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5 Things We Learned In The First Five Weeks Of The 2021-22 Premier League Season

Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes
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The 2021/22 Premier League season is five weeks old, and although it is still too soon to make any meaningful conclusions – there are some patterns emerging which could indicate how the rest of the campaign could play out. Brighton have finally solved their troubles in front of the goal with four wins out of five, Manchester United have continued the trend of coming from behind to win games while Chelsea and Liverpool have dominated the opposition so far this season.

There is plenty to unpack from the opening 50 games of the season, and here are five things we learned from the first five weeks of this campaign.

1. It could be a long season for Tottenham and Nuno Esperito Santo

 

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Tottenham started the season with three 1-0 victories that took them to the top of the Premier League table and gave Nuno Esperito Santo the manager of the month award for August. However, two consecutive 3-0 defeats in London derbies against Crystal Palace and Chelsea since then have brought Spurs back down to earth.

On the outset, three wins out of five is not a bad return considering you have played the two best teams in Europe – Chelsea and Manchester City – already. But if you peek behind the curtain and look at the numbers, it gets a lot more worrying.

Tottenham have failed to score from open play since the opening week of the season – and have created the fewest Expected Goals (4.4) of any team in the league. This essentially means that Tottenham have created the least goal-scoring chances amongst all 20 teams, which is evident by the fact that they have taken only 47 shots so far in 5 games – the 3rd fewest in the division.

2. Goals are no longer a problem for Tuchel’s Chelsea

 

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Tomas Tuchel’s first season in charge of Chelsea was built on defensive solidity, and despite their success in the Champions League, the Blues were never a prolific team last season. That issue – however – no longer exists for Chelsea so far this season as Tuchel’s side have already scored 12 goals in five outings, the 2nd most in the league.

The arrival of Romelu Lukaku as a striker has certainly helped, but the Blues are now finding goal scorers from all over the pitch. Thiago Silva, N’Golo Kante and Antonio Rudiger all got on the scoresheet for the first time in Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Spurs – giving Chelsea 10 different goal scorers so far this season. Only Romelu Lukaku has found the back of the net on more than one occasion, but Chelsea’s excellent squad depth and sustained pressure with the ball is finally helping them reap their rewards in front of goal.

3. The Premier League is now a Big Four League

PL Wage Bills
PL Teams 2021/22 Wage Bills 

As can be seen by the wage bills of Premier League clubs according to Sportrac, there is a clear divide between the top four teams in the league and the remaining 16 teams. That divide was further widened this summer as Chelsea acquired Romelu Lukaku, Manchester City bought Jack Grealish, while Manchester United added the trio of Ronaldo, Sancho and Varane.

There is a case to be made that the Big Four teams – Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City – could be considered as the top five teams in Europe at this stage, and the gap in quality between them and the rest of the league couldn’t be more evident in the first five games of the season. United, Chelsea and Liverpool are the only teams not to lose a game so far this season and City’s only defeat came in a game where they out-shot their opponents Tottenham. It is almost a foregone conclusion what this season’s Top Four will be and for the likes of West Ham, Leicester, Arsenal and Tottenham – the best of the rest is all they can really hope for this season.

4. Brentford are here to stay

 

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Recent seasons have seen promoted clubs such as Wolves, Sheffield United and Leeds all challenge for top-half finishes and the latest team who look primed to do the same are Brentford. Powered by a data-driven and analytics culture, Brentford have enjoyed rapid success since Matthew Benham bought the club in 2012. The Bees started the season with an excellent 2-0 win over Arsenal and are currently sitting in 9th with eight points from five games.

In the five games so far, Brentford have been one of the best pressing teams in the league alongside Leeds United, and have also conceded the second-fewest Expected Goals (3.6) in the league behind Manchester City. Moreover, in Ivan Toney – the top scorer in the Championship last season – the Bees have a reliable goalscorer who can score 10-15 goals a season which ultimately will make the difference in their race for survival.

5. Cristiano Ronaldo will thrive at United, but the midfield remains a problem

 

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Cristiano Ronaldo couldn’t have asked for a better first two opening games of the season in Manchester United colours. The Portuguese has already scored three goals against Newcastle and West Ham, and his unrivalled movement and intelligence in and around the box has already helped him get into great goal-scoring opportunities.

Unlike Juventus, United already look a more potent side with Ronaldo – albeit in a small sample size of two games – because they surround him with creative players like Sancho, Fernandes, Pogba and Greenwood.

The problem for Solskjaer, however, remains in midfield. Barring Scott McTominay, Manchester United don’t have many players who can be relied on in central midfield and the lack of an enforcer and reliable technician in the middle of the park was extremely evident in the games against Southampton and Wolves.

There is heightened pressure around Old Trafford this season due to Ronaldo’s arrival, but until United address their midfield muddle, even Ronaldo’s goals won’t be enough to carry them to the Premier League title.

 

[Image Credit: Premier League]

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