Leicester Back to Earth with a Bump
Despite playing against a severely weakened Hull side - with just thirteen fit senior players to choose from - reigning champions Leicester toiled to a miserable 2-1 defeat on the opening game of the weekend’s proceedings.
For those with a keen sense of irony, the style of Hull’s victory will have raised a few smirks as The Tiger’s success thoroughly resembled Leicester’s approach to winning the league last season. A display full of commitment and intensity saw Leicester beaten at their own game as camaraderie and courage provided the winning formula for Hull’s return to the Premier League.
It was interesting to watch Leicester struggle to live up to their enhanced reputation against arguably the worst team in the division, at least on paper anyway. I really can’t wait for now full-time Mrs. Doubtfire impersonator Steve Bruce’s incoming comments, "Aye, well er, the fans turned on wuh, I got them to tenth, I mean, into the Premier League yanar." Jog on Brucey.
Pep’s Manchester Project Might Take Some Time
Despite making a host of world class acquisitions across the course of the summer, Pep Guardiola’s City looked sluggish at times against our bunch of misfits this weekend. Although they dominated possession City did little to truly threaten the Sunderland goal, relying on a freak o.g. to pop Pep’s Premier League cherry.
The red portion of Manchester were boisterous, however, as Mourinho’s men from the other side of town looked dangerous against a decent Bournemouth outfit. Pep will have to get his men up to speed quickly if he wants yet more success.
It will be interesting to see how the season plays out as Guardiola and Mourinho rekindle their old rivalry. But on Saturday’s evidence, you have to say United looked the brighter side even without the world’s most expensive signing, Jordi Gomez, sorry, Paul Pogba.
Players Finally Showing the Officials an Iota of Respect
In case you missed the news that this season players can be carded, or even sent off, if they verbally abuse, touch or surround the referee, then this weekend’s successful implementation might have eluded you.
It’s suspicious that both Lee Cattermole and Seb Larsson have been declared injured and in need of surgery when both players would have been prime candidates for being made an example of the new system. Perhaps David Moyes is even more intelligent than we think?
In all seriousness, however, throughout the four games I watched this weekend, the attitude toward the officials did seem to have changed for the better. Players still voiced their disagreement, but the ugly scenes of years gone by were missing, something I’m sure you’ll all agree is a welcome change. Watching Stoke’s Arnautovic get a yellow for his verbal assault - despite winning a free-kick!?!? - was incredibly satisfying.
Arsenal and Liverpool’s Seven-Goal Thriller
Despite the pulsating nature of the game, surely both managers will be wincing at the defensive frailties that were clearly on show. Klopp himself noted the nightmarish display at the back whilst the Arsenal supporters’ resounding chants of, "You don’t know what you’re doing" were evidence of something insidious perhaps brewing in North London. Oxlade-Chamberlain limply aiming a mistimed punch at a falling ball after the full-time whistle summed up their luck.
That being said, some of the attacking football on offer was nothing short of magnificent. Coutinho’s free-kick was sensational, whilst Mane’s individual effort was of the highest quality; hopefully this marks the start of an exciting campaign where no fewer than six teams stand a very good chance of winning the league.
I do find it humorous, though, that a season of the utmost mundanity would be a huge welcome for every Sunderland fan. I’ll take scruffy 1-0 wins every day of the week if it means a season of security. You see Arsenal fans complaining about Wenger and a lack of silverware and laugh; if only they knew our perennial struggles.
Money, Money, Money
So far this season Manchester’s Premier League duo have managed to spend over £300 million between them. An eye-watering amount of money to be spent on professional footballers, and a statement declaring that the new TV rights deal amounting to over £5 billion across the course of three seasons is definitely attracting some of the world’s best to our shores.
Amidst the multi-million pound signings on show this weekend, however, it was two of the division’s freebies that stood out in my mind - Gaston Ramirez of Middlesbrough and Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United looked excellent, perhaps highlighting the absurdity of the over-inflated prices being paid this summer.
Hopefully the Premier League bubble can continue to grow, but somewhere in the back of every fan’s mind is the niggling feeling that this financial insanity cannot go on forever. Could the bubble burst?