De Bruyne, Pep and City
Once more I find myself waxing lyrical about the impact of Pep Guardiola at Manchester City; as each week goes by, Pep’s men just look better and better, especially a certain pale Belgian. I’m not talking about a pint of Leffe - despite his recent delicious displays - but rather, Kevin De Bruyne.
De Bruyne is playing with the verve and swagger of a man safe in the knowledge that he has the ability to affect any game in which he plays. The tempo and accuracy of his play has been second to none, and Guardiola’s praise so far this season has been justified; five games, two goals and three assists tells you everything you need to know about the Belgian's blistering start to this campaign.
City fans must be elated at the club’s recent form and who can blame them? A world class manager getting the best out of a squad that hasn’t necessarily live up to their potential in recent years, what more could you want from your club? I, alongside many others, can’t see anyone bettering City this season; even after a paltry five games you’d be pressed to think of a better option for Premier League champions.
Stoke & West Ham’s Stuttering Start
On paper both of the aforementioned teams appear to be comfortable top-ten teams, yet five games into the new season and fans of both clubs are starting to feel somewhat vulnerable. Both clubs have spent big and unless their managers can quickly reverse the club's fortunes, then both teams could be in for a difficult season ahead.
West Ham have been hindered by injuries to key players, but also by a transfer window in which they failed to strengthen in a key position - central defence. James Tomkins’ transfer to Crystal Palace seems to have been an error on the part of the club, and not adequately replacing the defender has left a hole in the squad that is hurting their chances of repeating last year’s success.
Stoke on the other hand have strengthened throughout their team with impressive additions, yet have also fared poorly so far this campaign. The additions of Joe Allen, Bruno Martins Indi and Wilfried Bony have reinforced the spine of the team… well, on paper anyway. Mark Hughes’ team have struggled to find any form whatsoever this year and unfortunately if this continues then Sparky could well be looking over his shoulder sooner rather than later.
Ronald Koeman’s Everton look a force to be reckoned with as the season begins to take shape. Taking over the tedious, uninspiring team that struggled through last season, Koeman has reversed the club’s fortunes in a matter of weeks, much to the delight of the blue half of Merseyside.
After selling John Stones for an incredible profit, the club have invested the proceeds from the sale wisely. Ashley Williams, Idrissa Gueye and Yannick Bolasie have been added to the squad and have immediately proved their worth. Gueye in particular has already begun to show his value to the club, whilst Bolasie has provided two assists in the first five games - an impressive statistic considering the ex-Palace man only managed four assists in the entirety of last season.
Gareth Barry’s 600th game was another focal point of the weekend, and made all the more impressive by his marking of the day with a goal to his name. I think Koeman offers the structure and determination that Everton have lacked since the height of David Moyes’ well-documented tenure. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Everton pushing for a top six finish come the business end of the season.
The Most Interesting Battle For The Title?
Again it’s early days, but this year’s race for the title looks to be one of the most hotly contested for many a year. The two Manchester clubs, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham all have the squad’s and talent necessary to succeed, but only time will tell as to who will hold their nerve and claim the title.
From the performances I’ve seen so far I can’t look past City as the favourites to take the trophy come season’s end, for their displays have been nothing short of breathtaking. One team I do worry about, however, is Arsenal. Despite rallying late to sign a much needed defender and striker, Arsene Wenger’s side seem a little off the boil this year. Their 4-1 win against Hull this weekend was a much needed boost, yet might merely have papered over some severe cracks in the North London club’s squad.
Time will reveal to us the season’s victors, but from the viewing thus far it’s fair to say that we’re in for an electric campaign.
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