Premier League

You can browser our back catalog of soccer posts about Premier League here.

New Cash-Happy Arsenal Set to Buy Huntelaar after Sealing Big Sponsor Deal?

The big news of last week for Arsenal was that they signed a contract extension with Emirates that will total 150 million pounds over the course of five years to keep the airline company’s name on the front of Arsenal jerseys.  For the Gunners this is a huge financial bonus that has fans crying for manager Arsene Wenger to buy some new additions to the squad.  Almost immediately after the big money move for the club was announced, it seemed rumors began to spread that Arsenal may be looking to sign Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.  Personally, I see this as the perfect move for both the player and team.

Huntelaar is a wonderful Dutch striker playing for Schalke 04 in Germany’s Bundesliga.  Last season he scored an astounding 48 goals in 47 total matches in all competitions.  He led the Budesliga with 29 goals, and helped his side reach the UEFA Champions League.  Facing Arsenal in the tournament’s group stage, Huntelaar scored twice in two matches, and his team earned four points off of the Gunners to take control of their group.  Apparently he caught the eye of Wenger in those games.

With his contract set to expire at season’s end, a move seems perfect.  Arsenal needs to replace striker Robin van Persie, now of Manchester United.  Huntelaar has always been the number two man for the Netherlands in international matches, and if he could become the new top man in England, he might just usurp that position.  He would have every opportunity to compete against his compatriot, and if he led Arsenal to glory, what Dutch coach could deny his starting role?  This is the perfect way for Huntelaar to emerge from Van Persie’s shadow!

For Arsenal the move is a no-brainer as well. Although the team recently purchased forwards Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud over the summer, only Giroud is a true striker.  And Giroud even stated upon arriving at the club that he didn’t intend to replace Van Persie.  Giroud is a good striker with a large stature, but currently Arsenal has no real depth behind him.  The option used so far this season has been the erratic Gervinho, whose play is best suited for the wing.

Think of the strikers at Arsenal’s competitors: Manchester City houses Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli, Edin Dzeko, and Carlos Tevez (4 world-class strikers!).  United boast a forward trio of Van Persie, Wayne Rooney, and Javier Hernandez.  Arsenal just has Giroud.

After their grand announcement of the new Emirates deal, the team stumbled to a 0-0 draw against Aston Villa.  Goal scoring has been a touchy subject for the Gunners this season.  They are tied for just fifth in the EPL with 23 goals from 13 matches.  This is the same mark as teams like West Bromwich, Everton, and Tottenham; not the stuff you’d expect from a team with a history like Arsenal.

Huntelaar brings experience and talent to the team.  He has been described by Dutch manager Louis van Gaal, as the “best player in the world, bar none (in the penalty box).”  At age 29, he is in his absolute prime and has played for many prestigious clubs including Real Madrid and AC Milan.  If he brings his talents to North London, Arsenal could once again have a fearsome attack, and Huntelaar may well be on his way to earning a starting spot for his national team.  Although Schalke may hold onto him until summer based on their good Champions League form, Huntelaar would be wise to join Arsenal sometime soon.

Chelsea’s Fast Start Smoldering Apart

One month ago Chelsea was cruising along in the English Premier League, brushing aside any and all opposition with ease.  After two victories against London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal, it appeared that Chelsea would be the pride of England after adding young superstars like Eden Hazard and Oscar to their midfield ranks over the summer.  But the EPL is a long and treacherous season and in the past fortnight Chelsea has suffered two draws and two defeats, sending the “Blues” down to third place and their fans into a slight panic with cries towards their owner to spend, spend, and spend come January.

It all began with a controversial match against Manchester United, where two Chelsea players were sent off and cries of a racist referee emerged from the team.  Their next two results ended in draws, one during a hard-fought away match at Swansea when Pablo Hernandez equalized with just minutes remaining.  Then Liverpool travelled to Stamford Bridge and claimed a point through a Luis Suarez goal.  However, this weekend’s trip to West Bromwich provided for a painful result as the high-flying West Bromwich side defeated Chelsea 2-1.

This weekend Chelsea hosts league leaders Manchester City, a full four points ahead in the leader’s position.  Manchester City are the defending league champions and are the second installment of super wealthy owners who have revolutionized average Premier League clubs.  Their feared lineup includes an exciting array of strikers like Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli, and Sergio Aguero, each capable of taking over any game.

