EPL season, thus far

Stanley Steamer

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I just noted how condensed the standings are in Premier League after 10 games of the season. Okay, some teams have only played 9, but aren't challenging for the top. There are a mere 8 points separating Tottenham and Liverpool in first, from Palace and Arsenal in 14th. The EPL is starting to resemble the Championship.
Of course, things will spread out in time, but it's shaping up to be a dogfight for the top spot, let alone the European places.
It's a long way from the days of top 4 being almost set in stone, and a welcome change in my mind. Sure, you still favor Liverpool, Man City and two or three of Chelsea, Spurs or Man U finishing up there, but there don't seem to be many "sure" games out there.
What say you, EPL afficionados?
Is it different this year, or just too early to say?
 

SocrManiac

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Too much is going to happen over the next month for the current table to be predictive. Players across the league are dropping like flies. I’d expect it gets far crazier than it is now.
 

OCST

Sunny von Bulow
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COVID is the obvious wildcard, which manifests itself in several ways:

--short offseason: less time to get match-fit, less time to train together. The window was also shorter, but it's hard to assess the impact of that because significant business was done.

--fixture congestion worse than usual

-COVID safety measures and positive tests - training and daily life disrupted; no crowds, affecting home-field advantage; positive tests causing players to miss time- Newcastle v Villa is postponed due to a COVID outbreak at Newcastle

Just so many more jokers in the deck than usual.

Having said that- the pack has bunched together quality-wise IMO. Leaving aside injuries for the moment, of the big-six, I'd tier them in terms of improvement as:

Chelsea
Liverpool, Spurs
City, Utd
Arsenal

The top tiers did enough to keep their advantage or move ahead, but City and Utd didn't do enough IMO and Arsenal is moving backwards.

Meanwhile, the gate-crashers have improved. Villa, Everton, Southampton, and West Ham have improved, whether due to acquisitions or better coaching and cohesion or all of this. They have invaded the top reaches of the table at some juncture and while they all have depth issues and flaws, odds are that at least one out of this pack will keep it together and make a bid for a lower European spot. Wolves and Leicester both got raided by bigger clubs but are well-drilled sides and brought in some new blood as well, they will compete and can beat anyone. Leeds is a nightmare to play against, if you absolutely have to have three points on Saturday they're the one side you don't want to see on the fixture list. Brighton, Palace, and Newcastle are tough on their day. The only weak sisters are Fulham, West Brom, Burnley, and Sheffield Utd, and of these only the Blades are truly woeful.

Lots of tough outs in there.
 

Section30

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Fatigue plus injuries will start to impact more teams and the teams with a deeper bench will benefit. You will see more separation in January when the richer teams are able to bring in impact players.
 

Zososoxfan

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While you can certainly draw some conclusions from roughly a quarter of a season, I think it's better to assess at the halfway mark since some clubs have played harder schedules than others. The "3rd quarter" of the season tells us more about the clubs than the first one does.

VVD's injury and Citeh's lackluster start has kneecapped their hegemony. Chelsea improved a lot over the course of last season and made strong improvements in the window. My only question about their squad is whether the MF has enough creativity when they go up against strong competition than gameplans to shut down their FBs (i.e. Spurs last week). The question for Spurs remains their backline--FB is more settled and has options on both sides now, but CB remains a huge question mark. They also have no true backup for Hoj (Sissoko is my choice as a pinch fill in). I haven't watched enough United yet to form any opinions about them, but their GD indicates that their table position is fair (not sure how the GD stacks up against their XG though).

LCFC, WHU, Villa, Wolves, Southampton, and Everton also look like formidable clubs that are going to fight for European spots, but I think the lack of squad depth is going to hurt LCFC since they're currently in European competition, and we'll have to see if the others best XI can stack up against the Big 5+1.
 

Cellar-Door

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West Ham is going to be fascinating.

We've won a ton of close matches, and Moyes has been running the same 12 (11 plus Haller when Antonio's hammy goes every few weeks) into the ground with usually no subs until the 80th minute (though he made a double sub at half this week? AMAZING) and a very thin squad, losing someone like Bowen or even Fornals could be survived. Rice or Soucek would be a disaster.

Normally you'd say... well make it to the window in the Euro places and you can reinforce, but the owners are taking loans against everything, their businesses are hurting and the rumors are they are fending off bids hoping to get enough out of the club to stay afloat.
 

swiftaw

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Also, it might be harder to sign players in January since Brexit means that signings from EU countries are subject to the same work permit rules as non-EU countries.
 

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Sunny von Bulow
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Also, it might be harder to sign players in January since Brexit means that signings from EU countries are subject to the same work permit rules as non-EU countries.
Just coming to post this.

