Arsene Wenger’s side were always going to be around the top 4 and gunning for those Champions League places, but who would have thought, one-third of the season in, his free-flowing side would be top, 5 points ahead of the chasing pack. The biggest surprise in all that is probably the goalscoring form of Aaron Ramsey. Much-maligned for the past couple of seasons since returning from his horrific broken leg injury, Ramsey has finally stepped out of Jack Wilshere’s shadow and get amongst the goals. With his return this campaign already eclipsing his total tally prior to this season, Ramsey is one of Arsenal’s key players now. His versatility in being able to operate as a holding midfielder, as well as an attacking midfield or on the flanks, makes him one of Wenger’s first pick this season.
The marquee signing of Mesut Ozil may be argued as one of the vital reasons why Arsenal are doing so well, and it could be said his presence has helped the form of the likes of Olivier Giroud and the aforementioned Ramsey. However, much credit has to be given to Wenger for integrating so many playmakers on top of building a team around the German superstar. The strength in depth Wenger has in midfield now is immense, especially when you see that they have been without Lukas Podolski, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for most of the campaign so far.
One area in which Arsenal may hurt from is injury to either the on-form Giroud or to one of the sturdy centre-back pairing of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny.. The back-up in Nicklas Bendtner is clearly insufficient, while they only have skipper Thomas Vermaelen as reserve. The next few matches against Manchester United and Chelsea will be a bigger and truer test to their title credentials than the one Liverpool presented to them last week.
The Saints, under manager Mauricio Pochettino, has produced some magnificent, high-pressing football this season. The additions of dynamic midfielder Vincent Wanyama and centre-back Dejan Lovren has definitely significantly improved their first eleven. Wanyama’s drive from and strength in midfield has complemented well with the ever-consistent Frenchman Morgan Schneiderlin’s poise and passing ability. The main man for Southampton so far is the latter signing from Olympique Lyonnaise. The Croat defender has proved an immovable presence at the back alongside club stalwart Jose Fonte. Along with Artur Boruc, they have had one of the best defensive records amongst the Big 5 European leagues this year. Not bad a feat at all.
On top of their defensive prowess, Pochettino’s men has not looked too shabby going forward too. Complementing their high-pressing game is a fast pass and move attacking strategy. The likes of captain Adam Lallana and James Ward-Prowse are threats from midfield, and if you can leave players like Gaston Ramirez on the bench, you know you have some pretty good options to call from the bench. Their young English full-backs in Nathaniel Clyne and Luke Shaw has helped with Pochettino’s tactics as well, driving forward at every opportunity in order to support the attack. The goalscoring form of Rickie Lambert, a newly-minted England international and goalscorer, and Jay Rodriguez, along with the record signing Dany Osvaldo, has given the Saints much firepower upfront as well.
In essence, this Southampton side has had a focus on teamwork and team ethics, working for each other and pressing together high up the pitch. Whether or not they can keep up their strong run remains to be seen, but having already won at Anfield and stolen a point at Old Trafford, I would not bet against them ending up amongst Europa League places come May.
Steve Bruce has built a really resilient side that is in the top-half of the table ten games in. Being a promoted side, many thought Bruce’s Hull City side would struggle this season. However, as well as making the KC Stadium a fortress so far, being unbeaten at home, Bruce ensured that Hull would not lack in Premier League experience when he added Tottenham Hotspur midfield duo Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore, the latter on loan. The two early wins on the back of two Robbie Brady winners certainly helped their cause immensely thus far.
Bruce has not been afraid to deploy a five-men defence as well, seeing that he has defenders with Premier League experience in Paul McShane, Curtis Davies and Maynor Figueora, signed from the recently-relegated Wigan Athletic. Scottish goalkeeper Allan McGregor, from Rangers, also brought stability to the Hull back line. This in turn made Bruce’s side hard to break down, and extremely resilient.
As well as securing vital wins against their nearest rivals, such as Sunderland and Norwich City, along with a draw against Cardiff City, Hull has ensured they have given themselves a chance to survive this year. Further proof is their narrow away losses to Everton and Spurs, the latter a result of another Roberto Soldado penalty. Their performances at Stamford Bridge and the Etihad were encouraging as well. Even though they lost by two goals each time, they kept the scores respectable and thus keeping their goal difference in check – Norwich can’t say the same after last weekend’s 7-0 hammering at Manchester City.
They will hope they do not endure the kind of dramatic drop in form from their last Premier League season, where a Phil Brown-led Hull City side were relegated after a fine first-half to the campaign. However, on current form, Hull should be able to stay up and see Premier League football next season.
Are the players in bold the best performing players in each of the three BPL early overachievers? Tell us in the comments section below!