The keys to staying unbeaten

The keys to staying unbeaten
From ESPN - October 12, 2017

Across Europe's top leagues several sides have made unbeaten starts to the season, allowing them to race clear of domestic rivals and assume the role of early title favourites.

ESPN FC asked club correspondents from Napoli, Barcelona, Manchester United, Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Inter Milan to identify the defining factor in their strong start to the campaign.


There have been three key factors to Barcelona's perfect start to the season. The first has been Lionel Messi. In seven league games, he has scored nine goals, including four in one game against Eibar. The second factor has been Ernesto Valverde's insistence on the team playing as one.

The one complaint about playing with a Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez frontline was it often left Barca outnumbered in defence. With Neymar gone, Valverde has been able to shift the focus slightly back on to the midfield, which has helped in defensive transitions -- Barca have only conceded twice in the league. Finally, it has to be noted they have had seven very winnable games. Although, admittedly, it was slipping up in those type of fixtures that cost them the title last season. --Sam Marsden

Who's next? Atletico Madrid, Malaga, Athletic Bilbao

NAPOLI:(WWWWWWW) - Consistency

Lorenzo Insigne hit the nail on the head as to why Napoli have won their first seven games of the season: "We remained united and stuck together," he said. It may sound convoluted, but changing nothing has changed everything for the Azzurri. Runners-up behind Juventus last season, Napoli did not seek big-name summer signings to bridge the gap to the Bianconeri, instead they let the technical and tactical revolution instigated by Maurizio Sarri two years ago run its natural course.

Already in the round-of-16 Champions League defeat to Real Madrid last season, there were many glimpses of the quality that Napoli have; it just needed refining. The best way to do that is not to change the tools, but to sharpen them and make them even more effective and, perhaps more pertinently, consistently reliable.

"The fact we can play together with our eyes closed and that we are a great bunch of lads who decided to stick together is certainly an advantage," Insigne added. --Ben Gladwell

Who's next? Roma, Inter, Genoa

MAN UNITED:(WWWDWWW) - Goals and style

Jose Mourinho has bristled at suggestions Manchester United's good start has been made possible by a favourable schedule, but it has helped that they have only faced two teams who finished in the top half of the Premier League last season. That said, you can only beat the teams put in front of you and United have, for the most part, done it in style.

The biggest factor has been goals. They have got a good defensive record, conceding just twice so far, but they were good defensively last season, too. The problem then was at the other end. But that has not been an issue this time around United have scored 21 league goals in just seven games and scored four in a game four times already. --Rob Dawson

Who's next? Liverpool, Huddersfield, Tottenham

MAN CITY:(WDWWWWW) - Defensive solidity

In a thrilling start to the season, where Manchester City have already scored 30 goals in just 10 games, it's actually at the other end of the pitch where Pep Guardiola's side have made the biggest improvement. City have kept seven clean sheets and conceded just three times. Last season, ignoring the Champions League qualifiers against Steaua Bucharest, City kept just two clean sheets from their first 10 games and conceded 11 times. That improvement starts right at the back with new goalkeeper Ederson, who has shown assurance and confidence with his shot-stopping and command of his area.

It has transmitted forward to his central defenders in front of him where John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi have looked vastly more solid flanked by a notable enhancement in the full-backs that Guardiola brought in during the summer. It has given a base for City to dominate every game they have played and unleash their merciless attacking style. --Jonathan Smith

Who's next? Stoke, Burnley, West Brom


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