The 2012/13 English Premier League season has never been more competitive. Not only are there five potential candidates for the title, six clubs are facing the hazardous fall to relegation. With only seven games into the new season, it can’t be predicted who will end where, but then again, when has football ever been predictable?
This time last season, Manchester United had stormed into first place with 19 points and were meticulously followed by Manchester City, also on 19. Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers shared 19th and 20th position after seven games and were both relegated by May. Can the end of season table really be decided in October?
Here are a few surprises that have come our way.
Everton’s Fearless Rise
There aren’t enough kind words said about Manager of the Month winner David Moyes and his squad. What the Scottish-born leader has done with the limited resources at his disposal has always been an admirable trait of his. Signings such as Nikica Jelavić for only £5.5m and Darron Gibson (free) have paid off significantly, considering Jelavić has already claimed four goals in six games and Gibson has shown great promise for the future.
Everton’s start to this season has been beyond imaginable with a magnificent opening win at home to Manchester United. Their determination to succeed and their willingness to throw bodies in order to prevent a goal has spear-headed them into 4th place in the league. With Phil Jagielka playing a starring role at the centre of defence, Steven Pienaar pulling strings in midfield and Jelavić finding the net, Moyes can be excited at what is his best assembled team yet.
The rivalry against Liverpool has always remained heated throughout the years but instead of trying to finish above their Scouse opponents, Everton can aim even higher for that Champions League spot.
Chelsea’s Midfield Dictation
As Didier Drogba stroked in the winning penalty that ultimately completed the London side’s triumph of the Champions League, many fans shuddered to think what would happen after the big Ivorian’s departure. The 34-year-old’s replacement came in the form of misfiring Fernando Torres, a £50m acquisition who had only scored seven goals in forty-six league games. With this on his mind, where was Roberto Di Matteo going to get his goals from?
Step forward a revamped £63m midfield including the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Marko Marin. Although the latter has barely featured in the new season, Hazard and Oscar have shined throughout and begun to pay back a chunk of their fee with dazzling performances. Furthermore, in the opening three games, 21-year-old Hazard created four goals and scored two himself. More interestingly, Spanish midfielder Juan Mata managed to bag the winner against Arsenal and assist four more throughout the season.
Without even mentioning the dependable Frank Lampard, Chelsea have embarked on an impressive collective in the middle of the park which has seen them recycle possession and hit the forwards early. Against the Gunners, Chelsea beat them at their own game and are beginning to work on a united front, rather than relying on one man. The question remains however, can they continue to rely on a resurgent Torres who has already scored more than half of what he achieved in the past two seasons?
QPR’s Struggle To Click
Much was said when Mark Hughes inherited the backing of billionaire chairman Tony Fernandes and whether or not the small West London club would be able to attract high-profile stars. Yet, by the end of the transfer window, nobody could have seen the likes of former Inter star Julio Cesar and Real Madrid’s Esteban Granero swap their trade for Loftus Road.
A 17th placed finish last season, Hughes claimed the team would “never be in this position again” as he watched his side avoid relegation in the last game of the season. Just seven games into the new campaign and once again, Queens Park Rangers are struggling to pick up points where it counts. The problem doesn’t lie in their performances however, but are linked to their summer recruitments.
Both Granero and Cesar are feeling the inevitable pressure of the Premier League and have to adapt very quickly in order to fit in. With a goal difference in their last four games, the signs of a good team are visible but it will be a tough job for Hughes to decipher just exactly what a winning starting eleven looks like. With wealth at his disposal, perhaps it’s a harsh lesson in life that money doesn’t always bring happiness yet as we had seen with Manchester City, eventually players do click. And maybe in the upcoming weeks, QPR will do exactly that.845085