A good rule of thumb among soccer analysts is that you have to wait until 10 games into a season before you really start to make any confident conclusions about what you've seen. Before then, there's just too much noise. Players are injured. Schedules are imbalanced. Red cards and penalties have an outsize effect on a team's aggregate performance, as do one or two bad or great games.
Once you get to the 10-game mark, you usually have enough matches where unexpected poor performance becomes a genuine concern and surprisingly impressive play becomes a source of genuine excitement. Random-ish events like red cards and penalties begin to even out, and everyone's schedules start to look similar.
Just take this point last season. Through six matches, Newcastle United had won only seven points from six games. It looked as though Eddie Howe's side had seemingly come back to earth after a charge up the table the previous season lifted them way beyond a relegation fight. Meanwhile, Antonio Conte & Co. had picked up where they left off from the year prior, picking up 14 points from six, sitting tied with Manchester City and just one point out of first.
Come the end of the season, the Magpies finished 11 points and four places ahead of Spurs. Howe was a Manager of the Year candidate; Conte had been unemployed for multiple months.
Of course, that doesn't mean we should write everything off, either. Two of the biggest surprises at the start of last season bookended the table: Arsenal in first with 15 points from six, and Leicester in last with just one. The Gunners didn't win the league, but they established themselves as one of the best teams in Europe, while Leicester completed a two-year slide from fifth place in the Premier League all the way down to the Championship.
So, let's take a look at some of the early surprises across Europe -- with a focus on the Premier League -- and try to figure out whether what we're seeing is real or fake.