A few weeks ago I boldly, alright, foolishly, attempted to predict the positions of the top 8 for the season that lies ahead. You can read all the details here.
The transfer window had not been slammed shut yet and as predicted some business still needed to be conducted between my predictions and the beginning of the season proper.
For those who did not read it, my top 4 looked like this:
Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool.
We have had 4 games and it’s far too early to look at the table but what we can do is consider the performances of the teams to date.
Who could have predicted the impact Diego Costa would have from day one? None of the usual excuses apply. He has adapted to the physical fast paced English game literally from the first minute. The proof is in the pudding as they say with 7 goals from 4 starts, the £32 million purchase looks like a bargain. Cesc Fabreagas from Barcelona for £30 million is also proving to be an excellent buy with 6 assists in 6 games (going back to his Arsenal days).
Predictably, Chelsea top the standings, currently the only team not to drop any points. I still think they will finish second to City but the margin will be tiny.
- Manchester City
City have played the toughest 4 games of all the top teams so far with a hard fought 3-1 win against Liverpool and surprising 1-0 defeat to Mark Hughes’ Stoke followed by a really tough 2-2 draw with Arsenal. Everyone loses, right? All things considered a win against Liverpool is 3 points from one of the other contenders and a draw with Arsenal costs them as much as it costs City. 7 points from 4 is pretty decent all things considered. I think they should still be considered favourites but expect Chelsea to push them all the way.
- Manchester United
United went all out in the days leading up to deadline day. Angel di Maria arrived for a British record of 59.7 million Pounds from Real Madrid. Falcao arrived on a loan with first option deal to the tune of 6 million pounds + salary; Rojo finally got his work permit and Daley Blind, fresh from a superb World Cup performance and being voted best player in Holland also signed for the Red Devils. Someone had to move on and the most notable are Hernandez on a loan deal to Real Madrid and Danny Welbeck who went to Arsenal for 16 million.
Every second sentence from the panelists and commentators seemed to be about the vastness of United’s spending and questions about whether Van Gaal had bought the right players.
On Sunday, Di Maria scored one, made one and was the vital cog in the build up play for the other two goals as United smashed Harry Renknapp’s QPR at Old Trafford. Just maybe, United will make the top 3.
Life without Suarez isn’t so easy but then he missed most of the beginning of last season and Liverpool very nearly topped the table when the dust had settled. The difference is Sturridge isn’t getting the goals in those 1-0 wins, the ugly stuff noone wants to remember but the stuff that titles are built on. The pundits always refer to these games as winning ugly but winning.
Liverpool just managed to beat their 2014 feeder club Southampton whom they raided in the close season, signing 3 of the Saints’ players in Lallana, Lambert and Lovren. The next game was a thriller against City where they went down 3 – 1 but threatened far more than the final score would suggest, followed by a handsome win against Spurs who just don’t seem to have the mental aspect down. Disappointingly for all involved, the reds succumbed to Aston Villa on Matchday 4 at Anfield.
Questions should be asked about the 2nd half introduction of Sterling. The only player to create panic and disorder in the Villa defense was most likely being saved for the mid-week start of the Champions League. As mentioned in my pre-season predictions, the Champions League and the loss of a creator and goal scorer like Suarez may be too big of a hurdle for the reds to make a serious push for the title.
Updated prediction: 4th, just.