By Paul O'Donnell
Most EPL sides have played three at this juncture. What has been a surprise or disappointment so far?
Far too many PK's to my liking. While I do like seeing the cards being issued for the dangerous tackles from behind such as Kevin Kilbane's and his sending off for it there have been far too many penalties awarded. Darren Bent's glorious dive won one for Charlton so the simulation provides its reward.
Ok, enough, what about the teams?
Chelsea's big focus to win the Champions League by signing Shevchenko, Ballack and the rest will see them lose the EPL title to Man U. Ballack will be a bust in the EPL.
A big disappointment so far has to be Blackburn Rovers having played 3 and managed only a single point. The loss of Bellamy and Dickov has made them a very different team and they'll struggle to stay out of the relegation fight and they could lose that battle the way things look at the moment.
Chris Coleman's Fulham is in big trouble. He may be on the top of the list for the first manager to lose his job but its probably not warranted. Inability to strengthen his team over the summer will be the real reason they'll be fighting for survival all season long.
Even bigger is the results seen thus far for Tottenham. Carrick's loss has left a bigger hole than expected? Interesting twist is over their 3 games played the scoreline was the same in all of them; 2-0. The bad news for Spurs fans is that they were on the good side of that scoreline in only one. They need that big target man back (Mido). Being shutout in 2 of their first 3 is a horrific start. Especially surrendering to 10 man Everton handing them their first win ever at White Hart Lane in an EPL match. Even worse was that happened with Spurs having the man advantage for over an hour and they still couldn't score a goal in front of their home fans. And when play resumes on Sept 9 they travel to Old Trafford where they have yet to win an EPL contest in their history.
How about Pompey? Is 'arry really a genius or what? Well, don't know about that but I'd call it the Chelsea syndrome. You know, spreading the cash. Lets not forget Pompey spent $20M in the winter window last term and another 20M or so over the summer and that has led to their very strong start winning 7 of 9 points that finds them a deserved 2nd in the table. Harry may not be a genius but he knows value when he sees it and two of his best moves may turn out to be bringing in David James and Kanu.
Speaking of the table, Man United are on top and right where I expect them to be next May. It will be a tussle with Chelsea to stay there but I expect to see both Giggs and Scholes rally and play a key role in United making a really strong challenge to the Blues winning their 3rd straight title.
Aston Villa look to be for real as Martin O'Neil has them at their best so far. Even Angel is playing well.
Everton will see a grand revival of their fortunes and getting Andy Johnson will be a big reason for that. Look for them to challenge for a European spot finish to the season with Spurs.
Will Arsenal's youth move work for Wenger? The Gunners will struggle to stay in a CL spot despite their first season in the glorious new grounds at Emirates Stadium. They may not even finish in a UEFA Cup spot.
Manchester City is not as good as Pearce thinks they are and look for them to narrowly avoid relegation.
New boys Watford play an up tempo game and expect them to make some noise before its over. They may not survive the drop but it won't be for not pressing their opponents.
Reading's exciting win in their EPL debut match could be among too few highlights for them to win another year in the top flight. The Royals have some terrific young talent but they need more of that in the back line to stick.
West Ham is a team that play attractive soccer most of the time and are always worth watching. Look for them to end up in a UEFA Cup spot if they are lucky enough to avoid a major injury.
Liverpool looks to be a safe bet for a CL spot. The loss of Riise for an extended period will surely hurt but the Reds have tremendous resources. A key match for their season could be their short trip to Everton when play resumes on Sept 9.
And a team I really just don't care for very much, Bolton Wanderers, could be the big surprise of the year. A few more wins on their travels could push them well up the table and their capable of it too.
Newcastle, Boro and Charlton will be the fill in the middle of the table as usual. Could any of them fall out of the top flight? Probably not, but they're sure to frustrate their backers all season with the lack of consistent play such as Boro beating Chelsea then follows that by getting thumped by Pompey. Newcastle's only hope is Owen has a miracle recovery or they find a gem in the winter transfer window and neither is likely.
Wigan will manage to stay up despite Heskey but I can't see Sheffield United making it.