The European football leagues resumed play this week following a break for international competition. While it may be far too early to predict how clubs stack up in the league table, we do know a bit about their strengths and weaknesses.
Here are five important takeaways at this point of the season:
Chelsea will not repeat their glory season of 2015
Last year saw the Blues lose three games all season. Yet after five EPL matches this season, Chelsea have already lost three games while garnering only four points. In fact, they are technically closer to the relegation zone than a top ten position.
Their failed attempt to acquire defender John Stones from Everton should have been a harbinger of a weak defense, and the season has borne that out. After losing to Arsenal in the Community Shield match, Chelsea have ceded at least two goals in each EPL match—certainly not a winning recipe for a top flight football club.
Their goal-scoring has been uneven and playmaker Cesc Fabregas has failed to distribute the ball up front, with the quality of his play appearing to be in decline. This week starting goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was injured and will miss the next three months. It is possible that given the deep pockets of the owner, Chelsea will buy their way into the top half of the league and perhaps even procure a UEFA spot for the following season. After their loss at Goodison Park on Saturday, manager Jose Mourinho repeated that his team had the better of play and Everton was fortunate to walk away with all three points. While that fodder may be for internal consumption, those who watched the game would come away with a very different takeaway. This season, Chelsea will be a top ten team, but not the top team in the EPL and Mourinho’s nickname of “The Special One” may need to be revisited.
Manchester City is rolling
During the summer break, Manchester City were doing what all top teams with money do to try to improve their play in 2015, and were very active in the transfer window. While money might not buy you love (although that is up for debate), Man City purchased a number of quality players in order to not just improve, but to win the EPL title and other cup competitions in the 2015-2016 season.
Spending a net of $145 million after a few roster sell-offs, most of the spending targeted three players, center back Nicolas Otamendi, left winger Raheem Sterling and attacking midfielder Kevin De Bruyne. Adding these three players to a strong squad has served to improve an already solid football team. In the Saturday game against Crystal Palace, when striker Sergio Aguero suffered a knee injury in the first half, Man City were able to substitute a quality player like De Bruyne in his place.
After five EPL games, fifteen points and five clean sheets, it is difficult to see how Man City will cede the top EPL spot this season.
Newcastle United will bid adieu to top flight English football in 2016
Having last been promoted back into in the EPL in 2009, Newcastle have struggled since 2010.
The Magpies avoided relegation with a victory on the final game of the preceding season, sacking the managerial team of John Carver and replacing him with veteran manager Steve McLaren in a continuation of their management carousel. Blessed with some of the most supportive (and rabid) fans in football, even the St. James Park faithful are tiring of their team always looking up in the table. After their first four EPL games this season, the Magpies have garnered a total of four points, yet McLaren has shown unbridled optimism up until this point.
Looking at the current roster he has to work with, expect McLaren to be sacked during the winter break and Newcastle to be playing Championship League football in 2016.
Los Galacticos are back
Okay, Real Madrid were never really gone, having fallen just two points short of the top spot of La Liga at the close of the 2014-2015 campaign. But in Madrid, this is not an option, and manager Carlo Ancelotti learned while being sacked at the end of last season. This season, expect the Bernabeu faithful to be rewarded for their support, as Real Madrid will take the top spot in La Liga in 2016.
While much has been made of the transfer of Spaniard David de Gea from Manchester United falling through at the last minute, Los Blancos have won their first two games of their current campaign by a combined score of 11-0. While no one would dispute the talent of de Gea, Keylor Navas has done a fine job as the current Real Madrid keeper, keeping three shots out of the net in Saturday’s game against Espanyol.
But as long as the offensive juggernaut of Los Galacticos continues to apply offensive pressure on their opponents’ defensive back line, no Spanish team will stop Real Madrid from hoisting the La Liga trophy next May, especially not if Cristiano Ronaldo explodes for five goals again.
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) September 12, 2015
Paris Saint-Germain will coast to another Ligue 1 title
With four wins and a draw in their first five league matches, PSG continue to be the team to beat in Ligue 1. With a solid starting eleven returning from the prior campaign, they have added Angel Di Maria onto an already strong roster.
Les Parisiens have ceded just two goals in their first five league games. While manager Laurent Blanc and the Parc des Princes faithful have their eyes set on improving their standing in the international arena, they are clearly the cream of the crop in France with no real contenders to the throne. With a squad as strong as the one fielded by PSG, expect them to be at the top of the Ligue 1 table at the end of the 2015-2016 season.