Chelsea, although a very strong side, is currently in great need of a decent striker.  50 million pound man Fernando Torres should go down as the worst transfer of all time, as the player has done nothing to merit wearing the Chelsea jersey, let alone cost the club that sort of money.  Backup striker Daniel Sturridge is a decent prospect, but doesn’t quite bring the talents a club like Chelsea would need.  It was always going to be a tough task to replace Didier Drogba, but after starting the season brightly, Chelsea have stumbled and their lack of a striker has been pointed to as the reason.

The team does own the rights to Romelu Lukaku, but the exciting Belgian is very young and is currently enjoying a loan spell at West Bromwich.  Dubbed the second coming of Drogba himself, Lukaku is a powerful and physical player who will very likely represent the future of the club’s offense.

But at the moment, Chelsea need a player and January will possibly provide just that.  The guy everyone wants at the club is Radamel Falcao.  The Columbian striker caught the club’s eyes after a dominating hat trick in the UEFA Super Cup match in August, when Atletico Madrid pounded Chelsea 4-1.  Since then, Falcao has led Atletico Madrid to second place in Spain’s La Liga and is third on the goals scored table with ten goals.  Although third isn’t that great, he is only following the soccer overlords of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.  For Chelsea fans, Falcao is the man they want, and the team would do wise to purchase him in January.

However, Chelsea is a fundamentally flawed club in their quest to simply buy the biggest names. Case in point: Fernando Torres.  Yes, they compete by simply buying the best players of the moment, but that strategy results in a team of over-paid prima donna’s who don’t click like a team.  Although Chelsea has won recent trophies, it seems as if their star is fading fast this year, and January is still seven EPL matches away, so they’d better start simply re-discovering that winning formula because any outside help is still quite a ways away.

Jack Wilshere Returns to Arsenal Side But Must Cool his Head

Arsenal fans have had to wait for over a year since Jack Wilshere’s nagging injury first kept him out of soccer.  He has now played in two matches since his return and once again looks like a bright prospect in the Gunners’ midfield.  However, his recent showing against Manchester United saw him sent off for two dangerous challenges and leaves me with the impression that the young player still has a lot of growing up to do.

Wilshere’s return match against QPR was very impressive.  He had a perfect pass completion rate throughout the first half before fatigue led to his substitution later in the game.  Although the side was unable to find the net with him on the pitch, he did provide a golden opportunity for Aaron Ramsey that hit the crossbar.  It was a frustrating day for Arsenal, though they did manage a late goal to beat the struggling QPR.

Wilshere then faced with a much stiffer test this past weekend as the team traveled to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United, and this showed a more vicious side of the English central midfielder.

In both his yellow-carded tackles, Wilshere deserved to be booked.  The second was the result of a rash decision to step into the leg of Patrice Evra with his studs up, and he was rightly sent off.  Clearly, the player was frustrated with the proceedings as Arsenal had yet to manage a single shot on target and had just fallen behind 2-0, but this is where maturity is so vital for quality players.  The sending off left Arsenal without a hope in the world at making a comeback, and after the thrilling midweek encounter (when Arsenal came back to win from 4-0 down to Reading), one must rue Wilshere’s inability to contain his anger.

This is a trait that has been seen before in the youngster and will limit him.  Arsenal do need a more physical and aggressive approach at times, but Wilshere needs to learn when to engage in hard tackles and when not to.  Already on a yellow card from an earlier challenge, he should not have gone in so hard.

And so the highly anticipated return of Jack Wilshere is moving along at a less-than-spectacular pace, but that should be expected given his length of absence from soccer.  Players rarely come back into a side and impact games after such injuries.  Also, Wilshere is having to get used to a whole host of new team mates.  These are his first matches with nearly the entire squad including Mikel Arteta, Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski, and Per Mertesacker.  Thus, Wilshere is currently just like a “new signing” and will have to become more acquainted with his team.

I do think that he will learn to play less dangerously, but such changes take time.  Perhaps starting him at Old Trafford in only his second game back was something of a stretch for the player, but if he is to become Arsenal’s leader, he will need to gain experience in the high profile matches.  Either way, Jack Wilshere will now have a bit of a break from action due to his suspension, and perhaps that is a good thing for him given his need to slowly edge back into the Arsenal side from his injury.

