European leagues were on hiatus during the international break for World Cup qualifiers, and so today was the first chance we all got to see the new Premier League since the close of the record-breaking transfer window that saw an ungodly amount of money and men move in, out, and around England. It was our first glimpse at late signings like Arsenal new boy Mesut Özil, who only needed eleven minutes to make a mark in a debut win at Sunderland, as well as Tottenham's Christian Eriksen, who assisted in a victory to mark the officially official beginning of the post-Gareth Bale era. Marouane Fellaini impressed in his first cameo at Manchester United. But it was Fellaini's old club, Everton, who stole the show.
Everton hosted Chelsea at Goodison Park, and even though Everton are notoriously stingy, and even have enjoyed a modicum of success at home against the London side in the past, no one was really expecting them to escape with any points. Chelsea are stacked, have the best manager in the Premier League, and finally addressed their only real flaw—having a lot of strikers but none of whom were really worth a damn—by signing Samuel Eto'o, who was once unbelievable before falling off the face of the earth and signing for Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala, but still, we figure, is probably pretty good.
It was Everton's first match without Fellaini, their best player, but the Toffees are a spirited, overachieving club, and it was kind of expected they'd get stuck in, acquit themselves somewhat, then eventually give way to a massively more talented Chelsea side. That didn't happen.
Everton defended wondrously throughout, but also caused trouble dangerous all match going forward. Just before half they even took the lead when, after some buildup, midfielder Leon Osman lofted a ball from the right side of the box to the back post to lanky forward Nikica Jelavic. Jelavic headed the cross back across the face of the goal to birthday boy Steven Naismith, who finished from point-blank range. Everton were up 1-0 going into the second half, and spectators the world collectively cocked their heads, and shrugged.
But Everton held on, even when Chelsea manager José Mourinho abandoned all pretense of defending and switched to three in the back with 20 minutes to play. Instead, Everton continued to nullify Chelsea's efforts, and create good chances of their own in the form of slashing counters that often ended with Chelsea players barely scrambling in time to grab a handful of jersey or hack a surging player to the ground. At the end of the match, Everton were still on top, and the Londoners had to go home with naught but dicks in their hands. After two wins to open the season, our preseason pick to win the Premier League are now sixth in the table with seven points, while Everton, in ninth, was able to pick up its first win of the season and become, along with Liverpool, one of two teams yet to be defeated so far this campaign. And that begs the question: "What the fuck is going on?"
Because though it's still early on, this season has already been a little foolish. After getting smacked by Aston Villa in the season opener, Arsenal are sitting atop the table with nine points after winning three straight. Spurs are level on points even though today was the first match of the season they scored in open play. Liverpool had an active transfer window and brought in nine players, though only a couple looked worth mentioning. They're in third, and if they beat Swansea tomorrow, will again be all alone in first place with a 4-0 record. They're doing this, mind you, without the suspended Luis Suárez, who is their best player, by a shit ton. Manchester City, in fourth with seven points, lost to Cardiff City a few weeks back, then drew today at Stoke because City are hilarious. United are even on points with City and sixth-place Chelsea, and travel to Etihad next Sunday. Godspeed, and all that.
And so the Premier League table right now is fascinating. Because even now, with so many teams even on points, the top six spots are occupied by the usual suspects. But within that top tier, no one has any idea what's going on, or what's going to happen. With rosters locked until the January transfer window, all the perennial contenders look pretty even. And by that, we mean everyone looks pretty meh, and they all look equally meh. Everyone, that is, except Liverpool, who are playing the best soccer in the league, but have been meh for the last five years. As such, their recent good form, though impressive, is kind of dubious.
The word that keeps coming up is parity. All of the top clubs have flaws. United, the defending champions, are handcuffed to maybe-incompetent manager David Moyes. City have so many players that it feels like it'll be months before they gel, and then they'll buy new ones. Chelsea look solid, but might not have enough goals in them to finish on top. Arsenal had the signing of the season in Özil, but are still so thin due to their summer clear out and daily injures that they have children, with pimples, dressed on the bench. Spurs sacrificed their one star for a squad full of solid players, but lack a real match winner. Liverpool will have to do without starting right back Glen Johnson, sidelined is out with an ankle injury. And at any rate, we don't believe them. They need more people.
But all this is good. All this means that we're in the infancy of what may turn out to be one of the best title races the Premier League has had in years. No one has any idea what's going on, and it'll probably stay that way for a while. But regardless, grab a rubber, because your favorite team is about to get fucked.