SINGAPORE — How have your favourite English Premier League (EPL) teams performed over the past week? Yahoo News Singapore looks at the key talking points surrounding the league in this weekly review:
Soaring hopes for new season
The first week of any season is filled with hope. Players hope for a stellar season in which they can offer plenty of contribution to their clubs. Managers hope that their man management, tactics and strategies work out. And, of course, fans hope their clubs would clinch a trophy or two, and generally don’t let them down.
And so the opening round of matches offer a first glimpse at whether such hopes are valid, or whether they will be crushed really soon. Team may rush out of the gates with plenty of verve and energy, or they may stumble out, all clueless and running like headless chickens.
So which three teams have already given their players, managers and fans soaring hopes after the first round of matches?
ARSENAL: Gunners fans are half-jokingly bragging that their team are “top of the league”, but their 3-0 win over Fulham on Saturday (12 September) garnered plenty of optimism for Mikel Arteta’s first full season in charge.
The signs were there towards the end of last season that Arsenal have responded well to the Spaniard’s tactics, after struggling mightily under previously manager Unai Emery. Clinching the FA Cup and the Community Shield would also have boosted their confidence.
And so a comfortable victory to begin the season further cemented the Gunners’ belief that they are on the right track with Arteta. Granted, Fulham were newly promoted and still finding their feet, yet Arsenal’s Brazilian recruits Willian and Gabriel Magalhaes have already hit the ground running with assists and goals. The future seems intensely bright for the North London giants.
EVERTON: Season after season, Everton fans would proclaim that their club would finally have what it takes to challenge for top honours. Season after season, their hopes would be crushed before Christmas as the Toffees frequently flattered to deceive with their numerous new signings.
These fans are again eagerly talking up Everton’s chances this season after their 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. Yet, there is at least some substance and intrigue to their optimism, because the Toffees were really on song against Spurs – a well-taken goal by Dominic Calvert-Lewin, a couple of great saves by Jordan Pickford, and a sparkling outing for their new midfield trio of Allan, James Rodriguez and Abdoulaye Doucoure.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti has had half a season to gauge how much he needed to improve the Merseyside club, and his first off-season has seemingly started on the right foot. He has to keep this up in order to get the fans firmly on his side, with several winnable matches before the Merseyside derby with Liverpool on 17 October.
LEEDS: They may have lost, but the way Leeds took the game to champions Liverpool in their 3-4 defeat augurs well for the newly-promoted side. They were fearless, intense and took their chances superbly, and caused plenty of tense moments for the Reds before being undone by Mohamed Salah’s hat-trick.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side may not contain well-known players, but if they stick to the eccentric manager’s high-pressing tactics, they should garner more victories than defeats, and at least maintain their Premier League status for another season. A Cup win would be a sensational bonus, and to Leeds’ credit, no one is ruling them out of anything yet.
Crushing hits to confidence
Which three teams have already given their fans plenty of reasons to worry after their first matches of the season?
WEST HAM: The Hammers have had a dreadful off-season. No significant signings were made to boost a side that flirted with relegation for large chunks of last season. Then one of their brightest young talents, Grady Diangana, was allowed to leave for £18 million to newly-promoted West Bromwich Albion, prompting a tweet from club captain Mark Noble saying he was “gutted, angry and sad”.
Not the best of moods within the club, by any measure. Yet it encapsulated the general mood among their faithful fans that the club’s owners have not fulfilled their promises in reviving the club’s fortunes. And when the Hammers limply succumbed 0-2 to Newcastle United on Saturday, it seemed a defeat that sadly surprised no one. This is a group of fans clearly resigned to another season of struggle.
TOTTENHAM: When Jose Mourinho was unveiled as Spurs manager in the middle of last season, many sniggering pundits were placing bets on when the moody Portuguese manager would turn on his squad and berate them for not winning.
The answer: The first match of this season. Mourinho rounded on his charges after a lacklustre 0-1 defeat by Everton, blasting them as “lazy” and having a “wrong state of mind”. And, to be fair to the manager, he has good reasons to be frustrated: Tottenham really were dreadful, showing little fighting spirit after conceding and struggling to create much chances throughout the match.
It must have been galling for Mourinho – once famed for getting his players to put in maximum efforts in every game – to see how his methods have not fired up the Spurs players. Are they resistant to his managerial style after several successful seasons under previous manager Mauricio Pochettino?
Whatever it is, Mourinho has to find new inspiration – and fast. Otherwise Spurs will find themselves drifting away from the top half of the EPL table sooner than he thinks.
LIVERPOOL: Neutral fans might be forgiven if they thought defending champions Liverpool had a shock defeat in their opening match, judging by the murmurs of discontentment among their fans on social media. The truth is that they secured all three points with a 4-3 win over Leeds.
Yet, fans were grumbling about poor defending that allowed Leeds to equalise thrice, and continued to harp on the Reds’ lack of major reinforcement for their title defence.
No wonder rival fans have already dubbed them as “unbearables”. A few months removed for a stirring league title win – their club’s first in 30 years – and many Liverpool fans were already upset at a minor wobble, as if it was a fatal blow to their title defence hopes.
It was undoubtedly strange to see such pessimism among fans of a title-winning team. Hopefully, the players will not be affected by such negativity.
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