As the Premier League returned this weekend following the first international break of the new season, Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City side continued their 100% start to the season, with Nigerian teenager Kelechi Iheanacho grabbing an injury time winner for the league leaders at Crystal Palace. The 2011/12 and 2013/14 champions have begun their campaign strongly as they attempt to wrestle back the title from last season’s victors, Chelsea. The Sky Blues, who spent £160m in the transfer window (including £49m on Raheem Sterling and £55m on Kevin de Bruyne) have opened their season with five wins out of five, scoring an impressive eleven goals and with a perfect clean sheet record. After convincingly dispatching West Brom 3-0 on the opening weekend, City then dismantled Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side at the Etihad Stadium by the same scoreline, with Chelsea goalkeeper Asmir Begovic keeping the score respectable. This was then consolidated with routine wins against Everton and newly-promoted Watford before the international break. Despite having played just five games, City have already opened up substantial gaps over their main title rivals and will run away with the league if the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United don’t start playing catch up anytime soon. In the 2013/14 season, Belgian centre-back Vincent Kompany was immense and was a large factor in determining the title. But the City captain struggled with both poor form and injuries last season as City finished second, eight points behind Chelsea. However, Kompany has started this season extremely well, contributing two goals in addition to commanding his back line admirably. If City can keep Kompany fit, Joe Hart in fine form, Yaya Toure happy and Sergio Aguero firing in the goals, their title rivals will need to produce something special in order to stop the Premier League trophy from returning to Eastlands.
Meanwhile, on the red side of Manchester, United’s start has been rather unspectacular. With a host of summer signings including German World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger, Southampton midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin, Dutch winger Memphis Depay and French teenage forward Anthony Martial (for £36m!), United will be looking to press on and gel as a team after a start which included two 1-0 victories, a 0-0 draw and a 2-1 defeat at Garry Monk’s Swansea. Matters haven’t been helped by the transfer debacle of David De Gea and his failed move to Real Madrid; but with a new four-year contract signed, hopefully both the player and the club can progress and really kick-start the campaign. De Gea started in this weekend’s crunch match against Liverpool, which the Red Devils won 3-1; Daley Blind opened the scoring with a goal straight off the training ground before Ander Herrera dispatched a brilliant penalty. Christian Benteke pulled a goal back for the visitors with a remarkable acrobatic effort, a contender for goal of the season, before debutant Martial completed the scoring with a Thierry Henry-style run and finish, endearing himself to the Old Trafford faithful immediately.
Last season’s champions Chelsea were more restrained in the transfer window, signing Barcelona attacker Pedro and bringing in Manchester United reject Radamel Falcao to bolster their attack, as well as various young players who Mourinho will look to develop over the next few years. Compared to last season’s relative walk-in-the-park, Chelsea have started the season dismally with a disappointing 2-2 draw at home to Swansea before the nightmare at Manchester City. Their first win of the season came following an unconvincing display at West Brom, but this was followed by a shock home defeat to Crystal Palace before another defeat at Everton on Saturday. Mourinho’s men will be hoping to eradicate their poor form in an attempt to overturn City’s eleven point lead over them and to climb up from 17th in the league, but will have to do so without Belgian stopper Thibaut Courtois who suffered ligament damage in his knee and requires surgery accompanied with a prolonged period on the sidelines.
Both Arsenal and Liverpool have had decent starts, with two wins and a draw between the sides alongside poor home defeats to West Ham prior to the international break. Arsenal started their season with a 2-0 defeat to the Hammers, who lined up with 16-year-old Reece Oxford in their side. Slaven Bilic’s men then lost successive home games to Leicester City and Bournemouth before claiming the scalp of Liverpool with a decisive 3-0 victory, with both sides ending the game with ten men. This weekend, Arsenal beat Stoke at home, despite the best efforts of Jack Butland in the Stoke net, whereas Liverpool fell to bitter rivals United in the weekend’s heavyweight clash.
Finally, Leicester City have started their season remarkably, continuing the astonishing form that saw them miraculously avoid relegation under Nigel Pearson last season. Despite a change in management, with Claudio Ranieri replacing the outspoken Pearson, Leicester have made an unbeaten start to their campaign. After an opening day thriller at home to Sunderland, with the Foxes winning 4-2, City recorded victory at Upton Park, beating West Ham 2-1. Since then, Leicester drew 1-1 at home to Spurs with Riyad Mahrez scoring his fourth of the season before a late equalising penalty from England striker Jamie Vardy rescued a point for the Foxes at Bournemouth. On Sunday, Leicester overturned a 2-0 deficit at home to Aston Villa, with goals from Ritchie De Laet, Vardy and debutant Nathan Dyer securing a 3-2 over their Midlands rivals. How far can the boys in blue go this season?
Overall, the season so far has belonged to Manchester City and Leicester, the only two unbeaten sides, whilst other teams have made solid, if not extraordinary, starts. City will be looking to continue their fine form for the visits of Juventus and West Ham this week, whilst the other 19 clubs attempt to keep within touching distance. Mourinho’s Chelsea, who have conceded twelve goals already this season, will slip into the relegation zone if Newcastle beat West Ham in the Monday Night Football and need to change things up quickly if they are to retain their Premiership crown this term. If they don’t apply the pressure onto City, and other challengers such as Arsenal and United likewise, the season may well be over before it’s even got going! As for Leicester, the relegation zone is a distant memory that has well and truly been eradicated as they look to continue in this fine form they are enjoying!