Thursday 14 December 2017 / 01:54 AM

EPL MATCHDAY 12 PRIMER

Where were we?

Here are two statements about the 2017 premier league season so far:

1. Manchester City are a ridiculously, historically good football team.

They’ve been undefeated in all competitions — especially impressive in a Champions League group with arguably the second-best team in football whilst playing through the most competitive league in the world — and appear to be getting better. They might be the best attacking side we’ve ever seen, firing home 38 goals (already!) and implementing a system so overwhelming dominant opposition teams are nervous from the get-go. They are a so ludicrously stacked that continuing at this rate doesn’t even seem complicated. The competition, by default, is miles behind, but keeping up with them isn’t an option — Guardiola is doing what he does: transforming a talented team into a squad of killers and taking a stranglehold on the competition in the process. They are the best team in the world; this is their competition to lose.

2. There is only one ‘elite’ team in the EPL right now.

There has been no second contender assert themselves, the other members of the top six exposing their inherent deficiencies that have come between them and points at some stage during the first 11 games: United are gimmicky, a mismash of talent without character or substance; Liverpool are fundentmentally flawed, a bottom-five defensive team in the league and their offence is suffering because of it; Tottenham and Arsenal can’t get out of their own way, continuing to find ways to take themselves out of the equation. Chelsea are the closest we get, but they’ve been so up-and-down they could be both the best and worst of this group and have shown both sides within indiviudal games — relying on them to keep it together feels risky. If we grade perfomance against expectations, Burnley have probably been the second-best team in the league. Nobody else can touch the frontrunners; City are first by default, their superiority accentuated by the lack of geniune competition.

You could make a case for either argument. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, a combination of both, but by looking through either perspective, some undeniable facts are revealed. Manchester City are the best team in the EPL, and by a significant margin. The other five contenders are barely visible in the rearview mirror and are probably better off separated into two tiers — United, Chelsea and Spurs lead the chase, with Arsenal and Liverpool another step behind, Burnley waiting to captilize on any misstep. The chasm between the top team and the field is the biggest it’s been in recent memory, but the fun is only begining.

Titles aren’t won in November, but patterns and habits that serve a meaningful purpose certainly are. The title race is a marathon, and City have sprinted out to a sizeable lead. Problem is, they might be able to hold this pace for the rest of the season — and that’s where we pick things up from.

Our first foray back into EPL action is outstanding, the headlining match-up of the week. The North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham promises to be a gripping contest, not just because of the history between them but because of the immediate consequences in the standings. Both teams have struggled to maintain good form for consecutive weeks, partly due to their respective managers altering the line-ups and failing to land on formations.

We’ll see if the time away has led to any realisations. Unfortunately, it appears as though we will not get to see Spurs go head-to-head with a contending team at full-strength — for the third time this year — but they’ll be thankful to have Harry Kane back on deck, missing him sorely in their last heavyweight matchup with United. Kane is the top-scoring player in the North London derby’s history, and he’ll be looking to conitnue his fine form, the second best player in the premier league this far behind City’s Kevin De Bryune’s stellar play.

And the lessons won’t end there, as Matchday 12 will give us further insight to some of the biggest questions of the division: Can City sustain their great form? Have United found a dependable game-plan? Are Liverpool or Chelsea going to find any consistency? The bottom half of the table consists of surprises — Brighton, Huddersfield and Burnley — and disappointments including Everton, Palace and Leicester; we’ll see if the play of the early season continues as the hotly-contested spots at the bottom of Europa competition are still up completely up for grabs.

The first 11 weeks were great, but now it gets real. Enjoy the action – it’s good to be back.

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About the author

Brayden Issa

Brayden is a Sydney-based sports management student and sports fanatic, specialising in rugby league, basketball, football and cricket. He is concerned with everything related to professional sports performance and management.

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