One of the biggest things that separates the Premier League from almost every other sport is the narrative that runs through the entire season, and how it’s constantly twisting, turning and changing every week. Perhaps the most amazing part of this narrative is how captivated by it we become despite the fact that we essentially, for the most part, know exactly how it’s going to end.
Think of the Premier League like a sports movie, we know going in that at the end of the movie the main character will lead his team to a big victory. We know the secondary plot line that the guy will get the girl at the end. We watch the movie mainly for the journey of how we will get to the end, and maybe to see how one of the minor plot lines plays out.
That’s the Premier League in a nutshell. Maybe this year (unlike Chelsea last year) we don’t know who the champion will be, but we’re all 99 percent sure we know exactly how the top four will look.
The secondary plot line? Well, we also have a pretty good idea of which teams are going to be the players for the Europa League spots as well as who is likely to be going down. We have a pretty good idea of which surprising teams from last season can build upon its success (Crystal Palace) and which one is likely to fall back down the table (Southampton).
The only thing we don’t know is which team from the lower half of the table is going to surprise us and finish way higher than anybody thought they would. And yet, even though we have a pretty good idea of how the table will look at the end of the season, we have no idea how we’ll get there.
This is why we watch; because every week the Premier League writers throw twists and turns at us every step of the way, and never was that more present then the opening weekend of the 2015/16 campaign.
In my matchday one preview I specifically wrote, “It’s always hard to give an accurate preview of the season let alone the games in the first week since we really have no idea how each team is yet. There are so many things we just don’t know yet.” So of course I went out there and tried to predict every game, felt confident enough in my picks to put my money where my mouth was and thus took an absolute beating all because… nothing happened the way it was supposed to.
Let’s start with the big teams, and by that I mean, besides Manchester City, the teams we thought were the big teams. Manchester United opened the season with one of the worst performances United fans have seen in years. Miraculously they came out of the match with three points and a clean sheet despite having a very shaky goalkeeper and playing Daley Blind at center back.
Chelsea weren’t as lucky, as they ran into a frisky and fearless Swansea side. They not only were held to a draw at home, but they also saw their No. 1 goalkeeper Thibaut Courois get sent off.
But then there was Arsenal. Oh Arsenal. Where do we even begin with Arsenal? Taking on a West Ham side that had crashed out of the Europa League before the season even began, this should have been a walk in the park for Arsene Wenger’s team of play-makers. Instead, Arsenal struggled to get anything going as they were constantly being stymied by West Ham’s 16-year-old holding midfielder Reece Oxford.
But even then if Arsenal couldn’t get anything going on the attack, surely that would mean settling for a disappointing 0-0 draw right? Especially with their new goalkeeper Petr Cech, the man who almost everyone has said will be the signing of the season and the one who makes them title favorites, right? So you can only imagine the horror on the faces of Arsenal fans when they saw Cech be at fault for not one but two goals, giving West Ham a historic 2-0 win at the Emirates.
Leicester City ended last season on a great run of form and were ready to carry that momentum into this season. Leicester blitzed Sunderland with four goals and are currently the highest scoring team in the league.
Finally we get to the darlings of the Premier League: AFC Bournemouth. Prior to the season, it seemed everyone was hopping on the bandwagon. They play an attacking style of play and they open the season at home to Aston Villa, a team that lost pretty much every good player they had. While Bournemouth did attack, they forgot how to finish, squandering many chances in front of goal and allowing Villa to escape with all three points.
This is why we watch the Premier League. At the end of the year the table will look the way we expect it to, but that doesn’t mean that anything can’t happen on any given week.
PS: Since the Premier League began, only three teams have ever lost their first game of the season and gone on to win the title and all three of them were named Manchester United. Sorry Arsenal fans.