The top 12 are separated by 3 points, the top 4 are on 10 points and theoretically speaking, Manchester United are only, at most, 5 games off the pace while Chelsea are 3 points off.
However, Liverpool are top on goal difference (courtesy of Derby) followed by Arsenal and then Everton, and for these teams, it’s an excellent start and one that they need to keep up.
A roundup of the weekend’s games then, plus the current league table.
Bolton 1-2 Everton
Everton have made an excellent start to the season and the recruitments of Yakubu and Gravesen have given the team a more rounded look, especially the ability to break through difficult defences for goals and to control games when they are not going Everton’s way.
Bolton did well but ultimately this tie could have gone either way – Bolton don’t have enough quality running through the side to win home games convincingly. Alonso has looked good though, but that, and 19th spot after the first 5 games, is not enough.
Fulham 3-3 Tottenham
Paul Robinson gets caught off his line far too much and far too regularly to be picked for a team like Tottenham, let alone England. Tottenham started off well and with a better keeper could easily have won this 4-1 or 3-2 instead of coming out with a draw against Fulham. Martin Jol complained about not being clinical enough but it was more than that – 3 goals are enough to win the game if you defend properly.
Fulham under Lawrie Sanchez are developing a fighting reputation this season and it was more of the same on Saturday, with Fulham refusing to roll over and die after Tottenham’s long spell of supremacy. 4 points from 5 games don’t look much, but they look capable of pulling away from the likes of Birmingham at the bottom of the table – don’t expect miracles but Fulham will survive this season if they keep fighting like this.
Liverpool 6-0 Derby
What you would politely call a thrashing (not a massacre – not enough goals). Liverpool are now top of the pile, with a game in hand to Everton, Chelsea and Manchester United and ahead of Arsenal on goal difference. Life is good for Rafa’s men, and with their first ‘good’ start of the season (should be 12 points instead of 10, mind you) under Rafa Benitez, Liverpool now have a good shot at the title.
Derby are pathetic. Al this point it’s not just the lack of ability but the lack of discipline and tactical errors that are making everyone feel sorry for them. Will they get 19 points? May not…
Middlesbrough 2-0 Birmingham
The goals dried up for Birmingham and after that they were bound to crash – Boro had an easy game and won without pushing themselves too hard.
Newcastle 1-0 Wigan
Wigan made Newcastle fight hard but the Geordies stuck to their task and Owen’s late goal sealed the home game and leave Newcastle comfortably perched at 6th spot with 8 points. With a game in hand to both Manchester City and Everton (their closest rivals ahead in the points table), Newcastle have to build on their decent start and go after their European spot this season, but to make it happen they can’t make home games as hard as they did on Saturday.
Reading 0-3 West Ham
Not surprised – Reading lose when they are expected to win and West Ham turn up to play when everyone expects them to lose badly. 3-0 was the right result for West Ham’s efforts on the pitch, and it remains to be seen whether Reading’s current form is just a slump or symptomatic of a serious problem. Steve Coppell should be able to fix things and pull Reading out of the bottom 3, but it’s Reading’s mental strength that’s let them down recently.
Manchester United 1-0 Sunderland
Not impressed, and the fact that it took Louis Saha to rescue the team speaks volumes about what the team lacks and where Manchester United went wrong in their summer transfers.
Sunderland are doing well but these aren’t the games they are going to win – they need to control and finish off games against the likes of Brum, Reading, West Ham and Fulham.
Arsenal 3-1 Portsmouth
A comfortable home win for Arsenal, and finally a good start to the season for the Gunners as well. Portsmouth were never going to win this one, not with their inability to defend for long periods of time. Arsenal are more incisive this season, although if you see last year as a bit of an aberration it’s more of a course correction as opposed to a massive improvement – Arsenal still pass around the ball way too much.
No luck for Portsmouth at the start of this season, but they have a good shout at Europe if they pick their game up and stop the leaks in their defence.
Blackburn 1-0 Manchester City
At the start of the season, when Manchester City were flying high, I said that their real test would come playing the likes of Blackburn to test how the new-look side would perform against seasoned professionals. They’ve failed this hurdle, but Manchester City have also shown enough promise in the last 5 games to suggest that they’re on the right path and if things fall their way, a top-10 finish is quite possible.
Blackburn were steady as ever – their weakness is in central midfield but Manchester City never had the drive to capitalise on it and Blackburn are again off to a steady start to the season.
Aston Villa 2-0 Chelsea
Everyone’s favourite result of the season? Aston Villa executed their plan to perfection and Chelsea are playing worse this season than they were at the same time last season. One result won’t change too much though and Chelsea have the break to get their problems sorted out. Bit by bit other teams and managers are coming to terms with Chelsea’s style of play and Villa showed yesterday that discipline is enough to beat Mourinho’s Chelsea.
League Table – 2nd September 2007
Catch the latest premier league table here.