With the season underway Kieran Davies highlights a week of stadium christenings, wizards, and solid shifts.
Bournemouth and Southampton, the two challenges that decide who will be Premier League champions……….or so Man Utd fans would lead you to believe! In case you have a personally invoked social media blackout, Man Utd faced Southampton last night on the rare show that is Friday Night Football. The scoreline seemed quite a routine win for the Old Trafford outfit against a team ravaged by departure yet again in the summer. The loss of Pelle, Mane and Koeman seems to have hit the South coast side hard. Under their new, relatively unknown, manager The Saints have yet to win this season. Despite dominating possession and having a similar amount of shots as their hosts, Puel’s side only managed a single shot on target in 90 minutes. Many home fans craved the debut of Paul Pogba and the player did not disappoint putting in a solid shift. A bargain at £89m United fans will tell you, meanwhile across in Germany somebody who is not as highly priced scored a hat trick in his first 45 minutes of the season, Robert Lewandowski. The fact is, the price Pogba cost, that kind of player should be contributing 50+ goals a season which is never going to happen with the Frenchman. Zlatan however has made a good goalscoring start to the season with three goals in two games. Far more intense challenges await however than the two sides Mourinho’s team have faced so far this season.
Stoke take on Man City in the early kick off this weekend as Guardiola faces one of his first challenges as City manager, taking his side to a ground where they have struggled for wins historically. Points on the road will determine City’s success in the Premier League this season and they will look to build on a solid win in Bucharest in the week. Pepe has the chance to answer the age old question of most footballing greats……..can he do it at a wet and windy Stoke? The pick of last weekend’s fixtures on paper was no doubt Arsenal versus Liverpool and boy did this game deliver. Arsenal missed a penalty before Walcott managed to make amends by opening the scoring. Just before half time the wizard that is Phillipe Coutinho wove his magic with an exquisite free kick from about 30 yards out. This kick started a very Jurgen Klopp 17 minutes where the Anfield outfit scored 4 goals without reply. The Emirates was stunned, fans were leaving with nearly half an hour remaining, the away fans were singing ‘is there a fire drill, is there a fire drill?’ Worryingly for Liverpool fans their defensive frailties were outlined again as Arsenal edged their way back into the game and made for a nerve jangling end to the game before Klopp’s side ran out 4-3 winners. A fantastic start to the season for the Merseysiders. Liverpool need build on this with a performance at Burnley this weekend while Wenger’s men face a tough challenge at Leicester. The reigning champions tasted defeat in the first game of the defence of their crown against new boys Hull City. As Soul 2 Soul once coined, back to life, back to reality for the Midlands outfit! This puts a lot of pressure on Ranieri’s men in their first home game of the season, while Wenger’s lack of transfer activity has the North London fans questioning his credentials once again!
Leicester’s victors Hull City travel to Wales to face Swansea City. Having never won both opening games to a Premier League season and still having less senior players than a Pokemon Go tournament, Mike Phelan has his work cut out here. You know the footballing world has gone mad when Crystal Palace are spending in excess of £30m on a striker! Despite their ridiculous offer days earlier where add on clauses were triggered when Palace achieve Champions League qualification and another when Benteke becomes Grand Master of the KKK, after Liverpool rebuffed this lunacy, the South London outfit were forced to pay £27m with a further £5m in realistic add ons. This weekend The Eagles have a London derby as they travel to Tottenham. With Pochettino’s side missing Hugo Loris, they will looking to capitalise on their attacking prowess in front of their home fans. Watford entertain Chelsea at Vicarage Road as old rivals Mazzarri and Conte go head to head again. These two had some real ding dong battles with their respective Napoli and Juventus sides. The Hornets new boss will face a far tougher task in besting Conte’s Chelsea with his current side however.
West Brom take on Everton at The Hawthorns, who could have new signings Yannick Bolasie and Ashley Williams available. After a solid win last weekend, The Baggies will be looking to use this as a springboard to entertain their home fans. Both of these sides have had 2016’s to forget with West Brom on a winless streak at home, while Everton’s away form is that of a side who travel as well as Dennis Bergkamp to a Champions League match in the Ukraine. A North East derby between Sunderland and Middlesbrough kicks off Sunday’s action, with both teams no doubt ready to harmonise to a chant of ‘are you watching? Are you watching? Are you watching Newcastle?’ Sunderland were unlucky not to come away with something from Man City last time out. They need to make The Stadium of Light more of a fortress if they don’t want to find themselves in the relegation dogfight they were last season. This is the task David Moyes faces in winning over the Mackem faithful. Middlesbrough will feel hard done by to have not won their opening game against Stoke but a moment of magic from Shaqiri cancelled out Negredo’s debut goal for Karanka’s side.
After a late defeat at the hands of Conte’s Chelsea last week, Slaven Bilic will be looking to christen their new stadium with a win against Bournemouth this weekend. Almost a year to the day Eddie Howe’s side won a real ding dong battle at Upton Park where The Cherries ran out 4-3 victors. It should be a good atmosphere with The Hammers hosting their first game in the stadium, whether it can replicate the intimidating atmosphere of Upton Park is another thing, most of the fans will need binoculars to see the pitch! This is the case with modern stadiums as the bigger the ground gets, the further your seat seems to move from the touchline. But the fans will still arrive in their droves and when it comes to the no doubt inflated ticket prices, Hammers fans will Payet (say in cockney accent). So despite Man Utd having already won the league with wins over Bournemouth and Southampton, it seems we have a further 36 games to play out to sort all the other positions in the table. Back on planet Earth the sane side of football realises nothing is won until 2017 and there are a lot of tests, trials and tribulations between now and the end of the season. If last week was anything to go by, all you need hope is that I haven’t got your team down for a win on my football accumulator!