With all the frenzy that the transfer market brought with it this season and the many moves we saw before the season began, it was hard to not anticipate the new Premier League. With banters going on before, player comparisons here and there, you could smell the excitement from miles away.
Add to that the fact that football fans had literally endured – well, let’s just say I’m speaking for myself here – the summer break, then you’ll fully understand the frenzy that gripped most social media channels on Friday as the kick-off between Arsenal and Leicester drew nigh.
10 games, 31 goals and three days later, the football world is still trying to recover from an “Opening Day Experience” like no other the Premier League has ever experienced. From the first class treat at the Emirates to debut goals littering the weekend and of course, the Chelsea loss, it was a season opener to remember.
While fans around the world are already looking forward to Gameweek 2 – and I’m already dreading those international breaks – I introduce to you the first of a series you can look forward to seeing on this blog at the end of every Gameweek.
This Week’s Definition of the Premier League’s Big Five will focus on the weekly performances of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United.
I would have increased the number of teams to focus on especially with a name like Tottenham begging to become the sixth team. But the keyword there is big. Is Tottenham a side big enough to be ranked alongside those clubs listed above? You can resist the temptation to talk about Liverpool and just let me know what you think by leaving me a comment.
After the opening day of the new Premier League season, how did the PL’s Big 5 fare?
- Arsenal: Game Chasers (Changers too!)
Arsenal and Leicester played the first game of the 2017/2018 Premier League. And they put on quite the show. 7-goal thriller proved again to me the current Arsenal side has not changed much from last season and here’s why.
Typical of Arsenal is the habit of conceding the game’s first goal and then using all that genius and creativity in the squad to chase the game. First, they had to make sure that the scores going into the dressing room at half-time was even.
Then in the second half, they picked up from where they stopped in the first, conceding first, then giving Arsenal fans the usual “high blood pressure treat” before going on to win the game 4-3. Arsenal’s struggle to defend set pieces was pretty evident but more obvious was the impact of the substitutes depth of the Arsenal squad.
Kudos to the Gunners for turning the game around – the banters were already lurking in the corner – but imagine if all that genius was used to dictate the pace of the game instead of having to chase the game the whole 90 minutes.
- Chelsea: Beaten
In a way, the word “beaten” in football is relative. A team could be thrashed 6-0 while another can lose a game by just a lone goal.
Antonio Conte’s men started the defense of their Premier League title by first conceding 3 first half goals, having two players sent off – Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas – and then practically chasing the game the whole second half. It was a mixed display, even for a neutral like me.
But, in all fairness to both teams, the Chelsea side seemed set up for a defeat, especially with their toothless striker up front and the very weak bench Conte named on the day. The absence of Matic was hugely felt and you begin to wonder how they’ll cope against Tottenham in their next game.
The argument that most of Conte’s regulars were either injured or suspended holds water, in a way. But there’s no denying the obvious: zero points, a goal difference of -1 and a trip to Tottenham’s new home to face a rival that will be SPURred on by the opportunity to make life even more miserable for Chelsea.
- Liverpool: Bruised
For all the fuss about Liverpool’s fast and dangerous frontline, you would have been right to see Marcus Silva start his reign as Watford coach with a loss. But, as Premier League fans had found out in the #ARSLEI game the day before, the football gods in charge of the Premier League kind of changed their script writers.
Team Watford started like a team on fire, exhibiting that strange trait that saw Hull beat some top sides last term. Names like Okaka, Amrabat and Doucoure made life difficult for Henderson, Emre Can and Moreno. They dominated the midfield and weren’t afraid to bully the Reds in the entire first half. Did I mention Chalobah?
Abdoulaye Doucouré completed more passes (57) than any other player on the pitch during Watford vs. Liverpool.
Strong midfield performance. pic.twitter.com/ARlhyuUnPW
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 12, 2017
Klopp’s pep talk during the half time break worked like magic as Liverpool turned the tables around. Salah and Mane woke up from their slumber in time to put Liverpool in front – Firmino was still AWOL at the time – for the most part of the second half… until a lack of a “proper defender” saw them concede a 95th minute goal and share the spoils.
Lessons learnt? Coutinho was sorely missed and a very fine defender is needed. Bruised but unscathed, I look forward to the coming games and how Klopp’s army will cope.
- Manchester City: Strange
It’s like the start of last season all over again. Manchester City faithfuls were treated to yet another surprise team set-up and the very strange way the Cityzens played against newly promoted Brighton and Hove Albion.
Pep’s 3-5-2 formation was unmistakable from the blast of the ref’s whistle. I guess it was the one formation that could comfortably accommodate both of his South American strikers. But it meant they had to play through the middle, a path Brighton had already crammed full of players, players whose roles were hard to define.
Sometimes they were four players at the back. At other times, there were six, all moving in a form of synchronization that will make the Chinese army jealous. It was a water-tight defense system set up by a coach who seemed to want to catch Pep’s men on the counter.
But a Sergio Aguero goal and an own goal was enough to separate both sides. City won the game but left most football fans wondering how many versions of Guardiola’s team will be seen this season.
- Manchester United: Dominant
I was aware of the project that Jose Mourinho was looking to show off to the world with his moves for Romelu Lukaku and Matic. His team needed reinforcements and reinforce it he did. The unknown was how his team will fare, especially after losing to Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.
So, you can understand the surprise of many – even Manchester United faithfuls – when Lukaku grabbed two goals, Matic put on a Man-of-the-Match show which gave Pogba the freedom to roam forward and wreck havoc and Marcus Rashford put on quite the performance.
The West Ham players were overwhelmed by the 7-star performance of Mourinho’s men. Simply put, they stood no chance. And that was because every department of the Manchester United team was functioning so well.
It’s only Gameweek 1 and, like the general consensus states, it’s too early to make any calls. That being said, it was a season-opening weekend that won’t be forgotten in a hurry. And now, we can’t wait for the next Gameweek.
Author: Rotimi “Papi the Great” Daramola
Rotimi Daramola aka Papi the Great is the owner of ForTheGoal.
A freelance sports writer who focuses on football, Rotimi is also a freelance writer, a copywriter and a football analyst who regularly appears on radio and television to talk football. You can follow him on twitter @papi_thegreat to keep up with his writings, engage him and also find out about how you can secure his writing services.