So, the Premier League is back, but what did we learn from the opening weekend of the season? Read on over the next few pages to find out our top seven.
1) Leicester City will not successfully defend their title
There is no doubting that Leicester City’s title winning campaign last season will go down in history as one of the greatest success stories in modern football. It was the truest example of the underdog rising to the top and they received plaudits from all corners as the Foxes spent the season bloodying the noses of England’s elite football clubs. But the bubble was well and truly burst on the opening day as they stuttered and stumbled to a disappointing defeat at the KCom Stadium.
It was not so much the result; against a Hull City team with no permanent manager and only thirteen fit senior players, which should set the alarm bells ringing, but rather the manner of it. Leicester’s success last season came from being able to produce explosive and incisive counter-attacking football against opposition that were willing to go toe-to-toe with them. Hull City did the exact opposite on Saturday, being content to sit deep with ten men behind ball and asking Leicester if they had the quality, flair and finesse to break down a massed defence.
The answer was no. The Foxes huffed and puffed but deservedly lost the game. The issue for Claudio Ranieri is that the tactics utilised by Hull will be repeated on a weekly basis when clubs face the reigning champions of England and, judging by Saturday’s Leicester do not currently possess the answer.
2) Joe Hart’s position at Manchester City and for England is at risk
How Joe Hart must be hoping for a change in fortunes. As the blue half of Manchester immersed themselves in the excitement of Pep Guardiola’s first competitive game in charge, the England goalkeeper was left sitting stone-faced from the bench as his team mates secured an opening day win.
The 29-year-old was ruthlessly dropped for the fixture against Sunderland with Guardiola electing to select Willy Caballero due to his superior distribution. It is added salt to Joe Hart’s wounded pride following a poor personal display at the European Championships this summer and he will now need to fight for his place in Manchester City’s starting eleven.
Sam Allardyce will be watching on with great interest over the coming weeks and months as he prepares to name his first England squad. Hart’s place in the England team will be at risk unless he can quickly reclaim the Manchester City number one jersey, especially with goalkeepers such as Fraser Forster and Jack Butland looking to state their claim as the first choice in England’s new international era.
3) Complaining, whining, whinging managers are back
It did not take long – one game in and already we have managers complaining about refereeing decisions. The new Sunderland manager David Moyes was quick to bemoan his luck when, prior to Manchester City’s opening goal, his side should have been awarded a corner rather than the goal-kick which was given.
Video replays supported his claim, but what Moyes failed to explain was why, following the goal-kick, his team allowed the Manchester City players to move the ball 90 yards up the pitch with relative ease before Patrick Van Aanholt produced a clumsy, reckless challenge which resulted in a penalty kick.
Yes, it should have been a corner, but Moyes will know that his team had more than enough time and opportunity to prevent Manchester City from opening the scoring on Saturday. Oh, how we have all missed the weekly post-match whining and whinging of managers.
4) The Special One is back – and he means business
Jose Mourinho has had a week to remember. The new Manchester United manager started to re-fill the trophy cabinet at Old Trafford following victory in the Community Shield, whilst on Sunday his team produced an impressive display to see off Bournemouth.
The Portuguese maestro will have been delighted to see his side open the Premier League campaign with a comfortable victory and the combined performances of Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic; both of whom got on the score-sheet, will give United fans genuine hope that the good times are back, especially with world-record signing Paul Pogba to come into the side.
It is no secret that Mourinho has wanted to step into the hot-seat at Manchester United for a long time. He is a serial winner, has a point to prove following his dismissal from Chelsea last season, and has been backed to the hilt in the transfer market in the summer. Expect the Red Devils to be challenging for trophies on all fronts this season.