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Have the opening rounds quashed any fears of a foregone Premier League conclusion?




At the dawn of the 2022-23 season, it seemed the Premier League was headed for a foregone conclusion.

Many, including myself, had assumed the results of the season were pre-loaded, unable or unlikely to be altered. The good teams had strengthened so much so that even with the astute signings by mid-and-low table sides, the gulf was too large to bridge.

Yet three games in it appears as though I was wrong. Already we have seen a blueprint laid bare by Eddie Howe’s Newcastle side on how to exploit the conceivably impenetrable Manchester City.

The Magpies became the first side to score against City, and the first side to rescue points against them as well. They constructed this result brilliantly, unafraid of City, not sitting deep in their half and allowing them time and space – completing 37 pressures in the attacking third, more than West Ham and Bournemouth combined.

Bernando Silva gestures during the City-Brighton match at Etihad Stadium

(Photo by Matt McNulty – Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)

Rather than allow wave after wave of pressure to build against their backline, Newcastle were proactive against Manchester City, with and without the ball, and in particular sought to exploit the space in behind City’s infamous inverted fullbacks, using left-winger Allain Saint-Maxim as the out ball.

On the other side of Manchester, after succumbing to back-to-back defeats the hands of Brighton and Brentford – which saw their manager become the first United manager in 101 years to lose the opening two games of his tenure – Erik Ten Hag’s men were all but written off against Liverpool, who themselves had been slow to start.

Yet, against all pre-drawn conclusions, United walked away victorious, courtesy of some very-Ten Hag football that saw them conceded 70 per cent of possession and create goals on the break, a permanency of their style under Solskjaer.

It was a result that gave some breathing space for the Dutchman, whose opening losses against unlikely opponents put him on the back foot from day one and exacerbates several problems – exposed by Fulham, Palace and United – bugging Jurgen Klopp that have potential to derail their season before it has left the station.

Down in London and the new American ownership of Chelsea has failed to truly get the engine started. Thomas Tuchel’s men struggled against Everton on the opening day despite walking away with the three points, dominated Spurs yet were held to a controversial draw and were absolutely pummelled by the Leeds press in their recent 3-0 defeat.

Much has been made about Chelsea’s striker problems created by Romelu Lukaku’s departure, yet there are problems in a midfield that is too easily bypassed without N’Golo Kante in it and a defence that lacks depth and will be without summer signing Kalidou Kouliably for a few matches.

Talk of Wesley Fofana and Frenkie De Jong are welcome for the Blues as they look to mount their surge towards Champions League places, or even an unlikely title challenge.

As for Leeds, after a disastrous season in 2021-22 that saw the club sack cult hero Marcelo Bielsa and avoid the drop by the skin of their teeth, they have been one of the more impressive sides this season with their high-octane style of football under Jesse Marsch pleasing on the eye and the results.

New signing Brendan Aaronson is slowly become a star and both Tyler Adams and Marc Roca are proving their value in plugging a Kalvin Phillips sized hole in midfield.

Leeds aren’t the only side exceeding expectations. Fulham have made an incredibly solid start to a campaign that many thought would see them relegated in line with tradition. As have fellow promoted sides Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest.

Brighton have also sprung a few surprises having notably lost Cucurella and Bissouma in the summer, beating Manchester United and West Ham and impressing across all their matches so far, while Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace look like a problematic side that will push the very best.

Arsenal may be the biggest surprise package. Mikel Arteta’s side are humming, putting on displays of beautiful and brilliant attacking football spearheaded by new signing Gabriel Jesus, who looks to finally be realising the potential he was stamped with on his initial arrival to Europe.

Nine points and a table topping run is a far cry from the start of last season where calls of crisis were levelled at the north London outfit when they sat bottom of the table.

Elsewhere, there are worrying signs developing for Aston Villa – who lose new signing Diego Carlos – as they’ve failed to match their pre-season expectations.

It is a similar story for Leicester, who lost influential and inspirational club captain Kasper Schmeichel to Nice during the summer and have failed to adequately replace him.

West Ham – who have had a stalled start – could fail to emulate the success they garnered last season.

Wolves, impressive in recent years, find themselves in the relegation zone at this early mark of the season.





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