Chelsea, Man City And Arsenal Results All Show The Unpredictability Of This Season's Premier League


It was this time a literal loss of control, to go with the chaos of the entire weekend and this start to the season. As Chelsea toiled to get back into the game against Southampton, they finally got the ball back into the opposition box, through a Pedro run. Except, in a move that reflected the shambles that the champions’ season has already descended into, the winger somehow left the ball behind him just as he seemed to be going forward.

Southampton cleared, and Jose Mourinho still seemed no closer to having any clear idea as to how to solve this crisis.

After this 3-1 defeat, just as he had tried during as well as through pretty much all of the past few weeks, the Portuguese went for the big gestures and big statements in his already infamous post-match press conference.

None of it has worked, but that seems to fit with the season far: this isn’t a campaign to make big statements about anything. The next week, or even the next game, can prove anyone very wrong.

There’s been a glorious chaos to the eight sets of fixtures so far, and that has led to a brilliant unpredictability. You only have to look at Manchester City, who seemed imperious, only to then implode in one game just as quickly, and regain it again.

Exquisite as Sergio Aguero was against Newcastle United on Saturday, Manuel Pellegrini’s side don’t yet inspire confidence that this cycle won’t happen again in this campaign.

It does have the feel we’re in uncharted territory right now, as personified by Mourinho facing a run of results and a ruinous situation he’s never had to deal with before in his career.

The Premier League has never seen it either. Since England’s top-flight was rebranded in 1992, no defending champion has been 16th after eight games - not even Blackburn Rovers, although they did have one less point than Chelsea.

At the other end, City have 18 points, and that is the lowest any leaders have had after eight games since… Leicester City’s 16 in 2000-01. It does foster the sense that this could yet be an unusually open campaign, where there are more opportunities for those not usually in title races and not usually in the Champions League chase.

Arsenal certainly sent out a statement in what must be one of the most stunningly complete displays from an Arsene Wenger team in the post-2005 era, as they absolutely blew Manchester United away. It wasn’t just the movement, but also the muscularity, emphasised by how Theo Walcott thundered into Bastien Schweinsteiger.

It would be one of the great football stories if Wenger defied a decade of frustration and fierce criticism to win the league, and circumstances may now favour time.

At the same time, what was that about big statements this season? Both the opening few weeks and Arsenal’s recent history means it’s fair to wonder whether this is truly their new level, or just more false hope in a never-ending cycle.

Liverpool may actually face that same question, if on a different scale. There’s been a distinctive pattern to their own last decade, and one that probably says more than their current profile as a club than any manager. Because, in that time, three managers have got them to second in the table - Gerard Houllier, Rafa Benitez, Brendan Rodgers- and all have been hailed as near-saviours of the club, with almost a personality cult built around them in some sections of the club’s support. To even finish second with Liverpool’s current resources takes an immense effort, however, and the sense is that it leads to an intense emotional hangover from which neither the coach nor club can fully recover from without another change.

This is not to put a dampener on the pending appointment of Jurgen Klopp, and it is natural that a manager of his charisma will inspire similarly intense devotion from the very start. He certainly seems the right fit for the club both in a football and personality sense, and the timing may fit too.

After all the drama around Rodgers’s sacking, Liverpool are only three points off the Champions League places, and that in a season when there is such volatility to the table. His mere appointment and personality may well invigorate the current squad to higher level performance in the short term, before his coaching principles kick in in the long term. If nothing else, it all just brings a sense of excitement again.

That has been the feel of this season so far.

A lot of presumed certainties from the summer have evaporated, none more so than the idea that a Mourinho side will always be there as a monolithic presence.

Right now, they’ve been toppled by the chaos.