The opening weekend of the 2017/18 Premier League season provided shock scorelines, incidences of comical indiscipline, and no shortage of goals. While the top clubs were expected to grab the headlines, the league’s newly promoted sides turned in performances that caught the eye—for better or worse. Brighton & Hove Albion, Huddersfield Town, and Newcastle United, predicted to struggle this season, typified the erratic nature of the Premier League.
After finishing last season second in the Championship, a solitary point behind champions Newcastle, Brighton opened their Premier League campaign home to Manchester City. Historical coincidence would have it that City were the Seagulls’ opponent in their last home match in the top tier in 1983. A first round match against the preseason favorite may have overawed some sides, but Chris Hughton’s men gave a good account of themselves.
Brighton kept Pep Guardiola’s team at bay for more than an hour, defending compactly, and managed to create one or two chances of their own. City’s quality ultimately won out. Sergio Agüero pounced to open the scoring, the beneficiary of a slick counter attacking move following a turnover. An own goal five minutes later sealed Brighton’s defeat; a lesson in the ruthlessness of the Premier League.
Their performance augurs well. With a team bolstered by summer signings, and 2017 Championship Player of the Year Anthony Knockaert still to return from injury, Brighton have every reason for confidence. The City match out of the way, Brighton can turn their attention to the ties that will determine their future in the league.
David Wagner’s side are not known for their goal-scoring prowess. The Terriers finished fifth in the table last season with a negative goal difference and earned promotion through the Championship playoffs after two narrow penalty shootout victories. This makes their 3-0 win over Crystal Palace all the more surprising.
Huddersfield, favored for relegation, took full advantage of their match at Selhurst Park to declare their intention to stay up. One would have been forgiven for thinking Palace were the newcomers, such was Huddersfield’s assurance on the ball. Their dominance, aided by the Eagles’ terrible defending, yielded two first-half goals, one an own goal and the second a debut strike for Steve Mounié. The record signing put the match to bed with his second twelve minutes from time, Huddersfield running out deserved winners.
The result rivaled Burnley’s defeat of champions Chelsea for most unexpected of the weekend. If Wagner’s side can maintain the composure they demonstrated throughout their opening match, a second Premier League season looks possible. Though eventually dethroned by Manchester United’s result Sunday, Huddersfield finished Saturday top of the table. Not a bad start.
Returning to the Premier League one year after relegation, Championship winners Newcastle‘s opening fixture against Tottenham was a litmus test for the proud but underachieving club. Dwarfing their fellow newcomers and with years of league success to their credit, the Magpies enter the season the most likely survival candidate among the newly promoted teams. However, if their showing against Spurs is an indication, the Geordies may be in for another season of disappointment.
Rafa Benitez’s side began fairly well. Though offering little attacking thrust themselves, they frustrated Tottenham for much of the first half, and went into the break 0-0. Shortly after the restart the wheels came off. Jonjo Shelvey, captain on the day, saw red after deliberately stepping on Dele Alli’s ankle right in front of the referee. With Newcastle down to 10, it was all Spurs after that. What started as a decent showing against one of the league’s best sides ended in a flattering 2-0 defeat.
Once a Premier League mainstay, Mike Ashley’s time as owner has seen a downturn in Newcastle’s fortunes. His lack of support for the club’s managers has been particularly detrimental, with Rafa Benitez’s tenure no exception. Newcastle’s week one performance suggests the Toon Army have little reason to be hopeful.