Dubai: Another week and we see the ‘Big Six’ also-rans drifting further away from the top of the table once again.
There is already a familiar feel to the Premier League season in England as Liverpool are sitting pretty at the top with a perfect nine points from nine and Manchester City are looming large in their shadow having shown their usual ruthless streak in front of goal to sit two points behind the Anfield side (they would be level if not for a dodgy VAR decision in the draw against Tottenham Hotspur).
Perhaps Arsenal’s 3-1 defeat at Liverpool didn’t look so bad by the end of the weekend’s action as they were up against formidable opponents while their other top-four rivals all managed to illustrate their shortcomings in what looks like a long season ahead for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Mauricio Pochettino and Frank Lampard.
Lampard’s Chelsea finally got their first win of the season, but the way they were twice pegged back by relegation candidates Norwich City in the laborious 3-2 win probably raised more questions than it answered.
Other than three welcome points, the most comforting factor for the rookie Blues boss would have been his young forwards Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount getting on the scoresheet.
From the questionable at Carrow Road to the farcical at Old Trafford as Solskjaer’s Manchester United once again showed how far behind the top two they really are as the slumped to an embarrassing 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace.
Following on from a 1-1 draw with Wolves, United really needed a win but, on this showing, it will be a long time before they will be back competing at the top.
They need to completely rebuild a team that lacks cohesion and the leaders on the pitch that were once their trademark.
Another concern will be a second missed penalty in as many games. Had those two kicks been successfully converted, United would be sitting second in the table right now instead of languishing five points behind the leaders already.
Meanwhile, down in London, Spurs did what Spurs do best by dropping silly points to a team they should be steamrollering of the field.
Lacklustre Newcastle United picked up their first points of the season with an impressive rearguard performance at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium that had all the hallmarks of manager Steve Bruce’s win-at-all-costs tactics. Newcastle frustrated a toothless Spurs side that, try as they might, rarely managed to get into the opposition penalty area as the visitors successfully subdued Harry Kane — illustrating just how blunt the Spurs attack can be when their star striker is played out of the game.
We are only three games in, but already it looks like there will be a chasm of daylight between last season’s top two — Liverpool and City — and the rest once again.
A quick look down the table will have alarm bells ringing at Watford, too. Three played, three lost, zero points. Last season’s FA Cup finalists look like a shadow of the team that impressed so many last campaign. Losses to Brighton, Everton and now West Ham do not bode well when tougher opponents await them in the near future. With talisman Troy Deeney sidelined for the foreseeable future after an operation on a long-term knee problem, it looks like their struggles will continue and they will be playing catch up in the fight for Premier League survival.
2 Man City
5 Man Utd
9 Sheff Utd
10 Crystal Palace
14 West Ham
16 Aston Villa
Aston Villa 2, Everton 0
Norwich 2, Chelsea 3
Brighton 0, Southampton 2
Man United 1, Crystal Palace 2
Sheffield United 1, Leicester 2
Watford 1, West Ham 3
Liverpool 3, Arsenal 1
Bournemouth 1, Man City 3
Tottenham 0, Newcastle 1
Wolverhampton 1, Burnley 1