On Saturday I read on the BBC Sport website “67 days between the end of the 2014/15 Premier League season and the new 2015/16 campaign” and like every football fan, got goosebumps. I’ve missed football. No offence to the Women’s World Cup, but the late night games meant I watched a limited amount. I’ve missed MOTD, MOTD2, Champions League, Football League Show, even my new favourite of last year the Bundesliga Review.
I checked to see what time Match of the Day would be on, and prepared for a late night watching Huddersfield no doubt lose to Hull (Tigers) on the Football League Show, hoping Claridge would have been sacked. And then I saw Channel 5 had the Football League highlights. So that was one part of my night ruined, and in fact, part of every Saturday night for the rest of the season ruined. I guessed it; a male and female presenter combination, with a studio audience… it’s not needed. I didn’t need Claridge explaining to me week in week out why every club was “good enough to stay up/push for promotion if they can win enough games.” This programme doesn’t need talking, there are about 60 games to show, there’s plenty of goals, bad tackles, great saves, missed penalties, dodgy dives – so, just show the action. I don’t need a bunch of fans’ opinions on why their team will be overachieving this season. If for some strange reason I want to find out more on Walsall’s promotion prospects, I’d read the comments section on their local newspaper’s website (I’m not even going to Google it to find out what it is). I caught the end of the show and seeing them spin the table round, as though it was going to reveal something I didn’t already know, summed up everything wrong with Channel 5’s approach to football punditry: cheap and unimaginative.
Back to the Premier League and the real excitement. I’d already seen the results, so there weren’t going to be any great surprises, but the opening weekend just seemed to pass without any point of note. West Ham beat Arsenal, but we know Arsenal can have a first-game wobble. One more good game for Reece Oxford and he’ll be on the verge of the full England squad. Mourinho moaned about his keeper being sent off and conceding a penalty for denying a goalscoring opportunity by fouling Gomis in the area. Kaboul made a howler. Villa beat the new season’s darling with a set-play. Everton slipped up at home to a weaker side. Newcastle showed that it doesn’t matter who the manager is, they’re likely to be just below mid-table, and Southampton will be in with a shout of a Europa League place. Palace taught Norwich a lesson in finishing and the EPLs new referee needs a lesson in overhead kicks, dangerous play and pushing people in the back. And Van Gaal proved that despite an unusually quiet transfer window for Spurs, his team will be closer to 5th than title contenders, although they do look a more solid unit, now he has three holding midfielders to employ.
The stand out moment came with Coutinho. It was good, but you almost expect it from him and you know he’ll score better goals this season.
Overall it felt like we’d seen it all before, and I guess we have. Andre Ayew’s drag-back and finish against Chelsea was something new from a new face, but the other ‘big’ new additions to the league offered nothing; Memphis (the Beeb told us we’re not to call him Depay), Schweinsteiger, Firminio.
The excitement might all start next week. Chelsea and Man City might serve up a classic. Or Mourinho might do what Mourinho does best and ensure that Man City don’t open up a five point gap on them at this early stage of the season.
So, hands up if you’re looking forward to Spurs v Stoke as the second game on MOTD this Saturday?