Premier League Big Six's seasons so far: How it started, how it's going for Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City, Man United and Tottenham

Nicol: There is no flaw in Manchester City's team (1:28)

Steve Nicol feels nobody in the league can compete with Manchester City after their 4-0 win vs. Southampton. (1:28)

The Premier League title race is almost a quarter of the way through, with Arsenal the surprise early leaders in a season that faces the unprecedented disruption of a six-week shutdown due to the staging of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in November and December.

Mikel Arteta's team are top of the table with eight wins from nine games, a point clear of champions Manchester City who are attempting to become only the second club, after Manchester United, to win three successive Premier League titles.

At the other end of the scale, Liverpool are languishing in 10th position, 14 points behind Arsenal, and on the brink of a crisis if they lose for the third time this season, at home to City on Sunday.

Antonio Conte's Tottenham Hotspur are well-placed in third position, while Chelsea and United are both in touch with the top four despite displaying inconsistency under new managers and having played a game fewer than the teams above them due to the postponements following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Pep Guardiola's City remain the favourites to end the season as champions, but can Arsenal go all the way? Will Liverpool recover or miss out on the top four altogether?

It's still early, but how will it shape up for the Big Six in the months ahead?

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How it started

Having missed out on Champions League qualification following a late-season collapse, including a 3-0 defeat at Tottenham, Arsenal invested almost £120 million in new signings this summer including Manchester City pair Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko. The target was a top-four finish for the first time since 2015-16.

How it's going

Arsenal are flying under Arteta, with the only dropped points so far coming in a 3-1 defeat at Manchester United in September. The signings of Zinchenko, Jesus and Fabio Vieira have added proven quality and experience to the squad, while the form of William Saliba at centre-back has prompted comparisons of the French defender to Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk. Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Martinelli have all taken their game to a new level. With the home match against Man City on Oct. 19 postponed in order to play the rearranged Europa League clash with PSV Eindhoven a day later, Arsenal have a comfortable run of fixtures until they visit Chelsea on Nov. 6, so they could reach the pre-World Cup shutdown on Nov. 12 with top spot still in their grasp.

How will it end?

Arsenal are riding a wave of confidence and momentum right now, so the World Cup is likely to be a huge inconvenience for Arteta's squad. With such a lengthy shutdown, can the Gunners pick up from where they left off when the season resumes on Dec. 26?

But while Arsenal's inexperience in a title race could count against them, especially with City hunting them down, Leicester proved in 2015-16 that an outsider can go all the way if they are fortunate with injuries and the top players maintain their form. An Arsenal title still seems a long shot, but a top-four finish should be achieved and, if City slip up, Arteta's team could take advantage if the World Cup doesn't prove too damaging to their collective focus.

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How it started

City won the race to sign Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund and also bolstered Pep Guardiola's squad with the additions of Kalvin Phillips, Julian Alvarez and Manuel Akanji. The departures of Raheem Sterling (to Chelsea), Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko (both Arsenal) and Fernandinho (Athletico Paranaense) diminished the experience levels at the Etihad, but City re-shaped their squad from a position of strength.

How it's going

It is only Arsenal's incredible start that is keeping City off top spot, with the champions still unbeaten with seven wins and two draws from nine games so far. Haaland is on course to smash a series of goal-scoring records, having already delivered 20 goals in 13 games in a City shirt. The Norway forward has unquestionably ended the club's search for a long-term successor to Sergio Aguero as the team's prolific centre-forward.

Guardiola can count on incredible depth in his squad and City look to be miles ahead of the rest. Their 6-3 derby win against Manchester United recently was a warning to the rest that City can blow any rival away if they are even close to their best. Next up is a trip to Anfield to face struggling Liverpool and the outcome of that game -- a fixture that has defined the Premier League in recent years -- will tell us just how strong City are. They could do to Liverpool what they did to United and, if that happens, it is hard to see anyone stopping City.

How will it end?

City will lose many of their best players on World Cup duty, and Guardiola could see the majority of them going all the way to the final four and spend over a month in Qatar as a consequence, so his players will be mentally and physically drained after the tournament.

That could mean the difference between success and failure in the title race, but the bad news for the rest is that Haaland will get the chance to rest up and come back refreshed after the shutdown with Norway failing to qualify for Qatar. City have such strength in depth that even if the squad are tired after the World Cup, they will still have enough to win most games in second gear, so they remain the title favourites.

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How it started

Antonio Conte demanded a summer of squad strengthening and the club delivered, with Spurs spending over £150m new players, including Richarlison (£52m), Cristian Romero (£45m) and the free-transfer arrival of Ivan Perisic from Inter Milan. Having beaten Arsenal to Champions League qualification with a late-season surge, Spurs have used the return to Europe's elite competition as an opportunity to take the team to a new level and Conte's team went into the season regarded by many as the most likely to challenge City and Liverpool at the top of the table.

How it's going

Arsenal's impressive start, and their 3-1 win against Conte's team in the North London derby earlier this month, has overshadowed Tottenham's progress so far this season, but Spurs are going well and sit just four points behind the Gunners in third position.

There remains an overreliance on Harry Kane, who has scored eight of Tottenham's 20 league goals so far this season, and a worry for Conte should be his team's failure to win any of the biggest tests his players have faced. Spurs came away with a draw in London derbies away to Chelsea and West Ham United before losing at Arsenal -- all tough games, but if Spurs are to challenge for the title, they have to win when they pressure is on.

Games against Man United and Liverpool before the World Cup shutdown, as well as a potentially difficult clash with sixth-placed Newcastle United, will be the kind of tests that Spurs must come through successfully if they are to avoid a battle for a top-four finish.

How will it end?

