Connect in the back of the net

Pre-Season a red herring

Arsenal enjoyed one of their brightest pre-seasons in recent memory, thumping Lyon 6-0 in the Emirates Cup before defeating Chelsea in the Community Shield.

The 1-0 win over Jose Mourinho’s side was supposed to mark another turning point in Arsene Wenger’s reign: the moment his team broke their Chelsea jinx and displayed the sort of resilience that could deliver a first league title in over a decade.

Those predictions looked a little premature this weekend as the Gunners collapsed at home to West Ham, a team who were recently dumped out of the Europa League by Romanian side Astra.

Manchester City, meanwhile, waltzed to a 3-0 win at West Brom in their opening game. Manuel Pellegrini’s side endured a far more difficult pre-season than Arsenal, losing new recruit Fabian Delph to injury and not always convincing against quality opposition.

However, they turned on the style when it mattered most.


Crystal Palace continuing to improve

At one stage last season it seemed that London outfit Crystal Palace were destined for the drop, before Alan Pardew’s arrival at the club inspired a revival.

Palace went on to finish the season in 10th place and the arrival of Yohan Cabaye from PSG this summer looks to be one of the biggest bargains of the European transfer window.

The France international had an immediate impact, scoring the third goal in a 3-1 win away against promoted side Norwich and delivering a fine display in midfield.

Pardew’s team have started the campaign in the perfect fashion and look capable of a top-half finish, with enough depth and quality in their squad – former Manchester United man Wilfried Zaha also netted at the weekend – to sustain them over 38 matches.

The Eagles are relegation candidates no longer.


Van Gaal’s team needs time

Kyle Walker’s own goal was enough to give Manchester United a 1-0 win over Tottenham at Old Trafford, though Louis Van Gaal will be aware that his new-look team were disjointed and unconvincing.

This is the natural consequence of the Dutch manager picking four debutants in the starting line-up: Bastian Schweinsteiger, meanwhile, was introduced off the bench for the last half-hour of the match.

Of the five new recruits, four were being given their first taste of English Premier League football; Sergio Romero, Matteo Darmian, Memphis Depay and the aforementioned Schweinsteiger.

Morgan Schneiderlin – who was acquired from Southampton in the summer – is a veteran of English football but even he needs time to gel with his new teammates.

The same applies to his fellow arrivals, who will need to adjust to the rigours of English football as the season wears on.


Liverpool add resilience to their repertoire

Of all the Premier League managers, Brendan Rodgers was arguably under the most scrutiny and pressure heading into the new season. His Liverpool side collapsed away against Stoke City back in May and it seemed to spell the end for the Welsh manager at the club.

A return to the Britannia Stadium – the scene of that infamous 6-1 mauling – was probably the last thing Rodgers and his players would have wanted as an opening fixture for the 2015/16 campaign.

Credit must go to Liverpool for the manner of their 1-0 win at the weekend: this was not a game for the purists, but the resilience displayed by Rodgers’ team bodes well. It also drew a line in the sand.

“Eleven weeks ago it was embarrassing but I think that puts it to bed,” the manager said after the game.


Promoted sides face uphill battle

The English Premier League is a notoriously difficult competition in which to secure safety after promotion: Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich City have that task this season and none of them managed a win on the opening day.

Under the leadership of talented young English manager Eddie Howe, Bournemouth have enjoyed a fairytale rise into the Premier League from the depths of the Football League.

However, their status as favourites of neutral observers will not earn them any sympathy from opponents this season and they learned a harsh lesson about the realities of top-flight football at the weekend, losing 1-0 to Aston Villa despite a dogged performance.

Even Norwich City’s more experienced team was unable to scrape a point from the opening game – losing at home to Crystal Palace – although Watford did score an excellent draw away against Everton.


Written by Chris Paraskevas

Follow Chris on Twitter @Cparaskevas

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