'Keeping Pace' Premier League Review: Opening Day
“Thats a Gem!” those were the words of Jon Champion, match commentator for the Arsenal v Liverpool Saturday night as Philip Coutinho superbly curled in a free kick beating Arsenal’s Goalkeeper Petr Cech at the stroke of halftime.
And a gem it was for the opening weekend of the Premier League. The Champions, Leicester City would fall to Hull City while the other big clubs across England such as Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool managed to win their opening fixtures.
The Premier League Review will grade the past week’s fixtures and then highlight the key moments or matches from the weekend, then the Review will go on to analyze the upcoming fixtures for the week ahead. Mr. Hand, my match pundit, will join me this season as we discuss the main talking points from the matches and the Premier League. Today, Mr. Hand will provide for us his predictions for how the Premier League will resolve, come the end of the 38-match league campaign.
1 - Leicester City 1 v Hull 2
This was the let down of the weekend. Leicester became the first side in Premier League history to lose their opening match of the new season. Hull were excellent and the Robert Snodgrass goal was an absolute pile-driver.
2 - Southhampton 1 v Watford 1
This was a poor game with poor goals. Boo L
3 - Middlesbrough 1 v Stoke 1
Again, another 1-1 draw, at-least that scoreline is better than the forsaken scoreless draw. Xherdan Shaqiri for Stoke is a quality player; Stoke will be dangerous with his presence in the attacking third.
4 - Everton 1 v Tottenham 1
This matchup was the worst match of the weekend. The field was littered with talent but the game never developed became quite stale. Tottenham, after finishing 2nd last season must start strong if they expect to keep pace with the big squads that have been assembled over the summer.
5 - Crystal Palace v West Brom 1
Mr. Hand snoozed for most of this match but was awaken in the 74th minute when Salomon Rondon scored. He doesn’t remember much other that.
6 - Swansea 1 v Burnley 0
A poor game but with a lot of action.
7 - Manchester City 2 v Sunderland 1
Pep Guardiola’s debut in the Premier League ended with a win that looked certain to end in a draw. Defoe’s equalizer against City was a great move but City were pretty dominant throughout the entire match. Aguero scored from the spot and will be certain to be in the race for the golden boot again this season.
8 - Bournemouth 1 v Manchester United 3
Zlatan scored again on his league debut. He has now scored in Spain, Italy, France and England on his feature debuts. United looked pretty well in this game, the question comes, where will Rooney play once Pogba arrives?
9 - Arsenal 3 v Liverpool 4
Just, absolutely fantastic!
10 - Chelsea 2 v West Ham 1
Chelsea looked excellent against West Ham. Diego Costa scored the late winner after West Ham managed to equalize with what seemed their only quality shot of the evening. Chelsea will be in contention this league campaign.
Mr. Hand’s “Finger” Points of Recognition
Nick, there were only a few points to made about the weekend.
1. Regression to the Mean: Nick, it is a proven theory. Regression to the mean is the statistical effect that occurs when points or scores begin the centralize about the mean. This occurs after an abnormal allotment of scores/data. Basically it means (no pun intended) that points/data will likely return to normal after random phenomenons. The more random the phenomenon’s, the more likely the chances of returning to the average the next go around. So we can expect the big clubs to return to their dominance after a poor season. Expect clubs like United, Chelsea and Manchester City to be back to there full potential this league campaign and squads like Tottenham and Leicester to fall off. This is statistically speaking of course; this is obviously without acknowledging acquisitions such as Mourinho, Guardiola, Conte, Ibrahimovic or Pogba over the summer.
2. Arsenal v Liverpool: Nick, how can I not acknowledge this match up on opening weekend? Arsenal were good for 44 minutes and what they had for that effort was one goal going into half-time. Then steps up Coutinho and racks in a 28yd curler beating the giant Petr Cech, now Liverpool draw the match up at half-time and guess what happens?
Arsenal comes out in the second half and craps a massive red brick. I saw Wenger cringing after witnessing his disembodied defenders bleeding out on the pitch after the 19 pass combination Liverpool constructed leading to Coutinhos second goal of the match. By the time Wenger had collected the mop to clean the bloody mess, Sadio Mane scored Liverpools 4th goal, cremating whatever was left to slain of those Arsenal defenders. It was all to common for Arsenal though, despite the two goal response, Klopp had earned his trophy, he stood over the Emirates holding the heads by the hair of Arsenal’s putrid defenders while parading around wearing Cech’s infamous rugby cap. Arsenal will challenge for the top 4 Nick, but they don’t contain the necessary personnel for a 38-match league or a Champions League Run. Expect them to challenge for 3rd.
3. Manchester United: Nick, for me, this is the team of the season. The acquisition of Pogba places this team as favorites in my opinion. Mourinho has the pieces he cleverly utilizes as always to win the league. He possesses a talented midfield and contains a proven center forward in Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Now the arrival of Pogba creates a desirable problem for Jose, where do you place Wayne Rooney in your squad? For me Nick, that is a problem any manager would welcome. Expect them by November to be at their best. Oh Nick, by the way, did you see Jose celebrate Zlatans goal? It was true love.
4. Mr. Hands Predictions: Nick, here are my top 4.
1. Manchester United 2. Chelsea 3. Manchester City 4. Arsenal
I believe the race will be tight at the top for the three. I expect United, Chelsea and City to challenge for the league while Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham skirmish for the coveted 4th. The battle for 4th will be determined by the outcomes of the matches against the top teams against City, United and Chelsea. Whoever gets the best of those squads will attain the 4th spot in my opinion. Leicester will finish mid table and expect Bournemouth, Hull City and Watford to be relegated by the time May arrives.
It’s a season of keeping Pace. If my top three predictions are at the top by Christmas expect them to pull away from the pack by the end of February. Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool cannot drop points at this point in the campaign or they will face a more difficult/impossible task later in the season when City, United and Chelsea will surely be thriving under the changes and new leadership of their summer acquisitions.
Fixtures for Week 2
The big matches this week will be Man City’s journey up to Stoke, Arsenal’s match at the King Power and the rare Friday match United has against Southhampton. It will be vital that Tottenham garnishes 3 points against Palace after drawing to Everton. Chelsea have a tough match as they are on the road at Vicarage Road. Liverpool is on the road up to Burnley but it is likely they will leave Mane on the bench after he sustained a significant shoulder injury during training this week. I predict Guardiola to struggle at Stoke like every other team does. This will be Pep’s first true test of the Premier League Season. Otherwise don’t miss the United match on Friday, it will be expected that Pogba will make his United debut in front of the Old Trafford faithful.