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Premier League Matchday 1: Good, bad and bizarre

Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool celebrates scoring a goal after making it 1-1during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Liverpool played at The Emirates Stadium, London on 14th August 2016 / Football - Premier League 2016/17 Arsenal v Liverpool Emirates Stadium, Hornsey Rd, London, United Kingdom 14 August 2016 (Photo by BPI/Imago/Icon Sportswire)
(BPI/Imago/Icon Sportswire)

Throughout the Premier League season, Sebastian Noren will provide analysis from the week of games, talking about the good, the bad and the bizarre.

The Premier League is finally back! The opening weekend was like Christmas morning for all English football fans, with Robert Snodgrass playing the role of Santa Claus for newcomers Hull as they defeated champions Leicester. Manchester United took on Bournemouth and pulled out a 3-1 win after a goals by Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Here’s a full rundown of what happened over the opening weekend.

 

Leicester Stunned By Hull

What Happened: Champions Leicester City suffered defeat in the opening game of the season, as the Foxes fell 2-1 to Hull City at the KC Stadium on Saturday.

Leicester started off the game on the frontfoot, taking command of the pace and creating some chances. Jamie Vardy had a couple of opportunities, but didn’t have much luck in front of goal and looked a bit rusty with his final touches. Hull took the lead in stoppage time through Adama Diomande. The Norwegian striker and Abel Hernandez both got on the end of the ball with overhead kicks from close range, but it was deemed that Diomande got the final touch.

Leicester got off to a perfect start in the second half, as they were awarded a penalty after just 15 seconds as Tom Huddlestone brought down Demarai Gray. Riyad Mahrez converted from the penalty spot to draw the Foxes level. But it would be Hull that would pull off the upset as Robert Snodgrass scored the winning goal in the 57th minute with a nice strike with his left foot from the top of the penalty area.

Seb’s Take: Hull as a club is in total chaos, with ownership troubles and manager Steve Bruce leaving his post just three weeks before the start of the season due to a lack of signings, but it didn’t show on the field against the champions. They did the most with their chances, while Leicester were wasteful on several occasions. It was the first time in the Premier League era that a champion lost on the Opening Day.

 

Swansea Edge Out Burnley

What Happened: Swansea City managed to grab a 1-0 win over newcomers Burnley at Turf Moor on Saturday after a goal by Leroy Fer.

Swansea saw slightly less of ball than Burnley, but they were the side that had most of the chances, as they put nine shots on target throughout the game. With Andre Ayew leaving for West Ham, the focal point of Swansea’s attacks is new signing Fernando Llorente. The tall striker got a header on target in the 82nd minute that Tom Heaton had to stretch for to make the save, and the rebound went straight to Fer who could tap the ball into the back of the net. Lukasz Fabianski made a good save at the end for Swansea to secure the three points.

Seb’s Take: Swansea will have to find a way to replace the goals of Ayew, and Llorente had a promising start to his Swansea career on Saturday. With captain Ashley Williams also departing the club, signing for Everton, Jordi Amat and Federico Fernandez made up the centre back pairing for the Swans. For Burnley, it was a stark reminder that they need to add a few more players before the end of the transfer window if they are to avoid the relegation battle.

 

Rondon Comes Up Big For WBA

What Happened: Salomon Rondon led West Bromwich Albion in goals last season, and the Venezuelan striker got off to a great start as he scored the lone goal in WBA’s win over Crystal Palace on Saturday at Selhurst Park.

WBA did what they do best, as they pulled off a defensively sound game and managed to grab the winner off a set piece. They held Crystal Palace to three shots on target, and in the 74th minute, Rondon got on the end of a James McClean free kick and headed in the winner. Saido Berahino is said to have had a change of heart and wants to stay at the club, and he started the game next to Rondon.  

Seb’s Take: WBA is not the most exciting team to watch, but they are extremely tough to break down, and they are very dangerous on set pieces. Rondon is the perfect target man, while Berahino can provide some speed, so those two will be the ones leading the way offensively for the Baggies.  

 

All Square Between Everton And Tottenham

What Happened: Everton and Tottenham had to settle for a point each on Saturday, with the game at Goodison Park ending in a 1-1 draw after goals by Ross Barkley and Erik Lamela.

