Liverpool and Everton have also both been off the pace so far…
The Premier League has sprung some surprises this season, with established clubs dealing with slow starts and surprise packages taking advantage. However, sadly for the neutrals this won’t last for the entire 38 games.
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Whilst Manchester City and Chelsea are almost guaranteed to finish in the top two, in August people expected a melee to be created among the rest of the top seven to try and grab the other two Champions League spots.
However, this has seen the additions of Southampton and West Ham United, as well as arguably Swansea City and Newcastle United in recent weeks. The poor form of Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham Htspur and Everton has let these unexpected teams get in to the mix.
Yet this is unlikely to last. A combination of easy fixtures and injuries has led to the situation at the moment. The Saints have their well documented run of difficult fixtures coming up which will surely put a dent in their top four aspirations. West Ham have to play both the Blues and Gunners in the space of three days over the Christmas period, as well as already having their small squad suffering from injuries. Newcastle also still have to play the Chelsea, Everton, Arsenal, Tottenham and Man United before January.
Swansea do have a less tough run coming up and that may keep them in the race for longer, but you can’t help but think that they will eventually drop away as well as their squad is truly tested. If Wilfried Bony or Gylfi Sigurdsson become injured then they will be in trouble. They still have to go to Anfield and are up against Tottenham soon.
Another reason for the topsy turvy nature of the Premier League table at the moment has been the plethora of injuries suffered by the expected top four competitors. The Gunners have had enough injuries that Nacho Monreal has had to play regularly at centre-back, and they have also been short in central midfield.
The Red Devils had a whole XI ruled out at one point, and Everton have had a crisis with Gareth Barry having to play centre-back for one match. Important players such as Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku have also had injuries.
Meanwhile, Spurs can blame their slow start on getting used to the techniques of their new manager Mauricio Pochettino. They have recently seen an up turn in form that could signal the end of this “bedding in” period. Liverpool are different in that the loss of Luis Suarez is the reason they are down the table. They could have a chance once Daniel Sturridge is fit and they adapt to being without the Uruguayan.
So, what all this means is that by February we could well be seeing a much changed, and much more normal race for Champions League qualification. Most of the established teams should come back in to form as their injured players return and they have a break from European football over the next two months, while their new competitors would be expected to at least drop more points than they have been doing over their tough fixture list.