Teamwork makes the dream work

The way it began, the way it’s going

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The Premier League title race is nearly 1 / 4 of the way in which by way of, with Arsenal the shock early leaders in a season that faces the unprecedented disruption of a six-week shutdown as a result of staging of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in November and December.

Mikel Arteta’s staff are high of the desk with eight wins from 9 video games, a degree away from champions Manchester Metropolis who’re making an attempt to develop into solely the second membership, after Manchester United, to win three successive Premier League titles.

On the different finish of the size, Liverpool are languishing in tenth place, 14 factors behind Arsenal, and on the point of a disaster in the event that they lose for the third time this season, at dwelling to Metropolis on Sunday.

Antonio Conte’s Tottenham Hotspur are well-placed in third place, whereas Chelsea and United are each in contact with the highest 4 regardless of displaying inconsistency below new managers and having performed a recreation fewer than the groups above them as a result of postponements following the loss of life of Queen Elizabeth II.

Pep Guardiola’s Metropolis stay the favourites to finish the season as champions, however can Arsenal go all the way in which? Will Liverpool get well or miss out on the highest 4 altogether?

It is nonetheless early, however how will it form up for the Massive Six within the months forward?

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ARSENAL

The way it began

Having missed out on Champions League qualification following a late-season collapse, together with a 3-0 defeat at Tottenham, Arsenal invested nearly £120 million in new signings this summer time together with Manchester Metropolis pair Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko. The goal was a top-four end for the primary time since 2015-16.

The way it’s going

Arsenal are flying below Arteta, with the one dropped factors to this point coming in a 3-1 defeat at Manchester United in September. The signings of Zinchenko, Jesus and Fabio Vieira have added confirmed high quality and expertise to the squad, whereas the type of William Saliba at centre-back has prompted comparisons of the French defender to Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk. Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Martinelli have all taken their recreation to a brand new degree this season. With the house match in opposition to Man Metropolis on Oct. 19 postponed in an effort to play the rearranged Europa League conflict with PSV Eindhoven a day later, Arsenal have a snug run of fixtures till they go to Chelsea on Nov. 6, so they might attain the pre-World Cup shutdown on Nov. 12 with high spot nonetheless of their grasp.

How will it finish?

Arsenal are using a wave of confidence and momentum proper now, so the World Cup is prone to be an enormous inconvenience for Arteta’s squad. With such a prolonged shutdown, can the Gunners choose up from the place they left off when the season resumes on Dec. 26?

However whereas Arsenal’s inexperience in a title race may rely in opposition to them, particularly with Metropolis searching them down, Leicester proved in 2015-16 that an outsider can go all the way in which if they’re lucky with accidents and the highest gamers keep their type. An Arsenal title nonetheless appears a protracted shot, however a top-four end ought to be achieved and, if Metropolis slip up, Arteta’s staff may take benefit if the World Cup would not show too damaging to their collective focus.

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Steve Nicol feels no one within the league can compete with Manchester Metropolis after their 4-0 win vs. Southampton.

MANCHESTER CITY

The way it began

Metropolis received the race to signal Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund and likewise bolstered Pep Guardiola’s squad with the additions of Kalvin Phillips, Julian Alvarez and Manuel Akanji. The departures of Raheem Sterling (to Chelsea), Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko (each Arsenal) and Fernandinho (Athletico Paranaense) diminished the expertise ranges on the Etihad, however Metropolis re-shaped their squad from a place of energy.

The way it’s going

It is just Arsenal’s unbelievable begin that’s holding Metropolis off high spot, with the champions nonetheless unbeaten with seven wins and two attracts from 9 video games to this point. Haaland is on track to smash a sequence of goal-scoring data having already delivered 20 objectives in 13 video games in a Metropolis shirt and the Norway ahead has unquestionably ended the membership’s seek for a long-term successor to Sergio Aguero because the staff’s prolific centre-forward.

Guardiola can rely on unbelievable depth in his squad and Metropolis look to be miles forward of the remainder. Their 6-3 derby win in opposition to Manchester United just lately was a warning to the remainder that Metropolis can blow any rival away if they’re even near their finest. Subsequent up is a visit to Anfield to face struggling Liverpool and the result of that recreation — a fixture that has outlined the Premier League in recent times — will inform us simply how sturdy Metropolis are. They might do to Liverpool what they did to United and, if that occurs, it’s arduous to see anybody stopping Metropolis.

How will it finish?

