The Linesman took the international break to look back at how August went for the Premier League teams.
1. Chelsea 9 pts
Di Matteo endured a magical 11/12 season and led Chelsea to the top of the table by nailing 3 out of 3, mostly thanks to new signing Eden Hazard, which the talented attacking midfielder had one goal and six assists and was the star in August. With Meireles and Essien gone, only Oscar and Romeu act as the backups for Mikel, Lampard and Ramires in midfield, as Malouda has fallen out of favour. The signing of Victor Moses strengthens the frontline, but apart from Fernando Torres, only Daniel Sturridge is capable to play as central forward. The depth does not look adequate and promising for the challenges ahead. January signings (Falcao?) seem unavoidable.
2. Swansea 7 pts
The bargain purchase Michu has inspired Swansea to shine under Michael Laudrup. They inherited Rodgers' passing game and showed enormous pace in attack. Record-signing Pablo Hernandez, previously managed by Laudrup, is definitely going to add something to the Swans. Swansea has been solid and it seems their second season in Premier League would be far from struggling. Neil Taylor season-ending injury, though, is the sole disappointment in August. This has further weakened the backline which is already not the quickest in the league.
3 West Brom 7 pts
Steve Clarke enjoyed a flamboyant start to his managerial career with a 3-0 win against his former club Liverpool and a spiritual 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane. Lukaku’s loan deal has further enriched their options in attack, which already features Peter Odemwingie, Shane Long and Marc Antoine Fortune. The solid Baggies are more than capable to sit at mid-table if they wish to focus on the league, as long as the pace-less and occasionally eccentric defence does not drag their feet. As a defender himself, Steve Clarke has managed it quite well against the Merseyside duos and Tottenham in August.
4 Mancity 7 pts
They picked up from where they left off, but failing to keep a clean sheet in the first three games does not match the standard of their Italian manager. The 3-4-1-2 formation brought mixed results. David Silva is still recuperating from exhaustive game time and it means Yaya Toure and Carlos Tevez will have to shoulder more. The last-minute signings does not appeal much apart from Maicon (only if he is fit). However, The 31 years old Brazilian's defensive liability, as exposed by Gareth Bale two years ago, would still be a worry. The squad is still one of the strongest, but their form in August was far from convincing. Even if, according to their captain Kompany, “it is the result that matters”, they will have to bear in mind they won the title last season only by goal difference.
5. Manutd 6 pts
The struggles in defence are well-anticipated by Sir Alex, given their long injury list, and the Scot would be more than happy with bagging 6 points in August, thanks to new arrival Van Persie. The Dutch justifies his hefty price tag swiftly and proves to be invaluable at the time when golden boy Rooney is struggling. Another new signing Shinji Kagawa demonstrated his potential but needs to learn playing against a crowded defence. Fergie maintains his faith that his defence will get better with the return of Evans, Smalling and Phil Jones. The truth is the lack of a holding midfielder left the aging Vidic and Ferdinand well exposed. When Fletcher is going to return will be crucial to Red Devil’s season.
6 Everton 6 pts
The lack of big names in the Everton squad is compensated by the presence of David Moyes, who continues to demonstrate his managerial talents. Losing Tim Cahill and Jack Rodwell has minimal impacts on Toffees, with the returning Pienaar and revived Fellaini stealing the show in August. A very balanced squad outperformed Manchester United in their season opener and with such kind of form, don’t be surprised to see them finish on top of their Merseyside rival this season again. Ross Barkley is expected to shine whereas new signing Kevin Mirallas – another exciting Belgian – is a player to watch.
7 West Ham 6 pts
The addition of Andy Carroll, who is a perfect match to Allardyce’s long ball strategy, strengthens the West Ham squad, which already has abundant Premier League experience. Goalscoring is not a worry for Big Sam when he has the assets to execute his bomb-dropping deadball attack. How he could sort out the defence would be the key to West Ham’s survival. While McCartney is an obvious liability in defence, consistency and leadership from Jaaskalainen and James Collins are required, as shown in their home games so far, to save West Ham from relegation battle.
8 Arsenal 5 pts
It is not a joke, but Arsenal has not conceded a single league goal in August. Whoever deserves to be credited for the improvement, it has at least helped the Gunners to grab one point despite their inability to score. Santi Cazorla has restored the missing creativity in midfield and it will be up to Podolski and Giroud to convert the opportunities. Diaby could be the cornerstone of Arsenal, but he needs to be as consistently outstanding as in the Liverpool game throughout the season. The return of Rosicky and Wilshere will offer Arsene Wenger more options in central midfield, but are they missing a physical presence in defensive department, similar to Manchester United? Time will tell.
9 Wigan 4 pts
They survived last season by stealing points from top-half teams, but Martinez knows lightning may not strike twice. Di Santo led Wigan to grab four points from Stoke and Southampton, teams they surely are capable of competing against. Beausejour and Arouna Kone made the departure of Victor Moses forgettable, while Al Habsi’s performance continued to be the key, who rescued all three points at Southampton. If the players can eliminate complacent mistakes, the 3-5-2 formation could continue to lead them away from late-season survival fight.
10 Newcastle 4 pts
4 points from 3 matches is not a bad start, but this may not match the fans’ expectation. The draw against the struggling Aston Villa at home was particularly disappointing. Ben Arfa’s magical right-footed strike rescued a point, but it again showed the Toons rely heavily on individual brilliance, rather than efficient tactics in attack despite the talents they possess. When the defence could not stop opponents from scoring, they looked clueless in breaking down defence, especially when they could not exploit their high speed. Injuries are starting to hit them as well. With additional commitment in European competitions, their squad depth is facing a fierce challenge this season.