How quickly did that come around? Just weeks after we bore witness to the incredible spectacle that was Euro 2020, and then briefly cast one eye over to football at the Tokyo Olympics, the Premier League has already returned in no time at all.
With the best league in the world back underway, this time with stadiums back to full capacity at long last, we’ve already witnessed a dramatic change from last season within the first weekend of 2021/22; that is, the trend of teams accumulating record breaking numbers of away victories coming to a swift end. Indeed, only three of the opening weekend’s ten games ended with an away victory.
One thing that has remained a constant though is entertainment, with Manchester United slicing apart Leeds, Spurs beating title favourites Manchester City, and newly promoted Brentford dispatching Arsenal in the opening match on Friday night.
With the first weekend of games now behind us, it’s time to choose our first Stars of the Week for 21/22 – the best player in each area of the pitch, as well as the best manager.
Who makes the grade for Matchweek 1?
Goalkeeper: Alisson (Liverpool)
An exceptional goalkeeping performance was perhaps one of the few elements missing from the opening day of the season, but for Liverpool, there were at least some very encouraging signs on day one that goalkeeper Alisson is ready to provide a rock-solid foundation for a potential title challenge.
The Brazilian goalkeeper stood firm at his near post to deny Teemu Pukki in the first half, and then made an astonishing late save at point blank range to ensure that his side escaped with a clean sheet.
It may not have been his busiest day in a Liverpool shirt, but after the turbulence of last season, this was the perfect way for Alisson to demonstrate his readiness for the challenges ahead.
Defender: Japhet Tanganga (Tottenham Hotspur)
From the contrasting way in which the summer has panned out for Tottenham and Manchester City, it seemed that very few neutrals were expecting good things from Spurs in their opening day clash against the title favourites.
However, the game is played on the pitch, not on paper, and one moment of quality combined with some resolute defending was enough to get Tottenham’s season off to a flying start with a 1-0 win. Among the heroes in white was right back Japhet Tanganga, who had the unenviable task of facing off against both Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish.
The 22-year-old stuck to his task admirably, severely limiting the left-hand side of City’s attack and showing maturity beyond his years to stop the fearsome duo by any means necessary.
Right back has been a problem area for Spurs for a long while, but on this evidence, Tanganga really could be the way forward.
Midfielder: Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
Following a summer of great excitement and anticipation in the red half of Manchester, the new season got off to a rip-roaring start at Old Trafford on Saturday lunchtime as Manchester United smashed bitter rivals Leeds 5-1.
Although the man of the moment was hat-trick hero Bruno Fernandes, the star performer was arguably Paul Pogba, who provided the ammunition for United’s more attacking players to fire in the goals. The Frenchman recorded a stunning haul of four assists, joining just a handful of individuals in Premier League history to have ever achieved that feat. His pass to Mason Greenwood in particular, which brought about the second goal, was simply world class.
It’s only one game, but if Pogba can maintain form like this for a sustained spell, then the Red Devils really will be a force to be reckoned with this season.
Forward: Mohammed Salah (Liverpool)
If Alisson did his job at one end for Liverpool during their opening day 3-0 win over Norwich City, then Mohammed Salah certainly delivered the goods at the other.
The Egyptian forward was unsurprisingly the difference maker for the Reds. Whilst his assist for Diogo Jota’s opener had an element of fortune to it, his second, a quick ball into the box for Roberto Firmino, was a sign of the razor-sharp quick thinking that we have come to expect from Salah through the years. He then rounded off the win with a signature curling strike from the edge of the box into the top corner, a vintage Salah goal.
Salah may not quite have matched his feat of scoring a hat-trick on the opening day of last season, but it was still a brilliant day one display from Liverpool’s talisman.
Manager: Thomas Frank (Brentford)
The first day of the season is always full of stories and subplots, even before a ball is kicked, and this time around the focus was on newcomers Brentford, who were contesting their first top flight match in nearly three quarters of a century.
In the end, it turned out to be a dream day for the Bees, who claimed a big scalp by defeating Arsenal 2-0 in front of their own fans, marking the latest step that manager Thomas Frank has taken on this incredible journey in West London.
The Dane stuck to his guns by picking two strikers, a bold tactic in your first ever Premier League game, but one that worked like a treat, and also took advantage of Arsenal’s physical shortcomings by employing the long throw tactic that brought Brentford’s second goal.
Thomas Frank made sure that the big day was indeed Brentford’s day, and on the basis of this performance, he could well be a fantastic addition to England’s top flight.
Manchester City and England fan. Writer of opinion and features on all things Premier League and beyond.