This article will review how Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham and Leeds have started the Premier League season.
Chelsea: Position – 8thEmbed from Getty Images
Chelsea has been so indifferent so far this season. They started life under Graham Potter well after sacking Tuchel. But, their last 5 games before the winter break have seen them return 2 points and 3 losses against teams around them in the table, including London rivals Arsenal and Potter’s former squad, Brighton.
Chelsea, and their fans alike, will know a title challenge is now out of the question. They sit 16 points behind league leaders Arsenal, and 11 points behind second-place Man City. Their aim for this season will now be a top 4 finish, but they will need to turn their form around after the restart, as they already sit 8 points behind Spurs in 4th.
Chelsea’s main issue is scoring goals. They have only found the back of the net 17 times this season. Only 7 teams have scored less than this, and worryingly they all sit below Chelsea. Adversely, their defence has been relatively solid, conceding 17 times. Only the top 3 have conceded less than this so far this season.
Personally, I have been deeply unimpressed with Chelsea this season. Their attacking players are not on the same wavelength, they cannot put pressure on teams and their attacks break down too easily. With the signing of Sterling in the summer it brought some much-needed quality out wide for them, but he has yet to prove himself in London, with just 3 goals and 1 assist in 12 games.
Chelsea’s two main strikers are not proving themselves either. Armando Broja was heavily linked with a move away from Chelsea this summer, however, he remained at the club and has only managed 1 goal in 12 games. Aubameyang was a surprise signing for Chelsea, and he has also yet to prove his worth. Playing 6 games so far for Chelsea, he too has only managed 1 goal.
The problems are obviously for Chelsea, and the solution remains clear. Keep solid at the back, and bring in a goalscoring forward that links up well with the players already in the team. If Potter can manage this, then Chelsea may muster up a late run into the top 4.
Crystal Palace: Position – 11thEmbed from Getty Images
Crystal Palace currently sits in 11th place after 5 wins, 4 draws and 5 losses. They seem to be one of those teams that constantly go under the radar. On their day, if they turn up, they can beat anyone, however, we have not seen that from them this season. They have folded in big games. They were 2-0 up against Man City and The Etihad earlier in the season, before conceding 4 goals in the second half to lose 4-2. It is this level of inconsistency that has seen Palace linger around the middle of the table for yet another season.
Over the course of the season, Palace has only won back-to-back games once this season, beating Southampton 1-0 before heading to London and beating West Ham 2-1. Palace’s other wins have been followed by a 4-2 defeat, a 0-0 draw and a 3-0 loss. Consistency is something Patrick Vieira needs to work on if Palace has any chance of breaking into the top 10 this season.
Wilfred Zaha is a Crystal Palace man through and through. He loves the club, and the club love him dearly. They rely on him each season to create and score goals; it has been no different this season. Of the 15 goals Palace has scored this season, Zaha has had a hand in over half of them, assisting 2 and scoring 6 himself.
After their 1-1 draw at Brentford, Zaha faced the cameras and gave a brutally honest interview. He questioned why the club defends when they take the lead instead of going out to kill games off. He also blamed too many last-minute goals as their reason for dropping so many points.
Zaha does have a point. On 4 occasions where Palace have taken the lead, on 1 occasion they conceded in the second half and drew 1-1, on another occasion they conceded very late into the 2nd half and drew 1-1, on another they conceded in the 90th minute and lost 2-1, and in the other, they conceded 4 second half goals and lost 4-2. They evidently lack concentration towards the end of the game which is something that Vieira will want to work on.
Palace do have an exciting young team, however, with the likes of Eze, Mateta and Olise. They are, at times, exciting to watch, but they need to sort themselves out defensively. It could be another season of coasting for Palace, with no chance of a top 6 finish but are picking up the points to keep them away from a relegation fight.
Everton: Position – 17thEmbed from Getty Images
After struggling to avoid relegation last season, Everton fans were hoping for a much more comfortable season this year. 14 games later they find themselves above the relegation zone by a single point. How much longer will Lampard remain in charge? Many Everton fans want to be rid already, but a lot also think he is doing a good job with what he has been given. If Everton does go down this year, Lampard will not finish the season as manager.
Everton has problems all over the pitch at the moment. They have scored 11 goals all season, with only one other team scoring less, Wolves with 8 who sit rooted at the bottom of the table. Calvert-Lewin, Demarai Gray and Iwobi all have a goal each, and Anthony Gordon, who almost signed for Chelsea in the summer, is their top goalscorer with 3 so far this season.
One surprise this season has come in the form of Alex Iwobi however. He has looked like a completely different player for Everton this year, with 5 assists to his name. He will be vital for Everton going forward for the rest of the season as he links the play well, has an eye for a pass and is not afraid to try and beat his man. The further forward they can push Iwobi, the more we could see from him.
