The fast opening to the early Premier League season comes to a halt following the final international break ahead of the World Cup and that offers a chance to reflect on the start of the season.
Just seven games in, there are already plenty of huge stories that have taken place this term, while others are offering the potential for slow burners for the rest of the season on what looks like being another highly exciting top-flight campaign.
Typically it’s not been dull for any side though, so Sportsmail has looked at every club’s first part of the season and given them a rating so far.
Here we go through Part 1 of our guide, featuring Arsenal up to Leeds United, with Part 2 to come later in the week.
Arsenal have been firing on all cylinders under Mikel Arteta in the early stages of the season
Position: 1st Points: 18
There was much focus on how Arsenal would start the season especially after their dramatic implosion at the end of the last campaign that saw them collapse and effectively giftwrap a Champions League place that looked in the bag to north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur on the final day.
While Mikel Arteta’s position as manager was not under threat, the former midfielder could ill-afford a slow start to the season, or even an inconsistent one given the frustratingly slow progress he has made as manager since taking over in 2019.
Tellingly, the board backed the Spaniard in the summer with a transfer budget of around £120million and their patience is paying off following a near perfect start to the season.
Heading into the international break the Gunners lead the way at the top of the Premier League following convincing wins over Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Bournemouth, Fulham, Aston Villa and Brentford.
Arsenal have started the season on fire following six wins from their opening seven games
However, they did fail their big test after crashing to defeat at a Manchester United side who are still in transition under manager Erik ten Hag. As a result, their mentality is still to be questioned in the biggest matches against big six rivals.
Nonetheless, it’s been their only failure so far and some are even tipping the Gunners for a tilt at the title – including Brentford boss Thomas Frank, whose side were swept aside by the all-firing Gunners on Sunday.
Behind Arsenal’s excellent start to the season is how well their new signings have settled. New striker Gabriel Jesus is thriving with the responsibility to lead the line up top while Oleksandr Zinchenko too has hit the ground running at left-back following their summer arrivals from Manchester City.
Fabio Vieira is getting up to speed in the midfield, and there has even been time to glimpse into the future with Ethan Nwaneri – who at 15 became the youngest ever Premier League player at the weekend, making the club’s young stars like Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe look like veterans.
Another test waits after the international break with a derby with Spurs, but their home record against their rivals is superb and another victory would surely have many more other than Frank thinking that a title fight could be a target this term.
The Gunners have a hungry and youthful side including the youngest Premier League player ever in Ethan Nwaneri, who made his debut at 15 in the victory over Brentford
Position: 15th Points: 7
It has been more than 10 months since Steven Gerrard took over at Aston Villa but the jury is still out on the Liverpool legend after he replaced the sacked Dean Smith.
By last November, Smith’s side had gone into a nosedive after a respectable start to the campaign, but it is telling that Gerrard’s team are three points worse off than at this stage last season.
Pressure was eased on Friday night when they secured a battling 1-0 victory over Southampton at Villa Park and that comes after also securing a big point at home to title favourites Manchester City, but Villa remain a club in flux even nearly a year into Gerrard’s reign.
Aston Villa have endured a mixed start to the Premier League season under Steven Gerrard
The summer had its share of turbulence following the bold decision to strip Tyrone Mings of the captaincy, but to Gerrard’s credit as a manager, and Mings’ professionalism, it’s not harmed the club directly, at least, with the centre-back back in the side as part of the starting XI.
Gerrard has also had to deal with matters out of his hands as major signing Diego Carlos suffered a ruptured achilles and is now likely to miss the rest of the season.
There are concerns over Philippe Coutinho’s role in the first team, with the playmaker still yet to provide an assist or a goal this season since making his move from Barcelona permanent in the summer after starring on loan at Villa Park.
A couple of interesting clashes come for Villa after the international break with trips to Leeds United and Nottingham Forest before a home meeting with Chelsea – and by that point the direction the West Midlands outfit are heading in under the former Rangers boss should be clearer.
