As the English Premier League is now on the international break, it is a great time to look back at the wild and unexpected start to the 2020/2021 season. So far, teams who many expected to be near the bottom of the table are near the top, and teams that experts thought would be competing for top four are near the bottom.
Looking at the top of the table, it is crazy to not see either Liverpool or Manchester City. Instead, there is another team from Merseyside on top: Everton. Everton had a great summer transfer window and it has translated into a great start to the league. The Toffees have played four games and have gotten all three points in each to have a league leading 12 points at the international break. Fueled by a great manager in Carlo Ancelotti and an important transfer signing in James Rodriguez, Everton looks like they might be able to compete for the Premier League title this season.
Another club that has everyone surprised at their place in the table is Aston Villa. Many, including myself, had Villa getting relegated this season as they barely escaped relegation last season. Instead, they have taken all three points in their three games including a 7-2 thrashing against defending champions Liverpool. Aston Villa is led by Jack Grealish, who already has six goal contributions this season. While it is unlikely Villa will keep up this form, if they turn into another Leicester City 2015/2016 team I would not be too surprised.
Looking at the defending champions, Liverpool has some problems. While they still have a lethal offense with Sadio Mane, Robert Firmino, Mohamed Salah supplying the Reds with many goals, their defense does not look as strong. Joe Gomez does not look like a strong center back partner to Virgil van Dijk and his mistakes have put Liverpool in some bad situations. Looking at Virgil, while still arguably the best center back in the world, he is not on the level he was in 2018/2019 anymore. In addition, the Reds fullbacks are much better at attacking than defending. This has led them to getting exposed on the counter attack. Both Leeds and Aston Villa did well in their matchups with Liverpool by doing this, which may have created a plan of attack for teams in the future.
Looking now towards the bottom of the table, two surprises are the Manchester clubs. While Manchester City was another club that many predicted could win the league, the team has a serious weakness. Currently without starting striker Sergio Aguero, City is having a difficult time converting their chances. In addition, their defense is still very shaky. While City will likely pick up form when Aguero returns, they still do not look nearly as good as they did in 2017/2018 or 2018/2019 when they won the league back to back.
The other Manchetser club is in a much deeper predicament. Manchester United looks like a team that is lost. They just suffered one of the worst defeats in recent club history when they lost to Tottenham 6-1 at Old Trafford. United’s defense looks awful and their attack has been less than stellar as well. Although United finished last season’s restart well, they could not keep momentum into this season. Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does not really have the club in a direction which is holding them back. With Solskjaer in charge I cannot see Manchester United competing for top four.
With international break here, these were some takeaways I had from the season to this point. So far this Premier League season has been electric. If it continues this way it may be up there for one of the best ever. We will see what happens when the Premier League returns, but this season is just getting started.