu and a brand-new manager—surely they couldn't be a side worth watching in the EPL this year?
We all stand corrected.
Swansea City are playing an exciting brand of football that has seen them win their first two games in perfect fashion—scoring plenty of goals up one end and conceding absolutely nothing down the other end.
They are yet to play a quality team so the jury is still out on the Swans, but if they continue their current form into their upcoming matches against Everton and Stoke City, Swansea could well have a few more surprises in store this year.
Leaning towards: Contenders
Alan Pardew's men were the talk of the league last season after their incredible year—finishing higher than the European Champions despite only recently being promoted to the top-class. They had all the pieces to build on for the new year, and many therefore considered Newcastle United to be a top side in the EPL this year.
And whilst they have had a ridiculously difficult opening two matches—Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea—Newcaslte haven't quite looked as together and cohesive as they were last season, particularly going forward.
I know it's early days, but where you lie after the first eight or nine rounds of competition is rarely far from where you finish the season, and in Newcaslte's case, they must start to find the mojo they had towards the end of last year sooner rather than later.
Aston Villa, Everton, Norwich City and Reading are next up for Newcastle, which will give us a better indication of where the Magpies are at this year. They should win most of those matches, if not all, and unless they walk away with at least nine points from those four games, they're cannot be considered contenders this year.
Jury is out for four weeks, but closing down fast on Newcastle.
Leaning towards: Pretenders
I've got Chelsea, both Manchester clubs and Everton as my contenders so far, and Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool as big pretenders in the 2012/13 English Premier League season.
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