November International football break has arrived. Perfect time for all EPL teams to assess how their season is going after eleven games. Liverpool fans and dreaming of a much coveted league title gathers pace? Jose is just not a happy camper around Manchester whether it is in Carrington, Old Trafford or his hotel digs. Arsenal making a genuine case of challenging for league honours. City’s Champion League focus is causing indifferent form in the league. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the season to date. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the top five currently sitting in the league and assess their strong / weak points.
It may be only eleven games into the season but the makeup of the top five currently looks like could be potentially seen come next May. Let us start with Liverpool. Klopp’s appointment was a masterstroke; his managerial approach is so refreshing and the fluid attacking play of Liverpool where Adam Lalanna is a different player to the one under Rodgers has being sublime. When you add the likes of Coutinho, Firminho, Mane whose pace and runs from deep has being a distinct plus – it is easy to see how Liverpool are the leading goalscorers in the division. The midfield area has being solid. If there is a weak point for Liverpool, it is their defensive side. Fourteen goals conceded so far in the league and question marks in the full back berths (particularly Moreno) should see some January transfer window activity. Matip has being a shrewd investment; looks very assured and has shown presence in the attacking set pieces. Lovren must tighten up to allow Liverpool to become a realistic title contender. The Karius / Mignolet debate will rage in the coming weeks. The German keeper looks vulnerable on crosses but his distribution looks assured. Does Mignolet ask to leave in January? Liverpool with a few tweaks and improvements defensively could run Manchester City extremely close.
The Eastlands club started like a house on fire; running scores against the likes of Bournemouth suggested that Guardiola’s side were already embracing the fast tempo, incisive passing football style of their manager. Attacking options are endless; spoiled for choice and De Bruyne has being sensational this season. Aguero has provided the goals with Silva also orchestrating affairs. Sterling has shown flashes but it will be interesting to see if Guardiola looks to the transfer market in January. The central midfield area is workman like with Fernandinho marshalling well. The weak point like Liverpool is defensively. Bravo in goals is a signing which is flattering to deceive; his ball distribution is decent but his command of his area when crosses are launched is another story. Stones has shown the odd lapse and there is questions on Kompany’s fitness. Olamendi has had good games but has being exposed a couple of times by more clinical strikers. Once City conclude their CL group stage business, expect them to go on a ten / eleven league game winning run. It will be interesting to see if any other team can then keep pace before and after Christmas.
Chelsea for me are an enigma. Conte has found a potential potent team containing Pedro, Hazard and Costa who is back to his annoying best for opponents; scoring goals at will and being physical down the channels. Matic is a player reborn under Conte after a disappointing season under Mourinho last year. The defensive side of the side looks quite solid. Luiz is back at the Bridge; likes to play his football and likes to make the party piece brain fart moment. Cahill’s form has being indifferent and with John Terry playing a more backup role, Chelsea’s title challenge will rest on the central defense’s ability to keep clean sheets. The jury is still out on Chelsea; emphatics wins over Manchester United and Everton (who were both extremely poor) so Chelsea have to show their ambitions by delivering against their top five foes in the coming months.
Tottenham. It is all about Harry Kane. When Kane is in the side, Tottenham are a different side. Janssen has being a disaster signing and Tottenham may need to dip further into the transfer market come January to shore up the attacking options. Tottenham have superb midfield options. Wanyama is a superb acquisition; box to box player with defensive / ball winning his forte. Eriksen on his day is a superb attacking player; his passing range is on point but can be an isolated figure at times during games. Ali is growing more and more into the side; second season and teams have looked to stifle his influence but that has allowed Lamela more room to express himself. Tottenham defensively look solid. Rose, Davies, Trippier, Wimmer are adequate full back options. Alderweld and Vertonghen are on a par with any of the top central defensive partnerships in the league. The weak point is the squad depth; the same players are playing week in, week out – wholly exposed at the business end of the season last term and the squad does not look strong enough in midfield and striker department to win the title. Top four definitely.
Arsenal. Is this the season where Arsene Wenger and team deliver some league title silverware? Once December is out of the way, then pundits can talk about their title ambitions. Offensively stacked, Arsenal are on a rich vein of form. Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud, Walcott have fired in goals and assists. The midfield unit has being strong. Ramsay continuing his Euro 2016 form. Cech is still producing superb goalkeeping performances. The weak point is potentially in the back four. Paulinha and Mertesacker as central defensive options does not inspire confidence; one vulnerable in the air while the other’s lack of pace is a negative. Arsenal will be a title challenger but when they hit their sticky patch, how will the team respond? Lack of leadership on the pitch last season in the league cannot be repeated again. Wenger has taken enough flak from the fans and media; it is up to Arsenal’s players to deliver.
All top five sides have massive attacking options but there are certainly weak points defensively and squad depth. I still fancy Manchester City to build a four point lead over the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal come year end. Chelsea and Arsenal need to prove more to yours truly but they are nicely positioned. These top five are miles ahead of the rest of the league. They will battle it out for the CL qualification spots. Fact.