The English Premier League has got off to a blazing start for the 2016-17 season. The league’s powerhouses look very strong already, and a summer of big money signings and coaching changes have brought maximum points to Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City. They are the only teams to start 100% in the Premier League.
United were the biggest spenders in the summer. The club not only brought in Jose Mourinho to take over the reins for Louis van Gaal, but the team brought in the best player from France’s Ligue 1 and Italy’s Serie A. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has already made good scoring three goals in three, which has accounted for 50% of the team’s scoring. Paul Pogba’s transfer from Juventus may have been long and drawn out, but the Frenchman’s return to Old Trafford has sparked early title expectations amongst Red Devils’ supporters. Bought for £89 million, Pogba has accumulated an 86.3% pass success rate and is averaging 1.5 key passes per game. Wayne Rooney has also found form and leads United in key passes per game at 2.7.
Chelsea’s hiring of Antonio Conte has already reaped rewards. The Blues have a 100% record and are displaying an intensity they were devoid of last season. Eden Hazard and Diego Costa have tallied two goals, respectively, and both look to have put 2015-16 behind them. Conte’s tactics of a high defensive line has worked thus far, despite having a slow and aged backline. The Italian worked on the team’s fitness in the off-season and it looks to have paid off in the Premier League’s first three fixtures.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City have also got off to a fast start, scoring nine goals and giving up just three in their opening three fixtures. Sergio Aguero has three goals in three games, tied with Ibrahimovic in Premier League goals, and has once again proven his importance to the side. New signing Nolito has proved his worth after arriving from La Liga’s Celta Vigo. The winger has combined brilliantly, scoring twice already. Meanwhile, Guardiola has got the best out of Raheem Sterling who tallied twice in a man of the match performance against West Ham on match day three. Perhaps the biggest change in City have been their tactics under Guardiola. Rather than playing his full-backs wide, Guardiola has stunned everyone by playing them very narrow. His tactical evolution continues.
Several teams have surprised early in the Premier League. Ronald Koeman’s Everton have looked great in the opening weeks. The team are playing well even though Belgian Romelu Lukaku hasn’t found the back of the net. Koeman has stated he wants more top signings before the transfer window closes on the 31st. Hull City have also started the season strongly, picking up six of nine points. The newly promoted side have put themselves in perfect position for Premier League survival. The Tigers average the fifth most tackles per game with 21.7.
Liverpool may be the most entertaining side to watch this season, although it looks like the Reds are just as inconsistent has they were last year. An opening day barn burner win against Arsenal was followed by a 2-0 loss to newly promoted side Burnley. A draw at Tottenham followed, giving the Reds four points from nine.
For all their good transfer dealings over the last two years, Stoke City currently sit bottom of the Premier League on one point. The Potters’ defence has been abysmal, giving up six goals in three games. Stoke average the third fewest interceptions per match at 10.3. Along with West Brom, Stoke are yet to score from open play this term.
Finally, Arsenal have once again started in a very Arsenal way. For fans that wanted a change, they have got none as Arsene Wenger’s transfer dealings continue to shock and amaze all. Granit Xhaka was signed from Borussia Monchengladbach and looks very promising. The Gunners are set to announce the additions of striker Lucas Perez Martinez from Deportivo la Coruna and Valencia defender Shkodran Mustafi. The problem is, the two come a little too late as Arsenal already sit five points off the Premier League’s top spot.
It is hard to think someone outside of the Manchester clubs or Chelsea will win this season’s Premier League. The Cinderella Leicesters of the world will not surprise anyone in 2016-17. With that said, Manchester United look too good not to win the title. City and Chelsea will contest second and third with Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool rounding out the top four.
The bottom of the table looks more difficult to predict as several clubs look capable of putting in a poor season. Sunderland have staved off relegation far too long. This season will be their Premier League end. Swansea City have looked weak also in the last year plus. Surely they will get relegated come May. Perhaps the final relegated team will be one that has had the look of a team that is better than they actually are. Stoke City, for all their transfer dealing, look like they could surprise everyone and end their Premier League stay.
Top four of the Premier League:
1. Manchester United
2. Manchester City
18. Stoke City
19. Swansea City