After an often frustrating but always intriguing summer of transfer action, the Premier League is back, with the 2009/10 season kicking off this weekend. For Stoke the campaign began in an unfamiliar way, as favourites for the opening clash against new-boys Burnley. The bookies were for once proved correct with regards to Stoke, as the Potters produced an efficient performance, seeing off Owen Coyle’s side 2-0, Ryan Shawcross’s header and a Stephen Jordan own goal sewing up the points before the break.
Thirty miles down the M6, Wolves, promoted with the Clarets were faring little better in their first Premier League outing for five years, as goals from Mark Noble and Matthew Upson gave West Ham a comfortable away win at Molineux, while a plucky Birmingham side, completing the promoted trip fell foul of a Wayne Rooney strike to lose to a Manchester United side that already seem slightly less detestable without Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford in the Sunday lunchtime fixture.
The other major title contenders, Chelsea, also made a winning start, Didier Drogba’s brace, the second of which was a self-admitted attempted cross in injury time at the end of the match, cruelly denying Hull, who had taken the lead through debutant Stephen Hunt, a fine result. Any thoughts of pity turned, however, to mirth as Hull boss saw fit to appear on Goals on Sunday dressed in what looked like an old fashioned pyjama top with a bright pink cardigan draped delicately over his golden-brown shoulders.
It was a good weekend for new signings, as Darren Bent’s goal five minutes into his Sunderland career proved decisive against Bolton at the Reebok Stadium, and Emmanuel Adebayor helped obscenely rich Manchester City to a victory over neighbours Blackburn, with Stephen Ireland also finding a way past Paul Robinson. Portsmouth’s host of incoming loanees and free agents were powerless to prevent Fulham leaving the South Coast with all three points though, Bobby Zamora’s inadvertent finish rivalling Drogba’s for flukiest goal of the day.
New managers were also making a stir, as Wigan boss Roberto Martinez masterminded his side’s unlikely 2-0 triumph at Aston Villa, Hugo Rodallega’s stunner and Jason Koumas’s cool finish sealing what looked like the result of the day. That is until the evening kick-off, when Arsenal, determined to show that they’re committed to playing a big part in this year’s title race, turned over Everton at Goodison Park. Goals from Denilson, Thomas Vermaelen, William Gallas, and Eduardo, as well as a Cesc Fabregas double, countered only by a last minute Louis Saha strike saw the Gunners on their was to an astonishing 6-1 victory over the club fancied by some to take their place in the top four come May.
After seeing their closest rivals all win, the pressure was on for Liverpool as they faced Tottenham at White Heart Lane, but a little taste of West Africa sunk Scouse spirits in North London, as fine strikes from Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Sebastien Bassong, both Cameroon internationals, either side of a Steven Gerrard (you’re supposed to be in jail) penalty. Harry Redknapp will be a very happy manager tonight.
After a weekend with no draws, the Premier League table makes interesting reading, particularly for fans in London, Manchester and Stoke, with their sides sitting pretty at the pinnacle of the league we’re constantly reminded is the best in the world.