The Story So Far – An EPL Review

With 7 weeks gone is it too early to make a judgment on players and teams? Well, it may be too soon but that’s not stopping us at TKTG from using this international break to take stock of what we’ve seen in the EPL thus far. The next few months are going to be quite hectic for English clubs, which will see the fortunes of some change while others have probably set their tone for the rest of the season. In this piece, we look at the 3 signings that we feel have made the most impact, followed by our take on the big surprises of the season so far and we wrap things up with an analysis of the race for 4th place and the battle for the Premiership title.

(Getty)

 

TOP 3 SIGNINGS

Robin van Persie: He scores when he wants!! He scores when he wants!! – RvP at Arsenal or RvP at Man United – the chant remains the same. Look away Arsenal fans but van Persie has been a success at United. 7 goals and 2 assists so far (EPL and UEFA CL) backs up his impressive start to the season. Things will only get better once United learn to play to his strengths and he gels with his teammates – and make no mistake, RvP WILL gel with Kagawa and Rooney. Their only issue might be if Rooney is OK with RvP as the main striker. However, as we have already covered – Rooney is quite liking his midfield role. RVP for the Golden Boot? You bet.

Santi Cazorla: The best import of the season! Hazard who? While Hazard has certainly been impressive; Santi brings a whole new dimension to the game – he can attack; he tracks back; he has great positional play; shoots with his left; shoots with his right – and all that with a smile on his face. Arsenal fans are already calling him their favourite Spanish player ever….move over Arteta and Cesc – Santi is awesome!

Michu: while there was a case for both Kone (Wigan) and Fletcher (Sunderland); we at TKTG felt Michu is more deserving of this spot. Not only does he have the skill but his reading of the game is excellent – he is an “intelligent” footballer. The new Tim Cahill? Even most supporters of the top 4 clubs would want him in their team and that is a testament to his immense talent and massive potential.

Honorable mention: While not a new signing; Raheem Sterling at Liverpool looks like an exciting youngster. Quick, fast, direct he will hopefully continue to do better. He already has 6 starts in the league and could form an exciting partnership with Suarez and Borini.

3 BIG SURPRISES

QPR in last place: All those signings and bottom of the table! 2 points from a possible 21! A team comprising of Cesar (GK), Park Ji-Sung, Zamora, Anton Ferdinand, Granero, Nelson, Wright-Phillips, Faurlin, Fabio, Bosingwa, Hoillet, Cisse, Taarabt should do much better. They might have played Spurs, Chelsea and City in the first 7 games but they have also played West Ham, WBA, Swansea and Norwich. QPR fans should be worried as the next 6 fixtures see them play Arsenal, United and Everton. Hopefully the team can gel together and climb to a mid-table position; such is the talent that is available to the club. However, Mark Hughes is the same manager who spent over £250 million at Man City without much success so let’s see how the next 3 months turn out for him.

Defensive issues in Manchester: United’s troubles were somewhat expected as Ferdinand and Vidic are worn down with age and injuries and Smalling and Jones are not yet ready. That being said, it’s not just the fault of the defenders; with a lack of a decent defensive minded midfield player and no first choice goal-keeper – Man U’s back line does not inspire much confidence. The attitude seems to be of the Brazilian teams of old: we’ll score more than you! Worked @Newcastle; not so vs Spurs. Man City on the other hand had a rock solid defence… till last year. So far this year, Joe Hart is still amongst the best goalies in the league but just 1 clean sheet in 11 matches (EPL, UEFA CL and Capital One Cup) is a big issue. Their only clean sheet came last week at home to Sunderland; which hopefully will give them some confidence after the international break. Criticized last year for being too defensive; Mancini seems to have become more attacking but at a cost. At the moment selling De Jong looks like a wrong decision but City fans are hopeful that Garcia, Rodwell, Toure and Barry will help shut out their opponents in future matches.

