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Arsenal Good, United Getting Better – Lessons Learned From The First 7 Games Of The 2022-23 PL Season

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We are seven games into the 2022/23 Premier League season, and there has already been enough chaos to last an entire campaign. Chelsea and Bournemouth have sacked their managers, a third might be on his way out the door at Leicester, while a certain Norwegian striker named Erling Haaland has made a mockery of English defences.

As the league enters the first international break, Mikel Arteta and Arsenal sit atop the table with six wins from seven games, followed closely by Manchester City and Tottenham. Manchester United faltered initially under Erik ten Hag before winning four games in a row, while Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp have suffered a poor start due to injuries and unconvincing performances from their star players.

There is plenty of football still to be played, and a lot can change between now and May, but certain trends have emerged from the first seven games of the campaign.

Here are the major takeaways from the opening rounds of 2022/23 Premier League season.

Arsenal are title contenders

 

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It is difficult to go all in on Arsenal, considering their tendency to self-combust in recent years, but this season may be different. Arsenal have controlled and dominated games in a Manchester City-like manner, comfortably swatting aside lower-league opposition in their six wins and avoiding banana skin defeats at tough away grounds against Crystal Palace and Brentford. Arsenal did lose to Manchester United to end their five-game win streak, but the Gunners dictated the pace for most of the game at Old Trafford. The 3-1 score-line was not a true reflection of the performance.

Buoyed by the infusion of three world-class players in Gabriel Jesus, William Saliba, and Oleksandr Zinchenko, there is a maturity and calmness to Arsenal’s identity this Premier League season. Mikel Arteta’s side are getting closer to their final avatar, and the cohesion in the squad is reflected in their performances on the pitch.

Manchester City are the favourites, but they are beatable

 

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Although Arsenal remain on top of the table heading into the September international break, there is only one team that everyone expects to win the league. Manchester City have scored the most goals, created the most xG, and outscored their opposition by 17 goals in the first seven games this season.

City have been ruthlessly dominant, and Erling Haaland’s arrival has given opposition defences a near-impossible task. However, despite their superiority, City are no longer infallible. Their victories this season have all come against teams in the bottom half of the table, while they also uncharacteristically dropped points away to Newcastle and Aston Villa. The Cityzens should win the title again, but the gap between them and the chasing pack has reduced. 

The challengers – Arsenal, Tottenham, and Manchester United – have strengthened, and a combination of injuries and bad luck could throw a spanner in the works of a straightforward title charge.

Erik ten Hag has already shown plenty of improvement at Manchester United

 

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Manchester United’s 4-0 defeat at Brentford seemed to be the club’s nadir. An embarrassment that prompted claims for the Glazers to sell the club and led to a £160 million spending spree on a pair of Brazilians. However, given the recovery that followed, that night in Hounslow has been relegated to teething problems. Manchester United and Erik ten Hag have won each of their last four games in the league, with the Dutchman ditching his expansive style and adopting a more pragmatic approach to garner results.

Victories at home to Liverpool and Arsenal have brought a feel-good factor back to the club, and each of the five new signings – Eriksen, Martinez, Casemiro, Malacia, and Antony – has improved the squad, despite the inflated fees. United are still learning to crawl under Erik ten Hag and are a long way away from flying alongside the likes of Manchester City. But the first two months of Erik ten Hag have been a step in the right direction, and the future does not look so dim after all.

Liverpool have a defensive problem

 

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Despite conceding only six goals in six games to start the new season, Liverpool are no longer an elite defensive unit. The Reds have won just two of their first six games in the Premier League this campaign and a lot of their troubles have stemmed from a lack of defensive solidity.

This defensive problem starts from the front. Sadio Mane was the best presser in the side. But the Senegal international left for Bayern Munich in the summer, and the Reds no longer have the same intensity and ball-winning mentality in the front three.

In midfield, Thiago Alcantara and Naby Keita’s injuries have meant that James Milner and Jordan Henderson have started more games than anticipated. Although both players have been vital parts of Liverpool’s success under Klopp, their age is finally beginning to show, with the lack of explosiveness and athleticism reducing their intensity in performances. The young duo of Harvey Elliott and Fabio Carvalho are excellent on the ball but do not have the physical tools or defensive awareness needed to play together in midfield.

This has left the back four uncovered. Trent Alexander-Arnold no longer receives Henderson and Fabinho’s protection, exposing his defensive frailties. Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk are also forced to defend more actions, and six games into the season, the pair look a million miles away from the duo that won the League title in 2019/20.

The Reds’ poor form to start the 2022/23 campaign has largely been predicated by injuries and poor luck. But Jurgen Klopp’s team are no longer the watertight unit they used to be, and those are the things that could cost you in a title race.

 

[Featured Image Credit: Arsenal]

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