Inconsistency, VAR & Surprise Results But Usual Suspects Still Rule EPL

soccer ball in stadium

The English Premier League season got under way in August with 2019 champions Manchester City favorites to retain their crown. Liverpool ran them close last year but Pep Guardiola’s men were too good in the end. After five games, unsurprisingly, it’s a Liverpool-Manchester City one-two at the top of the table but a surprise defeat away at Norwich has left Guardiola’s troops five points behind Jurgen Klopp’s Merseysiders.

If anyone doubted Liverpool’s mental state after such a grueling season in 2018-2019, perhaps leaving them deflated coming into the new year, the Anfield outfit have quickly dispelled those concerns. The terrific goalscoring capabilities of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah have shown no signs of waning, leading the north west club to five wins from five.

The bookmakers are getting increasingly excited about the potential of a Liverpool championship triumph and despite a tough match next – against Chelsea away – Liverpool are 1.95 favorites to win. It’s a telling sign from the football betting odds just how good the Merseysiders have been this year.

Klopp’s side’s lead at the top has come after a surprise defeat at the hands of Norwich for Manchester City. It was a loss – in a pulsating game at Carrow Road – that contained some chaotic defending from the champions who were missing defender Aymeric Laporte – who’ll be out injured until the new year. Guardiola said afterwards he wasn’t going to panic after a single defeat but many feel his side will struggle defensively with their current centre back pairing of John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi.

Fans will hope the club’s talents at the other end of the pitch will make up for any weaknesses at the back. And they’ve proven those qualities already this year. Exciting attacker Raheem Sterling could be as good as Messi and Ronaldo according to his manager and he has combined with some thrilling wins in 2019. City won 5-0 on the opening day and, having beaten Bournemouth 3-1 away from home, put four goals past Brighton & Hove Albion. Sterling’s bagged five goals so far with his strike partner Sergio Aguero scoring seven times.

Elsewhere, VAR has enjoyed its moments of controversy in its first season as a refereeing aid in the EPL. The technology, which allows a video referee to check key decisions such as reasons to disallow goals because of offsides missed by the on-field team, has been critical so far to awarding penalties that would have otherwise not been given.

However, it has been met with criticism. Some bemoan the time it takes to make decisions – slowing the game down – while referees’ chief Mike Riley has said some incidents have still been missed. After the first four matches, Riley said VAR should have intervened on four more occasions including over the failure to award a penalty to Manchester City against Bournemouth after David Silva was fouled in the box.

With the inconsistency of Liverpool and Manchester City’s main rivals – Spurs, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal – it’s looking like the usual suspects battling it out for the Premier League crown in 2019-2020. But Liverpool have stole a march on Guardiola’s champions so there’s no room for mistakes as the EPL’s familiar pair go head-to-head for the title again.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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