By Ray Hamill
Just 11 games into the English Premier League season, there’s a very familiar look to the top of the table.
The top six teams, in fact, are exactly what just about every fan, expert, player, manager and water boy would have predicted at this stage, even if the final order of that six is still up for debate.
So what have we learned so far this campaign? Well, money still talks when it comes to buying potential success, while Manchester City is the team to beat this year, Tottenham is still dangerous, and some things just never seem to change for Liverpool and Arsenal.
At the top of the table, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City have now won nine straight league games and are a comfortable eight points clear of their nearest challengers, Manchester United and Tottenham.
Even considering the early stage of the season, it will take either a massive slump by City or a Herculean effort from one of their rivals to reel them in.
The Manchester blues have already netted an astounding 38 times, 15 more than United, while allowing just seven.
United, meanwhile, have displayed a stingy defense, allowing a league-low five goals, less than one every two games, but they seem to lack ambition at times and are a very pedestrian 2-2-2 away from Old Trafford.
In third place, separated from United by goal difference only, Spurs continue to show they belong among the contenders and may very well have the best manager in the English game in Mauricio Pochettino.
Champions Chelsea, meanwhile, are one point further back and occupy the fourth and final coveted Champions League spot, with Liverpool and Arsenal rounding out the top six, three points adrift of Chelsea.
Like United, the Reds of Liverpool have been dominant at home, but a leaky defense has caused more than some concern among their followers and could ultimately end up costing them a CL spot for next season.
While Arsenal are pretty much the same old inconsistent Arsenal under Arsene Wenger and a team that remains one step behind the top four in terms of personnel and acumen.
Five other teams – EPL newcomers Brighton, Huddersfield, and Newcastle, as well as Watford and Burnley – have each also impressed in the early going, while bigger clubs like Everton and West Ham have struggled, although not as much as basement dwellers Crystal Palace with just four points from the opening 11 games.
With a couple of upcoming midweek rounds of fixtures, and the traditionally crowded Christmas schedule, every team will play 10 games between now and the New Year, and by then we should have a clearer picture as to whether City are worthy of their heavy favorites tag.
Don’t expect the top six to change much, although it’s anyone’s guess as to what the final order of that six might be.