As the Premier League prepares to shut up shop for yet another international break, now is usually the time where the table begins to take shape for what it will look like for the rest of the season.
The ‘start of the season’ is now over and when we return to action we will be approaching a period where sacking usually happen, teams have games every couple of days over Christmas and desperate managers plead with their chief executives for money to spend in the January transfer market.

With that in mind, few would have predicted the table looking like this after eight rounds of games, so we have graded every club’s starts to the new season – and it’s not easy reading for some.
ARSENAL (11th – Played 8, Won 4, Lost 4)

“Hey Siri, define ‘inconsistent’…” Much has been made about how Mikel Arteta’s start has been far worse than his predecessor Unai Emery’s but Gooners are far more content under the rookie manager’s leadership than they were under his compatriot. The positives have been balanced with negatives and every step forward has been countered with a step back – the last three results, losing to Leicester then beating Manchester United then losing to Aston Villa (badly) is a testament to that.

GRADE: D

ASTON VILLA (6th – Played 7, Won 5, Lost 2)

They survived a return to the Championship a few months ago by a one in 9,000 glitch in the goalline technology system and now they’re the best team to watch in the league, led by the best player to watch in the league. Jack Grealish, fresh from signing a new deal amid Manchester United interest, is one of three standout players so far and has gelled deliciously with new signings Ross Barkley and Ollie Watkins. The decimations of Liverpool and Arsenal will be remembered for a long time and should they win their game in hand they will be top of the league. Only two teams have scored more and no team has conceded fewer this season.

GRADE: A+
BRIGHTON (16th – Played 8, Won 1, Lost 4, Drawn 3)

Brighton has played well this season and have been an improvement on the year before, but the results aren’t matching. Graham Potter will be hoping it’s only a matter of time before they do but this is not where they’d want to be after eight games and panic will be starting to set in if there are not more points on the board by December. They are lacking a central striker with off-field issues with Neil Maupay causing tension within the squad, although that has now been resolved.

GRADE: C

BURNLEY (19th – Played 7, Drawn 2, Lost 5)

Burnley are one of just three teams yet to record a victory so far and this might be the season that years of working on a budget and relying on Sean Dyche to coach the side to safety comes crashing down. Five defeats and two draws is a huge worry and the lack of goals will be causing the biggest headache. The Clarets have only scored in two of their seven games and have netted the fewest goals of any side this season with just three.

GRADE: F

CHELSEA (5th – Played 8, Won 4, Drawn 3, Lost 1)

Goals, goals and more goals. That’s what we’re getting from Chelsea games this season – for and against them. No team has scored more than Frank Lampard’s side this season, which should be no surprise given the amount of money spent on attacking players during the transfer window and the defence has rapidly improved since the back-to-back 3-3 draws against West Brom and Southampton – both games they should have won. Thiago Silva and Edouard Mendy’s additions have seen to that. It’s been a low-key impressive start but the return to fitness of Hakim Ziyech should take them to the next level. Lampard’s managerial skills may be the thing that ultimately lets them down, but don’t rule them out as title contenders.

GRADE: B+

CRYSTAL PALACE (8th – Played 8, Won 4, Drawn 1, Lost 3)

As with most seasons, a lack of recruitment and questions around Wilfried Zaha have prompted many a pundit to tip the Eagles for relegation, but again Roy Hodgson’s side have started strongly. Back-to-back wins to start the season, including winning at Old Trafford, was a good platform to start the season on but they’re importantly taking points off teams likely to finish around them, such as beating Leeds, Fulham and Southampton (albeit not at the moment) and drawing with Brighton. It’s a positive start.

GRADE: B

EVERTON (7th – Played 8, Won 4, Drawn 1, Lost 3)

If we’d have done these grades after five games, which brought four wins (including over Tottenham) and a draw with Liverpool, then we’d be given Everton a solid A+, but their form has fallen off a cliff following an injury to James Rodriguez and Richarlison’s suspension prompting a run of three consecutive defeats. The international break has come at the right time to allow the squad to regroup and reassess what has gone wrong recently and the form of Dominic Calvert-Lewin will be reassuring for Carlo Ancelotti even during this spell.

GRADE: B-

FULHAM (17th – Played 8, Won 1, Drawn 1, Lost 6)

Fulham may have avoiding being a team that doesn’t win a single game this season and be sitting outside the drop zone but evidence so far suggests that if they do somehow survive, it’ll be down to how poor the teams that finish below them have been, rather than any brilliance of their own. Scott Parker punched above his weight getting them promoted last season but they look comprehensively out of their depth at this level, with their only points coming against clubs below them in the table and who were in the Championship in one of the last two seasons.

GRADE: F

LEEDS UNITED (15th – Played 8, Won 3, Drawn 1, Lost 4)

Leeds are a tough one to grade because they’ve managed to dazzle so much at times that other results look like a disappointment, when they really shouldn’t be considering where the club has been for the last 16 years. Scoring goals don’t seem to be a problem for Marcelo Bielsa’s side, but conceding them is where they will come undone. No team has conceded more than Leeds and when the games are coming thick and fast in December, it’s only going to get tougher to defend. On current showing they will likely be safe and it is only their history which is making for harsher criticism that a newly-promoted team would usually get.

GRADE: C

LEICESTER CITY (1st – Played 8, Won 6, Lost 2)

Which Leicester City will we see this year? The miracle makers of 2016 or the nearly men of last season? The Foxes have made a habit of making strong starts to the season and Brendan Rodgers has proven himself as a worthy manager amidst all the criticism he had at Liverpool. The challenge for him this time around is keeping this form going all season, after they faded badly to miss out on the Champions League last time around. But this is a great start, especially as most other title contenders are flailing.

