We can all say it is still early days in the English Premier League but the race to the finish line has started. After just 10 weeks, the league table is gradually shaping up but contrary to expectations, some of the traditional big teams are slipping up while some of the smaller sides are holding their own against all odds.
So far, we have Leicester, Southampton and West Ham in the top 6 and Aston Villa are not far away though they currently sit in the 10th position but a victory in their outstanding game could see them push as high as the 4th spot on superior goals difference.
The question on the lips of many is if there could be another upsetting of the odds and a change in the establish order just like the foxes did some seasons back. Prior to the Leicester City’s Premier League triumph in 2016, the race had always been amongst the traditional big teams like Manchester United and Arsenal, and the big spending Chelsea but the Foxes did the unthinkable by gaining promotion one season, escaping the drop another season and winning the Premier League the following season against all odds and expectations. Could their be another deja vu this season?
It seems unlikely considering the fact that there are several top teams jostling for that crown. Liverpool want a successful title defence, Manchester City want to wrench back their crown and will be buoyed by the extension of Pep Guardiola, Chelsea have spent big and are eager to win the title after such massive investments while Tottenham with Jose Mourinho can smell blood and are ready to go for the kill.
Some things that could count against the top teams are injuries, fixture congestion coupled with European distraction. Unlike the smaller sides that have no European distraction, there is room for them to rest their players with full concentration on the Premier League and that could go a long way in them standing the chance to last the whole distance in the race for the crown.
Amongst the smaller sides, Leicester City, Southampton and Aston Villa are the ones really pushing on against expectations. Leicester cannot be adjudged as been as small as the others because they most recently won the Premier League and still in their squad, they have title winners, Jamie Vardy and Kasper Schmeichel. Last season, they looked like they were going to give Liverpool a run for title, tussle with City for the second spot or at least finish comfortably in the top 4 but alas, they had to settle for the 5th spot and Europa League place after losing the last match of the season to Manchester United.
Few of the players might know how to win the title but the hectic schedule of the Europa league coupled with the fragile mentality of Brendan Rodgers could be their achilles heel. If there is any team expected to do a Leicester, it should be Leicester City but that looks unlikely.
For Aston Villa and Southampton, it is a huge surprise how well they have fared so far. Considering that they struggled to beat the drop last season, they have done incredibly well and from their showing they stand a chance of doing the unthinkable. For Southampton, they have fought to earn a point at Stamford Bridge but surprisingly threw away a comfortable lead to lose to Manchester United. For Aston Villa, highlight of their season so far has been the thumping of Liverpool at Villa Park and away conquest of Arsenal.
They deserve to be taken seriously but with a pinch of salt after losing to Leeds United and West Ham. For Leicester City, they have won at Etihad and the Emirates but that loss to injury ravaged Liverpool at Anfield and shocking one to Fulham means they cannot be trusted.
What Aston Villa and Southampton have going for them is the absence of European distraction. They might have a small squad but with only one competition to prosecute, that seems more than enough to pull through. Definitely, the favorites are the top sides but the smaller ones could also have a shot at it.