Those At The Top Now Need To Find Consistency...

It has felt like a stop-start beginning to the Premier League, and very few teams have hit full stride. Nine games in six weeks should sort things a touch. We're excited...

Last Updated: 21/11/13 at 08:41 Post Comment

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Good things come to those who wait.

You could be forgiven for feeling a little bit underwhelmed by the Premier League this season. Part of that stems from the fact that we have so far seen the lowest goals per game in the top flight for almost 40 years, but I suspect that most of this 'humph' syndrome is derived from the stop-start nature of the league programme thus far.

Whether you love or loathe international weeks (and here at 365 Towers we're sat somewhere in the middle, sucking sweetly on a lollipop), there is no doubt that the unusually crowded international schedule has been to the detriment of any early season excitement. Since mid-August England's national team have played just four games fewer than those in the top division have in the league. As soon as things have threatened to click into stride, Roy Hodgson has popped his head round the door and told us he'll be waiting downstairs.

The benefit of such a stuttering start to the season is that the Premier League is now forced to play catch-up. After 11 games in over three months, nine rounds of matches in less than six weeks between this weekend and New Year's Day is the reward for our (im)patience.

The abiding conclusion until now is that most of the top clubs have struggled to get out of second gear, the occasional revving of engines sparked by a comfortable home victory, but rarely hitting full throttle. I've never even had a driving lesson so I'm leaving the car analogy parked there.

It was always likely that the teams fighting for the title would be slow starters. Of last season's top seven, four changed managers and another (Spurs) lost their best player. That left just Arsenal and Liverpool, so it is perhaps no surprise that these are the two teams that have kicked on most (a vastly over-achieving Southampton team aside), feeding off the unfamiliarity and upheaval around them. The last three months have certainly acted as a case for the defence of stability as a key to success at the highest level.

Even so, the underperformance of those teams expected to compete has been startling. Manchester City's away performances have largely been utterly woeful, losing as many by mid-November as during the whole of last season, whilst Manchester United suffered their worst start to a season in 24 years, and are still yet to hit full stride. Chelsea have already lost two league games under Jose Mourinho, more than he lost during his entire first season at Stamford Bridge.

The results of such inconsistencies are seen in the Premier League table. Having the top eight teams separated by just six points at this stage of the season is bizarre - never has the gap been smaller since the formation of the Premier League. Having the clear favourites for the title (City are 5/2) in eighth place after almost a third of the season is odder still - this is not a typical title race.

Over the next six weeks, we will finally start to see the resolution of certain questions. The validity of Arsenal's title bid, Liverpool's top four aims and United's improvement under David Moyes will all be tested. This is the time during which patience with an underperforming Manuel Pellegrini will wear thin, and "It's incredible the way we lost this match" is not an excuse that will wash for much longer. And this is the time for Andre Villas-Boas to magically solve Spurs' rather concerning goalscoring problems.

This period is also crucial because it will dictate the necessity for spending in the upcoming transfer window. If the league table is anywhere near as tight as it looks currently by Christmas, chequebooks will be significantly readied for the January sales. £50million for Radamel Falcao, £30million for Marco Reus or £20million for Karim Benzema may look expensive in November, but such a signing looks cheap six months later if it's the difference between winning the league and finishing second, or finishing third or fifth.

Between this weekend and January 1st there are 17 fixtures between current members of the top eight, at a rate of almost three per week. Thirteen of them will be televised. As intriguing as international weeks can be, you'll excuse us while we giggle with glee in the corner.

Daniel Storey - follow him on Twitter

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Readers' Comments


may well get slated by other United fans for this, but out of the three contenders, I'd far prefer Liverpool to win the title. Yes some elements of their fanbase can be a bit OTT, yes they're our biggest rivals and yes it will make our poor season feel even more like the end of an era (Fergie's gone, Liverpool are back on top). However I just have to applaud Brendan Rodgers and the way he's turned Liverpool around in just a couple of seasons. It...

Please Stop Telling Us What To Think


ooray! We are all excited now, we beat a very mediocre team! With all due respect to WHU supporters, not winning that game shouldn't even be a consideration. This is the problem, there is no winning mentality at the Emirates - we're all congratulating ourselves beating a team that we have a winning record against.

Wenger hails important win


s this meant to be an aspiration for United supporters? Moyes mediocrity strikes again. I see the Bayern boys don't want to sign for him, and his reputation amongst the senior European coaches make other key signings unlikely.

De Gea's Europa League target

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