Eight rounds of matches of the 2019/20 Premier League season have been completed heading into this international break.
Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the winners and losers of the campaign so far.
After finishing as runners-up behind Manchester City in May despite losing just one league game all season, Jurgen Klopp’s Reds are yet to drop a point this term and currently sit eight points clear at the top. While they have taken their run of top-flight wins, stretching back to March, to 17 games, their cause has been boosted by second-placed City suffering shock losses to Norwich and Wolves. There remains, of course, plenty of football to get through yet as Liverpool look to finally get their hands on the Premier League trophy, but they could hardly have wished for a better start to their title bid.
There was disappointment for Rodgers on Saturday as his return to his old club Liverpool saw his Leicester side beaten 2-1, but overall it has been a very positive opening to 2019-20 for the Northern Irishman and his team. Rodgers oversaw an eye-catching revival in the Foxes’ form last season following his appointment as their boss in February, and – after a summer in which they lost the services of Harry Maguire with the England defender’s move to Manchester United – the impressive work has continued. Ninth at the end of last term, Leicester have been spoken about as possible top-six finishers this time around and presently lie fourth with 14 points.
Having spent time on loan at Bristol City, Swansea and Aston Villa over the past three seasons, Abraham has been handed a chance to shine for Chelsea in 2019-20 and has certainly made a mark so far. The 22-year-old forward leads the Premier League scoring charts, alongside City’s Sergio Aguero, after netting eight goals and his form has been rewarded with a recall to the senior England squad, which he was last a part of in 2017. Abraham and fellow Chelsea academy graduates Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori – also called up by Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate – have all been key men for Frank Lampard’s fifth-placed Blues, who were unable to sign players over the summer due to a transfer embargo.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
There was a pretty stark contrast last season between Manchester United’s results when Solskjaer was caretaker manager – 10 wins in 13 league games – and after his appointment as permanent boss in March – two in eight – and the struggle has continued this term. Things began well with a 4-0 thrashing of Chelsea, but there has been only one further league victory since and three defeats. United, on nine points, have made their worst start to a league campaign in 30 years and with his side 12th in the table following Sunday’s 1-0 loss at Newcastle, just two points above the relegation zone, the pressure on the Norwegian looks to be mounting.
Everton boss Silva is another manager under considerable scrutiny after his side’s losing streak in the league extended to a fourth match with Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Burnley – the Toffees’ worst run in the division since 2014-15. Rather than looking like contenders for a place in the top six, the club are now in 18th spot and boos could be heard from the visiting fans at Turf Moor at the weekend as Silva walked off after the final whistle.
The first managerial change in the league since the start of the season happened at Watford, who sacked Javi Gracia in September after losing three and drawing the other one of their opening four matches and brought back old boss Quique Sanchez Flores. A subsequent 2-2 draw with Arsenal was followed by a humiliating 8-0 reverse at Manchester City and a 2-0 defeat at Wolves, before Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Sheffield United. Bottom of the table, four points adrift of safety, the Hornets are hoping Sanchez Flores can add to the commendable work he did in his first stint charge in 2015-16, when they finished 13th.
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Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said Tottenham Hotspur’s Mauricio Pochettino has “done very well”, but is now stuck having to “show you can give people more”.
Pochettino led Tottenham to last season’s UEFA Champions League final, but they have struggled this campaign.
Tottenham recently lost to fourth tier Colchester United in the English League Cup, suffered a 7-2 humiliation at home to Bayern Munich in the Champions League and were beaten 3-0 by Brighton in the English Premier League.
Wenger, speaking two days after the Bayern defeat, said Pochettino has started to become a victim of his own success – just as when the Frenchman was expected to build on a Premier League top four finish during the final years of his Arsenal tenure.
Wenger also feels Tottenham and Christian Eriksen, whose contract next year, do not share the “same chemistry” anymore.
Watch Wenger share his thoughts in the video above.
Manchester United’s struggle for results continued with defeat to Newcastle on Sunday, increasing the speculation about manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s position.
The Norwegian has been unable to sustain the club’s impressive record from his spell as caretaker boss last season, when the team’s win percentage was more than triple what it has been since he was appointed permanently.
However, United’s figures for shots taken and conceded suggest the drop-off in form is not as severe as results would indicate.
Ole’s red-hot start
Solskjaer won his first eight matches in temporary charge, 10 of his first 11 and 14 out of 19 in all before being appointed permanently in March.
From there, things went awry as United won only twice in the remainder of the season before starting the new campaign with three wins in the first 11 games.
The season-opening 4-0 win over Chelsea proved a false dawn and remains the only time this term United have scored more than once in a game – a trend which continued from the end of last season, when they scored seven in 10 games, only netting more than once in the 2-1 wins over Watford and West Ham.
Their raw shot numbers tell a different story, though, with their per-game average actually increasing since Solskjaer was appointed permanently.
In his 19 games as caretaker boss, United had 239 attempts on goal for an average of 12.6 per match – a figure that has risen to 14.2 since his permanent appointment, with 299 in 21 games.
That makes the drop-off in goals scored seem baffling on the surface, though of course not all shots are created equal.
A record of 87 shots on target from those 299 attempts in his time as permanent manager is a significant drop-off from 107 out of 239 as caretaker and could indicate either a poor stretch of finishing or more difficult shots stemming from an inability to break down defences.
Case for the defence
The improvement in shot numbers has been mirrored at the other end of the field, with United facing 227 shots at their goal in his first 19 games and just 223 in the 21 since.
That is an improvement from 11.9 shots allowed per game to 10.6 but again, United have conceded far more goals – 27 against 17.
A run of errors from goalkeeper David De Gea towards the end of last season was one factor, while this season’s matches suggest the defensive side of the equation has improved with just nine goals conceded in 11 games.
Overall, the statistics indicate United greatly over-performed expectations during Solskjaer’s initial run in caretaker charge before under-performing since.
United’s difficulties date back much further than Solskjaer’s appointment, with the club unable to replicate the greatness of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign in the years since.
They have played 342 games in all competitions since his retirement, and the drop-off in their win-loss record compared to the equivalent period at the end of his time in charge is stark.
David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Solskjaer have tried with varying degrees of difficulty to step out of Ferguson’s shadow, with club favourite Ryan Giggs having four games in caretaker charge.
While Van Gaal and Mourinho won silverware with the club, the managers since Ferguson have combined for 184 wins, 78 draws and 80 losses, compared to the Scot’s 231-61-50 record in his final 342 games.
Mourinho fares best, winning 83 of 144 games for a 57.6 per cent win ratio founded on a defence conceding just 0.84 goals per game.
Solskjaer’s 47.5 per cent is the lowest win ratio but the numbers in his caretaker spell – winning 73.7 per cent of games, scoring 2.11 goals per game and conceding 0.89 – stacked up well with latter-day Ferguson’s 67.5 per cent, 2.03 and 0.89.
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