Man City gets out on top early to lead the Premier League standings
After emphatically securing last season’s Premier League title, Chelsea has stumbled out the gates to start the 2015-2016 season. Their pompous manager Jose Mourinho has his club near the bottom of the table one month into the season. An opening 2-2 draw against Swansea City saw goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois ejected with a red card while colliding into Bafetimbi Gomis. The striker got his vengeance on new acquisition Asmir Begovic as the ensuing penalty kick rattled the net. The frustration for Blues fans would only grow from there.
In their following match, Manchester City devastated Chelsea with three goals in impressive fashion. Chelsea stumbled into a raucous Etihad Stadium as the relentless pursuit from manager Manuel Pellegrini’s side out-paced Chelsea. World-class forward Sergio Aguero, who is currently sidelined by an injured knee, kicked off the festivities in the 31-minute mark with sharp passes from David Silva and Yaya Toure assisting the Argentinian. Then, right before the 79-minute mark, Vincent Kompany received a corner kick and deposited a header past Begovic. Shortly after, Fernandinho joined in on the fun with a rocket from the edge of the penalty box. Diego Costa was petulant throughout the match as Chelsea fell 3-0.
Mourinho, who has never spent more than three seasons managing a single club, has absorbed the brunt of the blame for his club’s poor outings. Controversy swirling around the demotion of medical staffer Eva Carneiro plus his abrasiveness towards the media has many speculating if the third season curse has manifested yet again.
Sitting high atop the standings are the aforementioned Manchester City. They bolstered their midfield with summer signees Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne, but the key contributors have been familiar faces. Pellegrini has predicated his philosophy on midfielders, relying on their creativity and precision. The inventive trio of Silva, Samir Nasri and Toure weave through defenses and establish passing lanes for one another, allowing a free-flowing offense to flourish. With wins in their first five matches and the back line yielding zero goals in that stretch, City is poised to remain in contention all season.
The darlings of the Premier League thus far have been Leicester City. Rising from the doldrums of England’s second-tier soccer league last season, they won four of their last six contests to secure a spot in top-flight competition for their second consecutive season and have thrived. Algerian international Riyad Mahrez has led the team with four goals in five games, equaling last season’s total, including a clutch 82nd minute strike against Tottenham to seal a draw at home.
Jamie Vardy and Marc Albrighton, who have combined for a total of four goals and four assists throughout five matches, have complemented Mahrez as the attacking third of the field. And having guys named Danny Drinkwater and Joseph Dodoo must be great for team morale.
Leicester City have taken advantage of their relatively weak schedule and vaulted into the top four. Of their first five opponents, only Tottenham and West Ham finished in the top half of the table, and Bournemouth is in the Premier League for the first time in their 125-year history. The Foxes have their first true litmus test, a Sep. 26 match versus Arsenal.
Superb goalkeeper Petr Cech was expected to elevate Arsenal into serious title contenders as the marquee signing of the summer. However, the Gunners opened the season with an unlikely loss at home to West Ham 2-0. They will be missing forward Danny Welbeck and midfielder Jack Wilshere as both recover from leg injuries and are expected back in three months. Manager Arsene Wenger’s decision to remain stagnant during the transfer window has been questioned by many pundits.
Still, Arsenal appear dedicated to the squad as currently assembled. There is cohesion up front with the marauding defense of Francis Coquelin and the intuitive Santi Cazorla leading a potent counterattack. Mesut Ozil fills highlight reels with his ability to evade defenders and craft scoring chances. His wizardry is the key to Arsenal’s attack alongside Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey darting towards the goal. Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud alternate as starting forward reaping the rewards of exquisite passing.
Arsenal have rebounded since their opening defeat, winning three of their next four and drawing 0-0 with Liverpool in a poor defensive effort bailed out by two head-turning saves by Cech. Strong fixtures loom ahead for the Gunners as they seek to reclaim the title for the first time in 12 years.
Manchester United is known as soccer royalty around the world. Yet the Red Devils have not climbed to the top of the league since legendary manager Alex Ferguson retired in 2013. Following the debacle that was David Moyes’s one-year tenure, Dutch manager Louis Van Gaal was brought in for his controlling demeanor and structured approach and led the club to a fourth-place finish. Fans were not satisfied, as their thirst for glory was not quenched just yet.
United seemingly failed to address their glaring weakness at the forward position during the transfer window. They had targeted superstars like Neymar and were rumored to have attempted resigning Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid. Instead, who they got was 19-year-old Anthony Martial from AS Monaco for £36 million, the most ever for a teenager. As Wayne Rooney sat due to an ailing hamstring, the youngster with moderate professional experience would be called upon sooner than expected.
The second half of their match against hated rivals Liverpool made viewers forget about the lethargic first half. A well-conceived free kick left Daley Blind open to rifle the ball past Simon Mignolet. A penalty kick by Ander Herrera gave United a 2-0 lead at the 70th minute. Liverpool fought back as Christian Benteke struck a beautiful bicycle kick in the 84th minute, cutting the deficit in half.
The much-maligned Martial shined moments later as he glided past three defenders and sent Old Trafford Stadium into hysteria, securing a 3-1 victory and a top-three ranking for United five games in.