The Premier League is well and truly back!
The opening weekend was full of excitement, drama, and goals. There were 31 scored across 10 matches, and plenty of storylines wrote themselves along the way. From the first weekend we could draw a few conclusions, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. These are the biggest winners and losers from the opening weekend of the season:
Winner #1: Olivier Giroud
After having a potential starting job stolen by fellow Frenchman Alexandre Lacazette many thought Giroud had one foot out the door to begin the season. Giroud entered the game in the 67th minute with Arsenal trailing by a goal. He converted a difficult header off the crossbar in the 85th to propel his side to victory on the opening night. After the match Arsène Wenger confirmed Giroud would not be leaving the Emirates this summer. It seems he’s is happy to play the supersub role for the Gunners, and that’s bad news for potential suitors Everton and West Ham. If he proves a vital weapon off the bench at Arsenal this season Giroud can rest assured his spot on the French national team is safe for next summer’s World Cup. 1 game down, and the flawless Frenchie is sitting pretty.
Loser #1: Chelsea
Is there any other more obvious candidate? A dubious studs-up challenge from captain Gary Cahill saw the Blues go down a man in the 14th minute. Reverting to a back four upon Andreas Christensen’s introduction five minutes later didn’t help much. Chelsea totally capitulated and saw themselves trailing by three at the half. A late red card for Cesc Fàbregas capped off the second ever loss by a reigning Premier League champion on the opening day of the season. Did I mention Burnley won once all season away from home last year? Yikes.
Winner #2: Marco Silva
For at least this week Watford are in good standing. They aren’t a bad team, but the collection of players who aren’t familiar with one another in a new manager’s system makes me skeptical. Nevertheless, they’ve impressed in their first match of the season. They capitalized on Liverpool’s defensive errors (huge surprise there *he said sarcastically*) and were lucky to avoid having their stoppage time equalizer ruled out for offsides. Stefano Okaka victimized the Reds’ back line all game, and should be in the mix with Troy Deeney and Andre Gray going forward.
Loser #2: Frank de Boer
Crystal Palace are a popular candidate for relegation this season because of de Boer’s appointment as manager. He hasn’t brought in much talent to improve the side this summer. I, vehemently, beg to differ; however, they were plain awful on opening day. A 3-nil drubbing at the hands of newly-promoted Huddersfield AT HOME is alarming to say the least. Maybe you could chalk this one up to first game jitters, or the fact that the team simply hasn’t adapted to de Boer’s style of play yet, but no matter how you cut there are almost no positives to be taken from this game. Ruben Loftus-Cheek certainly impressed, but they’ll be without Wilfried Zaha for the next month or so, and that’ll hurt their chances to take a leg up on other relegation candidates big time.
Winner #3: Sam Vokes
The Burnley front man was set to start in place of the departed Andre Gray for the foreseeable future. Coming off a strong finish to the prior campaign Vokes netted twice against the reigning champions this weekend. He won an impressive 70% of his aerial duals against a big and physical Chelsea defense in addition to his brace. This performance might’ve sealed him the job for good.
Loser #3: Slaven Bilic
Another manager on this list. Another team that suffered a heavy defeat. The difference? I don’t think a single positive can be drawn from West Ham’s 4-nil defeat at Manchester United. Pedro Obiang was especially bad. Two of his mistakes led directly to goals. To be fair, and I use this saying loosely for what I’m about to say, we don’t normally see a José Mourinho-managed side attack like United did this weekend. Mourinho knew what he was going up against and tactically outclassed Bilic to the core. Much like how I think of Palace differently than others I feel that West Ham will underwhelm people’s expectations of them after the signings they made this summer. Appearances on this list could become a pattern for Bilic and the hammers.
Winner #4: Wayne Rooney
What’s not to love about seeing this guy in Everton blue again? Even as a Manchester City fan I couldn’t help but smile when he glanced a header past Jack Butland this weekend. He looked the happiest and most satisfied I’ve seen him look in years. His first goal for the Toffees in 13 years propelled them to victory against Stoke this weekend. It’s also a positive sign for Koeman that Rooney is still capable of finding open space and converting his chances.
Loser #4: Jonjo Shelvey
Wait a minute… Jonjo Shelvey made a stupid decision? And that stupid decision cost his team the game? That doesn’t sound right. Eeeeeexxxcept for the fact that it makes total sense. Newcastle were giving Spurs a run for their money up until Shelvey decided to lose his cool right in front of the referee and stomp on Dele Alli’s ankle. Christian Eriksen and co. took full advantage of the extra man to down the Magpies 2-0. The talent is sometimes outweighed by the tragic decision making when it comes to Jonjo Shelvey.
Winner #5: Debutants
It was a fantastic weekend for debuts. Romelu Lukaku and Steve Mounié registered braces for Man United and Huddersfield, respectively. Ahmed Hegazi preserved a clean sheet and scored the winner in West Brom’s 1-0 victory over Bournemouth. Nemanja Matić bossed the midfield against West Ham with an 86% pass accuracy and 100% (7/7) take-on completion percentage. He very much looks to be the man Mourinho needs to unleash Paul Pogba this season at United. Mohamed Sarah, Álvaro Morata, and Alexandre Lacazette all made good on their hefty transfer fees while Harry Maguire and Sead Kolašinac both provided assists from the back in that crazy Arsenal-Leicester fixture on opening night.
Loser #5: Danny Rose
Danny Rose sat out of Tottenham’s opener against Newcastle after “failing to recover” from offseason knee surgery in time for the match. The reason he makes this list is bigger than the actual game itself. In an interview with SunSport Rose expressed that he feels he deserves to be paid more and that he wants to win a trophy before he retires, suggesting that Spurs lack the ambition that other clubs in the league supposedly have. News outlets and supporters alike have run with stories that suggest Rose is ungrateful of the progress Spurs have helped him make as a player, and that he’s only using the club as a stepping stool for the next chapter in his career. It’s often wished that players would have the gall to speak their minds more often, and now that Rose has done exactly that he’s catching a ton of flak for it. Sometimes there’s just no winning in soccer.
Winner #6: Antonio Conte
Before you question my intelligence just hear me out. The unprecedented loss to Burnley at the weekend only makes the situation crystal clear for the reigning Manager of the Year. In a summer of mass exodus from Stamford Bridge very few replacement deals have been made. Conte has expressed his displeasure with the Chelsea board on more than one occasion, the latest coming yesterday. The alarming result will bring one of two things: either the necessary signings will be made to improve squad depth, or Conte will walk. Plain and simple. It doesn’t matter which way this goes, but the certain outcome will be in Conte’s favor.
That’ll do it for this season’s first installment of winners and losers. Let’s see how this weekend’s games unfold before we rush to any more judgments. Here’s what we got on tap:
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