Each week we preview the Premier League action and discuss some of the division’s major talking points.
Postecoglou’s record-setting revolution can continue at Palace
Spurs are in fine fettle right now, top of the Premier League after the club’s best start to a top-flight campaign since being crowned champions in 1961. No manager has ever come into the Premier League and won more points after nine games than Postecoglou, with the speed in which Spurs have adapted to the Australian’s demands having transformed the mood in north London.
On just eight occasions has a team won more than Spurs’ 23 points at this stage of a Premier League season and none of those sides failed to finish outside the Champions League places. The top four was viewed as an ambitious aim in a summer that saw managerial change and Harry Kane depart, but there are few doubting Spurs’ Champions League credentials now.
23 – Ange Postecoglou has earned 23 points in his first nine Premier League games in charge of Tottenham (W7 D2), the most of any manager in their first nine games in the competition’s history. Impression. pic.twitter.com/xi1a2koQlg
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 23, 2023
One of just two unbeaten teams in the division, few will expect that record to come to an end on Friday night. Selhurst Park can be a tricky venue for opposition teams to visit, but a Crystal Palace side without Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise appears to lack the invention to spring a surprise.
Chelsea style still unclear despite improvement
Optimism has increased at Chelsea after a disappointing start under Mauricio Pochettino, with the west Londoners four unbeaten in all competitions after an entertaining draw with Arsenal.
Pochettino has mixed up his forward line this season and found success against the Gunners with a front three lacking a recognised centre-forward, with Cole Palmer, Raheem Sterling and Mykhailo Mudryk operating from the front.
Chelsea’s style, particularly in the attacking third, remains unclear, a situation caused by the abundance of new arrivals and absence of key signing Christopher Nkunku through injury. Chelsea rank highly on a number of different attacking metrics, which could symbolise versatility to their approach or a lack of identity dependent on how full your glass is.
Chelsea are fifth for presses per defensive action and third for high turnovers, but their pressing has failed to lead to goalscoring opportunities with the Blues only 12th for high turnovers that lead to a shot and 18th for those that lead to a goal.
Meanwhile, Chelsea rank behind only Manchester City and Arsenal for passes per attacking sequence and 10+ pass sequences, demonstrating an ability to use a more patient approach. Pochettino may need to settle on a preferred style as Chelsea seek consistency.
Sheffield United entering unchartered territory
There was an acceptance that this season would be tough for Sheffield United. The club’s financial issues and the sales of Sander Berge and Iliman Ndiaye meant the Blades were up against it before a ball had even been kicked.
Things are looking bleak for Paul Heckingbottom’s side right now, who are rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table. Sheffield United have taken just one point from their first nine games, with only one team having made a worse start to a Premier League campaign. Even the infamous Derby County team who set a Premier League record low of just 11 points in 2007/08 had five on the board at this stage of the season.
Fortunately for Sheffield United, the lack of quality above them means the Blades are far from cut adrift. There’s only six points between the bottom side and Everton in 16th, but results are needed and fast. This weekend’s trip to face unbeaten Arsenal is unlikely to bring much reward, but the Blades face Wolves (H), Bournemouth (H) and Burnley (A) in their next five. It’s a run that could be decisive, even at this stage of the campaign.
Wilson’s Wolves chance
Callum Wilson has had to settle for a bit-part role at Newcastle across the last 18 months, with the club-record arrival of Alexander Isak having created fierce competition for a centre-forward berth. Despite spells in and out of favour however, Wilson has continued to return goals at a career-best rate.
Last season the 31-year-old scored 18 goals in the Premier League, the best return of his career and a run of form which propelled Newcastle into the Champions League places. Wilson is averaging a goal every 66 minutes in the Premier League this season, having hit five goals in just three league starts. The England international will be frustrated with just 329 minutes of Premier League football, but should be handed a chance at Wolves this weekend after Isak suffered a groin injury in midweek.
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) October 22, 2023
Nunez is still Liverpool’s agent of chaos
Darwin Nunez earned the nickname as Liverpool’s agent of chaos during a mixed first season in red, one which saw the forward combine sublime moments with head-scratching wastefulness in the final third.
Nunez has made progress since his rash early months in the Premier League, but his tendency to do things unexpected – both good and bad – remains as strong as ever. Liverpool’s fourth goal in Thursday’s thrashing of Toulouse was perhaps a microcosm of Nunez as a Premier League player, as the Uruguayan showed pace, power and fine footwork to beat both defender and goalkeeper, before somehow spurning the chance with the goal gaping.
WHAT HAVE WE JUST WITNESSED?! 😅
— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) October 26, 2023
Fortunately on that occasion, Ryan Gravenberch was on hand to turn in the rebound off the post, but Liverpool will want Nunez’s chaos to come alongside calm when chances arrive. The 24-year-old has all the ingredients, but at present the recipe is not quite what it should be. It’s worth nothing that Nunez has the best G/A per 90 ratio in the Premier League this season. Imagine how productive he could be if the finishing touches are tidied up.
Quality not quantity needed for Man United in final third
Manchester United head into this weekend’s Manchester Derby on a three-game running run, though little from unconvincing wins against Brentford, Sheffield United and Copenhagen will inspire confidence ahead of their showdown with City.
Manchester City have dominated this fixture in recent seasons, with the Citizens celebrating in four of the last five meetings in all competitions. Manchester United, meanwhile, have struggled for goals during the current campaign, with their 11 from nine league fixtures the lowest return in the top half.
United’s lack of goals has come despite ranking behind only Tottenham for open-play shots (115) so far this season. That return has only correlated to an open-play xG of 10.18 however, ranking them ninth in the division.
Better quality chances are needed if United are to beat their neighbours this weekend, with City having conceded the lowest number of open-play efforts (43) in the Premier League.