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English footie is back, friends, and while it’s usually a fool’s errand to read too much into the early goings of any season (much less after the very first match day), there are a few emerging storylines that are just too irresistible to consider following the weekend’s action.
Let’s get to it then:
Erling Haaland Isn’t Screwing Around
The crown jewel of Manchester City’s summer transfer acquisitions may have just rope-a-doped Premier League pundits. The 22-year-old Norwegian striker, imported from Borussia Dortmund for more than $100 million in May, was widely criticized for his lackluster performance against chief title rivals Liverpool in the Community Shield last weekend. Haaland had just 16 touches (a team low) and missed a wide-open opportunity from within the six-yard box. But he silenced any early detractors with a mouthwatering display on opening weekend, netting twice in City’s 2-0 defeat of West Ham United Sunday, including this gorgeous tally that put his speed and finishing ability on full display.
If this is an indication of what’s to come, the rest of the league needs to update their wills.
It couldn’t have gone worse for new Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag, brought in from Ajax to helm a club that has too often appeared completely wayward since the departure of legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013. Playing in the hallowed home confines of Old Trafford, ten Hag’s men fell 2-1 to a scrappy Brighton team, missing chances that United teams of yore would surely have capitalized on and leaving many a supporter to wonder if the magic that so defined their dominance through the Ferguson era will ever return. After finishing in 6th place last season, hopes have been high that ten Hag can rejuvenate the squad and get them back in the top four (or perhaps higher). After a listless performance Sunday, it’s clear there’s still a ton of work that needs to be done.
Tottenham Hotspur were every bit as tantalizing as Manchester United were disappointing, thrashing Southampton 4-1 at home Saturday. Spurs actually fell behind early, conceding a goal in the 12th minute before rattling off four consecutive strikes to cruise to victory. Since taking over at Tottenham last November, manager Antonio Conte has extracted much more consistency from a club famous for its wobbliness. (There’s a reason “That’s so Spursy” has been a meme in soccer circles for years.) Conte is a demanding coach and, with this latest victory, now sports a 18W-5D-6L record at Tottenham. He’ll look to build on this strong start against London rivals Chelsea next weekend.
Everton, Oh Boy
If there were one Premier League team best epitomized by a sighing emoji, it would be Everton Football Club. Though they’re the less successful stepsibling of Liverpool FC, Everton have quite a rich history of their own. Which makes their recent struggles all the more painful to watch. Not only did they barely manage to avoid relegation last season, finishing just four points clear of the drop, they suffered significant losses in the summer transfer window, waving good-bye to Richarlison, their top scorer from that tenuous campaign. And then on Saturday, against Chelsea, BOTH of their starting center backs got hurt in a 1-0 defeat at home. Ben Godfrey, the 24-year-old England defender, had to be stretchered off after sustaining what would turn out to be a fractured fibula while diving in for a last-ditch challenge against Kai Havertz near the Everton goal line (on a play that should’ve been whistled for a corner seconds earlier, no less). He’ll be out for three months, according to the BBC. And Yerry Mina limped off in the second half with an apparent ankle injury, the severity of which hasn’t yet been determined.
At least they still have the remainder of August to bring in reinforcements before the summer transfer window slams shut, but it's shaping up to be a long season for Everton supporters.
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