Everyone’s favourite competition has kicked off for the 26th time. Yes, the Premier League is back! As per the last campaign, the new season kicked off on a Friday night. All 20 teams were in action over the opening weekend, including new boys Cardiff, Fulham and Wolves. So, what happened?
The Premier League Returns
Two Separate Leagues
Returning to the status-quo almost immediately, last season’s top five teams all made a winning start. Manchester United kicked off their campaign with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Leicester. Spurs emerged victorious at Newcastle in Saturday’s early kick-off by the same score. Chelsea brushed Huddersfield aside 3-0 as record signing Kepa kept a clean sheet on his debut. On Sunday, Liverpool looked like title contenders as they overwhelmed big-spending West Ham 4-0 at Anfield. Finally, Manchester City hardly broke a sweat as they travelled to London and beat Arsenal 2-0.
What’s clear is that the Premier League is basically two ‘mini-leagues’. The top six, and then the rest. Granted, we’ve only had one game and there are 37 remaining. But after just 90 minutes it’s hard to see who can possibly break the monopoly. The pre-season predictions also look accurate – City and Liverpool will contest the title. Spurs and United follow closely behind having failed to strengthen. Both won their games, but not in convincing fashion. Chelsea have improved, although that wasn’t going to be difficult after a torrid previous campaign. Meanwhile, at Arsenal, there appears to be a huge rebuilding job to be done. Some legacy, Mr Wenger.
Promoted Sides Struggle
Despite spending over £150 million between them, both Wolves and Fulham got a rude awakening this weekend. Fulham were disappointing as they slipped to defeat at home to last season’s strugglers Crystal Palace. However, they should have been awarded a penalty by referee Mike Dean, who failed to spot a foul on Andre Schurrle. Aleksandr Mitrovic may have been prolific in the Championship but looks short of quality at the top level. Their signings will need time to adjust, but Fulham need points on the board early doors.
Wolves have been tipped by many for a top-half finish this season. It’s not difficult to see why. They are littered with international players and some quality ones at that. Ruben Neves continued his great form, scoring and assisting as Wolves snatched a point. They should arguably have got more after Everton’s Phil Jagielka was sent off at the end of the first half. Instead, Wolves were forced to come from behind to get something from the game.
Last season’s surprise package, Cardiff, have not invested as heavily or brought in as much quality as the other two promoted sides. It showed as they struggled to make an impact against a solid Bournemouth side. The 2-0 scoreline could have been worse as Callum Wilson missed a penalty, saved superbly by Neil Etheridge. On this evidence, manager Neil Warnock has his work cut out to keep Cardiff in the Premier League.
Spending Money Guarantees Nothing
As already mentioned, the combined £165 million spent by Fulham and Wolves yielded two goals and a single point. West Ham are another club that spent around £100 million this summer. Yet somehow, they’ve contrived to make themselves worse. Okay, so it’s one game, and they had to go to Anfield. But last season, they actually managed to score. Everton are another club who have spent close to £100 million, and also failed to win. Add that all up. Four clubs with £650 million spent between them scored just four goals, all of which came in the same game. They conceded ten goals and earned just two points.
Conversely, Manchester United and Spurs were criticised for their lack of spending this summer. Both teams won their respective games, scoring two goals apiece. You can argue the quality of opposition, the venue – whatever. The fact of the matter is that spending money guarantees nothing in the Premier League.