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International break EPL round-up

With the European football season well underway, it’s time to recap the action from the first few weeks of the Premier League as well as the opening two contests of each team’s group stage performances in their UEFA-based international competitions. 

Manchester City and Pep Guardiola were more than ready to challenge for the Premier League title yet again, bolstering their squad with the likes of Julian Alvarez, Kalvin Phillips, Manuel Akanji, and, of course, Erling Haaland. The Norwegian sensation has been electric since he arrived at the Etihad, scoring 11 times in only seven domestic matches this season en route to City sitting pretty in second, adding on three goals in only two Champions League appearances in blue. 

On the other side of Manchester, Erik Ten Hag has been leading Manchester United into a new era, with an aging and disgruntled Cristiano Ronaldo under his control. The Red Devils sit No. 5 in the table, having turned their season around after an incredibly poor period of play to open the year. Losses to Brighton and a 4-0 stomping at the hands of Brentford put United in the relegation zone early. The club’s management moved promptly, signing Real Madrid’s Casemiro and Ajax’s electric winger Antony for a combined total of nearly 200 million pounds. Christian Eriksen was signed to shore up the attacking midfield, while Tyrell Malacia and Lisandro Martinez were snagged from the Eredivisie to solidify a defense that had been nonexistent in recent years. The moves have slowly begun to pay off, with Antony’s performance against Liverpool proving pivotal as United beat the Reds and Casemiro replacing Scott McTominay to round out the midfield with much more strength than before. 

Liverpool haven’t had the greatest start to their year either, as they sit in eighth behind Chelsea. Losing Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich in the offseason proved to be a much more brutal blow than expected as their 100 million pound signing Darwin Nunez hasn’t been able to replicate the output of his Senegalese forefather. Fabio Carvalho arrived from Fulham, and Arthur recently joined the Reds from Juventus. While Arthur has been disappointing, Carvalho managed to beat Newcastle courtesy of a 98th-minute goal to go along with some phenomenal substitute performances otherwise, setting himself up nicely to be the Divock Origi replacement that has also been needed. Manager Jurgen Klopp has enough job security to last him a lifetime, but will the challenge of starting Liverpool over again once Mohamed Salah and Virgil Van Dijk leave prove to be too much for Klopp and his Kop?

Chelsea have already had a lifetime of chaos in North London so far this year, with a coaching and ownership change that rocked the club. Only a year removed from winning the Champions League, new owner Todd Boehly was ready to implement his 4-4-3 formation that could almost guarantee Chelsea a trophy. While a 4-4-3 is impossible as it features 12 outfield players as opposed to the standard 11, and something manager Thomas Tuchel most likely tried to convey to his new boss, the former Borussia Dortmund director was ousted from his position as manager a little over a week ago as a result of his club resting in seventh. Though the move was extreme, it does reflect the high standards that were evident in the Roman Abramovich era at Stamford Bridge. New signings Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli, Marc Cucurella from Brighton, and Raheem Sterling from Manchester City have made immediate impacts, with Koulibaly scoring a decisive goal against Tottenham in one of the first matchweeks of the season. 

Just down the road from the Bridge on White Hart Lane, Tottenham have been sending shockwaves throughout the premiership since the summer began. After starting the previous year with Nuno Espirito Santo leading the charge, legendary manager Antonio Conte took on the challenge of bringing a trophy to Tottenham for the first time since 2008, when they won the Carling Cup. An influx of new signings headlined by Richarlison, Croatian legend Ivan Perisic, Clement Lenglet, Yves Bissouma and Djed Spence have reinvigorated a club that seemed to just not have enough to get over the hump these past few years. Spurs, along with Manchester City are the only teams currently undefeated in the league, and phenomenal performances from midfielder Pierre-Emile Højberg and Rodrigo Bentancur have been carrying their side. Harry Kane’s ruthless nature in front of goal has him tied for No. 2 in the league’s goal charts with six, behind only Haaland, while his compatriot Heung Min-Son erupted for an 18-minute hattrick against Leicester City this past weekend to open his 2022-23 Premier League account. Spurs sit only one point back of their direct rivals in North London, Arsenal.

The Gunners, led by Mikel Arteta, have been the subject of banter and slander abound for the past few years. Having failed to qualify for the Champions League since the 2016-17 season, the Gunners have needed to turn things around for a while now. This season, that turn seems very prevalent. Arsenal sit atop the PL table and look as dominant as ever. Signing Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko from City have proven to be massive bang-for-your-buck acquisitions, spending less than 45 million pounds on each player while becoming consistent first-team starters. William Saliba returned from his loan spell at Marseille to rave reviews and showcased the talent he had been begging to put on display at the Emirates, scoring a stunning goal in his debut with the club. Aaron Ramsdale has seemingly been able to shake off the cobwebs that plagued him in the previous season, becoming a shot-stopper impressive enough that he may steal England’s starting goalkeeping job from Everton’s Jordan Pickford by the time the World Cup rolls around.

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