Controversial Match Gives Chelsea First EPL Defeat of Season

Chelsea hosted Manchester United at Stamford Bridge over the weekend and the match proved to be one of the most exciting games of the young season, complete with impressive goals, questionable red cards, and resounding controversy.  Manchester United came away 3-2 winners in a stadium where they haven’t won in roughly a decade, and Chelsea were left to rue the questionable decisions of referee, Mark Clattenburg.

Manchester United came out soaring and quickly established a two-goal lead from some lovely play by Robin van Persie.  Chelsea settled into the game and actually established a dominance in time of possession, but the Manchester club was the more effective in the early stages of the game.

However, Chelsea was able to get back into the match shortly before half time, when Juan Mata directed a superb free kick into the side of the goal.  It was the perfect way to go into the break for Chelsea, and one could feel the momentum shift after the goal.

Early in the second half the teams were level when a succession of crosses finally found the head of Ramires, who guided the ball into the net and set the fans alight in celebration.  Chelsea now looked the stronger side and would have been the bettor’s choice to go on to victory.

However, the decisions of the referee soon took the game elsewhere.  Branislav Ivanovic was sent off for a soft foul on Ashley Young.  In Clattenburg’s defense, Young was free in on goal and his foul denied him a goal scoring opportunity.

Only minutes later, the red card made a second appearance as Fernando Torres received a second yellow card for diving and was sent off. This was a very questionable decision as replays showed that Jonny Evans had made a slight touch.  Torres probably embellished the foul by falling so hard, but his sending off was a very harsh move by Clattenburg.

As Manchester United took hold of the game with a two-man advantage, they pressed forward and finally scored with Javier Hernandez from a short distance after a great cross by Rafael. Replays showed that Hernandez was slightly offsides at the time of the pass, but he was moving back and was behind defenders when he scored. In real time the decision would have been nearly impossible to see, but in examining the highlights, Chelsea should rightly feel slighted.

Controversy erupted from here on out.  The managers were shown exchanging less than friendly words on the sideline, and a steward was injured late in the match.  Reports surfaces that he was injured by items thrown from the stands, and this could be an embarrassment for Chelsea.  Further accusations erupted soon after the final whistle when Chelsea filed an official complaint to the FA that Clattenburg had not only ruined their chances, but had also used inappropriate language towards Chelsea players, including using a racial slur.  Time will tell if these accusations are well-founded or arose from resentment over how the game enfolded, but this truly has become a match of supreme controversy.

Regardless of the findings of these investigations, Manchester United came out to play, and were well-deserving of the victory.  The race at the top of the table has now tightened, and hope has been given to all of the other title contenders this season.

Everton Looks to Build Onto Hot Start in Derby Against Liverpool

The Merseyside Derby is always an enticing affair between the two Liverpool clubs, and next week’s Premier League match should be no different.  Although Everton haven’t won against Liverpool since 2010, they have had the more successful season so far this term and will have the home-field advantage playing at Goodison Park in this match.

Everton is currently in 4th place in the league after beginning the year with an enthralling 1-0 win against Manchester United.  They built off of that victory and have since defeated Southampton, Swansea, and Aston Villa.  Their only defeat has been away to West Bromwich who is one of the surprising darlings of the young EPL campaign.

Everton has built a solid start from some of their excellent players and solid defensive play.  American goalkeeper Tim Howard is a great presence between the posts while offensively the team has benefited from relatively new striker Nikica Jelavic and midfield dominator, Marouane Fellaini.  Steven Pienaar has also brought a real edge to the team, although he will unfortunately miss the derby due to a suspension from a red card he earned last weekend at QPR.

Everton has slumped recently with two draws in their last two Premier League matches, although one could argue the QPR draw was a success since the finished the game with only 10 men, and both matches have been away from home.

Understandably, the team has seen a rather easy start to the campaign with Manchester United their only true test, however, that is set to change starting with this Liverpool match.

Liverpool has been woefully average, and this poor run has continued into this year.  Other than the five goals by Luis Suarez, the Reds have not been anywhere near up to par.  They are currently 12th in the table and have only managed two wins in eight matches.  They head into this match on the brink of desperation, and would be especially embarrassed should they fall to their greatest rivals, who look to be overtaking them as far as the most successful football club in town.

