Manchester City and Manchester United won't win the title in September
Manchester City and Manchester United have made blistering starts to the new Premier League campaign, with both teams posting similar returns in the first five games of the season: four wins, sixteen goals scored and two conceded. Equally important is the fact that City and United have become the league's current joint-leaders by pulverizing most of the adversaries in their path.
Due to their thrashing of the respective teams that the fixtures have served them till date, City and United fans and prominent pundits have suggested that one of the Manchester bigwigs should be elected champions despite the season being in its infancy.
Manchester City and Manchester United fans' optimism
City's and United's convincing performances have culminated in a series of remarkable statistics, which further vindicate supporters' confidence in these clubs' title prospects. In five matches, Mourinho's men have kept four clean sheets, while City have three players among the top six passers.
Also, both teams have some of their players as the league's current joint-top scorers (Aguero and Lukaku) and lead assist maker (Mkhitaryan). So, seconding the opinion that United or City will win the title becomes virtually irresistible considering these clubs' summer transfer activities, City’s eleven unreturned goals in their last two matches, and United’s recent pummelling of Everton (despite the Red Devils not getting out of the first gear for the entire match).
But no matter how formidable City's and United's mini-achievements may seem to rival fans and neutrals, the Premier League only rewards teams with the most 38-game points, not those who led in September and then fizzled out during the business end of the season.
City and United are in ominous territory
The chasing pack - Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal, and Liverpool - know that recent trends bode disaster for United and City because only one team (Chelsea in 2014) in the last seven seasons led in game week five and still won the league. In fact, Pep Guardiola's side have never won the Premier League while topping the table after five games.
Also, supporters should be alarmed by United's table-topping exploits because the last time the Red Devils sat in pole position after five premier league games and still won the title was 16 years ago (2000/2001 season). And if history manages to repeat itself this season, then City and United would rue their position at the summit of the table after five games.
The chinks are beginning to appear in United's and City's armours
The reason Manchester United didn't win the league last season is straightforward: they drew too many matches (15, which was a league high). They couldn't break down teams that sat back against them. Further, Manchester United missed the most number of big chances (50) and hit the woodwork 19 times (4th highest in the league) last season. So, it felt familiar when United came unstuck against a brave Stoke City.
Although they've bought a striker (Lukaku) who guarantees goals, such profligacy and ineptitude in front of goal witnessed at the Britannia seldom disappear overnight. And until United find a player who can contribute fifteen goals a season to help ensure maximum points against teams content on playing for a draw, United fans should temper their optimism.
Though City produced masterclass displays against Watford and Liverpool, their draw against Everton was reminiscent of The Citizens' inability to deliver at crucial moments last season. Needless side passes, susceptibility at the back, overcomplicated attempt to play functional football, lack of grit, overdependence on Aguero, Guardiola's extreme squad-rotation, the absence of world-class centre back on their books etc. could derail City's title ambitions this season, and pundits and fans should watch out for these flaws.
The Conte effect
Last season, Chelsea were written off by sports analysts before a ball was kicked. Although Conte had previously performed something akin to a footballing miracle at the last Euro, observers never saw him as the man to hand Chelsea their next title because the odds were stacked against him. Here was a man new to the league, and unable to sign his first-choice players, handling a team in crisis - the Blues had finished 10th the previous season.
In fact, when Conte re-signed David Luiz (a player not known for his defensive focus and tactical discipline) and became the first Chelsea Manager to lose to Arsenal in four years, almost every popular analyst concluded that the league title was heading to Manchester. But as he had done with Italy's decent but not great squad during Euro 2016, Conte had other ideas for Chelsea.
As soon as Chelsea were humbled by Arsenal at the Emirates, he changed his team's set-up and made Chelsea difficult to beat, which resulted in Conte's team winning its next thirteen matches - with United, City, Spurs, and Everton among his side's victims. The same underestimation his squad suffered at the hands football analysts last season has re-surfaced, because of the famous ex-players-turn-pundits who predicted this season's title winners on premierleague.com, only Michael Owen was brave enough to pick Chelsea; the others (including Lee Dixon, Trevor Sinclair, Peter Schmeichel etc.) opted for either City or United to win the championship.
But Conte is used to being underestimated, and knows how to motivate his squad and whipped them into shape tactically, physically, and mentally to provide him with the results he desires. Providing Conte remains in charge of the sporting side of things at Chelsea, he is well placed to poop City's and United's title parties.
City and United are capable of winning the 2017-18 title (they obviously have the talent to achieve such feat), but they must show the fight, desire, and mental strength - which they've lacked in recent years - to get them over the finish line. Although, regardless of how well these two teams are playing at the moment, they won't be celebrating just yet because they know how treacherous the road to title glory could be.