5 Things We Learned from Week One of 2021 EPL
It doesn’t seem that long ago that the 2020/21 EPL season ended in front of empty stadiums and soccer fans were gearing up for the delayed Euro 2020. But the new EPL season has now begun – with capacity crowds – and we can finally get back to some sense of normality.
There were some big name moves in the summer; and fans have been speculating how they will turn out – and who is left to sign for another club in the remainder of the transfer window.
The EPL didn’t disappoint on the opening weekend though. Here are five stories from week one in the English topflight.
Do the Spurs Even Need Harry Kane?
Much of the media attention in England since the end of Euro 2020 has been on Harry Kane’s possible transfer to Manchester City.
The England captain refusing to attend training for the first few days back only kept the story going. An opening day fixture between the two was always going to be a big thing.
Kane wasn’t selected in the Spurs squad in the end, leaving most people predicting a comfortable win for the champions.
Although City did dominate the game and enjoyed the majority of chances, it was Tottenham who ended up taking all three points.
Young defender Japhet Tanganga dealt with Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling very well and Son Heung-min ended up scoring the only goal of the game for the hosts.
Maybe the Spurs don’t need Kane this season?
Although the question is a little facetious, it was Manchester City that looked more in need of a center forward on Sunday. For all the good work of the many talented attacking players, Pep Guardiola didn’t have a Kane-like striker to put the ball in the back of the net.
Arsenal Could Be in Trouble
Brentford beating Arsenal in its new-ish stadium on the first day of the new EPL season was probably the most predictable outcome of the weekend.
Arsenal has regularly been criticized for being too easy to push over – especially away from home – and the Bees were always going to be massively up for their first game back in the English topflight since 1947.
Mikel Arteta was hit by bad luck before the game, with both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette falling ill. Eddie Nketiah was injured, so Arsenal started with a very inexperienced front line.
Arsenal is sometimes easy to mock but it really didn’t help itself on Friday.
The season is only one week old, of course, and there should be more than enough talent to escape any real trouble this season at the Emirates. But the re-emergence of the same old problems in the team and a lack of any real ingenuity will make Arsenal fans worry about the campaign.
Arteta is already looking like he needs to prove himself quickly – and because of the first game, he might not have much more time.
? “It’s a very disappointing night. We needed to start in a very different way." #BREARS— Arsenal (@Arsenal) August 13, 2021
Benitez Has Started to Win Over Everton Fans Already
The soccer offseason is always a time for opinions and predictions not completely based in fact and the story of Rafa Benitez’s return to Merseyside was gold dust for those happy to make bold proclamations.
After his time at Liverpool and the way he has talked about Everton in the past, Benitez was going to have a rough ride if those on social media were to be believed.
But that doesn’t appear to be the case.
From the moment the Spanish head coach emerged from the Goodison Park tunnel to rapturous applause, to the final whistle that signaled a comprehensive 3-1 win for the Toffees, there didn’t seem to be any misgivings on the part of the home fans about their new leader.
Time will tell, of course, but the vast majority of Everton fans will be fully behind Benitez as long as the team is doing well or – at the very least – giving everything on the pitch. The first Merseyside derby of the season at the end of November should be interesting.
Liverpool Will Challenge for the Title This Season
After winning the league by a huge distance in 2020, Liverpool finished 17 points behind Manchester City last season and in third behind Manchester United.
It was always going to be tough for Jurgen Klopp’s men to repeat their title-winning performances. A number of injuries throughout the squad made it impossible for Liverpool to really compete in the end.
But things will be different this season. Virgil van Dijk is back for a start. Defensive partner Joel Matip was also able to play for the first time since the start of the year. Those two gave the side strength and solidity at the back and the likes of Diogo Jota and Mo Salah were too much for a spirited but limited Norwich.
The latter continued his stellar opening weekend success.
- 2017/18 – Watford 3 Liverpool 3 (1 goal)
- 2018/19 – Liverpool 4 West Ham 0 (1 goal)
- 2019/20 – Liverpool 4 Norwich 1 (1 goal)
- 2020/21 – Liverpool 4 Leeds 3 (3 goals)
- 2021/22 – Norwich 0 Liverpool 3 (1 goal)
If Klopp is a little luckier this season and is able to call upon at least the majority of his starting eleven throughout the season, we should probably expect Liverpool to be challenging Manchester City for the league title once again. There will be others clamoring to make the top four, but Liverpool looks like it is back.
Watford is Not Just Back for the Days Out
Before the 2021/22 season kicked off, most had Brentford, Norwich and Watford as the favorites to go straight back to the Championship in May.
With the financial situation in the EPL these days, that is just the way it is rather than anything disrespectful to those three clubs.
Brentford showed that it will have something to say about that on the opening night – and Norwich looked impressive even in defeat on Sunday.
Ismaila Sarr was the star of the show, but new signing’s, Emmanuel Dennis and Cucho Hernandez also scored in the 3-2 win.
Sarr was unplayable, especially in the first half, and completely bamboozled Villa’s Matt Targett to the point that he was withdrawn at halftime.
Watford’s attitude throughout the game was perfect – and it is that spirit that will have to be shown for the entire season if the Hornets are to survive. But if Sarr can continue to play like he did this weekend, they should not have any problem.
Looking Ahead in the 2021 EPL Season
This is just the first week, and I kept it to just five key EPL storylines. There is a lot more where those came from, and things should only get crazier from here.
Look out for my EPL round up every week of the 2021 season, as I pick out five stories from one of the best soccer leagues in the world.
Still gearing up for the new season? Check out the best young EPL players to watch in 2021.