Sunday’s action in the Premier League was a showcase for the openness and unrivalled excitement of this season’s forthcoming title race, and a confirmation that the season ahead is going to be one unlike any other.
Manchester United’s victory over early season pace setters Arsenal at Old Trafford was a mighty indicator that we are going to see the most competitive season in top flight history. United’s 1-0 win, courtesy of a majestic glancing header from former Arsenal forward Robin Van Persie, breathed life into a Manchester United team starting to show that they can mount a title challenge under new manager David Moyes. While a great result for Moyes and his players, it was also a welcome result for an ever-growing chasing pack.
Arsenal will regroup after the forthcoming international break and aim to get back to the football that has earned them so many plaudits so far. However, in a wider sense, the result will have inspired several teams to believe that they are able to stay in touch with the usual title contenders.
Six points separate the top eight teams after eleven games, and the form of teams such as Everton and Southampton in particular has reaffirmed across Europe that England’s top division is the strongest and most unpredictable of all. This unpredictability breeds great excitement for supporters in anticipation of watching how the season unfolds.
Southampton themselves sit in third place, having gained impressive results away from home, with a win at Liverpool and a late equaliser at Manchester United earning them points against supposedly superior teams. Southampton have maintained good performances throughout the season so far and have only fallen to defeat at Norwich, less than any other team in the division. Mauricio Pochettino and his array of future England stars are showing their true potential and playing an attractive brand of football to boot in an encouraging start to the season.
Credit is also due to teams from the mid to lower half of the standings for some stellar performances against Premier League powerhouses. A perfect example came at the Stadium of Light on Sunday, where a vastly improving Sunderland toppled the other Manchester giant, Manchester City. The arrival of new manager Gus Poyet has been instrumental in Sunderland’s upturn in fortunes, and the Black Cats’ performance was resolute enough to stop this season’s top scorers from adding to their tally. Sunderland’s desire and ability to defend their lead was admirable, and reminded other teams that every team is beatable in this season’s top division.
Sunderland added themselves to a growing list of teams that have toppled the team many considered champions elect at the start of the season, joining Aston Villa, Chelsea and newly promoted Cardiff City in those ranks. It is results such as these that, should they continue, are going to add to the beauty of the Premier League over the coming months, a beauty that is returning after several years of the usual two or three title contenders competing amongst themselves.
In this season of fascinating matches and some glorious victories so far, the Premier League championship race has more challengers now than it ever has before. As the season unfolds, strength in depth may provide the difference between the pretenders and the contenders, yet this league season full of surprise surely allows football fans to dream of a wider competition than we have previously become used to.
Who do you think will achieve Premier League glory come the end of the 2013/14 season? Will a surprise package maintain their form and mount an interestingchallenge?