Petr Cech may not in fact be the second coming of Jesus, history doesn’t repeat at the Britannia Stadium and reports of Manchester City’s demise may have been greatly exaggerated...
The first week of the new English Premier League season has been completed. So what did we learn? The short answer is plenty and the long answer is, well, not much at all.
It’s always fraught with danger to make outlandish statements or concrete predictions after 90 minutes of football. But we’re going to have a crack at it anyway.
We have to start with the biggest shock of the round – West Ham’s rude interruption of the commencement of Arsenal’s EPL victory coronation with a 2-0 triumph at Emirates Stadium. The Gunners’ impressive form at the back end of the last campaign, coupled with another FA Cup triumph and an undefeated pre-season – including a stop in Singapore – had many pundits (including this writer) declaring it was finally Arsenal’s year to lift an EPL crown once more.
But the real reason for all that optimism was the summer signing of Petr Cech. Decaying on the Chelsea bench at the age of 33, a babe in the woods in goalkeeping terms, Cech’s shift across town from blue to red was to be the icing on Arsene Wenger’s redemption cake. Two errors later, however, and all and sundry were rushing to defend the now-suddenly-ageing shotstopper.
To be fair, it was the worst possible way to announce that you remain a ‘keeper de force’. Confidence is the lifeblood of any gloveman worth his sterling – just ask Jerzy Dudek, Massimo Taibi or David James (see video below), among many others – and Cech’s must have taken a dent.
But he has proven himself a keeper of seriously stern stuff over the years and we’re backing him to bounce back strongly and prove his worth – provided there are no more howlers against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Sunday. That is suddenly looming as a seriously tricky fixture for Wenger’s troops.
Over at the Britannia, Liverpool were still trying to somehow banish the memories of their 6-1 horror show that put the finishing touches on a dreadful 2014-15 season under Brendan Rodgers. Twelve months on from the magical carpet ride of goals and delight provided by Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge – albeit with an ultimately sad ending for LFC fans – the Anfield faithful were forced to endure a campaign punctuated by horrible defending and missed chances … and not just from Mario Balotelli.
So how would they respond? In extremely unconvincing style, despite their summer outlay. It took a moment of sheer brilliance from the ever-improving Philippe Coutinho in the 86th minute to give them a welcome three points in an otherwise drab afternoon. But as we saw last season, no one can be relied upon to time a ball as sweetly as that every week, so much more will be needed in the days ahead.
Swansea picked up a highly credible 2-2 draw with champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. They clearly take a liking to big opponents to start a new season, following last year’s opening-round win at Old Trafford. A second-half red card and penalty against Blues keeper Thibaut Courtois helped them over the line, but no one was suggesting afterwards the Swans weren’t worthy of a point. OK, no one apart from Jose Mourinho.
Like Liverpool, Manchester United were unconvincing in their 1-0 victory over Tottenham. The Red Devils had just one shot on target and that wasn’t the goal, which came courtesy of a Kyle Walker intervention. Louis van Gaal can deny it all he wants, but he clearly needs more strike power, and those Harry Kane rumours won’t go away.
Team of the Week – Manchester City
With Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool splashing the cash, and all expecting Chelsea to remain near the pointy end of the table, there were loud voices declaring Manchester City were in trouble. Despite their embarrassment of riches, few signings were added to an ageing list and if anyone was vulnerable in the top four, many felt it was the Sky Blues. Instead, they cruised to a 3-0 victory away to West Brom, with Yaya Toure somehow breaking out of the old folk’s home many had placed him in over the off-season to score a brace. It also meant Leicester City’s 48 hours or so leading the Premier League following their 4-2 win over Sunderland was rudely interrupted.
Nearly every season, one of the bigger EPL teams make a rocky start and finds themselves camped near the foot of the ladder, including Liverpool and Manchester United in recent times. Following week one, it is Arsenal’s turn to languish in 19th place. Due to goal difference and goals scored, not even their typical alphabetic leg-up could save them from the bottom three. There they are joined by newcomers Norwich City, who weren’t disgraced in a 3-1 loss to Crystal Palace, and the Baggies. Stoke and Tottenham, two teams expected to push for European football this season, are in 15th and 16th respectively. Of the other promoted teams, Watford are in the relatively lofty position of 13th following a commendable 2-2 draw away to Everton, when they led twice, one place ahead of Bournemouth. Occupying the smallest ground in Premier League history, the 11,000 seat Vitality Stadium, the Cherries were unfortunate to lose 1-0 to Aston Villa.
Quote of the week – Arsene Wenger:
"West Ham are a bit more advanced in their preparation than us. They've played many competitive games in the Europa League. I knew before the game it would be tricky on that front.”
Hmmm… not sure I’m buying that one Arsene.
Each week FourFourTwo's Managing Editor, Southeast Asia James Dampney will provide his take on the Premier League.