Why September is a Big Month for the Title Race

September 08, 2017

- Grant Whittington

After England’s insipid performance during a 4-0 win against Malta, we cannot wait for the Premier League to return. After all, the EPL’s best players always appear shackled when they appear with the Three Lions crest on their shirt, only to emboldened by their return to Premier League colours the following week.

We are particularly excited given the busy nature of September’s fixture list, which also includes a number of games that could have a huge impact at the top of the table.

In this post, we will look at these in closer detail, and explore how the table will begin to take shape at the end of next month:

 Manchester City v Liverpool, Saturday 9th September

 The Premier League returns with a bang on 9th September, as Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side entertain Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium. A clash between two irresistible attacking forces, this game will see both teams put their unbeaten records on the line as each look to gain a competitive edge at the top of the table.

Neither side has been pitch-perfect so far this season, although both have earned a total of seven points from their first three league games. City certainly showed glimpses of their quality during a hard-earned, 2-1 win at Bournemouth last time out, while Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool delivered a sensational attacking display against a woeful Arsenal side prior to the international break.

This reflects the Reds’ enduring ability to perform well against fellow members of the so-called ‘big six’ clubs, with Klopp’s men having lost just one of 17 matches against Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham, Chelsea and the Gunners since October 2015. This run has included seven wins and nine ties, including an enthralling 1-1 draw at the Etihad in March.

Liverpool certainly enjoy playing against sides that play open and expansive football, as this enables them to utilise their pace on the counter-attack and exploit the space in behind high defensive lines. City will certainly play this way, while Guardiola’s men will be hopeful of successfully dominating possession and exploiting the defensive weaknesses that have undermined Liverpool during Klopp’s tenure.

This will certainly be an exciting game, and one in which a winner will quickly be established as one of the early front-runners for the title.

Chelsea v Arsenal, Sunday 17th September

 September is a big month for champions Chelsea, who have endured a difficult start to their defence of the Premier League title. Despite a poor transfer window and a harrowing 3-2 home defeat against Burnley on the opening day, however, the Blues have recovered their composure by beating title rivals Spurs at Wembley and overcoming Everton in a comprehensive 2-0 win last time out.

In contrast, Arsenal’s season is already in free-fall, after an even more disastrous transfer window and the accrual of just three points from their first three Premier League matches. Lacking leadership, drive and harmony throughout the club, the Gunners’ defence has also been porous while shipping eight goals and four in a truly abject display at Liverpool.

With the squad weakened by the departure of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the clear discontentment of stars such as Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal could be forgiven for heading to Stamford Bridge and adopting a defensive approach in order to secure a point and get their season back on track. This is not a philosophy that Wenger has the inclination or the resources to pursue, however, so it is hard to see the Gunners getting anything against the Blues.

With Eden Hazard likely to return to the Blues and Alvaro Morata finding his feet in attack, we expect Chelsea to beat their rivals and and continue their rise up the table. This will also deepen the crisis at Arsenal, who may find themselves officially out of contention for the title before September is out.

Manchester United v Everton, Sunday 17th September

On the same day that Chelsea and Arsenal do battle at Stamford Bridge, Manchester United entertain an increasingly ambitious Everton side at Old Trafford. The Reds, who have earned a 100% record and plundered 10 goals in their three EPL games so far, have been gifted a relatively easy start to the season and will be looking to build a viable lead over their nearest rivals.

United have certainly been much improved at home so far, with Nemanja Matic providing a solid foundation in the middle of the park and £75 million striker Romelu Lukaku proving genuine pace in attack. In fact, the Belgian’s power and acceleration has forced United’s opponents to defend deeper, creating more space for instinctive talents like Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to thrive in.

Everton may have harboured outside title ambitions of their own after a net spend of £135.9 million during the summer transfer window, but they were delivered a dose of reality while being outclassed by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Lacking in pace throughout the team and struggling without a genuine number nine who can lead the attack, the Toffees look a long way short of competing for a title or Champions League place.

United would certainly expect to win this game, while their rivals are busy stealing points off one another throughout September. Who would bet against Lukaku having a decisive impact on the game too, particularly given the difference that the Belgian hit-man has made so far?

Chelsea v Manchester City, Sunday 30th September

 As we can see, Chelsea and Manchester City are primed for a difficult month in September, with the clubs scheduled to do battle on 30th at Stamford Bridge. Having already faced off against Arsenal and Liverpool respectively in September, these two clubs will be keen to secure a positive result and maintain a foothold in the EPL title race.

Chelsea won the corresponding fixture 2-1 last season, with Eden Hazard’s brace sandwiching Sergio Aguero goal as the Blues closed in on the Premier League title. Their squad is also showcasing considerable strength despite the failures endured in the transfer window, with the talented Hazard hopeful of being fit for a clash with Pep Guardiola’s men.

Manchester City are a different prospect than they were last season, however, with far greater strength in defence and Vincent Kompany currently back to full fitness. The Citizens league form in 2017 has also been deceptively good, with just two defeats in 22 matches since the club were defeated by Liverpool at Anfield on New Years’ Eve last year.

This is sure to be a close and keenly-contested game, and we would not be surprised if City secured a narrow one and continued their increasingly consistent league form.

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