Premier League Review: Hopes of a top four finish fade for misfiring Gunners

Mikel Arteta
Mikel Arteta's Arsenal side are struggling

Arsenal are closer to the drop than the top since their worst start to a league season since 1981 and Charlie Mullan's Premier League review begins with the Gunners...

"Arsenal, who are closer to the relegation zone than the top of the table, have their work cut out to secure a top four finish which can be backed at 12.011/1

1) Derby despair leaves Gunners languishing in bottom half

As Tottenham consolidated their place at the top of the table, Arsenal's struggles continued with a 2-0 defeat at the home of their north London neighbours. For 2,000 Spurs fans allowed into the ground as part of the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, the timing could not have been better.

In the build-up to the first north London derby of the season, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta had to deal with questions about how he planned to stop what was Arsenal's worst start to a Premier League campaign and those questions will remain. It's now Arsenal's worst start in the league in almost 40 years.

Arteta guided the Gunners to glory in last season's FA Cup which raised expectations levels this season.

However, four wins from their 11 league games has seen Arteta's side drop to 15th place, 11 points behind Spurs but only seven points clear of 18th placed Burnley, who they host at the Emirates this weekend.

The north London ground will be open to up to 2,000 spectators which could be good for the Gunners, but not if their poor league form continues. In the Europa League, Arsenal have won all five of their games, but they cannot replicate that form domestically.

Arsenal, who are now closer to the relegation zone than the top of the table, have their work cut out to secure a top four finish which can be backed at 12.011/1.

2) Salah shines as Liverpool extend Anfield record

Back in 1988, Liverpool reached number three in the UK charts with their 'Anfield Rap'. It wasn't the best record of the year or even the decade, but the club has a new record to be more proud of. Liverpool's 4-0 demolition of Wolves kept the champions level on points with Tottenham at the top of the table, and it also extended their unbeaten league run at Anfield to 65 games.

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Liverpool have now taken a maximum 18 points from their opening six home games this season with the latest win coming against an out-of-sorts Wolves side missing their leading scorer Raul Jimenez who suffered a fractured skull last weekend. The champions never looked like losing after Mohamed Salah opened the scoring in the 24th minute for his ninth goal of the season.

Salah has a pair of Golden Boot awards after being the leading scorer at the end of successive seasons in 2018 and 2019 and he has his sights set on a third. The Egyptian is two goals behind Everton's Dominic Calvert-Lewin and one behind Tottenham's Son Heung-Min. All three were on target over the weekend.

Salah, 28, who also had an assist against Wolves, looks to have recovered from Covid-19 which is bad news for the rest of the league and for Fulham who face Salah in the Premier League this weekend. Salah can be backed at 5.14/1 to be the league's leading scorer at the end of the season.

3) Vardy proves there's no substitute for experience

Let's not write off last season's Golden Boot winner Jamie Vardy. The Leicester forward finished top of the pile last season with 23 goals for the Foxes. On Sunday, Vardy left it late before breaking Sheffield United's hearts with his 90th minute winner and breaking the corner flag with his celebration that ripped his shorts.

Vardy is still ripping defences apart proving that his experience is one of the best attributes Leicester possess and while he is on the pitch, there is always a chance of his side scoring. Credit goes to his boss Brendan Rodgers who has managed the 33-year-old brilliantly by resting him for certain Europa League matches as the Foxes secured qualification for the knock-out stage with relative ease.

Leicester's late, late win saw them end the weekend fourth in the table and they can be backed at 7.26/1 to stay in the top four and a top three finish can be backed at 12.5.

As for vintage Vardy, his decision to retire from international football in August 2018 has benefitted the Foxes and the striker can be backed at 6.25/1 behind Salah and Harry Kane to claim a second successive Golden Boot accolade.

4) Blades' winless start could cost Wilder his job

For every winner in the Premier League, there has to be a loser and while Leicester left Bramall Lane with the three points, Sheffield United's second-season syndrome shows no sign of improving. A return of just one point from their opening 11 games is officially the worst ever made by any club in the history of the league.

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The schedule doesn't get any easier for the Blades as they travel to Southampton on Sunday knowing the Saints took all six points in the two meetings last season. United boss Chris Wilder was in the discussions to be named manager of the year last season before their form tailed off after lockdown. Since returning to action following the suspension of the league because of Covid-19, the Blades have taken 12 points from a possible 63.

After the weekend's action came to a close, the gap between United and safety is six points.

Football is a results driven industry and Wilder knows his future as Blades boss will be based on wins.

The Southampton game is the first of three in seven days with a home game against Manchester United and a trip to Brighton to follow.

It's a week that could decide the future of Wilder who can be backed at 3.814/5 to be the next manager to leave his position. A win at St Mary's will put an end to such talk for the time being anyway.

5) Calvert-Lewin flies the flag for English strikers

This season is a very important one for any Englishman with a desire to play in next summer's European Championships. Everton's Dominic Calvert-Lewin's consistency won't have gone unnoticed by Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate who was at Turf Moor to watch the Toffees forward score his 11th goal in his 11th league game.

The 23-year-old made his England debut earlier this season in a 3-0 friendly win over Wales at Wembley in which he opened the scoring. If Calvert-Lewin can continue to find the back of the net as often as he has already this campaign, then he should be showcasing his talents at a major tournament for the first time.

This weekend, Everton host Chelsea at Goodison Park in a fixture that holds fond memories for Calvert-Lewin. The England forward scored twice in a 3-1 Toffees win in the corresponding fixture last December and he is showing no signs of letting up.

Everton's form has dipped recently with just one win in their last seven league games and they can be backed at 21.020/1 to claim a top four finish while Calvert-Lewin can be backed at 7.613/2 to be the league's leading scorer.

English Premier League: English Premier League (Top 4 Finish 2020/21)

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Saturday 12 September, 12.30pm

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