Entering Matchweek 6, we have witnessed many different surprises thus far in the Premier League. Everton and Aston Villa are buzzing, Manchester United and Chelsea are struggling, and no one seems to remember how to defend.
With that being said, let’s look into the biggest issue that each team has faced thus far this season and evaluate how these problems can be corrected:
Arsenal: Finding the Robin to Aubameyang’s Batman
Interestingly enough, Arsenal have fared pretty well defensively to start the season, despite mix-matching many different combinations of unproven defenders.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is still one of the best players in the league, but they’re still looking for a consistent complement to the Gabon international.
While Alexandre Lacazette, Willian, Nicolas Pepe, and Bukayo Saka have all shined in flashes, Arsenal need one of them to form a reliable 1-2 punch alongside Aubameyang for them to rise to the next level.
Aston Villa: Nothing
You really can’t ask for much more from a team that barely survived the drop last season than to be at the top of the table thus far. They have made shrewd signings in Ollie Watkins, Emiliano Martinez, and Matty Cash, while last year’s key producers have upped their play.
Their 3-0 defeat to Leeds United on Friday makes you wonder how sustainable this start has been, but so far so good.
Brighton Hove & Albion: Tightening up the normally steady backline
Brighton have always been a very disciplined side defensively and were set to only improve in this department with the additions of Ben White and Joel Veltman, alongside the growth of young star Tariq Lamptey. However, despite utilizing a back 5, Brighton have given up 11 goals in 5 games, conceding 4 to Everton and 3 each to Manchester United and Chelsea.
Although they have looked more promising in the attack, they’ll need to find their previous defensive form if they want to establish themselves as a mid-table side.
Burnley: Creating goalscoring opportunities
This isn’t a huge surprise given the lack of attacking prowess in the squad, but it’s something that’s been accentuated so far this season. With just 1 point and 3 goals in their first 4 games, Sean Dyche will need to figure out where they can find production in the attack.
Their only real creative source is Dwight McNiel, so they will need Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes to be especially clinical this season. Otherwise, they may find themselves battling to stay up.
Chelsea: Integrating new signings
While every other team took a conservative approach to spending this summer, Frank Lampard’s side doled out over ₤200 million to bolster the squad. While Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, and Thiago Silva have looked both good and bad, Edouard Mendy, Ben Chilwell, and Hakim Ziyech have only played sparingly.
Ultimately, Chelsea’s relatively poor start to the season will be quickly forgotten if they can get each of their new pieces to start performing.
Crystal Palace: Production in the midfield
While Jordan Ayew and Wilfried Zaha have formed a surprisingly fruitful relationship in the attack, the rest of the Crystal Palace squad still lacks in quality. It really didn’t seem likely that the James Mc. Duo (James McCarthy & James McArthur) was good enough.
Roy Hodgson could really use a resurgence from captain Luka Milivojevic and perhaps more production from Max Meyer. Otherwise, Crystal Palace could find themselves in the midst of a long losing streak similar to the end of last season.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men have started the season off brilliantly, claiming 13 out of a possible 15 points. Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been bagging goals for fun, while new signings James Rodriguez, Abdoulaye Doucoure, and Allan have all impressed early.
However, they still gave up 2 goals each to West Brom and Brighton, showing that defensive holes remain. They will hope that new signing Ben Godfrey can correct some of these issues, as they look to crack the top 6 this season.
Yeah, Fulham are in for a tough season. The Cottagers have yet to earn a point this season and have deficiencies at every level. Aleksander Mitrovic is a real goal-scoring threat, but they’re going to need him to be more clinical than he was against Sheffield if they want to stay up. They have given up 3 or more goals in 3 of their 5 games and are yet to keep a clean sheet, despite signing former PSG goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.
Leeds United: Defending
Marcelo Bielsa’s side are a true joy to watch. Their free-flowing, high-pressing style is ideal for the neutral viewer but also leaves them exposed at the back. Furthermore, they don’t boast the same quality in defence as they do in attack, which would explain some of their larger scorelines.
However, their defence has improved since a 4-3 opening day defeat against Liverpool, which could mean even better fortunes ahead for Leeds this season.
Leicester City: Getting last year’s stars healthy
A regression was always likely for Leicester City after their fantastic season last year, and we really started seeing signs of that at the tail end of last season.
To start this season, Leicester have suffered injuries to many of last year’s stalwarts including James Maddison, Wilfred Ndidi, and Caglar Soyuncu. How quickly they can come back and how much they can replicate their production from last season will ultimately determine if Leicester can clinch consecutive finishes in the top 6.
