Top 5 all win. Is it more of the same in England?


Korean Heung Min Son played the last ten minutes for Spurs on opening weekend
Photo: Ali Gilmore

Top 5 all win. Is it more of the same in England?

by Steve Clare

Liverpool 4, West Ham 0. Man United 2, Leicester 1. Arsenal 0, Manchester City 2. Huddersfield 0, Chelsea 3. And so it goes on.

Last year’s top five, who finished  with a goal difference of +227 and 91 more wins than defeats, all set off to a winning start this weekend as the 2018/19 EPL season opened its doors for business. Arsenal who finished sixth and arguably belong in that group, only lost because Manchester City were their opponents.

During the off season, various pundits expressed hopes that high spending Everton could narrow that gap but the side that finished 14 points off sixth place, lost more games than they won, and finished 2018 with a -14 goal difference, could only draw at promoted and high spending Wolverhampton. Admittedly, only Richarlison of their new acquisitions started and Lucas Digne played five minutes, and they also battled the entire second half a man short after Phil Jagielka was sent off. So there is toffee flavoured hope.

Burnley who came seventh drew 0-0 at Southampton and the other high spending promoted club, Fulham, lost 0-2 at home to Crystal Palace, who are nobody’s favourite to break into the Top Six. Only Bournemouth and Watford were winners outside those, and they were at home to promoted Cardiff and Brighton respectively.

Needless to say, which inexorably means the author is about to say it, many sides have yet to incorporate their new signings and those who played in the World Cup have had a limited off season, affecting their freshness.

Yerry Mina did not turn out for Everton, City’s David SIlva stayed in Manchester as his side travel to London and Bournemouth’s record signing Jefferson Lerma didn’t feature. Neither did Diego Rico. Watford did not field either new Catalan arrival Gerard Deulofeu or Marc Navarro, although new Swedish arrival Ken Sema played the last ten minutes. Tottenham played Harry Kane and Christian Erisken from the start but restricted Heung Min Son to the last ten minutes.

In short, there is a great deal of good stuff yet to go on show and for most of us, Everton still represent the best chance of cracking last year’s Top Six. Wolverhampton may still be second favourites. Arsenal did look good in places against Manchester City despite being outgunned and having a new manager. Sadly for them, they travel across town to Chelsea next weekend and may be looking up at more than five teams by full time. Hopefully, one of Fulham, Palace, Bournemouth or Wolves can give them a run for their money.

Fans of Manchester City might scoff at the idea of a Top Six and point out there is really a Top 1.

Given that City’s next six opponents are this year’s and last year’s six promoted clubs, they might well find factual sustenance for that point. By the time they visit Anfield, Liverpool will have faced Palace, Brighton, Leicester, Southampton and two tough away matches in London at Chelsea and Spurs. City are likely to have a decent lead by then.

So there are two fascinating battles about to unfold. Can anyone crack the dominance of England’s big six and can anyone inside that elite keep pace with Pep Guardiola’s City?

The evidence is tiny so far that the answer is no. But it’s even tinier that the answer is yes.


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