Premier League football made its return this weekend and fans were given their first glimpses of the newly-promoted sides, Leeds, West Bromwich Albion and Fulham all reintroducing themselves to English football’s top tier.
The trio were all handed difficult looking opening assignments and each suffered defeat, though they made distinctively different first impressions following their respective returns to the Promised Land™.
Here are our assessments of the three newly-promoted sides opening day performances:
Leeds returned to the Premier League after a 16-year absence and instantly made their presence felt, last season’s Championship winners going toe-to-toe with the champions in a thriller at Anfield.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side ultimately came away with nothing following Mohamed Salah’s hat-trick for Liverpool, but there were plenty of positives despite the 4-3 defeat – not least for the neutrals.
Leeds have quickly demonstrated they will be great to watch this season with an expansive style of play, the visitors shading the share of possession against a Liverpool side that have not lost a league fixture at Anfield in three-and-a-half years.
Their open style is likely to be punished at stages throughout the campaign, but Leeds will undoubtedly create enough chances to win games and much will depend on their ability to take opportunities with the lack of a prolific goalscorer amongst their ranks.
Marquee signings Robin Koch and Rodrigo endured debuts to forget, however, the former conceding a penalty and losing Virgil van Dijk for Liverpool’s second goal, whilst the latter handed the home side a second spot-kick and winner late on with a clumsy foul on Fabinho.
Despite defeat and concerning gaps in both midfield and defence, the club came through a Premier League baptism of fire in impressive fashion and there will be few who will be tipping an entertaining Leeds side for the drop, the Yorkshire outfit likely to win and lose in spectacular fashion throughout the campaign.
Whisper it quietly, but ‘Bielsa Ball’ may just see Leeds become everyone’s unlikely second favourite side.
West Bromwich Albion
West Brom were handed a tricky opening fixture against Leicester at the Hawthorns and it proved a disappointing day for Slaven Bilic’s side, Jamie Vardy’s brace from the penalty spot putting the gloss on a comfortable 3-0 victory for the visitors.
The Baggies are yet to truly strengthen their squad of last season with the permanent captures of loanees Matheus Pereira and Grady Diangana their most notable business thus far, though the arrival of that duo is cause for optimism with both players possessing the ability to create chances at Premier League level.
Securing safety should be West Brom’s sole focus this season and they will surely be deep in the relegation fight based on their opening day performance, though Bilic’s side should have a chance of survival given the options in their squad.
The likes of Jake Livermore and Kieran Gibbs have been capped for England and have proven experience of top flight football, whilst Nigerian international Semi Ajayi looks like he can handle the step up a division.
Goals may prove problematic for the side despite their midfield creativity, however, with neither Hal Robson-Kanu or Callum Robinson of the required standard, whilst Charlie Austin is now 31-years-old and has scored double figures in just one of his previous five Premier League campaigns.
The addition of a proven forward may prove the difference for a side seemingly set to struggle.
Fulham endured a nightmare return to the Premier League two years ago despite huge investment, a scattergun approach to the transfer market proving costly as a succession of expensive additions failed to live up to expectations.
The west London side have regrouped to bounce back at the first attempt under Scott Parker after winning the Championship play-offs, but their opening performance has done little to raise hopes that this will be more than just a brief return to the top flight.
Fulham were simply out of their depth against a new-look Arsenal side at Craven Cottage, debutants Willian and Gabriel impressing for the visitors as the Gunners ruthlessly exposed familiar defensive flaws.
Many of those involved were part of the team that were relegated two seasons ago and there were no signs of improvement this time around, Fulham looking like a side which could be on the wrong end of some big scorelines without major changes this season.
Parker will hope that the signings of Mario Lemina, Alphonse Areola and Ola Aina can add a much needed injection of quality, whilst hopes will also be high that André-Frank Zambo Anguissa can make a long-awaited impact after a season of renaissance on loan at Villarreal last term.
The performances of Aleksandar Mitrovic – not deemed fit enough to start this weekend – will also be pivotal to their hopes of survival, the Serbian seemingly the club’s only reliable source of goals.