As bright as Everton have looked, this match will be quite tough.  Derby atmospheres always make for an unpredictable game, but with the injured Fellaini struggling to gain fitness for this match and the suspended Pienaar, the team could find chances difficult to come by.  Perhaps Kevin Mirallas can earn some playing time in this match and make a difference.

Either way, the Everton Liverpool game is sure to be an exciting match as these two clubs, both hungry for a win tussle horns in a heated rivalry battle.  I foresee an Everton victory 3-2.

Chelsea Just Keeps on Winning

The London club has come out of the gates firing on all cylinders this season, winning 6 matches and drawing only once in the early stages of the English Premier League campaign.  Many predictors’ worries over the Chelsea squad came down to whether or not Fernando Torres would be able to keep up the goal-scoring to the levels that Didier Drogba had before his departure from the club this past summer, but Torres has played in wonderful form.

Torres has scored four goals this year and looks to be back on the right path after he struggled so much when he first joined the club nearly two full seasons ago.  Residing under Drogba’s shell, Torres went countless hours without goals and was even benched during big matches, but this season as Chelsea’s single striker the Spaniard is looking to be solid.

Another Spanish player who is taking aim at the Premiership is Juan Mata, who arrived at the club last year.  He has become the creative force in the midfield that is giving teams fits across England.  The midfield is full of playmakers including recent buys Eden Hazard and Oscar.  Both players are young but incredibly talented.  Hazard has scored twice and added four assists.  Oscar has yet to score in a Premier League match but did net a fantastic goal against Juventus in the Champions League.

The young midfield trio has been so spectacular that Frank Lampard has actually been relegated to the bench on occasion to make way.  He does play well when called upon and is second on the team with three goals.  However, he is aging at 34 and the team is being smart by beginning the process of replacing him.

The one danger with excitement surrounds the teams they have played so far this season.  Although they did beat Arsenal 2-1 at the Emirates just over a week ago, they haven’t played very well against big teams and have enjoyed a rather easy start to the campaign.

How Chelsea fares against Manchester United and Manchester City will show us what caliber of team they possess and I still fear that Chelsea will struggle against strong defensive teams.  But nevertheless, the team’s start needs to be commended.  They have beaten all the clubs that they are supposed to beat and that is the toughest task in the EPL, so Chelsea should enjoy themselves and feel positive about how this season develops.

Following the international break, the schedule is set to become harder.  Chelsea next travels to Tottenham before a double slate of matches against Manchester United, one in the Premier League and one in the Capital One Cup.  Fortunately, Chelsea will have the home support of Stamford Bridge, but they will need their fans’ support as they embark on the tough matches ahead this year.

How is the New-Look Arsenal Shaping Up?

Arsenal has played six games this season (5 in the EPL, 1 in the Champions League) so I feel it is a good time for an assessment following the big changes in their lineup from last season.  Through the matches, Arsenal has won 3 and drawn 3.

After a few nervous 0-0 draws to start the season, the Gunners have come alive.  New signings Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski have provided excellent goals and the team looks very strong in defense.  Abou Diaby has thankfully stayed injury-free and provides a large force in the middle of the team.  Long forgotten are the high-scoring Robin van Persie and the tackling of Alex Song who have seemingly been replaced with ease.  Theo Walcott has been relegated to the bench over his contract situation, but hasn’t been missed thanks to the good play of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Against Manchester City, Arsenal looked the better side although they did have to fight back for the 1-1 draw.  This match was their first real test of the season, and I felt they came through in exciting fashion, earning a draw away to the Premier League Champions.

One player that I feel is beginning to really add to the team is Carl Jenkinson: the young right back. He has had his share of growing pains, but against Man City he was terrific.  He repeatedly made forward runs and even got completely free in on the end line during the first half, beating Joleon Lescott and setting up a good chance.  He also provides good low cross, which resulted in a goal against Montpellier, and almost beat goalkeeper Joe Hart during this match.  Crossing has been suspect at Arsenal for as long as I can remember, so this is a valuable addition to the squad. I feel that Bacary Sagna may find it hard to break back into the team once he recovers from injury.