Everton, with new manager Ronald Koeman, started off the game in a high tempo and held most of the ball in the opening 45 minutes. They were without striker Romelu Lukaku, forcing Gerard Deulofeu to start as the central forward. Ross Barkley gave the home fans something to cheer about as he gave the Toffees the lead after just five minutes with a very well taken free kick that found its way in behind Hugo Lloris in the Tottenham net.

The Spurs keeper had to come off in the 35th minute and was replaced by Michel Vorm. Tottenham picked up their play a little in the second half as Everton were unable to sustain the tempo they played with in the first half. Erik Lamela tied things up in the 59th minute after getting his head on a cross by Kevin Walker from the righthand side. New Everton keeper Maarten Stekelenburg had to make a couple of big saves to keep the scoreline intact as Spurs pushed for a winner.

Seb’s Take: Not really a shocker that this ended in a draw, as both games last season between the sides ended in draws. Everton now has 10 draws on Opening Day during the Premier League era, which is a league record. Koeman said ahead of the game that Everton were at 70 percent in terms of their fitness level, and if they play like this at 70 percent, then they will make life difficult for their opponents once they get it up to 100 percent.

 

Shaqiri Salvage Point For Stoke Against Middlesbrough

What Happened: Xherdan Shaqiri managed to rescue a point for Stoke against newcomers Middlesbrough, as the game at Riverside Stadium ended in a 1-1 draw.

It was the home side that took the lead in the 11th minute through new signing Alvaro Negredo who is on loan from Spanish side Valencia. The Spaniard scored with a header from close range to sent the Middlesbrough fans into a frenzy after seven long years in the Championship.

It was a close contest, with very few clear-cut scoring chances, but Shaqiri found the equalizer in the 67th minute with a beautiful free kick that found its way in behind Victor Valdes.

Seb’s Take: Middlesbrough has made a lot of good signings over the summer in an effort to bolster their chances of staying up. Negredo got off to the perfect start, with Valdes, Antonio Barragan, and Marten de Roon also making their debuts for Boro. Stoke are still without injured keeper Jack Butland, so veteran Shay Given, 40, got the start.

 

Redmond Scored On Southampton Debut To Rescue Point

What Happened: Nathan Redmond made his first appearance for Southampton and scored on his debut to save a point for the Saints as they got a 1-1 draw at home to Watford on Saturday.

Etienne Capoue gave the visitors an early lead as he smashed home a shot from close range in the 9th minute. The French midfielder got on the end of a header from Troy Deeney and blasted the ball past Fraser Forster in the Southampton net.

The Saints came back in the second half, with Redmond scoring the equalizer in the 58th minute. Redmond, who joined the team from Norwich, scored with a left-footed volley after Heurelho Gomes came out to punch a corner, with the ball falling perfectly for the Southampton forward. Watford went down to 10 men in the 76th minute when Ben Watson, who had come on just 12 minute earlier, brought down Shane Long as the last man. But Watford held on and will travel back home with a point.

Seb’s Take: It’s been another turbulent summer for Southampton, with manager Ronald Koeman leaving for Everton and top scorers Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle also departing from St. Mary’s Stadium. They brought in Claude Puel to replace Koeman and signed a few players, but it might take some time before everything falls into place. Watford did a great job as newcomers last season, finishing in 13th place, and it remains to be seen if they can avoid a sophomore slump.

 

Manchester City Picks Up Narrow Win Over Sunderland

What Happened: Manchester City picked up a win in Pep Guardiola’s debut as City manager, as they defeated Sunderland 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

City took an early lead through Sergio Aguero who scored from the penalty spot after Raheem Sterling was brought down inside the penalty area. The home side dominated possession, having 76 percent of the ball throughout the match.

But Sunderland stood up well, and grabbed an equalizer in the 76th minute through Jermain Defoe. It took an own goal from Paddy McNair in the 87th minute to hand City the three points.

Seb’s Take: City didn’t look sharp, but things will surely get better as they get more used to Guardiola’s style of play. The Spanish manager did raise some eyebrows as he opted to start with Willy Caballero in net instead of Joe Hart, sparking speculations about the English international’s future at the club.

 

Zlatan Scores As Man United Defeats Bournemouth

What Happened: Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in his Premier League debut as Manchester United took a 3-1 win over Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Sunday.

There’s a lot of optimism surrounding United after the arrival of Jose Mourinho as manager and the signings of Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. United took control of the game early on and dominated possession. They finally got the breakthrough in the 40th minute when Juan Mata gave the visitors the lead after some poor defending by Bournemouth.

