Premier League Report Card Matchday 1

The first weekend of the new Premier League season is in the books. Time to assess how the 20 clubs did on Matchday 1.

Arsenal. An important win at a venue where their pursuit of fourth derailed last season, against an opponent who had outplayed them home and away during that campaign. It’s only one win, but an important marker nonetheless. Most pleasing of all was to see the immediate impact and improvement that the trio of Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko and William Saliba brought to the team on their league debuts. (A)

Aston Villa. Despite significant investment in both January, and over the course of the summer, Villa remain inconsistent. They were easy to play against and worryingly for Steven Gerrard, seemed thoroughly unprepared for what was always going to be a tricky first game on the road against a newly promoted team. (F)

Bournemouth. Came into the campaign with no optimism whatsoever and then delivered the easiest of opening-day victories. Whether Scott Parker was setting everyone up or Villa were just plain diabolical can be debated another time, but an opening win in what remains a compact yet atmospheric stadium should at the very least imbue the Cherries with confidence for the first phase of the season. (A)

Brentford. Outplayed for vast amounts of the game at the King Power, before finding inspiration in last quarter of the game. Few things feel better in football than salvaging something from two goals behind. (A)

Brighton. Another summer passes with the Seagulls selling their best players but Graham Potter remains. That a team with a defined style of play and a progressive manager beats an opponent devoid of identity shouldn’t be surprising, but it is still amazing to watch Potter consistently find ways to outplay those with bigger resources. (A)

Chelsea. It was hardly vintage, but considering the general tone of negativity coupled with the fact that they had suffered four consecutive defeats at Goodison, a scrappy win for the Blues and their grumpy manager will do just fine. (A)

Crystal Palace. As expected, a fully committed display, but a general lack of fluidity in the attacking third meant they only troubled the Gunners on few occasions. For a team blessed with an array of exciting attackers, perhaps Patrick Vieira might countenance trialling a false nine system this season. (D)

Everton. A performance embodied by graft and hard work but with very little quality. Reinforcements are finally arriving for Frank Lampard this week, but the Toffees look woefully and dangerously short in attack. (E)

Fulham. Simply sublime. Regardless of the result, this was the most coordinated and balanced the cottagers have looked amongst their recent promotions. Credit goes to Marco Silva who had a great plan and has now taken points off Jurgen Klopp with every side he has managed in the league. Aleksandar Mitrovic led the line brilliantly, capping off a virtuoso display with a brace and for all of Silva’s gripes about their summer business, the addition of Joao Palhinha and Manor Solomon brings a sprinkle of Champions League quality that made a difference against the Reds. (A)

Leeds. It wasn’t necessarily the daring attacking style that Leeds fans have been accustomed to over the past four years, but it had the necessary determination and desire to play on the front foot. Brenden Aaaronson in particular marked himself as a new arrival who will endear himself to the Elland Road faithful with his enterprising runs into the box and trickery with the ball. (A)

Leicester. It could be argued that they merited the three points against Brentford with a sparkling performance for the first 75 minutes. But to throw away a home win on the opening day simply adds to the feeling of uncertainty that hangs around Brendan Rodgers and his Foxes. An equalizer felt inevitable as soon as the Bees pulled a goal back, speaking to the brittle nature of the team at this current moment in time. (D)

Liverpool. While I don’t think the performance was as lacking as Jurgen Klopp felt, it is true that the Reds never maintained momentum for a complete period of time. Nevertheless, it’s easy to get carried away in the immediacy of this result, but travelling away to a newly promoted team on the first day of the season is never an easy task. They showed the required tenacity in coming back twice and the linkup play between Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah bodes well for the season ahead. (B)

Manchester City. A comfortable opening win at a venue where they almost paid a heavy price last season. That their new poster boy already looked so honed in and in sync with the multitude of midfield maestros around him is a scary portent for the rest of the division. (A)

Manchester United. Of course, a single match is not a verdict on Erik Ten Haag. But the Red Devils needed to present something different, and instead we got another confused display and a deserved defeat that should really have been by a bigger margin. (F)

Newcastle. The euphoria continues. And why shouldn’t it? A thoroughly dominant display that served to highlight Eddie Howe’s managerial abilities as he continues to get the Magpies playing extremely well with the majority of his playing eleven consisting of players signed before sovereign wealth became a factor on Tyneside. (A)

Nottingham Forest. Expected to be the best of the promoted sides on the account of the business they conducted, but were played off the park at St James Park. Keeping the euphoria to one side, even an excellent manager such as Steve Cooper is going to need time to gel all the new signings, regardless of how much sense they make on paper. (E)

Southampton. Tipped to be relegation candidates by many and hard to argue on the evidence of their performance at Spurs. The effect of scoring a brilliant opening goal was negated in a matter of minutes, as a combination of naivety, positional indiscipline and the sheer relentlessness of their opponents ran the Saints ragged well before the final whistle. (F)

Tottenham. Probably the best performance of the opening weekend by Antonio Conte’s men. The 90 minutes at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium were an exhibition of non-stop attacking, with various players forming delightful combinations and angles to mesmerize the poor Saints. That the two wingbacks who were constantly in the 18-yard box were Ryan Sessegnon and Emerson Royal rather than new additions made in the summer speaks to the coaching prowess of Conte, where every player feels inspired to contribute. Stamford Bridge presents an altogether different challenge this coming weekend, but this performance whets the appetite for Spurs fans and neutrals alike. (A)

West Ham. There really wasn’t much David Moyes could do with virtually all of his centre-backs injured, only to suffer further losses in the game itself. Even a full compliment probably wouldn’t have made a difference with the champions purring, but that they didn’t get humiliated despite the obvious handicap speaks well to the spirit within the team. (C)

Wolves. Had enough chances to win comfortably at Elland Road, with the brilliant Pedro Neto seeing a lot of his great work being wasted just in front of goal. Bruno Lage has to find a solution to Wolves obvious goalscoring issues. Whether Goncalo Guedes will actually be the answer remains to be seen. (C)

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