Mike O’Brien ‘23
Chief Sports Editor
After Manchester City lifted the Premier League trophy at the end of the 2020-2021 season, the most competitive soccer league in the world is back. With familiar faces like Mo Salah and Kevin de Bruyne continuing to play at an immensely high level for the clubs, and new ones like Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku returning to their former teams and not missing a beat, the title race this season is shaping up to be extremely tight until the very end. Here’s a look at some of the top storylines that have started this campaign off.
Liverpool, Chelsea deadlocked at top of table
The clubs from Merseyside and London couldn’t have had more similar starts to their seasons…No, seriously, take a look. Liverpool’s first five games: 3-0 win against Norwich, 2-0 win against Burnley, 1-1 draw against Chelsea, 3-0 win against Leeds, and 3-0 win against Crystal Palace. And Chelsea’s first five? 3-0 win against Crystal Palace, 2-0 win against Arsenal, 1-1 draw against Liverpool, 3-0 win against Aston Villa, and a 3-0 win against Tottenham. They’ve produced the same exact scorelines in their first five games, and the only goal they’ve each allowed all season have come against each other. Not something you see at the start of every season. While something is going to have to give eventually, the two clubs, who have also won two out of the last three Champions League trophies, look incredibly evenly matched. Expect there to be fireworks when they play again at Stamford Bridge on New Year’s Day.
Cristiano Ronaldo continues to defy time
Once Cristiano Ronaldo announced that he was going to leave Italian club Juventus, the media went into a frenzy, and it seemed that defending champions Manchester City were the frontrunners to sign the Portuguese forward. However, when the dust settled, it was announced that Ronaldo was to return to his original European club, Manchester United, which he joined in 2003. 18 years and a whole lot of trophies later, at 36 years old Ronaldo returned to the Theater of Dreams in the only way that he could: by scoring two goals in a 4-1 home victory against Newcastle. In his first three games for United, including a Champions League group stage match, Ronaldo has scored four goals—not a bad way to re-open his career as a Red Devil. Behind Ronaldo’s red-hot return to the Premier League and Paul Pogba developing into an elite provider with an outstanding seven assists in five games, United sit in third place in the table, behind Liverpool and Chelsea.
City showing early signs of weakness?
Manchester City comfortably captured the league crown last season over second place United by a 12 point margin, meaning that they should certainly have been favorites to repeat this season. City were also in advanced talks for both Ronaldo, as mentioned earlier, as well as Tottenham star Harry Kane; if they landed either of them, they would have been that much more invincible, but neither signing panned out. Now, after five matches, City find themselves in fifth place. They opened their season with a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Tottenham, who currently sit in seventh place and were later thrashed by Chelsea. In their most recent match, they drew Southampton 0-0, who sit in fifteenth place. Is City’s run of dominance in the Premier League starting to slow down? While it is certainly too early to panic, Pep Guardiola’s side will need to correct their flaws very quickly.