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James Hadland

Hopefully the start of a weekly segment for Impact, James Hadland is here to discuss what we learnt about each team in the first Premier League gameweek. In chronological order, we will discuss what each match taught us for either team, perfect in case you didn’t catch a game.

The first Premier League game to kick off the new season was at Turf Moor, between a much-changed Burnley side since their relegation two seasons prior, and three-time consecutive champions Manchester City.

Burnley 0-3 Manchester City:

Burnley have been touted as the most nailed on for safety out of the three promoted sides, given the swagger in Vincent Kompany’s Championship-winning side last season. While this match showed us the improvement since their 6-0 FA defeat to the Cityzens last season, it also reminded us how much Burnley have had to adapt after their promotion. Vital to their success last season included: City’s own Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Chelsea’s Ian Maatsen and Southampton’s Nathaniel Tella – all on loan. However, they were unable to sign these players on a permanently for various reasons, meaning replacements have had to come in that are yet to prove Kompany’s faith. With 5 debutants against the title holders, time must be given as the Belgian coach looks to get his side up to their new Premier League level. Thankfully, one of the hardest matches is now behind them.

Manchester City on the other hand are one of the league’s most settled sides, with Croatian due Joško Gvardiol and Mateo Kovacic signed to maintain their success. Kovacic slotted seamlessly into the Sky Blues’ midfield, while Gvardiol made a late appearance. The lesson we learnt was to stop doubting Erling Haaland, whose six match Manchester City goal drought came to an end just 3 minutes in. Just like last season, his poor Community Shield performance caused great scrutiny, yet the Norwegian scored 2 goals on the opening day once more. However, Kevin de Bruyne’s serious injury is evidently terrible, although the fact the transfer market is still open means it is probably the ‘best’ time to sustain such an injury.

Arsenal 2-1 Nottingham Forest:

League runners-up Arsenal were coincidentally second in line to play this gameweek, and Mikel Arteta joined Pep Guardiola on the FPL-managers’ most hated list. Defender Gabriel Magalhães was a stalwart in the Gunners’ excellent previous campaign, featuring in all 38 games and starting the majority. However, he was dropped, with new signing Jurrien Timber at left back and Thomas Partey in a hybrid right back role, often inverting into the midfield. This tactical flexibility may well be necessary due to the increase in games with respective Champions League action, cup competitions and League games on the horizon. In fact, Timber’s injury has already lowered the depth of Arteta’s bolstered squad, but the Spaniard has proven to be capable of finding solutions. Another point to note is the increased offensive duties Declan Rice is afforded, for a side who are on the ball far more than his former club, West Ham.

Nottingham forest have had a far less hectic transfer window compared to last summer, evidenced in their start to the season. Yes, they did lose, but it was a promising display with a real threat to an excellent Arsenal side. They seem a lot more settled and have a refined squad with some real experience. They produced more xG than the Gunners, and Anthony Elanga combined well with fellow substitute Taiwo Awoniyi later on in the game. This year round, like Burnley, has seen a number of loan players leave the club and now they have been appropriately addressed – particularly in between the sticks.

Bournemouth 1-1 West Ham United

Promising a difference in tactics, focused on front-foot possession football, this match was an early sign of what football is to come for the Cherries

Andoni Iraola’s appointment appeased the criticism of Bournemouth’s sacking of Gary O’Neil following his strong guidance towards safety. Promising a difference in tactics, focused on front-foot possession football, this match was an early sign of what football is to come for the Cherries. Moving from a 40.4% average possession last season, Bournemouth instead attained 63% against the Hammers, and grew into the game. The most important takeaway is David Brooks’ start, his first Bournemouth League match playing over 60 minutes since the 29th of September 2021 following his recovery from Hodgkin Lymphoma. You love to see it.

Life without Rice was feared for West Ham United, who look strange without their number 41. However, Jarrod Bowen’s sumptuous strike showed that they haven’t lost all their quality – following on from his European Conference League winning goal in June. They will have a pressed squad with league and Europa League demands, but James Ward Prowse’s recent signing is surely the first of a barrage of new names through the door. With Scamacca gone, and Lucas Paquetá linked to Manchester City, goalscoring will be an issue without signings.

