Twelve game weeks into the Premier League season and certain storylines stand out. Here are some of the biggest winners and losers that I have identified.
Liverpool’s Front 3
Liverpool have been the Premier League best attacking team according to most standard and advanced stats. Mohammad Salah has started the season on a tear, scoring 11 goals in 12 games and is 4 goals ahead in the race for the premierships golden boot.
The player in joint second place with 7 goals? Sadio Mane. Even with Firmino – who has chipped in with 4 goals – missing chunks of the season already due to injuries, Diogo Jota has stepped in without skipping a beat scoring 5 goals in 11 games. Can any team contain the swagger and intent that Liverpool have shown this season? The odds don’t look too promising.
Manchester City’s Defense
If Liverpool are running away with the title for best attacking team, then City are the premierships top defensive team 12 game weeks into the season. And it’s not even close. City have the best stats on the season for xGC (expected goals conceded). They have 8 clean sheets, the lowest number of shots conceded (76) in the Premier League, and are second with only 8 goals conceded on the year. Only the PL leaders Chelsea can beat that with 4 goals conceded this season.
Much like Liverpool in attack, City can rotate their centre backs with ruthless efficiency and not skip a beat; Dias, Stones, Laporte, Cancelo and Walker have been phenomenal and crucially, healthy.
Chelsea topped and qualified from their Champions League group on Tuesday night after thumping Juventus 4-0. It was a showcase for their young stars as Chalobah, Hudson-Odoi and Reece James all scored. Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects of this Chelsea squad this season is that despite injuries to Chilwell, Lukaku, Pulisic and others they continue to play winning football.
Chelsea sit atop the Premiership table as we head into December and with Lukaku, their £100 million talisman returning soon, I wouldn’t put it past them keeping the top spot going into the New Year.
The trend to invest in flying full backs has been gaining momentum ever since Trent Alexander Arnold and Andrew Robertson burst onto the scene during the 2017/18 season. TAA in 2021 has developed into one of the most dangerous creators for the high-octane Liverpool attack. Similarly one of the key reasons behind Chelsea’s success this year to date has been their switch to a 3-4-3 formation freeing up Chilwell, Alonso, James and Azpilicueta to bomb forward.
This trend is not just limited to the top few teams either: Samedo, Cresswell, Matty Cash, Lamptey, KWP and Livramento have all been impressive…This is definitely the season of the attacking wingback.
West Ham have been one of the surprise packages this year, which shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise considering how well they finished last season. Declan Rice came back from the Euros full of confidence, Said Benrahma has had time to settle in following his big money move last year, and Micheal Antonio looks fitter and happier than he has ever been.
West Ham’s improved overall play is reflected in the advanced stats: 8th in the league for xGC (expected goals conceded) and 4th in the league for xG (expected goals) only behind the big 3 of City, Chelsea and Liverpool. With a busy festive period coming up it will be down to David Moyes to manage injury and form and keep West Ham purring.
Dean Smith gets an honourable mention in the winner’s column having been fired from one job with Aston Villa, then a week later managing to get another at Norwich City. The Canaries feel like a good fit for Dean Smith and they’ll be hoping he can turn around a club that started very poorly. Smith steered them to their first win of the season last weekend against Southampton.
They looked lost at the tail end of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s time in charge, an embarrassment of talent injured, mis-used or out of form. Epitomised by their inability to provide Cristiano Ronaldo on his celebrated return to United with enough service. It must not be forgotten that United finished second last season, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to see them return to those heights. The talent is there, they just need a manager and coaching staff that can unite the dressing room and establish a footballing identity.
They may have gained shiny new owners with deep pockets, but they still have yet to win a game. Newcastle have struggled to do much of anything right so far this season and sit bottom of the table after 12 game weeks.
Under new manager Eddie Howe they showed promising attacking signs against Brentford last week, a kind upcoming schedule offers some hope.
Spurs’ fumbling start to the season was exacerbated by a calamitous Summer manager search that saw Nuno Espirito Santos appointed, then fired after 3 dour months in charge. Harry Kane hasn’t looked focused after failed negotiations for a lucrative transfer to Man City.
All in all there hasn’t been much to smile about in North London. We will have to wait and see if Antonio Conte can charge the fortunes of a club that made the Champions League final 2 years ago.
Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford were having productive seasons up until the end of July. Injuries and a lack of form since have seen all 3 struggle for their respective clubs. Dominic Calvert-Lewin started the season hot with 3 goals in 3 games but has struggled with injuries since.
Danny Ings and Patrick Bamford have suffered similar fates while Marcus Greenwood has found himself crowded out by all the attacking options at Man United. With the World Cup in Qatar coming in 2022 England are hoping for a dramatic change in striking fortunes.
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