Smaller clubs give the established order a thing or two to think about


1 Crystal Palace midfielder Jason Puncheon leaves Chelsea’s Serbian midfielder Nemanja Matic for dead at Stamford Bridge.2 Swansea’s Bafetimbi Gomis has been in prolific and scored in all four of their matches.3 United’s new France international Anthony Martial could end up[ costing in the region of 58mil.

THE Premier League that we waited for so long has now been interrupted by this week’s international break, set aside for, among other things, European Championship qualifiers.

Manchester City will be the team most annoyed by this untimely intervention, while others like Chelsea will no doubt welcome the interlude as a measure of respite and use it to ponder what has gone so badly wrong and how to fix it. The champions find themselves stuck in 13th place on the log.

Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool – 5th, 6th and 7th in the standings (all with seven points and separated only on goal difference) – will also be licking their wounds after a mixed start to the new campaign.

For Crystal Palace, Leicester City and Swansea, on the other hand, the fortnight’s break will give them a chance to soak in the plaudits and re-energize themselves before they set off to consolidate what can best be described as fine starts by unfashionable squads.

And while it may be early days yet in the long and demanding season, it is great credit to these three outfits for how they have come out, played the game with genuine verve and without fear of the more established and richer clubs.

Palace, Leicester and Swansea are second, third and fourth in the standings, respectively, and it is no less than they deserve.

Palace, who showed decent form towards the end of last season after Alan Pardew returned to take over the reins at Selhurst Park, have three wins from their opening four matches – including the 2-1 blockbuster upset at Chelsea last weekend.

Notwithstanding this, the Eagles will face an acid test when the Premiership resumes next week Saturday – they’ll be up against Man City, the most exciting team in Europe at the moment.

Leicester sit alongside Man City and Swansea – with whom they are tied on eight points – as the only unbeaten sides in the league. They’ve got two wins and two draws to show for a fine start under the stewardship of former Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri.

Swansea’s rise to a Champions League place, however premature it might sound, is perhaps not as surprising. This squad, drilled by Gary Monk, is efficient going forward as much as it defending. And with one Batetimbi Gomis is their line-up, they always look like scoring.

In their four games, they started by holding Chelsea to a draw at Stamford Bridge, and along the way thumped Newcastle before embarrassing Man United last weekend with an outstanding come-from-behind victory at Old Trafford.

Having said that though, one cannot dismiss the likelihood of Chelsea and the Red Devils bouncing back, despite the poor shape they are in at the moment.

Man City lead the standings after making their best start to a season in more than 100 years. They have four wins from four games, have scored the most goals (10) and are yet to concede one, all the while playing some of the best football the English game has seen since the days of the old Liverpool in the 1970s and 1980s.

Many home fans at the Etihad now expect City to go on and win the Premier League trophy, as well doing better than a last 16 spot in the Champions League this season.

According to statistics released by CIES Football Observatory, City spent cool £154mil in the transfer window, which eclipsed the previous highest amount dished out in a transfer window.

It also helped take the Premiership’s spending to beyond £1bil in a year.

Man United were the next biggest spenders, weighing into the market with £115mil, while Liverpool spent £88mil and Chelsea £72mil.

The other member of England’s “Big Five” saw Arsenal part with just £13mil, which meant that only Swansea and Norwich did not cough up more than the Emirates side in this transfer window.

The additions to the league during this summer’s dealing come with potential, and to a certain degree – gamble.

Top of the pick is Man United’s 19-year-old Anthony Martial, for whom they paid £36mil and could end up paying in the region of £58mil with add-ons.

The David De Gea saga, on would suspect, is not yet done, despite a deal falling through on the last day of the transfer window, and Man United and Real Madrid engaging in a war of words after that.

The acquisitions of Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, Fabian Delph, and Nicolas Otamendi has only served to strengthen City and now the Citizens look like a dangerous threat to the pretenders of the Premiership title.

For many of us, we will bide our time and wait for the international break to pass, before we rub our hands in glee again and celebrate the most famous football league in the world.

And one could not ask for a better match when it resumes next week. Liverpool travel to Man United for what should be another mouth-watering encounter, maybe with a red card or two thrown in.

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