This article will review how Arsenal, Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Brentford and Brighton have started the Premier League season.
Arsenal: Position – 1stEmbed from Getty Images
Arsenal has had a fantastic season. They look a completely different side than they did a few years ago, a team who struggled to beat teams in the top 6 and managed slender wins against teams languishing around the bottom of the table. Now, they have beaten Liverpool, Spurs and Chelsea, and are challenging for the league title.
Currently, they sit 5 points clear of Man City at the top of the table, which no Arsenal fan would have believed at the start of the season. They owe this start, in large parts, to Arteta. He came into the club with a vision, a particular style that he wanted his team to play, and now the team have adapted to this style, and we are seeing the best from them.
They have resolved their defensive issues, with Gabriel looking to be one of the best centre-backs in the league currently. The addition of Zinchenko, signed by Man City, strengthened their defensive wide areas, and they look a lot more solid already. They have the joint-best defensive record in the league, only conceding 11 goals, on par with Newcastle.
Arsenal’s marquee signing this year was Gabriel Jesus, who they signed from Man City for a reported £45 million. Whilst he has not been the most prolific, with only 5 goals in 14 games, he is consistently involved in the build-up play, notching 5 assists as well. If Jesus can find his shooting boots in the second half of the season, Arsenal may be very hard to beat. Arsenal has scored 33 goals this season, only 7 behind defending champions Man City.
Even the fringe players around the first team have stepped up when called upon. Reiss Nelson scored twice in their 5-0 against Nottingham Forest, also grabbing an assist. Xhaka, who fans wanted to be rid of last season, looks a completely different player, and a mainstay in this team, with 3 goals and 3 assists so far this season. First-team players such as Saka, Odegaard and Martinelli are firing on all cylinders, with 15 goals and 10 assists between them.
The only question is, can Arsenal come back from the World Cup break and continue their form? Will Arteta be able to challenge consistently over the course of the whole season? Will playing in the Europa League cause injuries and disrupt the first team? The January transfer window holds all the answers to these questions, a few signings in the right positions could strengthen Arsenal further.
The atmosphere inside The Emirates is changing, the team is evolving, they have an exciting young coach who wants to play attractive football, and they have the players at their disposal to do so. It is an exciting time to be an Arsenal fan.
Aston Villa: Position – 12thEmbed from Getty Images
Aston Villa has had a difficult season so far. Steven Gerrard did not quite cut it in the Premier League, getting sacked just 11 games into the season, with Villa sat precariously above the relegation zone, level on points and goal difference with Wolves.
The signing of Unai Emery raised some eyebrows. Remembered by many as Arsene Wenger’s successor at Arsenal, some fans and journalists alike have tipped Villa to achieve a European spot under the Spaniard within the next few seasons.
These comments may not seem too ridiculous, as since joining, he has seen his side in both the games he has presided over. Starting with a fantastic 3-1 win over Man United, followed by a 2-1 win at The Amex against Brighton. These results now see Villa sit more comfortably in 12th place, 5 points above the relegation spots.
Despite these two big wins, Villa’s attack has been nothing special so far. Danny Ings is their current top goalscorer. His brace against Brighton took him to 5 for the season. Meanwhile, playmakers Jacob Ramsay and Leon Bailey have only registered 4 assists between them. However, with the change in style, and players adapting to Emery’s style of play, this could change.
It is starting to look better for Villa. Against Brighton, apart from the early goal they conceded, they defended well, broke forward in numbers, pressed as a team and linked together well when attacking. Emery’s high press style is already profiting, Ings’ second goal coming from Brighton losing possession around the edge of their own area.
If Emery is given the money to bring the players we want in, the second half of the season should be a more enjoyable one. They now look like an exciting side when going forward, and they certainly have the players to hurt teams. I would not be surprised to see them finish in the top 10 this season.
Bournemouth: Position – 14thEmbed from Getty Images
Bournemouth is a confusing side. They have the worst defensive record in the league, and it shows when they play, they are all over the place. However, they are an entertaining side to watch. On their day they can score goals, but this is not a sustainable way of playing over the course of a Premier League season.
