The champions are not a perfect team but their strong start to the season raises questions about who can disrupt their title defence

It hasn’t taken long for Manchester City to hit the front. No side in English league history has ever won four in a row, still less six league titles in seven seasons, but there Pep Guardiola’s side are already two points clear with three games played. And while City needed an 88th-minute strike from Rodri to win at Sheffield United on Sunday, they got it. Would Newcastle, who contrived to lose to 10-man Liverpool, have done so? Would Liverpool? Would Manchester United, whose start to the season has been shambolic? And perhaps most pertinently this weekend, given how they squandered points at home to Fulham, would Arsenal?

In some respects this has the makings of the most competitive Premier League season there has ever been. While Tottenham’s membership of the Big Six seemed questionable before the Ange Postecoglou revolution, so Newcastle and perhaps Brighton and Aston Villa have emerged as challengers. If the idea of a Big Nine is fanciful, there is at least a Fairly Large and Fairly Good Nine (whether through financial might or smart recruitment). The thought of them all taking points off each other is undeniably enticing, a mass free-for-all that makes soccer as unpredictable as it was half a century ago, that transforms the Premier League into what its staunchest advocates ­– “anyone can beat anyone” – would like it to be.

This is an extract from Soccer With Jonathan Wilson, a weekly look at the game in Europe. To subscribe, just visit this page and follow the instructions.

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