The keys to success for the Premier League's seven clubs still unbeaten
They have been the August Invincibles, the seven teams who have negotiated the opening month of the Premier League season undefeated. Watford and Bournemouth might be deemed the surprise starters, the teams who have over-performed. Everton's fixture list always offered the chance of an unbeaten start. Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City, who, in some order, may form the eventual top four, would expect to negotiate several different months of a season without losing. Here is a key factor in their early success:
Liverpool: The defence
Liverpool conceded three times in their opening league match in both 2016-17 and 2017-18. They have begun 2018-19 with a hat trick of clean sheets.
If it owes something to the fixture list -- they have had two home games and West Ham only mustered two tame shots on target in a 4-0 defeat -- it also shows the effect expensive additions have had. The £75 million central defender Virgil van Dijk was colossal in the 2-0 win at Crystal Palace, subduing Christian Benteke, making eight clearances and winning nine headers, and the £65 million goalkeeper Alisson produced a brilliant late save to keep out Pascal Gross' header when Brighton were beaten 1-0 at Anfield.
Tottenham: The manager
Some managers would have moaned if they had been denied signings in the summer; indeed, some did. Not Mauricio Pochettino, though. Tottenham were the only club not to strengthen. Instead, Pochettino found the answers within. Spurs' start was rendered harder because they had nine players involved in the last week of the World Cup and then lost Son Heung-Min to the Asian Games.
Pochettino responded by fielding three formations in as many games: 4-2-3-1 at Newcastle, 3-4-2-1 against Fulham and 4-diamond-2 against Manchester United. A half-time change of shape helped beat Fulham while promoting Lucas Moura, a bit-part player last season, proved a masterstroke when he struck once at Wembley and twice at Old Trafford. And Pochettino has successfully reintegrated Toby Alderweireld, Danny Rose and Mousa Dembele, who many expected to leave, into his side.
Chelsea: Reinventing players
It looks like a radical rebrand, with Chelsea playing an uptempo, high-pressing 4-3-3, Maurizio Sarri's beloved "Sarri-ball" with a side including the new regista, Jorginho, and the world's most expensive goalkeeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga. Yet the more things change, the more they stay the same. N'Golo Kante and Marcos Alonso have been constants in many of Chelsea's victories in the past two years. In different berths, they have been crucial again.
Kante has a more advanced role as a No. 8. Getting further forward than he used to, he scored Chelsea's opening goal of the season at Huddersfield. Alonso has been changed from a wing-back to a full-back. It has not blunted his attacking efforts. He scored one goal and set up the winner against Arsenal and then won a penalty and claimed the winner at Newcastle.
Watford: The old-fashioned system
There was a time when Watford were famous for their use of 4-4-2. That time was the 1980s, when the manager was Graham Taylor. Three decades on, it appeared an odd formation for Javi Gracia to choose: neither striker, Troy Deeney and Andre Gray, scored enough goals last season and Watford failed to buy any alternatives. But Deeney and Gray both struck in the away win at Burnley. The real revelation has been Roberto Pereyra, a No. 10 by preference but who has cut in from the left flank and scored three goals in as many games.
Manchester City: The men delivering more
Ninety-one minutes with no goals and no assists. It is the sum total that the champions' summer signings -- or signing, as only Riyad Mahrez has arrived -- have contributed so far. With Kevin De Bruyne limited to 31 minutes of football by injury, the key for City has come neither from newcomers nor their outstanding individual last season, but footballers who, for different reasons, were rarely at their best then.
Bernardo Silva was a bit-part player last term, making more substitute appearances than starts in the league, but he has begun every game now and was outstanding both in the Community Shield and in the opener at Arsenal. Benjamin Mendy's debut campaign was wrecked by injury. Fully fit now, he has been a marauding presence on the left flank and played a pivotal part in five of City's first seven league goals.
Bournemouth: The comebacks
Southampton have taken 16 points in 2018. Bournemouth have taken 20 from losing positions alone. The Cherries reinforced their reputation as the comeback kings by taking four points in a week after going behind, recovering to win at West Ham and securing a draw after trailing 2-0 to Everton. While many of their fightbacks last season featured goals from substitutes, so far this campaign the starters have starred as they have responded. Besides showing spirit and fitness, it illustrates that Eddie Howe's men have different ways of getting back into games.
Everton are the anomaly among the unbeaten sides. Their draws outnumber their one win. Their start to the season has revolved around Richarlison and, for good and bad, he is a reason why they have drawn twice so far. The £40 million signing scored either side of Phil Jagielka's red card in the opening 2-2 at Wolves. Then, after scoring in the victory over Southampton, the Brazilian was sent off himself for a headbutt on Bournemouth's Adam Smith. It was 0-0 at the time and Everton's 10 men took a lead they then lost. It is tempting to wonder if, with 11 and their early-season match-winner still on the field, they would have held on and be on seven points now.