Scotland V England Saturday 24th February. 4:45PM. BBC One Scotland v England renew their rivalry…
We’re seven games into the new Premier League season, and typically there have been some surprise packages enjoying great starts to the campaign.
Chelsea were tipped as the title favourites before a ball was kicked due to their impressive acquisitions in the summer transfer window, but few could have foreseen just how well Jose Mourinho’s side would fare from the off.
The Blues, top of the table, have picked up 19 points from a possible 21, while having faced three of last season’s top-five already (6-3 win against Everton, 1-1 draw against Man City, and a 2-0 win against Arsenal). Summer arrivals Cesc Fabregas (7 assists) and Diego Costa (9 goals) have been at the heart of their bright start, and many believe they could end the campaign unbeaten as a result.
Just two places below them are Southampton. The South Coast club lost Luke Shaw, Dejan Lovren, Calum Chambers, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert this summer, and some bookmakers tipped them for the drop.
But under new manager Ronaldo Koeman, the Saints have surprised everyone seven games in. They sit in a lofty third place in the table, taking advantage of a favourable fixture list early on, and boast the best defence in the league, despite losing three of their backline in the summer.
Another two places below are another surprise outfit in Swansea City. Few thought Garry Monk’s appointment would amount to anything with the Welsh club due to his inexperience in management, but the Jacks have impressively picked up 11 points from seven games.
The form of Nathan Dyer (3 goals), Jonjo Shelvey (29 tackles or interceptions) and Gylfi Sigurdsson (6 assists) has been key to their bright start. As they are currently winless in their last four, whether or not Swansea can maintain their league form as the campaign unfolds remains to be seen.
Newly-promoted Leicester City coasted to promotion from the Championship last season, but making the step-up to the Premier League always promised to be difficult. However, the Foxes have started the campaign in dream form, picking up nine points against opponents such as Everton, Arsenal, Stoke City, Manchester United and Burnley.
Nigel Pearson’s men are five points clear of relegation, and are one of five sides still unbeaten at home. They’ve picked up 22% of the points needed for the usually safe 40-point tally, and they have another 93 points to play for.
West Ham and manager Sam Allardyce came under intense criticism for poor form last season and an unattractive direct style of play. Allardyce was given a list objective by club co-owners David Gold & David Sullivan this summer – the main target of which was to instil a new attacking style to appease the supporters.
Surprisingly, Allardyce has delivered, and West Ham have responded in brilliant fashion. The Hammers are in 7th place, and have already picked up a memorable 1-0 win against Liverpool.
The Londoners bright start has also seen an upturn in form for former Liverpool flop Stewart Downing (1 goal, 3 assists). Summer signing Diafra Sakho (4 goals) has also played his part in West Ham’s great form, and supporters are now hopeful of a top-half finish.
There are, however, many Premier League clubs who have surprisingly endured horrific results early on and sit in the opposite end of the table than what was predicted for them prior to the start of the 2014/15 campaign.
After qualifying for the Europa League and coming close to pipping Arsenal for a Champions League place last season, big things were expected of Everton. Roberto Martinez’s side, however, sit just one place above the relegation zone, while having won just one game from seven.
The Toffees have the worst defence in the league too (16 goals conceded), and their aspirations of finishing in the top-five this season look already slim.
Everton aren’t on their own. Their Merseyside rivals Liverpool have also been disappointing this season. Brendan Rodgers side have lost three and drawn one of their seven games, conceding more goals (10) than the majority of teams in the division.
Defeats to West Ham and Aston Villa has seen Liverpool already nine points adrift of top spot in the Premier League. They lost just three games in their last 25 games in 2013/14. It took them five games this season.
The Reds are being ruled out of a Champions League place in the league as a result this season, with Coral giving odds of 4/6 for Liverpool to finish outside of the top-four.
Newcastle United’s poor form has supporters genuinely worrying that the side could suffer their second relegation in five years. The Magpies are winless and 18th in the Premier League table, with manager Alan Pardew the subject of fans’ frustration.
United have just four points from seven games, with the third-worst defensive record (14) in the top flight. The Toon Army have picked up just five wins from their last 27 league games, losing 17 matches. Comparisons are being made to their ill-fated 2008/09 campaign that saw United relegated from the Premier League, and as the wait for a first league win of the season goes on, pressure will mount on the club.
After spending the majority of last season at the summit, Arsenal’s start to the new campaign has been a big disappointment to hopeful supporters. The Gunners missed out on the Premier League title by seven points, but they are nine points off top spot after just seven games.
With no win on their travels, while suffering a host of injuries in key areas, it’s hard to see how the Gunners will make back the ground on the sides above them, especially considering they’ve amassed a total of three points from the four games against top-six opposition so far.
Manchester United look much-improved this season, and are expected to be challenging for a European place, meaning an under-performing Arsenal side have even more competition to stay in the top-four.
Newly-promoted Queens Park Rangers were always going to struggle in the Premier League, but under Harry Redknapp many are surprised with how poorly they’ve started the campaign.
Rangers boast a stronger side than a lot of teams around them, with Rio Ferdinand, Steve Caulker at the heart of the defence, and Sandro & Leroy Fer at the heart of the midfield. But the Hoops are bottom of the Premier League, with five defeats from seven games. They have the second-worst defensive record in the division (15), and their manager revealed he won’t sign a new deal until their future is resolved.
QPR’s horrendous away form (four defeats, 1 goal scored, 12 goals conceded) is what many believe could see them down. They’ve failed to score in four of their seven games, and will come up against Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City in the next four weeks.