16/17 Premier League Round up #1

With the first week of Premier League fixtures played, I welcome you to this season’s inaugural round up. And what a start.

We got underway with the champions Leicester facing relegation favourites Hull – surely the perfect opening fixture for the Foxes to start the campaign with.

Hull, with 13 fit senior players at their disposal, were forced to call up many youngsters from their academy in to the squad, and caretaker manager Mike Phelan had an unenviable task on his hands after Steve Bruce, who guided them to promotion via the play-offs last season, resigned due to a disagreement with the club’s controversial owner, Assem Allam.

So, surely, with all that against them, and the fact that they were facing the champions, the Tigers had no chance – but that’s why we love football – Leicester will tell you this; no matter what the odds, whether they are in your favour or against you, anything is possible – and after Robert Snodgrass’s winner, Hull won.

A well deserved, brilliant victory for Hull, and a relatively poor performance from Leicester, who spurned many good chances, with Jamie Vardy looking nowhere near as sharp as he was last season.

Still, whilst it may have been a huge result for the underdogs, and yes, we may well have written them off to early, their obvious lack of squad depth is a huge problem, and it remains to be seen whether Mike Phelan, who we have now been told could become Hull’s permanent manager, will be able to do the necessary job in his first ever spell as head coach.

Elsewhere, in an intriguing fixture between Everton and Tottenham in what was Ronald Koeman’s first game in charge of the Toffees, the score finished 1-1, after goals from Ross Barkley and Erik Lamela.

The only thing we really learnt from that game is that Harry Kane is once again failing to start a season well, after going goalless for the first six games of last season. Kane, who struggled to get on the ball and ended up coming deeper to receive it, was less of a threat, but what we know from last season is that patience is key – the English striker ended up being Premier League top scorer with 25 goals despite his early struggle.

Other 3 o’clock kick-offs saw Swansea beat Burnley with a goal from now permanent signing Leroy Fer, West Brom beat Crystal Palace by the same scoreline, Southampton draw 1-1 with Watford, and Middlesbrough draw 1-1 with Stoke.

At Selhurst Park it was a goal from Salomon Rondon that stole the points for the Baggies, and after a season of adapting to the Premier League, it could be Rondon’s year.

Southampton, who were outplayed by Watford in the first half and went in a goal down after Etienne Capoue’s strike, looked sharper in the second 45 minutes, and new signing Nathan Redmond, who was very impressive on his debut, scored a superb volley to make the score 1-1.

Pierre Emile-Hojberg, another of Southampton’s new signings, was also impressive after he came on, looking calm and composed on the ball whilst also playing with purpose and intent, so expect to see him thrive in English football this season.

Alvaro Negredo looks like a superb signing for newly promoted Middlesbrough, and after scoring on his debut, the Spaniard could be a key figure as Boro look to steer clear from relegation.

As for Stoke, although they have been consistent in recent years (2013/14 ninth, 2014/15 ninth, 2015/16 ninth) with the big clubs looking stronger again it is hard to see them improving on that position, and at the end of the season, they may look back on games like this and see them as two points dropped.

The late kick-off saw Pep Guardiola’s first taste of Premier League football as Manchester City scraped a 2-1 win against Sunderland.

The main tactical innovation we saw from Pep was the use of full-backs Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy in defensive midfield positions, although it remains unclear as to what the function of the idea was.

Of course, we must remember that Pep requires unbelievable attention to detail in his tactical instructions and the complexity of them can often be very difficult to understand for the players at first, so we should see them used to better effect as the season goes on.

They have now also played the first leg of their champions league qualifying play off round against Steaua Bucharest, and the 5-0 victory was much more assuring, with some outstanding football being played, and after I tipped Sergio Aguero to score a hat-trick, he duly did – despite missing two penalties.

I believe that, as long as he stays fit, with the likes of David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne around him, coupled with the fact that he is playing in a Pep Guardiola team who will play attacking football, Aguero should easily be the Premier League’s top scorer this season.

Super Sunday began with United’s trip to Bournemouth, and after Zlatan Ibrahimovic marked his debut with a goal in the Community Shield last week, he didn’t take long to add to it with his low strike making it 0-3 to the Red Devils before Adam Smith pulled one back for the Cherries.

Before Zlatan’s goal Juan Mata had opened the scoring, prompting further questions concerning his future at the club – could he actually stay despite his previously poor relationship with boss Jose Mourinho?

Wayne Rooney showed he can still score goals by making it 0-2 with a header, and a partnership of him and Pogba could be lethal.

Following that match we saw what was a truly unforgettable game at the Emirates, where Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, who have big things expected of them this season, lined up against Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, with Wenger bidding for one last piece of glory in what could be his final season at the club.

And it was Wenger’s men who took the early advantage, when Theo Walcott, who had missed a penalty just moments before, coolly finished off a swift passing move to put the Gunners in front.

However, just when it looked like Arsenal would go in with the lead at half time, new Arsenal signing Rob Holding was caught holding Phillipe Coutinho (no pun intended), and it was the Brazilian who whipped a sensational free-kick right into the top corner from 25 yards out to draw Liverpool level.

Then three more stunning goals from Adam Lallana, Coutinho again and Sadio Mane on his debut put Liverpool 1-4 ahead, before Arsenal fought back and for a while looked like they might be able to salvage a point after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Calum Chambers had made the score 3-4.

Incredibly, 5 of the seven goals came from former Southampton players in the form of Walcott, Lallana, Mane, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Chambers whilst Coutinho, the source of the other two goals, almost signed for the Saints back in 2013.

Liverpool defenders Nathaniel Clyne and Dejan Lovren are also both former Saints, showing just how much of a force the South coast side could be if they didn’t continue to sell their best players.

Coutinho, who is easily one of if not the best player at Liverpool, is lacking just consistency in his game. We know how talented he is, and if he can get into the box more often like he did for his second goal, he should significantly help with Liverpool’s challenge for a top four place.

The final match of the opening weekend of Premier League football was a London derby between Anotnio Conte’s Chelsea, and Slaven Bilic’s West Ham.

Eden Hazard gave the hosts the lead from the penalty spot before Hammers defender James Collins looked to have salvaged a point late on, only for Diego Costa to snatch the win for Chelseain the 89th minute.

The main talking point is whether or not Hazard will return to form after his dismal 2015/16 campaign.

Now, the first thing we have to remember is that Chelsea were awful aswell, and it wasn’t just him. Of course, back in 2014/15, when he won the PFA player of the year award, Chelsea were brilliant, and they cruised to the title.

They should, with the squad they have and Antonio Conte as manager, be a much better side this year, and Hazard should relish that, and Diego Costa, whose late strike proved to be the winner, could also show his 2014/15 form this time out.

After last season, 2016/17 has a lot to live up to, but it’s certainly started well. A surprise win for Hull, a goal for Zlatan, full-backs in midfield for Pep and a thriller between Southampton Old Boys and Southampton Old Boys has left us wanting even more, so roll on next week! After all, how can a league with Sergio Aguero, Paul Pogba, Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic not be spectacular?

 

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