At the start of the ongoing weekend, which is Match Day 9 of the English Premier League season, each of Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool had 20 points from eight games. City (Burley home) and Liverpool (Huddersfield away) both play today (Sunday), while Chelsea would’ve played Manchester United at Stamford Bridge in the early Saturday kickoff by the time you read this.
At the other end of the weekend, the league season would still not be a fourth of its way through, of course meaning that there’s still a long way to go and a lot can happen between now and May. But early season performances are tilting towards a three-horse title race between the sides at the summit at the start of Match Day 9.
Even so, to put things into perspective, there are still only eight points between the top 11 sides. More critically there are just two points between the top five sides, with both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur on 18 points.
Hence, among the so-called Big Six, the only side that looks like being out of the title race are Manchester United, which at the time of writing are seven points adrift of the top trio. Barring a shock win against Chelsea on Saturday, United’s participation in the title race should be reaffirmed as done and dusted.
And so, it could well turn out to be a five-horse title race with both Spurs and Arsenal recovering from early season setbacks to now being truly in the mix.
However, while Unai Emery seems to have found the groove for his side, considering that the pressure to actually win the title isn’t quite as high at the Emirates Stadium, he and his club have the time for the transition at their hands.
There is more urgency to finally win some silverware at Spurs. But do they have what it takes to outdo all of the top current top three? They definitely have a starting 11 that could beat anyone on their day, and in Harry Kane arguably the most coveted player in the league – although Eden Hazard might disagree. They have participated in title races in recent years, but do Spurs have what it takes mentally to go the distance?
Similar questions have been asked of Liverpool as well – as discussed in this space three weeks ago – and their belief to get the three-decade old monkey off their back.
Liverpool did start off as the team to challenge Man City, and were leading the table in the early rounds as well. The two sides played a goalless draw at Anfield, which was a great opportunity for Liverpool to affirm themselves as the frontrunners in the title race this season.
As things stand, it’s City that remain the favourites, with Chelsea on the way up as well. The latter could really throw the gauntlet down by beating Manchester United convincingly on Saturday.
There’s a good chance all three of the top sides would win their matches this weekend. In fact, there’s a pretty decent chance that all five of the top sides would win, and perhaps begin separating themselves form the rest as a block.
It would all depend on how the teams fare with their fixtures over the next couple of months, with festive period at the turn of the year, usually the time where the table begins to take permanency in terms of its shape.
Spurs for instance, will begin a run of fixtures that could have a permanent impact on their league campaign, as they host Man City and Chelsea, and travel to Arsenal over the next five weeks. Meanwhile, in addition to the North London derby, Arsenal will play Liverpool at home and Manchester United away in the next six weeks.
Each of the top three has a mixed bag when it comes to the next five fixtures.
Liverpool – Cardiff (H), Arsenal (A), Fulham (H), Watford (A), Everton (H) – have the tough trip away to the Emirates along with the Merseyside derby.
Chelsea – Burnley (A), Crystal Palance (H), Everton (H), Spurs (A), Fulham (A) – arguably have the best fixtures among the top three, but have the trip to Spurs and would’ve hosted United on Saturday as well.
City – Spurs (A), Southampton (H), Man Utd (H), West Ham (A), Bournemouth (H) – have Tottenham away and the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium over the next five weeks.
Despite the challenges that pop out in the fixture list, each of the three sides would be confident of getting points tallies good enough to keep them in the hunt for the title.
By December it could be a three, four or five horse race for the Premier League, but it’s the current top three that look like being the frontrunners, as things stand.