After a summer that seemed like an eternity, the new Premier League season is finally here. We’re through the first weekend of games and things are already off to an exciting start with plenty of upsets and goals galore. The weekend gave us a hint of how some highly anticipated transfer signings will pan out while also providing a taste of what to expect later this year.
One of the biggest surprises of the weekend was easily Leicester City’s loss to Hull A.F.C. The current reigning champions fell to the recently promoted side 2-1 in a game where the Foxes looked messy and discombobulated. This came as a surprise for several reasons, not least of which is that Leicester remains very much intact following its Cinderella season. Typically, when a smaller club achieves success, bigger and richer clubs quickly swoop in to steal away the stars that made such success possible in the first place. But against all odds, Leicester managed to hold onto most of its players. In fact, the only major player the club lost was midfielder N’Golo Kante, who moved to Chelsea.
All that being said, Hull had no business beating the returning champs. The club has been mired in drama all off-season and The Guardian was among the outlets shocked by the upset. The publication reported that the team is in the middle of a potential takeover by Chinese investors from the current (and unpopular) owners, the Allam family. Furthermore, the Tigers came into the game led by caretaker manager Mike Phelan, appointed only July 22. Not only that, but the club was forced to make due with a mere 13 total senior players because of injury problems. Despite all this, Hull was able to grind out an impressive 2-1 win against the Foxes. It would appear that either Leicester are still nursing a bit of a championship hangover or that their luck has finally run out.
When it comes to the larger clubs, things are looking decidedly sunnier. It appears that the summer spending spree by Manchester United is paying off as the team looks to regain its place as one of the dominant sides. Last year, the Red Devils suffered yet another disappointing season, by their standards at least, but they’ve certainly spent enough money to make sure it doesn’t happen again. United brought over Swedish superstar striker Zlatan Ibrahimovich to add much-needed experience up front, and it’s already looking as though the move will pay off in spades. In the club’s match against AFC Bournemouth, Ibrahimovich scored once from well outside and nearly put in another from a brilliant free kick. The United offense looks to be firing on all cylinders and you can count on it to keep getting better.
According to The Telegraph, Manchester United also spent a record sum of £89 million to bring Paul Pogba back to Old Trafford—that’s more than the fees of either Cristiano Ronaldo or Gareth Bale. Unfortunately, a suspension from last year’s Coppa Italia carried over to the Premier League season, so fans were unable to see the signing in action. Thankfully, we’ll find Pogba in the line-up soon enough and when he does, he’ll be making a very good team even better because he adds youth, speed, and explosive creativity to Manchester’s midfield.
Many criticized the more defensive-minded approach of Louis Van Gaal last year, but they likely won’t find much to complain about this season. Given the three-goal victory against Bournemouth, things are already looking better under new manager Jose Mourinho and many have the Red Devils pegged to win it all. The moves made by Manchester have been enough for Betfair’s football exchange to rate them among their favorites to win the league, with United being placed at second right behind crosstown rivals Manchester City. The top four are rounded out by Chelsea and Arsenal, while Leicester are as far back as seventh place at 84/1 odds. To be fair, they faced much worse odds last year and still managed the seemingly impossible.
It’s still a bit early to make any sweeping predictions for the season, but if one thing is clear, it’s that the old guard are here to return things to the status quo. If Leicester doesn’t turn its fortunes around quickly, it’s going to find itself in a heap of trouble. The club has a tough schedule all the way through the middle of September and if they can’t beat Hull, who knows how the team will fare against stiffer competition.