Another enthralling weekend in the Premier League approaches as every facet of every team is under inspection. Over the course of another bout of 90 minute games, there will be goals, saves, cards and winners and losers. Already there has been a shift in the league structure, with it proving impossible to perfectly call the top and the bottom of the league at this stage.
Manchester City, United and Chelsea are the early pacesetters, while Crystal Palace, Bournemouth and West Ham languish in the bottom three. While the top three may have been slightly easier to call, the clubs at the bottom of the league probably weren’t the vast majorities choice to be there.
Indeed, there were three teams that many would have pencilled in as their favourites to go down, with all three promoted teams in Newcastle, Huddersfield and Brighton seen as frontrunners to return to the Championship.
However, this has not been the case so far.
Promoted teams leading the way
This season has seen a number of incredible things, but none are as surprising as the high-flying of the promoted sides. Huddersfield currently lead the way with nine points from their six games, while Newcastle have nine points as well, two ahead of Brighton.
The fact that Brighton, the lowest of the three teams, are above the likes of Premier League stalwarts Everton, Swansea, Stoke, Leicester and West Ham is incredibly interesting. While that list of teams would claim that they have not had the desired start to the season, their struggles are set perfectly against the success of the three promoted teams.
In fact, the three new sides this season are far better off than their counterparts of the campaign before:
The above tables display the differences between the promoted teams from this and last season. Middlesbrough, Hull City and Burnley were the promoted teams last term and, after six games, had 19 points between them.
This season, Newcastle, Brighton and Huddersfield have accrued 25 points already. This sees them six points better off than their counterparts and, honestly, they look far more comfortable with the pace and standard of the Premier League. Indeed, Middlesbrough and Hull were relegated from the Premier League, while the defensive solidity of Burnley helped massively in their survival.
For the current batch of promoted teams, there is a good mix of attacking ability and defensive solidity. Huddersfield have conceded just three goals so far, while Newcastle and Brighton have conceded five and seven goals respectively. By comparison, the three promoted teams last season had conceded 29 goals between them at this point.
It is clear that that same defensive solidity is what is keeping this year’s sides in relative safety. Perhaps the most interesting example of all the promoted teams is Newcastle though.
Newcastle are beating the teams around them
If the fans had been told that the Magpies would lose 1-0 to Huddersfield and Brighton after six games this season, then they would have probably assumed Rafael Benitez’s men would be languishing at the bottom with close to no points so far. While their defeats to the afore-mentioned teams is a stain on their copybook, their other results have been outstanding.
A 2-0 defeat to Tottenham aside, Newcastle have beaten West Ham, Swansea and Stoke, three sides that have been mainstays of the Premier League in recent years. This has seen them rise to 10th in the league table already.
Incredibly, Newcastle have managed this without adding to their side heavily, with many claiming that their transfer policy was the nail in their coffin. Their ability to utilise an apparently weaker squad and beat the sides close to them has seen their stock grow massively, while their chances of survival have also grown.
Paul Merson praises Huddersfield
For Huddersfield too, the solidity at the back has seen them enjoying some time nearer to the top than the bottom. Indeed, Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson said of the Terriers: “Huddersfield have been tight at the back so far, keeping four clean sheets from their six league games so far…I watched them against Burnley last week and I thought they were very comfortable”.
The idea that teams need to come into the Premier League with an ability to blow the opposition away with goals is false, although it does help. While Merson does go on to say that Huddersfield need to score more, it is clear that their ability at the back is helping them to defy what had been a common consensus at the start of the season.
Instead, the sides that seem to be most at risk of going down are the abject Crystal Palace, Bournemouth and West Ham. While the Cherries have had to swallow some tough defeats after playing well in their games, and the Hammers are showing signs of improvement too, the three remain rather large surprises to be in the situation they are in.
Newcastle, Huddersfield and Brighton will be desperate to push on from here and make the most of their momentum, so we have taken a look at their fixtures in October, along with the three teams currently in the relegation zone and given a tally of where they will be at the end of October.
Huddersfield (Played 6, Won 2, Drawn 3, Lost 1, 9 points)
Huddersfield’s next opponents are Tottenham, Swansea, Manchester United and Liverpool. The Terriers, while high-flying, are about to get a taste of exactly why the Premier League is the toughest league in the world. The difficult games keep coming and, honestly, even though Huddersfield have been playing well so far, the only game they have a chance in is against Swansea City, meaning they are likely to add just one point to their current total.
Newcastle (P6, W3, D0, L3, 9 points)
Newcastle’s next opponents are Liverpool, Southampton, Crystal Palace and Burnley. In comparison to Huddersfield’s fixtures, Newcastle have a very favourable run in October. Liverpool will probably prove too much for the Magpies, but they have a real chance in the rest of their games, and if they can continue on their current trend, they could be looking at a further seven points from a possible 12.
Brighton (P6, W2, D1, L3, 7 points)
Brighton have a mixed bag of games to come over the coming month as they face Arsenal, Everton, West Ham and Southampton. Arsenal are looking good recently and will prove too strong, while Everton are always dangerous even when in a rut. However, they should look to target Southampton and West Ham, with both sides underachieving as of late, meaning they should aim to take at least four points from their next four games.
West Ham (P6, W1, D1, L4, 4 points)
Slaven Bilic’s side face Swansea, Burnley, Brighton and Crystal Palace. With the start the Hammers have had, this is the perfect run of games to build some momentum. All of the sides bar Burnley are in the bottom half and are weaker than a West Ham team that is full of talent. While Burnley are likely to prove a stumbling block, don’t be surprised to see the Hammers come away with at least seven points here.
Bournemouth (P6, W1, D0, L5, 3 points)
The Cherries’ October sees them play Leicester, Tottenham, Stoke and Chelsea, in a period which will prove very tough to come out with many points from. Indeed, games with Spurs and the Blues are likely to end in defeats, meaning they must target their other two games, with both Leicester and Stoke struggling recently. 4 points would be seen as a good return from this run.
Crystal Palace (P6, W0, D0, L6, 0 points)
Roy Hodgson’s men are a third of the way through as difficult a run as they could have possibly had. A loss to Manchester City will be followed by games with Manchester United, Chelsea, Newcastle and West Ham. The way United and Chelsea are playing, the game against the two is a write off, meaning Palace must target their other two games, but their current form suggests their struggles will continue.
Newcastle 16 points
Brighton 11 points
West Ham 11 points
Huddersfield 10 points
Bournemouth 7 points
Crystal Palace 1 point
Of course, the fortunes of other teams will have a huge impact on where the six clubs are at the end of October, but the Premier League’s all-action style means that there is no respite. By the above calculations, Huddersfield are the most likely to slip down the table, but this would still see Newcastle and Brighton building on their impressive starts.
Can the promoted sides maintain their promising starts?
Honestly, it is impossible to know. The three have been very good so far as they have defied belief. However, at any moment, a goal, red card or poor decision could start a downward spiral that sees a side fall into the relegation zone.
It would be very surprising to see none of Newcastle, Brighton or Huddersfield involved in a relegation battle come the end of the season, but they have been able to show that new sides can defy the expectation of the fans and displace more regular Premier League sides. They will now be desperate to prove that they haven’t peaked too early.