In what would usually be a World Cup summer in Europe, football fans have been forced to wait until November for the globally-renowned tournament to take place in Qatar.
In the meantime, all eyes are now well and truly on the return of league football, with the Premier League back on our screens for the long-awaited 2022/23 season.
And it may be a new season, but one of the competition heavyweights looks to have the same old problem.
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Old Trafford turmoil
The reins of Manchester United are now in the hands of Dutch manager, Erik Ten Hag, whose past success with Ajax remains an exciting prospect for the Old Trafford faithful.
They hope with this hire, that they may recapture a glimpse of their former glory days.
However, hope quickly turned to despair at the hands of Brighton’s Pascal Groß, who silenced the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ by scoring two quick-fire goals before half-time, giving Ten Hag a huge job in his first Premier League half-time team talk.
That sparked a better showing in the second half, but still not nearly good enough to salvage any points in what was a worrying start to the much heralded new era.
It has seemed a dark cloud has settled over Old Trafford this summer in light of ongoing struggles between Cristiano Ronaldo and the club. At one point the Portuguese legend seemed certain to be leaving, yet the next the message was that he was a key player for the Red Devils.
The uncertainty of the club icon’s position seemed to seep into the season opener, and Graham Potter’s men capitalised.
With such a talented group of players at the Ten Hag’s disposal, the question hanging over the club is whether or not he is the man that could wake this English giant from its long slumber once again?
United head to Brentford next to face a Thomas Frank side full of confidence.
Brighton, meanwhile, will be hoping to take this sort of form into their match against Newcastle at home.
Battle of the captains
Mikel Arteta and his young guns came out flying against Crystal Palace in the first half, looking a team hungry to prove a point, and understandably so.
Their initial pressure and aggression from the front eventually paid off, after a high corner, struck by Bukayo Saka, found new signing Zinchenko lurking at the back post.
The Ukrainian headed the ball back into a crowded box for Gabriel Martinelli to slot the opening goal of the season.
Vieira’s Palace did, however, show some fight, grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, they were simply unable to capitalise on their periods of dominance, with the Arsenal backline remaining solid under duress. A lot of attention was on the Arsenal defence, particularly on young William Saliba who showed maturity beyond his years, putting in a man-of-the-match shift.
On the other side of the touchline, Vieira will now undoubtedly be rueing the several big chances they missed, but will not feel discouraged by this performance.
Crystal Palace face Jurgen Klopp’s Reds next week at Anfield in a game where both sides will be desperate to get a result. Arsenal take on Leicester City at the Emirates.
Liverpool started their campaign against newly-promoted Fulham at a packed Craven Cottage.
It’s now the fourth year in a row that they face a team promoted from the Championship on the first day.
It was not, however, how Liverpool Manager Jurgen Klopp would’ve envisioned the Reds’ start. From the get-go, it was clear that Fulham manager Marco Silva had a clear plan to halt Liverpool’s steam train style of play.
Showing aggression from the start, Serbian centre-forward and Fulham frontman, Aleksandar Mitrovic, put the opponent’s defence to the test, dragging a snapshot wide of the post – a sign of things to come.
It looked destined that he would open the scoring, which he did just past the half-hour mark, towering over a helpless Trent Alexander-Arnold at the back post to head in Fulham’s first goal of the season.
Craven Cottage erupted.
Into the second half, Liverpool’s 85-million-pound Uruguayan forward, Darwin Nuñez, equalised with a deft flick into the top of the net.
The celebrations, however, lasted a mere five minutes before Mitrovic was fouled in the box by Virgil Van Dijk. And who else to bury the second than the main man himself. Mitrovic tucked it into the bottom right corner, narrowly escaping Alisson’s fingertips.
Still, victory was not to be for Fulham on this day, eventually succumbing to Liverpool’s pressure. With 10 minutes left on the clock, a lofted through ball from Alexander-Arnold found Nuñez who calmly played it into the path of an onrushing Mo Salah to make it 2-2.
Liverpool next face Crystal Palace at home, while Fulham take on Wolves at the Molineux.
Conte has rejuvenated Tottenham Hotspur since his arrival, and his intentions were made abundantly clear against Southampton.
But it was, in fact, the boys from the south who got the ball rolling, thanks to captain James Ward-Prowse’s tidy volley, expertly hit into the ground past Lloris into the left corner.
Conte’s men quickly replied.
Minutes later, a searching ball from Kulusevski to the back post found Sessegnon, who smashed in a header from point-blank range. Ten minutes later, another header put Spurs up 2-1, thanks to a delightfully-weighted header from Eric Dier.
In the second half, the men in white put the game to rest, with the help of an awful own goal from Salisu and a tidy finish from Kulusevski, topping off a brilliant performance from the Swede and for Tottenham.
Tottenham next face Chelsea in what will be a tense London derby. Southampton head home to face Leeds fresh off a massive win against Wolves.
Over the line
Back in Merseyside, Everton hosted a Chelsea side that has looked unconvincing in the transfer market thus far.
It was a tight affair between the two Blues, with good chances exchanged in the first half and even a goal disallowed for Sterling – spoiling a debut dream goal.
It took six minutes into the first half’s added time for a breakthrough to arrive, after Doucouré floored Chillwell in the box. Craig Pawson had no other choice but to point to the spot.
Jorginho, in typical fashion, coolly rolled the ball into the bottom left corner.
Unfortunately for Frank Lampard, Everton’s second-half attempts came to no avail and the match finished 0-1 to Chelsea.
Business as usual
New season, same City.
Pep Guardiola’s Sky Blues kicked off their campaign against a strong West Ham side at the London Stadium, but showed no sign of throwing aside their ambition for total success.
Last season, City beat Liverpool to the Premier League title, oftentimes blowing teams out of the water, even without a centre forward on the pitch. Now, with a shiny new striker in Erling Haaland, brought over from the Bundesliga, opposing teams can only dread the possibilities.
While the London Stadium is typically a tough ground to visit, City were far from fazed. Around the half-hour mark, Haaland was sent through one-on-one with Alphonse Areola who could only take the Norwegian striker down as he dribbled past him.
Wherever Haaland goes, goals seem to follow, and it was no different here. Cool as you like, he slotted the penalty into the bottom left with power and precision.
West Ham were eventually put to the sword in the 65th minute. Zouma and Johnson could only watch as De Bruyne delicately sliced the defence to send Haaland through, who made no mistake, putting it in the same bottom-left corner.
It’s a combination that is likely to be seen over and over again this season, with the likes of De Bruyne, Foden, Rodri, Gundogan and Kalvin Phillips all licking their lips at the prospect of such elite attacking movement.
City and West Ham both face newly-promoted teams next in Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest respectively.
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