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The Premier League at the International Break Part 1: The Contenders

The international window gives the perfect opportunity to change the oil in the hot-take machine and take stock of the league table. Believe it or not, Premier League clubs have played nearly a third of the season so far, and the table is full of surprises and non-surprises just before we enter the festive period, where matches come thick and fast. Let’s start this series by looking at the serious contenders for the Premier League title: Manchester City, Liverpool FC, and Arsenal FC.


Manchester City

Man City can’t keep getting away with this, or can they? City has taken 28 points from nine wins and one draw through their first 12 games, boasting the Premier League’s best goal differential (+20) and expected goals differential (+13.4). Erling Haaland still plays like a cyborg sent from the future to score goals against mere mortal opponents, having netted 13 and assisting on three more for the club in league play through twelve games.

A trio of young players have bolstered City’s attack this season. In addition to Haaland, attackers Julián Álvarez and Jeremy Doku have combined for 14 scoring contributions this season. Of City’s league-leading 32 goals, 30 have come from players aged 23 or younger. Much like the recent past on the blue side of Manchester, the future looks very bright indeed.


Liverpool

Liverpool look to be back to their old selves again, having taken 27 points from eight wins and three draws to start their campaign as they attempt a rebound from last year’s disappointing tailspin. There were plenty of question marks surrounding Anfield following the previous season, combined with the departure of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson to Saudi. Jürgen Klopp’s Reds have answered all their critics and doubters emphatically to start their campaign.


Brazilian goalkeeper Allison sits atop the league with a 78.7% save percentage. Virgil van Dyke has won 87% of his aerial duels this season, which is the most of any player involved (minimum 50 duels). Newcomer in the midfield Dominic Szoboszlai has settled well into the team, completing a squad-leading 84 progressive passes in league play with three scoring contributions. Mohammed Salah has 14 goals and assists, currently second only to Erling Haaland in league play.


Arsenal

Arsenal responded well to last season’s eleventh-hour stumble that saw them drop off the Premier League’s perch and surrender the title race to Man City. Having taken 27 points with the same record as Liverpool (W8-D3-L1), their +11.9 xGD is second in the league, and they’ve allowed the lowest xG against in England’s top flight, 9.2.


The controversial signings of hybrid midfielder and attacker Kai Havertz from rivals Chelsea and Spanish goalkeeper David Raya, on loan from Brentford, continue to leave question marks around Mikel Arteta’s Gunners. Raya currently has a post-shot xG of +0.8, which is technically better than Aaron Ramsdale at the end of last season, albeit on a much smaller sample size. Still, I’m not sure there’s a consensus in North London that they’ve improved at the position. Meanwhile, Havertz, who cost 65 million pounds, has more yellow cards than scoring contributions this season.



Odds On Favorites

Man City (-225), Liverpool (+650), and Arsenal (+650) have the best shot at winning the league, according to the bookie odds. Watching them play, it’s easy to see why. And while it is still too early to call the race won, anyone but these three finishing at the top of the table would certainly be a surprise. In the next part of this series, we’ll see how the rest of the pack is shaking out before moving on to the relegation candidates.


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