There have been moments where they have been brilliant. They were beating Spurs 2-0, before a defensive collapse meant they lost 3-2 in added time. They were also 3-1 up against Leeds, before succumbing to a 4-3 defeat. They need to learn to see a game out at this level, those dropped points could prove costly and the end of the season otherwise.
They ended a run of 4 straight losses with a brilliant win, and a surprising clean sheet, winning 3-0 against Everton, who they then also beat 4-1 in the Carabao Cup. These two games alone prove that if they can keep tight at the back, they can pick up results. However, they have displayed to the rest of the league how weak they are at the back. Their 9-0 loss against Liverpool was humiliating, as soon as the third or fourth hit the back of the net it should have been all about damage limitation.
Bournemouth did not spend much in the transfer window, with a reported £25 million being spent. The January transfer window will be vital for them. They need to sign some centrebacks who can soak up pressure, perform consistently and keep clean sheets. On paper, their squad is not good enough to stay up, and investment is needed.
This could be a long season for Bournemouth, if they cannot hold onto their leads in games, and if they cannot keep it tight at the back, they will surely slide down the table towards the relegation zone, and how long will Gary O’Neil be given if this trend keeps up?
Brentford: Position – 10thEmbed from Getty Images
Brentford is cruising at the moment. Sat in midtable, the same amount of games won and lost, and a near identical amount of goals scored and goals conceded.
Brentford seems to be a good benchmark for the top 6 teams, especially when they are at home. When United turned up and got beaten 4-0, questions were pinned on whether Lisandro Martinez could play as a centre-back in the Premier League. When Arsenal beat them 3-0, they were viewed as easy 3 points. When they drew 0-0 with Chelsea, Chelsea was deemed unlucky not to have got all 3 points. When they beat Man City at The Etihad 2-1, people started to realise that this Brentford side is good, they can play, they can defend and they are brilliant going forward. They are certainly not an easy game.
Ivan Toney not getting picked for the England squad has disgruntled many football fans, questioning why Southgate would not want to take a chance on somebody who has scored 10 goals in 14 games this season, after only scoring 12 throughout the whole of last season. It allows Toney to rest over the winter break, and come back into the second half of the season fully charged, and I would not be surprised to see him hit 20 goals for the season at least.
Brentford needs some other players to start stepping up and chipping in with goals. Toney has had a hand in over half of Brentford’s goals this season, and if he were to get injured, suspended, ill or even bought in the transfer window, they would struggle. Brentford’s other two forwards, Canos and Ghoddos both have 0 goals so far. Some investment into a backup striker would be ideal for Brentford, if Toney has a good second half of the season and hits the 20-goal mark, a few clubs could come sniffing in January.
I think the second half of the season will be much like the first for Brentford. They are in no real danger of getting relegated but are not good enough to break into the top 6. Their main aim should be to finish just above the top 10, which they are more than capable of.
Brighton: Position – 7thEmbed from Getty Images
Brighton has been brilliant this season, haven’t they? I thought when they lost Potter they would struggle and start sliding down the table. De Zerbi has come in and they find themselves at in 7th, level on points with Chelsea and their former boss.
What I like about Brighton is that they know how to grind results out. They may not be the best on the ball, and they may not score a load of goals, but they know how to defend as a unit, make it difficult for the opposition, and grind wins out.
Trossard is a brilliant player, 7 goals and 2 assists so far in the league, he is instrumental when Brighton go forward, and for a side that is not flush with goals, he is a player Brighton needs to keep hold of.
The issue with Brighton is that most of the time, they drop points where they should pick them up, and pick up points where you would expect them to lose. They drew 0-0 against an out-of-form Nottingham Forest a few weeks ago where they were expected to win easily. A few weeks later they hosted Chelsea and Graham Potter, where they won 4-1, where everyone expected them to lose.
Consistency is going to be key for Brighton going forward. I do not expect them to finish anywhere near the top 6, but I do think a top-half finish is achievable. A big January transfer window is coming up for them, and if they can keep hold of their key players, such as Trossard, and invest some money into a prolific striker, then who knows, they could close that gap between themselves and a top 6 finish.