The 2019-20 English Premier League season is officially underway after this weekend’s opening matches, and we learned quite a bit about how this season could go.
Indicative of usual Premier League competition, matchday 1 had it all – upsets, goal-fests, stout defense, and a few surprises.
Last year’s champion Manchester City finish the first week atop the table after a 5-0 thrashing of West Ham United that saw a hat-trick from Raheem Sterling. Meanwhile, Brighton & Hove Albion, threatened by relegation a year ago, had a shocking 3-0 victory over Watford to open the season.
Of the three newly-promoted teams – Norwich City, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United – only the latter experienced a positive result to start the year, rescuing a draw at Bournemouth thanks to Billy Sharp’s late equalizer.
But out of the opening slate, here are the biggest stories that shook the EPL audience.
Alisson Goes Down
Before halftime in Liverpool’s opening match, four goals had already struck the net but all the focus was turned to star goalkeeper Alisson.
The Golden Glove winner as the league’s best keeper last season, Alisson went down awkwardly after taking a quick goal kick. Initial fears were over a potential Achilles tear. But following tests, it was determined to be a torn quad that will sideline the keeper 4-8 weeks.
VAR: Variably Appreciated Reviews
After a couple years of speculation and discussion, VAR (actually Video Assistant Referee) made its long-anticipated debut in the Premier League. Though for some, they could still do without the VAR security blanket.
The full brunt was felt in Manchester City’s victory. First, City had a goal disallowed for offside that looked marginal at best. Justice was served late in the match after a missed penalty by Sergio Aguero. A pair of West Ham defenders entered the box before the kick was taken, resulting in a successful retake.
Most of the checks on opening weekend were upheld. But another one drastically affected the result between Wolverhampton and Leicester. A goal by Leander Dendoncker off a corner was called back for a handball in the buildup play.
It’s clear VAR is going to take some getting used to, that’s for sure.
It’s 3 For Burnley!
Scoreless after 60 minutes, the Burnley boys sprung to insane life against bottom-feeders Southampton. In a span of 12 minutes, the Clarets struck thrice, including a pair from Ashley Barnes.
The opener came off a defensive mistake on a lofting ball forward, allowing Barnes to sneak in unmarked for the tally. Seven minutes later, an inch-perfect Erik Pieters cross found the foot of Barnes at the back post to double the lead.
Johann Berg Gudmundsson added the back-breaker, forcing a turnover and taking the ball a third of the way up the field for the individual goal.
After finishing seventh in 2017-18, Burnley escaped relegation last year by just six points. Could a return to the top be in order this year? Their start is certainly encouraging.
North London Clubs Survive Scares
Both Tottenham and Arsenal endured opening-day scares, managing to take all three points in tough tests.
First, Spurs fell behind 1-0 at home to Aston Villa and didn’t look to urgent about attacking immediately after the goal. But newcomer Tanguy N’Dombele provided an equalizer before Harry Kane’s double in the final five minutes put Spurs in the driver’s seat.
Up in the Northeast of England, Arsenal visited a sparsely populated St. James’ Park. Last year’s Golden Boot winner Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored just short of the hour-mark and the defense narrowly kept the Magpies off the board to capture the win.
Manchester United is BACK
It has been a long six years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired atop the Premier League. David Moyes failed to restore United to prominence, as did Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho. But it looks like Man U could be making a comeback under former Red Devil Ole Gunnar Skolsjær.
On opening day, the optimism was as high as ever at Old Trafford, especially after a 4-0 thumping for United over Chelsea. Marcus Rashford scored twice, and Anthony Martial added another to silence the critics of United’s attack.
Man U spoiled the debut of the newest Chelsea midfielder, American international Christian Pulisic. Instead, it was the debut of Danny James for United that proved the most impactful as the 21-year-old added the exclamation point with a fourth goal.
The victory puts United into second and clearly into the title picture after their most encouraging performance in over half a decade.
Top Fantasy Players
GK: Matthew Ryan (Brighton) – 9 points
DF: Erik Pieters (Burnley) – 14 points
MF: Raheem Sterling (Man City) – 20 points
FW: Harry Kane (Tottenham) / Ashley Barnes (Burnley) – 13 points