With the third week of the Premier League season coming to an end and the transfer window having shut now seems the perfect time to predict what the top of the table will look like at the end of the 38th and final match in May.
New managers Andre Villas-Boas and Brendan Rodgers have got off to inauspicious starts with Tottenham and Liverpool respectively whilst both Manchester clubs have already dropped points on the road.
Chelsea, meanwhile, are the only side with a perfect record whilst Swansea and West Brom have begun the season well under new management.
But will the table look anything like it does now in nine months time? I,for one, doubt it very much.
1. Manchester City
The reigning champions and title favourites have begun the season well, picking up seven points from a possible nine and look like they again have the tools to secure the title. They have not been at their best thus far but seem to have the ability to win without putting in the great performances we have come to expect from Roberto Mancini’s side over the past few seasons. A difficult Champions League group draw could have some effect on their form heading into Christmas, but with the arrival of Javi Garcia, Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair to boost their squad size they should have both the talent and strength in depth to retain their crown.
2. Manchester United
Sir Alex Ferguson may well have to settle for being the bridesmaid for the second year running as I feel his squad does match the strength of their “noisy neighbours'”. The signings of Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa have strengthened their attack, but it was defence where they struggled last season. Nemanja Vidic is back from his long injury lay-off but it does not seem that the four candidates to partner him are capable of doing so on a regular basis. Patrice Evra was arguably the Red Devils’ weakest player last season, and Fergie has moved for Dutchman Alex Buttner to give the French left-back some competition. Whether he regrets trying to sign someone with more experience (i.e. Leighton Baines) remains to be seen.
Roberto Di Matteo has had a good summer in the transfer market, bringing in Eden Hazard, Oscar and Marko Marin amongst others,and from the start they have made it looks like they will improve drastically on their 6th place finish in 2011/12. Fernando Torres seems to be benefiting from becoming the lead attacker whilst Gary Cahill and John Terry are building a strong partnership at the heart of the defence. Central midfield and other striking options are their achilles heel and may well be the main reason as to why they don’t quite challenge the two Manchester clubs.
Arsene Wenger has come in for criticism after selling his side’s two best players from last season and seemingly failed to replace them before the end of the window, but I feel his team still have what it takes to finish in the Champions League places. Santi Cazorla looks like a player who can fill the void left by Cesc Fabregas whilst the eventual comeback of Jack Wilshere will give the side a timely boost heading into the winter months. Lukas Podolski has scored goals at almost every club he has played at whilst at the back Laurent Koscielny gets better with every game. They will be someway behind the top three, but are the best of the rest in terms of quality.
A somewhat surprising choice given the fact that there has been no mention of Tottenham or Liverpool so far, but David Moyes’ shrewd transfer activity may well give them the edge over their rivals during this campaign. Nikica Jelavic was one of the signings of the last transfer window and if he continue to score goals at such a regular rate then then the Toffees will have finally found a striker they can rely on for goals.
Marouanne Fellaini and Steven Pienaar add flair and creativity in midfield whilst the delivery of Baines and Kevin Mirallas will be crucial if Jelavic is to continue his fine record. Their only issue seems to be if the Croatia international gets injured they have limited back-up, but if he stays fit then they could challenge for a Champions League spot.