Role reversal at Merseyside: An 8 point gap in just 7 games. One club in 4th place the other in 14th – you could be forgiven for thinking that Liverpool are winning the race (they’re not) BUT with over seven months to go, is this the year Everton will cement their place over their Mersyside rivals or can Liverpool restore the status quo and finish ahead of Everton? Liverpool are the club in transition with unproven players in the EPL (Borini, Sahin) and a host of youngsters coming through (Sterling, Suso, Shelvey) while Everton have a stable solid squad with a few minor tweaks (Mirallas, Naismith). The respective starts by both clubs seems to indicate that Everton will finish in front of Liverpool in consecutive seasons.

TITLE CONTENDERS & THE BATTLE FOR FOURTH

The Race for 4th

4 wins in a row for Spurs; an impressive defensive start for Arsenal; a team from Merseyside that usually finishes strong has started brightly (Everton) and the chance that Newcastle will build on their impressive finish from last year – the race for 4th spot already looks like it will be a close call. Fans of all 4 teams can truly say that their team will only get better.

Spurs will look forward to Adebayor regaining full fitness and competing with Defoe while the new signings of Dempsey, Sigurdsson and Dembele will settle in and get better. Ekotto should return soon meaning Vertonghen can play in his preferred role as CB and the team will adapt to AVB’s methods. TKTG has already covered Spurs chances for success this season and fans can be excited about their chances to finish in the top 4.

Arsenal will point to the fact that they look a better defensive unit this season – their biggest issue last year. Against Chelsea (their first loss) they conceded 2 set piece goals against an attacking unit (Torres, Mata, Hazard, Oscar) that was assembled at a cost of over £100 million. Szczesny and Sagna will return soon adding more defensive steel and of course there is the return of Jack Wilshere. A decent defence; a midfield of Santi, Arteta, Wilshere and Podolski, Giroud, Gervinhio, Walcott and The Ox…. top 4 or higher?

Everton are notoriously slow starters. Not this season! With 4 wins in 7, Everton seem like an outside bet for the top 4. Usually lacking a decent, fit striker, this year David Moyes has 3 attackers to share the load – Jelavic, Mirallas and Naismith and along with their impressive midfield and solid defenders they can certainly make a run for the top 4. Also, they usually finish strong….

Newcastle finished in 5th spot last year and their fans will be thinking “Why not one better?”. Players should be more familiar with the premiership and their team mates and they have stability with their coach who signed an 8 year deal. If they can put forward a solid run of results in the next 3 months they could be looking to improve on last years’ position. Just don’t mention Mike Ashley to any of their fans. Current odds make Arsenal favourites at 1/2; followed by Spurs 2/1, Everton 11/2 and then Liverpool 15/2. Newcastle are 25/1 finish in the top 4. (Odds taken from Bet365.com)

Who will be Champions?

Chelsea have collected 19 points from a possible 21. Not only are they the best defensive team in the premiership so far (only 4 goals conceded) but as we have written in the past their forward line looks very promising. Their biggest problem besides John Terry and Ashley Cole will be their lack of squad depth in the striker department. How will they cope with a suspension (or worse an injury) to Fernando Toress? Sturridge and the unproven Lucas Piazon are the only options or perhaps play the Spanish formation of 4-6-0? Can Sturridge really be the main man of a Premiership winning team? Expect them to buy in the January window but by then it may be too late…

Manchester United: The problems of United’s midfield are well documented. Could Wayne Rooney playing in midfield solve their problems? Along with their injury plagued defenders and lack of defensive cover, can United aim to win another title or are 2 defeats in the league already an issue? Money seems to be short at United so don’t expect any major signings in Jan – United fans hope that we are wrong and that they can acquire a world class CB, LB and CM soon! Is Rooney the answer to United’s midfield and 20th title?

Man City – Champions last year but this time around they look slightly confused. It’s never easy winning back-to-back titles and not having a settled 11 does not help. Supporters may say that flexibility is key to City this year which in theory seems great but it is not translating to results. Currently on 15 points (same as United), City seem to have another issue – Is Mario Balotelli this year’s Tevez? Seven games into the season and “Super” Mario has already thrown a tantrum – a few more and will Tevez join in as well? We have the rest of the season to find out… In the meantime, share your thoughts with us.

Note: This article was first published as a guest post on Fantasy Yirma, one of our favourite fantasy football sites. You can follow them on Twitter at @FantasyYirma

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