Premier League Week 1 Round-up
Haaland Quick off the Mark on a Great First Weekend
There was probably nothing more certain in the world of football than the the opening goal of the 2023/24 Premier League season being scored by Erling Haaland – even taking into account the fact that his team opened their campaign the evening before their rivals, and against newly promoted Burnley. It took last year’s Golden Boot winner just 185 seconds to get off the mark for the season, and only another half an hour for him to bag his second. Champions Manchester City added a third as they cruised to a comfortable 3 points – the only downside being the long term
injury to their new captain, Kevin De Bruyne. With Ilkay Gundogan gone, and KDB out of the picture for the rest of this calendar year, will Pep Guardiola dip back into the transfer market, or could it be the opportunity that Kalvin Phillips or new recruit Mateo Kovacic have been hoping for? With a fortnight left until the window closes, there is still time for some further activity.
Two sides who have been doing business, and trying to do business, are Chelsea and Liverpool, who met on Sunday afternoon at Stamford Bridge. A pair of players who Liverpool targeted – Brighton’s Moises Caiceido, and Southampton’s Romeo Lavia, have both decided to spurn Jurgen Klopp, and decided their future careers are in West London Blue. But it was clear from this opening clash that Liverpool need something to freshen up a midfield that is now without the big presences of Henderson, Fabinho and Milner.
The big winners of the week, who top the table at the end of the first round of fixtures, are Newcastle United. Many believed they would struggle to replicate their form from last year, which booked a place in the Champions League, but they made hay at home against Aston Villa – a side who are expected to compete again for Europe this season. Two goals from Isak helped the Toon Army to an impressive 5-1 win.
Brighton began life post Alexis Mac Allister and Caiceido with a 4-1 home win against newly promoted Luton Town. Much has been said about the departures from the Amex Stadium, but it was their new record signing Joao Pedro, bought for £30m from Watford, who was the talk of the stadium, bagging his first goal in the blue and white stripes from the penalty spot.
Last year’s runners-up, Arsenal, also started off with a home win, against Nottingham Forest, with goals from Eddie Nketiah and Bakayo Saka in front of a bumper crowd at the Emirates.
Everton’s woes seem to have carried over from last season, when they again narrowly avoided relegation, with an opening day defeat against Fulham – Bobby Decordova-Reid grabbing the game’s only goal in a smash-and-grab raid at Goodison Park.
It was a home defeat for the third promoted side, Sheffield United, who lost by a single goal to Crystal Palace, a team adjusting to life without their talisman Wilfried Zaha. Losing Zaha was a big, although perhaps not unexpected blow to Roy Hodgson, and if Michael Olise leaves for Chelsea before the window shuts it might be the start of a tough season for the Eagles.
At the Brentford Community Stadium, the hosts played out an entertaining 2-2 draw with Tottenham, who are facing up to life without Harry Kane, after his transfer to Bayern Munich. With both Spurs goals coming from defenders, in Romero and Emerson Royal, it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that new boss Ange Postecoglou will be hoping to reinvest some of the Kane millions in acquiring a new goalscorer over the next couple of weeks.
The other draw of the weekend came at Bournemouth, where the home side snatched a late equaliser to salvage a point against West Ham, another side coming to terms with losing their star man, Declan Rice. The Hammers have since added dead ball specialist James Ward Prowse to their ranks – although the expected acquisition of Harry Maguire from Manchester United appears to be a no-go.
Maguire was on the bench at Old Trafford, as Manchester United started the season with a sluggish, and it must be said extremely lucky Monday night victory over Wolves. The Black Country side, under new manager Gary O’Neil, had a hatful of opportunities to win the game, but lacked that decisive final touch, and were punished by Raphael Varane in the 76th minute. The biggest talking point, however, came in the dying moments, when new United keeper Andre
Onana appeared to foul Wolves substitute Sasa Kalajdzic in the box – a challenge that referee Simon Hooper, and his VAR colleagues, deemed fair. O’Neil was livid, and rightly so, as the officials were sanctioned after the match and will sit out the next round of games.
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