GRADE: A+

LIVERPOOL (3rd – Played 8, Won 5, Drawn 2, Lost 1)

So much for Liverpool falling apart without Virgil van Dijk! The Reds certainly haven’t looked like the same team as the one that dominated last season, but they hadn’t looked like that team even with Van Dijk, and even conceded seven goals in one game with him in the side – a score that has gone a long way to seeing them sit with the second-worst defence so far, which may get worse with the injury to Trent Alexander-Arnold. Diogo Jota has added another dimension to the side and arguably been the signing of the season. All of his attributes remind of a Sadio Mane at Southampton before Jurgen Klopp got his hands on him and if Liverpool have another player like that on their hands then they could be in for another trophy dump.

GRADE: B

MANCHESTER CITY (10th – Played 7, Won 3, Drawn 3, Lost 1)

This Manchester City season has all the feels of an ‘end of an era’ moment. Two of the three arguably most important players in club’s history, Vincent Kompany and David Silva, have left over the last two years and it appears like Sergio Aguero will be the third at the end of the current season. But will he be the only one to depart? Pep Guardiola’s approach so far has seemed laboured and this is very much a squad in transition. It will still be a huge surprise if City don’t finish in the top two but you feel they are an injury to Kevin De Bruyne away from a mini crisis. Goals have been hard to come by with two of their three wins coming by just a single goal and they have only managed to score more than once in a game on just two occasions – the first two games of the season.

GRADE: D

MANCHESTER UNITED (14th – Played 7, Won 3, Drawn 1, Lost 3)

After all of the positive steps taken in the second half of last season, this Manchester United side looks a lot like the team from the first half of last season. Defensively United look clueless while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer clearly doesn’t know how to balance his midfield. You’d shudder to think where they would be without Bruno Fernandes, who feels such a need that he must do everything himself that Solskjaer is getting, in his own words, “frustrated” by him. One step forward two steps back has characterised Solskjaer’s tenure so far and that’s exactly what it’s been like so far this season, with huge results in the Champions League followed up by limp Premier League results.

GRADE: F

NEWCASTLE UNITED (13th – Played 8, Won 3, Drawn 2, Lost 3)

Newcastle can be happy with their start to the campaign with the first eight games going win, loss, draw, win, loss, draw, win, loss. They have Chelsea after the break and a draw from that would be a positive result but Steve Bruce is again showing he can still manage a Premier League team, especially amidst all the chaos surrounding the ownership of the club. Survival is the target for Newcastle again and so far they are overachieving on that.

GRADE: C+

SHEFFIELD UNITED (20th – Played 8, Drawn 1, Lost 7)

What has happened to Sheffield United? They spent all season in the top five last term yet have spent all of this year in the bottom three, losing all but one of their games. Frustrating for Chris Wilder, only two of their losses have been by more than a single goal as their stern defence suddenly looks a little softer. Goals at the other end is the big issue though. Last year they were able to rely on the defence to hold on to one-goal leads, this time they can’t and so the strikers need to pull their weight. It will take a massive turnaround from here in what already looks like it’ll be a four-way scrap for survival.

GRADE: F

SOUTHAMPTON (4th – Played 8, Won 5, Drawn 1, Lost 2)

All credit needs to go to Ralph Hasenhuttl for the turnaround for the last 12 months since the 9-0 defeat to Leicester City. He has turned the squad around brilliantly and yet again Southampton have found themselves a brilliant manager. Danny Ings has been the star but everyone is pulling their weight as a team which makes his injury far easier to stomach for the Saints. It’s unlikely this sort of form will continue for the rest of the year but given where everyone else is, you’d back Southampton to maybe nick a Europa League place with this sort of start. As for Hasenhuttl, he could be a wanted man for some of the bigger clubs.

GRADE: A

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (2nd – Played 8, Won 5, Drawn 2, Lost 1)

Whisper it, but are Tottenham sneaky favourites to win the Premier League? Aside from the aforementioned Grealish, they’ve got the best two players in the league at the moment and for the first time a manager who has been there and done it before. They also have a serial winner in Gareth Bale, who has won everything, and if he can get back to even 80 per cent of where he once was, Spurs have a hell of a player. Injuries will be the biggest concern, but in Bale and Carlos Vinicius, they have great options for rotation. Tanguy Ndombele looks a completely different player than last season and they now have excellent options at full back too. You shouldn’t rule them out.

GRADE: A+

WEST BROM (18th – Played 8, Drawn 3, Lost 5)

The best way to sum up West Brom’s season is that when you go to select you Fantasy Premier League side for the week, the first thing you do is see who is playing against them. As the final of the three teams who are yet to win a game, you can’t really see where it’s going to come from at the moment and that is a huge worry for them. They have the worst goal difference of anyone in the league and a return to the Championship is staring them straight in the face. It’s not a surprise, but it’s still disappointing.

GRADE: F

WEST HAM (12th – Played 8, Won 3, Drawn 2, Lost 3)

David Moyes working from home for two games seemed to spark something in West Ham after two lifeless defeats to start the season was followed up with a 7-0 aggregate win over Wolves and Leicester City before draws with Tottenham and Manchester City. West Ham finally don’t look like they’re just 90 minutes away from implosion and with some kind fixtures ahead of them, they can build some real momentum heading towards Christmas.

GRADE: C+

WOLVES (9th – Played 8, Won 4, Drawn 1, Lost 3)

It’s been an odd season for Wolves so far with the heavy 4-0 loss to West Ham followed up by three wins and a draw from the next four games before going down to Leicester last time out. Wolves seem to have a squad that can cope with injuries thrown their way and even losing a player like Jota, who actually struggled to hold down a consistent starting place. It’s another steady if not spectacular start but that is what Wolves are about, gradually going about their business until they are suddenly cemented in the top six. Expect something similar this year based on their performances so far.

GRADE: B-

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