Chalk it up to a curtailed pre-season or just plain old bad defending, but the opening weeks of the 2020/21 Premier League campaign have provided a compelling viewing experience. The first four gameweeks have seen attackers on top, with Premier League bosses perhaps wishing they had more time to work on their defensive shape before the season started.
The league’s opening 38 fixtures have yielded 144 goals, at a stunning rate of 3.79 goals per game. No team has drawn more than once in those matches, while 0-0s appear to be a thing of the past. Unsurprisingly, those statistics compare favourably with results in a similar period from previous seasons.
2019/20: 113 goals in 40 matches, 2.83 goals per game
2018/19: 116 goals in 40 matches, 2.90 goals per game
2017/18: 101 goals in 40 matches, 2.53 goals per game
Early-season trends don’t always stay the course, so goalscoring may revert to a more normal level in subsequent weekends of Premier League action.
Something else that isn’t expected to continue is Everton’s grasp on the top spot in the Premier League table. Carlo Ancelotti’s Toffees became the only side to maintain a sweet 100% winning record across four league matches before the first international break. This achievement has dramatically altered their season expectations.
Before a ball was kicked, Everton were touted as a contender for a top-eight finish. The bar is higher now, which can be observed when you bet on football at Space Casino. As of October 9th, Everton are at a price of 18/1 to lift the Premier League trophy, which would be the club’s first domestic league title since the 1986/87 season. That market places Everton at a shorter price than Arsenal and Manchester United, two clubs with sterling records of success in the Premier League era.
Logic would suggest that Ancelotti’s men will run out of steam, but the Premier League and logic don’t always get along. Leicester City’s title win in 2015/16 has become the perfect example of how anything can happen, and there are shades of Leicester in this Everton side that go deeper than the blue shirts.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin has emerged as a prolific striker for Everton, as Jamie Vardy did so often in Leicester’s title-winning season. Everton have James Rodriguez, a mercurial creator like Riyad Mahrez, and Allan, a calming influence in central midfield like N’Golo Kante.
There are concerns further back, with Jordan Pickford less assured than Kasper Schmeichel was for Leicester in 2015/16. Yet Ancelotti is a decorated manager who is getting more out of this Everton side than most have anticipated.
The struggling favourites
Few would have expected this particular Merseyside team to top the table after four matches. Even fewer would have foreseen Liverpool, the Premier League’s record-breaking reigning champions, being humbled in a 7-2 defeat to relegation candidates Aston Villa. That scoreline is one of the league’s most iconic in recent years, with Jurgen Klopp’s men uncharacteristically porous in defence and fragile in midfield.
Alarm bells shouldn’t ring just yet for Liverpool, with Mohamed Salah at his irrepressible best upfront and Thiago a potential game-changing presence in midfield. Liverpool will also be emboldened by the fact that other would-be title rivals have been similarly leaky.
The Guardian’s report described Manchester City’s defence as being humiliated by opposition attackers in a 5-2 defeat at home to Leicester. The Foxes looked like potential title challengers in their Manchester triumph, then played like relegation fodder in a disappointing 3-0 loss at home to West Ham.
Predicting anything is a dangerous business this season. Tottenham Hotspur were ponderous and uninspired in a 1-0 loss to Everton on the opening weekend, then blew Southampton away 5-2 with a quartet of Son Heung-min strikes served up by Harry Kane.
Even more remarkable was Spurs’ 6-1 triumph over Manchester United, whose capitulation couldn’t be excused by the sending-off of Anthony Martial. United were hotly-tipped to run well in the title race, but that 6-1 has caused a reassessment of their fortunes.
Only Everton have thoroughly convinced in the season’s opening exchanges. If the league below continues in this chaotic fashion, Ancelotti’s Everton will fancy their chances of riding out the goal frenzy and staying on top of the pile for an extended period.