The state of play in the Premier League after GW8

Matt Morley by Matt Morley @rfutbol - 0 4,641

Pin Klopp and Guardiola are expected to go head-to-head for the title. AFP
Klopp and Guardiola are expected to go head-to-head for the title. AFP

The state of play in the Premier League after GW8

Matt Morley by Matt Morley @rfutbol - 0 4,641

We take a look at what we have learned from the eight rounds of Premier League fixtures so far this season and the current state of play in the English top flight.

Though it sounds minimal, the eight-game mark of the Premier League season signifies that we are already a fifth of the way through the campaign, meaning that the early-season success stories and sloppy starts should be more or less starting to level out by this point.

Things are largely as was expected pre-season at the top end of the table, with Manchester City and Liverpool, who had both been heavily tipped to win the title, currently leading the way having yet to taste defeat.

The fact that there is so little between the two sides was proven at the weekend, as they played out a 0-0 draw at Anfield.

However, keeping pace with the pair are Maurizio Sarri's Chelsea, who have impressed early on in the Italian's tenure, despite his insistence that his side need a full year to adapt to his unique methods and be able to compete with the likes of Liverpool.

Another new manager to have made waves is Unai Emery at Arsenal. Having come in to replace the legendary Arsene Wenger, Emery was always going to be up against it as he looked to prove himself in English football.

A difficult start to the season certainly didn't help matters, as defeats to reigning champions city and London rivals Chelsea meant the 'Gunners' had no points to their name with two games of the season gone.

Heads could easily have dropped at that point, but nothing could be further from the truth, with Emery's side having now racked up nine wins in a row in all competitions in response.

Considered outsiders for a top-four place coming into the campaign, hope and optimism is once again starting to thrive in the hearts and minds of Arsenal fans.

Joining Arsenal on 18 points are bitter rivals Tottenham, who shook off a wobble in September when they lost three consecutive games in all competitions to quietly stalk the division's big hitters.

Newly-promoted Wolves have impressed hugely since returning to the top flight, losing just once to date as they went down 2-0 to Leicester back in August. Nuno Espirito Santo's side have built their success from the solid base of their back five, with the likes of Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves then pulling the strings from the middle of the park in what is surely the most impressive midfield pairing from a team that has just been promoted in recent memory.

Bournemouth have been every bit as accomplished as the Black Country outfit, with them currently occupying 6th. Defeats to both Burnley and Chelsea and a draw against Everton are the only blots on their copybook as Eddie Howe continues to demonstrate his credentials as one of the most talented young managers in the English game.

Nevertheless, whilst Wolves may be impressing at the right end of the table, there is no such good news for fellow newly-promoted sides Cardiff and Fulham.

The 'Bluebirds' currently prop up the table having claimed just two points form their eight games so far and possessing a goal difference of -13. Whatsmore, no side has scored fewer goals this term that Neil Warnock's men, whose surprise fairy tale promotion looks set to end the same way their last one did, with an immediate return to the Championship.

Fulham are hardly better off, hovering just two points above the drop zone despite a summer of heavy spending. One win and two draws are all they have to show for the circa £100m that they spent on improving their squad following promotion. Fabri and Sergio Rico were both brought in to strengthen between the sticks, with the arrivals of Calum Chambers, Tim Fosu-Mensah, Alfie Mawson, Joe Byran and Maxime Le Marchand meaning that the 'Cottagers' also brought in an entire new defence. That doesn't appear to have helped them in the slightest, though, with the club having shipped 21 goals so far, more than any other club.

The other two sides that remain winless and that are looking a good bet for the drop are Huddersfield and Newcastle. The 'Terriers' survived by the skin of their teeth last season having struggled to regularly find the net, with that problem seemingly having only intensified during the close season. Having scored the joint-fewest goals last season (28 in 38), they currently possess the same record this season (four in eight, joint with Cardiff).

Whilst Huddersfield's struggles are hardly surprising, neither are Newcastle's. The Tynesiders saw their pre-season preparations disrupted by the constant rumours surrounding the future of manager Rafa Benitez, who was known to have been left frustrated with the club's inability to bring in his first-choice transfer targets. Talks over a new deal remain at an impasse, and goals, once again, are the main problem for the 'Magpies', but whilst previous relegation seasons came as a shock to Newcastle fans, there is a quiet acceptance that it is a very real danger this season.

In terms of the goalscoring charts, Chelsea's Eden Hazard leads the way with seven in eight games following his blistering start to the season.

The Belgian has shown no signs of fatigue following his World Cup exertions, though he will have to remain on his toes if he is to meet manager Maurizio Sarri's challenge of scoring 40 goals in a season.

A cluster of players sit just behind Hazard's tally on five goals, with Manchester City's Sergio Aguero, Tottenham's Harry Kane, Fulham's Aleksandar Mitrovic and, curiously, Brighton's Glenn Murray all having shown their nose for goals in the opening months of the season..

Whilst it is no surprise to see Aguero and Kane in such a list, the presence of Mitrovic and Murray certainly catches the eye. Given Newcastle's struggles and the Serb's popularity with the fans, there will no doubt be more than a few members of the Newcastle board wondering whether selling him to Fulham during the summer was such a good idea after all.

Despite already being in the twilight of his career at 35, Murray looks a good bet to record his best ever season in the Premier League, with the Maryport-born striker having only reached double figures once before (last season - 12 in 35).

Matt Morley

Matt Morley

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