The new top-flight campaign kicks off with champions Leicester’s curtain-raiser at Hull on Saturday lunchtime. Tom Simmonds looks at the pick of match day one’s offerings.
Those tedious summer days when no meaningful football is played creates a vacuum for the media which they must fill with something. As somebody old enough to remember the consecutive summers in the late 90s and early noughties where the sports press laid waste to acres of rainforests to pontificate over whether Patrick Vieira was going to leave Arsenal, you would think I’d be grateful for this summer’s Jose and Pep show.
Well, maybe I would have been had the media not started to bang on about them and where they would be managing in 2016-17 from Christmas onwards, when there was a cornucopia of football being played. The media, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola now have some actual football to concern themselves with, but the former Barcelona manager’s Premier League bow – a home game against a Sunderland side thrown into chaos by the FA’s “you’ll do” entreaty to Sam Allardyce – is not one to quicken the pulse.
While Black Cats have moved quickly to lever David Moyes into Allardyce’s office, they scarcely have a squad at present and Jermain Defoe’s possible absence for this one makes it likely that Guardiola’s first proper task as City boss will be to tactically outsmart a parked bus.
Mourinho’s trophy-to-game ratio will drop to one bauble in two games whatever happens against Bournemouth at Dean Court on Sunday lunchtime but this fixture is at least a more interesting prospect than the one handed to City. The Cherries have made a couple of statement signings this summer, not least winger Jordon Ibe from Liverpool, and other signings such as Lewis Cook and Brad Smith demonstrate Eddie Howe’s commitment to move the club forward with a core of bright young players.
This is, of course, a path that Mourinho cannot be accused of favouring much in any of his previous jobs and his recruitment of Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan suggests that he is reverting to type by trying to Galactico United up as a way of getting them out of their current funk. It will be interesting to see if Howe, who drove a huge nail into Mourinho’s Chelsea coffin by masterminding a 1-0 win for Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge last December, can take advantage of this new United side to affect a similar result this time.
Of the remaining games, Everton v Spurs on the Saturday looks the pick of them. The Toffees look to be beginning the season with their biggest signing still in the manager’s chair rather than on the pitch, despite the big talk that Farhad Moshiri’s money has enabled some fans to engage in this pre-season. As it stands, Ronald Koeman will be fielding Roberto Martinez’s players against a Spurs team who must learn quickly to deal with the loss of the surprise factor they benefited from last season. The English contingent at White Hart Lane, Eric Dier excepted, all endured poor Euro 2016 campaigns and one of Mauricio Pochettino’s key tasks this summer will have been to ensure that the 22-year-old, Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Kyle Walker and Danny Rose come into the game at Goodison with no hangover.
What games are you looking forward to from the EPL’s opening weekend?
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