Premier League Roundup 2020/21: Gameweek 1
England’s top football drama rolled a new series on Saturday, the 12th of September. 16 teams contested the first round of the Premier League. Burnley and Aston Villa got an extra week’s rest as the Manchester giants were granted an extended break following their late appearance in the European competitions last season.
Fulham 0 – 3 Arsenal
A London derby welcomed the brand new season of Premier League at Craven Cottage. Scott Parker’s newly-promoted Fulham were handed Mikel Arteta’s in-form Arsenal FC.
Parker started with a 4-2-3-1 formation. Marek Rodak was the main man in goal. Denis Odoi, Michael Hector, Tim Ream, and Joe Bryan formed the defensive unit. A dual-pivot system of Reed and Cairney held the core of midfield. Neeskens Kebano and Ivan Cavaleiro flanked Josh Onomah in the second wave of attack. Aboubakar Kamar led upfront while Aleksandar Mitrovic warmed the bench for the first half.
The Spaniard continued with the 3-4-3 formation, having tasted success in the FA Cup and Community Shield. Gabriel Magalhaes received the nod for his first Premier League appearance as the central defender. Rob Holding and Keiran Tierney shielded the Brazilian from either side. Hector Bellerin and Ainsley Maitland-Niles were given the duties of a wing-back. Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka settled in the centre of midfield. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang skippered from the left wing with Lacazette as the centre-forward. Free-agent, Willian who switched sides from the Blue half of London was selected ahead of Nicolas Pepe on the right flank.
The Brazilian attacker had an instant impact. Willian was directly involved in all of the goals as he registered three assists. The first one arrived in the eighth minute when Xhaka’s shot from the edge of the box landed at Willian’s feet in the six-yard box. The mix-up led to Lacazette pouncing on the second-ball after Rodak saved Willian’s strike.
The other Brazilian in an Arsenal shirt, debutant Gabriel, had a dream start to life in England. Four minutes past the second half kick-off, Gabriel rose the highest to make it two from Willian’s outswing corner. The Brazilian centre-half faced an early scare in the first half following a miscommunication with Bernd Leno which almost gifted a goal to Kamara. He gradually found composure and seem to have instantly clicked with Arteta’s tactics.
Arsenal comfortably controlled the game with their positional play. Xhaka and Elneny displayed fluid movement as they received the ball in every open space, linking up with their comraderies. The Gunners kept 55% possession, making 670 passes as they took 13 attempts at goal.
While Arsenal were already looking like certain winners, Aubameyang secured three points around the hour mark. The Gabon international received a diagonal pass from Willian who was quick to switch play from the space created by Lacazette as he dragged Hector out from his position. It was a signature move finish from Aubameyang. He chested the ball down, took a few touches as he entered the box from the left-hand side, and finished the ball at the far end of the goal.
Liverpool 4 – 3 Leeds United
Leeds returned to the top flight of English football after 16 years. Their first challenge – the reigning Premier League champions. Marcelo Bielsa visited Anfield with his cavalry to face Jurgen Klopp’s high-flying Liverpool.
Klopp named a familiar lineup. Jordan Henderson surprisingly made it to the starting 11 as he was earlier suspected to be out due to an injury. Naby Keita also started the game as Fabinho was named among the substitutes.
Bielsa gave Robin Koch his first Premier League start after the German was signed from SC Freiburg as a replacement for Ben White. Their captain, Liam Cooper did not travel to the Merseyside because of a calf injury. 20-year old Pascal Struijk partnered Koch in the heart of the defense. Illan Meslier, as expected, started in goal. Luke Ayling and Stuart Dallas operated as the full-backs. Helder Costa and Jack Harrison appeared in the attacking positions from the wide areas. Mateusz Klich and Pablo Hernandez were named the centre-midfielders with Patrick Bamford leading the attack. Leeds lined up in a 4-1-4-1 formation.
Leeds suffered the first blow of the game in just four minutes. Mohamed Salah’s left-foot strike struck Koch’s hands in the box. The Egyptian winger blasted it straight into the roof of the net from the spot. The momentum of the game, however, kept oscillating. Both sides shared an equal amount of possession throughout the match. As a result, Leeds responded in the 12th minute. Jack Harrison collected an unerring long-pass from Kalvin Phillips. The 23-year old English winger dribbled down the left channel, found a way past Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez to cut inside and hit the bottom left corner of the goal.
The Reds almost restored their lead, four minutes after Harrison’s goal. Sadio Mane dipped in a long-range effort from the edge of the final third after he received the ball from Meslier’s sweeping attempt. The goal was, nonetheless, disallowed for Andrew Robertson’s offside position who was the initial target for the long-pass from Gomez.
It was Virgil Van Dijk who made it two-one for the hosts at the 20th-minute mark. The Dutch centre-half’s thumping header from Robertson’s corner landed directly into Meslier’s hands. Leeds’s shot-stopper could not handle the power from Van Dijk’s header as he ended up handling the ball inside his own net.
