Unexpected Premier League boost for Graham Potter, Rafael Benitez and Thomas Frank

Graham Potter's Brighton have been among the surprise packages this season as the Premier League takes a breather for the international break

Monday, 4th October 2021, 5:43 pm
Updated Monday, 4th October 2021, 5:44 pm
Graham Potter has guided Albion to a flying start this season

Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United make up a familiar top four as Premier League action pauses for the second international break of the 2021-22 season.

High-flying Brighton and Brentford are among the surprise packages so far, while there is discontent on the terraces at Tottenham and Newcastle.

Here, we takes a look at some of the winners and losers from the opening seven rounds of top-flight fixtures.

Surprise packages

Brighton

After four seasons of relegation scraps, Albion have enjoyed their best start to a Premier League campaign. Graham Potter’s well-drilled Seagulls could even have gone top the table last week. With almost a fifth of the season gone, the in-form Sussex club are averaging two points per game, putting them on par with the two Manchester sides.

Brentford

Thomas Frank’s newly-promoted Bees have been a breath of fresh air. The west London club are back in the top tier for the first time since 1947 and their bold, entertaining approach to games – backed up by the energy of charismatic manager Frank – has yielded an impressive 12 points from seven games and just a single defeat, in addition to making them a big hit with neutrals.

Everton

Former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez was not a popular choice to replace Real Madrid-bound Carlo Ancelotti at Goodison Park. Yet the experienced Spaniard has repeatedly played down the negativity and is swiftly winning over his detractors. Andros Townsend has so far proved an inspired free transfer, while only Chelsea and Liverpool have accrued more points than the Toffees.

Top draw

Chelsea

Building on their surprise Champions League triumph, Thomas Tuchel’s men are the early table toppers, thanks in part to record-signing Romelu Lukaku’s strong start since returning to Stamford Bridge. Defeat to Manchester City is the only major blot on the Blues’ copybook to date, with a creditable draw at Liverpool – secured with only 10 men – the only other occasion they have dropped points.

Manchester City

Following Sunday’s pulsating 2-2 draw at Anfield, the reigning champions have now taken four points from trips to two of their main titles rivals: Chelsea and Liverpool. While they may be two points off the pace, Pep Guardiola’s City have already faced five of the other seven clubs to finish in the top eight last term and are arguably still to hit top form.

Must improve

Leicester

Brendan Rodgers’ Foxes began the last two seasons on fire before agonisingly dropping out of the Champions League places late on. On the evidence of their opening games, there is little chance of them challenging the top four at all this term. Evergreen Jamie Vardy is the division’s joint leading scorer but the 2016 champions have won only twice and slipped well below recent standards.

Newcastle

The second-bottom Magpies are one of four teams yet to register a win. Fans were hardly enamoured when Steve Bruce was unveiled as manager in 2019 and there have repeated complaints about his style of football. Scoring goals has not been a major issue this term but the 16 conceded is a joint league high. Supporter unrest at St James’ Park does not look like ending any time soon.

Tottenham

Following a tumultuous summer, the position of new boss Nuno Espirito Santo is already under serious scrutiny, with a disillusioned fan group requesting a meeting with Spurs’ board to discuss the club’s vision. Resounding defeats to London rivals Crystal Palace, Chelsea and Arsenal and uninspiring football have not helped the Portuguese coach’s cause, while Harry Kane is yet to score a league goal since being denied a summer transfer.