No draws, 34 goals, and the reinstatement of full stadiums: the Premier League returned in fantastic form. Success for newly promoted sides, familiar woes for some, and a shock defeat for the champions ensured a fast start to a promising season. Rhys Thomas offers an overview of the action.
Brentford returned to the top of the English football pyramid after nearly three-quarters of a century as if they had never been away. Goals from Sergi Canós and Christian Nørgaard gave the new top division outfit their first-ever Premier League win with a goal in each half against a dire, but perhaps predictable Arsenal. Having spent the most out of any English club this summer, there is now huge pressure on Mikel Arteta to improve in order to keep his head above water.
Manchester United stated their title credentials as they once more swept Leeds aside, 5-1 the score this time around. Bruno Fernandes continued his incredible goal-scoring record since signing with his first Premier League hat trick, and midfield partner Paul Pogba went one better in terms of assists, incredibly providing 4. Not for the first time, Bielsa paid a painful price for his expansive style, and the defeat means Leeds have still failed to win at their bitter rival’s ground since 1981.
it was a better day for Everton who, amid a manager changeover, eased past Southampton
Despite losing key man Ben White to Arsenal for £50m, Brighton fared better than his new side as the Seagulls came from behind at Turf Moor to beat Burnley 2-1. Sean Dyche’s side took the lead through Tarkowski’s second-minute header, a goal shrouded in controversy after a shove from the goal-scorer. Brighton fans will be hoping their side can cash in on their ‘xG’ this season and finish more comfortably away from relegation.
Staying in the north, it was a better day for Everton who, amid a major manager changeover, eased past Southampton. Familiar scorers Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin were on hand. New manager Rafa Benitez still has a way to go to pacify the bitter sentiment of some supporters, following his time managing Liverpool from 2004-10. More victories like this will speed up the healing process.
Grealish-less Aston Villa didn’t have enough to take down Premier League returners Watford, who emerged 3-2 winners from an entertaining encounter at Vicarage Road. Villa fans will, however, take encouragement from the immediate reinvestment from the £100m Grealish sale. Exciting wingers Leon Bailey and Emiliano Buendia, alongside Danny Ings, all impressed on their debuts.
Champions League holders Chelsea dismantled newly managed Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge
Elsewhere, Jamie Vardy scored in yet another season for Leicester, as a superb dart in front of his marker and wonderful finish was enough to earn a narrow victory over Wolves. The strike puts Vardy a remarkable 19th on the list of all-time Premier League top scorers. Despite the bad result, Wolves fans could at least take joy from seeing main man Raúl Jiménez return to action for the first time since fracturing his skull in November.
Champions League holders Chelsea dismantled newly managed Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge, marking their intention to follow up European success with the domestic title. Goals from Marcos Alonso, Christian Pulisic, and academy product Trevor Chalobah allowed the Blues to cruise past Palace, with their boss Patrick Vieira given a difficult introduction to Premier League management.
Fellow likely title challengers Liverpool marked the return of several key players, most notably Virgil van Dijk, by matching Chelsea’s 3-0 score-line, putting a trio of goals past a trying but eventually overpowered Norwich. The Reds picked up where they left off last season, where they won 8 out of their last 10 games to rescue an otherwise disastrous second half of the 20/21 campaign. Norwich, meanwhile, will seek to end their yo-yo cycle between Premier League and Championship.
In the absence of Harry Kane, Tottenham shocked champions and title favourites Manchester City to give new boss Nuno a fantastic first win
Another side to take maximum points on the opening day were West Ham, overcoming a Newcastle side who started brightly and led through Wilson after some Saint-Maximin magic. Cresswell pegged the Magpies back before Murphy put them back ahead, but they faltered after halftime. David Moyes reorganised his Hammers side at the break to great effect, and they scored 3 (Benrahma, Soucek, Antonio) to take an impressive 4-2 victory.
In the absence of Harry Kane, Tottenham shocked champions and title favourites Manchester City to give new boss Nuno a fantastic first win. For all of City’s typical dominance in possession, they looked vulnerable at the back, conceding an unusually high 13 shots. Spurs are surely not in said title race given the transition from Mourinho, uncertainty over their star man, and lacklustre recent seasons. But a return to Champions League must be the target, if an ambitious one. It would mark a brilliant season for Nuno’s men, with this the perfect start. “Are you watching Harry Kane?”
Early days of course, but a multi-team title fight is on the cards, it seems. With United, Liverpool and Chelsea impressing on the opening weekend, the three emerge as the key challengers to a stumbling City’s crown. City started relatively slowly last season too, though, and will surely be back on the charge soon, especially if they land the striker they crave. Overall, an appetising return for the world’s most-watched sports league.
Featured image used courtesy of Samuel Regan-Asante via Unsplash. Image use license here. No changes were made to this image.
In-article image 1 courtesy of @watfordfcofficial via instagram.com. No changes were made to this image.
In-article image 2 courtesy of @liverpoolfc via instagram.com. No changes were made to this image.
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