At the end of last year, this writer shared thoughts on "the growing mediocrity" of the presumed leading English Premier League sides. Liverpool's confident 4-1 victory over Swansea City was the second in the club's 13-match unbeaten run at a time when Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, and Southampton were all within five points of each other from fourth to eighth with West Ham United nestled in between. Manchester United were a little ahead of that pack in third but remained unconvincing at times.
This season has revealed that fragility still exists throughout the more illustrious teams in the world's most financially carefree league, but there have been further developments. Chelsea, under the master of organisation and expensive consistency, have become strangely open to disarray. José Mourinho's win percentage from FC Porto to his second stint at Chelsea has been phenomenal, but after seven league games, his outfit has lost the same amount of league games as the whole of last season. They lie in 15th spot with a negative goal difference and had to fight back from two goals down to draw at a rudderless Newcastle side.
Chelsea aren't the only side to boast a shocking inconsistency. Manchester City's furious start has given way to three successive reversals. Tottenham handed out a heavy 4-1 defeat in the first game of matchday seven to heap an extra serving of misery after City's home defeats to West Ham and Juventus. Arsenal's home defeat to West Ham opened their season, and the routine defeat to Chelsea represented a failure to capitalise on a rival's weakness. Tottenham's three successive wins followed four games where Mauricio Pochettino's side couldn't find a win. Last season's surprise package, Southampton, have impressed in victory but were flying by this stage last season.
Manchester United may be league leaders but damn the entire league by virtue of sitting at its zenith. The arrival of Anthony Martial and the form of Juan Mata have provided the individual moments needed by Louis van Gaal's side. The lumbering football on show isn't particularly impressive, but for now, has been good enough to secure top spot. The danger posed by the likes of Crystal Palace, West Ham United, Leicester City, Everton, and Swansea City could ensure that dropped points may continue throughout the coming months. The downturn in European performances also underlines a league that is offers greater entertainment than genuine quality.
For Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool, this may offer an unlikely opening. This isn't merely naive rehtoric on the back of a close victory over struggling Aston Villa; an upturn in performances and form could very well see Liverpool make gains over a difficult October and November. The problem is the lack of inspiration and conviction in what Liverpool have displayed since March. That is unlikely to suddenly change due to failures elsewhere, but for sides with the necessary fortitude and sense for opportunity, such openings are gratefully received. To be frank, Brendan Rodgers should make restitution to fans who have been patient and supportive during his tenure. It matters not whether they are still with him, he must prove that he is worth following.
That Liverpool are only a couple of points outside the top four after a number of stale performances should sharpen the teeth of players within the squad and steel the mind of a manager under pressure. There aren't many better stages to show intent than a Merseyside derby at Goodison Park. Brendan Rodgers has been afforded the patience and financial support with which to perform but also benefits from a league where many sides lack the necessary consistency to pull away early on. Failure to make inroads will rightly condemn a manager who still has a chance to keep one of the best jobs in football.
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