Premier League Quarterly Review: Three Stories to Follow Over Remainder of 2021 Season
23:07 GMT 02.11.2021 (Updated: 04:40 GMT 03.11.2021)
With the Premier League season a quarter of the way complete, here are a few stories to follow.
Three horse races at the top? Man City, Liverpool, and Chelsea
After ten games, Chelsea is on 25 points and has a three-point lead at the top of the table. Hot on their heels are Liverpool, with 22 points, and Manchester City with 20. With apologies to West Ham, who also have 20 points, this is shaping up to be a three-team race for the Premier League title. Or is it?
Chelsea, on the surface, looks like a title contender. They lead the Premier League in goal differential at +23, have conceded the fewest goals, and have scored the second-most. Their expected metrics, however, tell a different story.
During the season, Chelsea has as yet produced 17.2 expected goals and allowed 10.5 expected goals against. Their expected goal differential of +6.6 is third in the league but is dwarfed by Liverpool's +26.3 and City's +21.9.
Chelsea has bagged 25 points in ten games without playing nearly that well. Those points aren't going anywhere, which is great, but if the performances don't improve they'll have a hard time replicating their 2.5 points per match. Chelsea is in the title race because of their points and talent, but if they fall off over the course of the season, don't be surprised.
Will Unai Emery stave off relegation at Newcastle?
Newcastle's new ownership has their fans dreaming of European nights for the first time since playing in the Europa league in 2012-13. For the Magpies to make it to Europe, however, they're going to need to avoid relegation.
With Steve Bruce sacked, Newcastle has been linked to Villarreal manager Unai Emery. Emery is best known in England for his short time at Arsenal, but his record in La Liga and at Paris Saint-Germaine is sterling. He led Sevilla to three consecutive Europa League titles and nabbed one last season with Villarreal.
If he takes over Newcastle, however, he'll need to drag the club out of the relegation fight before he can dream of securing his fifth Europa League title. Newcastle has been the second-worst team in the Premier League, although they have enough talented attacking options in Allan Saint-Maximin, Callum Wilson, Miguel Almiron, and Joeliton to make a charge to back up their standing.
Emery will have his hands full at Newcastle, but he has a track record of success at clubs with modest budgets. If Newcastle brings in a few signings in January the Magpies could be in a position to make a mid-table charge. Not exactly European nights, but definitely a step in the right direction.
Can Antonio Conte turn Tottenham around?
Antonio Conte coming back to the Premier League wasn't a surprise, but his takeover of Tottenham was. When Conte was available in the summer, Tottenham, in need of a new manager, passed on the Italian. Bringing him in a few months later is thought by many to be an admission of failure by the club.
Conte could be exactly what Tottenham needs to break through, however. The self-described "serial winner" is joining a club that can brag about winning the League Cup in 2008 and finishing runner up in the Champions League and second in the Premier League.
Fortunately for Conte, Tottenham is not a barren wasteland of talent. The attacking partnership of Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son is one of the best in the world and Hugo Lloris remains an excellent keeper.
Tottenham's problems over the past few seasons have been their managers' inability to get the best out of a talented midfield. Dele Alli and Tanguy Ndombele are two incredible talents that have had issues maximising their potential in recent seasons.
Conte used a 3-5-2 formation to great effect with Inter Milan last season. The system used a back three, two wide midfielders, two box-to-box central midfielders, one advanced midfielder, and two strikers capable of linking up play and playing on the break.
Tottenham has the two strikers part down pat, with Kane and Son; Ndombele is a perfect advanced midfielder; Pierre Hojbjerg and Dele Alli are tireless midfield pressers, and Sergio Reguilon and Emerson are defensively limited but talented attacking fullbacks. Figuring out a back three may be a challenge, but the point of a three-back set is to minimise the individual requirements of each centre back.
If Conte is going to win a title with Tottenham he'll have to first turn around their season. He has shown that he's capable of winning, but turning Tottenham around could end up being his greatest success.