Comfort and control, words that have defined Chelsea‘s start to the 2021-22 Premier League season. But at half-time of their trip to face Tottenham on Sunday afternoon, Blues boss Thomas Tuchel evidently felt his side were a little uncomfortable, that they were allowing Spurs too much of a foothold.
Then, with one savvy change of personnel, the German tactician masterminded Chelsea’s most impressive 45 minutes of football this term. Off went Mason Mount and on came N’Golo Kante. Suddenly their customary control was restored, and the 3-0 final score did little to reflect just how comfortable the second period had been for them.
The depth of talent at his disposal is Tuchel’s greatest privilege - evidenced by his ability to exchange one of Europe’s brightest young talents for one of the world’s best and most accomplished midfielders at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium - but it is the fact that such a wealth of star players is allied with the manager’s ability to make sage in-game adjustments that has made Chelsea early pace setters.
Thiago Silva, Kante and Antonio Rudiger got the goals as the Blues blitzed Spurs in the final 45 minutes, and, having matched Liverpool’s result against Crystal Palace the previous day, Chelsea sit atop the table – above Jurgen Klopp’s men by virtue of alphabetical ordering, with points, goals scored and goals conceded a dead heat.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, the reigning champions, remain favourites to retain their title – City are available to back at 3.052/1 in the Betfair Exchange Premier League Winner market - despite a disappointing 0-0 draw at the Etihad on Saturday; a result that could have been worse for the home side but for a controversial VAR decision to overturn the award of a penalty to the Saints.
But Chelsea’s burgeoning title credentials are reflected in the fact that they are available to back to add the Premier League crown to last season’s Champions League triumph at just 3.1511/5 on the Exchange.
The main Mane
Scoring the first goal of Liverpool‘s 3-0 demolition of Crystal Palace at Anfield on Sunday, Sadio Mane became the 13th player to reach the milestone of 100 goals for the Reds. And there could have been no more fitting an opponent for the attacker to plunder his ton against. Mane’s strike made it nine successive games versus Palace in which he has scored, a Premier League record for consecutive games scored in against one side.
Goals from Mohamed Salah and Naby Keita sealed another three points for Klopp’s unbeaten Merseysiders. Available to back at 4.67/2 on the Exchange in the Premier League Winner market, Liverpool are approaching the impervious form of their 2019-20 title charge.
Manchester United are the third side to joined Chelsea and Liverpool on 13 points and, with 13 goals from their opening five games, are the division’s highest scorers.
And despite having played just two league games since his blockbuster return to the club, Cristiano Ronaldo already accounts for 23 per cent of United goal-scoring haul. The Portuguese is the 3.185/40 favourite on the Exchange to finish the season as Premier League top scorer.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner equalised against West Ham at the London Stadium on Sunday after an unconvincing performance from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side saw them fall behind to a Said Benrahma strike after half an hour.
Jesse Lingard was brought off the bench in the second half and made a much more positive impact than he had in midweek, when his errant backpass led to a late Young Boys goal and a 2-1 Champions League defeat. Here, against the club with whom he thrived on loan in the second half of last season, the England midfielder scored to give the away side a hard-fought 2-1 win.
David Moyes in the West Ham dugout was less shrewd with his substitutions. When awarded a potential point-saving penalty deep into stoppage time, the former Old Trafford boss brought on Mark Noble to strike from the spot, but the veteran midfielder’s first kick of the game was saved by David de Gea – a rare miss for the former and a rare penalty save for the latter.
Although United toiled against West Ham, grinding out results away to such formidable opposition is the mark of a true contender. They are available to back at 7.87/1 in the Exchange’s Premier League Winner market.
Gunners fire and Seagulls sore
Martin Odegaard’s 20-yard free-kick, the only goal of the game, was a delightful strike, but the rest of Arsenal‘s display against Burnley at Turf Moore wasn’t nearly as pretty. It was, though, ultimately effective. For just the second time this season – but, crucially, for the second week in a row – the Gunners collected all three points.
With their wins coming against Norwich and Burnley, any optimism allowed at the Emirates must remain of the most cautious kind. But Mikel Arteta is already beginning to see green shoots of hope. Available to back at 5.24/1 in the Betfair Exchange Next Manager to Leave Position market, the Spaniard is no longer the favourite to be the next coach to be sacked – an unwanted distinction that, available to back at 5.04/1 on the Exchange after Newcastle’s 1-1 draw with Leeds on Friday, now belongs to Steve Bruce.
And Arsenal are available to back at just 3.1511/5 in the Exchange’s Top 6 Finish market, where high-flying Brighton – who sit fourth in the table, one point off top, after beating Leicester 2-1 at the Amex Stadium on Sunday – can be backed at 6.05/1.