91 days after the last season, then known as the English Premier league, The Premier League returned to the pitches and our screens with much buzz, drama, shocks and of course beautiful goals across the 10 games played. From the opening game of the season which featured defending champions Leicester City away at Hull to the Monday night kick-off where a late Diego Costa goal sealed Antonio Conte’s first victory at Chelsea, the excitement, edge of your seat action and talking points is back and here are three things we learnt from Week 1 of the new season;
1. New Coaches showing their hands from the off
This season saw an influx of many top managers featuring or returning to the Premier League with the likes of Pep Guardiola, Walter Mazzarri, Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte in the mix and these coaches have gone ahead to show from the first game that they will be sticking to that plan which earned them their reputation in the first place.
First we saw a lot of players being frozen out, there was no place in the match-day squad for Yaya Toure at Manchester City and Pep favoring a sweeper/goalkeeper benched England No 1 Joe Hart for Caballero and its rumoured to have sealed a deal for Barcelona’s Claudio Bravo, he also had his full backs having less than 5 touches in their own penalty box as they played more as wingers, For Jose it was a clean slate offering, as the likes of Fellaini, Herrera and Mata were given the chance to earn their places and on the day, the trio didn’t do badly. Conte favored Oscar in the creative role leaving Fabregas out on the bench while clearly showing that Kante will play a key role for the team this season shielding the back four alongside Matic, he also showed he had no problem removing Hazard and switching to a two man front line when the team needs a goal, still early days yet but clearly these new managers will make this a season of tactical battles and unending drama on the touchline.
2. Welcome to the real world, Leicester City
After surprising all and carting home the title last season, Leicester City began this new season not as favorites but were still expected to make soft work of Hull City who seemed in complete disarray both off and on the pitch. Only 13 fit players, yet to officially announce a new manager with assistant Mike Phelan standing in, all looked set for a Leicester City win as many had already condemned Hull to be relegated even before the first ball was kicked (which may as well still happen) but after 90 minutes, Leicester had the unenviable record of being the first defending champion since the Premier league era to lose its opening game, they had their chances, the Ahmed Musa and Vardy combination looked promising in bits but up against a determined Hull side, Ranieri’s men just fell short and were brought back to reality. Up next is a game against Arsenal who also lost their opening game to Liverpool, both sides will surely not want to lose two games already at this stage of the season, so it promises to be an interesting week 2 encounter.
3. Way too many changes to the brand
First, we had to get used to the name change, now known as The Premier League and not The English Premier League or even Barclays Premier League, then we have to get used to the new in-your-face purple colors splashed across the Logo and fonts, aside learning about the new mode of kicking off the game which now no longer needs two players, (luckily, the Euros treated us to an early dose of this), to hearing that Wayne Rooney and other team captains can no longer scream at an official rightly or wrongly, then as if these were not enough, the major means of viewing the Premier League across this side of the Niger is via satellite network, DSTV and they also came up with a Nigerian studio set at the indoor hall of the National stadium, not only did they join the games late, the analysis bar one of their pundits was pretty much horrible and the sounds from the newly introduced fans arena right in the studio made for poor feedback at end users watching at home, as much as we understand the re-branding of the Premier League name to open it up for more sponsorship avenues, too much of trying to fix what was never broke at times just isn’t needed.
3 and a half. New Season, Same old Arsenal
Not many really saw Arsenal losing their first game at home to Liverpool coming but it wasn’t exactly shocking when it did happen, from the moment the starting line-ups were reeled out and we saw the defensive pairing of young Rob Holding and Chambers up against the forward trio of Sane, Firminho and Coutinho, it was evident that goals and defensive mistakes will be in order. For weird reasons, Arsene has refused to strengthen in areas where the team evidently are short, to also add to this weirdness, he gave the likes of Giroud and Koscielny extended holidays and whilst this may eventually pay off in the long run, a defeat at home already is not a good way to start the season and get your fans behind you, hopefully this does not turn out like the season he lost 8-2 to Manchester United and went into the transfer market haphazardly buying just for the sake of it and not because he had long identified his targets.