The 2015/16 Premier League season is underway, so what can we take from the opening weekend's fixtures?
All 20 teams in the Barclay’s Premier League have now played their first games of the 2015/16 season. As it is so early, there is only so much that can be gleaned from what we have seen on the opening weekend of fixtures. Jose Mourinho never ceases to find a way of deflecting attention from a below-par result, and Manchester United can still dig out wins after inauspicious performances. But we knew that already. Here are some things we did find out over the course of the weekend.
Swansea are still the real deal
While many will doubtless get bogged down with Mourinho’s remarks regarding his medical staff and his refusal to answer questions over some apparently contentious refereeing decisions, nothing should hide the fact that Swansea were well worth the 2-2 draw at champions Chelsea, and were perhaps slightly unfortunate not to win.
Very few players give the normally reliable Branislav Ivanovic the run-around, but he was shredded to pieces by Jefferson Montero, who though a little on the inconsistent side, can be totally unplayable on any given day. Swansea would still do extremely well to match last season’s eighth place finish, but it would be difficult to envisage them finishing much below mid-table.
By the way, despite Mourinho’s obvious displeasure, the decision to award Swansea a penalty and send off keeper Thibaut Courtois early in the second half was correct. Moving on…
Petr Cech is a great keeper, but he’s not above a mistake
In the long run, Cech’s arrival will be a good signing for Arsenal, unless Arsenal’s defensive worries end up rubbing off on him as oppose to vice versa. Sunday’s shock 2-0 defeat at home to West Ham will have done nothing to convince Arsenal’s detractors that the club have turned a corner in recent months, not helped by Cech’s misjudgments for both of West Ham’s goals.
A lot has also been made of Arsenal’s need for a new striker, with Karim Benzema routinely linked with a move to the Emirates. It has been easy for some to forget that Olivier Giroud did score 19 goals in 36 games last season (and would have scored more but for a three-month injury absence), but Arsenal could still do with some new blood, given that Cech has been their only signing to date. And signing Benzema would undoubtedly strengthen Arsenal’s attack.
Sunderland need more signings, or they’re heading down
Goals were the problem last season for Sunderland as they teetered on the brink of relegation, and that has so far yet to be adequately addressed this summer. That being the case, the last thing Dick Advocaat needed to find out in Saturday’s match at Leicester was that his side couldn’t defend for toffee either.
This shouldn’t actually have surprised us, given that their back-four on Saturday featured the injury-prone Sebastian Coates, the error-prone Younes Kaboul, and the frankly talent-less duo of Billy Jones and Patrick Van-Aanholt, but nothing could quite prepare Sunderland fans for the carnage they were to witness in their 4-2 defeat at Leicester, a score line which flattered Sunderland.
Bringing the likes of Yann M’Vila, Wes Brown and Adam Matthews into the side ASAP should help, but Sunderland look like a team heading backwards at the moment, and if that’s not addressed in the final weeks on the transfer window, a spot in the relegation zone in May will be theirs, something that’s been threatening to happen for some years.
Leicester are still a talented side
The decision to replace Nigel Pearson as manager with Claudio Ranieri seemed left-field, particularly given Ranieri’s disastrous spell at Greece recently, but with a forward line containing the likes of Jamie Vardy, Riyadh Mahrez, Leonardo Ulloa, Shinji Okazaki and Andrei Kramaric, Leicester should still find a way of scoring goals, even if opposition defences won’t always be as forgiving as Sunderland’s were on Saturday.
For the record, Ranieri is also a fan of Kasabian.
Watford have the quality to survive
Not too many people have backed Watford to survive this season, and the raft of additions this summer led many to believe that they would take a while to get going as they sought to gel their new players into an effective team unit.
There was not a bit of this though in their 2-2 draw at Everton. They attacked with purpose and innovation, as was particularly evidenced in their second goal, while the signings of Sebastian Prodl and Etienne Capoue appear to have added some useful defensive ballast to the side.
Throw in other quality signings in the shape of Jose Jurado, Valon Behrami and Jose Holebas and Watford stand a good chance of staying up.
It’s going to be a long season for Bournemouth
Against an Aston Villa side that had been depleted this summer by the departures of Christian Benteke, Fabian Delph, Tom Cleverley and Ron Vlaar, Bournemouth could hardly have asked for a better chance of starting their Premier League history with a morale-boosting win.
Alas, Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat was a lesson that if they don’t take their chances in the Premier League, they will lose all too often. Bournemouth could get away with this in the Championship, where they would score goals through sheer weight of opportunities created, but they will not get as many chances against the more disciplined defences in the Premier League, apart from Sunderland perhaps.
Despite the win, expect this to be another long season for Villa as well.
Manchester City should not be written off for the title
On a weekend when Chelsea stuttered, Arsenal flopped, and Liverpool and United huffed and puffed, Manchester City put in by far the most impressive performance of the top sides this weekend as they swept aside West Brom 3-0 at the Hawthorns.
In the long run, they could still do with another striker to back up Sergio Aguero, and another centre-back to complement Vincent Kompany, but we know they have the funds to do what they need, and with three weeks of the transfer window still to go, expect them to still be active in the market.
Liverpool’s 1-0 win at Stoke wasn’t a classic, but it’s certainly a marked improvement on the 6-1 defeat they received at the Britannia last season. Crystal Palace look set for a good season after winning at Norwich, and if Tottenham don’t sign any more strikers and midfielders, they can forget about securing a place in the top-four. But we guessed as much anyway.