With the first round of fixtures in the 2015/16 Premier League season officially in the books, it is time to make snap judgements based on the 90 minutes of action we have seen of each club. Here’s what we already know for sure and definitely will not change our mind about by next Monday, let alone in May:
- Arsenal aren’t going to win the league after all, they’re rubbish!
- Petr Cech is not going to be the missing piece of the puzzle for the Gunners, he is a secret spy from Chelsea, still working for Jose Mourinho!
- Leicester are brilliant under Claudio Ranieri and any relegation danger that was predicted for them was far too short-sighted!
- Chelsea cannot defend and their medical staff are so bad at their job, they even try to treat Eden Hazard when he is clearly play-acting and trying to con the referee.
- Spurs are shit!
Okay, so the last one I actually agree with. Tottenham started off their campaign in a very familiar pattern: they dominated the opening exchanges away at Manchester united; should have taken the lead when Christian Eriksen was played through by Harry Kane; then gave away a soft goal that could have been avoided if Nabil Bentaleb could pass and Kyle Walker had cleared the ball, rather than scuffing into his own net. Spurs then did nothing of note until the 88th minute, when they seemed to remember they needed to attack in order to get something out of the match, but the effort was too little, too late and they lost 1-0. I am going to end up sounding like a broken record on this, so until it happens, I’ll just copy and paste this next sentence into every football post I write:
Tom Carroll should be starting in central midfield for Tottenham.
There were other, far more exciting games as well last weekend, but Stoke’s 1-0 home defeat to Liverpool was not one of them. Save for Philippe Coutinho’s magnificent solo strike to win the match for the Reds five minutes from time, it was a drab affair, though Brendan Rodgers will be happy to lay to rest the ghost of his team’s 6-1 defeat on the same ground on the final day of last season.
As alluded to in the massive overreactions from the opening week, Arsenal were upset at home in their opening match by West Ham, who won 2-0 at the Emirates. It was an impressive performance by the Hammers in Slaven Bilic’s first Premier League match as manager and 16 year-old Reece Oxford has been singled out for his showing in the center of midfield. However, it should also be remembered that West Ham have been playing competitive matches since the beginning of July, thanks to their involvement in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League. This could explain why they were in better early form than the Gunners and I expect Bilic’s side to drop off after Christmas as players start to fatigue from a long campaign. As for Petr Cech’s mistakes, they were not what you would expect from a top class goalkeeper, but everyone has their off days and he was not helped by poor marking from the defenders for the opening goal.
Another team that showed an uncharacteristically poor defensive performance in their opening game was Chelsea, who conceded twice and were lucky to escape with a 2-2 draw at home to Swansea, especially after Thibaut Courtois was sent off with half an hour to go for a professional foul on Bafetimbi Gomis. With the Belgian keeper now suspended for the clash with Manchester City, who started their season with a convincing 3-0 win away at West Brom, it could spell an early crisis for Jose Mourinho’s side. However, if the Blues’ manager’s track record is anything to go by, it is perfectly possible that not only will they be able to keep City at bay on Sunday, they may not concede another goal anytime soon. One thing is for sure, Mourinho’s criticism of the club doctor and physio for going onto the field to treat Hazard, meaning that the midfielder had to leave the pitch for a moment afterwards, was completely out of order and I would expect him to apologize.
None of the newly promoted clubs managed to start their Premier League tenures with a victory, though Watford came closest as they led twice against Everton, but were pegged back twice and had to settle for a 2-2 draw. Bournemouth were beaten 1-0 at home by a new look Aston Villa side, which featured six players making their debut for the club. Norwich were unlucky not to get a point in their home encounter with Crystal Palace, as Cameron Jerome had an overhead kick ruled out for a high boot, an effort that would have made the scoreline 2-2. However, new Premier League referee Simon Hooper disallowed it and Yohan Cabaye gave the Eagles a 3-1 victory with an injury time strike. The other match of the weekend saw Leicester continue their impressive form from the end of last season, as they took advantage of poor Sunderland defending – particularly from former Tottenham player, Younes Kaboul – to rack up a 4-2 victory.
This weekend, there is a clash between two of the top four, as West Ham host Leicester City, as well as the aforementioned battle between the sides that finished first and second in May, as Manchester City take on Chelsea. Crystal Palace will be hoping to inflict more London derby pain on Arsenal; Spurs take on a Stoke side who did the double of over them last year and have just added Xherdan Shaqiri to their squad; while Bournemouth travel to Liverpool. Southampton face Everton in the early kick off on Saturday; Watford host West Brom; Newcastle are in South Wales to play Swansea; and Sunderland entertain Norwich.
Before all of that, on Friday Manchester United are in Birmingham to take on Aston Villa, a fixture that they have gone unbeaten in the last 19 seasons. The match was moved from Saturday at the request of the police because of a planned march in Walsall by the far-right group English Defence League, who
want the national team to focus on a more cautious approach to their game are a far-right group who firmly proclaim that they are non-violent and non-racist and protest against Islam outside of Mosques.
Last week 3-7 (some things don’t change!); Season, 3-7
Home team listed first
Aston Villa vs Manchester United – Away win
Southampton vs Everton – Home win
Sunderland vs Norwich – Draw
Swansea vs Newcastle – Draw
Tottenham vs Stoke – Away win
Watford vs West Brom – Home win
West Ham vs Leicester – Home win
Crystal Palace vs Arsenal – Away win
Manchester City vs Chelsea – Draw
Liverpool vs Bournemouth – Home win