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As the Premier League returns from yet another interminable international break, who has a more legitimate shot at unthroning Manchester City, Arsenal or Tottenham?
The bitter rivals and North London neighbours met a handful of weeks ago and played out an entertaining 2-2 draw. They are the only unbeaten teams left in the Premier League.
There are qualifiers for both, but Arsenal’s 1-0 win over City before the break shows they’ve grown since last season’s eight point collapse. The Gunners are driven by their young captain Martin Odegaard who leads the Premier League in pressures with 253. Combined with sold new signing Declan Rice, the pair press opponents with the ball and not only keep the danger out of their own end, but feed their speedy forwards and keep defenders in fear of the counterattack.
Goals obviously win games, but Arsenal are level with City for fewest goals against and they claim the most clean sheets, a sure recipe to stay near the top.
Spurs meanwhile have certainly had some good fortune in their trip to the top. Like Arsenal, they’re driven by new signing James Maddison who since arriving from relegated Leicester leads the league in driving sequences that have lead to a shooting chance for his team. Essential in the attacking buildup Maddison has been a massive addition for Spurs.
You’d have to give Arsenal the edge at the moment because of their experience from last season, but injuries and fortune will play into the answer, and given Arsenal are embroiled in the Champions League and Spurs have no European competition this season, being a bit fresher will help Tottenham.
2. How will Chelsea handle the Gunners?
After an awful start, Chelsea are coming off two wins but are facing a brutal stretch of their season. In the FUBO Game of the Week they host Arsenal this week.
After this match they play Brentford before running a gauntlet of Spurs, Manchester City, Newcastle, Brighton and Manchester United. They are already sitting in 11th, they can’t afford to play for draws through this stretch and must hope that the shocking amount of money they’ve spent begins to pay off soon.
They may be starting this portion with the sternest test. Chelsea have lost five of their last six Premier League games against Arsenal, while the Gunners are unbeaten in their last 15 league London derbies.
With Arsenal’s stout defence, Chelsea will have to find a way to break through, having scored five less goals than Arsenal so far. Although injuries have played into it, to splurge the amount of money Chelsea have and not have an established predatory striker is an indictment of their horrendous approach to building a team.
3. Which upstart will hang with the frontrunners?
This week we get a wonderful battle between fifth-place Aston Villa and seventh-place West Ham.
Along with Brighton, these two are looking to disrupt the power balance at the top, and they’re certainly capable of beating one of the top teams.
Villa being at home might make the difference here, Villa haven’t lost at home in their last 10 games, their best streak since 1983. They’re being driven by Moussa Diaby and Ollie Watkins who have paired up to create 14 chances for one another, four more than any other duo for any team this season.
If West Ham have hope it will come from Jarrod Bowen who has scored in all four of West Ham’s Premier League away games so far this season. The only other players in history to score in their first five away appearances of a season? Thierry Henry for Arsenal in 2001-02 and Mo Salah for Liverpool in 2021-22. Very good company for the underrated Bowen.
4. And what about Brighton?
While they got thumped 6-1 by Villa two weeks ago, the stats of expected goals and possession actually favoured Brighton. Full marks to Villa, they were excellent and ruthless, but it was an anomaly. Brighton bounced back with a deserved 2-2 draw with Liverpool, but now face Manchester City in a stern test of their credentials.
They are always exciting, in their eight games so far there have been 37 goals, the most in the top five European Leagues. They lead the EPL in scoring with 21, but they’ve given up 16, compare that to City’s six. Brighton will have to play a much tighter style to get points out of this one. Also consider City have lost two league matches in a row for the first time in five years and the last time they lost three in a row was seven seasons ago.
5. Will there be more goals than red cards in the Merseyside derby?
Always one of the best fixtures in the EPL. Massive atmospheres, full-blooded challenges and not always a lot of goals. In fact, it’s the matchup that’s seen the most draws in English history with 69 of their 208 meetings seeing the spoils shared.
Liverpool are better, more talented and are at home. They’ve also only lost once in their last 25 against Everton, and that was in an empty stadium during the COVID shutdown.
The Reds have already seen four red cards this season, though one of them (Alexis MacAllister) was rescinded by review afterwards, and one of the others was established as a mistake (Diogo Jota) after the game but the suspension still stood.
While Everton are scrapping in the relegation zone and Liverpool are three points off the top, these games are frantic and always eventful and close, but to be fair, Liverpool almost always win, especially at Anfield.
SATURDAY: Liverpool v. Everton; Bournemouth v. Wolves; Brentford v. Burnley; Manchester City v. Brighton; Newcastle v. Crystal Palace; Nottingham Forest v. Luton; Chelsea v. Arsenal; Sheffield United v. Manchester United.
SUNDAY: Aston Villa v. West Ham.
MONDAY: Tottenham v. Fulham.