It’s not all great for Arsenal though.  Olivier Giroud has failed to take over the central striker role, and Arsene Wenger’s plan B, Gervinho, isn’t necessarily the answer either.  He scored two goals in the 6-1 drubbing of Southampton, and he got a tap-in for the victory against Montpellier, but he sure does make a mess of most his chances and was woeful against Manchester City, the first good defense he has faced.

He is a very unpredictable player.  He’ll get the ball and one simply cannot reason where he’ll go.  The only problem is that 95% of the time he is dispossessed.  He wasted a golden opportunity at Manchester City in the first half when he was free in on goal, and his first touch gave the ball right to Hart.

Personally, I feel that Lukas Podolski ought to be given more opportunities in a central role.  Perhaps place Gervinho back out on that left wing where his trickery and pace are more useful.  Podolski looks the man who can actually score goals in the Arsenal offense.

But what makes me most excited about this team is their defensive improvements.  This is not only evident in their back line, but in the overall defensive effort of the entire team.  Everyone looks far more determined to win the ball back, and rarely does the team get caught on a counter attack.  They have only conceded three goals through six games.  Therefore, I have high hopes for the season and feel that Arsenal could have a say in the title race come the New Year.

Who Had the Best 2012 Sumer Transfer Season?

The transfer window officially closed this past Friday so it is now time to observe which European clubs were best improved.  This is an inexact science and only time will surely tell who which clubs have benefited the most, but the following three clubs look to have emerged on this side of summer in the best shape.

1.  PSG – Striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the most famous of the French club’s incoming transfers and is sure to bring world-class ability to the attack at PSG.  Having played at Inter Milan, Barcelona, and AC Milan, as well as amassing 80 appearances internationally for Sweden, Ibrahimovic is as good as they come and should help take PSG to the next level.  Also arriving at the club were experienced Brazilian center back Thiago Silva and the exciting Argentinean talent Ezequiel Lavezzi.   Further, they signed a young 19 year-old named Marco Verratti, a creative midfielder who has been compared to Andrea Pirlo.  Expect PSG to dominate France’s Ligue 1 and make some noise in the UEFA Champions League.

2. Manchester City – Although it was a rather quiet summer until just a few days ago, Manchester City showed again why having infinite funds is so much fun for assembling a squad.  They decided to buy up a great deal of young English talent with Scott Sinclair and Jack Rodwell.  Sinclair, a winger, has been an integral part of the recent success for Swansea City.  Rodwell came through the ranks at Everton as a defensive midfielder and has recently been called up to the England national side.  They also bought Spanish midfielder Javi Garcia from Benfica and young Serbian defender, Matija Nastasic.  Finally, they purchased right back Maicon from Inter Milan, a veteran right back.  Although most of these signings will be seen as projects, the club is already an incredible squad and they have displayed a strong desire to build for the future.  Last year’s Premier League champions were also to hold onto all their stars so they have merely improved.

3.  Manchester United – They basically upgraded two positions that they were already strong in with buying two superstars.  They offloaded struggling Dimitar Berbatov and brought in the EPL’s best striker Robin van Persie.  The Dutchman had a world class hat trick this weekend and probably could have scored 6 if he had converted a penalty and scored a few of the other numerous opportunities that he just missed.  Also, the club bought Shinji Kagawa, a wonderful Japanese midfielder who has been impressive in Germany for Borussia Dortmund.  The great thing for this team is that they didn’t sell anyone of note.  Yes, their midfield is aging and they should have bought some more youth there, but Giggs and Scholes are still quality and their strikers are the best in the world now between Van Persie and Wayne Rooney.

Many teams bought and sold players this summer, and although many teams will feel that they improved, those teams were also guilty of selling their best players.  Chelsea, for example is thrilled with new signings Eden Hazard and Oscar, but legendary striker Didier Drogba left the club.   Players like these will be missed and their former clubs will have to make do without them.  Therefore, since Man United, Man City, and PSG retained their best players and merely upgraded by purchasing great talent, I felt that they had the most successful 2012 summer transfer season.


Liverpool Ruin Great Chance to Deny Champions

Liverpool played their first home match of the season at Anfield yesterday against the defending EPL champions, Manchester City.  Although they played an inspired match that featured two moments of pure class, they also wasted a glorious opportunity to make a statement this season and look to be of a similar of mold as last season, when silly mistakes cost them numerous points in the table.

