27 goals, 25 yellow cards, and 1 early shower; that’s the story of Match Day One in the 2019/2020 English Premier League Season.
In reality it is 1 down, 37 to go… The EPL is back!
From the Chief Editor’s desk comes the “Scorecard” on an eventful opening day in English football. So, what does the Chief Editor think about the outgone weekend?
VAR off to a near perfect start
The introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in football has divided opinions and left players and fans in awe of what to expect. Muted celebrations, delayed decisions, sense of victimization, and the horror on what verdict the muted rectangular gesture made in the air by the center referee will be. The nightmare of it already can ruin a game, the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup a classic example.
After a delayed contemplation and consultation, the EPL decided to join the bandwagon of the new way forward in football. The VAR!
Quite different from the norm, the EPL will use VAR to decide only four live game situations (Penalties, Offside, Straight red cards, and mistaken identity). Fans will engage with ongoing review of situations in the stadiums via the giant screens, and there is a limit to how far back play can be reviewed.
In 10 games, they were over 70 checks, culminating in 3 overturned decisions. In real-time only VAR could have gotten it right and match day one referees deserve thumbs up for reducing VAR to just an aid, rather than a go-to-referee in every play.
Pacesetters show gulf in class
In what was the most competitive title race of all-time, decided by the most minute of margins last season, stride for stride Liverpool and City cancelled out.
In similar fashion Manchester City and Liverpool picked up from where they stopped, scoring a combined 9 goals, finishing teams in the blink of an eye.
City’s five-star performance against the Hammers and Liverpool’s foursome over the Canaries further put daylight between themselves and 18 other teams in the land.
Best amongst the rest
Welcome to the “Big Table” Spurs!
Tottenham played an entire season last term without a single outfield signing, a campaign which culminated in a champions league spot, champions league final, and a semi-final finish in the EFL/Carabao cup.
This term the Lily-whites have splashed the cash on French midfielder Tanguy Ndombele, and he wasted no time announcing himself to the Spurs faithful with a scorcher. City and Liverpool are class acts, but Spurs have stayed close to the best teams in the land, and last weekend’s 3-1 win over Aston Villa was a reminder that Mauricio Pocchetino’s team are becoming hard to beat.
United sort themselves out
It was a 2018/2019 campaign to forget for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and the summer transfer made it no easier in some part with the departure of Romelu Lukaku, Ander Herera, Antonio Valencia and the constant speculation surrounding the future of record signing Paul Pogba.
Chief Executive, Ed Woodward skipped preseason for a more daunting task; fortifying the squad for this season. Spending £50m on Aaron Wan Bissaka from Crystal Palace, £80m on Harry Maguire from Leicester City, and a little under £30m for Daniel James from Swansea City, looks like the best bargains judging by their performances. The newbies didn’t put a foot wrong all game, stacking up numbers equal to their valuation against a big rival.
Gunners’ ghost not banished yet
Three points and a clean sheet away from home against Newcastle United sounds brilliant, but the monkeys aren’t off Arsenal’s back just yet.
It was a brilliant display from the young guns (Reiss Nelson, Guendozi, and Joe Willock) trusted with a place in the starting XI, but lots of vulnerability in the armour of the team. Defensively Arsenal looked light, giving away chances to Joelinton, Almiron, and Saint-Maxime, and on a good day at St. James’ Park it could have easily been 1-1 and not one nil to the Arsenal.
Arsenal fans will take solace in the absence of experienced defenders Skhodran Mustafi, Sead Kolasinac, and new boy David Luiz, hoping for their return to action will translate into a better defensive performance.
Lampard’s Chelsea will come good
Manchester United 4-0 Chelsea! This is the biggest defeat for a Chelsea manager in his first game in charge since Danny Blanchflower lost 7-2 to Middlesbrough in December 1978.
It was also Manchester United’s biggest win over Chelsea in a top-flight match for 54 years. Unwanted records Frank Lampard won’t like to be part of his DVD when he’s done with football at all levels.
In reality they were some positives from the defeat.
Chelsea played good football and controlled the game especially in the first half.
Lampard showed guts with the introduction of young lads like Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham.
Chelsea played a different way, a pointer they could overcome the Hazard effect hangover, quicker than we expect.
Chelsea will come good when the big guns get back to 100% fitness level.
Pictures from Match Day One (Photo credit – PL)