The Premier League season has barely got going before the first international break has kicked in. Four games played, but plenty of clues to take, which may point toward some interesting developments.
Unai Emery has a brief of sorts - at the very least he needs to improve on last seasons finish of 6th place. To jump back into the top4 is what most are after though, but can we manage it?
It seems that every season is becoming that little bit tougher to rise above the rest and sit with the best. Unfortunately, the top4 is now a viable target, where before we were ridiculed for aiming for it. The funds alone for making the Champions League make it the aim for the big clubs, and for attracting new talent it can be a real boost.
Who do we have in our reticule in order to shake up the order of the last couple of seasons then?
We can discount Manchester City to start. The blue half of Manchester will surely be duking it out at the very top for the game’s big honours, and if last season is anything to go by, we were closer to the relegation zone than we were to Guardiola’s team. To erode that gap is something that will take a few years, not a few months.
Liverpool are probably the likely contenders for City’s crown, and have added well in the transfer window. They may have overspent on their targets, but the players are welcome additions. Allison cures the goalkeeping crisis that cost them not only points, but a possible European Cup. With Naby Keita pulling the strings in midfield, the Reds may well push City hard, and therefore may be out of our reach.
That leaves two places, with us, United, Chelsea and spurs.
Chelsea have also installed a new boss like us. Sarri has added a bit of steel at the back and the Blues look to be really fluid this season - just watch N’golo Kante roving forward. In Jorginho they have a player who links perfectly, and Pedro looks to be at his dangerous best. Perhaps his best business though, is keeping Hazard at the club, at least for this season. Chelsea may well be dark horses this season - and that leaves one place.
Spurs are probably the next strongest, which pains me to say. They have not been playing well, but they have still been winning, which is a real sign they have an undercurrent of strength. They did lose to Watford in their last game though, and they have a growing weakness in the centre of the park with Moussa Dembele succumbing to the strain of injuries past and not able to run things as he once did. That leaves Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama - players who give their all but are limited in terms of creating. With more and more home games becoming non home games, they lose an advantage their too. Pochettino could also be on the horizon for United should Mourinho get the boot….
That is where we have a chance of improving our finish last season. United have looked anything but reassuring. Fred, the Brazilian midfielder, has appeared shaky and will need time to acclimatise. It is the manager however, that is rocking the boat. His press conferences have bordered on self-assassination and his cryptic, fiery answers are the same ilk of the answers he gave in his last seasons at Chelsea and Real Madrid. His criticism of his players too, continues to divide a wedge between him and his squad.
So, it looks like it’s between us, a homeless spurs team and a United team that may soon be looking for a new manager.
Unai Emery has his chance of an instant impact.