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.
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.
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.
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 well battled 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.
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, it seems with the centre-back back in the side as part of the starting XI.
Still though 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 it may be more clear of what sort of direction the West Midlands outfit are heading in under the former Rangers boss.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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