New season, same story - the EPL is indeed one of the most entertaining football leagues in the world. The first round of fixtures saw a glut of wonderfully taken goals and unexpected results with two huge 5-0 wins registered by unfancied Swansea and Fulham hogging the news, and surprise wins earned by Everton and West Brom over perennial big boys Manchester United and Liverpool.
The title contenders
Perhaps the biggest shock of all for football fans would be title-chasing Manchester United’s 1-0 loss to Everton. Never mind the narrow scoreline, what was most telling about the game was how Everton bossed United around for most parts of the game. In the end, it was a deserved win for the Toffees as Marouane Fellaini’s towering header gunned down the Red Devils, and proving that United’s chronic defensive injury crisis could yet again adversely affect their chances of winning the title back this season.
So while Manchester United floundered, fellow title challengers Manchester City and Chelsea ensured their campaigns got off to winning starts with victories over newly promoted Southampton and Wigan respectively.
Chelsea eased its way to victory thanks to new signing Eden Hazard, who played a starring role in providing the assist for the first goal, and winning the penalty for the second. Wigan were simply no match for the much superior Chelsea side that is oozing with talent.
Manchester City on the other hand nearly suffered a scare at home at the Etihad Stadium as new boys Southampton gave them a run for their money with an excellent display on their return to the top-flight. City needed a late Samir Nasri winner to grab victory over the fearless Saints, and at the same time proved that perhaps their current squad of players are more than enough to retain the title this season.
The EPL new boys
Although all three newly promoted sides had a mixed day of results, the teams did make their presence felt on the opening day of the season, and making it clear that they would be no walkovers in the months ahead.
Although Southampton’s valiant efforts against Manchester City came to naught, what was eye-catching was the performance of their captain Adam Lallana, who put in a good day’s work on the pitch and ensured that the message was loud and clear - Southampton will not be the whipping boys of the League this season.
West Ham United on the other hand emerged as the happiest of the newly promoted sides, as they fought their way to a hard-earned victory 1-0 over Aston Villa, thanks to a Kevin Nolan goal. The Hammers and Sam Allardyce spoiled Paul Lambert’s debut as Villa manager with a deserved victory, ensuring a happy return to the Premier League.
The third side back in top flight, Reading, deservedly earned a point in their 1-1 draw against a very ordinary Stoke City who appeared to be lacking in ideas and creativity upfront. Despite the point earned, Reading will have to dig deep in the months ahead should they wish to continue their stay in the EPL, as they appear the likeliest of the three newly promoted teams to face the perennial relegation dogfight.
The managerial debutants
While there were many players making their debuts in the EPL, the number of new managers at new teams this season is also quite high, with high profile names like Andre Villas-Boas, Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup making their managerial bow for new teams.
However, the only one rejoicing this week is Laudrup, who announced his arrival on the English scene by masterminding a resounding 5-0 win for Swansea over QPR. Luck ran out for the Hoops as Swansea immediately put to rest any concerns that they might suffer from the second season syndrome with a scintillating victory led by new boy Michu.
While Laudrup took the EPL life like fish to water, the same cannot be said of EPL-experienced managers Villas-Boas at Tottenham, and Rodgers at Liverpool.
Rodgers’ Liverpool side was heavily fancied for the fixture against West Brom, but the Reds were outplayed by the Baggies, as the return of Zoltan Gera from long-term injury sparked them to life. Gera’s peach of a goal was the opening salvo for West Brom as they eased their way to a convincing 3-0 win.
Similar to Rodgers, Andre Villas-Boas is no stranger to the EPL. However, the Portuguese’s Spurs side were unable to overcome Newcastle, who was out to prove that last season’s good showing was no fluke. The protracted Luka Modric transfer saga probably played in the heads of Spurs players, and AVB must quickly turn his side around and transform them into the Champions League challenging side that Spurs is supposed to be to ensure their season does not go downhill from here.
One other manager making his debut for a new team was Chris Hughton at Norwich City. Hughton probably had the worst weekend of the lot as he saw his Norwich side slump to a 5-0 thrashing dished out by an impressive Fulham.
Led by new signings Mladen Petric and Alex Kacaniklic who made sparkling debuts, wantaway American forward Clint Dempsey’s presence was clearly not missed as the Cottagers breezed their way to a huge win. With Manchester United up next for Fulham, one can only wonder if the London side will be able to keep up this good form at Old Trafford next week.
The odd one out
While it was raining goals all over EPL, the new-look Arsenal started life without Robin van Persie and battled with Sunderland to a 0-0 draw, the only game with no goals for the weekend. Despite this, new signing Santi Cazorla’s many moments of brilliance gave Arsenal fans reason to believe that there is still hope yet this season in their challenge for a trophy. Sunderland on the other hand failed to impress much, and Martin O’Neill’s side could be in for another season of mid-table mediocrity should they continue to perform as they did at the Emirates, nothing to shout about, yet nothing to be worried about in terms of performance and top-flight safety.
Goal of the week: Zoltan Gera (West Brom). The Hungarian midfielder’s beautifully volleyed goal from just outside the penalty area was a sight to behold as he opened the scoring for West Brom’s convincing 3-0 win over Liverpool
Player of the week: Michu (Swansea). With two well-taken goals on his debut, the Spaniard already looks like an absolute steal for the Swans costing just 2 million pounds.