After two months of waiting, one of the most exciting seasons in English Premier League history kicked off last weekend with the top clubs mostly coming through with the three points. It was, in many ways, a return to normal service after last year’s dramatic turn of events although none of Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United or Liverpool will be completely satisfied despite claiming opening day wins.
Both Chelsea and City won their games thanks only to late goals. Pep Guardiola’s first competitive match in charge of the Blue Moon was saved by a former United player, Paddy McNair, who was sold to Sunderland just a few days ago and capped his debut by unluckily scoring an own goal minutes before the final whistle. Considering the lack of real chances that City created, Guardiola should count himself luck to take full points.
As most anticipated, City played a new style of football under Guardiola, with defensive midfielder Fernandinho virtually becoming a third centre half with two fullbacks pushing up and playing in converted midfielder roles when the team was attacking. But the side’s positional awareness and tactical shifting still needs time to sink in.
Arsenal lost to Liverpool 3-4 in a goal-fest in North London. It was great entertainment with all seven goals worthy of the highlight reel. Nevertheless, neither manager was ecstatic with defensive units that leaked so many goals, exposing just how fragile both teams are. Arsenal is desperate to enforce their backline, while Liverpool’s weakness in left back is still a gaping hole in their aspirations.
Defending league champions Leicester City were nowhere near their best as they lost to newly promoted Hull City, a club in deep financial trouble due to ownership problems. Neither Riyad Mahrez nor Jamie Vardy produced the same form that helped them to the top of the Premier League last season and their manager Claudio Ranieri later complained that “they need to play like a team”.
Only Manchester United showed some sense of a truly bright year ahead as they beat Bournemouth 3-1 away. Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were all on the score sheet in an impressive start for Josè Mourinho. However even then the game lacked the tempo that fans usually expect for a Premier League match.
Due to management changes and new players coming in, it’s clear that the big teams still need some time to settle in.