Obviously, there’s no overcoming the long-term injury to Virgil van Dijk.
However, Liverpool will need all of their other players to heal up if they want to fend off the competition to repeat as champions. Alongside Van Dijk, Liverpool have seen Sadio Mane, Alisson, Thiago Alcantara, Joel Matip, and more miss games due to various injuries or COVID diagnoses. If they can get their squad healthy, Liverpool will remain favourites to once again win the league.
Manchester City: Finding their go-to defensive line
Manchester City spent nearly ₤100 million to solve their issues at centre-back. Clearly, this was a necessary move considering the 5-2 debacle they suffered against Leicester City a few weeks ago.
Now, Pep Guardiola must ultimately find his most reliable pairing of centre-backs (between Aymeric Laporte, Nathan Ake, Ruben Dias, and Fernandinho) and fullbacks (between Benjamin Mendy, Kyle Walker, Joao Cancelo, and Aleksander Zinchenko).
Manchester United: Centre-back
Right now, it seems like Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s best option at centre back is Axel Tuanzebe, and Tuanzebe has played once in the past 8 months.
Harry Maguire is caving under pressure on and off the pitch and Victor Lindelof’s form has plummeted. A 6-1 defeat at Tottenham demonstrated the Red Devils’ problems in the heart of defence, and it may be one that won’t get solved until they bring in a worthy replacement.
Newcastle: Providing service to the attacking players
Callum Wilson has started promisingly for Steve Bruce’s side, while Allan Saint-Maximin’s unpredictability will always provide Newcastle with a spark in attack. However, they could still use one more piece to ignite the attack, whether that be Miguel Almiron, newly signed Ryan Fraser, or even Joelinton.
If one of these three (or perhaps someone else) can find their best form, Newcastle could finish in the top half of the table by playing a defensive-minded style complemented by an incisive counter-attack.
Sheffield United: Offensive firepower
After last season’s impressive 9th place finish, Chris Wilder’s team has struggled mightily. With just 1 point in their first 5 games, the Blades will need to score more than the 2 goals they’ve scored so far this season. The lack of a true goalscorer was a glaring hole in the team last season, and they hope that new signing Rhian Brewster can fill this role. Otherwise, we may soon forget how good this side was just a season ago.
Southampton: A secondary attacking option
Danny Ings has quickly and undeniably become one of the best strikers in the league. Southampton fans can trust that he will continue to produce, but Ings is going to need a sidekick to ensure that the goals don’t run dry. Che Adams’ form has improved in 2020 and he could form a reliable partnership with Ings.
Otherwise, Ralph Hassenhuttl will need Nathan Redmond to contribute more in the goalscoring department.
With the departure of Jan Vertonghen and the ageing of Toby Alderweireld, Jose Mourinho has made Eric Dier and Davinson Sanchez his preferred defensive partnership.
While both have commendable qualities, neither has proven that they can maintain a high level for extended periods of time. Tottenham also brought in Swansea defender Joe Rodon as cover. It will be interesting to see if Dier and Sanchez can hold it down for Spurs this season, or whether Mourinho will look for other options either internally or externally.
West Bromwich Albion: Defending
Slaven Bilic’s side was always going to be in survival mode this season, with a relatively thin squad that wasn’t heavily invested in.
Surprisingly, they’ve shown some attacking threat, scoring 3 against Chelsea and 2 against Everton (although they failed to score in the other three matches). However, they have kept just one clean sheet and have given up 12 goals in 5 games, while rotating between 8 different defenders so far. They will need to find the right combination of defenders to keep them in games if they want to survive another season in the top flight.
West Ham: A creative outlet
West Ham have actually performed quite well thus far when you consider the frustrations expressed by those within the club prior to the season. Michail Antonio has again impressed leading the line, but David Moyes’ side are going to need a more consistent attacking threat. Lucky for Hammers fans, they may have just found that with the signing of Brentford attacker Said Benrahma.
Wolves: Replacing Jota’s production
Wolves have the players to accommodate the loss of Jota to Liverpool, between Pedro Neto, Daniel Podence, and newly signed Fabio Silva. However, which of them (or which combination of them) will step up to not only make-up for the goalscoring contributions, but for the pressing ability, link-up play, and overall cohesion that Jota brought to Nuno Esperito Santo’s side will be crucial to their success this season.