The last couple of weeks have been a blur for me. I wish I could say it’s been hours spent playing FIFA 13, but it’s been a combination of several things — helping my wife launch her food truck business, driving my daughter to her soccer games and practices for her new travel soccer team, working behind-the-scenes on getting the redesign of EPL Talk (and the other eight sites in the network), and other commitments.
In the middle of all of this, I’ve still been watching plenty of Premier League and Champions League football, but the one thing I haven’t had a chance to do as much is write about some of my thoughts and observations so far this season.
From an entertainment perspective, I’ve enjoyed the matches so far this season. There have been few this-is-the-match-of-the-season goal extravaganzas, but if those happened all the time, they’d feel less special if they were so common.
But my two main takeaways from this season, so far, have been:
- Defensively, the Premier League teams are much weaker than in previous years, and
- I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again — this season is going to be one of the most competitive Premier League seasons we can ever remember, from top to bottom.
Defensively, I still feel that the current Premier League elite clubs need to make significant strides in order to improve their defenses. Otherwise, a few of the teams will be ripped apart in the Champions League. We saw Manchester City come within a whisker of a memorable victory against Real Madrid in Estadio Bernabeu, but the team completely fell apart due to simple defensive mistakes. The same thing happened to the City side last season against Bayern Munich in the same competition.
Chelsea and Manchester United fans shouldn’t think that I’m going to let them off easy. Both clubs have holes in the defenses where, in years past, they were seemingly impossible to penetrate.
Arsenal is the unlikely team that defensively looks solid. Who would have thought that just a few months ago? Steve Bould has been Arsenal’s best signing this summer.
In regards to my second point, it’s getting harder for Premier League sides to secure victories each week. While the league was very top heavy in previous years, there are very few weak teams in the division. You could argue that Southampton, Aston Villa, Reading, QPR, West Ham United and Wigan are weaknesses in the league, but at the same time you only have to look at Southampton’s performances against Manchester City, Manchester United and Aston Villa to show that the Saints have shown a lot of promise and cannot be seen as a walkover.
Anyone who watched Aston Villa’s performance against Swansea a couple of weeks ago will know how organized manager Paul Lambert can get his team playing. The Villains still have a long way to go to get to the level and consistency that Lambert desires, but I disagree with Matthew Duncan’s opinion that Villa will be in trouble this season.
Reading, as we saw mid-week against QPR, have enough fight in them to battle back this season in the Premier League. West Ham walked over Fulham a few weeks ago on a Saturday morning kick-off. Defensively, they’re one of the weakest teams in the league, but with Andy Carroll up front, they’re a completely different side. Wigan can never be underestimated. That leaves Queens Park Rangers, a team that I don’t have a lot of time for only because they’re trying to buy their way to stay in this league. It will ultimately come together for Mark Hughes and this side where they’ll start winning games, but I still don’t believe in their system. Having said that, they will be a difficult team to beat when their players step up this season.
With the underdogs in the Premier League being stronger than in previous seasons, and with the top teams being weaker defensively, this all means that we’ll get to see more upsets and more goals this Premier League season. For purists, they may nod their head in disappointment at defensive lapses, but for the soccer supporters who love to watch exciting and entertaining games, this Premier League season promises to be one of the most eyeopening and best races at the top and bottom in quite some time.