It’s back! It’s back! Premier League football is back! The World Cup was fun, it was entertaining enough, but it’s not Stoke City against Aston Villa, is it? And indeed, what is?
Our journey begins at Old Trafford where we have ourselves something of a dichotomy. On the one hand, Louis van Gaal isn’t David Moyes and we’ve revelled all summer in his ball-swinging legend. On the other, Manchester United have signed just two senior players all summer, one of whom only just turned 19 and is now injured. You want to buy into the idea that the mere presence of the Dutchman has transformed the club, but is it that easy? And given that Swansea have made some interesting signings, step forward Jefferson Montero, is there the chance of an opening day shock here? Be warned though, it’s probably best not to read too much into the result whichever way it goes. Moyes began his United career against Swansea too. He beat them 4-1. Nailed it.
Swansea are 9.80 to win at Old Trafford
Over at The Emirates, Arsenal will want to take the positives from their 3-0 Community Shield victory over Manchester City, roll them out on the floor like pastry, bake them in the shape of a baseball bat and then beat an already dazed Crystal Palace over the head with them. With Tony Pulis sat at home, staring at the wall in silent fury, the South London side will be led by Keith Millen, though it’s worth remembering that Millen actually won his last game in charge of the Eagles, away at Hull. Arsenal will be confident that this is a good time to catch one of the league’s more pugnacious outfits, but they would be wise to take nothing for granted.
Arsenal to win with both teams scoring is 3.35
There’s another London derby on Saturday, this time in the East End where Tottenham visit West Ham. Spurs have a manager who needs time to inculcate his preferred methods while the Hammers have a manager who is under orders to do the exact opposite. Mauricio Pochettino’s careful plans for pack-pressing and brutal counter attack need to be quickly accepted by the Tottenham players. Allardyce, on the other hand, apparently needs to slap some tiki-taka into Kevin Nolan. This won’t be for the faint-hearted.
The Draw is at 3.45
The day’s other stand out game will be at The Hawthorns where Alan Irvine’s West Bromwich Albion take on Gus Poyet’s Sunderland. The Baggies had, for some time, been one of the more sensibly run clubs in England, but that all seems such a distant memory now. Irvine is untested at this level and, given that he failed the tests for the levels below, the mood isn’t good. He hadn’t even seen his new star signing Brown Ideye play before he arrived at the club, another factor that makes you wonder why all the joined up thinking of recent years has suddenly unravelled.
Sunderland are 3.55 to win
On Sunday, Liverpool face off against their south coast feeder club Southampton, now under the stewardship of Ronald Koeman. The Dutch legend spent most of the summer posting passive-aggressive pictures of empty training grounds on Instagram, but he has a good record on the continent where his Benfica side once knocked Liverpool out of the Champions League. Liverpool are now back in that competition and they’ve quickly assembled a squad capable of a war on two fronts, mainly by rifling through Southampton’s dressing room. But how much will they miss Luis Suarez?
Both teams to score is 1.96
Then it’s off to Tyneside to see if Manchester City can defend the trophy with rather more gumption than they managed last time. Under Roberto Mancini, they were lethargic, spiritless reigning champions. Under Manuel Pellegrini, you’d think that things would be a little different. Pellegrini certainly seems to get on better with his players. Newcastle, however, are never to be taken lightly in their own stadium and, after a year of stasis under Joe Kinnear, they have a clutch of new players looking to impress. This one could be tighter than you’d think.
The Draw is 4.10
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