Liverpool rise as Arsenal fall
Iain Macintosh casts his eye over the best and worst of the action from opening weekend in the Premier League.
HEROES Even though you’d imagine that at least 10 percent of Liverpool’s supporters are still hiding behind the sofa, for this was not a particularly relaxing way to start to the season, what an opening day win it was to triumph 4-3 at Arsenal. There is plenty for Jurgen Klopp to work on, particularly at left-back (see below), but four goals at the Emirates Stadium indicates that, whatever the new campaign brings, it certainly won’t be boring. This was also further proof that, as long as Philippe Coutinho is in the team, there’s always a way out of any crisis.
Where on earth did that come from? Relegation favourites Hull City couldn’t have had a worse preparation for the season had they accidentally sold half their squad on eBay. They’ve only got 13 fit senior players and there they were beating the champions on the first day of the season. Exceptional performances from the likes of Sam Clucas and Curtis Davies were enough to secure a genuinely astonishing 2-1 result. A few more afternoons like that and they might even survive. In fact, given that Leicester were relegation favourites at this time last year, perhaps...
Pep Guardiola praised all of his Manchester City players after their victory over Sunderland, but he kept singling out Fernandinho and it was easy to see why. The Brazilian midfielder had a duel role, working in the middle of the pitch on the odd occasion that City were out of possession, dropping back between -- and sometimes behind -- the centre-backs when possession was regained. He was calm, composed and tireless. Or in other words, exactly what his new manager required of him.
Okay, it’s only Bournemouth, no-one expects much of them and they conceded a whopping 67 goals last season, but you can’t turn your nose up at a thumping opening day win. It has been a good start for Jose Mourinho at Manchester United. In a short space of time, he has made the team quicker, harder and, oddly given his reputation, considerably more attractive to watch. Goals for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata, secured a very encouraging result and settled a few nerves at the same time.
So much has changed over the summer and so many new faces have arrived in the Premier League. And yet some things will always remain the same: Tony Pulis continues to grind out results against the run of play. The West Bromwich Albion manager might face an uncertain future with new owners in place, but there’s no-one quite like him in the country, no-one who can seemingly guarantee safety, whatever the odds. Crystal Palace dominated possession. The Baggies dominated the scoreline. Meet the new Premier League. Same as the old Premier League.
VILLAINS It was all going so well! After 44 minutes, Arsenal had a deserved lead over a Liverpool side that looked horribly out of sorts. Three points were in the bag, the bag was tied up tightly and a private security firm was carrying it to the safe. And then everything fell apart like, well, Arsenal. Granted, the Gunners have had a series of unfortunate injuries and absences that left them with two inexperienced centre-backs, but this was a horrible capitulation. Day two of the new season and already the pressure is on Arsene Wenger.
You might have thought that the Europa League Final would have been the last game of Alberto Moreno’s Liverpool career, such was the cataclysmic display he offered up, but no. The new season began and there he was, still leaving Liverpool’s left flank completely exposed. Theo Walcott must have felt like a small boy on Christmas morning as he was presented with one chance after another. The Arsenal winger missed the penalty that Moreno conceded but didn’t mess around when the hapless left-back left him clear on goal 69 seconds later. Note to Klopp: The transfer window is still open for another couple of weeks yet.
Jamie Vardy’s only achievement of note on the opening day of the Premier League came when he punched himself in the face, thus cutting out the middle man. Last season’s top goalscorer air-kicked one chance and walloped another over the bar before vanishing without trace at some point in the second half. Everyone expected Leicester to regress a little this season, but no-one really expected them to lose to newly-promoted Hull. Claudio Ranieri’s decision to alter the balance of the team, particularly up front where Shinji Okazaki was missed, may have been an error.
Vardy, it must be said, was only one culprit among many on Saturday. The season is long and much may change, but this was a profoundly disappointing result for Leicester. Captain Wes Morgan was honest enough to admit afterwards that his team were “second best” and deserved to lose. The only question is how long it will take his team to recover from such a shock to the system. Leicester celebrated last season’s triumph long and hard, as they should have done, but it means nothing now. They cannot put in another performance like Saturday’s or the doommonger predictions will turn out to be true.
Crystal Palace have won just two league games in 2016 and you wonder when the pressure is going to build on Alan Pardew. In his defence, this has been a very difficult summer. With players like Yannick Bolasie locked in drawn-out negotiations to leave, he finds himself simultaneously without star players and a transfer fee with which to replace them. But he has to hope that issues resolve themselves soon. Palace have a run of winnable games coming up after next week’s trip to Tottenham. He can’t afford to lose them.— ESPNFC.