We are three weeks into the EPL season, and already have tons to talk about. The recent international break gives us a good chance to check in since it is somewhat harder to write about the EPL on a weekly basis with all the European competitions going on. However, with this international break, it seemed like now would be a great time to check in with how things are going in the EPL.
Chelsea Run Riot
Defending champions Chelsea have gotten off to a blazing start, scoring 14 goals in 3 games and have yet to concede one. Florent Malouda picked up where he left off last season as a lesser-known scorer and Didier Drogba continued his fine form from last year. It is very early, but few would argue, despite the easy early schedule, that Chelsea have been the most impressive side thus far, if not the best. I can definitely seem some problems ahead for Chelsea with their lack of defensive depth and the Champions League looming, but for now, the Blues can sit back and enjoy the fantastic football the boys are playing.
Everton’s Disappointing Start
Few teams have been as disappointing as Everton thus far. A team pegged to potentially fight for a top four spot in recent years, Everton have managed to lose to Blackburn, an undermanned Aston Villa, and could only scrape a draw from their home fixture against Wolves. For a team as talented as this, these games should be routine, but Everton seems to always find a way to make it interesting. Personally, I blame their lack of a rel striker. Louis Saha just does not make the grade, and if you watched the Aston Villa game, you know that the problem is not creating chances. Everton had something like 17 corners and numerous attempts and looks at goal, but couldn’t put one past Friedel. A team as good as this really should have a striker capable of turning those 1-0 losses into draws at the very least. Without a doubt the biggest disappointment so far.
Instead of going over all the transfers, of which there are hundreds, let’s just look at the winners and losers at the deadline. The order of teams listed is irrelevant.
- Blackpool- The man who was their main striker in getting them to the Premier League last year is back. DJ Campbell was on loan to the Tangerines last year and has returned once again to give them some much needed punch up front. He should fit in quite nicely and link up with Charlie Adam just like they did all of last year in lifting Blackpool to the Premiership.
- Tottenham Hotspur- Tottenham seemingly did nothing at the deadline, but with about 30 minutes to go, word came in that they had made a play for Rafael Van der Vaart, the Dutch International who can’t get on the field for Real Madrid. This gives them a huge lift as they were somewhat lacking a creative wide player who can make plays like VdV can. Aaron Lennon, Kranjcar, Modric, Bentley, and Bale are all very good players (with Bale having the potential for greatness), but Van der Vaart adds a dimension they did not have before and some real experience. They also finally got Sandro in from Brazil after he did not come over on time, so Harry Redknapp and Co. have plenty to be excited about.
- Birmingham City- I got this team wrong at the start of the year. I figured their stout defense from a year ago would not take a huge hit with Ben Foster in at goal, but it turns out that much of the brilliance belonged to Joe Hart, and Joe Hart alone. However, Birmingham have made some excellent signings in the form of Aleksander Hleb and Jean Bousejour, both of whom are upgrades over their current options in midfield. They add an attacking flair that Birmingham have really lacked this year, despite a decent number of goals. I think these moves can ultimately lift them back close to where they were last season, though my 8th place projection seems a bit unlikely at this point considering how much better Joe Hart seems to be than Ben Foster.
- Sunderland- Really? 15.7 million euros for Asamoah Gyan? That is more than AC Milan paid for Robinho, who is WAY better than Gyan. They do not know if he can coexist with Darren Bent (who is a bit of a volume shooter), but their needs were much more in the midfield than up top. I would have liked to see them go after Steven Ireland (formerly of Manchester City and now of Aston Villa), or even Van der Vaart (11m euros) although it is unclear if VdV would have gone to Sunderland. The point is that the move in no way reflected Sunderland’s needs, and they overpaid for him on top of that.
- Liverpool- This is a much different type of loss than Sunderland, but a loss nonetheless. Liverpool really needed another striker if they wanted to make a run back to the top 4. Konchesky is a solid signing, and so is Sebastien Squillaci, but neither actually addresses the need. There was some chatter about Liverpool making a move for West Ham’s Carlton Cole, or even just loaning Manchester United’s Tom Cleverly or something, but they did not get the help they needed and will ultimately pay for it unless Torres gets fit and stays fit, which is unlikely,
- Aston Villa- This has much more to do with losing everyone than failing to sign someone. Milner is gone, and all that really remains is a squad of guys who will be lucky to remain in the top half of the league. They did manage to hold on to Ashley Young, which was very much in doubt, but they really just have nothing. They did finally get their hands on a manager in the form of Gerard Houllier, but I do not think Brian Clough could turn this team around right now. They do sit in 4th right now, but I do not think that will last much longer than Bolton’s spot in the top 5. They need a major influx of talent.
A Look Ahead
I am sticking with my Manchester United pick so far, although Chelsea and Arsenal have been the most impressive sides. I am not sure when the next post will be (probably 3 weeks or so), but by then I would expect the following:
- Everton moves back into the top 12. I mean it has to happen eventually, right?
- Newcastle stay put in 8th.
- Bolton, Wolves, and Aston Villa drop below 10th.
- Manchester City gets into the top 5 after a brutal opening set of fixtures.
- Chelsea stays in first (next two matches are against Blackpool and West Ham) but slips up against Manchester City or Arsenal to open the door a bit.
- Champions League starts, so keep an eye on it. Not a prediction so much here, but if you want to give me credit for being right about that, you are welcome to.
- More Soccer! That is never a bad thing.
Goal of the Season
I do not see every goal that hits the back of the onion bag, but this was my favorite so far.
Alright, that is all we have for now. Stay tuned as more EPL updates will definitely be on the way as the season progresses.