Last weekend saw the Premier League return and it promises to be one of the most exciting seasons to date. The opening day of the season usually throws up the odd surprise or two, and following their perfect pre-season, I don’t think many of us would have expected the first shock to take place in the very first game of the season. It wasn’t exactly the start Louis Van Gaal would have hoped for with Manchester United but Swansea left Old Trafford with a well deserved 3 points. Having struggled at home last year despite having the best away record in the league, United fans will be hoping for a change of fortune at what was once the fortress of Old Trafford. Man Utd now have two away games before the international break and Van Gaal will be hoping to get his first points on the board. With Sunderland and Burnley being the opponents, I can’t see why they can’t secure at least 4 points, but who know what will happen!
Business as usual for the top 4
It may only be the first week but the league table has a familiar look to it as last seasons top 4 occupy the top 4 spots. Both Liverpool and Arsenal can count themselves lucky to win their opening league games. Liverpool came out on top against a Southampton side still in transition under Ronald Koeman, but only just. Despite taking the lead and looking comfortable in the first half, Liverpool were poor in the second half at Anfield and Southampton will surely be wondering how they didn’t leave with at least a point. Some of Koeman’s new signings looked impressive (Tadic and Pelle), while Ward-Prowse showed his potential with a great performance. The quality of Liverpool’s new SAS was enough to see them grab all 3 points though as Sterling and Sturridge found the goals in the first post Suarez game at Anfield.
Arsenal fell behind to Crystal Palace, another side going through a transition period following the recent departure of Tony Pulis but managed to grab all 3 points thanks to a winning goal from that man again, Aaron Ramsey. The Gunners struggled to break Palace down in the second half and it took a strike from Ramsey in the last minute to send the home fans home happy. New signing Alexis Sanchez looked sharp but I still think Arsenal need something else up front to really challenge this season.
City and Chelsea set the pace
The two most impressive performances from the opening weekend came from the two favourites for the title – Chelsea and Man City. First up were City, who visited St James Park in the penultimate game of the weekend. While City never really reached 100% in this game, they always looked in control as Newcastle struggled to create any clear cut chances. It was however an encouraging display from Newcastle with newboy Remy Cabella in particular catching the eye.
And so it was a case of save the best to last as Chelsea finished the first round of Premier League fixtures with perhaps the most complete performance of the weekend as they defeated new boys Burnley 3-1. Despite falling behind, 3 goals in 10 minutes midway through the first half put this game beyond doubt. New boy Diego Costa opened his Chelsea account after only 17 minutes before Cesc Fabregas took over with 2 fantastic assists and an all round magnificent performance. It baffles me why Man United or Arsenal didn’t try to sign Fabregas this summer. In a big statement for the season ahead, Jose Mourinho opted to put Thibaut Courtois in goal, naming the Belgian as his number one for the season ahead. It may only be one game, but Chelsea looked like a smooth, efficient machine and could be hard to stop this year. Costa looks like he will enjoy the Premier League battle, and the partnership of Hazard and Fabregas in behind him could really catapult Mourinho’s side to the title this year.
The best of the rest
Spurs, Hull and Aston Villa all enjoyed 1-0 wins away from home in the opening weekend. Aston Villa’s win is perhaps the most impressive of these as the Britannia Stadium (home of Stoke City) is never an easy place to go and win. Villa were among many people’s favourites to go down, and this opening day victory will go some way to easing the worries of the Villa fans. Hull enjoyed a win over new boys QPR, who missed the chance to equalise from the penalty spot through Charlie Austin. With the recent signing of Leroy Fer and imminent arrival of Eduardo Vargas, I still fancy QPR to be the surprise package of this years league.
There were 2-2 draws for both West Brom and Sunderland and Leicester City and Everton in the final two games of the weekend with Everton perhaps being the most disappointed here after throwing away a lead on two occasions. Leicester did show some heart though and they will be a hard team to beat at home this season, so this may well just turn out to be a good point for The Toffees.
Pick of week 2 fixtures
The pick of next weeks fixtures has to be the Monday night game between last years top two at The Etihad Stadium. Both Man City and Liverpool started with a win but this one promises to be a tight affair with neither side looking to lose ground at this early stage. City will go into the game as favourites but expect Liverpool to come out of the blocks quick, especially with new boys Markovic and Lallana available to Brendan Rodgers.
Sunderland’s home game against Manchester United will be an interesting one as Louis Van Gaal goes in search of his first competitive win with the Red Devils. I expect United to get the win and we could see new signing Marcos Rojo make his debut, following his recent arrival from Sporting Lisbon. Everton and Arsenal has all the makings of a cracker and this was a fixture that Everton dominated from start to finish last year. Everton will be desperate to register their first win of the season while Arsenal will be out to ensure they at least improve on last years heavy defeat.
The final game that catches my eye for the upcoming fixtures is the London derby between Tottenham Hotspurs and QPR. Spurs will be looking to make it 2 from 2 while Harry Redknapp will be keen to avoid back to back defeats against his former club. I expect Redknapp to get a great reception at White Hart Lane but that’s were the joy may end for him.
Let me know your thoughts on the first weekend of the Premier League season by commenting below.
Images from skysports.com and telegraph.co.uk.