Five Takeaways from Matchweek One in the Premier League

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liverpool.com

Hunter Firment, Assistant Sports Editor

  1. Leeds United Look Poised To Be Better Than a Relegation-Battle Squad

Dealt with the impossible task of playing world superpower Liverpool in their first Premier League match following a 16-season hiatus, Leeds United made dreamers of football fans everywhere. The lads from West Yorkshire were definitely the story of the first weekend of this Premier League season. Despite falling to the reigning league champions 4-3, they were often dangerous and at times even looked the better side. Behind mercurial winger and ex-Wake Forest Demon Deacon Jack Harrison, talisman Patrick Bamford and other surprising talents, the squad looks the part. At this point, Leeds does not look like a team that has not played a Premier League match in 16 seasons. Instead, they did not skip a beat and looked completely at home in England’s top-flight. 

     2. Fulham and West Brom on the Other Hand…

Fulham had the difficult task of playing a rejuvenated Arsenal side under new manager Mikel Arteta in their first match of the season. Compared to how their fellow newly-promoted Premier League side Leeds fared against a historically-good English side, Fulham was nothing shy of abysmal. They fell to the men from North London in a 3-0 drubbing that never felt close. Arsenal’s front three of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Willian proved too much for the Fulham backline to handle. Lacazette scored on a mash-up in the box within nine minutes of the opening whistle, and Arsenal never looked back. Even Arsenal’s new center-back signing Gabriel dos Santos Magalhães joined in on the scoring, with a header on a poorly-marked corner early in the second half. Obviously, Fulham was not expected to get a result against Arsenal, but if they were dominated by a mid-table side from a year ago, it is hard to imagine they will end the season anywhere above a relegation zone battle.

West Bromwich Albion also had a brutal Matchweek One draw, going up against potent forward Jamie Vardy and Leicester. Like Fulham, they struggled mightily. Despite a solid first half, in which they enjoyed a few chances on goal which were stymied by Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel, West Brom gradually began to feel the heat. In the second half, Leicester looked like a Premier League team playing a Championship side. A goal from newly-signed outside back Timothy Castagna opened the scoring, and Jamie Vardy added two penalties late in the match. The only positive from the match for West Brom was probably that they were better than Fulham. Expect West Brom to also be battling for their Premier League lives near the end of the season. 

      3. Mo Salah Is Still Really, Really Good

Liverpool winger and Egyptian international, Mohamed Salah, is the reason that Leeds United did not walk away from the first match week with a victory. Salah had a hat-trick and was dangerous from the opening whistle to the last. His second goal in particular was absolutely mesmerizing. He gracefully took the ball out of the air with the sole of his boot with his first touch and viciously smashed it into the top right corner of the net with his second. The contrast in the nature of his two touches can only be compared to Robert Louis Stevenson’s depiction of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He was brilliant as always and helped Liverpool avoid a first-week embarrassment. 

        4. Virgil van Dijk Is Human

Sure, Liverpool stalwart center-back Virgil van Dijk scored a smashing header in the 20th minute of the match against Leeds, but he was far from perfect on the day. This was evident just ten minutes later when he botched a clearance at the back and gifted Leeds forward Patrick Bamford a goal to level the match at 2-2. We have become so used to seeing Virg smash those balls up the field with less of a sweat than when he sips his morning coffee that the rare errors he makes become that much more shocking. He was also a bit out of position following a decoy run in the 66th minute, allowing Leeds midfielder Mateusz Klich to find a bit of space in behind him and smash home an equalizer. Overall, this was not a day to remember for van Dijk, and we should expect him to be much better for the remainder of the season. 

        5. Everton Will Challenge for European Competition

Everton made a splash in the transfer window, signing former Real Madrid playmaker James Rodriguez as well as box-to-box midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure from Watford. Rodriguez played for Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti when the Italian coach was managing Real Madrid in 2014. Their reunion in England is both nostalgic for Madrid supporters and mouth-watering for Evertonians. The two summer signings, paired with the returning talent of forwards Richarlison, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Moise Kean, as well as midfielders Gylfi Sigurᵭsson and Andre Gomes, makes Everton a formidable squad on paper. Following a 1-0 victory over Tottenham on the weekend, this team is good on the pitch as well. 

Young Englishmen Dominic Calvert-Lewin dispatched a thunderous header into the net off of a freekick whipped in by outside back Lucas Digne in the second half to get all three points for Everton. Digne is also a recent transfer, acquired in 2018 from Barcelona. 

James Rodriguez was named man of the match for his scintillating performance from the right wing. We are used to seeing Rodriguez at an attacking midfield position, but Ancelotti’s deployment of the Colombian maestro on the right wing proves why he stands on the sideline for matches and we watch from our couches. Expect Everton to challenge for a top-six finish and qualify for either a UEFA Champions League or Europa League spot.