Just five weeks in, the Premier League table has already taken shape largely as expected. The four teams touted to win the title, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea, are all in the top five, with only the impressive Brighton and Hove Albion breaking up the top four.
Although the job Graham Potter is doing on the south coast is a stunning one, finally getting rewarded for the xG numbers the Seagulls put up last season, they are unlikely to sustain a title challenge. Between the other four, though, anything goes. We’ve taken a look at the pros and cons of each title contender to see where their strengths and weaknesses lie.
Chelsea - 2/1 for the title with Betfred
Season so far: It’s been one hell of a start for Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea this term. They’ve picked up where they left off last season having lifted the Champions League, and with the addition of Romelu Lukaku look even better than they did last term.
They’ve won four out of five league games, only dropping points at Anfield having played the second half with 10 men, while Mo Salah’s penalty is the only league goal they have conceded so far this season. The league leaders have also won the UEFA Super Cup and got off to a winning start in their defence of the Champions League. Things are looking pretty rosy right now.
Why they can win the league: The aforementioned Lukaku has taken a lot of the headlines since his arrival and he seems to tie together a fluid front line with Kai Havertz, Mason Mount and the rest of the supporting act flourishing behind him. But what has been most impressive about the Blues this term has been their back line. They haven’t conceded from open play and their back three has limited the opposition to few key chances, while the returning Thiago Silva adds another level of defensive solidity to this team.
What could stop them winning it: On the pitch at the moment, there’s nothing threatening them. A Lukaku injury could change their thinking, but other than that the only weakness could come in the form of their illustrious manager’s past. Tuchel is clearly one of the elite managers in the world but he has lost jobs at PSG and Borussia Dortmund due to his straight-talking persona, and although everything is rosy right now there is a slight possibility that a fall-out in 2022 could derail the title charge.
Liverpool - 7/2
Season so far: See above. The Reds have matched Chelsea each and every single weekend so far this season. This strange stat continued as they both won 3-0 last time out, but the only notch against Klopp’s side will be that they failed to beat 10-man Chelsea at Anfield, which is an opportunity missed. Still, they sit joint-top after five games.
Why they can win the league: This Liverpool team, so far, looks much more like the one which won the Premier League title in 2019-20. Virgil van Dijk has brought a sense of calm back to the back line, which has only conceded one league goal this term and that has given Klopp’s side the platform to attack. Mo Salah is on fire and, now Sadio Mane has found his shooting boots, they could go close this term.
What could stop them winning it: The striker position does not feel as strong as Manchester United or Chelsea. Diogo Jota hasn’t hit the ground running this term when it comes to goals and Roberto Firmino suffered a hamstring injury against the Blues. In his absence, Mane and Salah have stepped up, but Liverpool’s fixtures have been kind - aside from facing Chelsea. They may not be hit with the same injury nightmare as last term, but that striker position, in comparison to Lukaku and Cristiano Ronaldo, could be the difference against the big sides.
Manchester United - 5/1
Season so far: Are Manchester United good because they are lucky or lucky because they are good? So far this season, it has been difficult to tell. Their latest win at West Ham was certainly a bit of both, while the win at Wolves was certainly fortunate. The opening-day win against Leeds was scintillating but feels like a lifetime ago since Ronaldo returned to the club. Thirteen points from 15 is a brilliant return given the performances.
Why they can win the league: Cristiano Ronaldo. One of the best players in the world has transformed United into genuine title contenders. His presence alone makes the team better and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows he has a match-winner on the pitch at all times. Bruno Fernandes’ goalscoring numbers may dip, but if Ronaldo wins United this league, which he can, his return will become even more iconic.
What could stop them winning it: The midfield. Fred, Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay do not match the star quality that is littered around the rest of this team. With Paul Pogba deployed on the left against West Ham, the hosts were able to get the better of that United duo as Declan Rice and Thomas Soucek are, simply put, a superior central midfield. Ronaldo can paper over many cracks, but it is likely that this one will cost them at some point this term.
Manchester City - 15/8 favourites
Season so far: Far from perfect. An opening-day defeat to Tottenham was disappointing and although they bounced back with 5-0 wins over Norwich and Arsenal, they dropped points again at home to Southampton last time out. Having said this, they are still within striking distance, and given they were in the bottom half of the table in November last year before going on to win the league, Pep Guardiola won’t be worried.
Why they can win the league: The midfield and the manager. Guardiola has won it all in club football and has the utmost respect of every player at the club. Most of this squad won the league last term and know exactly what it takes to get a run going that could blow the rest of the competition away. Jack Grealish is pretty decent as well.
What could stop them winning it: Now, City pretty much won the league without a striker last term given Serigo Aguero’s constant absence, and they will have to do it again this term. Ferran Torres is being moulded into a front man by the Spanish manager but their failure in front of goal when he was absent will raise a few concerns. Added to this, their left-back situation isn’t ideal, with Oleksandr Zinchenko and Joao Cancelo not adding much natural width to the side.