The first weekend of the 2017-18 Premier League season is in the books, and we were treated to a wonderful set of games including some dramatic finishes and jaw-dropping upsets. Here’s how the league shapes up after week one:
As of week one, only two teams looked like genuine contenders. Of course, it’s too early to declare anything definitive here—we don’t even have finalized squads yet—but it still feels rather safe to proclaim that the title race goes through Manchester, through some route or another.
1. Manchester United
The Reds put in the most impressive performance of the weekend in a 4-0 thumping of West Ham. Romelu Lukaku looked unstoppable in collecting a brace in his Man U debut, Marcus Rashford’s speed was deadly down the wings, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan made a tremendous jump running the show in midfield, earning a pair of assists. This is the Man U that everyone expected to see last season, and it’s frankly terrifying when everything’s clicking.
2. Manchester City
There are a few kinks to work out for the Citizens after a rugged 2-0 win over Brighton—including whether or not the three-back system is the right move for this team—but on the whole, City were clearly the superior team and earned a deserved three points. If you thought Man City was the runaway favorite before this weekend, there was little to dissuade you.
Champions League Contenders
It’s far, far too early to count out any of these teams in the title chase, but they look to be a step behind the Manchester clubs as of now.
3. Tottenham Hotspur
Spurs were basically playing Newcastle to a draw before Jonjo Shelvey was sent off, and cruised from there to a 2-0 win. It wasn’t exactly convincing, but it was three points against what might be a solid side, and the trinity of Eriksen, Dele Alli, and Harry Kane should once again be a thrill to watch this season, if nothing else.
Although Premier League fans were deprived of the potential entertainment that would’ve stemmed from an opening-day Gunners loss to Leicester, they were treated to something even more intriguing—an Arsenal side that showed grit, skill, and might be much better than most had assumed.
It’s tough to be too harsh on the defending champions, given that they barely had a chance to play Burnley 11 v. 11. They also nearly earned a draw despite being down 3-0 and, ludicrously enough, two men. Still, it’s a bit concerning to see such a disjointed performance after an offseason full of rumors that all is not well in Stamford Bridge. At least Alvaro Morata looked good.
Could Liverpool take advantage of the instability among their fellow members of the big six and make an unexpected title run? Well… probably not, if their 3-3 draw against Watford was anything to go by. They’ll be entertaining though, as always, but really need some assistance along their back line if they want to be anything more than that.
Europa League Contenders
Life is tough outside the top six. Likely only one of these teams, maximum, will make it to Europe.
Nothing wrong with a 1-0 opening-day victory over Stoke, and it was fun to see Wayne Rooney score the pivotal goal in his return to his boyhood club. Even without Lukaku, the Toffees seem like a safe bet for a top-seven finish; it remains to be seen if they have the firepower to do anything more than that.
8. Leicester City
What a heartbreaker for the Foxes, who looked as quick and thrilling on the counter as their 2016 title squad before falling apart at the seams late against Arsenal. If they can channel that same energy towards the rest of their schedule, they’ll be in decent shape this season.
The Saints peppered Swansea’s goal and had countless opportunities to leave with three points, but ended up splitting the spoils. The performance did little to sway opinion that Southampton is one of the more likely Europa League contenders outside of the top six, but they’ll need to be more clinical in their finish to get there.
10. West Bromwich Albion
In a battle of two mid-table teams looking to give themselves an early foot up on their competition, West Brom earned a deserved 1-0 win against Bournemouth, and thus deserve to stay in the conversation here. They faded late last season when their European dreams vanished; they likely won’t have the privilege of such a run this year if they want to stay afloat.
Safe, for now
Watford looked energetic, fun, and yes, pretty impressive in front of goal, three qualifiers that often eluded them in last season’s frustrating campaign. We’ll see if holding Liverpool is a sign of things to come this season, or merely a flash in the pan due to some horrid set piece defending from the Reds.
Who knows with Burnley? They took advantage of Chelsea’s mistakes, and did just enough to hang on for a huge opening-day victory. Many will still see them as a favorite for relegation, but if you beat the defending champions at their place on the opening week of the seasono, you deserve some credit. For now.
13. Stoke City
A bit of a plodding, unexciting start to the season for Stoke, but what else is new? A narrow loss at Everton isn’t nearly enough to start hitting the panic button. We’ll give it a few more matches before making a definitive evaluation.
14. Newcastle United
With a couple men sent off injured and another sent off with a red card, Newcastle will be shorthanded to begin the season and run the risk of digging themselves into an early hole. Still, they went toe-to-toe with Spurs early on and have the talent of a mid-table side.
The race to avoid relegation this season might be even more exciting than the title race, with at least six teams among those who will be praying for little more than an escape from the bottom three.
15. West Ham United
After suffering through a post-breakout season slump in 2016-17, the Hammers spent big over the summer and added enough high-profile signings that it seemed that another run at European football might be in the cards. Alas, they looked hapless against Man U, getting absolutely eviscerated and proving that perhaps stocking up on 30-somethings isn’t the best way to make a run up the table. They’ll probably finish well clear of the red line, but they didn’t look like it on Sunday.
16. Huddersfield Town
We’ve seen this sort of newly promoted magic before, when Hull City stunned Leicester on last season’s opening weekend, only to wind up back in the Championship when all was said and done. Huddersfield, predicted by many to suffer a similar fate, stunned Crystal Palace 3-0 on the road and made an emphatic statement about their place in the top tier of English football. Can they build on that? In any case, it’s a tremendous start, and enough to keep them out of the bottom three for now.
17. AFC Bournemouth
Bournemouth were fun to watch and very quietly a dangerous attacking squad last season. They were neither against West Brom, and while it’s too early to make sweeping statements about where they might end up, they didn’t much resemble the swashbuckling team that made a surprise mid-table run in the winter.
18. Swansea City
The Swans held on for dear life against Southampton, and it (sort of) worked! They didn’t offer much going forward, but half the battle in escaping relegation is managing a tough point or two against mid-tier squads. Mission accomplished, maybe?
19. Brighton & Hove Albion
It was a surprisingly gritty game between Brighton and City, but the Gulls’ defenses eventually yielded and the superior talent won out. They looked far from helpless, though, and they certainly won’t be pushovers in the league this season.
20. Crystal Palace
Oh, Palace. A new manager, several impressive new signings, and some enthusiasm from a run of decent form late last season… and a 3-0 home loss against projected cellar-dwellers Huddersfield. They’ve gone more in the tank than what they showed on Saturday.
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