Well, no-one could say that the Premier League’s opening five games haven’t left us baffled as to what could happen next. Just about the only truly predictable thing so far has been Chelsea’s very solid start to the season. Had it not been for Man City’s late equalizer at the Etihad, Jose Mourinho’s men would now be a daunting five points clear of the pack.
Otherwise, we have Newcastle rooted to the foot of the table, Southampton and Aston Villa sitting in Champions League places, a highly unpredictable and disorganized Man United in 12th, Leicester and Swansea going great guns – and Everton and Tottenham playing remarkably poorly. No-one quite knows what to make of Liverpool – though Arsenal remain unbeaten despite playing quite patchily.
So what happens next? Firstly, we won’t have the same exciting race for the top-spot that we had last year. It’s difficult to look beyond Chelsea or Manchester City even after so few games – and, if you were staking your life on it, you’d say the Special One will win the title, with the pale blue half of Manchester in second.
The next two spots will still probably be filled by the Gunners and Manchester United, but Louis van Gaal doesn’t have long to start getting the Old Trafford act together.
Of the three clubs punching above their weight, Aston Villa, Southampton and Swansea, it’s the Saints who look weakest. Southampton have enjoyed the rub of the green rather a lot in their opening games. It’s been a great start, but they’ll surely start to plummet, unlike the other two who look like forces to be reckoned with for a Europa League place.
The same can be said about Mark Hughes’ Stoke City, who are looking better with each game despite not always getting the points they’ve deserved. As per Premier League tradition, there’ll be some big upsets at the Britannia Stadium this season – and we’ve already seen them beat Manchester City away, thoroughly deserving all three points in the process. Stoke may well enjoy their best final league position ever and at 33-1 with bet365 to finish in the top six, are well worth a punt.
West Ham may also upset a few of the big guns, whilst staying clear of the relegation dog fight. Leicester look to have solid mid-table credentials, as do Hull. West Brom’s win at Spurs was an unexpected flash in the pan, but they still look likely to struggle – fighting it out against the drop alongside Burnley, Crystal Palace, QPR, Sunderland and Newcastle unless the Magpies’ owner Mike Ashley acts quickly and wisely enough.
All this leaves Liverpool as the complete wildcard. Brendan Rodgers’ team can beat anyone on their day, but it’s not happening yet. A year of transition in store, perhaps, with a top five finish and the inevitable exit at some point of one Mario Balotelli.