Metropolis will lose a lot of their finest gamers on World Cup responsibility and Guardiola may see the vast majority of them going all the way in which to the ultimate 4 and spend over a month in Qatar as a consequence, so his gamers shall be mentally and bodily drained after the match.

That would imply the distinction between success and failure within the title race, however the dangerous information for the remainder is that Haaland will get the possibility to relaxation up and are available again refreshed after the shutdown with Norway failing to qualify for Qatar. Metropolis have such energy in depth that, even when the squad are drained after the World Cup, they may nonetheless have sufficient to win most video games in second gear, so they continue to be the title favourites.

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Steve Nicol praises Harry Kane however wonders if the striker typically needs he performed for a extra brazenly attacking staff.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

The way it began

Antonio Conte demanded a summer time of squad strengthening and the membership delivered, with Spurs spending over £150m new gamers, together with Richarlison (£52m), Cristian Romero (£45m) and the free-transfer arrival of Ivan Perisic from Inter Milan. Having overwhelmed Arsenal to Champions League qualification with a late-season surge, Spurs have used the return to Europe’s elite competitors as a chance to take the staff to a brand new degree and Conte’s staff went into the season regarded by many because the probably to problem Metropolis and Liverpool on the high of the desk.

The way it’s going

Arsenal’s spectacular begin, and their 3-1 win in opposition to Conte’s staff within the North London derby earlier this month, has overshadowed Tottenham’s progress to this point this season, however Spurs are going properly and sit simply 4 factors behind the Gunners in third place.

There stays an over-reliance on Harry Kane, who has scored eight of Tottenham’s 20 league objectives to this point this season, and a fear for Conte ought to be his staff’s failure to win any of the largest exams his gamers have confronted. Spurs got here away with a attract London derbies away to Chelsea and West Ham United earlier than shedding at Arsenal — all powerful video games, but when Spurs are to problem for the title, they need to win after they stress is on.

Video games in opposition to Man United and Liverpool earlier than the World Cup shutdown, in addition to a doubtlessly tough conflict with sixth-placed Newcastle United, would be the form of exams that Spurs should come by way of efficiently if they’re to keep away from a battle for a top-four end.

How will it finish?

As ever, Tottenham’s hopes depend on Kane. The England captain has carried the staff to this point this season and he has performed that persistently now for over 5 years. However the 29-year-old would be the point of interest of England’s World Cup bid in Qatar, so Conte shall be determined for Gareth Southgate’s staff to exit the competitors as early as potential in order that he can get his talisman again to membership duties. If Kane can keep match and in type, Spurs will end within the high 4. However with out him, Spurs simply aren’t the identical staff.

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Steve Nicol feels Christian Pulisic and the Chelsea squad have a skip of their step below new supervisor Graham Potter.

CHELSEA

The way it began

A summer time of upheaval at Stamford Bridge noticed a Todd Boehly-led consortium purchase out earlier proprietor Roman Abramovich earlier than an enormous spending spree led to greater than £250m being invested in new signings. Raheem Sterling, Wesley Fofana, Kalidou Koulibaly and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have been probably the most high-profile new arrivals, with Romelu Lukaku (to Inter Milan on mortgage) and Timo Werner (RB Leipzig) following free brokers Antonio Rudiger (Actual Madrid), Andreas Christensen and Marcos Alonso (each Barcelona) out of the membership.

The way it’s going

Champions League-winning coach Thomas Tuchel was fired by Boehly after three defeats in seven video games at first of the season, and fewer than per week after the previous Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain boss was allowed to signal Aubameyang. Graham Potter has since been employed from Brighton & Hove Albion to supervise the staff and has delivered three wins in 4 video games in cost to this point. Regardless of their inconsistent begin below Tuchel, Chelsea have steadied below Potter and sit in fourth place, with final week’s 3-0 win in opposition to AC Milan boosting the staff’s prospects in Champions League Group E.

Objectives could possibly be an issue within the weeks forward, although, with Sterling (3) and Kai Havertz (2) the one gamers with multiple Premier League aim to this point this season. House video games in opposition to Man United (Oct. 22) and Arsenal (Nov. 6) will give a greater indication as to the progress made by Potter and Chelsea’s prospects for the season forward.

How will it finish?

Chelsea are a staff in a state of flux proper now with a raft of recent signings making an attempt to settle in below a supervisor who did not signal any of them. Potter has averted the negativity of a poor begin and stays undefeated, however he wants to keep up that type to keep away from the membership lurching again in the direction of disaster. Chelsea seem like a membership and staff that’s nonetheless looking for its new identification, so Potter must convey stability and guarantee it lasts.

