Tuesday 21 January 2020

Is the top four of the Barclays Premier League already taking shape?

Manchester City's David Silva (R) celebrates with teammate Edin Dzeko after scoring a goal against Newcastle United
Manchester City's David Silva (R) celebrates with teammate Edin Dzeko after scoring a goal against Newcastle United

Tom Sheen

We're just one week into the new Premier League season and things at the top already look mighty familiar.

Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal all won their matches at the weekend leaving last season's top four in those same slots after the opening round of fixtures of the 2014-15 season.

Jose Mourinho's side, despite falling behind against the run of play, looked hugely impressive in their win against newcomers Burnley, with debutants Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa especially impressive.

The Blues, who were defensively excellent last season but too often unable to beat teams whose game plan was to defend, swept aside Burnley with some fantastic passing football. They are already being tipped as the team to beat.

Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas picks out a pass during the Premier League match against Burnley at Turf Moor. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Manchester City secured three points with a measured, disciplined performance against Newcastle, going up through the gears when they needed to.

They only did just enough to win, but still never really looked in trouble against Alan Pardew's much-improved squad. Manuel Pellegrini has trimmed down his squad and addressed two areas that were in need of improvement. Eliaquim Mangala should slot in next to their outstanding captain Vincent Kompany, while Fernando showed why he had been bought - to add solidity and toughness in those difficult away matches.

Liverpool and Arsenal were both slightly less impressive than the above pair, requiring late goals to beat two of last season's surprise packages, Southampton and Crystal Palace.

Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge insists the club are over last season's disappointment of not winning the title

Brendan Rodgers may have lost star man Luis Suarez, but Daniel Sturridge now has 36 goals in 50 matches for the Reds and could easily break the 25-goal barrier this season.

Aaron Ramsey was once again Arsenal's match-winner, scoring the crucial goal that gave the Gunners all three points. This was a game that Arsenal would probably have drawn last year, but after winning the FA Cup there is a renewed confidence running through Arsene Wenger's squad that could see them mount a real title challenge this season.

It's an old football cliche but both Liverpool and Arsenal were able to win despite playing poorly; that's always the sign of a good team.

Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey celebrates after scoring the winner against Crystal Palace

Outside of those top four, Manchester United are still clearly in the midst of a hangover caused by David Moyes' disastrous reign. Defeat at home to Swansea was unthinkable before the weekend, but depending on the calibre of the additions they make between now and the end of the transfer window, Louis van Gaal may not have enough talent in this squad to mount a serious challenge on the top four.

Spurs did enough to beat West Ham, though their performance cannot really be judged after a harsh handball reduced them to 10 men, while Everton twice took the lead against newly-promoted Leicester City but still only drew.

No other club in the division has much of a chance of making it into the top four.

It was a tough Premier League baptism for Louis van Gaal, right

Of course it's very early days, and Manchester City face Liverpool next so one of those is likely to drop out of the top four next week, but this weekend could have given us the perfect indicator for the next 37 weeks of the Premier League.

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