Will it be a two-horse race again this year?

Evan Wyatt, Staff Writer

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The English Premier League has started and Matchweek 3 has ended. Right now the league is led by Liverpool, last year’s runner ups, who are the only team to have won all three games so far: a brilliant 4-1 opening day win against newly promoted Norwich, a shaky 2-1 win against Southampton after the exhausting UEFA Supercup win against Chelsea in the midweek, and a dominant 3-1 win against Arsenal.

Last year’s winner, Manchester City, are right behind in second place, with 7 points, after an excellent 5-0 win against West Ham, and a complete 3-1 win against Bournemouth, but only managing a draw against Tottenham. The draw against Tottenham was thanks to Video Assistant Referee, VAR, being put to use this year in the league. Despite having 30 shots to Tottenham’s 3, City only left the stadium with a draw after Gabriel Jesus’ late winner was disallowed due to an Aymeric Laporte handball in the build up. 

VAR has already been used quite a bit and has faced lots of criticism already. Most notable was the case with Jesus, but another big moment was in Tottenham’s game this week where it seemed that Harry Kane was fouled although VAR disagreed. Despite controlling possession for most of the match against Newcastle, one of many peoples’ picks to be relegated this year, and spending most of the match in the Newcastle half, Tottenham lost 1-0 because of a first half Newcastle goal that came from club-record signing Joelinton, a Brazilian striker bought from Hoffenheim in Germany for around $50 million. However, Tottenham dominated most of the match and had several chances but failed to capitalize as they were shocked in their brand new stadium by a Newcastle side that had a turbulent offseason and who many pundits and fans have low expectations for.

Another thing to note from the start of the season is Chelsea’s rough start. After last season’s manager, Maurizio Sarri, was hired by Juventus, club legend Frank Lampard was appointed as the boss. Because of the transfer ban, Lampard was unable to bring in no new players except Christian Pulisic, the American wonderkid, who was bought before the ban was put in place. This means he has had to work with the youth in the club, notably Mason Mount as Callum Hudson-Odoi recovers from a knee injury, and the extensive loanees that Chelsea have throughout Europe. This challenge has contributed to a rough start for Chelsea, losing 4-0 against Manchester United in the opening week, dominating early against Leicester but failing to see it through in a 1-1 draw, and beating Norwich 3-2 in a thriller at Norwich’s stadium, Carrow Road.

Of the three newly promoted sides, Norwich City, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United; Sheffield have done the best so far, accumulating 1 win, 1 draw, and 1 loss; however, they are yet to play a big six side. Norwich have played 2. Both Norwich and Villa look pretty good so far. Norwich’s Finnish frontman Teemu Pukki has 5 goals and 1 assist, and Norwich played well against Liverpool in the second half of their first game, staying tight with Chelsea, equalizing twice, and hammering Newcastle. Villa also have a lot of potential with players like Jack Grealish and John McGinn looking to help keep the side in the Premier League.

Perhaps surprisingly, Watford are the only team to have accumulated 0 points so far, losing all three of their games against Everton, West Ham, and Brighton. This is a concern for a team who would like to finish top half and have lots of quality in Troy Deeney, Gerard Deulofeu, Abdoulaye Doucoure, and new signings Ismaila Sarr and Danny Welbeck.

This is the closest the League has been in the first three weeks of the season in a long time. Not since the last century have this many teams accumulated points already. This season promises to be compelling, but it could turn out to be a two-horse race yet again as neither Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal, or United seem to have the stability to contend this year. However, in this game, anything can change and perhaps I will be eating my words soon. You can also expect strong competition for Europa League places this year, 4th-7th. With Wolves looking to acquire another high finish, and teams like Leicester and Everton making some excellent transfers in the summer, the mid-table of this year could be really interesting. At the bottom end, many have tipped Newcastle, Brighton, and Sheffield United to go back down. While I would agree that Sheffield United probably don’t have the quality to stay up this year, if Newcastle’s Joelinton can start scoring more goals and Miguel Almiron can start producing more chances, I think they have a better chance to stay up than what they’re given credit for. It will be interesting to see how the relegation battle goes with not a lot of certainty on who will be partaking in it at this stage. Whatever happens, this looks like it be a really exciting season with definitely a few surprises in store.