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The ten-game review: how are the Premier League’s ‘top 6’ faring?

Who’s exceeding expectations and who could do a lot better?

Arsenal – 4th, 22 points from a possible 30
After opening their season with two losses to Manchester City and Chelsea, Arsenal have kicked on post-Wenger, remaining unbeaten in their last eight league games, winning seven. On the whole, new manager Unai Emery’s signings have settled into his formation well and crucially Emery is getting more from the likes of Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil, and Aaron Ramsey who have looked disillusioned in recent times. Despite the goals and star power of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal do look a little light in terms of game-changing players compared to their rivals but as a squad they seem to be improving all the time under Emery. Their title chances will probably fade by the midpoint of the season but expect them to make the top four.
Final league position: 4th

Chelsea – 3rd, 24 points from a possible 30
Also under new management, Chelsea look revived following the arrival of Maurizio Sarri. Thus far, Chelsea are still unbeaten in the league, only dropping points in draws against West Ham, Liverpool, and Manchester United. New signings Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic have added new guile to the already impressive midfield but in attack Chelsea still look a bit pedestrian, with Olivier Giroud limited by his lack of speed and fitness and Alvaro Morata still yet to deliver the consistency expected of a £60m player. The shining light of the team has of course been Eden Hazard, who has provided seven goals and three assists so far. However, should Hazard get injured, Chelsea could struggle to maintain their campaign for a sixth Premier League title.
Final league position: 3rd

Liverpool – 2nd, 26 points from a possible 30
In his fourth season as manager, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool finally look ready to make a realistic challenge for the title. Liverpool are arguably the most exciting of the top six in attack but they have always looked notoriously shaky at the back. But with the club record signing of Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk last January, Liverpool have become a far more obstinate team defensively, only conceding four goals in their opening ten fixtures. Liverpool’s marauding front three have looked less intimidating this season but the team as a whole have still managed a two goal-per-game ratio with Klopp adopting an improved defensive approach. Liverpool possess greater depth than they have done in recent seasons. But like Chelsea, should they lose star defender van Dijk through injury, Liverpool’s title aspirations could unravel over the course of a few games.
Final league position: 2nd

Manchester City – 1st, 26 points from a possible 30
The title is City’s to lose – but any signs of a plateau are non-existent. An early draw against newly-promoted Wolverhampton gave their pursuers early hope but since then they have only dropped points in a draw against Liverpool at Anfield. City’s only major signing, Riyad Mahrez, has started well with four goals in ten games and the return of Benjamin Mendy from a long-term knee injury also feels like a new signing – especially as he currently sits atop the assists table with five. City, even after the summer and minimal spending, still have the most accomplished squad with seemingly world class player after world class player waiting in the wings should the likes of David Silva and Sergio Aguero limp out of a game. And under the relentless artistry of Pep Guardiola, City remain the primary force in the Premier League and the favourites to complete back-to-back title wins.
Final league position: 1st

Manchester United – 8th, 17 points from a possible 30
On the other side of Manchester, United have endured a mixed start to the season, recording losses to Brighton, Tottenham, West Ham, and drawing with Wolverhampton and Chelsea. Under Jose Mourinho, an increasingly polarising figure, United’s squad have looked fractured and disjointed with evidence of fallout populating the sport gossip columns daily. A title challenge currently looks out of the question but there has certainly been a suggestion that United are turning a corner results wise even if their gameplay continues to be uninspiring. United have more than enough to be competitive and in Mourinho they have a manager who can engineer a fruitful campaign. Beyond United’s questionable defence, the overriding problem seems to be personality and ego. This stretches to both the manager and the players. For United to rediscover their Ferguson-era success, Mourinho needs to show greater solidarity with his players and vice-versa. If the situation doesn’t improve swiftly, I can see United’s board trying to replace Mourinho before the January window. The title challenge is already gone; by Christmas, so could top four.
Final league position: 6th (or maybe worse)

Tottenham – 5th, 21 points from a possible 30
After a completely barren transfer window, Tottenham’s squad look to be suffering in a post-World Cup season. Tottenham have been criticised for their lack of transfer activity whilst their closest rivals have all brought in at least one big money signing. Tottenham, who had nine players make it to the semi-finals of the World Cup over the summer, have looked fatigued in a number of matches so far this season. That strain could have greater repercussions later on as Tottenham attempt to balance league and European aspirations. However, Tottenham remain league and top four contenders as they currently sit just five points behind the joint top teams, Manchester City and Liverpool. Spurs’ only dropped points have been losses at the hands of City and Liverpool, and a shock loss to Watford. These are encouraging statistics but as the season progresses, I worry for Spurs’ lack of depth. The hangover from the World Cup is sure to have its effect – as Christmas approaches the busy schedule will further increase the chances of stress injuries. If Spurs lose a few key players, I struggle to see where the reinforcements are going to come from.
Final league position: 5th

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