Premier League: 5 Best Debuts From The Top Flight Opening Weekend


Such is the subtlety of Sky Sports' hype machine these days, it's my job to remind you the 2015-16 Premier League season is in session. All 20 teams have played and, an entire one game in, we have already decided who's going to win the league (Manchester City), who's going down (Sunderland, Norwich and one other) and which smaller teams are going to consistently thrill us with their plucky overachievement these next nine months (Leicester, Crystal Palace, Swansea).

In this column I'm going to highlight the five most impressive debuts over the weekend. I'm not going to include players with previous Premier League experience, just those who have either arrived from overseas or risen through the crowded youth ranks to take a bow on the biggest, richest stage of all.

 

Matteo Darmian - Manchester United

Louis van Gaal does not tolerate maverick full-backs who rage forward, launch horizontal into tackles and get the crowd going - this we know from the departure of Old Trafford cult hero Rafael. Van Gaal's needs are for a more reserved, reliable and resolute presence in the role. Judging by the performance of Darmian on Saturday, he's landed the perfect specimen.

The Italian is by all accounts a man of order in every sense. He likes neatness in his personal life as much as he seeks it on the pitch. Against Tottenham, he was the epitome of the calm, concise defender - an Alan Hansen dream in red who was never once out of position and dealt with every possession by attempting to play the most sensible pass available. Many United fans had him as their man of the match and it's already hard to see anything but injury dislodging Darmian from the starting line-up.

 

Reece Oxford - West Ham

The story at the Emirates was supposed to be of Arsenal confirming their title credentials, but instead a 16-year-old stole the headlines in helping his West Ham team to a 2-0 victory and announcing himself with the most composed teenaged debut you're likely to see anywhere this season. That Oxford followed it by taking media duties with an eloquence most Premier League veterans struggle to come upon was also hugely impressive.

It turns out Oxford sent out a tweet encouraging Arsenal to sign Mesut Ozil back in 2013. Maybe his plan all along was to come upon Ozil in the claret and blue of the Hammers and play the World Cup winner off the park.

 

Andre Ayew - Swansea

Swansea won the hearts of the neutrals long ago, with their improbable journey from debt to the big time and unswerving commitment to play a purring passing game, but a new army of Jacks will have been seduced by the way they went at Chelsea on Sunday.

New signing Ayew epitomised the hunger of Garry Monk's spitting Swans - delivering an effervescent debut that was capped by a sniper's finish inside the box. The quickness of his feet was evident in his goal, but his all-round team play was equally impressive as Ayew went at Chelsea's back four as if he could smell the blood of the defending champions.

 

Joe Gomez - Liverpool

But for Philippe Coutinho's moment of genius, Liverpool's win at Stoke did not make for good entertainment - I was there to witness it, and should add the lunch put on by the media department was outstanding. Football-wise there were still several big positives for the visitors, not least the debut of 18-year-old Joe Gomez at left-back.

Gomez was tested by Stoke's frequent diagonal balls, but stood firm and looked assured throughout. His touch is neat and he's strong and very mobile - essential qualities for the modern fullback. It wasn't so much an outstanding debut, as one that builds a solid foundation for Gomez to progress from. You get the sense he's equipped to maraud forward and will do so with ever-greater regularity as he racks up the appearances for Liverpool.

 

Georginio Wijnaldum - Newcastle United

Wijnaldum's brilliant goal for Newcastle on Sunday was the stuff of Steve McClaren fantasy - an ode to 1970 Brazil in its flamboyant creation and flair of finish. Gabriel Obertan's cross was powerful perfection; Wijnaldum's header so elegant and precise it was the only deserving conclusion. The combination produced the opening weekend's best goal by a distance.

There was far more to Wijnaldum's performance than a singular moment however. He has the full package in midfield and is already looking like a potential star of the Premier League this season. Have the Toon army found a new player to fall in love with?

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