Played five, won four, drawn one, 16 scored and two conceded – the record of both United and City after a quintet of top-flight fixtures in England. A Manchester duopoly, it seems, threatens to form a stranglehold on the summit of the Premier League.
Outsiders might cling to the theory that United fans rarely come from Stretford and its surrounding areas, and that City’s zeitgeist is simply down to the money Khaldoon Al Mubarak has pumped into the club, but with Merseyside missing a beat and London lacking a leading light, this season’s title already seems to be heading to the hands of one of two Iberian coaches.
Battles between Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola are nothing new, with the consensus amongst journalists that City are the team to follow this year. The Etihad club is quoted as even-money favourites to win the league after a 6-0 away win at Watford at the weekend. However, United’s 4-0 beating of Everton confirmed the Old Trafford side as a high-flying bird (sorry, Noel), and at odds of 5/2, it’s the Reds that are the value bet at current prices to win the title.
— Sergio Kun Aguero (@aguerosergiokun) September 16, 2017
City traded at odds-on for Premier League glory both last year and the previous term after quick-fire starts, but on both occasions, they failed to land England’s biggest prize. The Sky Blues are better equipped according to Guardiola to go the distance this time around, but surely given what we’ve seen previously, it’s better to keep your powder dry than get your fingers burnt when it comes to going all in on City at this stage of a campaign.
London and Liverpool left behind
Did we learn anything we didn’t already know about the top two after easy wins against run-of-the-mill opposition? Probably not. What we did discover, though, is that underneath the Manchester clubs there are some serious flaws amongst those teams hoping to challenge for top honours. Chelsea’s scoreless draw with Arsenal threw up more questions than answers about Antonio Conte’s side, now 11/2 to retain the title, who seem over-reliant on Eden Hazard to unpick opposition defences. And while credit must be given to Arsene Wenger, who showed tactical acumen unseen in recent games versus fellow top six clubs, a top-four finish – quoted at 6/4 – might be the best Gunners fans can hope for.
It ends goalless
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) September 17, 2017
Liverpool’s failure to convert only one of 35 attempts on goal against Burnley suggests Jurgen Klopp’s team are as far away from conquering English football as they were last year – as odds of 25/1 confirm.
Tottenham’s domestic Wembley jinx continues to hamper Mauricio Pochettino’s men, as Swansea were the latest side to steal a point under the iconic arch. Spurs are 16/1 for the title and 4/5 to finish in the top four, but their inability to win at their temporary home means neither price is worth taking.
Sorry state at Selhurst set to stay
At the other end of the table, Crystal Palace became the first team in English top flight history to open the season with five defeats and no goals scored, cementing their place as favourites for the drop at 17/20. Roy Hodgson’s return to Selhurst Park brought no comfort for those in the Holmesdale, and away fixtures against both Manchester clubs – not to mention a home match against Chelsea – suggests their barren run looks set to continue (meaning their relegation odds will contract even further).
Bournemouth are 2/1 for the drop after recording their first win of the season, but Eddie Howe’s team remain in the bottom three alongside Everton, who trade at 50/1 to play Championship football next season after three straight league defeats. Ronald Koeman responded to Mourinho’s musings that the Goodison Park club should be targeting a top-four place, given the amount of money they’ve spent, by insisting the Portuguese should get real.
The stark truth might not be a relegation battle, but dreams of Champions League qualification via league position look as distant as the 25/1 quote currently chalked up.