Diego Costa has nine goals in 594 minutes!

By Mary Cunningham

Devotees of the English Premier League are ecstatic Saturday morning because their favorites are back in action after the EPL’s second dark weekend.

Almost two months have passed since the opening weekend, and the sides in England’s top tier have played only seven league games. There are two international breaks to blame for that.

And though it’s still early, the first seven games have raised some important questions. For instance, will Chelsea ever lose again? Will Arsenal run out of players by next month? And what exactly is Burnley doing?

So here are seven lessons from seven rounds of the season:

It’s Quiet for Managers, Too Quiet

Last season was the bloodiest campaign for Premier League managers since the league began in 1992, with 10 firings over the course of the season. And by the end of last October, Paulo di Canio and Ian Holloway had already received their marching orders from Sunderland and Crystal Palace, respectively.

This year has been comparatively quiet. All 20 managers who started in August are still employed. But that doesn’t mean they should all start thinking about building swimming pools out back. The pressure is already building on a few, and Newcastle’s Alan Pardew leads the list. Fans have been calling for his head since last spring.

His answer so far has been four measly points.

The United Battleship is Turning—Slowly

One manager who isn’t at risk, at least not yet, is Manchester new boss Louis van Gaal. Fans just knew that he would turn things around. And he’s shown clear progress. At this point last season, David Moyes had only cobbled together 10 points from seven games.

Van Gaal’s United has 11.

Old-School Strikers Are Back

Just when traditional No. 9s were going out of fashion—big lugs up front who can win the ball high up the field (legally or not), keep it, and generally bully central defenders— Diego Costa lumbered in with highflying Chelsea. He’s scoring at a fearsome rate (nine goals in 594 minutes of play), even if he couldn’t puncture Manchester City’s defense.

There is always the threat of hamstring injuries with Costa, who repeatedly played through them for Atlético Madrid at the end of last year, but he’s staved them off so far. And as other top clubs wonder where their striking production will come from, he’s reminding everyone how to go about punishing a defense.

Liverpool is Missing Someone

There was another team, once upon a time, that had a forward who terrorized Premier League defenses every week. Remember that guy, Luis Suárez ? Uruguayan, about 5-foot-11, occasionally bit people. It turns out that selling a player who delivered 31 goals and 12 assists in 33 league games to Barcelona leaves a hole that even a $135 million check can’t fill—especially not Mario Balotelli, who has yet to score on Merseyside.

Suárez’s absence has left Liverpool drifting away slowly from the top of the league, already nine points off the pace.

Chelsea’s Hot Start

Speaking of the top of the league, Chelsea has taken 19 points from the first seven games and steamrollered opposition along the way with 21 goals. The last team to start the season with at least 19 points in seven: also Chelsea. And that was only two years ago. The Blues’ problem then was the next seven games, which saw them pick up just seven points.

That’s unlikely to happen again with four of their next seven fixtures coming against teams in the league’s bottom eight.

Arsenal’s Walking Wounded

Consider this Arsenal lineup: David Ospina (goalkeeper); Mathieu Debuchy, Calum Chambers, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs ; Mikel Arteta ; Theo Walcott, Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ; Olivier Giroud.

Not bad, right? But that’s not Arsenal’s starting 11—even though it could pass for it. This is an 11 made up entirely of Arsenal players who have missed time because of injury this season.

The most consistently dinged-up team in England’s top tier is limping through the early campaign with no opportunity to replenish its ranks for more than two months. It should come as no surprise that Arsenal is also the most fouled team in the league.

“We’ve been hit a bit hard,” manager Arsène Wenger said. He added on Thursday that he would try to sign one more player in January.

For These Two Clubs, It’s Already Over

When it comes to the bottom of the league, who needs 38 games to find out which teams are awful? In fact, you don’t even need to wait for the traditional Christmas midpoint.

It turns out that seven games—incidentally the same number of matches we use to determine a World Cup winner—is plenty of time to out your team as completely miserable. In the past 15 seasons, the bottom side after seven games was relegated on 11 occasions. Being 19th at this stage isn’t much better: that side has gone down more than half the time.

So even though the season is only into October, we can already say this: Burnley and Queens Park Rangers, it’s been nice knowing you and your combined eight points.


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