Opening weekend of the Premier League season always brings a sense of intrigue as we get our first glimpses of the sides in action, the sole moment in a season where every club is level and ambitious about the coming campaign.
Several sides will have been pleased to get off to a winning start but an opening victory means little over the course of a season, whilst similarly there is plenty of time to bounce back from a disastrous defeat.
This season has proven one of the most unpredictable in recent memory, and we’ve decided to look at what hindsight has taught us from the Premier League’s opening round of fixtures.
Here are five common opening day conclusions that now look massively wrong:
Mourinho’s Spurs are dire and he’ll be lucky to last until Christmas
Tottenham had been largely solid if unspectacular during the opening months of Jose Mourinho’s reign in north London, though hopes were high for improvement ahead of the Portuguese’s first full season in charge and a positive window of recruitment.
The opening weekend brought the visit of Everton to the capital and what followed was a performance that saw the alarm bells ringing loudly, an uninspiring and abject display resulting in a disappointing 1-0 defeat.
Critics were quick to question Mourinho with accusations that the two-time Champions League winner was out of touch with the modern game, whilst the Portuguese blasted his side following a dreadful display.
After ignominious exits at both Chelsea and Manchester United there were many who felt Mourinho could once again part ways with his side mid-season, backing the ‘Special One’ to get the boot before Christmas.
Spurs, however, bounced back with an 11-game unbeaten run in the division to move into title contention, with Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min in sensational form in attack.
The form of that duo – coupled with Mourinho’s ability to organise his side into a style and system that suits – has raised the possibility of Spurs ending their long wait for major silverware this season.
Jurgen Klopp says Mourinho’s Tottenham are a “proper football side” that remind him of Liverpool 👀 pic.twitter.com/0nOWL92rxo
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 15, 2020
Perhaps no player summarises their recovery and rise better than Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, the Denmark international hopeless on debut during the opening weekend defeat to Everton before bouncing back to become an integral part of the side and emerge as one of the signings of the season.
Willian was a great signing and the Arteta revolution is in full swing at Arsenal
Arsenal entered the new season amid a wave of optimism following their strong second half to the campaign, the progress shown during the early months of Mikel Arteta’s reign capped with success as Chelsea were beaten in the FA Cup final.
The club’s hierarchy backed their manager in the summer with a host of signings including Gabriel and Willian, the latter arriving on a free transfer from Chelsea and viewed as one of the coups of the coming campaign.
Securing a top four finish and a return to the Champions League was the key objective for Arteta’s side, who began brilliantly with a comfortable victory at newly-promoted Fulham on the opening weekend.
Willian impressed on his first appearance for the Gunners and finished with two assists following a 3-0 victory at Craven Cottage, a performance that also delivered goals for fellow debutant Gabriel and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
It was a hugely encouraging start for a side who seemed to be carrying on their end of season form, whilst the announcement of a new deal for Aubameyang three days later was another statement of intent.
Arteta’s side won three of their opening four games but have fallen off a cliff since then, winning just one of their nine Premier League fixtures since to sit just five points above the relegation places.
Willian has looked a shadow of the player who spent seven successful seasons at Chelsea and Aubameyang perhaps even worse, the Gabon international having scored just once from open play since the win at Fulham.
Willian has attempted 30 crosses in his last two Premier League games for Arsenal:
◉ 2/16 completed vs Spurs
◉ 3/14 completed vs Burnley
Struggling to find that end product. 😬 pic.twitter.com/ufRf5U9Iei
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 13, 2020
It’s now six games without a win for Arsenal and Arteta’s position is under huge threat less than five months after winning major silverware, the north Londoners looking more likely to be in a relegation battle than a push for European football at present.
David Moyes and West Ham are doomed
David Moyes has faced an uphill task to repair his reputation ever since his ill-fated appointment as Manchester United manager some seven years ago, a manager who enjoyed such success at Everton having become a figure of fun.
Moyes’ returned to West Ham last season and moved the club away from a perilous position to safety, though there was little positivity around the London Stadium during the summer as fans protested against the club’s ownership.
The toxic atmosphere surrounding the Hammers only increased following a 2-0 loss to Newcastle on the opening weekend of the season, a humbling home defeat set to be followed by a tough run of fixtures that saw Moyes’ side face six of last season’s top eight in succession.
Moyes and West Ham were widely declared doomed to another season of struggle, but after a narrow loss at Arsenal responded with thrashings of both Wolves and Leicester.
Since then it has proven a hugely encouraging campaign to date for the east London outfit, who currently sit seventh and are just three points outside of the Champions League places.
Moyes’ recruitment of players such as Jarrod Bowen and Tomas Soucek have proven inspired, with West Ham’s supporters now in possession of a team with fight and led by a manager who has undoubtedly got the best out of the players available to him.
Moyes’ switch to a back three formation has made West Ham difficult to beat and harnessed the best from their leading talents, proving the Scot is far from washed up when it comes to Premier League management.
Fulham will stink the place out in Derbyesque fashion
Fulham’s last venture into the Premier League resulted in a spectacular failure in 2018/19, splashing more than £100m on new talent only to head straight back into the Championship.
The west London side regrouped under the guidance of Scott Parker and bounced back at the first attempt after winning the play-offs, though returned with many of the same players who had struggled at the highest level two years earlier.
The opening weekend saw Fulham humbled at home to Arsenal as Parker’s side were comprehensively outclassed by the visitors at Craven Cottage, several of the side – particularly defensively – looking significantly out of their depth.
Such was their sub-standard showing, some even speculated that this could prove to be the worst ever Premier League side, suggesting Fulham could finish rock-bottom and even eclipse Derby County’s 2007/08 record low tally of just 11 points.
Four consecutive defeats to open the season only enhanced those views, but a late flurry of activity in the transfer window has helped transform their fortunes.
The arrivals of Joachim Andersen and Tosin Adarabioyo have strengthened a glaring weakness at the heart of the defence, whilst the loan signings of Ademola Lookman and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have added quality further up the pitch.
Fulham face a fight to survive this season but positive results against both Leicester and Liverpool show they are capable of competing, Parker’s side currently outside of the bottom three and far from the whipping boys predicted earlier in the campaign.
Liverpool and Man City will be head and shoulders above the rest once again
Liverpool and Manchester City have dominated the Premier League over the past three seasons and set extraordinary standards in terms of consistency, the former winning the title with 99 points and a record seven games to spare last season, whilst City were crowned champions in 2018 and 2019 with a combined 198 points.
The champions were given a scare on the opening weekend against Leeds but began with a 4-3 victory, whilst City began their campaign the following week with a classy and clinical display to beat Wolves at Molineux.
It was a widely held assumption that the 2020/21 season would once again be a two-horse race for the title, the duo having been head and shoulders above the rest of the competition in recent years.
The following week saw one of the shocks of the season as City were thrashed 5-2 at home to Leicester, however, before Liverpool were on the receiving end of one of the Premier League’s most stunning results of all-time after being humiliated 7-2 by Aston Villa in early October.
Guardiola overseeing Manchester City’s worst start to a season since at least 2009/10 pic.twitter.com/ye9jNli2yx
— Kylian (@prime_jordan1) December 15, 2020
After dropping just seven points before their coronation as champions last season, Liverpool have already dropped 11 points during the current campaign, though remain top of the division in one of the most competitive seasons in recent memory.
Just eight points currently separate the top 10 teams as we enter a hectic festive schedule, with City – the most successful team in English football over the past decade – currently eighth and eight points adrift of the league leaders.