We don’t have to do well to win the league.
We just have to do better than everyone else, and that looks increasingly straightforward.
It’s a different story in Europe, with only Chelsea winning their opening fixture and both United’s and our own dismal results coming against the lowest ranked teams in our group. All will continue to try of course, and while there’s life there’s hope, but the continent’s most prestigious trophy looks likely to find its summer resting place in either Spain or Germany once again as the quality of those European behemoths looks far beyond any of the English contingent with their current squads and issues.
With this in mind, all four sides must turn instead to domestic business in search of success this season.
Falling over each other to fail
A weekend of stuttering shed further light on this years Premier League race. So far, no side is playing very well at all – indeed on many an occasion they aren’t even scraping results – and the first tendrils of hope that we carried into the season, only to see them comprehensively snuffed out against West Ham, are starting to raise their heads above the parapet.
I was lucky enough to see City capitulate to Spurs in person and it was indeed a capitulation. Spurs were there for the taking for most of the first half, conceding the most Arsenal-esque of goals from their own corner, and it took some equally Arsenal-esque defending of set pieces from City to reverse the flow of that game.
Tottenham had given up towards the end of the first half – just look at the body language and positioning of their assorted four offside attackers when Dier’s strike goes in if you don’t believe me.
Meanwhile, Chelsea had their annual meltdown at Newcastle and just about recovered a sliver of face (and a point). It says it all about your form when Ramires and Willian can be considered your best players, and they look three quarters of a defence away from contending so far this season. It’s funny the impact playing without a top level keeper appears to have had on their confidence and belief.
Incidentally, Mourinho has never won a league game (having tried) at St. James’ Park and one other ground. You’ll never guess where. The Emirates.
I could talk about how Liverpool also struggled to put aside a decidedly average Aston Villa team until long-lost saviour Daniel Sturridge showed their assorted substandard summer purchases how to finish, but it’s hard to take the Reds too seriously while they make such hard work of that kind of fixture. With loveable Brendan in charge and no evidence yet that Sturridge can remain fit for more than half a day, they have a way to go before they concern the big guns.
Which just leaves a United side which turned over Sunderland (of “conceded 23 goals in 9 games including 3 against Exeter” fame) when priced 1/5 on my accumulator.
Sunday’s game is a big opportunity for us to lay down a marker and subject to other results go top.
A week ago we were in turmoil. Seven days and two wins later, all of a sudden our striking options don’t look quite so shabby, and our squad strength looks up there with the best in the league.
Meanwhile City persist with a striker who is undeniably top quality but who looks insanely out of form, Chelsea find themselves unable to keep a clean sheet without Mike Dean’s help, and United continue to pin all their hopes on a 19-year-old who has scored three Premier League goals.
And that’s the rub. Arsenal may not have made all the signings we needed and we may not be playing as well as we would hope, but as long as we’ve done better than our rivals, that can be enough.
As always, the yardstick will come in our ability to get results, and with traditionally tricky games against Everton and Swansea to follow, a win at the Emirates on Sunday afternoon is a must.
Of course, a triumph over Olympiacos would be very welcome too, and even with a little rotation should be achievable without too much worry. But in reality no English club looks strong enough to seriously challenge for the Champions League this year, so if it comes down to choosing, Sunday is the bigger game, and one which can set out our credentials as serious title contenders.
No pressure then.