STAR PREVIEW: Early Signs – Premier League

Liverpool's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Arsenal's Ainsley Maitland-Niles during the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool. Picture date: 24th August 2019. Picture credit should read: Darren Staples/Sportimage via PA Images

The Premier League: Star Sports Graduate Intern Cameron Brown looks at the first four Premier League fixtures

The pinnacle of English football is back and what a fantastic first few fixtures we’ve had. We’ve seen Liverpool’s dominance, Chelsea’s struggles and a surprise package in the form of a certain Sheffield United. So, what exactly can we take away from the first 4 fixtures leading into the international break.

Liverpool have opened the season in fine form with a flawless start. They have taken maximum points from their first four game which included a 3-1 victory against Unai Emery’s reinvented Arsenal. Jurgen Klopp’s men have made it clear from the get-go that they want to capture the elusive Premier League title that keeps slipping through their fingers. It is arguable a two-horse race between Liverpool and the reigning champions Manchester City who currently sit 4/9 favourites. Value can be found in Liverpool winning the league at 9/4 however, as they have been winning without Naby Keita and 2018/19 Golden Glove winner Alisson Becker. These two players can only strengthen an already strong team.

City have also started how they mean to go on, only faltering in a 2-2 draw to Spurs. When facing lower league opposition some teams may ease off the pressure, but City have stayed aggressive – killing the likes of West Ham and Brighton off with incredible style and flawless execution. City have been so impressive in front of goal that they have registered less than a two-goal advantage in all three of their wins. On the other hand, what makes Liverpool such a good price at 9/4 is Pep’s undeniable lust for a Champions League trophy. Many fans and pundits alike have begun to question whether Pep really can make it in Europe after his failing the past few seasons. If Pep and City were to focus more on the Champions League, a title Liverpool won last season, then Klopp’s men could strike.

The battle for top for looks to be as open as it ever has been with the usual suspects all struggling with issues of their own. Tottenham Hotspur have looked rocked by the ongoing transfer rumours surrounding the squad, which is something that Pochettino has brought up in numerous press conferences. This paired with an injury to Tanguy Ndombele has seen spurs lose to Newcastle and throw away a 2-0 advantage to Arsenal in the North London Derby, barely clinging on for a draw.

Chelsea’s Head Coach Frank Lampard

Frank Lampard has had quite an  uphill battle since taking the reigns at Chelsea. The transfer ban imposed on the club has limited him to the squad that was left by his predecessor and he can’t have any influence on this until the ban is lifted. An opening day thumping at the hands of Manchester United would have been something that Lampard was eager to forget and a draw to an exciting Leicester side and a maiden win for him against Norwich put it firmly in the past.

However, a second half resurgence from newly promoted Sheffield United at Stamford Bridge has cast a grey cloud over Chelsea as they lack the killer instinct they once had. The same can be said for Manchester United, who have only picked up the one win (against Chelsea), while drawing to Wolves and Southampton and losing to Crystal Palace at home. Arsenal look favourites of the three to finish within the top four at 4/5 after an inspiring transfer window from Emery. The rejuvenated side still has some distinct defensive problems, but injury returns in October for both Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierny could be the missing links for Arsenal’s defensive woes.

With such a poor opening start to the season for the top 6, it’s left the door wide open for multiple teams looking to break their way into Europe. Leicester currently lead the line, undefeated in their opening four games, with draws at Wolves and Chelsea being the stand outs. The former Premier League Champions have the squad capable of doing so and under Brendan Rodgers’ guidance really are a force to be reckoned with. Breaking into the top 4 would seem unrealistic but judging by the teams around them it’s no wonder the price has been shortening to 8/1. However, do they have what it takes to finish above either Spurs or Arsenal? It’s hard to imagine. Also thrown into the mix are Everton who had a fantastic summer transfer window and have made a steady start to the campaign. Although top 4 may seem unlikely, I wouldn’t rule out the Toffee’s chances for a spot in the Europa League next season.

Down at the other end of the table, Watford have made a miserable start only collecting a single point from their opening games and have left them with the worst goal difference in the league (-6). Early signs suggest that Watford have a relegation battle on their hands and welcoming Arsenal to Vicarage Road indicates that things won’t be getting any better immediately.

Also sitting in the bottom 3 are Norwich. They’ve had tough opening games going against both Liverpool and Chelsea but whilst welcoming Manchester City to Carrow Road next week may lead to more of the same, they can at least find hope in the performances of Timmu Pukki and Todd Cantwell. Pukki has scored 5 goals in 4 games and it seems that Norwich will be relying on him heavily throughout the season. If he can’t keep his form it looks as if it would be curtains for Norwich.

International Break 1: Premier League Predictions
These predictions have been made based on the first four games of the season.

The top 6:

1. Liverpool
2. Manchester City
3. Arsenal
4. Tottenham
5. Leicester
6. Manchester United

I believe once Arsenal have their currently injured defenders fit and ready, they’ll look like a new team finishing in the top four for the first time since 2015/16 with early form suggesting they’ll once again best Tottenham. Arsenal to finish within the top 4 is currently priced at 4/5 which could be a tempter.

Leicester will be the surprise package this season and if the awful starts of Chelsea and Manchester United continue, they’ll look very sure to book their place in Europe once more. Some may say it’s very ambitious to place Leicester so high up the table, but let’s not forget what they are capable of. If Pep has his focus set on Champions League football, then it could be Liverpool’s year. However, I can’t see anyone else getting close to these two giants for the new few seasons.

The bottom 3:

18. Norwich
19. Brighton
20. Watford

Watford currently look like a lost cause sitting at the bottom of the table with no signs at all of improvement. Serious changes are needed if they want to continue to be a Premier League club. Brighton did well to stay up last season but three uninspiring performances against West Ham, Southampton and City could have laid the foundations for the rest of the campaign. Norwich can and will be getting results this season but based on the opening games and what we’ve already seen they could easily slip into the bottom three, as predicted here. I expect this to be one of the tightest relegation battles we’ve seen. Cameron Brown

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)

PROFIT/LOSS SINCE JAN 1 2017: PROFIT 223.76 points
(excluding Ryan Sidebottom Ashes bet (c/f double, Ashes preview outright, 4th Test), Political Bets posted 8 August, Premier League ante-post)