As ever, Tottenham's hopes rely on Kane. The England captain has carried the team so far this season and he has done that consistently now for more than five years. But the 29-year-old will be the focal point of England's World Cup bid in Qatar, so Conte will be desperate for Gareth Southgate's team to exit the competition as early as possible so that he can get his talisman back to club duties. If Kane can stay fit and in form, Spurs will finish in the top four. But without him, Spurs just aren't the same team.

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How it started

A summer of upheaval at Stamford Bridge saw a Todd Boehly-led consortium buy out previous owner Roman Abramovich before a huge spending spree led to more than £250m being invested in new signings. Raheem Sterling, Wesley Fofana, Kalidou Koulibaly and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were the most high-profile new arrivals, with Romelu Lukaku (to Inter Milan on loan) and Timo Werner (RB Leipzig) following free agents Antonio Rudiger (Real Madrid), Andreas Christensen and Marcos Alonso (both Barcelona) out of the club.

How it's going

Champions League-winning coach Thomas Tuchel was fired by Boehly after three defeats in seven games at the start of the season, and less than a week after the former Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain boss was allowed to sign Aubameyang. Graham Potter has since been hired from Brighton & Hove Albion to oversee the team and has delivered three wins in four games in charge so far. Despite their inconsistent start under Tuchel, Chelsea have steadied under Potter and sit in fourth place, with last week's 3-0 win against AC Milan boosting the team's prospects in Champions League Group E.

Goals could be a problem in the weeks ahead, though, with Sterling (3) and Kai Havertz (2) the only players with more than one Premier League goal so far this season. Home games against Man United (Oct. 22) and Arsenal (Nov. 6) will give a better indication as to the progress made by Potter and Chelsea's prospects for the season ahead.

How will it end?

Chelsea are a team in a state of flux right now with a raft of new signings attempting to settle in under a manager who didn't sign any of them. Potter has avoided the negativity of a poor start and remains undefeated, but he needs to maintain that form to avoid the club lurching back towards crisis. Chelsea look like a club and team that is still searching for its new identity, so Potter needs to bring stability and ensure it lasts.


How it started

No club does crisis and calamity better, or worse, than Manchester United, so it was perhaps no surprise that the team went into the new season under new coach Erik Ten Hag in the midst of a shambolic transfer window. Although another late spending spree resulted in the squad being bolstered by the signings of Casemiro and Antony following earlier deals for Tyrell Malacia, Lisandro Martinez and Christian Eriksen, United missed out on top target Frenkie de Jong and shocked fans by targeting former Stoke forward Marko Arnautovic.

All of the above was played out to the backdrop of growing supporter unrest towards United's owners, the Glazer family, with protests before and during most games.

How it's going

Two defeats in the first two games, including a 4-0 humiliation at Brentford, left United bottom of the table and with Ten Hag facing up to an even bigger challenge than he imagined when leaving Ajax for Old Trafford in the summer. But Ten Hag has made some big calls, including dropping captain Harry Maguire and continually starting games without Cristiano Ronaldo, and positive results have followed. Since the nightmare start, United have won five out of six leagues games, although the one defeat in that run was a 6-3 hammering at Manchester City.

United are a long way from being the finished article under Ten Hag, but the new coach has instilled discipline, improved the squad with his signings and for the first time in years, the players appear to be energised by a manager with a clear plan.

All United need now is a world-class centre-forward, a commanding midfielder and a world-class goalkeeper -- how long it takes to get them will define when, or if, they challenge for major honours again.

How will it end?

Having recorded their worst Premier League campaign last season, finishing in sixth position 13 points adrift of the top four, simply getting back into the Champions League was the target at the start of the season, and Ten Hag is on course to achieve that.

United aren't there yet -- they are still outside the top four -- but there is a sense of direction at Old Trafford now and victories against Liverpool and Arsenal this season highlighted the quality within the squad when it is used correctly and sent out with a clear tactical plan. It is still a team plagued by inconsistency and a lack of quality beyond Ten Hag's first XI, so there will be bumps in the road ahead. But a top-four finish is within United's capabilities.


How it started

Liverpool beat Manchester United to the club record £75m signing of Darwin Nunez in June. The Benfica forward was regarded as the long-term replacement for Sadio Mane, who moved to Bayern Munich in the summer. But despite an obvious need for a new midfielder, Liverpool failed to make a signing in that area until a deadline-day loan move for Juventus and Brazil's Arthur Melo, who is now facing a lengthy spell on the sideline with injury.

Liverpool took their eye off the ball during the summer and, having come close to the Quadruple last season, are now struggling to keep their season afloat.

How it's going

Rewind to the 3-1 Community Shield win against Manchester City on July 30 and all looked promising for Jurgen Klopp. Liverpool dominated that game against the champions and Nunez looked a star in the making during a goal-scoring debut.

But little has gone right for Liverpool -- or Nunez -- since. Sunday's defeat at Arsenal left Liverpool in midtable with just two wins from eight games so far. Klopp said after the loss at the Emirates that his team aren't title contenders. Injuries have hit Liverpool hard, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Luis Diaz the latest to head to the treatment room during the Arsenal defeat, but there has also been an alarming drop in form by the likes of Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Diogo Jota.

While the World Cup could be a problem for their rivals, it may just offer Liverpool a crucial chance to press the reset button and focus on a surge in the second half of the season.

How will it end?

With the title realistically already out of their reach, Liverpool must refocus their objectives and the priority now has to be a top four finish to secure Champions League qualification. They are already six points behind fourth place Chelsea and face in-form Man City at Anfield this weekend, so Liverpool need to get back to winning ways quickly.

There is a real danger that the top four could disappear over the horizon before the World Cup, leaving Liverpool needing to win the Champions League in Istanbul at the end of the season to get back into the competition. That happened in 2005, but it would be a high-risk strategy to bank on that happening again.