PREMIER LEAGUE ROUND-UP: NEW MANAGERS GET OFF TO STRONG STARTS
With the International break done and dusted, it was always going to be an exciting round of Premier League fixtures.
With a number of sides appointing new managers - Norwich, Aston Villa and Newcastle all opting for a change in the dug-out - intrigue was in the air before these 3pm kick-offs commenced.
The cliché of the ‘new manager bounce’ seemed to work its magic, Dean Smith and Steven Gerrard enjoying wins in their first games in charge with Eddie Howe watching from afar in self-isolation to see his new Magpies side draw 3-3 with Brentford. With 30 goals from 8 games this Saturday, there’s quite a bit to unpack. After being relieved of his duties from Aston Villa, Dean Smith threw himself straight back into football management with Norwich City. Only 8 days between his dismissal and his eventual appointment to the Canaries, this appointment is an improvement on the outgoing Daniel Farke. The performance in his first game against Southampton - the final team he faced as Aston Villa manager - is evidence of the know-how that was lacking under their ex German head coach. Riding a storm in the first half, Che Adams expertly placing a shot past Tim Krul after a matter of minutes, Teemu Pukki’s equaliser moments after was a crucial moment for Norwich.
Too many times under the previous regime, Norwich would have folded under immense pressure. Instead, through their main Finnish striker, they immediately got back on track. Bailed out by Tim Krul multiple times in the first half, the second half saw a resurgent Norwich side with a point to prove. Restored to the lineup was Billy Gilmour, his impact centrally allowed Norwich to play quickly with his energy in the middle a crucial component to this victory. Milot Rashica, another stand-out from midfield, would test McCarthy with the contest fizzling out, before Grant Hanley provided the necessary connection from a late corner to win it for Dean Smith’s men. Two wins from two now, The Canaries no longer embarrassing themselves at the foot of the division. Dean Smith’s replacement at Aston Villa had a tricky test to overcome, Steven Gerrard’s first game as Villa manager against Graham Potter’s Brighton. This would prove to be the case for a lot of this contest, Aston Villa finding it hard to break down a dogged Brighton side. A debutant in goal for the visitors didn’t even work in Gerrard’s favour, Jason Steele making his first Premier League appearance for Albion three years after he initially joined. His patience paid off, denying multiple Villa attempts. In a game of little chances, Ollie Watkins decided to do it himself.
Being set free after a pass through by Ashley Young, the former Exeter prospect raced through and only had one thing on his mind. Cutting inside after a number of Brighton shirts couldn’t get near him, Watkins rifled it into the far corner. Unable to extend an arm over, Steele had finally been beaten and the deadlock had been broken. Villa Park was in raptures, Steven Gerrard opting to join in with an animated punch in the air. The Villa fans would be sent home in an even more jubilant spirit, Tyrone Mings finishing emphatically into an empty net after scrappy play in the box found its way to him. Both England internationals scoring for Aston Villa, Gerrard’s debut as a Premier League manager culminating in a win and a clean sheet. Eddie Howe would have joined Dean Smith and Steven Gerrard in seeing in their new regimes, but a last minute positive test for COVID saw his assistant Jason Tindall oversee Newcastle’s game with Brentford. Watching on from afar, Eddie Howe will now know he has his work cut out to improve a leaky Magpies defence. Brentford’s first was poor goalkeeping from Karl Darlow, allowing Ivan Toney to score at the club who discarded him after little to no action. Kissing the Brentford badge in front of the Newcastle home end, it’s fair to say his allegiances no longer lie at St James Park.
Rico Henry helped himself to a goal shortly after, before some comically bad defending saw Lascelles slice an effort past his own goalkeeper. Thankfully, Eddie Howe would have liked the attacking intent from his new Magpies side. Joelinton, often seen as a wasteful striker in these parts, curled a great effort in for Newcastle’s second with Lascelles heading in the opener and Newcastle’s star-man Saint-Maximin cancelling out the defenders unfortunate own-goal. Joelinton could well have won the contest for an onlooking Tindall, slipping just before he could manage a shot after being sent through. Still without a win this season, Eddie Howe hasn’t picked an easy job even with new rich owners rocking up to Tyneside. A whole host of other matches threw up some headlines too, Watford brushing Manchester United aside 4-1 at Vicarage Road. Not even a Donny Van De Beek goal could secure anything for the Red Devils, the likes of Joao Pedro and Emmanuel Dennis having a field day against a poor Manchester United defence. It could have been six or seven goals for Watford, David De Gea saving a first half spot-kick whilst Harry Maguire’s sending off didn’t help matters.
This would prove to be the end for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, put out of his misery finally. Watching the dominant performances of both Liverpool and Chelsea show to you how far The Red Devils have fallen, Klopp and Tuchel getting the very best out of their respective sides. Diogo Jota’s second against Arsenal was one of the goals of the weekend, putting both White and Ramsdale on the floor before placing it into an empty goal. N’Golo Kante’s goal at Leicester was another, running at The Foxes before hitting a clean strike past Kasper Schmeichel. It’s safe to say that the entertainment will only continue on, with Manchester United now on the look-out for a fresh face to find a solution to a sorry state at Old Trafford. With Norwich, Aston Villa and Newcastle all managing to avoid defeat in the first taste of their new regimes, it looks to be a wise move for all at Old Trafford to start afresh under another new manager.