August 10, 2015

A new season, a new world

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

If you’re a fan of Leicester City, Crystal Palace or West Ham, you better take a quick snapshot of the table after the first week of Premier League action because you might not see your team this high up for long.

On the flipside, you can rest assured, Gunners fans, we don’t think that Arsenal will be in the relegation zone for too long.

But that’s how it is at the start of every season. One win has you on top of the world. But here it’s most important to remember that this is a 38-game marathon and while sprinting out of the gate can build confidence, it’s not necessarily the best thing for smaller sides.

The best advice I can give you about opening weekend is this: Take everything with a grain of salt.

It’s one game and it’s important to remember the age-old adage: Form is temporary, class is forever.

CITY OUT TO PROVE SOMETHING

Manchester City might’ve played the final game of the first round of fixtures, but that didn’t stop it from putting on the most impressive performance.

Poor West Brom didn’t stand a chance, even at home in this one.

Yaya Toure looked the best he has since City’s title run and Sergio Aguero was only brought on in the 63rd minute, long after this one had been decided.

It’s scary to think that this team could be getting much better and really quickly. With Aguero slowly returning to fitness after playing in the Copa America and the Bundesliga’s top playmaker, Kevin De Bruyne, rumoured to be on his way in a 46-million pound deal, we are looking at a real contender – if it can hold it together.

STAR OF THE WEEK

While Toure could certainly get the nod here, our pick is Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez.

The Algerian winger got the Foxes’ campaign off in the same fashion it finished last season – in flying form. Mahrez scored twice in Leicester’s win over Sunderland, including once on a penalty that he earned.

If you were lucky enough to grab him or teammate Marc Albrighton in fantasy, you’re laughing right now.

In fact, there was one owner who was clairvoyant enough to play his triple-captain chip on Mahrez this week for 45 points. Talk about a stroke of genius.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Did it feel like a shorter break than usual for the Premier League this summer? That is because it was. In fact, the 76 days between seasons was the shortest ever. No wonder guys like Aguero and Alexis Sanchez need an extra break after going deep in Copa America … Is Petr Cech a double-agent for Chelsea? Those two goals he leaked in that shock loss to West Ham looked a little suspicious … While his appeal was totally expected, the red card on Thibault Courtious was the right call. You just can’t tackle a guy on a breakaway like that without getting the ball. Even if he wasn’t in the box, it still shouldn’t been a red … If Sergio Romero can play that well every week, Manchester United might just be comfortable enough to sell David De Gea. I’d only do it if Sergio Ramos is coming back in return, though … What a rocket by Philippe Coutinho on Liverpool’s winner over Stoke. He played so well that the Reds might sell him next summer … Liverpool’s two youngsters, Jordan Ibe and Joe Gomez, look like they could both earn a place in that star-studded team … With NBC renewing its deal with the EPL for six more years and ratings always climbing, you can see just how much soccer – especially EPL soccer – is growing here in North America … Thanks to Kyle Walker’s big gaffe against Man U, it was the first time ever that an EPL season opened with an own goal.

THE LAST WORD

With return of EPL soccer comes controversy as well. Really, the two go hand-in-hand.

It seems like a week can’t go by without at least one questionable call turning a game around.

This time, it was Norwich that felt the screws.

Late on against Crystal Palace, the Canaries thought they had found an equalizer, only to hear a whistle.

Cameron Jerome’s foot got a bit too close to a Palace defender’s head while tipping the ball past the keeper, leading to the ref blowing the play dead for the “dangerous play.”

While you can’t be against a referee protecting a player, this call was a bit questionable.

Eagles defender Joel Ward was in fact lowering his head to get to the ball and wasn’t particularily close to it. Jerome had also flicked the ball on before Ward was near it.

Really, it was a goal that should’ve stood. Instead, Crystal Palace stormed down and potted a third goal to win the game 3-1.

These are the calls that can add up and change a season. When April and May roll around, Norwich and its fans may be lamenting a point lost thanks to a weak call.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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