As the premier league goes into a 12 day hiatus, the table makes for interesting reading. Given the fixture list at the start of the season, Arsenal being on the summit is nothing especially shocking. Liverpool being there with them, is also not such a surprise, although the victory over local rivals Manchester United may have come as much as a shock to the Anfield faithful as the later defeat to Southampton did.
Speaking of Southampton, they loiter a full 4 points above last year's champions Manchester United, and a point above Man City, having already dispatched the aforementioned Liverpool. Southampton in 4th place at this stage must yield a massive sense of cheer for their supporters. Survival is their first priority, and with 14 points on the board already, 11 points clear of Crystal Palace, and 13 clear of the hapless Sunderland, all the pressure is off for the next few weeks. Their next game, is Man United. Win lose or draw, Southampton will still be above them come the end of the game. That scenario must have been beyond Mauricio Pochettino's wildest dreams 7 games ago.
United on the other hand, have lost 2 more games than Southampton, having won 3 drawn 1, lost 3, and this gives us the first clue that, all is not right in the world of football in Manchester. You cannot win the title in the first 7 games, but you can lose it. Had Arsenal won their games against Villa and West Brom, they would be 11 points ahead already, not insurmountable, but enough to mess with the confidence of a new manager and players who are not quite certain of their role anymore.
The win last weekend at least took the edge off the pressure David Moyes must be feeling, but it took 18 year old Old Trafford debutant Adnan Januzaj to save the day. Looking far from champions material things need to change quickly for the red devils. Southampton, their next league game, have only conceded 2 goals this season. It's a must win game, and given current form, far from a foregone conclusion.
Man City are only 3 points better off than United. What can be gauged from their start? Defeats to Cardiff and Aston Villa, and what can only be described as an annihilation by European Champions Bayern Munich, show that they too are far from the finished article. When they win, they do it properly, dispatching United clinically 4-1 at the City of Manchester Stadium. However, City's manager Manuel Pellegrini must've wanted more than 4 wins from 7 games, Similarly, Chelsea sit only 1 point above City. but have a draw instead of an extra loss to their credit. Still, 3 games not won from the first 7 must smart for both teams, but neither seem to know what their best team is.
Much speculation about Juan Mata and Jose's selection idiosyncrasies is doing it's best to cause Chelsea issues, They look a better team when Mata plays, but Jose is nothing if not his own man, and his stubbornness might benefit the teams around them in keeping him out of the team. After their next game (Cardiff) in the league, come Man City, and Arsenal. Lose those and Roman Abramovich might start wondering about the decision to bring The Special One back. Win them, and they're likely to be sitting very close to the top of the league.
Across London, this was supposed to be the season Tottenham finally beat the ghost of Arsenal. 7 games in and Arsenal have beaten them, and sit 3 points ahead. Spurs star striker Soldado hasn't scored from open play, and this weekend they received a lesson from Big Sam Allardyce's West Ham in how to win a game. Level with City and 3 points clear of United would've sounded a fantastic return for Spurs were it not for the poor(ish) start both of the Manchester teams. The best they can say is that they've played Chelsea and not lost, but they look as fragmented as City and Chelsea, but less likely to sort it out as quickly as their rivals. Tottenham need to make themselves solid, and quickly, lest Liverpool and Arsenal get too far ahead of them to be caught.
A special nod should be given to Hull. One point above Man United again must seem like Xmas already arrived for manager Steve Bruce. The same can not be said for Norwich. For a team who spent heavily in the close season, 2 wins, 1 draw and 4 losses simply isn't good enough. The only thing in their favour is that, there are 3 other teams, Stoke, Fulham, and Swansea all with the same results. Swansea though, look stronger than their position suggests.
For the other teams not covered here, there isn't much to tell in truth, Everton sit 7th, where they can feel reasonably comfortable. Newcastle have the same record as Man United, which generally speaking is a parallel position most teams would take no questions asked. Cardiff, West Ham and West Brom have proven they too can beat whomsoever they choose on their day, be they big or small. But, with only 3 points separating Norwich in the relegation zone, and Man United sitting in 9th, and surprises happening at almost every opportunity, it appears over half the league need to be looking over their shoulder.
With that in mind, and a busy schedule after the international break, it makes the run up to Christmas in the football calendar look all the more exciting for everyone involved.