If you believe the bookies, this season is a done deal. Manchester City are odds-on favourites to win with every bookmaker. That’s a very short price at this early stage of the season. The only other team under 10:1 is Liverpool, so it’s very much seen as a two horse race already.
Chelsea and Spurs are in the next range, under 20:1, whilst you can already get 40:1 about Manchester United winning the league, or 50:1 about Arsenal’s chances. Watford, who won their first four games before losing to Manchester United, are at 250:1.
That’s incredible odds when you consider the pedigree of some of these teams.
In the 26 seasons of the Premier League, Chelsea have won the competition 5 times, as recent as 2015 and 2017 and finished 2nd 4 times. Yes they had a blip last season after a bad start, but things are looking up. Chelsea have a new manager, the Italian Maurizio Sarri and had to overcome some negative off-field issues in the pre-season. They made some significant last minute purchases, 2 midfielders Jorginho and Kovacic and then broke the world record for a goalkeeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga. The players seem happy again and they are back into the winning habit, even though they’re not yet playing at their best. Eden Hazard has started the season on fire and could be the catalyst for another title challenge.
Tottenham created headlines by not signing any new players in the off-season, although they feel comfortable with the talented young squad they have. The World Cup hangover, where they had 9 players go through to the semi finals, the most of any club, has meant an inconsistent start to the season. They were totally outplayed in the first half by Manchester United, before their class shone through in the second half and allowed them to pinch three goals. A week later they couldn’t repeat that performance, losing to Watford. Can they improve on last season?
When you think of Premier League success, you think of Manchester United. They have won the EPL 50% of the time, yes, half of all the years it’s been played. After a difficult couple of years following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, they pulled back into second spot last season, a position they had filled another 5 times previously. That’s a hell of a record. This season Manchester United have had a difficult start, at times playing well, other times not showing the desire needed. Mourinho has come under criticism for his handling of stars like Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial, and the media have generally written off their chances already. However a wounded bull can be dangerous and Mourinho now has all the motivation he needs to fire his troops into action. They certainly are not 40:1 chances.
Arsenal have a different feel to them this year. Wenger has gone and been replaced by 46 year old Spaniard, Unai Emery, who has a track record of success at Sevilla and Paris Saint Germain. However their style of play was expected to change to a more pragmatic, hard working system looking to counter attack, rather than the possession game Wenger preferred. They had a tough start, losing games against both Manchester City and Chelsea, but now he gets a chance to implement his ideas. Interestingly he is only the Head Coach, with others in charge of transfers. They have so far signed a goalkeeper and two defenders, placing the focus on strengthening the defence, and the midfield still has some question marks, although admittedly the strike force is razor sharp. Their odds are about right.
So whilst Manchester City and Liverpool deserve top billing and at this stage do shape as the likely contenders, I certainly wouldn’t write off the chances of Chelsea or Manchester United just yet.
What’s your thoughts?