Villa endured bad luck early on after summer signing Diego Carlos suffered a long term injury
Position: 12th Points: 8
When looking at Bournemouth’s start to the season it must be judged in context with many of the early season predictions for the Cherries who were only promoted to the Premier League this term.
Namely before a ball had been kicked, many feared Bournemouth were doomed having spent little on the way of signings and showing a side that looked way out of its depth at Premier League level.
Since the season started it’s certainly not been dull and regardless of the high drama that’s happened since, a mid-table spot on eight points is an excellent achievement so far even it it remains early days after just seven games.
Scott Parker (above) was sacked just days after a humiliating 9-0 defeat at Liverpool
Scott Parker had secured an opening day win but three straight defeats including the humiliating Premier League joint record 9-0 defeat at Liverpool saw him depart just days later – although signs suggested there had already been cracks between the former manager and the club’s board over a lack of summer arrivals.
Gary O’Neil has been steadying the ship as interim boss, and has so far secured a two draws and an excellent comeback win from 2-0 down at Nottingham Forest that could have huge implications come the end of the season in a potential battle to avoid relegation.
Having already played Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal there are concerns for Bournemouth who have the worst goal difference in the league with -13 – with most of the damage coming from those three teams who collectively have beaten them 16-0.
That though offers up some kinder fixtures after the international break and a chance to build up a cushion above the relegation zone when they face a run of games against Brentford, Leicester, Fulham, Southampton and West Ham United.
Bournemouth though hold a respectable mid-table spot after seven games into the season
Position: 9th Points: 9th
After making a bright start last season, momentum soon left Brentford during the second half of the campaign and it’s not an outrageous suggestion to say they could have gone down had they not made the inspired signing of Christian Eriksen on a free transfer whose sensational form helped keep the Bees out of trouble.
So once the Dane departed for Manchester United over the summer it was always going to be interesting to see how they would cope heading into the new season.
In a Premier League equivalent of sink or swim, Thomas Frank’s side are so far showing excellent buoyancy with early season Premier League form marking them as a team not many will want to play rather than the pushovers perhaps many were expecting.
Brentford recorded a famous 4-0 win to defeat Manchester United back in August
Admittedly, they head into the international break having been thumped 3-0 at home by Arsenal but there have been big wins too, namely the 5-2 victory over Leeds United and of course the stunning 4-0 demolition of Manchester United at home.
Only the top three have scored more goals and it’s led to Ivan Toney being called up to the England squad with his five Premier League strikes so far only bettered by goal machine Erling Haaland, Harry Kane and Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Keeping goals out hasn’t been as easy with 12 having already been conceded so far, and it’s something boss Thomas Frank will have to address after the international break.
And that brings us to a new potential problem on the horizon. Frank has been linked with a move to Leicester should they dispense with Brendan Rodgers and should the highly popular manager depart then Brentford will once again be entering new waters and another sink or swim environment.
Following his hat-trick against Leeds United, Ivan Toney has been called up for England
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION
Position: 4th Points: 13
And among the early season Premier League title contenders are… (checks notes) erm, Brighton!
Of course, it’s far too early to suggest Brighton could be serious challengers for a title shout but it does underline the excellent progress the club have been making since earning promotion in 2017.
While it’s a surprise to see them in fourth spot, while still having a game in hand with the teams above them – this sort of burst of form has been coming for quite a while now following the groundwork put in by Graham Potter and his players.
Potter has got Brighton playing an excellent style of football and the only thing holding them back over the last year has been a star striker to finish off the excellent chances they have been creating.
Brighton have started the season in fine style after an excellent win at Manchester United
That striker still eludes them, but many players have stepped up in the interim to help fire the Seagulls into the top four whose early season victories include a stunning 2-1 win on the opening day at Manchester United, as well as a 5-2 win over Leicester City at the start of September.
In many ways it’s now a shame to see Potter depart, not least to see we will now never know just how far he could have taken his side who have started to become a popular Premier League outfit among neutrals for their stylish play.
It reflects on Potter’s abilities as a manager that Chelsea have taken the plunge to appoint him in a move that he really could not turn down as he looks to take a highly promising managerial career to another level.