Ten minutes later, the hero turned villain for Liverpool. Van Dijk made a poor touch from Dallas’s lofted pass which allowed Bamford to capitalize and chip the ball over Allison to the left side of the goal. With a third of the game played, Leeds were rocking in front of the Kop. Salah changed the course of the game, once again, as he made it three for Liverpool within three minutes of Bamford’s goal. Struijk’s headed clearance from a Liverpool’s free-kick landed on Salah’s foot who launched it at the top of the near post.
Klich got Leeds back into the game in the second half, six minutes past the hour mark. Leeds looked poised to steal a point from Liverpool. The penultimate moments of the game had another twist. Leeds’s summer recruit, Rodrigo fouled Fabinho following a corner. Salah converted his second penalty of the night to take all the three points and the match ball with him.
Brighton 1 – 3 Chelsea
The most exciting prospect for this season, Chelsea made an away trip to Brighton to begin their new Premier League campaign against the Seagulls. The expectations are high for the Blues and all eyes are on Frank Lampard this season.
The visitors started with a 4-2-3-1 on paper. Kepa Arrizabalaga was backed by Lampard to start between the posts. Jorginho wore the captain’s armband for Chelsea with Cesar Azpilicueta named on the bench. Big money signings from Germany – Kai Havertz and Timo Werner started the match. Werner was the sole striker upfront while Havertz featured as the right-winger. N’Golo Kante partnered Jorginho in the dual-pivot structure. Mason Mount played in the hole behind Werner with Ruben Loftus-Cheek as the attacker on the left flank. Reece James, Andreas Christensen, Kurt Zouma, and Marcos Alonso formed the back four.
Graham Potter deployed a 3-5-2 formation. After a breakthrough season with Leeds, Ben White was named in the starting 11. The new addition, Adam Lallana was among the midfield trio featuring Yves Bissouma and Steven Alzate. Leandro Trossard led the attack alongside Neal Maupay.
Brighton appeared the more promising side from the onset. They spent more time on the ball and played dangerous direct passes behind Chelsea’s defensive line. Brighton’s wing-backs, Tariq Lamptey and Solly March manifested the intensity to be involved in every part of the pitch.
Chelsea, on the other hand, had Werner as their leading marksman. His ability to drop and create linkup play was supplemented by his speed to make late runs for a one-two pass. Werner usually attacked as an “out and out” forward which seemingly caused some problems to Brighton’s defense. The German forward finally earned Chelsea a penalty within 20 minutes of the kick-off. A poor pass from Alzate was intercepted by Jorginho who was quick to feed it to Werner in space ahead of him. Mathew Ryan’s tackle could not keep up with Werner’s pace which forced the referee to point to the spot. Jorginho scored his seventh penalty in Chelsea colours to put the Blues ahead.
The majority of the action occurred after the break. Leandro Trossard equalized at the 54th minute. Brighton’s resilience to camp outside Chelsea’s 18-yard box presented a wonderful opportunity. Trossard converted Lamptey’s key pass from the right half-space outside the box with a dipping curler in the bottom left corner of the goal. Chelsea, nonetheless, reverted in no time.
The Blues overloaded the left channel with Mount, Jorginho, and Werner luring Brighton. This opened space for James who collected a pass from Jorginho in the centre. Consequently, James tried his luck 30 odd yards out from the goal. It was a screamer that went straight into the top right corner and there was no chance for Ryan to save that one. It took Chelsea only two minutes to restore their lead.
Kurt Zouma effectively sealed three points for the visitors after his unusual shot from James’s corner kick was deflected and ended inside Brighton’s goal.
Tottenham 0 – 1 Everton
Carlo Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho had a lot to prove to the critics in the new season. Mourinho played a 4-2-3-1 which included both the new signings, Matt Doherty and Pierre Hojberg starting for his side. Ancelotti made use of rather a conventional 4-3-3 formation and named James Rodriguez, Abdoulaye Doucoure, and Allan in his lineup.
With just a quarter of an hour into the game, Richarlison had the first big chance of the game. Having dribbled past Toby Aldewierald and Tottenham’s keeper, Hugo Lloris, he missed an open goal having shot the ball wide over the crossbar. More chances were created soon from both sides. Jordan Pickford played a vital role in keeping the ball out of goal, including a magnificent save from a shot by Dele Alli, first, and later by Doherty.
The first half ended without a goal, but the Toffees were the more confident team with the newcomer, James Rodriguez looking comfortable on the pitch and attempting shots along with Richarlison.
Everton, however, were soon able to take the lead with a stunning goal that Dominic Calvert-Lewin headed in from a free-kick. The set-piece specialist – Lucas Digne. Leading by a goal to nil, the visitors continued to create better chances from counter-attacks. Mourinho’s side aimed to gain possession as they pressed harder. The match however ended in Everton’s favour, making it Jose Mourinho’s first-ever opening day loss in his entire managerial career.
HOW DID THE OTHERS FARE?
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