Arguably not the best start for certain clubs like Manchester City, probably because of the standard they operate in, and apparently something to consolidate on, for some others such as United, Chelsea, Leicester City as the English Premier League made a huge return over the weekend after the due hiatus following the climaxing of the 2020/2021 campaign, with Manchester City crowned champions based on their placement on the classification.
The sporting world, football inclusive, has been on the receiving end of the seismic effect occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, clubs facing financial crises of which; in patches, as a result of the fact that fans were denied access to stadia to witness their teams play.
Almost all 38 matches, but 2 of the Premier League 2020/2021 season did go ahead in empty stadiums with simply club staff and the players on the sidelines forming a rare fan base, cheering on the players doing their business on the pitch of play.
As the government in the UK elected to embark on significant relaxations on their COVID -19 restrictions, one of them included that fans could be allowed back in the stadium, and the excitement, aura and frenzy at the Brentford Community Stadium where the first league encounter of the season ensued, demonstrated how much the fans had been starved of firsthand football.
Back in the English top flight after 74 years and buoyed by the greater number of their fans, it was Thomas Frank’s men who made the early running, with energy, pace and desire, as it took only 22 minutes for the Bees to sting Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal with Sergi Canos driving low past keeper Bernd Leno at the near post.
Arsenal was without some of their attackers, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang due to ill health, but despite their £50m new acquisition, Ben White being around the scene Christian Norgaard arrived to head home the second, which sparked scenes of pleasure and satisfaction at full time.
Elsewhere at Old Trafford, fans were treated with so much a virtuoso and swashbuckling performance than would have been anticipated, as Paul Pogba nearly assisted everyone in and around the stadium, providing four assists, and Bruno Fernandes bagging a hat trick in only his fourth game in front of the fans since his move to Old Trafford in February 2020.
England’s teenage sensation, Mason Greenwood got in on the act, and a rarity on the score sheet was Brazilian, Fred who dragged home for the final goal as United defeated Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds by 5 goals to 1, Luke Ayling with the consolation for the Whites.
Arsenal legend, Patrick Viera, got off his campaign in the English Premier League on a back foot, following his Crystal Palace side’s humbling by Thomas Tuchel and Chelsea in hostile territory. Emerging on the back of European Super Cup success midweek, the onus was on the Blues to replicate seemingly similar dominance as they did last season, and nothing short would have been pleasing to a near full Stamford Bridge.
It was a beauty of a set-piece, aptly drilled from 22 yards by Spanish defender Marcos Alonso that set the tone for a busy afternoon for Palace, and whilst Vicente Guaita thought he had made a clinical save off a Mason Mount’s shot, Pulisic slammed home to double the advantage for the host, and academy graduate Trevoh Chalobah let fly from 25 yards to wrap up the game for the Super Cup triumphants.
In a game to forget for Sean Dyche and Burnley at the Turf Moor, goals from Neal Maupay and Ale Mac Allister ensured that James Tarkowski’s second minute headed goal was only a reduction of the deficit and that Graham Potter, as well as the Seagulls, would start off the campaign in a scintillating manner.
Despite controversies which threaded the appointment of Rafa Benitez at the Goodison Park, the warm reception which heralded their first game of the season could have done nothing but bolster the confidence existent, however, Saint’s newbie Adam Armstrong latched onto a Che Adams pass to puncture the ecstasy and hopes of the fans in a daft and irresponsible Michael Kean give away.
The lead lasted all through the first half, and just as hostilities recommenced for the second half, Tokyo 2020 gold winner Richarlison restored parity for the former Liverpool manager, Doucoure put the home side ahead, and Richarlison turned provider as Dominic Calvert-Lewin prodded in the third to send the fans agog.
The King Power Stadium was the host for the crunch game between Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City and Premier League debutant Bruno Lage, current Wolves manager. Jamie Vardy became the sixth player to score seven or more times in opening fixtures for their club, joining Alan Shearer, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney, Teddy Sheringham and Sergio Aguero, after his goal proved invalid over 90 minutes for the Foxes. Vardy, 34, ran unto a perfectly timed angle cross from Ricardo Pereira to condemn the Portuguese to his first defeat at the helms.
Emmanuel Dennis, who joined Watford from Club Brugge opened his account on the night in the 10th minute to the disbelief of the fans at the Vicarage Road, and Ismaila Sarr doubled the vantage. The Hornets weren’t done just yet, as another debutant, Cuchoz Hernandez added gloss to the scoreline screaming in just seconds after getting in on the act from the edge of the box. Villa aimed for a comeback, with John McGinn and Danny Ings scoring for Mike Dean, however the same wasn’t substantial enough to share the spoils, and what a way to make a comeback to the English Premier League for Xisco Munoz.
At Carrow Road, Mohammed Salah scored one and assisted further two for Diogo Jota and Bobby Firmino as Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp silenced the Canaries in their own backyard.
West Ham came from behind on two occasions to finally cement a well-deserved win over the Magpies at the St. James’ Park.
As much as Harry Kane’s transfer issues remain up in the air, fans at the Tottenham Stadium had their say in the most intriguing game of the 10 fixtures lined up for the opening week. With Son drilling past Ederson as Spurs broke on a counter, “Are you watching, Harry Kane?” reigned supreme in the capacity packed stadium, with Daniel Levy spotted looking a serious figure during the game.
Despite the British record summer signing Jack Grealish having 90 minutes of his own, it wasn’t to be as Nuno Espirito Santo got off to a scintillating start at the expense of his opposite number, Pep Guardiola.
With a whopping 34 goals scored in the opening day across the 10 fixtures and the fans back in their strides, we can only anticipate an electrifying atmosphere, one which can only spur the players to impress and deliver swashbuckling performances just to the bemusement and pleasure of the fans, and of course pressure heaped on the managers if they fail to influence proceedings in their clubs.