United’s dominance continued in the second half, although Bournemouth did more of a conscious effort to try to go forward. Rooney made it 2-0 in the 59th minute with a deft header from close range after Anthony Martial tried to hit it inside the penalty area. Ibrahimovic grabbed a goal on his Premier League debut, scoring with a long-range shot in the in the 64th minute. Bournemouth pulled one back through Adam Smith in the 69th minute, but there was never any real fear that United would let the lead slip.

Seb’s Take: The first half was a bit underwhelming from United point of view. They dominated possession, but they failed to create any real chances. The second 45 minutes were a lot better and Ibrahimovic got to put his mark on the game as he stayed further up the pitch instead of dropping down to collect the ball like he did in the first half.

 

Liverpool Edge Out Arsenal In Seven-Goal Thriller

What Happened: Liverpool defeated Arsenal 4-3 at the Emirates in the first heavyweight matchup of the season on Sunday. The Reds took a commanding lead, but the Gunners almost got something out the game.

Arsenal took the lead in the 31st minute through Theo Walcott, who moments earlier had a penalty shot saved by Simon Mignolet. Liverpool tied things up just before halftime after a marvelous free kick by Philippe Coutinho that went into the top corner from quite some distance.

Adam Lallana gave the visitors the lead in the 49th minute before Coutinho scored his second of the game to extend the lead to 3-1. Liverpool were dominating the game at that point, and when Sadio Mane made it 4-1 in the 63rd minute many Arsenal fans stood up and walked out. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Calum Chambers scored to bring Arsenal back within one, but Liverpool managed to hold out for the win.

Seb’s Take: It was a thrilling game for all the neutral fans, but even the most die-hard Liverpool supporter surely felt a bit uneasy when Arsenal came back within one. Coutinho had a dominant performance, scoring two goals and adding one assist before having to limp off with cramp in his legs in the second half. Arsenal desperately need that centre back, as they looked very frail in defense.

 

Chelsea Edges Out West Ham

What Happened: Chelsea grabbed a 2-1 win over West Ham United at Stamford Bridge on Monday in the first London derby of the season after a late winner by Diego Costa.

Chelsea dominated possession in the opening 45 minutes and held West Ham from even getting a shot on target. But as effective they were in the defensive end, they didn’t create too much going forward. The breakthrough came for Chelsea early in the second half, as Eden Hazard scored from the penalty spot after Cesar Azpilicueta was brought down inside the box by Michail Antonio in the 46th minute.

West Ham started pushing forward as the second half progressed, and subbed on star winger Dimitri Payet in the 67th minute. James Collins hadn’t scored a Premier League goal since 2014, but the Welsh centre back found the back of the net in the 77th minute with a blast from inside the penalty area after a corner to tie the game at one apiece.

Diego Costa became the hero for the Blues as he grabbed the winner with a long-range effort in the 89th minute, sending the fans at Stamford Bridge into a frenzy.

Seb’s Take: Chelsea dominated most of the play and deserved the win. They were a bit hesitant after going up 1-0 and didn’t go for the kill, and it almost cost them as West Ham did grab an equalizer. But they are lucky to have a goalscorer like Diego Costa. After a disappointing campaign last season, the Brazilian-born Spanish international is out for revenge.

 

The Good: Philippe Coutinho

The 24-year-old Brazilian was Man of the Match for Liverpool as they took a thrilling 4-3 win over Arsenal at the Emirates in the late game on Sunday. He showed great skill on the first goal with a stunning free kick that found its way into the top corner right before halftime. That goal brought Liverpool level and sparked the strong start in the second half. He supplied the assist to Adam Lallana’s go ahead goal before making it 3-1 in the 56th minute. He covered a lot of ground and had to go off with cramps in the 70th minute.

 

The Bad: Arsene Wenger

Arsenal were in dire need of a centre back even before Per Mertesacker and Gabriel got injured, and the situation is now at code red. The Gunners were extremely soft in defense against Liverpool, and fans must be hoping that notoriously cheap manager Arsene Wenger opens up the checkbook and brings in German international Shkodran Mustafi from Valencia as soon as possible.

 

The Bizarre: Hull City

The club is in total disarray, with manager Steve Bruce leaving the club three weeks before the start of the season due to a lack of signings. The newcomers only had 13 fit senior players for the game against champions Leicester City, having to fill the rest of the bench with academy players, but still managed to pull off the upset and grab a 2-1 win.

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