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Player Analysis

Premier League Panic Level

by Chuck Booth
Updated On: November 27, 2020, 6:59 pm ET

We’re officially at the quarter pole mark of the premier league season and while VAR has stolen the headlines more often than it should, it has been a fascinating start with 1st and 15th place only separated by nine points. But how happy/ worried should each team be after their start to the season? That’s what we’re here to go through in the first edition of Premier League Panic Level.

Tottenham

Sitting top of the table after a victory over Manchester City, the José Mourinho effect is in full force at new White Hart Lane. Heung Min Son and Harry Kane are getting all of the goal scoring plaudits, for good reason as they have scored 76 percent of all of Spurs’ goals this season, but the defense has also allowed the fewest goals in the league. Playing Chelsea and Liverpool in their next four games, this could change but it's a good start.

While Matt Doherty has taken time to get up to speed, the addition of Pierre-Emile Højbjerg brings a defensive bite and calmness not seen in the Tottenham midfield since Mousa Dembélé was roaming the center of the park. We’ve yet to see what they can do together but the tools are there to believe that Mourinho year two should have a solid chance at silverware.

Verdict: Unbothered, eating popcorn on a private jet.

Liverpool 

“Liverpool are having a down season”, The Liverpool defense isn’t what it once was.”, “Losing 7-2 to Aston Villa is the end of Liverpool’s title defense”... PAUSE Liverpool are currently joint top of the league with Spurs trailing on only goal difference. While dealing with injuries to key players all over including the first choice central pairing likely being lost for the year, the machine rolls on. With a mixture of youth, the old guard, and a dash of Diogo Jota magic, Jurgen Klopp’s side is showing impressive resilience in this young season.

The defensive numbers can be improved on but with Fabinho and ThIago returning to health, things will be on the upswing sooner than later. The big question is what does Liverpool want to do to retool in January and will Georginio Wijnaldum find himself reunited with Ronald Koman or will he sign a new contract. These are the things that will determine if Liverpool can retain their title or if a new challenger can step forward.

Verdict: Trucking along but ringing agents left and right to test the waters.

Chelsea

Chelsea has been a polarizing team this season. They’ve spent most of the season without their expected wing pairing of Christian Pulisic & Hakim Ziyech and then Kai Havertz has also missed time due to Covid-19. The defense has gone through periods of being terrible, most notably a 3-3 draw with West Brom and Timo Werner has missed big chances left and right but still has been involved in six goals. We don’t know where to rate this team and they’re still third in the table.

The credit for this has to go to Tammy Abraham saying he’s not done, whoever plays from the midfield and having a keeper who can make saves now in Edouard Mendy. The improvements to squad depth at Chelsea are massive but this is when Frank Lampard’s coaching chops are put to the test. This is a team that should be in the title race and they’re also the leading goal scorers in the Premier League this season. Clashing with Spurs this weekend will tell us a lot about the Blues.

Verdict: Grabbing icepacks for a team rest and relaxation session/ recovery party

Leicester City

Another team who’s hard to judge this season is the foxes. Their injury list is almost as long as the list of who’s been available this season. At different points, James Maddison, Jamie Vardy, Ricardo Pereira, Timothy Castagne, Jonny Evans, and Çağlar Söyüncü have all been missing due to injuries and suspensions. Some teams would have folded without that many first-teamers but the Foxes kept rolling.

They have had some penalty luck on the season highlighted by drawing three versus Manchester City but the biggest concern is Brendan Rodgers overmanaging the squad. Rodgers makes some odd lineup choices here and there and also has historically taken a long time to bring injured players or new signings into the fold. Some of this is due to fading at the end of last season but Leicester won’t want to fall out of a top-four spot two years running.

Verdict: Tinkering on the machine hoping to make it better but it could blow up.

Southampton 

Ralph Hasenhüttl officially has his iron grip around Southampton. The team knows his tactics inside and out and it shows as they’re pushing for a Europa League place so far this season. Even with Danny Ings missing time, Theo Walcott has stepped in and shown that the system is bigger than the players. The defense has been the highlight of the season keeping clean sheets in four of nine fixtures this season.

The concern with Southampton is when it comes to depth outside of the first team but since they don’t send players on loan, we don’t know what prospects are around. You’ve gotta trust in the Haus to keep the good times going but one more major injury could cause some issues.

Verdict: Swimming along hoping for as many set plays as possible.

