Premier League always takes its course. Well, it does most of the time. Six games in and the table has normalised, except the fact that Arsenal are seventh, a point behind Watford, the only outliers in the top six. Or maybe, that's normal too.
Gameweek six threw no surprises at us: a rampant Manchester City scored five goals, Manchester United finally won 1-0, just the way Jose Mourinho likes it, and a Roy Hodgson side lost. With six losses from six games, Crystal Palace are yet to register any points and they are also yet to score a goal. To top it all off, their only striker Christian Benteke got injured.
Some smart guy at the club thought they would not need a backup striker over the course of a gruelling nine-month long Premier League season, where defenders love hacking down forwards more than they love their wives and girlfriends. "Benteke's not getting injured. He doesn't have bones that break, ligaments that tear and hamstrings that pull," he thought. Well, he thought wrong. One more loss and Palace will equal the ignominious record of seven straight losses set by Portsmouth eight seasons ago. Their new manager hasn't helped. To be fair, no one expected Hodgson to swoop in and fix everything. He's not a fixer. It is fairly obvious that Palace panicked after an experiment done for the long-term overhaul didn't give any short-term results, fired the foreign manager and hired an experienced English manager to placate the fans. It's a classic Premier League story and it never ends well. Unless the experienced English manager is Sam Allardyce.
It was City who were responsible for Palace's misery this time around, firing in five goals, taking their tally to 21 goals in six games. Their Mancunian neighbours, however, squeezed in a 1-0 win against Southampton. A win nevertheless and both teams sit on 16 points. Pep Guardiola versus Jose Mourinho was promised last season but it will be delivered this time around. It would be fascinating to see who outlasts the other: Guardiola's unwavering and adventurous beauty or Mourinho's relentless and bourgeois pragmatism. That is not to say United have not been playing stunning football this season. But it always comes with the Mourinho caveat: don the gown for parties, but take up the bullet-proof vest for battles. And it usually works.
However, someone might be quietly stepping in uninviting to Guardiola and Mourinho's party. Chelsea's season started in a tumult. The Diego Costa affair, funny as it was, still meant replacing a 20-goal striker who has helped the club win two championships in three years. Same goes for midfield-mountain Nemanja Matic, who is now the 'relentless' in Mourinho's relentless pragmatism we mentioned above. Alvaro Morata and Tiemoue Bakayoko were strong replacements, but several transfer targets were missed and the squad remained thin.
The shock opening defeat to Burnley started whispers of a repeat of 2015-16 season. But Antonio Conte's team is showing why they were champions last time around. Morata bagged an excellent hat-trick against Stoke on Saturday, taking his tally to six goals in the league so far. There were doubts surrounding his big money move to London, but he's proving why he is better than being relegated to Real Madrid's bench. It'll be a tough task to give Manchester teams a fight for the title, but Chelsea are a tough team. And they have always loved a good fight.
Elsewhere, Fantasy Premier League managers finally breathed a sigh of relief as Harry Kane found the net twice in Tottenham's 3-2 win over West Ham. The prolific striker seems to have put his slow start to the season behind him and found his groove. After the game, Mauricio Pochettino went as far as to claim he was in love with Kane. We'd like to point out to Pochettino that love eventually dies. He shouldn't get too attached.
Speaking of attachment, it's games like Liverpool versus Leicester City that get you attached to the "best league in the world": ninety minutes of exhilarating, often hilarious, and non-partisan fun. Liverpool survived 3-2 against the Foxes and Jamie Vardy missed a penalty. Or rather Simon Mignolet saved one.
It's amazing how Leicester are almost always involved in some of the league's best matches. They're like a Terrier, a dog that Wikipedia describes as "small, wiry, very active and fearless". The description fits about right for Leicester. They've tasted blood once, so they know it tastes really good. They are no longer scared of any big side. Liverpool themselves are of a similar breed. Philippe Coutinho was back at it again and Mohamed Salah's prolific return to Premier League continued. But we all know Liverpool don't have an issue with scoring goals. It's just that they keep conceding. The three teams in race for the title kept clean sheets this weekend. Liverpool didn't.
Fellow scousers Everton finally won too, after three straight heavy losses in the league. Ronald Koeman might have found the goalscorer he was looking for in Oumar Niasse, who came off the bench and scored twice to sink Bournemouth. The Toffees, who spent a lot of money over the summer are languishing at nineteenth. Not the start they were expecting. The relegation zone also has a magnetic effect. The teams that fall into it early, tend to stay there long. And the teams that stay there long, tend to get relegated.
On Sunday, Brighton and Hove Albion finally ended Newcastle's three-game winning run. But Rafa Benitez's side sit comfortably at mid-table. If they manage to stay there till the end of the season, you could give Benitez the manager of the year award without any controversy.
Arsenal played a Tony Pulis side on a Monday night; not really something Arsene Wenger would be looking forward to. Nothing could be more frustrating than seeing your rivals win over the weekend and prepare to face a side that has puts all its eggs in the 'Do Not Concede' basket on Monday night. But Alexandre Lacazette's brace handed the Gunners a comfortable 2-0 win. Another pleasant sight, besides the new forward finding the net, was Alexis Sanchez's typically industrious display. It was his trademark freekick that bounced off the crossbar and found Lacazette on the rebound for Arsenal's first goal. By the end, Pulis was left amidst penalty claims and diving accusations and Wenger had a smile and three points.
It's a Champions League midweek now and so it's time for Premier League teams to prove whether they're 'premier' or not. City host Shakhtar Donetsk, Liverpool take the long trip to Moscow and so do United. They face Spartak Moscow and CSKA Moscow respectively. Spurs travel to Cyprus to face Apoel Nicosia and Chelsea ready themselves for Atletico Madrid away. It is safe to say that Chelsea drew the shortest draw among English teams this European midweek. But a thumping win against a top European side, a la Tottenham against Borussia Dortmund last time around, would do wonders for their spirit. And they could drop off Diego Costa as well.
Your guide to the latest election news, analysis, commentary, live updates and schedule for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on firstpost.com/elections. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram or like our Facebook page for updates from all 543 constituencies for the upcoming general elections.
Updated Date: Sep 26, 2017 15:24:31 IST