The easy ticks on a football coupon seem to have been lost this season; even between the lack-lustre performances of the usual title contenders and the dogged and hard fought battles of the small, penniless clubs who have just reached the Premier League.
None of the usual top four contenders can stand proud at their Premier League performances so far. The clubs that can stand up are those that many thought would be sat down at the bottom of the table.
At present, Chelsea are left to dwell on their three losses from five after an initially strong start; most recently scraping a 1-1 draw at home to Everton, and the same scoreline against a depleted Newcastle side. Manchester United are only in their current league position through grinding draws and coming from behind. They have at best given an average performance; their latest result truly does highlight the lack of predictability in the league with a 7-1 victory over Blackburn.
Not many fans currently have confidence in what team will turn up to their next game. Who knows whether it will be a display of class or one of embarrassment? Arsenal seem to be the best of the rich bunch, but even so, it has still not been a consistent season so far with Spurs showing they are the comeback kings – beating both Arsenal and Liverpool from 2-0 and 1-0 down respectively.
There are too many surprise packages this season to mention, but Spurs would have to be to be team that has shown the most consistency especially with them gaining 15 points after coming from behind. Everyone had their money on Blackpool being the three points in the bag team and a cert for relegation looking at their squad, however they were quick to quieten such talk and currently sit in 11th position; based on previous seasons who would have predicted that Bolton, Sunderland and Newcastle would all be sat in the top half of the table 15 games in?
Probably the most unusual and unexpected of talk so far this season, is “Liverpool for relegation”. Thanks to their poorest league start in decades in the early stages of the season, they sat in the relegation zone. However, once the financial crisis at the club was resolved and new owners came in, the team seemed to be revitalised. They do still remain one of the most inconsistent teams in the league, struggling to gain any form and constantly going from a big win to a loss.
It seems that the super-rich clubs have been caught up in trying to reel in the latest hot prospect rather than concentrating on their current squad and, most importantly of all, winning. This is not purely the answer; managerial relationships with the team take time to build and recently some managers have hardly had time to get the bench seat warm before they have been sacked for several poor performances.
The attitude of many owners, managers and players from the bigger clubs seems to be tunnel-visioned purely for money; the real football seems to have been forgotten. Lessons need to be learnt, and they need not look far – it is the clubs that are beating them that seem to have the correct formula. Blackpool, Newcastle, Bolton and Blackburn are all teams that have consistently performed well even though their pockets are not deep and their squad is not bursting with talent.
The neutral football fan would argue that this has been the best season yet to watch – seeing the underdogs win, come from behind, and put the favourites in their deserved place. The die-hard football fan would obviously argue the opposite unless you are fan who wears orange or black and white stripes.
Many fans feared that the Premier League was over in terms of being able to reap success unless their club had the financial backing; this season so far has distilled such fears. Compare many of the clubs positions and points to previous seasons and it is a very different picture. Maybe it is the most interesting and unpredictable season yet, but much has to be determined this season.
The time has come for the big spenders, namely Chelsea and Manchester City, to stop scouring for the next big name and concentrate on their current squads, enable players to develop, improve and most of all gel. The message is now clear; placing eleven grossly over-priced and paid world-class players will by no means see them through to glory. Add the right management, player attitude, grit and determination to the formula then a different story may arise.
All doors remain open for the title, European qualification, and relegation; it will be interesting to see how long this wide-open Premier League remains.