Everton 

The band is back together! James Rodriguez and the new midfield have made all of the difference for Everton so far but its golden boot leader Dominic Calvert-Lewin stealing the headlines. Everton did lose three games on the bounce during with Richarlison was suspended, James missed one and Lucas Digne missed another one. Everton not being able to win games without Richarlison is an issue but it's not as large of one as the overall team defense.

Jordan Pickford is a liability in net and this could be the most erratic defense in the league outside of Fulham. The central pairing of Micheal Keane and Yerry Mina or Mason Holgate hasn’t been good enough while Ben Godfrey isn’t a right back. Carlo Ancelotti will hope that Allan and Doucoure can protect the backline enough to secure a European spot. With today's news that Lucas Digne may miss more time, things may go from bad to worse for the Everton defense. 

Verdict: Walking a tightrope strung between the goalposts.

Aston Villa 

If you told Dean Smith that Aston Villa would be sitting seventh in the table on Thanksgiving with a game in hand he would have pinched you to wake him up from his dream. This is a team that avoided relegation on the final day last season becoming a top-half side before our eyes. Ross Barkley has slotted right back into his preferred 10 position and began dictating the offense just like his Everton days. Emi Martínez has also added an impressive calmness at the back improving the defense overnight. 

Shouts need to be given to the Villa recruitment team as every transfer so far has hit. Bertrand Traoré hasn't fully broken into the starting lineup yet but he's looked promising as well. Add in the new partnership between Jack Grealish and Ollie Watkins and this team is going somewhere. They still need the experience to win games when they aren't at their best but they're ahead of schedule on then return to Villa of old. 

Verdict: In the boxing ring hoping to be standing when all of the rounds are done.

West Ham United

David Moyes gets a lot of stick for his high-profile managerial failures but it's important to remember that this is his first job since Everton where he's been given proper time to instill his ideas. This team may be founded on the brilliance of Michail Antonio but even with him missing time, each member of the team has stepped up. And that’s without their new signing Saïd Benrahma starting a game yet.

Declan Rice has swept up any attacks that come his way but selection issues are on the horizon when Antonio is back.

Verdict: Ringing the best physios that money can buy.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

The elephant in the room here is that Wolves need to figure out if Adama Traoré is staying or going. If he’s staying then Nuno Espirito Santo needs to play his best attacker but if he’s going, time to figure out the attack as sleepwalking through the first half of games isn’t going to cut it. The only reason Wolves aren’t ringing my concern meter is that the defense has been great and moving on from Joao Moutinho has begun.

The left-back rotation has been maddening for fantasy managers and we don’t know why Romain Saiss has disappeared into thin air but Wolves have only allowed 10 goals on the season. Being within touching distance of a European spot is right where Wolves should be right now and as their new signings are integrated and Jonny returns to health, things will look much better in a few months.

Verdict: Ringing Adama Traoré’s agent every hour on the hour.

Manchester United

United waffles between #OLEOUT and that Ole is the best big game tactician in the game with no in-between. But in the league, losses to Spurs, Arsenal, and Crystal Palace shows that something’s not right. United will get the job done versus the smaller teams but the second they’re faced with a challenge they fold. Paul Pogba already has one foot back in Italy and who knows what Antony Martial is up top these days.

This squad has issues but luckily the solutions are on the roster today. The big question is which manager will get to use them to their potential? Ole or Mauricio Pochettino.

Verdict: Quivering, waiting to push the button to change their fates.

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace did something out of character this year signing Eberechi Eze to not only bring in an exciting attacker alongside WilFred Zaha but also lower their average team age. Tyrik Mitchell has also had a good showing in a solid start to the season for the Eagles. Midfield is still light but the emergence of Jairo Reidewald, who was signed three years ago by Frank de Boer to play center back, in central midfield has helped paper over their lack of depth.

This team is still too reliant on WilFred Zaha but that’s fine when Zaha is playing like he wants to be on the team because earning a transfer to Arsenal isn’t in his best interests. What Roy Hodgeson has done with this team is downright impressive and long may they continue to be boring but effective.

Verdict: Rolling up a brinks truck to WilFred Zaha’s house.

Arsenal

Mikel Arteta has finally had an offseason to make additions to the squad and instill his ideas at Arsenal. Annnnnnnd here we are and things look how they did under Unai Emery but more boring. Something is brewing as they’ve had a training ground scuffle, players don’t look like they want to be on the pitch and at times, it seems like Arteta is throwing things at the wall to see what sticks.

