It has been a pulsating start to the English Premier League season with some surprising results and incredible goals during the first seven weeks of the campaign. Now comes the international break meaning players, managers and fans alike of all 20 top flight clubs can catch their breath.
Nations League fixtures will take place in this window while others will play friendly matches in preparation for the Qatar World Cup which kicks off on 20 November. The Premier League returns on October 1 and the first match is the small matter of the North London derby with Arsenal hosting Tottenham. It will be a frenetic affair. Arsenal head into the international break at the top of the table and they have been playing some scintillating football. I firmly believe that they are title contenders and will push champions Manchester City all the way.
The Gunners’ saw off Brentford 3-0 to leapfrog City who had stolen top spot temporarily after beating Wolves. But Arsenal look like a different team from last season. Coach Mikel Arteta is finally getting the best out of his talented squad. Against the Bees, who are no pushovers, they looked hungry in attack and solid in defence. Arteta’s side controlled proceedings from the first minute until the last and even set a new record by giving 15-year-old Ethan Nwaneri his debut. He became the youngest Premier League player in history.
There is no question that Arteta has transformed the mood of the club and the team is playing with a confidence that has not been seen in years. The Spanish coach deserves a lot of credit for what he has done at the Emirates. He has guided the team to six wins out of 7 matches but it is the manner of these wins and the style of play that has caught the eye. Granted, it has been an odd start to the season what with the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea making slow starts and nowhere near the top 4. But Arsenal have hit the ground running and this is exactly how titles are won. They have started with purpose and desire and rightly sit at the top of the table.
Their North London rivals Spurs are also still unbeaten and are right up there along with City but Jurgen Klopp’s Reds will no doubt be amongst the chasing pack too once they get going meaning it could well be a four-horse race.
The Gunners will want to first make sure they finish inside the top four and qualify for the Champions League, that is their priority. But there is no reason why they cannot go one step further and clinch their first league title since 2004. Spurs will definitely make life hard for them when they clash next month and with striker Son Heung-Min back on form, Arteta knows he is in for a tough match. Antonio Conte has got Spurs looking a lot more robust and they are picking up points in matches that they would have lost last season.
As for the current champions, Pep Guardiola will be very pleased with their start and particularly the way new striker Erling Haaland has settled in to the team. the Norwegian has banged in 14 goals in all competitions already. He has made a stunning start in England but Guardiola will be just as happy with Jack Grealish.
There was a hunger and freedom about the English playmaker’s performance against Wolves. He has had plenty of critics following his big-money move from Aston Villa but Grealish is beginning to show signs that he has settled in at the Etihad. He was winning the ball back in midfield, causing havoc in attack and got on the scoresheet.
Meanwhile, Everton got their first win of the season against West Ham to climb to 13th and they could be the dark horses this season. Coach Frank Lampard has made some astute signings during the summer. They are five matches unbeaten in the league and look solid thanks to the arrivals of Conor Coady and James Tarkowski in defence. Ahead of them in midfield are Amadou Onana and Idrissa Gana Gueye with the pair giving the team far more energy and bite than last season.
The Toffees have the second best defensive record in the league and it is thanks to these 4 players in particular. Everton look far more solid and are more of a unit now which makes them harder to break down. They look a different side to the one that struggled so badly in the previous campaign and with the addition of striker Neal Maupay and the expected return of talisman Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Everton will ruffle a few feathers this season.
At the wrong end of the table are Nottingham Forest whose gamble in signing a record 22 new players in the summer appears to be going wrong. Steve Cooper’s men have lost 5 out of 7 games and are second from bottom. This isn’t a surprise as fostering a team spirit with so many new faces is hard. Cooper will have his work cut out in trying to get them to gel but at least they have won a match – something bottom side Leicester have failed to do. Coach Brendan Rodgers must be fearing the worst. He has seen his side collect just 1 point from a possible 21 and is being tipped for the sack during the break.