Rivals’ Roundup—all hail Pep the Destroyer!

This was a fun image because two of the four aren’t really relevant. Can you guess which ones?

Well, it’s clearly time for all of the rest of us to throw in the towel, for there is nothing standing in the way of Pep’s Man City once again claiming a quadruple. Those of us who had hoped that some degree of lassitude or enervation would somehow steal into his squad may just have to pick up the prayer books. The fat lady ain’t singing just yet, but she’s already rehearsing her scales. D’oh, a deer, indeed. Let’s take a lay of the land.

1: Man City—5W 0D 0L: 15 pts.
Hey, you’ll never guess what. Go on. Guess. I dare you. Okay, be mean. Man City won. Again. So much for them suffering any kind of post-quadruple hangover. Not even the injury-enforced absense of De Bruyne or the departure of Gündoğan have blunted the Dark Aster that is Man City. I’ll stop just short of comparing Guardioal to Kree the Destroyer…but maybe there’s something in that. His squad’s evisceration of a heretofore impressive West Ham lays down a marker to any would-be challengers to his hegemony. If there are any surprises to be had, it’s that Man City didn’t need a goal that should have been disallowed due to a player being in an offside position, not that I would ever suggest for an instant that Man City ever enjoy any untoward advantages…

2: Tottenham—4W 1D 0L: 13 pts.
Are we into the dregs already? What a wild ride it’s been. More seriously, at some point, we may have to consider taking Postecoglou’s side seriously. You know something’s afoot when Richarlison actually scores, the goal counts, and he’s not booked for celebrating until it’s disallowed. They may be benefitting some a relatively soft start to the season, but we’d be underestimating them at our own peril. A dramatic win over Sheffield United, with two goals coming in stoppage time, can fuel confidence and determination. We ourselves did something similar against Man U. Tottenham have been bedeviled for decades by toxically low self-confidence, worsened by the poisonous tenurees of Mourinho and Conte. If they start to believe in themselves, and the results flow from that? Hm. I’d rather not ponder the possibilities.

3: Liverpool—4W 1D 0L: 13 pts.
Klopp is still sorting out his midfield, having lost Henderson, Fabinho, Milner, and Keita, and having added Szoboszlai, Mac Allister, and Gravenberch, and we’re seeing both sides of this. The first half against Wolves was abysmalKlopp himself suggested that they played like they “had just met in the car park before the game”. However, the second half suggested that Liverpool are finding their footing, scoring thrice against a Wolves side that is notoriously hard to break down. As much as I hate to say it (and I couldn’t bring myself to say it with the side currently in second place), our ability to win a league title does depend on other clubs taking points off of Man City. Liverpool may not be back to their fluid, heavy-metal best, but they’re getting closer. Paradoxically, we may need them to get there.

4: Arsenal—4W 1D 0L: 13 pts.
For as dull and as boring as this match was, given Everton’s desire to simply sit back and repel attacks, hoof one up the pitch, and see what happens, this was arguably our best performance of the current campaign. Martinelli’s goal being disallowed due to the shadow of Nketiah’s leg being in an offside position during the buildup riled up the home fans, and it would have been easy for panic to seep in, what with our uneven form to date and the fact that we hadn’t won at Goodison Park since October 2017. However, the players showed patience and mettle and gradually but persistently wore down Everton’s resolve. Through Trossard’s goal, we got the kind of result we’ve rarely gotten against such stubborn, mulish sides. Defeating Man U may have been more dramatic, but this result might just be more meaningful.

5: Brighton—4W 0D 1L: 12 pts.
Brighton are clearly on the march. Anyone who hasn’t punted on De Zerbi as manager of the year should take out a second mortgage, sell a kidney or two, and consider other legitimate ways to raise funds for that bet. Apparently, no one’s told him that you can’t sell £200m worth of players and buy just £81m and be better than you were before. What would Boehly think? It boggles the mind. Brighton are flying high, having dismantled Newcastle and Man U (feats that are admittedly looking less and less impressive as matchdays accrue). Time will tell how they’ll handle the rigours of the Europa League. I would love nothing more than to see Brighton finish in the top four…as long as it’s not at our expense.

From there, a yawning gap appears to open. Yes, West Ham started brightly, but they will have to show that they can handle the rigours of the Europa League, which I’m told are somewhat sterner than the Europa Conference League. If there’s a silver lining to that, Moyes may not need an atlas to locate West Ham’s away fixtures. Aston Villa have struggled out of the gates, losing twice already and staring that Europa Conference League square in the face.

Peering even deeper in the depths, Newcastle, Chelsea, and Man U are currently in the bottom half of the table and none of them show any signs of climbing up, at least not yet. The Magpies narrowly won over Brentford, Chelsea sleepwalked to a draw at home with Bournemouth (at least they scored a goal!), and Man U got thrashed at home by Brighton. There’s still a lot of sifting of the wheat from the chaff, of course, and these three are more likely than not to rejoin the fray eventually. More importantly, the fact that we’re just two points off of Man City’s imperious pace despite our own uneven start is a cause for a degree of optimism. They’ll drop points. They will.

It’s up to us to make sure we can capitalise when they do.

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