Manchester City started the match brightly, as Carlos Tevez was a dangerous figure who made a few decent runs on the Liverpool defense.  But then City sort of fell asleep and the Reds took over the game creating the majority of first half chances.  The crowd got behind the team and you could feel that Liverpool was on the brink of a glorious upset.

Martin Skrtel headed in a wonderful goal off a corner kick and the Anfield faithful leapt with joy.  He made a powerful run inside to meet the ball and simply banged it into the net.  Manchester City looked hopelessly lost but managed to see the half out down 1-0.

Liverpool’s errors came to the light in the second half.  In the 62nd minute, Carlos Tevez played in a cross that really ought to have been cleared, but Martin Kelly couldn’t control the ball and it fell dangerously in front of goal to Yaya Toure who managed to equalize the score.

Yet Liverpool managed to take the lead again moments later from a brilliant Luis Suarez free kick.  The shot bent perfectly around the defenders’ wall and dropped into the bottom corner.  Goalkeeper Joe Hart didn’t have a chance at saving the shot, and again Liverpool benefited from a moment of offensive genius from a set play.

But Manchester City played the game smart and waited like snakes for their opportunity.  David Silva was substituted on for the final 15 minutes and helped inspire the Blues.  His incredible ball control was on fine display as he helped orchestrate attacks late in the game.

But his skill was not to be the determining factor in the match.  No, it was Liverpool’s shaky defense that threw away the win.  All game the defense had been playing dangerous passes back to goalkeeper Pepe Reina, but these had fortunately been just out of reach of the Man City forwards.

Skrtel played another silly pass back to goal in the 80th minute.  This time Tevez pounced upon the drifting ball and was able to circumvent Reina and score the second equalizer.

Tevez had said during an interview showed before the match that he didn’t care what types of goals he scored, as they all only count as one goal.  This was clearly evident on the day.  Liverpool scored two sensational goals compared to Manchester City’s two that were created from defensive errors.  Liverpool had fought hard and should really have claimed all three points, but there was a definite mark of resiliency for Man City who was able to muster up a draw in a match where they were clearly outplayed.  Liverpool will need to correct their defensive mistakes if they are to again become a force in the Premier League.

EPL Season Starts off Just as it Finished Last Year

Anyone hoping for great changes right off the bat in the EPL will have been disappointed to see the first round of matches continue in much of the same fashion that last season ended.

Arsenal got off to a lackluster result with a 0-0 home draw with Sunderland.  In typical fashion, the Gunners held the majority of possession and passed the ball around without creating more than a handful of chances.  Arsenal began last year terribly before improving to a 3rd place finish thanks to the exploits of Robin van Persie and Alex Song, but without those players their replacements couldn’t break the deadlock.

Liverpool fell flat on their faces with a 3-0 loss to West Bromwich.  The team looks resoundingly similar under new manager Brendan Rogers, and although they faced a few questionable decisions in the match, there really is no excuse for such a one sided score-line for what was once such a proud club.  It has been several long seasons of finishing outside the top 4 for Liverpool and this result suggests the trend is set to continue.

Manchester City had a more positive afternoon that featured a comeback victory 3-2 over Southampton, recalling memories of their stunning final day last year when they won the league at the death with a similar comeback of the same score over QPR.  Although they were able to stage the comeback more comfortably with ten minutes remaining in the match, their ability to find late game heroics will make them a force again in the Premier League.

Chelsea found success as new signing Eden Hazard earned an assist and drew a penalty in their 2-0 win against Wigan Athletic.  After their two early goals the team didn’t look very strong though, and striker Fernando Torres was largely ineffective at producing chances.  At least they were able to get a win though which is something they struggled mightily with during last season’s 6th place finish.

Manchester United will play against Everton tonight in a match that Red Devils fans would like to forget from last season.  During that April match, Manchester gave up two late goals in a 4-4 draw that saw them drop two points that would have won them the league.  Based on the other recurring themes from the last two days, I suspect that this match will be another hard fought draw, as Everton has the home advantage.

So it appears as if this season is starting off in a familiar manner, but with 37 games remaining for each team, surely there will be some twists and turns as the EPL season develops.