It was something of a mixed bag as far as entertainment was concerned on the opening weekend of the Premier League, with shock results for the likes of West Ham and Swansea making up for underwhelming televised action elsewhere from Old Trafford and the Britannia Stadium. WhoScored.com pick out five things we learned from the first weekend of the season.
The Premier League Is Child’s Play
One of the stories of the first round of fixtures was Reece Oxford who, at 16, became the second youngest player to start a Premier League game. The teenager, still awaiting his GCSE results, played his part in a superb win in the Hammers’ first league game under the tutelage of Slaven Bilic.
West Ham had lost each of their last 10 meetings with Arsenal going into the game but with a helping hand from Petr Cech and some woeful defending from the hosts, they put that run to bed. Oxford played at the base of midfield and was crucial to disrupting the Gunners’ play, producing three tackles, two interceptions and misplacing just one pass for a WhoScored rating of 7.29.
The 16-year old was one of a number of youngsters to impress in a round that saw just 21 outfielders over the age of 30 earn a start and only six of those end on a winning side.
Manchester City Shouldn’t Be Written Off
There are a number of people who feel Manchester City could find themselves fighting for a Champions League berth rather than the title this season; or at least there were ahead of the weekend.
Watching their rivals go before them, Pellegrini’s side will have taken confidence from Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United’s unconvincing displays. They took that into their game at the Hawthorns.
City secured the most comprehensive win of the weekend, with a 3-0 win against a West Brom side who don’t tend to roll over under Tony Pulis. Last season’s runners up secured the highest rating from WhoScored (7.70), boasting a remarkable 90.7% pass accuracy and ranking second from the first round of fixtures in terms of shots at goal (19).
Possession Didn’t Count For Much
It’s generally the case that sides who average the most possession will be fighting at the right end of the table – that certainly didn’t prove to be the case at the weekend. Ahead of City’s Monday night win – they placed second in the possession ranks – none of the six sides to hold the most possession secured all three points.
Everton had the most, with 67.4%, but could only salvage a late point against newly-promoted Watford, while the likes of Norwich, Arsenal and Bournemouth all boasted figures in excess of 58% but suffered defeat. City and Liverpool were the only two teams to have a greater than 50% share of possession and back up their dominance of the ball with all three points.
The Tinkerman Not Looking To Tinker
Many were tipping Leicester for relegation ahead of the campaign following the decision to replace Nigel Pearson with Claudio Ranieri at the King Power helm.
While the Foxes’ opening day win over Sunderland by no means prevents them from being among the favourites for the drop, it did at least show that the fighting spirit within the side wasn’t purely a consequence of the former manager’s passion.
It’s not to say Ranieri lacks passion, far from it, but his character could hardly be a greater departure from Pearson’s – many still feel that may have a detrimental effect. Famed for tactical alterations, the experienced Italian looks set to stick to a straightforward 4-4-2 this season, and he named just one debutant in his starting XI in the form of Shinji Okazaki. The likes of Albrighton (9.31 rating) and Mahrez (10) were deserving of their place in his line-up having ended last season in fine form and seem to suit the new manager’s approach perfectly.
Sunderland A Nightmare Waiting To Happen
Following Dick Advocaat’s arrival at the club at the end of last season, with the Dutchman steering the Black Cats clear of the drop, the consensus was that Sunderland would be less calamitous this time around. Just 25 minutes into their match against Leicester on Saturday, however, it was clear that would not be the case.
Captain Lee Cattermole was outfoxed for the hosts’ third, taking down the exceptional Mahrez in the box before being substituted just minutes later – with only Petr Cech (5.04) garnering a lower WhoScored rating than the midfielder’s 5.07 at the weekend. New signing Younes Kaboul was the guiltiest of many culprits in the build up to Leicester’s fourth.
The drubbing was disguised somewhat by two second half strikes for the visitors, but it didn’t hide the fact that Sunderland have now conceded four or more goals on five occasions since the start of last season – more than any other side.
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