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Rob Dawson talks about Cristiano Ronaldo after the Manchester United striker scores his 700th profession membership aim.

MANCHESTER UNITED

The way it began

No membership does disaster and calamity higher, or worse, than Manchester United, so it was maybe no shock that the staff went into the brand new season below new coach Erik Ten Hag within the midst of a shambolic switch window. Though one other late spending spree resulted within the squad being bolstered by the signings of Casemiro and Antony following earlier offers for Tyrell Malacia, Lisandro Martinez and Christian Eriksen, United missed out on high goal Frenkie de Jong and shocked followers by concentrating on former Stoke ahead Marko Arnautovic.

The entire above was performed out to the backdrop of rising supporter unrest in the direction of United’s house owners, the Glazer household, with protests earlier than and through most video games.

The way it’s going

Two defeats within the first two video games, together with a 4-0 humiliation at Brentford, left United backside of the desk and with Ten Hag dealing with as much as a fair larger problem than he imagined when leaving Ajax for Previous Trafford in the summertime. However Ten Hag has made some huge calls, together with dropping captain Harry Maguire and regularly beginning video games with out Cristiano Ronaldo, and constructive outcomes have adopted. For the reason that nightmare begin, United have received 5 out of six leagues video games, though the one defeat in that run was a 6-3 hammering at Manchester Metropolis.

United are a great distance from being the completed article below Ten Hag, however the brand new coach has instilled self-discipline, improved the squad along with his signings and for the primary time in years, the gamers look like energised by a supervisor with a transparent plan.

All United want now could be a world-class centre-forward, a commanding midfielder and a world-class goalkeeper — how lengthy it takes to get them will outline when, or if, they problem for main honours once more.

How will it finish?

Having recorded their worst-ever Premier League marketing campaign final season, ending in sixth place 13 factors adrift of the highest 4, merely getting again into the Champions League was the goal at first of the season and Ten Hag is on track to realize that.

United aren’t there but — they’re nonetheless exterior the highest 4 — however there’s a sense of course at Previous Trafford now and victories in opposition to Liverpool and Arsenal this season highlighted the standard throughout the squad when it’s used accurately and despatched out with a transparent tactical plan. It’s nonetheless a staff suffering from inconsistency and a scarcity of high quality past Ten Hag’s first XI, so there shall be bumps within the highway forward. However a top-four end is inside United’s capabilities.

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Steve Nicol criticises Liverpool’s defence after their 3-2 defeat in opposition to Arsenal.

LIVERPOOL

The way it began

Liverpool beat Manchester United to the membership file £75m signing of Darwin Nunez in June with the Benfica ahead considered the long-term substitute for Sadio Mane, who moved to Bayern Munich in the summertime. However regardless of an apparent want for a brand new midfielder, Liverpool did not make a signing in that space till a deadline day mortgage transfer for Juventus and Brazil‘s Arthur Melo, who’s now dealing with a prolonged spell on the sidelines with harm.

Liverpool took their eye off the ball in the course of the summer time and, having come near the Quadruple final season, are actually struggling to maintain their season afloat.

The way it’s going

Rewind to the 3-1 Group Protect win in opposition to Manchester Metropolis on July 30 and all seemed promising for Jurgen Klopp. Liverpool dominated that recreation in opposition to the champions and Nunez seemed a star within the making throughout a goal-scoring debut.

However little has gone proper for Liverpool, or Nunez, since. Sunday’s defeat at Arsenal left Liverpool in mid-table with simply two wins from eight video games to this point. Klopp mentioned after the loss on the Emirates that his staff aren’t title contenders. Accidents have hit Liverpool arduous, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Luis Diaz the most recent to move to the therapy room in the course of the Arsenal defeat, however there has additionally been an alarming drop in type by the likes of Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Diogo Jota.

Whereas the World Cup could possibly be an issue for his or her rivals, it could simply provide Liverpool an important probability to press the reset button and deal with a surge within the second half of the season.

How will it finish?

With the title realistically already out of their attain, Liverpool should refocus their goals and the precedence now must be a high 4 end to safe Champions League qualification. They’re already six factors behind fourth place Chelsea and face in-form Man Metropolis at Anfield this weekend, so Liverpool have to get again to profitable methods shortly.

There’s a actual hazard that the highest 4 may disappear over the horizon earlier than the World Cup, leaving Liverpool needing to win the Champions League in Istanbul on the finish of the season to get again into the competitors. That occurred in 2005, however it will be a high-risk technique to financial institution on that occuring once more.

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