Week 4: New Signings and New Dynamics

Four weeks into the Premier League season, fans have already witnessed record-breaking upsets and pleasant surprises.

Four weeks into the Premier League season, fans have already witnessed record-breaking upsets and pleasant surprises. The 2020-21 season follows a fragmented 2019-20 campaign interrupted by Covid-19 in March, leading to a three month hiatus before Liverpool FC won the title in June. The unusually long summer transfer window yielded multiple big signings, including Donny Van de Beek’s move to Manchester United FC for £35 million and Timo Werner’s switch to Chelsea FC, who was joined there by German national team teammate Kai Havertz in a £71 million deal, the most expensive of the transfer window.

Everton FC has delivered the biggest surprise after a revitalisation through smart offseason business, acquiring three quality midfielders: Abdoulaye Doucoure from Watford FC, Allan from SSC Napoli, and James Rodriguez on loan from Real Madrid CF. Allan provides defensive steel among the three, with Rodriguez playing mainly on the right of a front three or front four, supplemented by Doucoure’s skill in transitioning from defense to attack. Rodriguez has already slotted well into his new team, evidenced by his second-best 11 chances created in the league. His playmaking is unlocking the full potential of 23-year-old Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who has six goals so far this season. Everton has already won its first four games of the season, having beaten Tottenham Hotspurs FC, West Bromwich Albion FC (West Brom), Crystal Palace FC and Brighton & Hove Albion FC—its first time doing so since the 1969-70 season. Since legendary Italian manager Carlo Ancelotti took up the reins, Everton has been an exciting team to watch, creating numerous chances with Ancelotti’s quick, direct-passing approach. “There’s been a mentality shift and a momentum shift around the place and that has been a big catalyst [for our form],” said striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin as he gave credit to Ancelotti for the club’s turnaround.

From top of the table with Everton to the bottom, Tottenham recorded a historic win against a struggling Manchester United last Sunday, beating it 6-1, tying United’s worst loss in Premier League history, leaving it in 16th place after three games played. United are hurting after failing to land Jadon Sancho, the English Borussia Dortmund winger it reportedly pursued for months, losing two out of the three games played. Its substandard performances must be attributed to the lack of depth in its squad, and the issue lies mainly in defense. Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire are not title-competing defenders, evidenced by their sloppiness against Tottenham that Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane exploited. The front three also seems less electric than last season—Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford have tallied 12 shots but only one goal between them. All in all, Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s future at United is in question, and Manchester United look as if it is headed for a mid-table finish, an incredibly poor performance for one of the wealthiest and most well-known clubs in the world.

As far as relegation goes, Burnley FC, Fulham FC and West Brom are the most concerning propositions. Burnley’s aging squad has led to a lack of pace, given that forwards Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes as well as 35-year old right back Phil Barsley cannot create chances from open-play scenarios. Elite defenders can easily predict Sean Dyche’s long-ball tactics and Burnley’s tendency to fill the box for set pieces. Its only real threat, young winger Dwight McNeil, has been in poor form with a 65 percent pass completion rate and a 60 percent dribble success rate, both substandard for the most creative player on the team. Similarly, Fulham’s Premier League campaign could not have gotten off to a worst start, as it has lost all four of its games. Fulham has looked vulnerable on defense, as its aging centre-backs Le Marchand and Ream have struggled to compete with quick Premier League forwards like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Jack Grealish. Despite West Brom finishing 2nd in the English Football League (EFL) Championship last season, its attacking duo of Hal Robson-Kanu and Callum Robinson has not provided a sufficient threat, and West Brom has gone winless this season, conceding 13 goals through four matches, which is not helped by the fact that it has created the fewest chances in the league.

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, last season’s Premier League winners, has won three out of four games but suffered a terrible loss to Aston Villa FC, conceding seven goals to last season’s 17th place finishers. Tottenham, likely to compete with Liverpool for the title, has improved on its weaknesses last season, bringing in Pierre-Emile Højbjerg to bolster the midfield and Gareth Bale on loan from Real Madrid to improve its attack. That being said, Liverpool, despite the poor loss to Aston Villa, has shown it is still dominant after beating top-four contenders Arsenal and Chelsea. Liverpool will surely secure another title—its second Premier League trophy in two seasons.

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