Agreeing with Cellar-Door's sentiment re: WHU as applied to Everton. They played gorgeous football in winning seven in a row in all comps at the start of the season. Then Richarlison picked up a straight red and we lost three in a row while he was out and looked horrible in the process. Now Digne is out for two months - soft-tissue training injury - and I'll be happy to pick up 4-5 points out of every nine until he comes back. Notwithstanding the damage to our already leaky back four, without Digne the crosses into the box are going to be fewer and not nearly as sharp. Which means that Calvert-Lewin will be deprived of service. I think I said this already, but if you have DCL in fantasy, sell now.

The other sides in the same band on the table, same thing. Let's see how Wolves does over the next stretch, assuming that Raul is out for a length of time commensurate with the seriousness of his head injury. That's not a given, since footy doesn't take concussions seriously at all, which is another topic entirely - but for argument's sake if Raul misses between now and the end of the calendar year Wolves will struggle.
 

teddykgb

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I think Chelsea have benefit from an unusually easy schedule to this point. Some of that will be countered by a team of new attackers getting used to one another but they’re facing some tough matches soon which will tell us more about them.

Although we have seen cracks in Liverpool due to injury I think they remain the clear favorite. They have found a way to win ugly for two seasons now and are doing the same nowadays. Spurs seem intent to PTB their way into a challenge but I don’t think you can win the league that way anymore. There are just too many penalties and upper 90 points totals means you can’t suffer too many draws. I suspect they’ll linger but don’t know they can credibly challenge unless Liverpool just unravel over Xmas if the injury toll comes due later
 

Jimy Hendrix

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I think Chelsea have benefit from an unusually easy schedule to this point. Some of that will be countered by a team of new attackers getting used to one another but they’re facing some tough matches soon which will tell us more about them.

Although we have seen cracks in Liverpool due to injury I think they remain the clear favorite. They have found a way to win ugly for two seasons now and are doing the same nowadays. Spurs seem intent to PTB their way into a challenge but I don’t think you can win the league that way anymore. There are just too many penalties and upper 90 points totals means you can’t suffer too many draws. I suspect they’ll linger but don’t know they can credibly challenge unless Liverpool just unravel over Xmas if the injury toll comes due later
The Spurs title case relies on either them catching fire in a way I agree I don't see, or the idea that we're not going to see a high-90s title winner this year. We're certainly not on pace for it now, so the question remains if anyone can catch that kind of dominant form between compressed schedule fatigue and injuries and general COVID madness. So far it seems like those have leveled the league, as the bigger clubs have crazier schedules that have hurt them sooner, but it remains to be seen whether their better depth and ability to reinforce help them pull further away when injuries more and more catch up with the rest of the league's sides.
 

coremiller

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I think Chelsea have benefit from an unusually easy schedule to this point. Some of that will be countered by a team of new attackers getting used to one another but they’re facing some tough matches soon which will tell us more about them.

Although we have seen cracks in Liverpool due to injury I think they remain the clear favorite. They have found a way to win ugly for two seasons now and are doing the same nowadays. Spurs seem intent to PTB their way into a challenge but I don’t think you can win the league that way anymore. There are just too many penalties and upper 90 points totals means you can’t suffer too many draws. I suspect they’ll linger but don’t know they can credibly challenge unless Liverpool just unravel over Xmas if the injury toll comes due later
I don't think anyone is going to get to mid-90s point totals this year. Liverpool and City are the only teams capable of hitting those heights but Liverpool have too many injuries and City are just too far behind pace. To get to even 90 points for the season, City would have to play at a 98-point pace the rest of the way. Certainly they could do that and rip off a long winning streak like they have in previous years, but I don't think it's probable as they've looked more mortal than in previous seasons,

That means 85ish points may be enough to win the league (the current leaders, Liverpool and Spurs, are on pace right now for 80). That opens the door to the Chelsea/Tottenham/United tier to contend.
 

Mugsy's Jock

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I think part of the case for Spurs also relates to their significantly improved depth this year. Given the COVID of it all, it's a good bet most teams will lose multiple key contributors as the season wears on. I'm not smart enough to know how the Spurs depth compares to the other contenders, but I do know it's a damn sight better than it was last season.
 

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Sunny von Bulow
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Another levelling factor is VAR/bad officiating. Although there have been several cases where the side playing the better game have dropped points due to horrific calls (EVE-LIV, MUN-BHA come to mind), adding another X factor will hurt better teams (by definition) and bunch the pack some.
 
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Stanley Steamer

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No team looks like a sure thing right now. It's hard for clubs like Liverpool and City to maintain their record of success for a few years without setbacks. The rest of the chasing pack are right there, but have their flaws. The Villas and West Hams of the world are defying expectations yet that surely won't last. It seems like we could have an upset winner, but if I had to bet, I'd take Liverpool or Chelsea.
 

