Well hello to the Premier League, we have missed you. All that money spent over the summer and what do we have? Arsenal and Liverpool still unable to defend, Chelsea collapsing right after winning the league, Jonjo Shelvey is still a liability, West Bromwich Albion scoring winners from set pieces and Crystal Palace’s aim of being the South London equivalent of Ajax Amsterdam has hit the rocks already.
Personally, my biggest question from the weekend’s kick off was whether any of the teams (other than West Brom, obviously) had bothered doing any kind of defensive training whatsoever? Friday night kicked off the new season with a seven-goal thriller at the Emirates. Alexandre Lacazette had the Gooners dreaming of a new dawn before the Gooners were instantly reminded why dreaming of anything being that different is a very risky business. Leicester City led 3-2 with seven minutes to go before Aaron Ramsey drew Arsenal level, sending many a celebrity to their newly designed “I won’t die in here” bunkers. 3-3 with six minutes left, there’s only going to be one man who can sort out that mess, right? Olivier Giroud really has to learn that if he wants to be anything more than the super sub option this season, scoring excellent headers late in the game to win all three points is not the way to go about it. Still, the Arsene haters who were hitting Twitter very hard after 40 minutes and 80 minutes must have had a nice time. Personally, I was just glad that my fantasy football faith in Rob Holding had paid dividends. I presume the guy is colour blind, the amount of times he picked a Leicester player with a pinpoint pass.
Jurgen Klopp will have watched the Friday night match and thought, “well at least we can defend better than that!” How did that turn out for you, Kloppo? It took until the end of the first real set-piece against them for everyone to notice that they might have some very quick, exciting wide men in red but if they cannot defend a simple corner into the box then not a lot has changed at Liverpool. Leicester City and Arsenal had set the bar quite low when it came to defending balls into the box, but Liverpool really did manage to take it to a whole new depth. But, they showed grit, determination and the buzz word that will make all this xG stuff disappear very quickly, character. 3-2 deep into injury time equals three points going back to Anfield, right? Hell no, not if Watford get another corner, bung it into the near post and just watch more carnage ignite. Don’t change a thing Jurgen, please don’t change a thing. We need more of this comedy in the modern game.
Antonio Conte said a few days ago how important it is that Chelsea “do not have a Mourinho season” this time round. As Sam Vokes put Burnley 3-0 up at Stamford Bridge all that was missing was Conte kicking a water bottle and abusing a doctor. Gary Cahill clearly asked John Terry for some advice on being the Chelsea club captain as he managed to disgrace himself within 20 minutes of the new season, getting a straight red for a silly challenge. Still, the league champions at home against a Burnley side not known for their high scoring escapades away from Lancashire? There shouldn’t be a problem. Chelsea nearly came back, the match ending 3-2, and Alvaro Morata looked dangerous which is at least a minor positive for the Italian manager who had to defend himself after the match, saying “my team selection was not a message to the board” before whispering under his breath “but if they don’t sign me some new players soon I’m on the next flight back to Italy”. The game did have to stop momentarily because “two idiots” ran on to the pitch which, personally, I think is a little harsh on Rudiger and Batshuayi who did try their best.
Over at Old Trafford, it was almost as if Jose Mourinho knows a thing or two about football as his two main signings, Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic, slotted straight into Premier League life against West Ham. Who’d have thought it? One of the most successful managers of all time gets given a barrel load of cash and he doesn’t completely pee it up against a wall? Next, he’ll be demonstrating he knows more than the Twitterati. Matic went about breaking up anything that looked like a West Ham attack while Romelu Lukaku showed that his first touch is alright providing he aims it at the goal each time, netting a classy brace on his home debut. What wasn’t so classy was the badge kiss though. Come on Rom, you’ve only been there a couple of weeks. Did you tell your missus you loved her a fortnight after you started going out? No doubt he won’t be as interested in the badge when Real Madrid or Barcelona start sniffing round in a couple of seasons time. Anthony Martial looked thrilled with his part in the win, adding the third with a big smile on his face. Or not, as the case maybe. Joe Hart certainly proved Pep Guardiola wrong, shipping four on his return to the Premier League. Hell, he even let Pogba score.
Danny Rose may be very unhappy with Tottenham Hotspur’s transfer policy over the summer, but even he must have been quite impressed with Pochettino’s ability to replace Kyle Walker with, er, Kyle Walker. Kyle Walker-Peters started at right back for the Spurs up at St James’ Park and won the man-of-the-match award for a very solid performance. Dele Alli was key to Tottenham’s opening day win which only got going once his ankle loitered underneath the sole of Shelvey’s boot, leading to another straight red for the Newcastle midfielder. From there it was game over with Alli scoring and Rose’s replacement Ben Davies getting the second. Easy there, Danny, you might not even get back in this team you feel needs better players.
Wayne Rooney has come in for a fair bit of stick in the last couple of seasons, 99% of it completely fair and reasonable. However, even I (one of his biggest critics) smiled for him as he got off the ground and headed home the winning goal on his league return to Goodison Park. Stoke City are in trouble already, there is no doubt about it. If you are letting Rooney score a header against you in this day and age, then it is fair to say that you a relegation fodder. Damn, I was so close to getting through the whole paragraph without knocking the guy.
I was probably a little bit harsh on Brighton in my pre-match predictions on talesfromthetopflight.com last week, suggesting Manchester City would beat them by five or six. Despite having less than 4% of possession, Brighton managed to keep City out until the final quarter of their first ever Premier League match which was a fine effort when you think that Manchester City’s new full backs cost more than every single Brighton transfer ever made. Sergio Aguero made it clear he isn’t for sale by scoring the first and then poor Lewis Dunk probably wanted to go and get slammed after his own-goal finished the game.
Frank de Boer casually rocked up at Selhurst Park saying Crystal Palace would play like his former club, Ajax. Well, Frank, I am pretty sure that Ajax rarely lost 3-0 at home to a club that hadn’t played top flight football for 45 years, so I am guessing there is still some work to be done? David Wagner had Huddersfield playing like the perfect symphony as Steve Mounie pulled down the pants of the Palace back four twice, getting a brace on his debut.
Southampton got rid of Claude Puel because the fans and the board shared a desire for more open, attractive football. Therefore you can imagine the delight that was shared at St Mary’s as Swansea City left the South Coast with a 0-0 draw tucked safely under their arm.
West Bromwich Albion won a game of football by stopping the opposition playing, hitting a free kick to the back post and seeing it get headed home. In other news, the clouds live in the sky.
So after the first weekend of games, we will no doubt see all the hyperbole flick into overdrive. Folks, United started last season pretty well too remember, so don’t get too excited – they were only playing West Ham after all. Jurgen Klopp is bound to remember that he meant to work on defending set-pieces at some point, and get right on that in time for the Champions League match with Hoffenheim. Arsene Wenger will have been delighted with Arsenal’s attacking play and is probably concocting a plan to bring Alexis Sanchez back into the side as a sweeper or something because good players can play anywhere. And as for Chelsea, as I’ve said all summer, if Antonio Conte is there at the end of the season I will buy all five of my readers a pint.