Top four battles were never the target for Brighton despite their promising start – with or without Potter.
The relatively unknown Italian boss Roberto De Zerbi will take charge after the international break and he won’t find a bigger test waiting for him than a trip to Anfield before hosting Tottenham.
Following Graham Potter’s exit, Roberto De Zerbi has the tough task of taking over at Brighton
Position: 7th Points: 10
With a game in hand on their rivals, Chelsea’s position in the Premier League is hardly disastrous but in context with their summer business, form on the pitch and events off it – it’s been nothing but chaos at Stamford Bridge.
Under new owner Todd Boehly the club backed Thomas Tuchel with a quarter of a billion pounds in the transfer window – and with that sort of outlay on players, Chelsea should have been a major force early in the season.
Instead, it’s gone very flat, very quick. Successive summer striking flops Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku have departed, being replaced in part by Raheem Sterling as well as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who arrived right on the deadline from Barcelona.
It looked an ideal signing for Tuchel with the striker he had worked with at Borussia Dortmund, yet after just an hour of game time Tuchel was incredibly sacked following a 1-0 defeat at Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League.
Chelsea spent £250million in the summer including a new forward line of former Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (left) and ex-Man City star Raheem Sterling (centre)
The result while a shock European defeat was only a small factor in his dismissal, with Tuchel and the Chelsea board having not been on the same level of understanding throughout the summer.
That begs the question of why the club would then still back him with funds, but Premier League form has not been convincing either with narrow wins only coming against struggling sides Everton, Leicester City and West Ham, while they lost at Southampton and heavily at Leeds United.
The Blues also conceded a stoppage time equaliser at home to Tottenham in a bad tempered clash that saw Tuchel earn a post-match red card after a scuffle with counterpart Antonio Conte. With over £250million spent – it’s just not been good enough for a team who should be strong title contenders.
Graham Potter is now in the hotseat following Tuchel’s exit. His challenge will be getting results quickly – an interesting mission brief considering the Englishman’s methods appear to rely on his side slowly progressing to his style of management.
Time will tell if he can get Chelsea firing quickly or if he will be given time to enforce his authority on the squad, but watching the experiment play out will be a fascinating story for the rest of the season.
Graham Potter (above) has come in to manage the club following the sacking of Thomas Tuchel
Position: 16th Points: 6
It’s not looking good for Crystal Palace in the early stages of the season, with just one win from their opening six games – yet there are plenty of reasons for Eagles fans to remain optimistic.
Firstly they have a game in hand on those around them. Another three points would see them into the top 10 so it’s fine margins we are dealing with in the early stages of the season.
It may not look like the start of the season compared to the high praise manager Patrick Vieira was receiving last term, yet curiously Palace are only one point worse off at the same stage having played one game fewer.
Then you have to look at the fixtures that Palace have already played.
Crystal Palace battled to an excellent draw at Liverpool early on in the season
They have only suffered two defeats including a home loss by Arsenal on the opening night, as well as a 4-2 beating at Manchester City – and let’s face it not many teams are going to go to the Etihad Stadium this season and leave with many points.
The sole win came at home to Aston Villa but probably the most impressive display so far has been the 1-1 draw secured at Anfield against Liverpool.
That means after just six games, Vieira’s side have played half of the ‘so-called’ big six and have arguably already cleared the two hardest games of the season in trips to Manchester City and Liverpool.
There wasn’t too much transfer business in the summer, with Cheick Doucoure arriving and settling well into the midfield.
Hard games continue to come after the international break, but the meeting with Chelsea is scheduled to be their last against a ‘big six’ team for the rest of 2022, giving Vieira’s side a good chance of putting a strong set of results to push them up the table. They are certainly better than their current standings suggest.
Patrick Vieira’s side have already negotiated a number of tough fixtures in the Premier League
Position: 13th Points: 7
It’s amazing to see the direction Everton have travelled over the last year. After seven games last term, the Toffees were two points off the top and flying under Rafa Benitez. Hardly believable when you consider they ended the season having to perform a great escape to stay up under Frank Lampard.