Brighton and Hove Albion 4-1 Luton Town

Roberto de Zerbi inferred before the match they don’t need Moises Caicedo. What better way to back up this statement than with Brighton’s scintillating 4-1 home win against Luton? It seems every summer now the Seagulls unleash a new talent, and this time Simon Adingra’s debut goal indicates it has happened again. Brighton were excellent all round, yet it is their depth which has improved so much. With aforementioned Adingra and Evan Ferguson both bagging after coming off the bench, they look ready for the Europa League. Don’t write them off for it.

As for Luton Town, it was never going to be a breeze. A maiden voyage in the Premier League is never easy, but an away match to Brighton is one of the hardest – Brighton only lost there 5 times last year. There are positives to take for Rob Edwards’ side, given that they were within one goal of Brighton for the majority of the game, and the goals conceded were mistakes. Mistakes are rarely unpunished in the Premier League, and this is a lesson worth learning as soon as possible. Mpanzu’s flick to Adingra and Bell’s poor marking of March are errors than can be ironed out, yet the fact their total Premier League minutes are less than Ross Barkley and Marvelous Nakamba’s in combination, implies it will be a long season for the Hatters.

Sheffield United 0-1 Crystal Palace

After two years away, Premier League football returned to Bramall Lane this season for Sheffield United. Expectations seem relatively low, losing key players Iliman Ndiaye to Marseille and Sander Berge to survival-rivals Burnley. The key question is where are the goals going to come from for the Blades? Injury trouble means Paul Heckingbottom started two 20-year-old forwards – William Osula and summer signing Benie Traore. Osula making his first start for the club in a Premier League should say it all. Signings are needed, with safety a tall order even before losing talisman Ndiaye.

As for Crystal Palace, Roy Hodgson showed Eagles fans how they were going to adapt without their captain and star man Wilfried Zaha, leaving on a free for Galatasaray. This adaptation, came in the form of increased attacking responsibility given to Eze, Schlupp and Odsonne Edouard, the latter of whom he will look to get more of after his PL tally of 5 goals last season. Meanwhile Eberechi Eze cannot surely be sold this summer, as the real fulcrum of Palace’s attack, even creating 7 chances in this game. Although Palace may take some time to adapt to spreading goals around the pitch, Hodgson’s experience and the core of PL proven players should result in a safe finish.

Everton 0-1 Fulham

Same old same old for the Toffees – a decent display with no goals to show for it. They outplayed Fulham on the day and created 2.73 xG including a dubious disallowed goal by Michael Keane. They missed 4 big chances, including a would-be first half hattrick from Neal Maupay. However, once Dominic Calvert-Lewin finds his fitness and form under Sean Dyche, supported by new incoming Youssef Chermiti, the goals must come. Dyche has got his side to play well, and are very solid in the 4411 allowing Abdoulaye Doucouré in a freer, more offensive role which helped Everton’s survival last time round.

Fulham need to be wary of being dragged into a lower than expected finish after last year

As for Fulham, the Cottagers have seen this movie all too many times. The West London outfit scored after being dominated for a large part of the game. Bernd Leno continued his form as one of the league’s best goalkeepers, in outperforming their expected goals conceded. While Marco Silva will be pleased with the smash and grab win, is it sustainable to rely on teams missing chances and goalkeeping excellence? Especially with Mitrovic’s future still clouded with uncertainty, Fulham need to be wary of being dragged into a lower than expected finish after last year.

Newcastle United 5-1 Aston Villa

One of the most exciting fixtures of the first gameweek lived up to expectations, with three goals within the first 20 minutes. It was Newcastle at their best under Eddie Howe; relentless, physical, and ruthless. Debutant Sandro Tonali’s goal rounded up an excellent performance, involved in many of the pressures and plays that lead to goals. Newcastle’s added depth proved its worth in the match, with Harvey Barnes off the bench to assist fellow substitute Callum Wilson and score one for himself on his debut. If Alexander Isak can stay fit, the Magpies have a serious player on their hands, with his second goal à la Thierry Henry.

There was a pedestrian feeling to the Villains’ play at times, which was only exacerbated by Tyrone Mings’ serious injury

Although the score seems awful for Aston Villa, they were punished for any mistakes made and did play good football during the match. What might concern Unai Emery is the lack of physicality they showed. Newcastle’s second half goals seemed to come from bypassing their relatively weak midfield in Youri Tielemans and Douglas Luiz. There was a pedestrian feeling to the Villains’ play at times, which was only exacerbated by Tyrone Mings’ serious injury. In a more positive light, Moussa Diaby marked his debut with a goal and his combination with Ollie Watkins was very promising.

