The Premier League is well and truly back. In just three days, the best league in the world showed us what we were sorely missing for the last 3 months, even with the World Cup taking place. Controversies, red cards, missed penalties, stunning goals, the opening gameweek had it all.
Here, we analyse 5 distinct occurrences that could prove to be indicators for the season ahead:
1) United Still Need to Buy, And The 3-5-2 May Have To Change:
In a shock opening to the new season, Manchester United crumbled to a 2-1 home defeat against Swansea City in their first competitive game under Louis Van Gaal. This season was supposed to be a Rennaissance of sorts for the Red Devils, after a dismal 7th place finish last season, but their campaign has got off to the worst possible start.
There were several extremely conspicuous shortcomings in United’s performance. The newly-adopted 3-5-2 formation didn’t work, especially while defending. A first-half injury to Jesse Lingard saw Adnan Januzaj and Ashley Young deployed as wing-backs, and both were exposed by the pace on the Swansea wings. This will improve though, when Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw return from injury. Also, Ander Herrera struggled in his first game in English football, labouring to get back and being culpable for Swansea’s first goal.
United need to bring in more players in order to be genuine title-contenders this season. The sagas related to Arturo Vidal, Juan Cuadrado and Angel Di Maria have gone on for long enough, now Van Gaal needs to make sure he snaps up at least two of them.
2) Life Will Be Tough For The Three Promoted Teams:
Yes, this is something we already knew. But the opening week validated the fact that the three new teams in the Premier League this season – Leicester City, QPR and Burnley, all face an uphill battle to stay up. If someone was looking for good signs for the three, they could only be found at Leicester’s King Power Stadium on Saturday. The Foxes showed character to come from behind twice to earn a 2-2 draw against Everton. QPR though, succumbed to a 1-0 defeat at home against Hull City. Harry Redknapp’s men will have to look for a way to recover from this crushing defeat, as they bid to avoid replicating the disastrous campaign from two years ago that saw them relegated straight back to the Championship. Burnley were beaten 3-1 by a superb Chelsea side, but Sean Dyche will not be impressed with the way they conceded the third goal, allowing Branislav Ivanovic to volley home a corner from two yards out. This was branded by many as a ‘Championship Goal’.
There were several pundits who picked the newly promoted teams to go straight back down, and with what we say in the first week, they may well be right.
3) Great Show of Character From Southampton:
Despite losing nearly all of their main players to bigger teams in the transfer window, Southampton proved that they have what it takes to replicate the 8th place finish from last season. Ronald Koeman’s men put in a spirited display away at Liverpool, losing 2-1 to a late goal from Daniel Sturridge. They could have easily come out with a draw, with new signing Shane Long hitting the crossbar in the dying moments. The other new arrivals Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle also showed promise.
4) City And Arsenal Look Strong For Title Push:
Playing away at Newcastle United is hardly an ideal start to the season, but champions Manchester City proved that they have it takes to retain the title with a brilliant display at St. James’ Park. Manuel Pellegrini’s men won 2-0 with two well-taken goals by Sergio Aguero and David Silva, and looked comfortable throughout. Next Monday’s encounter against Liverpool will be a mouth-watering clash.
Arsenal, on the other hand, were far from their best, but got the job done in a come-from-behind 2-1 win against Crystal Palace. Aaron Ramsey got the winner in second-half stoppage time, after Laurent Koscielny’s header had cancelled out Brede Hangeland’s opener for Palace. This was Arsenal’s first opening-day win since 2009, in the kind of game that has so often proved to be the scourge in the Gunners’ title challenge.
5) New-Look Chelsea Up And Running:
Chelsea produced arguably the performance of the week as they blew away Burnley 3-1 at Turf Moor. After falling behind after 14 minutes, the Blues responded in perfect fashion by scoring thrice in 17 minutes. Some of the football played was absolutely exquisite and Cesc Fabregas’ pass for Andre Schurrle’s goal will be regarded as one of the best even in May. Diego Costa too, scored on debut, capping off a perfect away-day for Jose Mourinho’s side.
Tipped by most pundits to win the league this season, Chelsea looked imperious in every area of the pitch, and Thibaut Courtois’ goal was hardly threatened apart from the occasion when Burnley scored. Fabregas and Matic gelled like bread and butter, while the movement of Oscar, Hazard and Schurrle was absolutely superb.
The season is still in its nascent stage and passing a verdict on the rest of the campaign is difficult. Things can change very quickly in the Premier League, but the performances this weekend evidently showed how good or bad some teams are, and what they can expect for the season ahead.