Then and now: what has changed since Premier League games opened? | premier league

Brentford 2-0 Arsenal

Then Everyone expected courage in the newcomers’ first game, but few fans, apart from pessimistic Arsenal fans, expected it. A wild and vibrant Friday night, Hey Juding for the home fans, as the Gunners’ summer positivity evaporates before half-time.

Now It was not an isolated blow, as Thomas Frank’s fiery side achieved other notable results – a 3-3 draw with Liverpool and a 2-1 win at West Ham. It’s been patchy lately, though – the bees are currently bottom of the high-flying form chart. Arsenal have bounced back from a rocky start and Mikel Arteta’s side are currently sixth, with games in progress on the above teams.

Burnley 1-2 Brighton

Then The fans’ return home to Turf Moor could not inspire a morale-boosting result after greater summer transfer inertia. Yet the Clarets’ first seven games in 2020-21 have yielded just two points: you know the drill, come in May. As for Graham Potter’s xG All-Stars, the solid three-pointer was a real lift for fans worried about the team’s limited depth and the impact of losing Ben White.

Now Maxwel Cornet made an impact, but Covid postponements and just one win all season have Burnley down and look lost. Chris Wood has been sold to relegation rivals Newcastle and £12m replacement Wout Weghorst has suffered an injury setback. Brighton, meanwhile, have built on a strong start – early wins turned to draws over the winter but they sit high in ninth place.

Brighton fans enjoyed their August trip to Turf Moor. Photography: Anna Gowthorpe/Shutterstock

Chelsea 3-0 Crystal Palace

Then Winning the Champions League was just the start for Chelsea, right? Roman Abramovich has been forgiven for his European Super League flirtation, Romelu Lukaku is back with his ‘first love’ and the sun is shining on an opening day stroll. A title challenge from Chelsea seems nailed on, but Patrick Vieira is eyeing it with an aging Palace side. Talk of a rebrand brings up memories of Frank de Boer.

Now Chelsea are world champions but still contenders for the Premier League title. A string of poor results in December left them 16 points behind and while Club World Cup glory looked like couples therapy after Lukaku looked elsewhere, questions linger over Thomas’ forward line Tuchel. As for Palace, Vieira seems to know what he’s doing. The club sit in a modest but respectable 13th place, with youth and experience harmonizing well and fans optimistic about the future.

Everton 3-1 Southampton

Then Relief for Farhad Moshiri as new manager, Rafael Benítez gets off to a great start at Goodison Park and promises to win over the doubters. For Southampton, the defeat after taking the lead has fans worried for life after Danny Ings. New striker Adam Armstrong is on the scoresheet, however, and Ralph Hasenhüttl is confident his team will click.

Now Relief for Farhad Moshiri as Frank Lampard gets off to a good start and pledges to win over doubters – but in between Benítez’s reign crumbles with the Spaniard sacked amid fan anger and a slide on the table. Southampton have delivered on Hasenhüttl’s promise, currently in the first half after 3-2 wins at Spurs and West Ham – although Armstrong has added just one league goal.

Leicester 1-0 Wolves

Then Brendan Rodgers hails the ‘fitness and hunger’ of striker Jamie Vardy and is aiming for the top four after a narrow win for the FA Cup winners. As for the visitors, he’s not the new manager Bruno Lage wanted, but he insists his quick approach will work.

Now Vardy has been out since December and Leicester are 11th without a league win this year. The Foxes are closer to the bottom three than the top four, and Forest knock them out of the FA Cup; for the first time, Rodgers is under pressure. Wolves, meanwhile, are harboring European hopes – seventh and still improving, and with the second-best defense in the league. Four defeats out of the first five is a distant memory.

Brendan Rogers celebrates with Jamie Vardy after the striker's winner against Wolves.
Brendan Rogers celebrates with Jamie Vardy after the striker’s winner against Wolves. Photography: Robbie Stephenson/JMP/Shutterstock

Manchester United 5-1 Leeds

Then Finally proof that Ole Gunnar Solskjær has found the formula. He calls the win “absolutely magical” – but it’s a dark day for Leeds, tipped for Europe ahead of the start of the season. Luke Ayling says sorry: “It just sort of slipped our minds.”

Now Ole hadn’t found the formula, and while Cristiano Ronaldo’s return excited the fans, the on-pitch product continued to decline. The painful 5-0 loss to Liverpool marked the beginning of the end for Solskjær, and performances did not improve much under Ralf Rangnick. The top four remains in sight, however. Hard hit by injuries, Leeds are six points from the drop zone. Only Norwich have conceded more, and there are doubts over Marcelo Bielsa’s future.

Newcastle 2-4 West Ham

Then: The fans are back at St James’ Park but the soundtrack is the same: Mike Ashley doesn’t care, Steve Bruce doesn’t know what he’s doing and supporting Newcastle is a depressing and joyful affair. Bruce’s side play briefly with verve but West Ham look solid enough to suggest last season was no fluke. With Jesse Lingard absent and the drudgery of European fixtures to come, it’s hard to repeat the trick.

Now: Eddie Howe is on the march with the richest club in the world. Amanda Staveley beams as Barry Manilow yells and the Toon Army rejoices – but the Saudi-backed takeover raises broader moral questions. Three straight wins lifted the Magpies above the drop zone; they are a season closer to football dominance. West Ham have defied concerns about squad depth to compete on multiple fronts – but the Kurt Zouma incident has dulled some of the shine. The future is bright for both clubs.

Norwich 0-3 Liverpool

Then Defeat, but Canaries manager Daniel Farke likes what he sees. “I feel even more confident for the season now.” Liverpool put a quiet summer behind them with a typically effective start, sealed by Mohamed Salah’s sublime strike. “Very professional,” says Jürgen Klopp.

Now Farke couldn’t buy a win – and by the time he won one, at Brentford, it was too late. Substitute Dean Smith has made the team stronger, but they are still four points from safety. Liverpool have lost twice all season – at West Ham and Leicester – but too many draws leave them nine points behind Manchester City with one game less. The £50million January arrival of Luis Díaz should ease Salah’s burden.

Some things never change: Mohamed Salah struck on Liverpool's opening day.
Some things never change: Mohamed Salah struck on Liverpool’s opening day. Photography: Peter Cziborra/Action Images/Reuters

Tottenham 1-0 Manchester City

Then A dream start for Nuno Espírito Santo, the new manager who was far from being the first choice. Daniel Levy is backing his new manager to ‘build something special here’ after winner Son Heung-min rocked the champions. It’s a slow start for City and £100million signing Jack Grealish, but Pep Guardiola is unfazed: “We’re taking it step by step.”

Now After Nuno was sacked on November 1, Levy turned to former target Antonio Conte. The Italian seems endlessly frustrated with the club’s lack of ambition and after a decent start, home defeats to Southampton and Wolves are causing concern. City, meanwhile, are clear top and among the Champions League favorites – Grealish’s form is Guardiola’s only real concern.

Watford 3-2 Aston Villa

Then Unassuming manager Xisco Muñoz hails the victory and praises the club’s unity and “real team spirit”, after following up automatic promotion with an unexpected opening win. Dean Smith says his side were ‘miles away’ as Villa’s post-Grealish grind begins.

Now Roy Hodgson, brought on to replace Claudio Ranieri who was brought on to replace Muñoz, remains winless and Watford are six points from safety. Villa won at Old Trafford then lost five in a row, enough to cost Smith his job. Under new manager Steven Gerrard, they are now 10 points from relegation and 10 from Europe – but rose to the challenge after making eye-catching signings in January.

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