This week: An unexpected leader, Burnley and Leicester hold their own, and unstoppable Chelsea
By Kevin Koczwara | Photograph by Moxxo
1. Swansea on top
Swansea manager Gary Monk is beginning to answer some of the questions that surrounded his appointment last season. He replaced Michael Laudrup, who had brought the Welsh club to European competition and seemed to be making all the right moves in his first season, but was fired after a dip in his second year. Now under Monk, who played for the club for 10 years as it rose from League 2 to the Premier League, Swansea has taken all nine points from its first three games (against Manchester United, Burnley, and West Bromwich Albion). The 35-year-old manager has kept the club’s principles intact and made his first team roster a bit leaner, and Swansea looks capable of pushing for a European spot in the middle of the table.
2. Points off top sides for newly promoted clubs
Leicester City and Burnley, both early relegation favorites, took valuable points from what seemed like daunting fixtures this weekend. Sure, Burnley might be lucky to have played Manchester United this early in the season, because the Red Devils looked far from the finished product under Luis van Gaal, but drawing nil-nil with a team that included Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Juan Mata, and Angel di Maria is impressive for any club, and especially a newly-promoted one. Leicester did something similar to Arsenal at home, earning a tough 1–1 draw with the Gunners and, for much of the game, looking like the more dangerous team. Every point counts in the battle to stay in the Premier League, so getting points off of teams expected to finish in the top half of the table is huge for these newcomers.
3. Chelsea can do it all
At the beginning of his second season back in the Premier Leauge, Jose Mourinho has his team playing the kind of soccer he was known for when he managed Porto. The Blues are ruthless on the break this season, putting six goals past Everton on Saturday. The addition of Cesc Fabregas has been a huge factor: he can pass, he can tackle, he can score, and he can lead — something Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger already knew all those years ago when he made Fabregas captain of Arsenal.
Bonus Balotelli Watch
Mario Balotelli looked like a more mature player in his first appearance for Liverpool on Sunday. How long will it last? No one knows. But if Brendan Rodgers can succeed where Inter, Manchester City, and AC Milan failed, Liverpool won’t miss Luis Suárez quite as much, and scientists should figure out how the manager gets the best out of some of the world’s most troublesome players.
Kevin Koczwara is a freelance writer who lives in Boston. He tweets under the handle @kkoczwara.