So it’s disingenuous to compare Everton now in terms of 12 months ago, but in isolation Lampard’s outfit look a curious team this term.
To his credit, he has made Everton hard to beat following back-to-back defeats at the start of the season by Chelsea and Aston Villa.
The Villa game represents the only fixture where Everton have conceded two goals this term, and that any hard work on defending is paying off. Only Brighton have conceded fewer than their six goals.
Everton have been tough to beat this season, securing a goalless draw with Liverpool
Phase two now focuses on trying to score goals. Just the five have come so far and that means they only won their first Premier League game of the season on Sunday following a 1-0 win over West Ham.
Encouragingly, it was summer arrival Neal Maupay on target and he has big boots to fill following the £50million summer exit of talisman Richarlison to Tottenham Hotspur.
Still, after the dramatic escapades last term that helped them stay up, there are signs of progress under Lampard, with the team now looking much more organised – demonstrated by a well battled point earned at home in the Merseyside derby against Liverpool.
It’s not good enough for Everton but from the low base Lampard has had to start from it’s certainly foundations to build on and you sense around the Toffees that fans are now starting to fully get behind Lampard and his side as they look to continue their gradual improvement.
Frank Lampard will be hoping new signing Neal Maupay can solve his side’s lack of goals
Position: 6th Points: 11
Fulham have been bouncing up and down between the top two divisions for the past five seasons now so hopes for this campaign is going through a Premier League season without getting relegated for the first time in a decade.
So far, it’s all gone rather well. They enter the international break in sixth place and while that has caveats of teams below them having played one game fewer it is certainly a fair reflection on just how well they have started the season.
Not least because the fixtures have been tough, and yet they have only lost two games and even those were close affairs on defeats at Tottenham and Arsenal. In the latter they were good value for a point after taking the lead before conceding four minutes from the end.
Fulham have made an excellent start to the season including a 2-2 draw with Liverpool (above)
But they have played Liverpool too on the opening weekend of the season and held one of the early season title favourites to a 2-2 draw.
So having been given some serious tests already, Fulham are already holding their own on their return to the top flight – at least much more than any of their previous returns within the last five years.
Speaking of new found Fulham trademarks, there is more resilence to them this term too – most recently seen at Nottingham Forest where after going behind they responded after half-time with three goals in six minutes on their way to a 3-2 victory.
Despite their high placing early on in the season, the target is still to avoid yet another relegation from the top flight but the signs of achieving that are as good now as they have ever been.
Marco Silva has made Fulham well prepared following their return to the Premier League
Position: 11th Points: 8
After escaping Premier League relegation on the final day of last season and having parted company with Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds fans will be under no illusion this could be a season of transition at Elland Road.
Or to put it another way, it’s another season of trying not to get relegated following a summer where key stars have left the club.
England international Kalvin Phillips couldn’t resist a high profile move to Manchester City, while Barcelona swooped in to snatch key attacker Raphinha, leaving Leeds a little blunted in attack while also lacking some midfield quality.
Leeds United’s headline result so far has been a 3-0 victory over Chelsea at Elland Road
Bielsa’s replacement in the dugout Jesse Marsch then has his work cut out but it’s been a solid enough start to the season for the Elland Road outfit.
With the near £100million they have banked following the exit of Phillips and Raphinha, Leeds have strengthened with nine summer signings, and they are settling well with a headline result coming in the 3-0 victory over Chelsea.
Results so far suggest Leeds could tread water this term and if that means sticking in the lower reaches of mid-table that’s not a terrible season – certainly an improvement on the last Premier League campaign.
Having lost key players in the summer it could be considered a success even, as the club enters a post0-Bielsa era while trying to maintain their top flight status they spent nearly two decades trying to get back after returning in 2020.
Boss Jesse Marsch (left) has dealt well with a squad that lost key players over the summer
Report cards for Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Nottingham Forest, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and Wolverhampton Wanderers will be published in Part Two on Wednesday.