There was action everywhere in the Premiership this opening weekend and Manchester United, the biggest club in the league, haven’t even played a game yet. The season promises much. The football on display was as good as ever. All very much the same. As fans, neutral or partisan, it is also the case. We still never learn. We are surprised when we should know not to be and disappointed when happiness appeared assured. It is a strange game but a predictable league full of surprising results. A paradox? Indeed it is.
Chelsea score plenty, winning 6-0 against a relegation favourite, West Bromwich Albion. Arsenal fail to materialise on a promising position, playing against a man light Liverpool side after Joe Cole was sent off at Anfield.Tottenham frustrate the faithful at White Hart Lane against Manchester City despite performing exceptionally in the first half and admirably in the second. Aston Villa win despite former manager Martin O’Neill’s untimely exit and Sunderland can’t manage to hold onto a lead against Birmingham City. Lest we forget later let me mention American international Tim Howard’s atrocious error for Everton against Blackburn.
Arsenal came out of the dressing room at half time, after controlling the majority of the first half, prepared to play against a Liverpool side which had only 10 men after Joe Cole was sent off for a horrendous tackle. We all expected Arsenal to continue to dominate, then to score, and then to round off the victory with a couple of bonus goals on top and then to excuse Liverpool’s performance – because of the sending off just before half time. As it turned out, football continued to fail to follow the script. David N’Gog, deputising for an unfit Fernando Torres, scored within minutes of the restart and Liverpool were surprisingly ahead. Moments to go, the whole world is then expecting Liverpool to pull off a victory against all odds, as their great history will demonstrate they have done numerous times before, only for Pepe Reina, arguably the best goalkeeper in the league, to make a complete howler and gift Arsenal a point. Reina’s own goal was so unfortunate, so unexpected, so comical and so timely that we might almost absurdly consider it apt. This is the Premiership after all.
Chelsea showed that last season’s campaign where they scored a record number of league goals was no fluke. West Bromwich Albion, the rivals at Stamford Bridge, were outclassed from beginning to end and might even be a little thankful that the 6-0 thrashing wasn’t worse.
Tottenham were immense. Manchester City were shameful, in relation to the transfer value of their squad. The result was 0-0. Denied by the combined efforts of the goalpost and Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart Tottenham will see the result as 2 points dropped. After beating Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal towards the end of last season Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham manager, will be a little disappointed this match was only drawn but satisfied his team played in a similar vein to those aforementioned matches. More performances like that and Tottenham will continue to flirt with the highest positions.
Everton explained why despite being an outside bet for a top 4 position they might still have periods throughout the season of genuine angst. They just don’t have a reliable consistent goalscorer. Sharing goals amongst the team is the Everton way. When the team is misfiring David Moyes must lament no having one consistent goalscorer to bail his team out.
Aston Villa, with Ashley Young and James Milner still on their books despite Tottenham and Manchester City hovering, were efficient against West Ham, if not exciting.
Sunderland continued to frustrate. The source of their discontent in recent times under Steve Bruce has been the imbalance of the team. When the team finally manages to score more than one goal in a match they always seem to concede more than one too. When they manage to contrive a clean sheet, they then fail to score. Against Birmingham City this story continued.
Blackpool somehow won 4-0 against Wigan but this result and story was so peculiar it deserves a post of it’s own. And then finally there is still Manchester United to play Newcastle. The Premiership is back ladies and gentleman. As good, bold, brash and intriguing as ever. It’s very much the same in a way that always manages to surprise.