Brentford 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur

Thomas Frank’s side continued as they left off in a post-Toney world – hard to beat. Although their  top scorer is banned until January, forwards Yoane Wissa and Bryan Mbeumo once more showed Brentford fans that they can step up to the plate – with both getting on the scoresheet. The Gtech Community Stadium is becoming a fortress for Frank’s Bees, falling to defeat only twice last season. Brentford show time and time again that if they lose a player, they can still find a way, following goalkeeper Mark Flekken’s solid debut replacing new Arsenal signing David Raya.

James Maddison’s debut was marked by two assists and if he stays fit, he will be at the heart of all good things for Tottenham this year

As for Tottenham fans, there was much excitement and nervousness before the new Ange Postecoglou era. For a neutral, Spurs games will be anything but boring this season, with the Lilywhites scrapping the pragmatic football under previous coaches in favour of a high possession, high octane counter pressing side, that leads to a lot of exposure on transitions. Although Brentford did exploit this at times, Ange can surely be happy with the fact his side battled through a tough fixture with four debutants. His side also grew into the game, looking most likely to score in the second half. James Maddison’s debut was marked by two assists and if he stays fit, he will be at the heart of all good things for Tottenham this year. For more insight into what ‘AngeBall’ has in store, here is an article I previously wrote on the matter.

Chelsea 1-1 Liverpool

Mauricio Pochettino’s first Chelsea match seemed daunting to begin, conceding early and a further Liverpool goal being disallowed. However, they grew into the game and after Axel Disasi’s debut goal, started to run things. This performance did highlight the need for a holding midfielder, with Conor Gallagher being asked to do far too much, and there seemed to be a clear gap between attack and defence. However, Gallagher started to play well and Enzo started to combine to run things, while James and Chilwell’s strong displays hallmarked Pochettino’s ability to maximise his fullbacks. With Caicedo coming in and Lavia on the way, this bloated squad will no doubt have the players capable to create something special.

Liverpool’s 9th season under Jurgen Klopp seems to be one of adversity. Unable to land any of their key defensive midfield targets, the transfer market clock is ticking. Although the line-up and first 25 minutes did suggest a ‘we will score more than you’ mentality, it became clear over the course of the game that structure is needed to allow such virtuoso players to excel. Fabinho’s departure after some great performances near the end of last season with Alexander-Arnold in the inverted role seemed promising, but his departure without a guaranteed replacement seems like a poor decision for now.

Manchester United 1-0 Wolves

Manchester United have been lauded for their transfer business this summer, yet Erik Ten Hag’s side left a lot to be desired. The Red Devils did not dominate possession and were frankly lucky to take the three points. Their play seemed a bit predictable, with Wolves focusing on ‘weaker’ ball players such as Aaron Wan-Bissaka, to prevent the threat their progressive play can cause. Perhaps it is the sign of a strong team to find a goal in a lacklustre performance, or this predictability is going to become a problem for the Dutchman’s team.

However, just as with Bournemouth last season, the early indication is that O’Neil is excellent at getting the best from his team

I must admit I wrote off Wolves as a relegation certainty after Julian Lopetegui’s departure and their transfer window troubles, losing their core of key players in Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho, Raul Jiménez and Adama Traore. However, just as with Bournemouth last season, the early indication is that O’Neil is excellent at getting the best from his team. His side were unlucky to not get all three points, let alone a draw.  I suppose the biggest question is the one that has plagued Wolves since Jiménez’s head injury 2 seasons ago – where will their goals come from?

James Hadland

Featured image courtesy of Samuel Regan-Asante via Unsplash. Image use license found here. No changes were made to this image.

In article image 1 courtesy of @premierleague via Instagram. No changes were made to this image. 

In article image 2 courtesy of @officialbhafc via Instagram. No changes were made to this image. 

In article image 3 courtesy of @cpfc via Instagram. No changes were made to this image. 

In article image 4 courtesy of @brfootball via Instagram. No changes were made to this image. 

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