With the international break looming, it is a good time to take stock from what we’ve learned in the Premier League after the opening eight rounds of matches.
There’s no ‘big six’
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Tottenham second, Liverpool third, Chelsea fifth, Manchester City 10th, Arsenal 11th, Manchester United 14th.
And this is the so-called ‘big six’? The teams pencilled in for a European Premier League?
The schedule may be relentless, especially for clubs playing in Europe, but it can hardly be deemed an excuse when Europa League pair Leicester and Spurs lead the standings despite playing every Thursday and Sunday.
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It means right now the name on the 2020-21 trophy remains a mystery. After eight games last season Liverpool had already opened up an eight-point lead at the top. Eight points currently separate table-toppers Leicester and 15th-placed Leeds, and with several shock results the prospect of this so-called ‘big six’ eventually placing first through to sixth come May seems wholly unlikely.
As well as Leicester, who finished fifth last season, Southampton also look well-placed for a European push this term, while unbelievably Aston Villa – the club who survived by the skin of their teeth back in July – have a game in hand on the current top five and would hypothetically top the table were they to win that, although that postponed fixture with Manchester City is yet to be rescheduled.
Of course there is plenty of time left, but the prospect of Arsenal and United in particular both finding form good enough to topple Leicester means we are set for another season where said ‘big six’ do not finish so.
The five-sub rule will need more support
It appears managers Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will continue their calls to re-implement the five-sub rule, which was scrapped at the start of the season despite FIFA allowing leagues to implement the change once more.
Jürgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola
Image credit: Getty Images
For it to return, the Liverpool, City and United managers will need the backing of more bosses, and while they will perhaps hope for support from Messrs Rodgers, Mourinho, Arteta and Lampard, it would take a majority for the Premier League to change it back – 14 out of 20, in fact, given that was the total required, but not reached, at a shareholders meeting back in September.
West Ham’s David Moyes admitted he has recently changed his views and would return to five subs in the current climate, but you would imagine clubs thriving while not playing in Europe – such as Southampton and Villa – will oppose the changes as it has had little effect on them so far.
This is one talking point that will continue while the international break goes on.
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Premier League goal rate is slowing down
There were 1,034 goals at a rate of 2.72 per match last season in the Premier League. 1,072 at 2.82 per match in 2018-19, and 1,018 at 2.68 per match in 2017-18.
We could keep going back, but it is the 2018-19 rate of 2.82 goals per match which is the current record to beat.
Tammy Abraham of Chelsea celebrates after scoring his team’s third goal in the 4-1 win over Sheff Utd
Image credit: Getty Images
At one stage earlier this season it had reached a staggering 3.68 goals per game, but the rate has come down to 3.14 with 245 goals scored so far.
That still means the record will be broken, but after scorelines like 7-2, 6-1, 5-2, 5-2, 5-2, 4-3, 4-3, 3-3, 3-3, we are now getting a few more 0-0s and 1-0s to balance out the 4-1s, as the most recent weekend of results showed.
Sheffield United going down?
One point from eight games. Only two clubs have survived from that start in the Premier League, and it is clear Chris Wilder’s side are struggling to back-up their terrific first season back in the top tier.
However, with Burnley and West Brom also winless above them, and 17th-placed Fulham only on four points, the situation is far from irrecoverable.
There appears to be a slight gap forming with five clubs on six points or below, and so we could be looking at a five-way battle to avoid three relegation spots. Again, plenty of time for clubs to dip in form and find themselves scrapping too, but there has been little to suggest so far that the current strugglers will not be there or there abouts come 2021.
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