Nine matches into the 2016-17 English Premier League campaign, one thing is clear: Sunderland will be going down. Yes, I’m calling it now. It’s over, and David Moyes will be out before the new year. Then the process, whatever theirs is, will begin all over again.
But we’re not here to talk about that today. Let’s talk about the title challenge instead.
Nine matches in, three clubsa��Manchester City, Arsenal, and Liverpoola��all find themselves on 20 points. Tottenham Hotspur, and their league-best defense, follow closely behind on 19 points. As do Chelsea, who appear to be finding their footing under Antonio Conte.
Yet this weekend could havea��and arguably should havea��gone much differently.
Tottenham Hotspur kicked off the weekend knowing that a win would put them top of the table. At least for an hour or so. So they traveled to Bournemouth, a much better (and healthier) side from a year ago, but one they utterly dismantled last season. Not only that, but Mauricio Pochettino’s men were coming off of two drawsa��one in the EPL, one in the UCLa��looking to get things in order.
At the beginning of the month, Tottenham dominated Manchester City without their world class striker. Instead of building on that, they followed up their best performance of the season by rescuing a draw late against West Brom (at home) and failing to score at Bournemouth.
So while one North London side failed to take advantage of their circumstances, surely the othera��at home against Middlesbrough, no lessa��would do so, right? Of course not. Of course Arsenal, who were riding a six-match EPL win streak, wouldn’t score a goal. At home. Against Middlesbrough. Because why would any team take advantage of these circumstances?
But where Tottenham and Arsenal fell short, Manchester City could succeed. First off, stop assuming that just because he’s Pep Guardiola, City should win every single match. No team should be expected to do that. Still, Pep’s side has hit a wall after starting their league campaign with six straight wins.
A loss at the hands of Tottenham was followed by a draw to Everton, and then another (to Southampton) Sunday morning. The loss to Tottenham was away, but each of these draws came at The Etihad, where City has more or less dominated over the past couple seasons. They have to win at least one of those.
For teams like City, Arsenal, and Tottenham, these performances cannot continue to happen. If that sounds overly simplified, that’s because it is.
Tottenham rolling over City doesn’t mean as much as you want to believe it does if they cannot beat sides like West Brom and Bournemouth. Arsenal, at this point, are allowed to slip (kind of) after such a hot start, but again, you have to be able to beat sides like Middlesbrough at home. Let’s echo the same sentiment about City at home. Yes, overly simple. And still, entirely accurate.
If you’re Tottenham, you take a draw against City if it means winning these past two contests. Then there’s Liverpool, who beat West Brom Saturday to move up into the title picture. They took advantage of the circumstances. Their defense (11 goals conceded) may be the worst amongst the top eight sides, but they’re winning.
Stop talking about Tottenham being unbeaten. Being unbeaten is fun and all, but four draws (from nine matches) is less than ideal. Especially when there are three teams, who have each lost, ahead of them. We get ita��it’s over and nothing can be done about it. But that doesn’t mean fans have to continuously look for a rationalization. Remember when Harry Kane being injured was a blessing in disguise? Simpler times.
And while we’re at it, I’ve devised a list of things on how you should think. But you don’t have to listen to any of it:
- Don’t be surprised that Antonio Conte seems to know what he’s doing.
- Stop assuming Pep’s City should never struggle just because of what he’s inherited. If it were that simple, why they hell would anyone play?
- Being unbeaten doesn’t mean anything if you’re not beating the teams you should.
- Throwing money at the problem doesn’t immediately make a squad better.
- Don’t be surprised that JA?rgen Klopp seems to know what he’s doing.
- If you can help it, don’t become a Sunderland fan.
- Sit back and enjoy; we’ve got 29 matchweeks left!