Saturday brought to an end weeks of anxious waiting for club football. Whilst the European Championships provided a temporary fix to prevent withdrawal symptoms, the vicious intensity and sheer unpredictability of the premier league cannot be rivalled by any standard off –the-shelf drug. It is always with caution that you should extrapolate the results from the opening game week, but there are always a few lessons that can be learned.
We’ve analysed a few of these below:
Leicester could struggle Opening the weekend’s football were champions Leicester City away to newly promoted Hull. The two teams couldn’t have had more different lead ups to the opening day. Hull, having lost their manager, were cripplingly beset with injuries, leaving them with only 13 fit first team players to choose from. Leicester on the other hand had kept hold of the majority of their big-hitters from last season as well as recruiting a few handy additions such as Ahmed Musa and Nampalys Mendy. Shock then that Hull turned over the champions 2-1! With Vardy swinging air kicks when it was surely easier to just side-foot and Mahrez fumbling step-overs, this could easily be a case of first day nerves. However, if there is one thing that Leicester can be sure of is that they will have to be prepared to breakdown teams who place 10 men behind the ball at all times. No longer will teams treat Leicester like minnows and play with oceans of space at the back, Leicester are the champions, and so will have to play like it to stand any chance of even a top 6 finish this campaign.
The Manchester derby is going to be lit! With both Pep and Jose getting off to winning starts, the fire has well and truly been stoked for the Manchester derby in three weeks time. Many City fans knew that changes were on the horizon with the appointment of Guardiola towards the end of last season. However, not many envisaged the conversion of David Silva to a CDM, as well as the radical positioning of the full backs when in possession. Pep may have been accused of taking seasoned trap door escapees Sunderland lightly with such tactics, a mentality he was forced to scrap when Defoe equalised in the second half. An own goal from ex United man Paddy McNair sealed an opening day win for City, but left Pep under no assumptions about the competitiveness of the league. Mourinho in stark contrast could not be more accustomed to the banana skins the premier league can throw up. A comfortable 3-1 win in what could’ve been a tricky fixture against AFC Bournemouth was just what he would’ve wanted to kick start a title-challenging season. Both sides have recruited well over the summer and are both well tipped to be leading the charge for top spot. The answer to the question “will the trophy be laced with red or sky blue ribbons” will be better informed after September 10.
Arsenal are unprepared, again As a Man United fan it’s with a massive grin that I write these words. But seriously…again? Arsenal headed in to their curtain raising fixture against Liverpool with none of their recognised three central defenders featuring. Whilst Mertesacker and Gabriel’s omissions through injury were excusable, it is perhaps the decision to leave Koscielny in the stands that will infuriate the gunners faithful. Wenger stood by his decision that the Frenchman needed extended time off following his Euro excursions, leaving 21 year old Calum Chambers and 20 year old Rob Holding – recently recruited from relegated Bolton only a few months ago – as the CB pairing. As the cries of “SIGN SOMEBODY!” reverberated off the Emirates infrastructure, one of the only players they did actually sign, Granit Xhaka, sat on the bench and watched as 4 goals flew past Petr Cech. Added to the misery was the fact that the “extended rest” excuse was upheld for Koscielny, Ozil and Giroud, but was for some reason waived for Ramsey and Sanchez. Without doubt including these players would’ve made a difference and one has to scratch their head and wonder why, in such a big game, at home, you would leave yourself so short in key areas. The gunners have made a habit of starting slow though, and like Usain Bolt, they will hope for a dramatic pick up in the coming games so not to be cut adrift. Fans will hope that the weekend’s defeat prompts more urgent action in the transfer window.