After a long break, the English Premier League resumed play this past weekend. While it is a long season, let’s take a look at the matches that took place in Week 1 and see what takeaways we can glean from the results.
Manchester United 1, Tottenham 0
While the Red Devils walked away with all three points in this match, one should exercise caution from reading too much into the final result. The game was decided by a Kyle Walker own goal, and other than that, Man U managed just one shot on goal in 90 minutes.
Statistically, time of possession was evenly split, and even with Manchester’s starting goalkeeper David de Gea on the bench, his replacement Sergio Romero stopped a lackluster Tottenham offense that managed just four shots on frame. For both teams, a solid defense should help bolster a tepid offense this season.
AFC Bournemouth 0, Aston Villa 1
Last season Aston Villa struggled to avoid relegation, and from the looks of their season opener, this season might fare no better. Bournemouth, recently promoted to the top flight for the first time, had the better of play in the first half with a level second half.
While the Cherries took the field to the Queen classic “We Will Rock You”, there was little rocking on the pitch, with Aston Villa securing all three points with a goal by summer arrival Rudy Gestede in the 72nd minute. While very early into the season, it would seem that both teams will struggle this season to avoid the relegation zone.
Everton 2, Watford 2
Playing a recently promoted team, the fans at Goodison Park were expecting a bit more from their Blues. Coming off a disappointing season, hope sprung eternal that manager Roberto Martinez would produce the magic he showed in 2013 and right the ship.
While showing a great deal of heart by coming back twice from deficits and tying the match, the two teams displayed equal offensive prowess with five shots on goal apiece. With only Lukaku as a goal-scoring threat up front, Everton will continue to suffer on offense this season, while Watford seemed disorganized at their back line. Both teams will mire in the second half of the table until these issues are properly addressed.
Either way, the fans at Goodison were extremely supportive of their club and that should give them a great boost this year.
Leicester City 4, Sunderland 2
After finishing 14th in the EPL table last season, the Foxes turned the reigns over to Claudio Ranieri as their new manager. While it is way too early to judge his effectiveness, they had a fine match against Sunderland, with an offense that doubled the output of Sunderland.
Finishing last season just clear of the relegation zone, veteran manager Dick Advocaat and the Black Cats will need to shore up a weak defense if they are to remain in the top flight after this season.
Norwich 1, Crystal Palace 3
Returning to top flight football last season for the second time in three years, the Canaries had the better of play in every statistic except the one that matters. Playing at Carrow Road against the Eagles, Crystal Palace made the most of their opportunities.
It’s clear that if Norwich is to remain in the top flight, they must do more to shore up a suspect back line that seemed unable to defend against a counter-attack. For Crystal Palace, improving their ball possession skills will prove key as the season progresses.
Chelsea 2, Swansea City 2
After a lackluster match against Arsenal last weekend which saw the Gunners take the Community Shield trophy, nothing short of three points were expected for the Blues in front of their fans at Stamford Bridge. Someone forgot to deliver the message to Gary Monk and his Welsh supporters, as they took the game to Chelsea from the start.
With Chelsea ahead 2-1 in the 54th minute, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was given a red card after tackling Bafetimbi Gomis inside the penalty area. While Mourinho and the Blues faithful felt the call was a bit harsh, the penalty kick was converted by Swansea City and Chelsea played a man down for the remainder of the match. As defending EPL champions, sharing the points was not how Chelsea wanted to begin its 2015 campaign.
For Swansea City, picking up a point at Stamford Bridge should be seen as a victory.
Arsenal 0, West Ham United 2
Although Arsene Wenger had planned to use last week’s Community Shield victory over Chelsea as a springboard for the EPL season, West Ham had other plans. The Hammers made the most of their opportunities while picking up three points at Emirates Stadium. Although Arsenal paid a transfer fee to Chelsea of $15.5 million for veteran goalkeeper Petr Cech, today’s match saw both goals a result of goalkeeper errors.
The Gunners felt confident enough about the match to keep goal scorers Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott on the bench, choosing to substitute them into the match late in the second half. For the Hammers, having been eliminated from Europa League competition by a lowly regarded Astra Giurgiu of Romania, earlier this week, they displayed a level of resiliency that showed their grit and determination. For the Gunners, expect some changes in their starting lineup for next week’s match.
Newcastle United 2, Southampton 2
Playing in front of the St. James Park faithful with new manager Steve McLaren at the helm, Newcastle fans were eager for three points, but the Saints spoiled the party by sharing the points at the end of an evenly-played match. McLaren’s team seemed to fade as the game progressed, with the tying goal scored by Southampton substitute Shane Long in the 79th minute and two scoring opportunities missed by the Saints in injury time. Perhaps the most interesting statistic of the match was that while Southampton manager Ronald Koeman was home nursing an Achilles injury, the team was managed by his brother Erwin, certainly a rarity in European football.
Stoke City 0, Liverpool 1
In a match that saw just four shots on goal, Philippe Coutinho helped the Reds come away with all three points via this beautiful strike from 30 yards out.
After the final game of last season saw Stoke City punish Liverpool 6-1, this game proved to be somewhat lackluster until the 86th minute.
While both teams need to demonstrate a bit more offense, it is Liverpool who will be disappointed in their run of play today. While they did garner all three points, they spent over $100 million in the off-season in order to improve their offense, and while it is only one game into the season, the fans at Anfield will be expecting more out the club’s performance as the season progresses.