The defense has been good but any Arsenal fan will tell you that a club of their caliber should be able to both attack and defend well. Especially considering the amount of money that was given to Pierre Emerick Aubameyang. The top seven may be a struggle for this side and their aspirations are to make the top four…

Verdict: Is Ozil the true winner of the season? 

Manchester City

Who would’ve thought that we’d be this long into the article before mentioning Manchester City arguably the biggest disappointment in the league at this stage. For a team with title aspirations, being eight points off the pace, even with a game in hand is unacceptable. It’s odd that Pep Guardiola signed a new contract during this slide but maybe City Football Group knows something about the Messi sweepstakes that we don’t. Injuries to both Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesus don’t help for sure but there’s no sympathy for one of the most expensive squads in the world.

Phil Foden was supposed to be the David Silva replacement and he sits on the bench. Riyad Mahrez is playing like he has one foot out of the door and the midfield isn’t splitting the lines for the attacks that we’re used to seeing. Generally, the defense is the weakness for City but not this year. Guardiola will need to get things going before the festive period or their title challenge could be over by new year’s.

Verdict: Living on a prayer that Messi will save the season.

Leeds United

Leeds United has taken to the Premier League like a fish to water and that has surprised me. Led by Patrick Bamford and Jack Harrison, Leeds is rolling through the Premier League. They may be on 11 points so far but they’ve already gotten points off of Arsenal and Manchester City while pushing Liverpool to the brink. The Whites pounce on every chance that they’re given and while most won’t go in the net when you’re shooting 10+ times per game, enough shots will find the target.

Marcelo Bielsa just needs to keep trucking on at this point.
Verdict: Happy to be here but laying the groundwork to take over.

Newcastle

There’s no team in the league that I understand less than Newcastle United. On paper, they have a really good roster but in practice, they don’t have a manager to utilize it in Steve Bruce. It’s bad that if Jonjo Shelvey is out, everything falls apart especially since Shelvey misses a lot of time. Without Callum Wilson, this team would be cooked and he’s also as injury-prone as they come.

Verdict: There’s no profit this season so I’m not sure Mike Ashely knows what to do.

Brighton

In a normal year, Brighton would be in the relegation zone at the moment. Watching them, things look good but the results never match the eye test. Neal Maupay is a good striker but the number of chances that he wastes is unbelievable. The defensive breakdowns due to playing their expansive style with only one defensive-minded midfielder also show. Brighton will also need some discipline as they have collected three red cards so far on the session. Oddly they’ve won or drawn each game during which they’ve had a player sent off but it has a heavy impact on fixtures moving forward.

Graham Potter has settled down some with lineup tinkers but he’s still working on figuring out what his best team is.

Verdict: Looking for a time machine.

Burnley

Burnley’s season started when Ben Mee returned to health. Two clean sheets and four points with their first choice backline and that’s enough to move out of the relegation zone. The attack has been bad but with the rotating cast, the vaunted defense was also bad at the same time. Things need to change in midfield but that’s a board issue as they should have the money to fund Sean Dyche. If they won’t, there’s a chance Burnley may be looking for a new manager this season when Dyche walks for a bigger job.

Verdict: Grab the bubble wrap for all first-choice defenders.

Fulham

The penalty circus is the biggest issue at fulham as Aleksandar Mitrović, Ademola Lookman and Ivan Cavaleiro have all missed penalties in a laughable fashion. What sucks is that if those go in, Fulham is a midtable side but without them, they’re in the relegation zone. The Cottagers have some bright spots in the play of their new-look backline but this team will have to rely on their attack moving forward to get out of the relegation zone. Scott Parker has also made enough head-scratching decisions that his job could be at stake if things aren’t looking up by January.

Verdict: Stop slowing down counter-attacks and there may be a chance.

West Brom

Erm… this team is bad and will need a miracle to stay up this year. Their defense is worse than Fulham’s and the attack is also worse than Fulham’s. There’s a massive weight on Karlan Grant’s shoulders.

Verdict: Already packing up the bus.

Sheffield United

This is some sophomore slump. We knew the defense was primed for regression but the goals have also dried up for the Blades. They’ve spent a lot of money trying to fix their woes, but so far it hasn’t helped. Watford had a much better team being in this position last year than Sheffield United but on one point through nine, their Premier League fate could be sealed by the new tear. Burnley is only four points ahead of them but the Clarets also have a game in hand that could change things down the road. 

Verdict: Eying up transfer values