Zososoxfan

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What about LCFC? They've conceded too many out of the gate, but they're scoring at a good clip and they're even on GD with Liverpool (1 behind WHU and 2 behind Villa). I certainly think they'll be in the thick of the race for top 4, but can they challenge?
 

coremiller

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What about LCFC? They've conceded too many out of the gate, but they're scoring at a good clip and they're even on GD with Liverpool (1 behind WHU and 2 behind Villa). I certainly think they'll be in the thick of the race for top 4, but can they challenge?
Leicester's results have been inflated by scoring an unsustainable number of penalties. They are only 15th in non-penalty xG differential, but they've already scored 7 penalties in 10 games; no one else has more than 4. They are on pace to score 27 penalties this season, which is ludicrous; last year Leicester scored 5 penalties the whole season and the leader was Man Utd with 10.
 

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Sunny von Bulow
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What about LCFC? They've conceded too many out of the gate, but they're scoring at a good clip and they're even on GD with Liverpool (1 behind WHU and 2 behind Villa). I certainly think they'll be in the thick of the race for top 4, but can they challenge?
I think so. That’s a solid midfield and Vardy hasn’t yet figured out that he’s too old to have such pace. Nobody talks about Schmeichel but I rate him highly.
 

Zososoxfan

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Leicester's results have been inflated by scoring an unsustainable number of penalties. They are only 15th in non-penalty xG differential, but they've already scored 7 penalties in 10 games; no one else has more than 4. They are on pace to score 27 penalties this season, which is ludicrous; last year Leicester scored 5 penalties the whole season and the leader was Man Utd with 10.
That's super insightful. Where do you look up xG data? N.B. This is absolutely not going to stop me or anyone else from peddling the Penchester United memes.
 

coremiller

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https://understat.com/league/EPL and https://fbref.com/en/ both have publicly available xG data. Understat shows both xGD and NPxGD, which I like, as I think NPxGD is more meaningful/predictive. FBref shows NPxG and NPxGA but doesn't combine them into NPxGD, but it does have PK data.

FWIW, I don't think Leicester are only the 15th best team in the league. There are weird game-state effects that can happen when you score that many penalties that can mess with the data. And they've had a horrific run of injuries. I think they're a good team, but I don't see anything that suggests to me they can make a title challenge. They look like a solid Europa contender to me.
 

Dummy Hoy

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While I agree that Leicester’s status is inflated by penalties, i also read something recentl showing that Vardy is one of the few players that statistically shows an ability to draw penalties at a greater rate over his career.

Agree they’re a strong top 5-8 team in the end, although I can see them snagging the last CL spot
 

coremiller

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While I agree that Leicester’s status is inflated by penalties, i also read something recentl showing that Vardy is one of the few players that statistically shows an ability to draw penalties at a greater rate over his career.

Agree they’re a strong top 5-8 team in the end, although I can see them snagging the last CL spot
I think this is sort of true, but not on anywhere near this scale. In their 6 full EPL seasons since their promotion, Leicester attempted 42 penalties, or 7 per season, which is a fairly high number. They've already attempted 8 this year in just 10 games.

in Leicester's title-winning season they won 13 penalties (converting 10 of them), which which was an underrated factor in their success.
 

teddykgb

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They had 3 in one match against City isn’t that kind of skewing the perception a bit? Vardy plays for the penalty more than many but that one match is quite an outlier
 

Tangled Up In Red

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I don't know their roster that well, but my impression is Leicester lacks the roster depth (especially this compressed season) to be a viable contender. And they're competing in Europe(a).
 

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Sunny von Bulow
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I don't know their roster that well, but my impression is Leicester lacks the roster depth (especially this compressed season) to be a viable contender. And they're competing in Europe(a).
True. Europa is so often a poisoned chalice. Winning it is a great trophy and a CL place, and with the right opponent European competition can be fun. But it puts such huge demands on fitness and squad depth.
 

Mighty Joe Young

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https://understat.com/league/EPL and https://fbref.com/en/ both have publicly available xG data. Understat shows both xGD and NPxGD, which I like, as I think NPxGD is more meaningful/predictive. FBref shows NPxG and NPxGA but doesn't combine them into NPxGD, but it does have PK data.

FWIW, I don't think Leicester are only the 15th best team in the league. There are weird game-state effects that can happen when you score that many penalties that can mess with the data. And they've had a horrific run of injuries. I think they're a good team, but I don't see anything that suggests to me they can make a title challenge. They look like a solid Europa contender to me.
Don’t know how I got this far without being aware of FBRef.com. Marvellous resource .. it’s amazing that football was only invented in 1992 and risen to world dominance in less than 30 years. I can look up the stats from the dawn of this great sport!