Jordan Pickford is a hard player to judge. With Everton, he plays well, there is no doubt about that. However, when you watch him play in an England shirt, he looks 10 times better, he saves everything. Whilst there are better players in front of him when on international duty, his shot-stopping is miles better than when he plays for Everton. Why can he not bring this international team form into the Premier League?
The unrest from the Everton fans will certainly not help the team either. Following big back-to-back defeats by Bournemouth, Iwobi had his shirt thrown back at him by an Everton fan, and the atmosphere is becoming increasingly negative around the club. With a lot of young players on the pitch, they need to get behind the team, A big January transfer window is coming up for Everton, and it will be interesting to see where the money is spent.
Fulham: Position – 9thEmbed from Getty Images
Is this the season Fulham finally stay in the Premier League? For years they have been a ‘yo-yo club’, constantly getting relegated before returning straight back to the Premier League, just to get relegated again. This year is different, they have shown they are capable of not just staying up, but competing in the division. This time, Fulham are back for good.
In comparison, 2 years ago, after 15 games, Fulham sat in 18th place, with 2 wins and only 13 goals scored. Now, they sit in 9th, with 5 wins and 24 goals scored. Could they push for a European spot? Or will they get found out in the second half of the season?
Interestingly, Fulham has done relatively well against the big 6 this year, despite the scorelines. They drew with Liverpool 2-2 on the opening day of the season and should have won, and since then have lost 2-1 against Man City, Man United, Spurs and Arsenal. Despite them only picking up 1 point out of a possible 15 here, they should have gained a lot more. They took the lead against Arsenal, lead twice against Liverpool and played over 70 minutes with a man advantage against Man City and only lost due to a 95th-minute penalty.
The defence is evidently an issue. Had they been able to hold on against these big teams they could be sat much higher up the table looking at the European spots. However, their defence, which has already conceded 26 goals this season, has let them down. Out of their 15 games this season, they have conceded 2 goals or more on 11 occasions, keeping only 3 clean sheets. If the goals start to dry up for Fulham, their defence needs to step up and work as a unit and keep more clean sheets.
On the topic of goals, it goes without saying that their star man this year has been Mitrovic. With 9 goals in 12 games, he finds himself Fulham’s top scorer, and what a variety of goals he has scored already. Penalties, brilliant headers, everything, he looks like a different player from the one that played in the Premier League last time. He looks to be the man that will keep Fulham in the Premier League this year, and if he continues his current goalscoring form, it would not be surprising to see some teams enquiring about him in the summer.
Fulham should be safe. They seem to pick up points against the teams which are struggling, which is absolutely vital in this division. If they could turn a few of those losses against the big 6 into draws, or even wins, the top 6 could be a realistic finish for them.
Leeds United: Position – 15thEmbed from Getty Images
Leeds has been brilliant this season, but not always for the right reasons. They have been the most entertaining games to watch this season, but again, not for the right reasons. If you are neutral and you watch a game that is guaranteed goals, Leeds games are the ones to watch.
They remind me of Blackpool when they were in the Premier League. They have come into the season with a ‘we can score more goals than you attitude’, which works brilliantly if your defence can handle the pressure. But, just like Blackpool, Leeds’ defence evidently cannot handle the pressure.
Of their 14 games this season, only one has produced no goals, and 2 have produced a 1-0 result. Their last 2 games before the international break saw 14 goals, 7 for and 7 against. They attack with pace, and their wide players consistently try to take their men on and do not worry about losing the ball. They play risky passes where other teams would rather play keep the ball, and this is what makes them so attractive and entertaining to watch going forward.
Leeds have scored 22 goals in 14 games, the second most in the bottom half of the table, have conceded 26 and have only kept 2 clean sheets so far this season. Their defending looks erratic and unorganised and they often get caught out. If they could keep it tight at the back, whilst attacking with the intent that they currently do, they could finish this season comfortably.
Crysencio Summerville really came out of nowhere, didn’t he? He has been brilliant for Leeds in recent weeks, scoring some very important goals. The international break came at the wrong time for him, it is vital for Leeds that he keeps these performances up after the restart. He has pace, the trickery, and he has a good eye for goal as well. He could be an absolute steal for Leeds.
How long will Jesse Marsch be given at Leeds? When things were going wrong they showed patience and kept their faith in him. If results start going against them and the gap between them and the relegation zone closes, will they continue to keep the faith or will they sack him? He plays entertaining football, but it is a results game, and if he does not keep picking up points, then the Leeds owner’s resolve may be tested.