The league is wide open

Even before Virgil van Dijk suffered a season-ending injury in the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park, it felt as if the Premier League might be more 2015-16 than 2019-20.

Such is the importance of the Dutch defender that his absence will have positive ramifications for each of the other contenders. There are now half a dozen teams who will fancy their chances of winning the title.

Liverpool have conceded 13 goals in the league already – it took them until December to reach that figure last season – and while the lion's share of those came in the 7-2 defeat by Aston Villa, they looked shaky enough following the premature exit of Van Dijk that they might easily have lost to Everton.

In short, they will lose many more points over the course of the season than they did last time around.

Jurgen Klopp said ahead of the derby that goalkeeper Alisson was making big strides in his return from the shoulder injury that was expected to keep him out for six weeks and the Brazilian goalkeeper's unavailability has not helped but he is not the main man at Anfield. It's Van Dijk, despite all the glitter in Liverpool's attack provided by Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, who finally turned Klopp's side into trophy winners.

Away teams can't stop scoring

Much was made of the scientific evidence that said away teams would benefit from games being played behind closed doors when the 2019-20 Premier League season resumed after the pandemic.

The statistics did not bear out that rationale, however, with home win percentages up from 45.9% to 46.7% after the season resumed.

It's been a different story this time around. Away teams have recorded a 48% win percentage against a 40% home ratio. In a study by a team from of three economics scorecasting professors – two from Reading University and one from the WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management – the science posited that the performance benefit home players receive from the presence of supporters would diminish and, coupled with a levelling out in referee bias, away teams would prosper. As time has gone on, that theory seems to be bearing out with an average of 2.02 away goals per match in contrast to 1.74 for home teams.

Frank Lampard is under pressure

It's now 63 goals conceded in 43 games for Chelsea under Lampard in the Premier League. It was clear last season that the Londoners' problems emanated from their backline. One only needed to read one of the litany of articles that focussed on how Lampard's team was statistically the worst in the league defensively to know that. Meanwhile, the team was sublime in attack with a combined 69 goals by Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic et al.

Yet, Lampard's summer spend of £220m focused on bringing in yet more attacking threats in the form of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech – an overabundance that has meant Havertz, a pure No.10 playing as a right-wing forward and Werner, a roving centre-forward occupying a place on the left. They clicked going forward against Southampton but again it was the problems at the back – where Lampard was admittedly only able to field left-back Ben Chilwell of the defensive reinforcements he brought in - that proved their undoing. Lampard's continuous overlooking of his best defender, Antonio Rudiger, doesn't help matters, though.

Arsenal are closing the gap but not quickly enough

The Londoners had conceded three goals on each of their last three visits to the Etihad Stadium but on Saturday they hung in with Manchester City long enough to still have a live chance of a point that ultimately evaded because of conservative tactics by Mikel Arteta, their head coach.

Save for two 20 minute spells in either half, though, they were too passive – perhaps that is a sacrifice that has to be made against City away – and they rarely looked capable of breaching a backline which has been stiffened by the arrival of Ruben Dias from Benfica.

But their most recent encounter with Manchester City was the 2-0 win in the FA Cup semi-final and they might have expected more especially with the hosts missing the guile of Kevin de Bruyne in midfield.

Arteta said he was furious with a cursory VAR check that adjudged Kyle Walker to be in the clear over a high foot in the area as Gabriel put his head to a corner. It was the kind of challenge that would have been given elsewhere on the pitch but with no contact from the City full-back – who actually pulled his leg away at the last minute – it was hard to make a convincing case for a penalty. Arsenal have now lost twice – to two teams they might not expect to have beaten but they've looked pretty ordinary in those games against two teams they have beaten recently.

Tottenham will be a threat despite late drama

Tottenham were 3-0 up to West Ham within 16 minutes yesterday. On their last home appearance they had 23 shots and scored just once in a match they ultimately drew with Newcastle United following a controversial injury-time penalty. Against West Ham, they were ruthless in the first half and hapless in the second. Kane (2) and Heung-min Son continued their formidable double act by scoring all of Spurs' first three attempts on target. But then they went into retreat mode and allowed West Ham back into the game.

Gareth Bale started on the bench, finally clambering off it with 18 minutes remaining. His first act was to strike a free-kick straight at Lukasz Fabianski, his next most significant contribution was to dance through the heart of the West Ham defence in added time and pull his shot wide when he might have sealed the points. Instead, Manuel Lanzini produced the kind of stunning equaliser that vintage Bale would have been proud of.

In the Welshman's final season at Tottenham, before his £85m transfer to Real Madrid, his goals hauled Andre Villas-Boas' side towards a Champions League spot that ultimately proved beyond their reach. Under AVB's former Portuguese mentor, Jose Mourinho, Spurs should have no such problems returning to Europe's top-tier competition, despite the nature of their draw. They might also be in with a shout of the title, if they can play for the full 90 minutes.