EPL 2021/22: Knee-jerk reactions after one week of action
Words by Nathan Irvine
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One gameweek down. 37 to go. It might be a marathon rather than a sprint, but that hasn't stopped us coming up with some knee-jerk reactions to the first weekend of English Premier League football.
Angry fans, please note, this is supposed to be a bit of fun. Keep the pitchforks and torches lowered.
Owner Stan Kroenke either needs to get his chequebook out and sign some players or sell up. Without investment it’s going to be a long, disappointing season for Arteta’s men. Still, the AFTV meltdowns should make for some enjoyable viewing for the neutrals this term.
Jack Grealish and his enormous calves were always going to be hard to replace, but nobody expected to see the Villians 0-3 down to newly promoted Watford in the season opener. They’ve recruited well with Emi Buendia and Leon Bailey though. The hope is they gel quickly before they head towards the trapdoor.
The Bees have become the neutral’s favourite team. Survival is Brentford’s only expectation. And while some teams attempt to stay up with industrial up and under tactics, Thomas Frank’s side played some very good football in their Premier League debut against Arsenal.
The archetypal mid table team, Brighton were as fearless as a hungry seagull when they swooped in and took the point from Burnley at Turf Moor. Graham Potter’s side could be a surprise package this season and a push for the European spots isn’t completely beyond them.
It all started so well. 1-0 up at home within two minutes with a ram-raiding set piece play that the Clarets have become known for. But last season’s leaky defence, that almost saw them relegated, came into play. They seriously need to become robust again or Burnley will be basement dwellers again.
A ruthless 3-0 victory over Crystal Palace suggest that Chelsea will have no problem creating chances again this season. If Havertz, Werner and new signing Romelu Lukaku can begin to work in tandem, then the Thomas Tuchel’s side will be giving Premier League defenders nightmares for weeks to come.
Is Patrick Vieira out of his depth? Only time will tell, but Crystal Palace fans will be hoping he can steer them to better times this season. Vieira’s playing career credentials are unmatched, but his management nous is still being built. We have a feeling this Premier League job is going to be too big for him.
So far, so good for Rafa Benitez’s charges. They still look a little loose at the back, but going forward - especially Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin – they looked slick. Rafa needs his team to keep firing to win over the fans, some of which are still sceptical about Benitez’s Liverpool connections
If nothing else, Marco Bielsa is a man with a plan. One plan. Nothing more. Leeds matched Manchester United man for man right up until they conceded the second goal. The naivety of continuing to play attacking football when the opponents are running rampant is a recipe for disaster. Second season syndrome just might be too difficult for Leeds to handle.
Jamie Vardy, at 34, is still the main man at Leicester City. The club may have recruited well with Patson Daka adding more firepower to line-up that contains the streaky formed Iheanacho, but Vardy’s incessant pressing and nose for a goal will be incredibly important for Leicester City’s hopes of silverware.
Liverpool seem intent on being Norwich City’s kryptonite in the Premier League, and that 3-0 drubbing was just further proof. Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip will have tougher tests than Teemu Pukki over the course of the season, but they were rock solid and imposing. Liverpool have got their spine back, and that’s bad news for opposition strikers.
City need a striker. Fast. This isn’t news, but it was highlighted by the fact that although they were creating chances at will against Spurs, they couldn’t find the back of the net. Harry Kane is the man they’re desperate to sign, but negotiations have flatlined. They’ll score goals regardless, but that gaping hole up top needs a clinical finisher.
A 5-1 win over one of their fiercest rivals was punctuated with the unveiling of Raphael Varane, the debut of Jadon Sancho, and the Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba dovetailing impressively. It was the perfect day for United fans. This must be Solskjaer’s title tilt season, otherwise he’ll be out of a job next summer.
It all started so well for Steve Bruce’s Toon Army, and they were actually playing some really nice football at 2-1 up too. But we can’t help feel that Brucey isn’t going to get much more out of this squad and a new manager is needed. There’s a young and talented squad there, but they need a new direction.
Relegation beckons. Harsh, yes, but they look fragile all over the pitch. And whilst they can cruise the Championship with this type of squad, the Premier League is a different, relentless beast that will chew the Canaries up every week. They’ll likely bloody some noses of the big boys along the way, but a return to the league below looks to be on the cards.
What are Southampton now? Selling off integral players such as Danny Ings and Jannik Vestergaard, and letting Ryan Bertrand leave on a free suggests they’ve accepted midtable mediocrity. Or worse, a season fighting relegation. Unless adequate recruits are brought in soon, Ralph Hasenhüttl will have his work cut out for him.
Who needs Harry Kane, eh? The stayaway England and Spurs captain was mysteriously left out of the team that were playing Manchester City – his preferred transfer destination – but Tottenham managed to squeeze past them with a 1-0 win. Spending that mooted $160m fee across an already decent squad, might actually be worth letting him go.
Too fast, too furious. This Watford side has the speed to dismantle and disrupt any backline in the Premier League. Whether they can do it every week is another question. But against Aston Villa, it was clear to see what Watford’s key strength will be in their fight for survival.
There was a time West Ham United would’ve laid down and accepted their fate whilst 2-1 down. But left by the metronome and drive of Declan Rice, the Hammers seem to have instilled some grit and determination into a very talented squad.
Someone needs to work with Adama Traore on his finishing. The rippling mass of muscles has absolutely no problem getting past his man or springing an offside trap, but his profligate striking ultimately cost Wolves against Leicester City. If he learns to stay composed, then he could easily fire them up the table.
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