Aldo: Why Liverpool are not title favourites yet
The Premier League is back on the agenda this weekend after the final international break of 2016 and our man John Aldridge has given his verdict on the key title contenders.
Odds: 23/10 favourites
I would still put Pep Guardiola’s side as slight favourites to win the title, but the aura they had built up in the opening weeks of the season has already evaporated.
Guardiola appeared to have transformed City into potential champions in double quick time, but we can see that they have plenty of weak spots if a team find a way of pushing them on to the back foot.
If you allow Kevin De Bruyne (below), Sergio Aguero and the rest to click into top gear, they can blow you away and that is why City deserve to be recognised as favourites.
That said, they have given the rest enough encouragement to believe this title race could be wide open.
Verdict: Guardiola is a top manager and City have some fantastic players, but they look vulnerable at the back and Tottenham proved they can be outplayed by beating them 2-0 at White Hart Lane a few weeks back.
Okay, I will admit that Liverpool have a chance to win the title this season, but I wouldn’t say anymore at this moment.
I take that stance partly because I don’t want to jinx Jurgen Klopp and his team after a fine start to the campaign, but I’m also a realist and it is going to be very hard for them to win the Premier League title if they continue to concede stupid goals on a weekly basis.
Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool team of from the 2013/14 season tested the theory of trying to score three goals a game in a title challenge and in the end, they came up agonisingly short.
That will happen again unless Klopp finds a way to solve his defensive worries, but there is no better team from an attacking perspective in the Premier League and without any draining European commitments, Liverpool have a big advantage over their rivals.
Verdict: If Luis Suarez was still a Liverpool player, we would win the league with something to spare this season, but they still have a chance. The end of season fixtures are very winnable so I’ll start to get excited if Klopp’s men are in the top two by March.
Are an Arsenal team that hasn’t had too many chances really any better than they were last year?
We will get a decent answer to that question over the next few weeks with Manchester United, Everton and Manchester City all on their horizon.
Alexis Sanchez is the player that carries Arsenal and gives them a spark, but we have been in this position time and against with Arsene Wenger’s side over the last decade and they always tend to come up short.
They have had a decent run of fixtures against the lesser teams and their only win against what you could call a title rival came against Chelsea.
Yet the moment has not arrived to fully evaluate whether Arsenal are any more resilient than they have been over the last few seasons.
Verdict: Beating Watford, Hull, Swansea, Burnley and Sunderland is fine, but let’s see if Arsenal do it consistently against the big boys. I still have some doubts about them.
Antonio Conte’s team have been one of the surprise stories of this Premier League season so far because when you saw them getting beaten by Liverpool and then hammered 3-0 by Arsenal, you would never have imaged they would be where they are now.
Conte has made a shrewd tactical move by switching to a back three and it has inspired a big upturn in results, with David Luiz (below) even looking like a half decent defender in that set-up in the last few weeks.
Their 4-0 win against Manchester United and the 5-0 thrashing of Everton a couple of weeks back was a sign that Chelsea are on the way back and if they can keep Eden Hazard and Diego Costa fit and firing, they could get into the title shake-up.
Verdict: If Arsenal, Spurs and Man City do well in the Champions League, it is likely to affect their title hopes. Like Liverpool, Chelsea have a huge advantage by not playing European matches this season and are strong top four contenders at the very least.
An impressive Tottenham side should be put into the list of potential champions after going so close last season, but they still look a little when you compare them to two or three of their Premier League rivals.
Their 2-0 win against Manchester City confirmed that Mauricio Pochettino’s men are a force to be reckoned with and if their lead striker Harry Kane had not been injured for six weeks or so, they could be sitting at the top of the table now.
As it is, they are right in the pack that could end the season on top if they find a balance between their Premier League and Champions League commitments.
Verdict: I would fancy Spurs to get into the top four again if they keep their star players fit, but they will probably come up short in the title race.
The lengthening odds on United winning the title tell you everything about their chances, with their manager Jose Mourinho looking like he is losing it once again and his team failing to gel after all that money spent last summer.
Whoever sanctioned the £89m deal for Paul Pogba should hang their heads in shame because that already looks like money down the drain.
That was a deal agreed by a club determined to arrogantly show what they could do in the transfer market without thinking about the craziness of the deal. They only have themselves to blame if it all goes wrong for Pogba now.
United could still get themselves into the mix for a top four finish, but they are playing catch-up if they have any thoughts about winning the title, clashes against Arsenal, Everton and Tottenham in the next few weeks have become must win games.
Verdict: They don’t have a mountain to climb just yet this season, but they certainly have a big hill in front of them, with the antics of a manager who doesn’t seem to be able to control himself not helping their cause.